10 Movies Directors Didn't Want You To Understand

Who needs to hear the dialogue anyway?

Tenet John David Washington
Warner Bros.

By conventional filmmaking standards, the most basic requirement of a movie is that it makes sense, right?

Most people don't watch films to be confused and left scratching their heads - rather, they want to be thrilled, amused, and emotionally moved.

But sometimes, directors get the urge to push back against complacent audiences and offer up a provocation, whether for better or worse.

These 10 films have all been dubbed confusing - if we're being kind - by a large swath of audiences and critics alike, that they eschewed conventional narrative logic in favour of a more ambiguous, even surreal sense of meaning.

In some cases, these films are largely respected and held up by critics as successful subversions of conventional narrative filmmaking, while in others they were torn asunder for making a "pretentious" attempt to talk down to viewers.

Whatever the end result, these films didn't make many concessions for those paying money to watch them, hoping instead that audiences would relish having their filmgoing mettle tested with a workout for the brain..

10. Only God Forgives

Tenet John David Washington

If you've seen much of Nicolas Winding Refn's recent output, you'll probably be aware that that he loves to troll the audience, deliberately eschewing narrative conventions in favour of head-scratchingly surreal detours.

This was most prominently felt in 2013's Only God Forgives, Refn's follow-up to his art-house action hit Drive.

The film, reuniting Refn with Drive's star Ryan Gosling, was marketed as a similarly-motivated effort for the martial arts genre, melding a slow pace and minimal dialogue with shocking bursts of violence.

But Refn abjectly refused to just give viewers Drive 2.0, and more than that, he deliberately imbued the film with a number of abstract, psychologically opaque scenes.

Most notably, there's the unforgettably odd sequence in which protagonist Julian (Gosling) cuts open his dead mother's (Kristin Scott Thomas) stomach and places his hands inside.

While you can try to absorb Only God Forgives as a simple crime thriller about crime and punishment, it's clear that Refn wanted to alienate as many fans of Drive as possible with this self-consciously nutso surrealist romp.

But nothing in the film itself is quite as inexplicable as Refn insisting to director William Friedkin (The Exorcist) that the movie is a masterpiece. Ever the troll.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.