What are the most unpredictable films?
June 29, 2014 7:48 AM   Subscribe

What are the most unpredictable, non-formulaic movies that you've seen? I don't mean movies with twist endings, or that discard traditional narrative altogether, but basically conventional films that don't follow familiar plot formulas, but move in ways you can't predict throughout. Thanks for any suggestions!
posted by El Sabor Asiatico to Media & Arts (60 answers total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
Well, in the unlikely event that you have neither read "Catch-22" nor seen the movie, that movie (and book) will give you plenty of "Wait...what?" moments. Also try The Ruling Class, maybe.
posted by Decani at 7:58 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Like Memento?
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:59 AM on June 29 [6 favorites]

Well, this was definitely one of the redeeming qualities of Under the Skin! (Or, as those who loved it would say, one of its best qualities. :))
posted by kalapierson at 8:01 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Unusual suspects?
posted by misspony at 8:07 AM on June 29

I think Charlie Kaufmann's movies all fit that way for me, especially Being John Malkovitch and Adaptation

Living in Oblivion

I'd also include the even more conventional, but totally whackadoo Romy and Michele's High School Reunion
posted by Mchelly at 8:09 AM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Francis Ford Coppola's Tetro.
posted by grounded at 8:17 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Are you willing to consider anime? Puella Magi Madoka Magica is like that. After the TV series ran, they remade the story as three movies. The first two movies recap the TV series, and the third movie is entirely new material.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:25 AM on June 29

Synecdoche New York maybe. The Place beyond the Pines surprised me quite a bit.
posted by crocomancer at 8:26 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]

The Draughtman's Contract Even though the plot is quite simple, and I have seen it several times, I am still confused by this film. And it is beautiful
posted by mumimor at 8:27 AM on June 29

The narrative structure of AI is one of the many things I love about it.
posted by Schismatic at 8:28 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

The Catechism Cataclysm, which may still be available on Netflix. There is literally no way to expect what happens in the film.
posted by maxsparber at 8:40 AM on June 29

Mulholland Drive
posted by billiebee at 8:45 AM on June 29 [6 favorites]

Hitchcock's Vertigo and Psycho were the first to come to mind for me.
posted by supermassive at 8:47 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Upstream Color is a recent favorite that doesn't follow narrative conventions.
posted by isthmus at 9:04 AM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Cabin in the Woods!
posted by mochapickle at 9:17 AM on June 29 [5 favorites]

Spring Breakers.
posted by Benjy at 9:31 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]

Maybe Better Off Dead or One Crazy Summer?

Better Off Dead is a lot, well, better of the two.
posted by sevenless at 9:33 AM on June 29

Safety Not Guaranteed
posted by General Tonic at 9:54 AM on June 29 [3 favorites]

The Crying Game
Neighbors, with John Belushi
The Gods Must Be Crazy (this is my favorite of the three)
posted by alex1965 at 9:59 AM on June 29

Gus Van Sant's Jerry. (And Elephant, Paranoid Park etc.)
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 10:04 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Godard's Two or Three Things I Know About Her and Bunuel's That Obscure Object of Desire, both of which were taught in the first film class I ever took and both of which BLEW my mind. I think these are exactly what you're looking for.
posted by eve harrington at 10:07 AM on June 29 [4 favorites]

Hitchcock's Rope, which runs in real-time without (visible) cuts.
Similarly, The Russian Ark.

Rules of the Game, which seems like it's going to be a light romantic comedy and very much isn't.

Some seventies elliptical anti-mystery movies:

Night Movies
The Conversation
The Long Good-Bye

Some Shakespeare:
Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight which pull a narrative out of four different plays and creates a new story out them
Prospero's Books which is Greenaways deconstruction of The Tempest. Actually almost any Greenaway movie.
posted by octothorpe at 10:15 AM on June 29

Came to say Being John Malkovitch, but on reading the other comments, I also super-duper agree about Safety Not Guaranteed.

During both of those movies there were times when I literally thought to myself "I have absolutely no idea what is going to happen"
posted by aubilenon at 10:37 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Don't laugh or judge, but The Lego Movie.
posted by kat518 at 10:38 AM on June 29 [1 favorite]

posted by prewar lemonade at 11:16 AM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Wet Hot American Summer
2nding Wet Hot American Summer
posted by greta simone at 12:31 PM on June 29

"Sleuth", with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, will keep you guessing all the way through.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:51 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

Spike Lees "Do the right thing" (recent post on MeFi on it's 25th anniversary this summer)
posted by Petersondub at 1:11 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Holy Motors. I watched it, sat there for five minutes and then watched it again.
posted by inire at 1:36 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

Miracle Mile.

Mind-blowing genre switch. Scary too.
posted by spitbull at 2:18 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

Le Week-End.
posted by taff at 2:29 PM on June 29

The Red Violin
posted by NoraCharles at 2:38 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Alain Resnais Mon Oncle D'Amerique

Jim Marmusch Stranger Than Paradise
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:45 PM on June 29

In no particular order:

Fight Club
Seven Psycopaths
This Is The End
Don Juan DeMarco
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Pulp Fiction
Burn After Reading

"Sleuth", with Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine, will keep you guessing all the way through.

One of my all-time favorites! I've recommended it here before with the warning to not google it because a lot of the results include a huge spoiler.
posted by Room 641-A at 4:01 PM on June 29

posted by VikingSword at 4:36 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

La Grande Bouffe
posted by VikingSword at 4:41 PM on June 29

Claire's Knee
posted by VikingSword at 4:43 PM on June 29

posted by VikingSword at 4:44 PM on June 29

posted by VikingSword at 4:50 PM on June 29

posted by VikingSword at 4:51 PM on June 29

The Tree of Life.

Also seconding Upstream Colour.
posted by Salamander at 4:51 PM on June 29

Dead Ringers
posted by VikingSword at 4:53 PM on June 29


Dark Star
posted by radwolf76 at 5:23 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

Last Year at Marienbad
posted by mkultra at 5:59 PM on June 29

If we cut away the "not just a twist ending" then this list is quite a bit tighter than it is.

'Holy Motors'. You're just not gonna be guessing how it goes. Totally not conventional, sorry.
(No link to IMDB, because a plot summary would be kinda useless. Some NSFW odd nudity).

'Being John Malkovitch' is reasonably unconventional.
And yes, the original 1972 version of 'Sleuth' is more fun than the remake.
posted by ovvl at 6:17 PM on June 29

Repo Man
posted by dbiedny at 7:30 PM on June 29

From the roller coaster department:

After Dark
Very Bad Things
posted by rhizome at 12:31 AM on June 30

One False Move is not your typical crime/cop movie. Back when it came out, Siskel and Ebert praised it for not having the same final half-hour as every other action movie. I didn't know it was over, first time I watched it, until the credits started rolling.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:07 AM on June 30

I just saw the new art-house sci-fi film "The Signal," and it's very unpredictable. I went into it with virtually no idea what it was about, and I'm glad I did.
posted by jbickers at 6:18 AM on June 30

Side Effects. I thought it was about 3/4 different genres of movies, along the way...
posted by benbenson at 2:44 PM on June 30

posted by flora at 9:36 PM on June 30

Something Wild and the Music of Chance are both great films that take unexpected turns.
posted by alms at 10:33 AM on July 1

I just watched The Wall (2012) the other night. The less you know about it, the better -- the trailer unfortunately reveals one of the more meaningful turns -- but it's the story of a woman who is vacationing in the mountains and wakes up one morning to discover that there's an invisible wall surrounding the region she's in. It's this quiet, contemplative, meditative film. Not much happens but survival, but it's told in such a way that you have no idea how she gets through it. I loved it.

And yes, the original 1972 version of 'Sleuth' is more fun than the remake.

And how. But, um, there's this scene in the remake when Jude Law is wearing eyeliner and his hair's soaked in vodka and he's freaking out and it's both weirdly and memorably alluring.
posted by mochapickle at 11:04 AM on July 1

Audition, which starts out as what could be a romantic comedy.
posted by benzenedream at 12:13 AM on July 5 [1 favorite]

We just watched Compliance last night, and it definitely fits into this category.
posted by nosila at 9:06 AM on July 5

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