On `Mindbender’ Movies…!

Primer (2002) Written, Directed, Starring, Sound & Music by Shane Carruth

Primer (2002) – Written, Directed, Starring, Sound & Music – by Shane Carruth

My (personal) favourite movie-genre is: the Mindbender. 

Here’s a pretty good definition – or, description – of a `mindbender’ story:

Mindbender, (aka `Twitch Psychological Thriller’) – ‘Psychological thrillers involving protagonists whose conception of reality or self-identity is revealed to be mistaken.

Typical plot devices in Mindbenders include: hallucinations, drugs, mental illness, mind control, emotional distress, guilt, suppression, amnesia, memory, surrealism, time-travel, brainwashing, dreams and death.’

(Source: Mindbender, online)

My PhD study was on The Top 20 RoI Movies (their: stories, screenplays, movies), compared and contrasted to The Bottom 20 RoI Movies. An example of a top 20 RoI movie that is also a `mindbender’ is the excellent time-travel film, Primer (2002).

Here’s a random gif of Lee Marvin pointing a gun right at you, as, this is how `mindbenders’ make me feel.

And – for your viewing pleasure – here’s a list, of some of my favourite Mindbender Movies:

(And, also – er… Spoiler Alerts…? Sometimes, knowing that it’s a Mindbender in advance, i.e., before you actually experience it as a story, can actually, `spoil the fun’ of the surprise, a little bit… or even – a lot… 🙂 (So, read on, at your own peril, Dear Reader… ! 🙂

Fight Club

Edge of Tomorrow

Jacob’s Ladder

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Adaptation – and in fact, most movies written by Charlie Kaufman…

Donnie Darko




Vanilla Sky

Shutter Island

The Machinist

The Science of Sleep

A Beautiful Mind


Total Recall

A Scanner Darkly

Blade Runner (if Deckard is the `missing 6th replicant’, as is strongly suggested in the Director’s Cut)

…Pretty much anything (short stories, novels, adapted movies) by Phillip K Dick, in fact…(!) …Gotta love those mindbender twists…!

Lost Highway


The Others

The Number 23


The Sixth Sense

At any rate, the Mindbender is actually, I think, also one of the hardest stories to do (i.e. to write) really well; mainly because, the audience (or, the script reader) can’t realize (or, guess) the mindbender-twist ahead of time, or else, the story is (too) predictable…

This is also why, (having written some of these myself) I (and – most writers?) consider it, `a level above’ most “straight” storytelling – namely as, it has the added extra `shock-twist’ at the end…i.e., A whole other layer of narrative on top – so that, the audience can also enjoy repeated viewings of it (such as: for all of the above Mindbender movies!) (…I am not sure how often I’ve re-watched Fight Club, but it’s a LOT.)

A Random Side Note: It seems, the `Mindbender’ was Aristotle’s favourite genre of story, too… (well: his favourite kind of Ancient Greek play… In The Poetics, he talks about how Oedipus has a huge `mindbending moment’ (which actually is: anagnorisis and peripeteia – if you want to get all technical 🙂 – i.e. – Namely when Oedipus finds out – (to his shock and awe, and also – abject horror) – that he’s accidentally nailed his mom, and offed his dad in a road-rage incident… exactly as was predicted (or prophesized) he’d do, by The Oracle (another side note: it’s not the same The Oracle as from The Matrix).

I’ve also written a few Mindbender movie screenplays. (…they are so much fun to plot-! Well – if you like that sort of thing..).

Anyway – I hope you enjoy these Mindbenders above, as much as I have.

I like TV shows that are mindbenders too. Like say, LOST, and Maniac (with Emma Stone and Jonah Hill).

My favorite novels include The Third Policeman (by Flann O’Brian), but before you read it, I highly recommend the audiobook, read by Jim Norton.

I also worked on a large-scale interactive film / art installation that was a Mindbender. …Fun!

And – for more, see: The StoryAlity research weblog Index Some of the relevant posts would include:

StoryAlity #131 – Why Things (like, some Movies) Are Popular – and – The Anna Karenina principle

StoryAlity #53 – The StoryAlity High-RoI Film Story & Screenplay Checklist

StoryAlity #54 – StoryAlity Screenwriting Guidelines – for any aspiring Writer of High-RoI Films

And here’s a fun diagram I saw recently:

50 most complex mindbenders chart


JT Velikovsky

Evolutionary Culturologist


High-RoI Story/Screenplay/Movie and Transmedia Researcher

The above is (mostly) an adapted excerpt, from my doctoral thesis: “Communication, Creativity and Consilience in Cinema”. It is presented here for the benefit of fellow screenwriting, filmmaking and creativity researchers. For more, see https://aftrs.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky

JT Velikovsky is also a produced feature film screenwriter and million-selling transmedia writer-director-producer. He has been a professional story analyst for major film studios, film funding organizations, and for the national writer’s guild. For more see: http://on-writering.blogspot.com/


PS – A friend posted this on Facebook. Good list. If you like that kind of thing. (Spoiler Alert! Knowing a movie is a mindbender can spoil it!)

99 Mindfuck movies

6 thoughts on “StoryAlity #4B – On Mindbender Movies

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