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30+ Mind-Bending Movies Like ‘Inception’ For Your Next Film Night

So many top-notch picks.

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Movies Like Inception
Warner Bros. Pictures

No one makes mind-bending movies quite like Christopher Nolan. The gifted director seems to approach every story as if it’s a puzzle just waiting to be solved, and no other film illustrates his style quite as perfectly as Inception. Released in 2010, the sci-fi movie about a group of dream architects who stage heists within a target’s subconscious is masterfully shot, and the storytelling is so complex people are still debating the ending. In fact, if you’re looking for movies like Inception, you might find yourself drawn to films with twist endings or even endings that are open to interpretation.

After all, part of the fun of Inception is trying to unravel the dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream structure. The movie follows seasoned thieves Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), their crew, and newcomer Ariadne (Elliot Page), an architect who specializes in crafting dreamscapes, as they embark on a dangerous mission that could wipe Cobb’s record clean. The only trouble is the mission in question is perilous and could lead to all of their deaths if they don’t wake from the dream at the right moment.

In that respect, Inception is one of a kind. There simply aren’t many films out there that depict dreams with quite the same amount of nuance as the DiCaprio-led fan favorite. But Hollywood has produced plenty of puzzle box movies that are just beckoning you to pop on your detective hat. (And yes, some of them are also directed by Nolan, just like Inception.)

Like Inception, all of the movies on this list throw the traditional storytelling playbook right out of the window. These movies embrace unexpected twists, unique concepts, and jaw-dropping visuals. But most importantly, they tell stories that you’re bound to get lost in, which is what makes Inception such an enduring modern classic.

Movies to Watch If You Want a Puzzle Worthy of Inception

1. Memento (2000)

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Even though it’s one of Nolan’s earliest films, Memento is full of his trademark style. The movie isn’t told in chronological order, and as a result, it asks the audience to be an active participant in piecing together the story. This style works perfectly since the movie follows a man (Guy Pearce) trying to avenge his wife’s death while also dealing with a rare form of memory loss that affects his short-term memory and complicates his search for the person who killed his wife.

2. Tenet (2020)

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Tenet might just be Nolan’s most abstract film to date. After all, the main character — played by the terrific John David Washington — is known simply as the Protagonist. In a nutshell, the movie follows a man on a mission to prevent World War III. But thanks to some genuinely mindboggling time travel twists, the story is anything but straightforward.

3. The Prestige (2006)

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One more Nolan film before we move away from the director’s oeuvre: The Prestige is a period piece set in Edwardian London about two rival magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. While that may sound fairly simple, the movie is full of sci-fi touches that drive the plot of this fantastic tale of obsession and revenge.

4. Shutter Island (2010)

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The same year Inception was released, DiCaprio starred in another movie with an ending that had everyone talking. This atmospheric film directed by Martin Scorsese finds DiCaprio’s U.S. Marshal character, Teddy, trying to solve a mystery at an isolated asylum during a terrible storm. As the storm intensifies and the people who run the asylum become more and more reluctant to answer questions, Teddy begins to realize he may be in danger.

5. The Matrix (1999)

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The Matrix was nothing short of groundbreaking when released, and the original remains one of the best sci-fi films ever made. Even if you know the plot, the movie is worth revisiting so that you can marvel at the innovative special effects and the bold storytelling that left viewers wondering if they could be in the Matrix just like Keanu Reeves’ Neo.

Even More Movies Like Inception

  1. The Truman Show (1998)
  2. Being John Malkovich (1999)
  3. Paprika (2006)
  4. Primer (2004)
  5. Interstellar (2014)
  6. Donnie Darko (2001)
  7. Source Code (2011)
  8. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  9. Flatliners (2017)
  10. Sunshine (2007)
  11. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
  12. Ad Astra (2019)
  13. Blade Runner (1982)
  14. Total Recall (2012)
  15. Dead of Night (1945)
  16. Mulholland Drive (2001)
  17. Waking Life (2001)
  18. Brazil (1985)
  19. Vanilla Sky (2001)
  20. Time Renegades (2016)
  21. Before I Wake (2016)
  22. Fight Club (1999)
  23. Looper (2012)
  24. Arrival (2016)
  25. Oblivion (2013)
  26. Jumper (2008)

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