(Photo by Warner Bros. Thumbnail: New Line, Vertical Entertainment /courtesy Everett Collection)
20 Movies To Watch If You Loved Inception
Ten years ago, Inception, the dream-team movie collaboration between Leonardo DiCaprio and Christopher Nolan, rode into theaters on a wave of hype and secrecy matching the director’s previous game-changer, The Dark Knight. The dizzying dream heist thriller floored audiences with its complex shots – a city collapsing on itself, along with the practical effects wizardry of rotating hallway brawls – and a densely, literally layered plot. It left audiences wanting more… and we’re here to help. If you’re looking for more movies like Inception, the two other Nolan films that hew most closely are 1999’s brain-splitter Memento, and 2006’s treacherous The Prestige. But you, esteemed Tomato-reader, already knew that, have seen ’em both – probably many times – and thus know the joys of a David-Bowie-as-Nikola-Tesla performance! We present, then, 20 more movies to watch if you loved Inception.
First, there’s Shutter Island, which has a lot of overlap with Inception, and not just because they star the same guy. They’re both slick, dark thrillers that question reality and perception. (See our list of 20 movies to watch if you loved Shutter Island, which has more Incept-y movies like Dark City and The Game.)
What makes a movie like Inception? The initial response is for some cracking sci-fi mind-f–kers. The number of these films has exploded since 2000, especially in the last decade: Think the space-time continuum-whacking Predestination, Primer, and Timecrimes. Movies like Mr. Nobody, The Congress, The Cell, Coherence, Time Lapse, and Enemy explore identity across multiple realities. Inception shares the most in the plot department with Satoshi Kon’s anime Paprika.
But the mood really started in the ’90s. An approaching new millennium felt like crossing a threshold into the unknown future, where technology, like Inception‘s mechanics to hijack dreams, brought limitless opportunities and dangers. The Truman Show, eXistenZ, Being John Malkovich, and The Thirteenth Floor explore this space. Earlier brain-hopping takes include adventure romp Dreamscape, and the absurdly violent Total Recall. Then there’s Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who was on simulated realities in the 1970s with World on a Wire, which Criterion has pressed for its original 3.5 hour cut.
Of course, Inception wouldn’t have resonated if it was all just sleight-of-hands and technical games; DiCaprio’s family drama provided a compelling emotional hook. Movies that have this same melancholic thread in complicated settings include Robin Williams afterlife fantasy/drama What Dreams May Come, and the existentially devastating Synecdoche, New York.
Adjusted Score: 32.276%
Critics Consensus: Bad script and confusing plot undermine the movie's impressive visuals.
Computer scientist Hammnod Fuller has discovered something extremely important. He's about to tell the discovery to his colleague, Douglas Hall,... [More]
Adjusted Score: 50.859%
Critics Consensus: The Cell offers disturbing, stunning eye candy, but its visual pleasures are no match for a confused storyline that undermines the movie's inventive aesthetic.
Within the confines of an abandoned rural farmhouse, Carl Stargher, a psychologically disturbed killer has built The Cell, a glass-encased... [More]
Adjusted Score: 56.359%
Critics Consensus: An insubstantial plot overshadows the beautiful, surreal scenery.
Despite everything we have experienced and all we have seen, nothing can prepare us for the wonders of what lies... [More]
Adjusted Score: 68.338%
Critics Consensus: Mr. Nobody's narrative tangles may bedevil as much as they entertain, but its big ambitions and absorbing visuals make for an intriguing addition to director Jaco Van Dormael's filmography.
A young boy stands on a station platform. The train is about to leave. Should he go with his mother... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.292%
Critics Consensus: Charlie Kaufman's ambitious directorial debut occasionally strains to connect, but ultimately provides fascinating insight into a writer's mind.
Theater director Caden Cotard is mounting a new play. His life catering to suburban blue-hairs at the local regional theater... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75.971%
Critics Consensus: It may not rank with Scorsese's best work, but Shutter Island's gleefully unapologetic genre thrills represent the director at his most unrestrained.
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for a fourth time for this adaptation of Shutter Island, a novel by... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75.32%
Critics Consensus: Thanks to a strong performance from Jake Gyllenhaal and smart direction from Denis Villeneuve, Enemy hits the mark as a tense, uncommonly adventurous thriller.
Academy Award Nominee Jake Gyllenhaal reteams with his PRISONERS director, Academy Award Nominee Denis Villeneuve, in this sexy and hypnotically... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75.303%
Critics Consensus: Dense, obtuse, but stimulating, Primer is a film for viewers ready for a cerebral challenge.
The debut feature from filmmaker Shane Carruth -- who wrote, directed, photographed, edited, scored, and stars -- Primer is a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 75.748%
Critics Consensus: The Congress rises on the strength of Robin Wright's powerful performance, with enough ambitious storytelling and technical thrills to overcome its somewhat messy structure.
More than two decades after catapulting to stardom with The Princess Bride, an aging actress (Robin Wright, playing a version... [More]
Adjusted Score: 76.737%
Critics Consensus: Gooey, slimy, grotesque fun.
Set in the near-future, eXistenZ depicts a society in which game designers are worshipped as superstars and players can organically... [More]
Adjusted Score: 78.813%
Critics Consensus: Dreamscape mixes several genres -- horror, sci-fi, action -- and always maintains a sense of adventure and humor.
In an attempt to help people who experience recurring nightmares, a research program is using psychics to enter the patients'... [More]
Adjusted Score: 59.21%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
TIME LAPSE explores the possibilities of time travel through a machine that is capable of taking pictures 24 hours into... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.104%
Critics Consensus: Under Paul Verhoeven's frenetic direction, Total Recall is a fast-paced rush of violence, gore, and humor that never slacks.
In Paul Verhoeven's wild sci-fi action movie Total Recall, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a 21st-century construction worker who discovers that his... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.681%
Critics Consensus: Fun genre fare with uncommon intelligence, Predestination serves as a better-than-average sci-fi adventure -- and offers a starmaking turn from Sarah Snook.
PREDESTINATION chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to... [More]
Adjusted Score: 87.554%
Critics Consensus: Following its own brand of logic, Paprika is an eye-opening mind trip that is difficult to follow but never fails to dazzle.
A machine allows therapists to enter patients' dreams. When it's stolen, all hell breaks loose, and only a woman therapist... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.913%
Critics Consensus: A case study in less-is-more filmmaking, Coherence serves as a compelling low-budget calling card for debuting writer-director James Ward Byrkit.
On the night of an astronomical anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending... [More]
Adjusted Score: 90.725%
Critics Consensus: Timecrimes is a low-budget thriller that's well-crafted and loaded with dark humor and bizarre twists.
An ordinary guy takes an extraordinary step through time in this science fiction thriller. Hector (Karra Elejalde) is spending a... [More]
Adjusted Score: 99.911%
Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and highly original, Being John Malkovich supports its wild premise with skillful direction and a stellar ensemble cast.
Would you pay money to journey into the mind of the star of Con Air, The Killing Fields, and In... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.462%
Critics Consensus: A funny, tender, and thought-provoking film, The Truman Show is all the more noteworthy for its remarkably prescient vision of runaway celebrity culture and a nation with an insatiable thirst for the private details of ordinary lives.
Jim Carrey gives a remarkable performance as a man learning that his entire life in a storybook coastal village has... [More]
Adjusted Score: 102.08%
Critics Consensus: With World on a Wire, Fassbinder imprints his unmistakable mark on a science fiction mystery that, through fascinating philosophical discussions and deep psychological questions, presents a timely reflection on humanity.
A dystopic science-fiction epic, World on a Wire is German wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder's gloriously cracked, boundlessly inventive take on... [More]