10 Confusing Movies That Lost Us Halfway

10 Confusing Movies That Lost Us Halfway
Image credit: globallookpress, Legion-Media, Oscilloscope Laboratories, VHX

They may have been too complex for their own good, but there's no denying that these films provided some of the most unique and bewildering cinematic experiences of recent years.

1. "Primer" (2004)

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Kicking off our list is Shane Carruth's "Primer," a film that makes quantum physics look like kindergarten-level stuff. With a microscopic budget of $7,000, Carruth crafted a tale about four engineer friends who accidentally invent a time machine. Sounds simple? It's not.

"Primer" is infamous for its mind-bending narrative and complex chronology. It's not just a movie you watch, but a puzzle you attempt to solve. It lost many of us about halfway when timelines started crossing and looping. The movie surprisingly bagged the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, but had a lukewarm box office return of $424,760.

2. "Southland Tales" (2006)

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"Southland Tales," directed by Richard Kelly of "Donnie Darko" fame, is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi, satirical comedy... we think. The plot is a convoluted mishmash of politics, social commentary, and religion, with a sprawling cast including The Rock, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Justin Timberlake.

Critics at Cannes were less than impressed, and viewers left the theater in a bewildered daze. The movie got a disastrous 38% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and barely scraped together $374,743 at the box office. It's ambitious, chaotic, and absolutely bonkers, causing many to tune out long before the ending.

3. "Under the Silver Lake" (2018)

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The neo-noir black comedy "Under the Silver Lake" is one that defies easy understanding. Andrew Garfield stars as Sam, an unemployed slacker who descends into a twisted journey across Los Angeles after his neighbor disappears. Cue a bizarre plot involving dog killers, underground comic books, and pop culture conspiracies. By the midpoint, many were left scratching their heads, as plotlines were introduced and then abruptly dropped.

The film got mixed reviews, with a 59% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and managed a modest box office return of $2.5 million. Though some praised it as an enigmatic masterpiece, others were just left in a state of befuddlement.

4. "Enemy" (2013)

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Canadian maestro Denis Villeneuve's "Enemy" is one heck of a cerebral puzzle. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal in dual roles, the film revolves around a history professor who spots his doppelganger in a movie and becomes obsessed with tracking him down. This triggers a series of unsettling and increasingly bizarre events. The film is riddled with spider-themed symbolism which, rather than clarifying things, just adds another layer of confusion.

Despite critical acclaim, securing an 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film's cryptic narrative had many viewers puzzled, especially by its shocking ending (no spoilers here, though). It earned a limited box office of $3.4 million.

5. "Upstream Color" (2013)

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Another Shane Carruth masterpiece (or monsterpiece, depending on who you ask), "Upstream Color" is a film that defies description. It's a surreal romantic sci-fi drama involving a life cycle of an ageless organism, psychic pigs, and Walden by Thoreau. Yes, you read that right. The film lost most viewers halfway, where plot took a backseat to abstract imagery and conceptual storytelling.

Despite its puzzling narrative, "Upstream Color" received positive reviews, earning an 86% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its worldwide box office earnings, however, were only about $444,098, possibly because viewers were too busy trying to decode the first viewing to consider a second one.

6. "The Fountain" (2006)

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From the mind of visionary director Darren Aronofsky comes "The Fountain," a film that unapologetically veers into a metaphysical journey of life, death, and immortality. Spanning over a thousand years, it tells three parallel stories about a man (Hugh Jackman) and his quest to save the woman he loves (Rachel Weisz).

The movie is visually stunning, but its narrative thread dissolves into a vortex of surreal imagery and philosophical musings, leaving viewers utterly lost. Despite its polarizing nature, it received a score of 52% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $15.9 million worldwide at the box office.

7. "Only God Forgives" (2013)

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Coming from the acclaimed director of "Drive," Nicolas Winding Refn, "Only God Forgives" is a neon-soaked nightmare that juxtaposes brutal violence with a narrative so elusive that many viewers checked out mentally before the end credits.

Ryan Gosling plays Julian, an American expat running a boxing club in Bangkok, which is a front for drug smuggling. After his brother is killed, his mother demands revenge, leading to a bloody spiral of events. The movie was critically divisive, garnering a 41% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and made $10.3 million at the box office.

8. "Predestination" (2014)

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"Predestination," a low-budget Australian sci-fi film starring Ethan Hawke, attempts to put a new spin on the time travel genre. Hawke plays a "Temporal Agent" who travels back in time to prevent a deadly attack from happening. The narrative is so packed with paradoxes and loops that you might need to sketch a timeline just to make sense of it all.

Though it received a solid 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and even won the AACTA award for Best Original Screenplay, the complex plot and the outlandish twist had many viewers scratching their heads.

9. "Mother!" (2017)

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Another entry from Darren Aronofsky, "Mother!" is a psychological horror film that is anything but straightforward. Starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem, the film blends themes of creation, destruction, and devotion in a plot so layered and abstract that many viewers felt abandoned by the narrative halfway through. The movie divided critics, with some praising it as a masterpiece and others deeming it a self-indulgent mess. It landed a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $44.5 million worldwide at the box office.

10. "Coherence" (2013)

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"Coherence" is an indie sci-fi thriller that explores the concept of quantum decoherence. When a comet passes over a dinner party, reality starts to unravel, leading to duplicated houses and parallel realities. The low-budget film creates a compelling, claustrophobic atmosphere, but as the multi-universe theory takes over, many viewers lost the plot.

It received rave reviews, with a 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and won the Best Screenplay award at Sitges Film Festival, but it's a film that demands your full attention or else you'll just end up confused.