Getting amnesia is no fun because it wipes out such a big part of who we are as people: Our memories. Sometimes though it's arguably the lesser of two evils, as with these five amnesiacs with pasts so terrifying it's probably a good thing they can't remember. That doesn't stop most of them from trying, though. By the way, some of these movies are pretty twisty, and there are spoilers in the words that follow. If you're concerned about that sort of thing, either don't read or consider getting one of those mind-erasure kits.

John Ballantyne, "Spellbound"

Since Gregory Peck's character in "Spellbound" is in an Alfred Hitchcock movie, it stands to reason that his crippling amnesia will get him enmeshed in a complex murder plot. And lo and behold, that is exactly what happens. The circumstances of his amnesia are pretty terrifying, too, especially for a 1945 film (you don't expect to see a small child impaled on a sharp gate in the golden age of Hollywood). And the dream sequence by famous artist Salvadore Dali tends to confuse things rather than illuminate them.

Luc Deveraux, "Universal Soldier"

Fighting in the Vietnam War is enough to give anybody amnesia. But what if you're murdered by a psychotic fellow soldier while trying to stop him from killing innocent people, then revived by a top-secret government project that turns you into a mindless soldier-drone? That's the classic premise behind "Universal Soldier," and Luc Deveraux is played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, so go ahead and file this under "masterpiece" right now.

Leonard Shelby, "Memento"

Probably the most famous movie about amnesia, Chris Nolan's "Memento" employs a backwards chronological structure in order to give audiences a taste of what it's like not to remember anything more than five minutes prior. Shelby fills the time on an obsessive quest for revenge against the party or parties who killed his wife and traumatized him into his present condition, which is a pretty terrifying way to lose your memories, right?

John Murdoch, "Dark City" J

ohn Murdoch lives in a huge city that always seems dark, and try as he might he can't remember ever leaving it. Something's gotta be up, right (again SPOILERS COMING!!)? That "something" happens to be that he and all the other inhabitants of the city are actually alien abductees and are the subject of experiments involving memory implantation and all sorts of other godawaful procedures. Leave us alone, aliens! Just because we can't remember the horrifying things you've done to us doesn't make it right!

Wolverine, "X-Men"


As terrifying pasts go, Wolverine might just take the cake. He was born a mutant, which is difficult enough, but then the Canadian government got a hold of him and did all kinds of extra-painful experiments on him (including bonding his bones with Adamantium) in order to turn him into some kind of super-soldier. He escaped, but not without losing all memory of the man he was before. Which means he'll have to watch "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," and no one should have to suffer through that.