If you haven’t seen Christopher Nolan‘s classic psychological sci-fi drama, Inception, buckle up because you are in for one of the rides of your life.
If you have, you will know that it is an incredible, cerebral, mind-bending yarn which tells the story of a group of crooks in the future who are expert thieves. But the target of their crimes is the secrets people hold in their heads.
The ringleader of the gang is Dom Cobb, played by the astonishing Leonardo Di Caprio. He is given the chance to clear his criminal record and get a fresh start at life. But to do so, he has to commit the ultimate crime; plant information into someone’s mind.
Inception is a revolutionary movie in so many ways. The script is unique, the special effects awe-inspiring and the cast exception, with Di Caprio leading an ensemble that includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Elliot Page, Cillian Murphy, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, Michael Caine, and Pete Postlethwaite.
While there may never be another movie quite like Inception, there are other movies that attempt to reach its level.
So, if you want more of the same, here is a rundown of our top 15 movies like Inception.
Let’s begin with another classic Christopher Nolan movie, in which he plays with the audience’s mind with countless twists and turns.
Memento may be more than 20 years old now, but it still feels as fresh as the day it premiered. This film has a non-linear format which means it jumps back and forth in the story, and you have to really concentrate to follow what’s happening.
It tells the story of Leonard Shelby, played by the superb Guy Pearce. Shelby is an insurance investigator who suffers from amnesia and short-term memory loss after a violent incident which left his wife dead.
Shelby is determined to track down her killer, but because of his memory problems, he has to rely on photos and tattoos to remind himself of his quest.
Memento is both beautiful and challenging in equal measure and has a terrific cast which includes Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano, who both deliver stand-out performances. But Pearce is the real star.
If anyone challenges Christopher Nolan as the king of weird-ass mind-bending movies, it has to be David Lynch. And Mulholland Drive is undeniably his magnum opus.
The film follows Rita, played by Laura Elena Harring, who has lost her memory after being the only survivor of a car crash in LA. She ends up in a random house with Betty, played by Naomi Watts in her breakthrough performance.
She tries to help Rita remember who she is and her former life. The result of this is a surreal, character-switching journey around LA, where it quickly becomes clear that nothing is as it seems.
Mulholland Drive also stars Justin Theroux, Melissa George, and Ann Miller. It can be hard work and might need multiple viewings, but it is more than worth the effort.
Looper stars Inception’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, who works as a ‘present-day contract killer’ whose job is to execute people sent back from the past by a criminal gang.
The catch is that if they survive, they will be sent back, in turn, to be killed by their former self. Unfortunately for Joe, when his older version, played by Bruce Willis, returns, he manages to escape.
Old Joe wants to change the past to stop his future wife from being killed. To do this, he has to kill the Rainmaker, who just so happens to be a young boy.
What follows is a tense, psychological thriller in which two versions of the same person compete. It’s a terrific film with great performances from the two leads, plus Paul Dano, Emily Blunt, Noah Segan, and Jeff Daniels, alongside an excellent supporting cast.
David Fincher is another dab-hand at the bizarre, psychological movies, and Fight Club is the cult classic for which he will likely be best remembered.
It stars Edward Norton as the unnamed lead, who hates his life and his boring job, and so stars a fight club in his basement with soap salesman Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt.
The club becomes popular, and Norton’s character ends up in a rather damaging relationship with attendee Marla Singer, played brilliantly by Helena Bonham Carter.
But when Durden begins to seize control of the club, the two men fall out over what it’s being used for, leading to a big finale and a shocking twist in the plot.
With a great ensemble cast that includes Meatloaf and Jared Leto, Fight Club did moderately well when it was released. But it is now widely regarded as a stone-cold classic.
Another from Brad Pitt’s canon of superb ‘turn-of-the-millennium’ movies is 12 Monkeys, a movie that gained even more bite since the COVID-19 pandemic spread around the world.
It follows James Cole, played by Bruce Willis, a jailbird from the year 2035 who they decide to send back in time to try and discover what caused a global pandemic that has almost wiped out most of the human race.
When he gets back, he is sectioned and meets Jeffrey Goines, played by Pitt, who is a rich environmental obsessive with some major mental health problems.
When Cole gets out, he finds evidence to link the pandemic with a group of activists called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys, which Goines is involved with. But can he share this information with the future and stop them from killing everyone?
This visually stunning movie was made by Monty Python legend and controversial moviemaker Terry Gilliam and has all the qualities of his canon, such as Brazil.
There is a great support cast too, including, Christopher Plummer, Madeleine Stowe, David Morse, and Jon Seda.
The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo
This movie built on the success of both the bestselling novel and the Swedish film of the same name but managed to lift the bar once more thanks to the superb direction of David Fincher and some top-notch performances.
The lead actors are Daniel Craig, who plays journalist Mikael Blomkvist, and Rooney Mara, who is Lisbeth Salander, a hacker signed up by Blomkvist to help him crack the case of a girl who disappeared forty years earlier.
Their investigation lurches from one huge twist to another, held together by a tightly written script and a superb ensemble cast that includes, Christopher Plummer, Steven Berkoff, Stellan Skarsgård, Joely Richardson, Robin Wright, and Donald Sumpter.
A compelling story and an even more compelling movie.
Shutter Island is one of Martin Scorsese’s most overlooked films. Yet for fans, it is one of the very best.
This psychological thriller is set in a psychiatric hospital located on Shutter Island. Leonardo Di Caprio stars as Deputy U.S. Marshal Edward “Teddy” Daniels, a cop who is sent to investigate a disappearance from the hospital. He is quickly drawn into the dark secrets and mysteries that plague this island and the institution that inhabits it.
Di Caprio is ably supported by a stellar cast that includes Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Sir Ben Kingsley, Emily Mortimer, and Michelle Williams.
It is quite unlike many of Scorsese’s other films, yet all the better for bringing his unique style to a very different type of movie. One of this best.
A film that might well need no introduction, but despite this M. Night Shyamalan flick establishing him as the master of the end-of-movie plot twist, this film still stands up to repeat viewing.
Haley Joel Osment is the star as the young boy who can see and speak with dead people. Bruce Willis is his psychologist, Malcolm Crowe, who is delving into his psyche in order to try and find out what is going on with him.
No one expects the truth, and certainly no one expects the ending, but while it is the twist that made this movie famous, it is still a terrific film all-around and every bit as intriguing as Inception, albeit in a more subtle and horrific way.
A brilliant and underrated movie set in late Victorian England and tells the story of Alfred Borden, played by Christian Bale and Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman, the two most famous magicians of their era.
After Angier’s wife is killed during a performance, they become fierce rivals, regularly sabotaging and attacking each other’s performances.
Both men aspire to perform the ultimate illusion and work hard to find out the other’s secrets, with some incredible and unexpected consequences.
Easier to follow than Inception but no less packed with twists and turns and featuring an all-star cast including Scarlett Johansson, Andy Serkis, Michael Caine, and David Bowie.
The Prestige does for costume drama what Inception did for sci-fi.
A dystopian sci-fi classic that made films like Inception possible. The Matrix is the first of a trilogy of movies made by the Wachowski sisters set in a dystopian future where all human life is plugged into an artificial reality called the Matrix, which is like Mark Zuckerberg’s biggest wet dream.
Keanu Reeves plays a computer programmer called Neo who investigates repeated references to something called the Matrix that he finds in code. A fellow hacker, Trinity, played by Carrie-Anne Moss, put him in touch with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), who has answers.
But a team of Agents is in pursuit and what follows is a battle to uncover the truth across both reality and the virtual world.
Hugo Weaving and Joe Pantoliano also star in this instant cult classic that has shaped the way a whole generation thinks about reality and the science fiction genre.
The stunningly beautiful and powerful movie Black Swan is about Nina, played by Natalie Portman, a young ballerina who has a chance to perform in the landmark role as the White Swan in a New York City Ballet Company production of Swan Lake.
The role of the Black Swan is cast as her rival Lily, played by Mila Kunis. Darren Aronofsky’s sensational film takes a dark turn when Nina learns that the ballet company is thinking to switch the role she is due to play with Lily.
She takes the news and the challenge very badly and the movie follows her dramatic descent into psychological chaos, with some dark and dramatic turns.
Portman wins an Oscar for her performance, but she is also ably supported by a stellar cast that includes Winona Ryder, Barbera Hershey, Vincent Cassel, and Benjamin Millepied.
A dark and compelling movie that is very different to Inception in multiple ways and yet unerringly similar in others.
Donnie Darko is a US high school student, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who is told the world is going to end in 28 days by a figure dressed in a giant bunny costume.
Sounds weird so far, and this cult movie only gets stranger after Donnie has to move out of his house when an aircraft part crashes through the roof.
The strange happenings intensify, but it is never clear if they are real or just a figment of Donnie’s imagination until the very end.
This dark and intense film was a smash hit with younger audiences and helped to launch not only Jake’s career but that of his sister Maggie Gyllenhaal too.
A cult horror movie set in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, this movie tells the story of Jacob Singer, a Vietnam War vet plagued by hallucinations from his service.
After a former colleague dies in mysterious circumstances, Jacob tries to discover what happened to his platoon and the family he left behind when he went to Vietnam.
It is a journey into the past and also into his psyche as he attempts to find out what happened, and while Jacob’s ladder didn’t do well at the box office, it is now a cult classic and a movie that defined the career of its star, Tim Robbins.
With a strong ensemble class including Elizabeth Peña, Eric La Salle, Jason Alexander, and Danny Aiello, Jacob’s Ladder is slightly slower-paced than Inception but no less powerful.
Predestination is a deeply clever, low-budget Australian movie that weaves together two stories and has many of the qualities that made Inception such a hit.
It tells the story of a top temporal agent who is sent on a series of journeys through time in pursuit of people pre-destined to become killers. His job is to prevent their crimes from being committed in the first place.
Simultaneously, we also follow the life of a precocious orphan with the film coming together for a grand finale around a major terrorist attack.
This is mind-bending psychological sci-fi drama at its best with Ethan Hawke in the lead role, supported by Sarah Snook and Noah Taylor, plus a top-notch script.
As The Guardian rightly said in its review, “The counterfactual black humour is dizzying, and the movie is, to use Hawke’s own term, the snake that eats its own tail.”
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
If anyone can subvert reality in the same way as Inception, but do it better, it is Charlie Kaufman. But while movies like Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Synecdoche, New York do so in a more subtle way, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is the one that brings a sci-fi twist into the mix.
It stars Jim Carrey as Joel Barish, who learns that the love of his life, Clementine, played by Kate Winslet, has had him erased from her memory.
He decides to do the same, but as the irreversible process starts, he begins to have second thoughts.
This stunning film which also stars the likes of Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood, and Mark Ruffalo is a whole new take on the rom-com, on sci-fi, and on movies generally.
One of the best films ever made, which Roger Ebert described as “a labyrinth” and “a radical example of Maze Cinema, that style in which the story coils back upon itself, redefining everything and then throwing it up in the air and redefining it again.” He’s not wrong.