"Donnie Darko" gives you two great tastes that taste great together: High school and metaphysical mindf*cks. We're concerned with the latter item today, with five movies like "Donnie Darko" that will leave you scratching your head so hard you'll need industrial strength Head & Shoulders for your scalp to recover.


Time-travel is one of the most inherently confusing concepts in science fiction, due to all the paradoxes and stuff that arise from it. And a well-constructed time-travel story, like the one in "Primer," will have you all the more confused because you can't just chalk up any sticking points to "continuity errors." The plot has to do with a couple of amateur scientists who accidentally stumble upon a time machine. The mechanics are too involved and complicated to go into here, but suffice it to say it makes "Donnie Darko" look like "Back to the Future." The first "Back to the Future."

"Minority Report"

Almost as confusing as time-travel is the idea of a "precognition," where certain gifted people can see bits and pieces of the future before they happen. That, plus a classically twisty film noir plot, are the key ingredients of the futuristic chase thriller "Minority Report." Luckily, you have Tom Cruise on hand to explain everything in the end, but unless you're particularly sharp you'll probably need another viewing or two to get everything straight.

"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

Relationships are confusing enough, without a science fiction conceit thrown in. That conceit in this movie is that there exists a service to erase memories of an ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) or boyfriend after a painful breakup. The layers-upon-layers storytelling is mixed with emotions that will seem all too familiar (and powerful) to someone in the real world.


Speaking of layers upon layers, "Inception" deals with the made-up concept of breaking into someone's subconscious while they sleep and planting an idea inside their psyche. But what happens if the person dreams within a dream, which all takes place in a dream, etc, etc, etc? That's the puzzler that lies at the center of "Inception," and might incidentally keep you from your own dreams as you lie awake at night trying to figure everything out.

"Being John Malkovich"

Probably one of the most off-the-wall premises in all of movies, "Being John Malkovich" imagines a world in which people can crawl through a hole in the wall at an office building and spend fifteen minutes in the mind of actor John Malkovich before getting dumped on the New Jersey Turnpike. One of the biggest head-scratchers happens when Malkovich himself goes through the hole, which leads him to a "world that no man should see." Once you get done laughing, you can try and figure it all out.