We’ve now certified over 100 of an eventual 366 movies here, and it’s time to step back, take stock, and make a provisional list of the “Best of the Weird”—and a list of the “Weirdest of the Weird.” We first took a stab at this list about two years ago, and my how things have changed since then (at least, at the bottom). We’ve added new movies, and reshuffled our ratings for some of the others, and—well, you can read for yourself.
Recognizing that “weirdest” and “best” aren’t always the same thing, we’ve actually created two top ten lists here: one for the best movies that fall into the weird genre (these are the ones to start your timid friends off with), and one for the absolute weirdest movies we’ve seen (these are the ones to put on at a party when you want to clear the room). Because we’re giving you two top ten lists for the price of one, you’re actually getting 20 recommended weird movies. Well, actually 19, since one movie appears on both lists, but who’s counting? Oh, wait, we are, that’s the entire point…
Feel free to agree with my choices, disagree, or hurl hurtful epithets at me in the comments. But do remember that this list only covers movies we’ve already reviewed. Your favorite movie we omitted may be coming down the line, and may make this list the next time we formulate it (in another two years or so).
With that said, let’s get to it!
# 10 Best Weird Movie: Kwaidan (1964). “Although on the surface it’s just a collection of bare-bones ghost stories, in telling these tales director Kobayashi wisely jettisons reality in favor of a stylized, expressionistic, visually poetic aesthetic that gently detaches the viewer from everyday life and floats him into an ancient spirit world that seems simultaneously to have never and always existed.”
#10 Weirdest Movie: House [Hausu] (1977). “Rife with images of flying heads, murderous painos, laughing watermelons, an invisible wind machine, and a truly demonic kitty, the film’s surrealist atmosphere and ever-shifting styles are as hilarious as they are inscrutable. There is no way to get a handle on Hausu—the viewer is completely at the mercy of Obayashi’s bizarre whims.”
#9 Best Weird Movie: The Wicker Man (1973): “Hardy and Shaffer create an atmosphere like no other; it’s an encounter of civilized man with strange, primeval beliefs…. The viewer himself undergoes a dread confrontation with Old Gods who are at the same time familiar and terrifyingly strange.”
#9 Weirdest Movie: Cowards Bend the Knee, or, The Blue Hands (2003): “Cowards features Maddin’s trademark in-your-face style (a mix of silent film artifacts and glitchy hypermodern editing); crazed, dreamlike narrative (incorporating hockey matches, beauty salons, murder, infidelity, ghosts, and a hand transplant); and a wildly veering, yet somehow coherent tone that moves from melodrama to slapstick to absurdist vintage pornography to Greek tragedy in the space of a few frames.”
#8 Best Weird Movie: The City of Lost Children (1995): “In The City of Lost Children, Jeunet and Caro give us more than we could ever hope for in a movie; indeed, they give us more successful, original ideas than we’d could hope find in three or four movies. The film is stuffed to overflowing bizarre characters, visual details, and narrative invention. Jeunet and Caro traffic in unashamedly gratuitous imagination… They give us too much, and we respond: more, please.”
#8 Weirdest Movie: Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989): “Men and women extrude cables, wires, gears, drills, threaded pipes, and miscellaneous machine parts from their skin, in glorious showers of blood. Nightmare visions in grainy black and white flow at a breakneck pace to the pulsing beat of an industrial soundtrack. It’s a square plug of a movie forced into the round connector of our cinematic expectations, and it emits dangerous sparks.”
#7 Weirdest Movie: Alice [Neco z Alenky] (1988): “‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a nonsense fantasy, a fairy tale of fractured reality; it makes a perfect template for a weird movie, but no adaptation has taken the story so deep into the frightening labyrinths of the subconscious as this uncanny animation. Carroll’s and Svankmajer’s opposite talents and sensibilities complement each other perfectly, like pure cane sugar mixed with white powder heroin.”
#6 Best Weird Movie: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006): “You can have brilliant cinematography, masterful acting, awe-inspiring spectacle, and evocative music—and Pan’s Labyrinth has all of these—but you can’t create a classic without a great, emotionally engaging story to tell. Although del Toro insists that he tells his stories primarily through images, it’s Pan’s Labyrinth‘s tight, simple, elegant script that delivers a tale that immediately feels timeless.”
#6 Weirdest Movie: Funky Forest: The First Contact (2005): “Watching Funky Forest is like peeking inside the skull of an American schizophrenic stranded in Tokyo on a three day meth and mescaline binge, nodding off into dreams and blacking out in periodic epileptic fits as he flips through the local channels at 4:30 AM, all the while unaware that aliens are attempting to jam the local airwaves with subliminal propaganda designed to prepare us for an imminent encounter with advanced beings our brains are still eons away from being able to comprehend.”
#5 Best Weird Movie: Barton Fink (1991): “A nightmarish, expressionistic, and self-satirizing evocation of the difficulty of creation, Barton Fink pokes a sharpened stick into the deepest wounds of artistic self-doubt. A pure mood piece, its amazing ending achieves the remarkable triumph of leaving us with nothing but unanswered questions, while simultaneously feeling complete and whole.”
#5 Weirdest Movie: Eraserhead (1977): “…probably the greatest recreation of a nightmare ever filmed, a marvelous and ambiguous mix of private and cosmic secrets torn from the subconscious. Or, as Lynch puts it, it’s “a dream of dark and disturbing things.”
#4 Best Weird Movie: Brazil (1985): “Gilliam’s genius in Brazil was to recast George Orwell’s propaganda-ridden nightmare 1984 not as some disaster that might happen in the distant future if humanity is not vigilant, but as something that has already happened, and went unnoticed.”
#4 Weirdest Movie: El Topo (1970): ” Sergio Leone had already established this legendary West of supernaturally proficient gunfighters as a mythical, dreamlike landscape, a place where modern audiences were willing to surrender disbelief and expecting to encounter demigods and monsters. Jodorowsky took Leone’s land of myth and exploded it into a billion pieces, transforming it from a desert of legends into a wasteland of mystical, psychedelic splendors.”
#3 Best Weird Movie: Repulsion (1965): “The possibility that our own minds may betray us and drag us down to Hell is a far more frightening than any psycho-slasher in a hockey mask ever could be.”
#3 Weirdest Movie: Naked Lunch (1991): “…anything can happen inside the story of Naked Lunch: typewriters can speak through their anuses, characters can turn into each other or metamorphose into sexually ravenous centipedes, sexual desire can materialize into an amorphous living blob and be chased out of the room by a maid dressed as a dominatrix.”
#2 Best Weird Movie: A Clockwork Orange (1971): “It’s not the ultraviolence in A Clockwork Orange that existentially unnerves us; it’s the way Kubrick holds our eyes open and forces us to confront uncomfortable truths about ourselves.”
#2 Weirdest Movie: The Holy Mountain (1973): ” If you tore out pages from the Bible, the Bhagavad Gita, The Golden Bough, and a dozen other esoteric works from the Kabbalah to Gurdijeff—throwing in a couple of sleazy pulp novels for good measure—and put them together in a giant cauldron, stirred them up and pulled out sheaves at random and asked a troupe of performance artists, carnival freaks, and hippies tripping on peyote to act them out, you might come up with a narrative something like The Holy Mountain.”
#1 Best Weird Movie: Eraserhead (1977): Nothing unnerves like Eraserhead. The distilled essence of weirdness, it’s a masterpiece that gets under your skin, and lives there for the rest of your life. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Neo-surrealist manifesto and arguably the most important work in the weird genre.
#1 Weirdest Movie: INLAND EMPIRE (2008): “David Lynch at his most deliberately unhinged, experimenting with how far he can stray from linear narrative while still producing a work that feels thematically whole, searching for the minimum number of recurring images and themes needed to stitch a piece together so that it tantalizingly approaches coherence without ever actually resolving.”
|TOP 10 BEST WEIRD MOVIES
10. Kwaidan (1964)
|TOP 10 WEIRDEST MOVIES
|5. Eraserhead (1977)|