10 Complex Movies You Really Weren't Prepared For

Films with the power to leave your mouth hanging open.

Nocturnal Animals

When we think of a "complex" movie, we tend to think of disjointed narratives, ambiguous characters, a state of bewilderment. It's almost as though a complex movie, by definition, has to beat you into submission with its intelligence in order to prove itself. This, in turn, makes it worthy of obsession... or at least a rewatch.

Some movies shoot for complexity and come up short, of course: Shutter Island, to cite one example, is impressively labyrinthian in its structure, but the final plot twist fails to explain the central conceit in a way that is narratively logical or satisfying. You come away feeling as though the film was complex for the sake of it.

Occasionally, though, a properly complex movie emerges; one that can actually justify its reputation for head-scratching and limitless pondering. In a lot of cases, audiences aren't expecting to come face to face with films made in this vein: in the advertising material, they're pitched or marketed one way, and only later - in theatres - do they reveal themselves to be works of legitimate cerebral power.

In short, it's easy to be sidelined by a movie's unexpected complexity, as made evident in the bold and original films gathered here...

10. Berberian Sound Studio

Nocturnal Animals
Universal Pictures

Toby Jones is on delicious form in one of the most mind-boggling complex - and underrated - films of recent years: Berberian Sound Studio.

The central conceit here concerns an English sound engineer named Gilderoy, who travels to Italy to work on a low-end giallo film (a genre with which this film shares many traits), only to start losing his grip on what's real and what's not.

On paper, this could have been just another weird horror/thriller, but - somewhat unexpectedly - Berberian Sound Studio soon starts to descend into a quiet madness. After a while the film begins to expose strange, Lynchian layers, and suddenly we're watching... a horror movie about making horror movies?

The film plays as a dual homage to both Roman Polanski and Dario Argento, and carries an appropriately sinister vibe as we come to realise that much of Berberian Sound Studio takes place inside Gilderoy's head. And we're with him all the way, as he attempts to find the perfect sound effect to create the perfect masterpiece.


Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.