Clarity is vital! Anyone who works in the movie and entertainment industry needs to find the balance between the creator’s elaborate vision and what resonates with the viewers so they’re not left utterly confused. If your project is too convoluted, then either the script, filming, and editing were flawed, or the audience needs a second viewing to truly appreciate the message, plot, and twist.
Members of the r/movies community shared the top movies that they only fully ‘got’ after rewatching them, from The Prestige and The Matrix to Donnie Darko and Fight Club. Scroll down to see which other flicks gave them the most trouble.
Meanwhile, read on for Bored Panda’s chat with the redditor who started the thread, u/IDontLikePayingTaxes.
I first watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail when I was 9 or 10, but I remember for some reason having this preconceived notion in my head that historical movies, particularly those set in medieval times, were only supposed to be serious dramas. (I also didn’t know what Monty Python was.)
So I couldn’t understand why this movie about knights had scenes of guys comically getting their limbs chopped off or getting crushed by Trojan rabbits, and I couldn’t finish it.
A few years later I rewatched it, knowing it was meant to be a comedy, and it remains one of my favorite movies of all time.
There are so many layers to this movie. One of the mind bending things is whether or not the person in the next cell is real at all, another time traveler, just a crazy guy, or possibly an alternate version of the main character.
Don’t get the wrong idea, Pandas: we absolutely adore stories with a twist! In fact, we live for them. Yours truly is a massive fan of projects like The Matrix, Coherence, Triangle, Dark City, The Thirteenth Floor, The Truman Show, 12 Monkeys, The Butterfly Effect, etc. I would love to talk your ear off about these movies all day long. And I’m constantly on the lookout for more similar stories.
We love it when filmmakers incorporate ideas of hidden worlds, misperceptions, conspiracies, and warped interpretations into their stories. And if they leave a trail of subtle hints and breadcrumbs for keen audience members to follow—even better! Sometimes, it takes a second or third viewing (along with a sprinkling of articles and YouTube reviews) to fully understand the story.
However, no matter how many captivating twists, layers, and easter eggs this story has, it still has to be presented in a somewhat approachable way.
I came here to add to shutter Island. It benefits from an immediate rewatch. There are so many layers and wonderful nuances. For example, anytime during the movie that water is present, the main character is not experiencing true reality. In other words if there’s water dripping, or it’s raining, or scenes where it’s raining from bottom to top, those are untrue. But the moments of clear lucidity, without water, Are generally true (because of the importance of water in the main character’s trauma). Just one small nugget. There are a lot more that again benefit from Rewatching. And anyone that says they called the twist a few minutes in, certainly did not catch all those little nuances on the first watch.
Fight club. Took me more watches than any other movie to actually understand it. Might be one of the most misunderstood movies, especially online. Definitely worth a rewatch if you don’t understand the purpose of the commentary and what each character represents to the protagonist.
I also think fight club is a movie like shutter island, where “knowing what you know” makes the second watch that much better.
Blade Runner, though I was around 14/15 when I first saw it mid 80s and 18 the second time.
That second viewing was almost for me a “wake up” moment in my life, it just blew me away, Roy’s character blazed put of the screen to me and it was probably the first time I ever truly contempled death.
The audience needs to be able to follow along… for the most part. This isn’t to say that filmmakers should be catering to the lowest common denominator. Not by a long shot. But if you want your film to be widely viewed and discussed on a global level, you have to be willing to compromise in certain parts of the project.
This might mean ruthlessly editing your script for better clarity and running your story by various focus groups to see if people ‘get’ it. Films have to be entertaining. They have to be meaningful. They should make us reflect on our relationships with other people and the world at large. If the filmmaker is the only one who’s entertained and found meaning, there’s a serious disconnect. The movie is then more of an intensely personal project than something that ought to be shown on the silver screen.
I was like 11 or 12 when i first watched the matrix and i mostly viewed it as a super cool action movie. I dont even think i knew what the matrix was at the time.
I was 13 when it in was released in theaters. I just thought it was so cool. Knowing what I know now, it’s amazing how they were able to leave so many clues in plain sight that a lot of people probably didn’t see coming. I love it even more now that it is more relatable.
The prestige gets better with every re-watch.
Which in itself is incredible. Usually any movie with a massive twist that is core to it doesn’t really do well on repeat viewings. You know the twist so the buildup is meaningless. This movie is structured so beautifully and acted so perfectly you can’t turn away. What you pick up on repeat viewings is astounding.
Bored Panda reached out to the Reddit user who sparked the entire interesting discussion, and they were kind enough to share their thoughts on a few things.
We were very curious to get the OP’s thoughts on whether or not all films should be easily understood by the audience the very first time they’re watched.
According to the author of the thread, it’s not just up to the filmmakers to cater to the audience.
“I don’t think they all need to be easily understood by every one on the first viewing,” redditor u/IDontLikePayingTaxes shared their perspective with Bored Panda.
The audience, in turn, needs to put in the proper amount of effort to understand the movie, too. “Sometimes, it’s the audience’s fault if some people don’t understand exactly what’s going on in the first viewing,” the redditor explained.
Inception: worth rewatching to catch intricacies that I missed.
Pretty satisfying on rewatch especially when you see all the emotional manipulation leading into that Inception scene. You get to appreciate Tom Hardy’s character more and more. He truly was the creative one, the mvp. Love how the numbers in the safe was planted in each level.
Pulp Fiction. On the second watch it was easier to put events in order and see how they connected. The first watch it all seemed like a big jumble.
I felt exactly the same. It’s a weird one, because unlike other films I didn’t fully understand the first time, once you piece the story together it is not complicated at all
In other words, just because someone doesn’t ‘get’ the plot, themes, or twists, it does not necessarily mean that the script or direction is at fault. In some cases, the audience itself needs to pay closer attention to the events, dialogue, and details.
Bored Panda was also interested to find out about the inspiration behind the captivating online thread. The OP was happy to shared this with us and referred to a popular 2016 sci-fi mystery.
“I watched Arrival for the second time and actually paid attention and got so much more out of it than the first time,” u/IDontLikePayingTaxes shared with us.
“I was wondering if others had similar experiences so I decided to post the question on /r/movies.”
Arrival totally baffled me the first time I saw it and proceeded to blow my mind the 2nd time when I caught on to the timeline sequencing. Fantastic movie!
I recently rewatched Arrival. I’m not sure what I was doing the first time I watched it. I remembered a lot of the scenes and some of the basics about what was going on but either I completely forgot the main point of the entire movie, I wasn’t paying close enough attention, or maybe I just didn’t get it through my thick skull for some reason. I decided to rewatch it last week and I couldn’t believe what I had missed and it’s now one of my favorite movies.
I was ten when I first saw Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and it was definitely not the right age for me to get what was going on. Years later on a second viewing, I fell in love with it.
I was also a kid (very into space and scifi) and I clearly remember being very enthralled by the idea of understanding what was going on, and less so by what was actually going on. I grasped the broad strokes but I could tell so much of the detail was lost on me, and I was so excited to eventually understand it. Really rewarding to watch it again (and again) as I got older and understand it more and more.
Donnie Darko. Upon a second watch, I finally understood the premise of the movie. Still a classic.
This more than any other example I can think of showed me the power of editing in making a story work and why it must be a really hard part of filmmaking. The original is so weird and because I as the viewer believe understanding is just around the corner, I stay with it. The director’s cut has too much exposition but resolves more conventionally satisfyingly because I actually sort of know what’s going on.
The shift with “Blade Runner” I don’t think is as stark. I got the director’s cut of “The Counselor” and am curious to see if that really weird movie gets better with more/different footage.
If the director’s cut was considered the “real” one, I don’t think film geeks would love the “Donnie Darko” so much.
The problem is that some filmmakers and scriptwriters don’t get (or ask for) a different perspective. They believe that their vision should be completed ‘as is.’ Humility, then, is essential here. And that means asking for blunt and brutal feedback.
It’s easier for someone to understand complex ideas when they’re surrounded by that particular story day in and day out, during the creative process. These same ideas might be nigh incomprehensible to your average moviegoer. It then falls to movie industry pros to either slightly simplify those complicated ideas for the sake of clarity or to rework them entirely in favor of more down-to-earth ones.
Some ideas, no matter how brilliant, might be too complex to cover in just a single scene or a few lines of dialogue. In that case, the filmmakers need to lay the groundwork earlier on in the story. Or they need to find some creative metaphors that would help their audience understand the core issues without sacrificing the depth of the ideas themselves.
Oh man, lot of hidden things going on in this movie which is what makes it so amazing.
Highly suggest watching some YouTube breakdowns, especially about Danny and the bears.
A kinda different one than the ones said so far: The Big Lebowski. I had assumed because of how much people talk about it that the story would be bursting with over the top comedy, and it left me pretty confused. It wasn’t until subsequent viewings I realized how subtly infused every single line in the movie is. Now when I watch it I find myself quoting nearly the entire movie.
This is a good one. There are some over-the-top scenes but there are plenty of subtle bits that you appreciate more with additional watches. Like “this aggression will not stand” quote. The first time around I missed that he stole the line from Bush.
Not exactly subtle but I f**king love when The Dude sees Jackie Treehorn scribbling something on a piece of paper and thinks he’s found a clue. For a second you think The Dude is onto something, only to find that it’s just a doodle of a guy with a big d**k. But what really gets me, is a couple scenes later when he’s picked up by the cops. They empty The Dude’s pockets only to find a supermarket loyalty card and the doodle of the guy with the big d**k.
Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. The first viewing I was distracted marveling at the oddness and the acting. The second viewing I was able to properly take in the story and I ADORE the movie.
I love all the obvious stuff that is pointing the themes out but I was too mesmerized to take in the first time.
The Grandfather in particular is my fav character in the movie, his stunned face at the end when confronted with reality is priceless.
And my fav scene:
“I’m gonna get you” as a rock…
Imagine The Matrix movies without the iconic red and blue pill scene. It summed up a huge chunk of the project’s essence in a memorable way that has ever since become an intrinsic part of pop culture. Without that scene, the issues that the film covers would have been that much harder to comprehend.
Of course, you always have the freedom to film your ideas as you see them in your mind because you fully believe in your vision. You want your project to be genuine. And complicated. And bizarre!
Interstellar. The multidimensional part was getting too complex to follow the first time around. The second time I was able to process it.
Honestly Fargo. First time thought it was boring and weird. Second time totally got it, thought it was awesome and weird.
I’m lucky I watched Fargo only a few years ago (after having seen a review of the editing on YT). I don’t think I would have appreciated the movie anywhere near as much if I’d seen it earlier in my life. The Coen brothers are so, subtle.
Trainspotting. First watch was at a friends. Watched it again like the next day with subtitles and realized I almost got the plot completely wrong because the accents were too heavy for me
At the same time, you need to remember that movies are a creator’s way of relating to the audience and society at large. You cannot expect people to rewatch the movie a dozen times until they finally ‘get’ the message.
Though, on the flip side, the audience then owes these filmmakers their undivided attention. If you were too busy looking at your phone instead of watching the movie, it’s nobody’s fault but yours if you feel lost!
L4yer Cake. It took me two tries to truly understand the movie. Once I did, it became a favorite.
This is a good one. I remember watching this with my parents. At the end my brother, father, and I were puzzled. Then my mom, who had been knitting the whole time broke it down and explained it to us.
Master & Commander.
I hate that this movie wasn’t successful enough for an immediate sequel. There’s nothing else like it. Maybe Greyhound if you consider it modern.
Jacob’s Ladder. Did not understand on the first watch. Had a little explanation provided on the ending and then it made a lot more sense on the second viewing.
My first thought was Training Day, but it took more than 2 viewings. I couldn’t even pay attention enough to know that Alonzo was doing all that to pay a debt to Russian gangsters. But Denzel was so electric in it, I watched it for him.
Now, I think of it as an allegory for where you, the audience member, would decide to give up your future in the face of all the things he puts Ethan Hawke through. And also how easily bad people can use the system against young people with aspirations.
I actually 100% believe TENET is meant to be viewed twice. Just as the protagonist has to experience the story before he can fully understand, so does the audience. SO MUCH better the second time.
Brazil. When I first watched it I thought it was awful but upon rewatching it is a classic. Same with Last Action Hero on the first watch thought it was awful on a rewatch it is a fun, but action comedy which breaks the 4th wall.
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Tbh, I’m still not sure if I understand it all.
Came here to say this. I first saw it on a date with a Harvard girl. I didn’t want her to think I was stupid, so I pretended like I wasn’t so confused. Turns out, she was afraid I would think she was stupid, too. It took us about 10 minutes of talking afterwards for us to admit we were both out to sea.
But that started an obsession. I’ve probably seen it 10 times now. There are a lot of masterful craft choices that make it such a tonally satisfying movie. That said, there are still some really, really strange choices.
Case in point: there’s an elevator scene where Benedict Cumberbatch mentions to Ciaran Hinds that his hand is bleeding. Then they go to lunch together. In the book, the whole reason his hand was bleeding was he broke into someone’s desk! No mention of that in the movie, and it never comes up again. Bizarre.
The Dark Knight.
I didn’t know what to make of the Joker. He wasn’t like any representation prior. I eventually landed on the Joker being almost a supporting character as the true story arc was centered on the rise and fall of Dent. But that didn’t seem right either. After several viewings it dawned on me as I payed closer attention to the interrogation room scene. He was the antithesis of Batman. The anarchist to the rule-bound. The killer to the one who does not kill. One who sees the villain in everyone to the one who sees the good in everyone. It was there all along, I was just so caught in earlier interpretations of the Joker that I really struggled to see what this version was supposed to be. Now that I see it, the movie fits together a lot better for me.
I saw David Lynch’s “Dune” when it came out. I was nine years old and hadn’t read any of the books. I was pretty confused.
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