This Friday, the hotly anticipated summer flick Apollo 18 finally hits theaters. Of course, it’s somewhat unclear as to why this release is “hotly” anticipated, given that the studio has been remarkably tightlipped about such trivial things as the basic premise of the film. However, one thing we do know about it is that it’s a “documentary-style” film that tells the story of a big government conspiracy to hide the truth about what really happened on the Apollo 18 mission to the moon.

This, at least, should provide a little hope for movie buffs, because if there’s one thing a good suspenseful thriller needs, it’s a convoluted conspiracy. After all, no one wants to watch a movie where the government is helpful, honest and forthcoming; where giant corporations abide by the law and are unwilling to commit treason for the sake of profit; or where a race of aliens is simply “passing through,” with no intention of annihilating our species so they can take over our planet. No, we want to watch movies about villainous criminal syndicates and cabals of rich old men who secretly control the world so that, even subconsciously, our brains can think, “hah, I knew it.” Because it’s a relief to know all the crappy stuff in life is someone else’s fault.

So if Apollo 18 is any good at all, chances are it will be because there’s a good conspiracy propping up an otherwise weak premise. And if this is the case, the film will be keeping good company. There are lots of films driven, if not propped up, by ridiculously convoluted conspiracies.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most convoluted movie conspiracies of all time, so you can better appreciate where I’m coming from.

Above the Law (1988)

Movie conspiracies about covert CIA operations and corrupt police officers are a dime a dozen. So in that regard, Above the Law isn’t all that special. It’s just a movie about how the CIA is selling crack in order to finance its illegal black ops around the globe. All in all, pretty standard Hollywood material. But what really sets this conspiracy flick apart from the pack is the presence of one Mr. Steven Seagal. And his presence is required because you know the only way this CIA drug conspiracy was going to be brought down was with the help of a Chicago cop who just happens to be a former CIA agent and kung fu master.

The Game (1997)

This movie isn’t based on your typical conspiracy, its primary distinction being the fact that both the audience and the guy being conspired against are, to some extent, “in on it” the whole time.

Uberwealthy banker Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglass) is given a really unusual gift by his eccentric brother Conrad (Sean Penn). It’s a gift certificate for “the game.” Nick doesn’t know what the game entails, only that he must be subjected to numerous psychological and physiological tests before it can begin. But it seems the game is actually a ruse designed to get all his money. Soon Van Orton is broke and on the run, trying to figure out who the hell is trying to kill him—a typical conspiracy film scenario. Yet with this film, I really don’t want to give away to much, because I fear many people haven’t seen it. So let’s just say that, while it is a thrilling story, it’s hard to believe the premise is possible at all. (Sometimes you just have to go with it, right?)

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Every film buff knows the plot of this movie. A platoon of American soldiers is captured by the Soviets during the Korean war. While the soldiers are in Soviet custody, one of them is brainwashed so that, whenever he sees a queen of diamonds playing card, he will obey any order given. After a successful demonstration of the full potential of this brainwashing, the Commies release the guy so he can go back to America and be their patsy. And the worst part is, in America he’s under the control of his own mother, who is one of the real spies her Joe McCarthy-like husband is always warning his fellow Americans about. Of course, the Communist conspiracy is eventually thwarted, but not before a bunch of bad stuff goes down. As for the nature of the conspiracy itself, while I’m sure it is convenient to have secret agents doing your bidding from the heart of your enemy’s territory, I really wonder whether having a brainwashed assassin would be worth all the trouble. If you really wanted somebody dead, there’s probably an easier way. Plus, I’d take one really nasty guy in full control of his capacities over ten hypnotized assassins any day.

The Net (1995)

In this film, a billion-dollar computer security software company called Gregg Microsystems supposedly has its own clandestine in-house cyberterrorism department. Their function is to hack into and disrupt major computer systems (banks, governments, etc.) under the guise of some phony political motive. Then the owners of those major systems will come to Gregg Microsystems for their superior security software, unaware that it was Gregg Microsystems that attacked them in the first place.

So, for a while things were really going great for this software giant. But eventually, as is always the case with conspiracies, one solitary individual figured it out. So they killed him. Then they tried to cover up that murder with another murder, and then another. But this only drew more attention to the situation, and before they knew what hit them the whole conspiracy was unraveling. So really, the lesson for would-be conspirators: if a high-ranking government official discovers your plan, whatever you do, don’t kill him. That only makes it worse. Also, don’t mess with Sandra Bullock.

Coma (1978)

This film is based on a novel of the same name by Robin Cook, and was adapted for the screen and directed by the late great Michael Crichton. Coma is the story of a Boston surgical resident named Susan Wheeler who discovers what almost anyone who worked at fictional Massachusetts General Hospital ought to have discovered: a vast conspiracy of doctors and nurses to harvest the organs of completely healthy patients so they can sell them on the black market. You see, whenever a young, healthy individual would come in for some kind of elective surgery at Mass Gen, they would be taken to Operating Room 8, where the nefarious Dr. Harris would give them carbon monoxide instead of oxygen, causing brain death. The brain dead patients are then transferred to a “special clinic,” where they are stored like those people plugged into the Matrix before their organs are auctioned off via teleconference to the highest bidder. It’s such an elaborate conspiracy that it’s almost hard to believe it could be carried out in secret for so long.

The Arrival (1996)

There are tons of alien conspiracy movies out there. Some of them are about how aliens are conspiring to take over the planet. Others are about how the government has conspired to keep information about alien encounters hidden from the public. But The Arrival is the rare film that has a little bit of everything. You see, aliens have secretly come to earth with the intention of eradicating human life and inhabiting the planet themselves. That’s the macroconspiracy. To accomplish this, the shape-shifting aliens have infiltrated all aspects of society, including the government, which conspires to keep the aliens’ presence and plot a secret. (Psst, global warming is the aliens’ fault.) There’s your microconspiracy. Luckily for the human race, Charlie Sheen (playing against type as a scientist) saves the day. Winning!

The Boys From Brazil (1978)

Franklin Shaffner’s The Boys from Brazil isn’t just another movie where Nazis are the bad guys. The film tells the story of a massive conspiracy among Nazis in the years after WWII. The conspiracy is of course led by the most famous Nazi war criminal of them all, Dr. Josef Mengele, the real-life “Angel of Death” who conducted horrible medical experiments on prisoners at Nazi concentration camps. In the film, Dr. Mengele and his associates wish to create the perfect political and social conditions for the establishment of the Fourth Reich. So, obviously, they created 94 perfect clones of Adolf Hitler, then found 94 families around the world that resembled Hitler’s actual family and somehow convinced them to adopt a son. The idea was that, under the right conditions, maybe one of the clones would turn out just like the original (i.e., start a giant world war, lose it, commit suicide, and end up in a ditch covered in gasoline, on fire). It was a pretty solid plan.

The X-Files (1998)

No one ever accused the movers and shakers behind the X-Files franchise of not thinking big. The premise of the entire cult-classic television series was, basically, that everything that ever happened everywhere was (and is) part of an intergalactic conspiracy orchestrated by some clandestine “Syndicate.”

The first X-Files feature film picks right up where the TV series leaves off. Through the intrepid investigation of agents Mulder and Scully, we learn that a race of space aliens has been trying to colonize earth and possibly wipe out its inhabitants since at least 35,000 B.C., give or take a century. Fast-forward to present day, and big government, as always, is interfering in our lives and trying to keep this horrible secret under wraps. But wait, there’s more! A mysterious swarm of genetically altered government bees (which are somehow related to this space alien issue) attack and sting Agent Scully, who goes into a coma and is transported to—where else?—a super secret subterranean space ship in Antarctica. Mulder goes to Antarctica and rescues Scully, but then the space ship takes off, meaning the mystery will have to be solved in a later installment. Which makes sense, because audiences typically love it when nothing is resolved at the end of a movie.

The Da Vinci Code (2006)

The Da Vinci Code easily has the most convoluted conspiracy in cinematic history. After all, it does nothing less than skew humanity’s understanding of the nature of God and shape the entire history of Western civilization.

I’m sure you know the plot. It starts with the “historical” Jesus Christ who, it turns out, was Mary Magdalene’s baby-daddy. Unfortunately, the baby was not yet born when Jesus was crucified, so afterwards Mary and her child had to go into hiding because a faction of Jesus’ more chauvinistic followers (who wouldn’t allow a woman to lead the fledgling Church) wanted both of them dead. Quite Machiavellian of the Church founders, don’t you think? However, one sect of early feminist Christians helped Mary Magdalene escape and vowed to forever protect the heir of Christ and the true leader of his people on earth. Leonardo Da Vinci helped these protectors by creating a secret code that could only be decoded by obtaining the special decoder ring inside specially marked boxes of Kellog’s products. Obviously, the illegitimate Catholic hierarchy doesn’t want this dirty little secret to be discovered, ever, so they take the logical step of creating a league of secret albino Christian ninjas to find Jesus’ heir and kill him or her. However, in the end we discover that both the good guys and the bad guys are piss-poor conspirators. It turns out that Jesus’ descendant was right under everybody’s nose the whole time.