Usually, when you see a movie, you have some sort of preconception of what you’ll be seeing. It’ll usually be colored by a trailer you saw, a review you heard, or even a recommendation from a friend. Then, something happens while you’re watching the movie. It starts out exactly as expected, but then it twists. These turns continue until, by the end, you’ve not only ended up with a story completely different than what you thought it would be, you’ve ended up with a genre completely different than you thought it would be. And it’s one of the most wonderful feelings a moviegoer can have. Here are five of our favorite examples.
Moon: Duncan Jones’ debut effort justifiably earned a lot of hype before it came out, but the details surrounding it were purposely vague. From any promotional material you might see, you would expect that Moon would be an occasionally funny meditation on loneliness in an extraordinary situation. The first twenty minutes leads you that direction, as well. Of course, at the end, you’re left with your mouth agape after pondering one of sci-fi’s most difficult subjects.
Brick: Brick, on paper, seemed like one of the worst ideas ever. “Let’s make a gritty film noir detective movie. Except this time, let’s set it in high school. Remember that kid from Third Rock from the Sun and Angels in the Outfield? He’s the main character!” Then you see it and realize that it’s one of the best-written movies of the last decade. And then you thankdirector Rian Johnson for reintroducing us to Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Being John Malkovich: This is another movie from a first-time feature director (Spike Jonze, in this case). This is no coincidence. First timers have much less inhibition with plot and tone than their more seasoned colleagues. At first, Being John Malkovich is a funny, albeit weird, comedy with an unusual plot device—a tunnel that goes into thespian John Malkovich’s brain. Then, that device is twisted again and again and folded in on itself as it leaves you questioning what you just saw, and even, for a moment, questioning reality. A true classic.
Grizzly Man: This meditation on the life of nature activist Timothy Treadwell becomes much more than a typical Discovery Channel nature documentary during its runtime. Through the movie, director Werner Herzog takes us deep into his magnetic subject’s fractured mind, and forces us to consider the unfeeling bleakness of nature.
The Room: Over the last decade, The Room has developed a reputation for being the worst movie ever made. It bills itself as a Tennessee Williams-styled drama, but it ends up being one of the most unintentionally funny films ever made. You can go in expecting the worst movie ever—it’ll still be worse than your expectations. There are points during the movie where viewers often question if what they’re seeing is real. It seems impossible that people invested money in making this movie. The Room has it all: amateurish acting, awful directing, an incoherent plot, and dire dialogue. “Auteur” Tommy Wiseau set out to create a classic when he made this, and he succeeded, albeit in a way he never expected.
What movie totally surprised you?