10 of the Most Exceptionally Weird Movies

10 of the Most Exceptionally Weird Movies

Movies are often praised as the art form that best mimics true life. Films like Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story or John Cassavetes’ A Woman Under the Influence have proven this sentiment with moving depictions of believable people dealing with situations firmly established in reality. While these films are wonderful and necessary works of art, cinema often shows its greatest artistic strengths in being surreal depictions of a visionary’s imagination.


Movies of this nature have an exhilarating lawlessness in their style of storytelling that make way for experiences that are hyper-emotive. They don’t come at the audience with logic and facts as much as they focus solely on their feelings with these strange worlds that could only exist in the human mind or the silver screen. Here are 10 movies that are beautiful works of weird cinema.

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The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)

Family members in The Happiness of the Katakuris
Shochiku

A filmmaker that has always excelled in crafting exceptionally bizarre films is Japanese director Takashi Miike. With a wide range of strange hyper-violent films that have wowed and disgusted audiences alike, he has established himself as a unique voice in international cinema. Despite his being known for weird viewing experiences, his 2001 film The Happiness of the Katakuris is on another level of abnormal.

The movie tells the story of a tight-knit family who have bought a mountainside inn with hopes of it being the beginning of a new, successful life. When guests start mysteriously dying, the family must hide the bodies to ensure the inn is a success. It’s a plot description that honestly does not do the film any justice, since it does not prepare the viewer for the supernatural family film that will spontaneously shift from a musical to a stop-motion film and back again that has a never-ending commitment to its lighthearted optimism in spite of its grim circumstances. A one-of-a-kind cult film that viewers are sure to never forget.

Repo Man (1984)

A scene from Repo Man
Edge City Productions

When it comes to cult hits that forge their own unique path, there is no movie quite like Alex Cox’s Repo Man. It follows the story of a lazy punk teen who loses his job, but soon finds a new path as a car repossession agent. Things get interesting when he goes after a high bounty for a missing car with an extraterrestrial connection that leads to a weird adventure of pop-culture fun.

Non-stop one-liners, a killer score, and a perfectly in-your-face anti-capitalist bent make this one of the most impressive debut films of all time. The movie is entirely itself in such a way that many are bound to misunderstand and hate the film, yet plenty of others will immediately adore it for being totally original and hilarious. It’s a movie like no other, full of neon-punk rebelliousness and pop-culture swagger that make for a wholly original viewing experience.

Time Bandits (1981)

David Rappaport as Randall in Time Bandits
Avco Embassy Pictures

One man responsible for some of the greatest weird films is British director Terry Gilliam. Whether it’s his work with the incredible comedy troupe Monty Python or his own wild imaginings, Gilliam has made a reputation as one of cinema’s great visionaries. One film of his that showcases all of his unique sensibilities is his time-traveling, fairy-tale, dream film Time Bandits.

It’s the story of a young boy and history buff named Kevin, who has an unexpected visit from a group of dwarves that have stolen a map that will allow them to travel through the holes in time to steal its treasures. The entire thing is crafted to feel like every childhood dream and nightmare you’ve ever experienced, and it succeeds with a magical adventure like no other. A hilarious and strange experience, typical of Gilliam’s wonderful style.

Related: Best Movies About Time Travel

Branded to Kill (1967)

Branded to kill
Nikkatsu

A commonly depicted atypical profession in movies is the hitman. These guns-for-hire can be shown as a wide variety of people, from the cool and capable John Wick to terrifying killers like Anton Chigurh. Less common is an absurdist hitman film, but that’s exactly what Seijun Suzuki made with his weird and hilarious Branded to Kill.

The movie is about a yakuza hitman who loves the smell of steamed rice and seeks to rise to the top spot in the hitman rankings. After messing up an important hit and killing the wrong man, he must now fight for his life as he is hunted by the top hitman in the business. Suzuki masterfully presents all of this in incredible absurdity that fulfills his trademark efforts to put fun before logic while still ending on a thoughtful note. A film with a lawless nature that has set it apart as a truly original masterwork sure to delight and baffle any audience.

Swiss Army Man (2016)

Dano Radcliffe Swiss Army Man 2016 A24
A24

It goes without saying, but life is weird. We all experience a plethora of strange encounters and feelings that are both humorous and tragic, yet we refuse to talk about the full breadth of these experiences as plainly as we should out of fear of being rejected, thus pushing us further into loneliness. This exact predicament is explored brilliantly in Daniel Kwan and Daniel Sheinert’s Swiss Army Man.

It’s a wonderfully strange premise of a man stranded in the wilderness who finds a corpse that is somehow capable of many bizarre uses that ultimately save him. The film goes much deeper than just a humorous survival story and tackles the uncomfortable thoughts and feelings we all have and the loneliness that breeds. It’s a masterpiece of weirdness that foreshadowed the future success of the Daniels with their exceptional film Everything Everywhere All at Once, which also used humor and drama to explore deeper aspects of the human experience.

House (1977)

House 1977 Nobuhiko Obayashi
Toho 

There is no horror movie like Nobuhiko Obayahi’s House. The film about a group of seven school-girl friends visiting an aunt is a supernatural tale that feels like it’s being told by a child who is making it up on the spot, which might have some truth to it since Obayashi’s 11-year-old daughter was a co-writer on the film. It’s zany, spooky, and just plain incredible for how inventive it is.

Even with such a hilarious ride, it still has a deeper message to share beneath the ridiculousness of the carnivorous piano and dancing skeletons about the effect World War II has had on Japan. Many allusions are made to the atomic bomb and lives lost in the war that hurt those left behind and the way younger people seem unable to fully grasp those tragedies while still being victims of those circumstances, just indirectly. A true gem of a film that viewers will always be shocked to witness.

Related: House: Japanese Horror Gets Weird and Metaphorical in Hausu

Beau is Afraid (2023)

beau is afraid dream sequence
A24

Of the many exciting rising talents of contemporary cinema, Ari Aster is one of the boldest and most distinct. Starting out strong with his debut horror film Hereditary and following that up with the incredibly strange Midsommar Aster has made a name for himself as a disturbed visionary. His newest film continues to prove this while also being his most bizarre work yet with Beau is Afraid.

Described by Aster as a nightmare comedy, the movie tells the story of Beau Wassermann. Poor Beau is an anxious momma’s boy who is very frightened of everything, with the chaotic world we see him living in acting as a pure manifestation of his inner turmoil. It’s a very funny and also quite frightening to see such a vision come to life with such artistic purity, and the response from audiences has been wonderfully divisive. There’s no film quite like it, and it feels like a miracle that was allowed to be made in today’s franchise obsessed world. A bizarre nightmare everyone should see at least once.

Lost Highway (1997)

Robert Blake in Lost Highway
October Films

No filmmaker has ever excelled at their own personal brand of weird the way David Lynch has. A true artist of cinema, Lynch’s career is full of one-of-a-kind films that each bear his signature sense of dreamy wonder and nightmarish uncertainty. One of his less talked about films that is just as fascinating as his most famous work is the ever-mysterious Lost Highway.

One of his more obtuse films, which is really saying something for the guy who refuses to explain his work to anyone, Lost Highway is a paranoid dream that seems to reach for themes of toxic masculinity and loose identity. No clear reading seems possible from the film, and that only serves to make it all the more captivating. It’s frightening, surreal, and perfectly Lynchian that stands shoulder to shoulder with his greatest films.

Juliet of the Spirits (1965)

Federico Fellini's film Juliet of the Spirits
Rizzoli Film

Cinema maestro Federico Fellini is a master of strange movies. Known for his obsession with dreams and memories, much of his work often depicted surreal occurrences that bend viewers’ understanding of reality in an effort to express the inexpressible. His more unorthodox tendencies only become more untethered as he grew older, best expressed in his self-deprecating nightmare Juliet of the Spirits.

The film tells the story of Juliet, played by Fellini’s exceptionally talented wife Giulietta Masina, who has a special sensitivity to the other side resulting in her hearing voices that try to help guide her through life. It plays on many ideas of infidelity and religious guilt that is the closest Fellini ever got to making a full-on horror film. Another wonderful dream from the master of the subconscious that any film lover would be happy to witness.

The Holy Mountain (1973)

The Holy Mountain
ABKCO Films

Everything you think a movie can and cannot do will disintegrate almost immediately when you watch Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain. The plot can best be summarized as a group of people who are traveling to a mountain in the hopes of finding spiritual enlightenment and immortality, but everything that happens in the film is so much more.

The anarchic masterpiece is a film that stands on it own as a spiritual journey unlike anything you ever have or will see at the movies. It’s not a film for the faint of heart as its weirdness will undoubtedly will be extremely off-putting to most viewers, but for those who have a taste for strange and bold movies, this is the holy grail. A unique experience that’s likely never to be repeated.