10 Mind-Blowing Movies Like Inception

Even after over a decade, Inception is still among fascinating films. Inception provides viewers with a thorough tour of the world of our mind, an unconscious realm that impacts our conscious reality, with mind-blowing cerebral concepts and images and well-delivered explanations to describe such ideas and imagery.

Don Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio), a corporate espionage expert, is tasked with putting together a team capable of Inception, the process of inserting an idea into a person’s subconscious for spontaneous development. Society’s upper crust highly prizes the capacity to influence a person’s perception of their dream world, yet doing so might have fatal implications. Cobb accepts the final assignment while knowing that it will test his sanity to the breaking point, as he will have to deal with images from his mind that are projected onto the battlefield and threaten to end the mission and the lives of his squad.

It’s no wonder that so many of Christopher Nolan’s films made a list, given that he is known for exploring existential themes in his work. Many of the movies on this list also stretch and distort the boundaries of reality, which may lead viewers to question their place in the cosmos. Of course, not all of these films are directed by Nolan, but they all share that same visual fascination and general slickness that makes Inception stand out. The movies here have a lot in common, whether it is the use of the same actors and crew members over and over again or the use of similar themes and ideas that cause viewers to doubt the very nature of reality. To those who enjoyed Inception’s surreal journey, we list ten similar films that will challenge your mind.


Like the film Inception, Tenet has an intriguing dreamlike premise. In reality, it strikes me as a film with a singular ambition: to ape the success of Inception. But it has Nolan-Esque “slick” feel about it, with its intellectual notions, gorgeous visuals, dramatic score, and, let’s face it, suit-wearing men. Without a doubt, “dudes in suits” will enjoy Tenet (as are many of the movies on this list). The film is not just a puzzle but also a complex maze, making it a palindrome in more ways than one. Tenet, like the spelling of its title, is a palindrome, meaning that its structure is identical whether read forwards or backward. This is a relevant detail given the film’s time-reversal premise. The second half of the film is the first half, played back, while the timeline and structure of the film itself become inverted.

While the protagonists in Inception influence time by controlling their target’s dreams, the protagonists of Tenet (the protagonist is referred to as The Protagonist) use technology to control time. There is no denying that Tenet has the existentially mind-bending notions and characteristic Nolan flair. Still, it lacks the emotional depth and character connection that makes Inception an enduring classic. Tenet is a must-see for every fan of Inception, who craved the fast-paced action and corporate espionage that characterized that film.


Many of the mechanisms and authentic images in Tenet are reminiscent of Nolan’s breakthrough film, Memento, which was released in 2000. In the opening scene, a blond Guy Pearce fires a gun backward. In reality, the location is just him firing the gun backward. A polaroid photo is seen developing back at the beginning of the film. Memento features the famous “guy in a suit” trope typical of Nolan’s work, as Pearce’s Leonard searches for closure and retribution after the tragic loss of his wife.

The fact that the police don’t believe Leonard’s account of what happened the night his wife was brutally murdered is terrible enough; Leonard’s mind has been in a “condition” since then only adds to surrealism. The last thing Leonard can recall is the night his wife died in detail, as he has lost the ability to develop new short-term memories. Leonard acquires a rudimentary capacity to track down prospective culprits who were overlooked by police thanks to an effective, albeit imperfect, a technique of instant polaroid images and permanent body tattoos to leave himself clues. Memento, like Inception, delves deeply into the idea and phenomena of fabricated and warped recollections, but it also leaves a lot to the audience’s imagination. Even yet, in Memento, the end is the beginning, and the face is the end. If you’re interested in films that play with the viewer’s mind in this way, you should check out Memento.

The Prestige

Perhaps a period drama set in the late 1800s isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of intellectual flicks like Inception. However, you can be sure that The Prestige deserves its place here, with Christopher and Jonathan Nolan at the helm and Christian Bale and Michael Cain sharing the screen before they became Batman and Robin, respectively. Hugh Jackman, of course, as the show’s lead, and David Bowie, in character as Tesla, cannot be forgotten. This is the rock sensation David Bowie posing as the energy pioneer Nikola Tesla.

Bale and Jackman, who play rival magicians, give surprise after twist and layer after layer of deception to the tale in the 2006 picture, continuously raising the stakes of their competition until it reaches the point where it threatens to turn violent. Again, the real Nikola Tesla is woven into the story in a way that is both believable and exciting. Imagine my hands making a slow-motion explosion motion around your head, and you’ll have a good mental image of the reveal at the end of the film. The film’s atmosphere and visuals are striking, and the attention to historical accuracy is fascinating. Watch The Prestige if you want some cerebral pleasure that won’t make waves.

The Machinist

Another film starring Christian Bale is 2004’s The Machinist, a dark drama in which Bale plays the role of Trevor Reznik. When preparing for a job, Bale often goes to great lengths, and this is one of the most dramatic examples of his bodily modifications. Reznik, played by Bale, is a thin, sad insomniac who works as a machinist for a pitiful wage. Reznik claims that he hasn’t slept in over a year. And the spectators see that things are getting strange. Like Guy Pearce’s Leonard in Memento, Trevor Reznik uses a meticulous note-taking method to keep track of his life. Now that Reznik’s lack of sleep, paranoia, and social interaction have all taken their toll, he may have discovered the answer that will finally end his sleeplessness and, possibly, his entire mentality. The Machinist has the overall cerebral quality of this list, mixed with the raw and visceral sense of Memento and The Departed.


Anon is a cutting-edge cyber-thriller reminiscent of The Matrix in its hacker aesthetic and Inception in its heist mood. Clive Owen and Amanda Seyfried play a cat-and-mouse game in a futuristic metropolis where people are organically linked to their devices and the internet (or “ether”) in a new film from 2018.

Sal, played by Owen, is a city investigator who relies heavily on the system’s identification and remote viewing capabilities in his war against crime. Sal goes undercover to track down and apprehend a serial killer preying on the city’s high society and erasing all digital evidence of his crimes. This is assuming Sal’s personal life isn’t compromised first.

The Matrix

Thomas Anderson is a typical guy: a desk jockey by day and a computer hacker at night. Mr. Anderson, or Neo as he is called among his fellow hackers, was shown The Matrix, an artificial world that engulfs every person on Earth and enslaves them within a computer system they were born into but are otherwise unaware of. For those who have awakened within the Matrix, such as Neo’s hacker and guide to the real world, Morpheus, Neo is the messiah figure who has been prophesied to lead humanity to its salvation from the system.

When it came out in 1999, The Matrix became the go-to film for exploring existential doubt. The film stars Keanu Reeves as Neo, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus, and Carrie-Anne Moss as the mysterious and gorgeous (but badass) Trinity. Joe Pantoliano, who later starred alongside Moss in “Memento,” is also present in the supporting cast. Hugo Weaving, ever adaptable, plays Agent Smith, the humanoid embodiment of the Matrix’s artificial intelligence. Smith is the movie’s quintessential “guy in a suit.” On the other hand, The Matrix is lauded decades after its first release for its groundbreaking fight choreography, stunning cinematography, and even more stunning black leather costumes and trench coat action.


Movies Like Inception

The Departed

The Departed is the next film on our list to explore the link between Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Nicholson, and it’s another Boston-based cop thriller that’s probably the least blatantly inspired by Inception. The Departed is similar to Inception in that both include gripping crime thrillers with plenty of double-crossing and spying, gunfire, and sharply dressed protagonists. Even yet, among these movies, it ranks among the rawest and bloodiest. So, for audiences with delicate sensitivities, brace yourselves for a cornucopia of f-bombs, exploding headshots, and even more f-bombs.

In addition to Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson, the cast of The Departed also features Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg, and other top actors. I can’t get enough of Wahlberg’s hilarious performance in this picture; he steals every scene he’s in. The dialogue alone does a great job of emphasizing the importance of the Boston setting to the film. The Departed is for fans of Inception’s clever psychological tricks. And as for the closing few minutes of the film? Be careful not to let your mouth drop to the floor.


The 2015 film Self/less, starring Ben Kingsley and Ryan Reynolds, is an underrated, stylish, and sexually charged masterpiece. Damian, played by Kingsley, is a New York City real estate pioneer and business elite leader fast deteriorating in old age. Damian, who feels he can still contribute to society, decides to have his consciousness and memories transferred to the nonliving body of a younger donor using a highly advanced, very secret operation (Reynolds).

Like Inception, the protagonist of Self/less is a dying heiress who must make life-or-death choices revolving around her poor relationship with her adult kid. The corporate elite, like Damian, can experience lives within lives thanks to corporate body-hacking, much like the protagonists in Inception, which leads to an unexpected discovery about Damian’s reality. Self/less has the fast-paced plot and action of Inception, a beautiful city setting, cutting-edge ideas, and, you got it, lots of dudes in suits.


Space travel, complex understandings of time, and unusual perspectives on language and linguistics feature prominently in Arrival, a film with cerebral notions on par with Interstellar. The movie version of Ted Chiang’s novel, starring Amy Adams and directed by Denis Villeneuve, explores Einsteinian explanations of our existence, similar to those presented in Interstellar, focusing on the illusions of the past, present, and future. Like a few others on this list, Arrival doesn’t strictly stick to a linear narrative. Not in the sense that we humans experience time, which is predicated on a linear progression. And thus, my reader, is the time-bending premise of Arrival, in a nutshell (eggshell?

The movie’s treatment of time, language, and even gravity is somewhat out there. It has a similar megalithic aspect to the egg-like spaceships in the film, reminiscent of the enormous city-scapes constructed in Inception. Like Inception and Interstellar, Arrival is a thought-provoking film, the likes of which can benefit from a second viewing. Check watch Arrival after Inception to make two great movies into four!

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