10 Lesser-Known Movies to Watch if You Loved Inception

10 Lesser-Known Movies to Watch if You Loved Inception
Image credit: Legion-Media, Newmarket Films, Oscilloscope Laboratories

While they may not have the budget or mainstream recognition of "Inception", these films all offer thought-provoking narratives and compelling performances that will satisfy any fan of Christopher Nolan's masterpiece.

1. "Predestination" (2014)

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"Predestination" is a film so twisty, you'll need a map and compass just to keep track. Ethan Hawke stars as a time-traveling agent on a mission to prevent a disastrous event from happening. The film manages to weave a paradoxical tale, that has more loops than a rollercoaster. It's similar to "Inception" in the sense that it makes you question reality and time.

Made on a budget of a mere $5.5 million, it was a box office hit in its native Australia but struggled elsewhere, yet it's been quietly gathering a cult following over the years. It's also got a solid 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, just saying.

2. "Coherence" (2013)

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Another gem of a movie that stayed largely under the radar is "Coherence". The film tells the story of eight friends at a dinner party, who experience a troubling chain of reality-bending events. The movie's budget? An estimated $50,000, which wouldn't even cover Leonardo DiCaprio's hair gel expenses in "Inception".

Despite the constrained resources, director James Ward Byrkit managed to create a thrillingly complex narrative that echoes the multilayered storytelling of "Inception". Also, it's got an impressive 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

3. "Paprika" (2006)

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"Paprika" is a visually stunning Japanese anime directed by Satoshi Kon. The film centers around a device that allows therapists to enter their patients' dreams. Sound familiar? "Paprika" was actually an inspiration for "Inception", and it's easy to see why. Its dreamlike visuals and thought-provoking storyline make it a must-watch. Despite being a lesser-known film outside of Japan, it holds a respectable 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and was a reasonable success at the Japanese box office.

4. "Triangle" (2009)

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This film may have the trappings of a traditional horror flick, but it offers so much more. A group of friends becomes stranded on a seemingly abandoned ship, only to find themselves in a deadly time loop. While it didn't make a huge splash at the box office, it's gained a significant following for its labyrinthine plot. Also, it's currently sitting at a comfortable 80% on Rotten Tomatoes, so it's not just us saying it's worth a watch.

5. "Primer" (2004)

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If "Inception" left you with a thirst for mind-boggling narratives, "Primer" will quench that and then some. This sci-fi thriller is notorious for its complexity. The plot revolves around four tech entrepreneurs who inadvertently create a time machine and, as you might imagine, complications ensue. "Primer" might not have had the resources of "Inception" with its shoestring budget of $7,000, but it didn't need them.

It received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival and has since become a cult favorite among fans of cerebral cinema. And despite its dense, complex plot, it still manages to hold a 71% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

6. "Memento" (2000)

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Christopher Nolan's "Memento" is another tour-de-force in non-linear storytelling. Starring Guy Pearce as Leonard, a man suffering from anterograde amnesia, the film's plot is as fragmented as Leonard's memory. With the story told in reverse order, it's an engrossing tale of mystery, revenge, and identity that will leave you as disoriented as its protagonist.

Despite being a lesser-known film at the time of its release, "Memento" has gained critical acclaim over the years and currently boasts an impressive 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was made on a budget of $9 million, and it grossed over $39 million worldwide, proving that you don't need a Hollywood blockbuster budget to create an unforgettable cinematic experience.

7. "The Machinist" (2004)

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If you appreciated the psychological intensity of "Inception", "The Machinist" is another film to add to your list. Christian Bale stars as Trevor Reznik, a machinist suffering from severe insomnia that leads to a disturbing reality breakdown. With a chilling performance by Bale (who dropped an alarming 60 pounds for the role), the film's grim, reality-questioning narrative echoes the themes found in "Inception".

"The Machinist" was made on a budget of just $5 million, a far cry from the $160 million poured into "Inception". The film only managed a modest box office success but is recognized for its brilliant storytelling and performance, holding a respectable 77% on Rotten Tomatoes.

8. "Source Code" (2011)

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"Source Code" blends sci-fi, action, and mystery into a compelling narrative that will resonate with "Inception" lovers. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Colter Stevens, a soldier who wakes up in someone else's body and discovers he's part of a mission to find the bomber of a commuter train.

With a budget of $32 million, the film managed a strong box office performance, grossing over $147 million worldwide. "Source Code" delivers a combination of cerebral satisfaction and thrilling sequences that makes it a must-watch. It also sports an impressive 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

9. "eXistenZ" (1999)

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Jumping back a decade, "eXistenZ" is a film that masterfully explores the blurred lines between reality and virtual reality. The film, written and directed by David Cronenberg, follows a game designer (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who creates an immersive virtual reality game that begins to distort the perception of its players. With its modest budget of $15 million, the film didn't exactly break the box office but has since developed a cult following. It's currently holding a 74% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

10. "Moon" (2009)

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Rounding out our list is "Moon", a film that expertly explores themes of identity, humanity, and reality, similar to "Inception". The plot revolves around Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell), a man nearing the end of his three-year stint working alone on a lunar base. As his return to Earth approaches, he begins to experience unsettling events that make him question his reality.

The film was made on a lean budget of $5 million but punched above its weight, earning numerous awards and nominations. It currently holds a high 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, a testament to its expertly woven narrative and Rockwell's compelling performance.