12 mystifying films to watch if you love 'Inception'

Warner Bros. Pictures‘Inception’ stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Elliot Page, Marion Cotillard, Ken Watanabe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
  • Fans of Christopher Nolan’s “Inception” (2010) may enjoy other mind-bending films with similar themes and familiar actors.
  • “Inception” cast members star in “Shutter Island” (2010), “Flatliners” (2017), and “Looper” (2012).
  • Nolan has also impressed viewers and critics with his films “Memento” (2001), “Interstellar” (2014), and “Tenet” (2020).
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

In “Inception” (2010), Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his skilled team of thieves use shared dreaming to implant an idea in their target’s subconscious.

The Christopher Nolan-directed thriller is well-known for its innovative action sequences, mesmerising score, and strong ensemble cast.

Read on for 12 similar films to add to your watch list if you loved “Inception.”

Director Nolan first earned critical acclaim for his psychological thriller “Memento” (2001).

YouTube via Newmarket FilmsCarrie-Anne Moss and Guy Pearce in ‘Memento.’

Summary: Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) uses photographs and tattoos to piece together evidence to track down his wife’s killer, but he suffers from a unique form of amnesia that prevents him from creating new memories.

Why you’ll like it: Like “Inception,” this psychological thriller centres on a man’s obsessive love for his wife and how his emotions cloud his greater judgment.

The two films also share Nolan’s love for nonlinear storytelling; largely told in reverse, “Memento” unravels in a unique way, withholding vital information from viewers until the final sequence.

Nolan traverses time and space in “Interstellar” (2014).

Warner Bros./Paramount, Interstellar trailerMatthew McConaughey in ‘Interstellar.’

Summary: “Interstellar” unfolds in a near future in which a second Dust Bowl has decimated Earth’s food supply. To save mankind, NASA pilot Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and his crew set off through the wormhole and into the far reaches of space to find a new planet to call home.

Why you’ll like it: An epic science-fiction drama, “Interstellar’s” haunting score, immersive special effects, and decade-spanning plot all culminate to leave a heavy impact on viewers.

Nolan is known for collaborating with the same crew members across multiple movies, and “Interstellar” is no different – “Inception” film editor Lee Smith and composer Hans Zimmer returned to work on “Interstellar” to help Nolan pull off his trademark look and sound.

The director also plays with viewer perception in “The Prestige” (2006).

Warner BrothersChristian Bale in ‘The Prestige.’

Summary: In the period drama based on a novel from Christopher Priest, two dueling magicians – Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) – race to pull off the illusion of the century.

Why you’ll like it: In “The Prestige,” Nolan sets his dark cinematography and love for unconventional narrative in the 19th century.

And for “Inception” super-fans, cast member Michael Caine (who famously appeared alongside Bale in Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy) is also in “The Prestige.”

Like Cobb, the protagonist of “The Truman Show” (1998) questions the world around him.

Paramount PicturesJim Carrey’s character in ‘The Truman Show’ also doubts his reality.

Summary: Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives a comfortable life in the small town of Seahaven Island, but he starts to question the world around him after his neighbours prevent him from leaving.

Why you’ll like it: On top of the intriguing premise, the movie was edited by Smith – he has worked with Nolan on numerous films and has a clear talent for deftly balancing small moments of suspense and humour amidst larger, complex stories.

“Donnie Darko” (2001) features dream logic and ambiguous storytelling.

‘Donnie Darko’Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Donnie Darko.’

Summary: Plagued by nightmares and hallucinations of a giant costumed rabbit, teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) tries to keep his grip on reality from slipping during an eventful year of high school.

Why you’ll like it: The psychological thriller centres around Gyllenhaal’s mesmerising performance, but it also does a brilliant job keeping viewers on their toes and leaving them guessing.

Both “Inception” and “Donnie Darko” share open-ended conclusions that have led to fervent discussions among fans for years.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004) proves that memories are often unreliable.

Focus FeaturesKate Winslet and Jim Carrey in ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.’

Summary: After his ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslet), uses cutting-edge technology to erase her memories of their relationship, heartbroken Joel (Carrey) signs up for the same operation.

Why you’ll like it: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” shows the unreliability and dream-like quality of memories as Joel relives his life with Clementine and the world falls away around them.

Both “Inception” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” place viewers inside their protagonists’ subconscious through groundbreaking visuals and set design.

In “Get Out” (2017), the protagonist fights for control over his subconscious.

Universal StudiosDaniel Kaluuya in ‘Get Out.’

Summary: In this captivating thriller, Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) is already apprehensive about meeting his girlfriend’s (Allison Williams) parents, but his fears are proven right when he realises he might not return from his trip upstate.

Why you’ll like it: In “Inception” Cobb and his partners infiltrate a target’s subconscious to implant a thought so deep that he doesn’t even realise he’s been tampered with. And in “Get Out,” Chris has to fight his way back to reality after falling victim to hypnosis and losing control over his subconscious.

The horror-thriller telegraphs the dangers of messing with someone’s mind, amidst a larger, enthralling narrative on systemic racism.

A man uses simulation technology to relive the same day in “Source Code” (2011).

Summit Entertainment/YouTubeJake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan in ‘Source Code.’

Summary: In this action thriller, pilot Colter Stevens (Gyllenhaal) participates in a secret military simulation that lets him experience the final moments of a train passenger’s life to find the perpetrator of a bombing.

Why you’ll like it: Due to director Duncan Jones’ sharp eye and creative vision, “Source Code” is a cerebral action film that rises above genre expectations.

With an interesting framing device and a riveting mystery at its core, “Source Code” is a multi-layered movie that begs for repeat viewings, just like “Inception.”

The mystery thriller “Shutter Island” (2010) further emphasises DiCaprio’s talent as an actor.

ParamountMark Ruffalo and Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Shutter Island.’

Summary: Set in the Boston Harbour in 1954, “Shutter Island” follows US Marshals Teddy Daniels (DiCaprio) and Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) as they investigate a disappearance at a high-security asylum.

Why you’ll like it: Based on Dennis Lehane’s 2003 novel, the neo-noir thriller welcomes a second viewing as soon as the credits roll. With winding mysteries and an open-ended conclusion, “Shutter Island” is the perfect companion piece for “Inception” fans.

And in the leading role of Teddy, “Inception” star DiCaprio tackles one of his most emotionally wrought characters yet.

Elliot Page chases near-death experiences in “Flatliners” (2017).

Sony‘Inception’ actor Elliot Page also stars in ‘Flatliners.’

Summary: In the sci-fi horror film “Flatliners,” a group of medical students (Elliot Page, Diego Luna, Nina Dobrev, James Norton, and Kiersey Clemons) pushes the boundaries of life and death when they force their hearts to temporarily stop. Their near-death experiences unlock new abilities, but also come with unexpected consequences.

Why you’ll like it: In “Inception,” Page stars as Ariadne, a young college recruit who soon learns how high the stakes of their mission really are: if you die in a dream, you die in real life.

“Flatliners” finds Page in a similar role – a college student who pushes the limits of science.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an assassin in the dark sci-fi thriller “Looper” (2012).

TriStar Pictures/YouTubeJoseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt in ‘Looper.’

Summary: In this science-fiction thriller, a hitman (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) takes down targets for the mob after his employers send them back in time – but matters grow complicated when he realises his next target is his future self (Bruce Willis).

Why you’ll like it: “Inception” fans will recognise Gordon-Levitt as Arthur, Cobb’s right-hand man in “Inception,” and in “Looper,” he gives a chilling performance.

Also, like Nolan, director Rian Johnson has proven himself as a filmmaker who is capable of handling a variety of genres, from neo-noir thrillers like “Brick” (2006) to murder mysteries like “Knives Out” (2019).

With “Looper,” he crafts a deceptively smart sci-fi thriller that’s hard to forget.

Nolan manipulates time once more in his latest release, “Tenet” (2020).

Warner Bros.John David Washington in ‘Tenet.’

Summary: In “Tenet,” an unnamed CIA agent (John David Washington) goes undercover to prevent the start of World War III while investigating and manipulating the inverted flow of time.

Why you’ll like it: Like “Inception,” Nolan’s latest film is as ambitious as it is indescribable – Nolan takes high-concept action to the next level in this global spy thriller.

Placing his characters in a complex narrative, Nolan dares his protagonist to survive while challenging audiences to keep up. “Tenet” furthers Nolan’s legacy as a director known for bold, original stories.

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