You aren't who you think you are...
December 28, 2016 10:39 AM   Subscribe

What are some commercial action/thriller/sci fi films where the main character either wakes up with amnesia (a la Bourne) and has to discover his/her identity, or else discovers midway through the film that his/her sense of self is falsely implanted (a la Total Recall?)
posted by egeanin to Media & Arts (38 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: Liam Neeson in The Unknown
posted by phunniemee at 10:44 AM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: North by Northwest.
posted by Melismata at 10:45 AM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: Memento?
posted by saladin at 10:46 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Best answer: The Long Kiss Goodnight
posted by hobgadling at 10:47 AM on December 28, 2016 [12 favorites]


Best answer: The Manchurian Candidate
Predestination (Underrated movie!)
posted by cnc at 10:48 AM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Best answer: American Ultra
posted by 1970s Antihero at 10:49 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


The Matrix might qualify, depending on your definition of "falsely implanted."
posted by contraption at 10:50 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also starring Arnold, there's The 6th Day, which kind of fits this. If memory serves me right, he finds out that [spoilers] he's actually the clone at the end and the "real" Arnold is evil.
posted by mayonnaises at 10:51 AM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: Source Code
Moon
posted by contraption at 10:55 AM on December 28, 2016 [8 favorites]


Best answer: Not a film but totally worth it if you like this sort of thing: Orphan Black (because it's a roller coaster of "Who the hell am I??"). There's an Identity Amnesia category in TV Tropes which also suggests Dark City and Robocop (of the ones I have seen)
posted by jessamyn at 11:04 AM on December 28, 2016 [4 favorites]


Best answer: Mirage with Gregory Peck.
posted by chocolatetiara at 11:07 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not a thriller, but The Truman Show sort of fits this.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:17 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Angel Heart.
posted by Occula at 11:21 AM on December 28, 2016 [5 favorites]


Best answer: Dark City
posted by mochapickle at 11:30 AM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Does the anmesia episode of Archer count? I think it counts.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:41 AM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: Hardcore Henry, which is about as gloriously stupid as it sounds, but the "plot" is exactly what you're looking for. It might have been better as an FPS, but they made it into a movie instead.
posted by bonehead at 11:45 AM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: Imposter (2001), the one based on the Philip K. Dick short story of the same name (not only are there a number of movies with that title, but there was a second one that same year). But it's not a moment of character development, but one of plot development, as it turns out, because the fact of the realization is important for plot reasons. I've said too much already, and it's a bad movie, so read the short story instead.

The plot was more or less replicated in the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode Whispers (2x14).
posted by Sunburnt at 11:47 AM on December 28, 2016 [2 favorites]


Best answer: Dark City, by the by, was Roger Ebert's favorite film of 1998, and if you get a chance to grab a DVD of it, you can listen to Ebert's fascinating commentary.
posted by DrAstroZoom at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not any of the series main characters, but the B5 episode "Passing Through Gethsemane"
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:48 AM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: Oblivion.
posted by steady-state strawberry at 11:55 AM on December 28, 2016


> [re: The 6th Day] If memory serves me right, he finds out that [spoilers] he's actually the clone at the end and the "real" Arnold is evil.

No, not that deep. I tried 3 times to encapsulate this movie, but it's not easy. Here's attempt 4: Arnold was cloned, and his mind copied, without his knowledge as a coverup by a powerful company that thought the original Arnold died (at the thing they were covering up). But the original was alive, and the clone was a threat to the secret illegal human cloning by that company.

It is about implanted memory, in particular the clone believes he's the original and shares most of his memories with the original.

Real-Arnold-Is-Evil is the twist of Total Recall, I think.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:07 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


I seem to remember Kontroll, a kind of dreamy Hungarian film about alienated metro workers, featuring this as a lingering question mark over the course of the film.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:14 PM on December 28, 2016


Who Am I?
posted by The Great Big Mulp at 12:21 PM on December 28, 2016


Cypher, from the same fella that directed Cube.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 12:27 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also in the television realm is the current Blindspot, and from the 90s, Nowhere Man (which I really enjoyed when it aired, but I don't know if it still holds up).
posted by Pryde at 12:55 PM on December 28, 2016


The TV series HAVEN is about this.
posted by ElizaDolots at 1:17 PM on December 28, 2016


Response by poster: Not to threadsit - but I'm not looking for TV shows - just films. Thank you!
posted by egeanin at 1:26 PM on December 28, 2016


Best answer: Vanilla Sky, maybe? (And the original Spanish film, Abre los Ojos)
posted by SisterHavana at 2:05 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Shattered.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Mulholland Drive (I think)
Spellbound
posted by fshgrl at 2:06 PM on December 28, 2016 [3 favorites]


Best answer: "The Adjustment Bureau", it's also based on a short story by Philip K. Dick.
posted by Petersondub at 2:18 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ridley Scott's Robin Hood has this theme, I would also count Alien, since the crew discovers they are expendable to the corporation relative to the nifty new life form that has boarded their spacecraft.
posted by effluvia at 2:30 PM on December 28, 2016


Blade Runner except the discovery never comes.(According to harrison ford but not Ridley Scott).
posted by srboisvert at 3:38 PM on December 28, 2016


Not exactly what you're looking for and you've probably seen it, but Inception is about a team of con-men who are attempting to do just this to another person using technology that lets them dive into the mark's dreams. The mark occasionally comes close to realizing what's happening, but ultimately doesn't. However, the scene that starts in the opening minute of the movie, and is finished in the last few minutes, does kind of have this. It definitely plays with a similar theme from a new angle.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:41 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I'm uncertain as to whether the (again Philip K. Dick-based) movie Paycheck qualifies. In it, an engineer agrees to a particularly severe non-disclosure agreement: after he does the job, his memories since they day he was hired will be wiped. After his 3-year job is complete, he wakes up with no memory of it, and when he goes to collect his multi-million-dollar pay, he finds a weird collection of miscellaneous items instead. Those help him piece together the missing years, and also lead to a more exotic science fiction turn of events.
posted by Sunburnt at 4:59 PM on December 28, 2016 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Trance.
posted by plep at 1:16 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'll add to the chorus suggesting Memento, which got lots of praise, and The Long Kiss Goodnight which didn't but is still a great fun film.

Predestination is really, really great and worth your time. It's a pretty straight adaptation of a Heinlein story, but don't read anything about first.

Angel Heart is, of course, kind of the definitive example from the last 30 years.
posted by uberchet at 10:33 AM on December 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


You know, "The Girl on the Train" actually fits this. In this case, a character is a blackout drunk, which is an amnesia stand-in.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:09 AM on December 29, 2016


Dude, Where's My Car?
posted by 1970s Antihero at 12:01 PM on December 29, 2016


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