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Inception

(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. Alex Vo

#20
#20
Adjusted Score: 31220%
Critics Consensus: Bad script and confusing plot undermine the movie's impressive visuals.
Synopsis: A man awakens to discover a bloody shirt in his house and his boss murdered the night before. Did he... [More]
Directed By: Josef Rusnak

#19

The Cell (2000)
45%

#19
Adjusted Score: 51033%
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.
Synopsis: "The Cell" takes a shocking, riveting mind trip into the dark and dangerous corridors of a serial killer's psyche --... [More]
Directed By: Tarsem Singh

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#18
Adjusted Score: 56126%
Critics Consensus: An insubstantial plot overshadows the beautiful, surreal scenery.
Synopsis: After Chris Nielsen (Robin Williams) dies in a car accident, he is guided through the afterlife by his spirit guide,... [More]
Directed By: Vincent Ward

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Mr. Nobody (2009)
68%

#17
Adjusted Score: 67404%
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.
Synopsis: In 2092 the last mortal human (Jared Leto) on Earth reflects on his long past and thinks about the lives... [More]
Directed By: Jaco Van Dormael

#16
#16
Adjusted Score: 77101%
Critics Consensus: Charlie Kaufman's ambitious directorial debut occasionally strains to connect, but ultimately provides fascinating insight into a writer's mind.
Synopsis: Life is looking pretty bleak for theater director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman). His wife and daughter have left him,... [More]
Directed By: Charlie Kaufman

#15

Shutter Island (2010)
68%

#15
Adjusted Score: 78539%
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.
Synopsis: The implausible escape of a brilliant murderess brings U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo)... [More]
Directed By: Martin Scorsese

#14

Enemy (2013)
71%

#14
Adjusted Score: 75835%
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.
Synopsis: A mild-mannered college professor (Jake Gyllenhaal) discovers a look-alike actor and delves into the other man's private affairs.... [More]
Directed By: Denis Villeneuve

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Primer (2004)
73%

#13
Adjusted Score: 77009%
Critics Consensus: Dense, obtuse, but stimulating, Primer is a film for viewers ready for a cerebral challenge.
Synopsis: Intellectual engineers Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) build and sell error-checking technology with the help of their friends... [More]
Directed By: Shane Carruth

#12

The Congress (2013)
73%

#12
Adjusted Score: 76973%
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.
Synopsis: An aging actress agrees to preserve her digital likeness for a studio to use in any future films it likes.... [More]
Directed By: Ari Folman

#11

eXistenZ (1999)
74%

#11
Adjusted Score: 76723%
Critics Consensus: Gooey, slimy, grotesque fun.
Synopsis: Video game designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has created a virtual reality game called eXistenZ. After a crazed fan... [More]
Directed By: David Cronenberg

#10

Dreamscape (1984)
79%

#10
Adjusted Score: 79590%
Critics Consensus: Dreamscape mixes several genres -- horror, sci-fi, action -- and always maintains a sense of adventure and humor.
Synopsis: Selfish teen Alex Gardner (Dennis Quaid) is coerced into joining a government project in which psychics like him are trained... [More]
Directed By: Joseph Ruben

#9

Time Lapse (2014)
78%

#9
Adjusted Score: 64054%
Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.
Synopsis: Three friends discover a photo machine that shows pictures a day into the future. After they use it for personal... [More]
Directed By: Bradley King

#8

Total Recall (1990)
82%

#8
Adjusted Score: 87099%
Critics Consensus: Under Paul Verhoeven's frenetic direction, Total Recall is a fast-paced rush of violence, gore, and humor that never slacks.
Synopsis: Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is a bored construction worker in the year 2084 who dreams of visiting the colonized Mars.... [More]
Directed By: Paul Verhoeven

#7

Predestination (2014)
84%

#7
Adjusted Score: 87110%
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.
Synopsis: A temporal agent (Ethan Hawke) embarks on a final time-traveling assignment to prevent an elusive criminal from launching an attack... [More]

#6

Paprika (2006)
85%

#6
Adjusted Score: 89978%
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.
Synopsis: Dr. Atsuko Chiba works as a scientist by day and, under the code name "Paprika," is a dream detective at... [More]
Directed By: Satoshi Kon

#5

Coherence (2013)
88%

#5
Adjusted Score: 90353%
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.
Synopsis: Eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of events due to the malevolent influence of a passing... [More]
Directed By: James Ward Byrkit

#4

Timecrimes (2007)
90%

#4
Adjusted Score: 92284%
Critics Consensus: Timecrimes is a low-budget thriller that's well-crafted and loaded with dark humor and bizarre twists.
Synopsis: Nacho Vigalondo's time-travel thriller opens with Hector spying on a beautiful woman undressing in the woods near his property. Investigating,... [More]
Directed By: Nacho Vigalondo

#3
#3
Adjusted Score: 98692%
Critics Consensus: Smart, funny, and highly original, Being John Malkovich supports its wild premise with skillful direction and a stellar ensemble cast.
Synopsis: In this quirky cult-favorite comedy, unemployed New York City puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) reluctantly takes a temp job as... [More]
Directed By: Spike Jonze

#2

The Truman Show (1998)
95%

#2
Adjusted Score: 102131%
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.
Synopsis: He doesn't know it, but everything in Truman Burbank's (Jim Carrey) life is part of a massive TV set. Executive... [More]
Directed By: Peter Weir

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