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The all-time greatest cinematic mindfucks

In homage to Twin Peaks' rumoured resurrection, here's our rundown of the best in filmic weirdness

Amid the buzz over whether Twin Peaks and its dead homecoming queen Laura Palmer are set to be resurrected by creator David Lynch, we've gathered our fave films of that ilk into a veritable K-hole of mind-bending weirdness.


During a high-society dinner party the servants depart and the guests find that they are inexplicably unable to leave the room. They run out of water and food, days pass, and hysteria sets in. This startlingly strange, macabre masterpiece from Spanish surrealist Luis Buñuel is a biting attack on social conventions and the privileged.


French provocateur Gaspar Noe, whose Irreversible features sound at nerve-shredding riot-dispersal frequency, delivers a startling sensory assault from the very opening credits with this film, based on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Set in neon-lit Tokyo, it's seen from the point-of-view of small-time drug-dealer Oscar, who drifts through post-death hallucinations after he's shot dead while tripping on DMT.


Written by reality-bender extraordinaire Charlie Kaufman and directed by Spike Jonze, this wonder sees John Cusack play an unemployed puppeteer who finds a portal that allows 15 minutes in Hollywood actor John Malkovich's mind. Then it gets REALLY weird, as his wife becomes obsessed with using the discovery to vent repressed sexual desires, and Malkovich himself wants a try.


In Alejandro Jodorowsky's bizarre, visually stunning cult psychedelic classic, a thief who bears a striking resemblance to Jesus is on a quest for enlightenment. The Chilean director (and Tarot aficionado) himself plays an alchemist with a talent for transforming shit into gold. Magic mushrooms and spiritual exercises led by a Bolivian mystic are said to have been part of the production regime of this out-there film, which was bankrolled by John & Yoko.


Indie hero Richard Linklater's beautifully rotoscoped animation is a shimmering dreamscape in which a lucid dreamer starts to realise the true nature of his existence as other characters philosophise and deliriously debate the purpose of life.


Darren Aronofsky's unapologetically grandiose romantic SF flick sees a doctor struggle to accept that his ailing wife is about to die. Interweaving different planes from the story the characters are writing – a Mayan jungle through which a 16th-century conquistador is questing for the Tree of Life for his queen, and a future outer space of golden nebulas where the connection between all existence can be gleaned – the film is a mad trip of sprawling complexity.

PERSONA (1966)

In Swedish maestro Ingmar Bergman's profoundly eerie and unsettling psychological horror, a nurse (Bibi Andersson) and a famed actress who has inexplicably stopped speaking (Liv Ullman) torment each other at a seaside cottage. Reality's borders mutate as the division between the two women begins to dissolve in this bleak masterpiece of startling images.


It took David Cronenburg, the master of visceral weirdness, to successfully adapt William S. Burroughs' nightmarish landmark of American lit. A New York exterminator whose wife is stealing his bug powder to get high accidentally shoots her dead in a game of "William Tell" (echoing Burroughs's own life). He flees to the Tangier-like Interzone, where he starts to type his novel on a machine that morphs into a giant insect, issuing demands from its illicit flesh.

STALKER (1979)

The laws of physics as we know them don't apply in the "forbidden zone", a water-drenched wasteland of flux cordoned off by the military that provides the mystical setting of Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's visually stunning Soviet-era masterpiece. A stalker leads an expedition there toward a room said to fulfill innermost desires.


An entry is surely due for the man inspired this list, a filmmaker whose career is a mental oeuvre of what-the-fuckness. My personal David Lynch favourite is this alarming and eerie neo-noir number in which a saxophonist and his wife are terrorised by anonymously delivered videotapes, a mystery man with seeming teleportation powers, and warping space-time that doubles them into doppelgangers.