Martin Scorsese’s 2010 psychological thriller Shutter Island is the kind of film that keeps you up in the night as you try to assimilate and put together all the disjointed pieces of information into a rational whole. Gradually, all the moving parts line up to reveal the big picture. We follow Edward Daniel, a Deputy US Marshall who’s sent into a mental asylum to investigate the missing of one of the patients. It’s a gripping thriller, a chilling crime tale and a moving story about a tortured soul all rolled into one. So, if you’re on the lookout for more mind-bending movies like Shutter Island, here’s a list:
1. Gone Girl (2014)
Having read Gillian Flynn’s novel beforehand, I naturally had high expectations and David Fincher certainly delivers. The story follows Nick Dunne, a writing teacher who becomes the prime suspect in the sudden disappearance of his wife. Rosamund Pike delivers a powerhouse of a performance which even earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. There’s plenty of twists and turns along the way and the final scene still gives me the chills.
2. The Usual Suspects (1995)
Another film that put the false narrator trope to excellent use was The Usual Suspects, a 1995 neo-noir thriller. The plot revolves around the interrogation of Roger Krint, a small-time con-man, and his retelling of the events that lead up to a ghastly gun battle on a boat. What initially seems like a simple plot gets drenched in layers of deceit, violence, and more importantly, twists. The result is a film that has you connecting the dots as you ask yourself again “Who is Keyser Soze?”
3. Se7en (1995)
The second Fincher film in this list, Seven follows two detectives, a rookie and a veteran, and their hunt for a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins as a recurring motif in his murders. Even though Freeman’s great as an older man who learns not to give up the fight, I love what Kevin Spacey did with his character. He’s cold, menacing, and leaves a lasting impression despite the fact that he appears for a very short duration of the film. The ending is absolutely devastating making Seven a worthy entrant in the deeply disturbing serial killer genre.
4. The Sixth Sense (1999)
This is the movie that put M. Night Shyamalan on the map, setting the rhythm for the multiple twist-heavy films that he would follow up with. It stars Bruce Willis as a child psychologist whose patient believes he can talk to the dead. The line “I can see dead people” became a popular catchphrase after its release and was featured in AFI’s Top 100 movie quotes. The plot twist is one of my all-time favorites second to only Unbreakable with its stunning revelation of Elijah’s secret identity.
Where to watch: Hotstar
5. The Prestige (2006)
Widely regarded as one of Christopher Nolan’s best films, The Prestige demands multiple viewings to truly appreciate its genius. The film narrates the story of Angier and Borden, two rival magicians who engage in competitive one-upmanship. A big reason why we’re willing to suspend disbelief and completely buy into the story is the casting. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are perfect and rise up beyond their underwritten roles. A brilliant twist almost sends a jolt down your spine and sheds light on the fatal impact of the tussle between the two leads.
6. Black Swan (2010)
Similar to Shutter Island, Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 psychological thriller features a lead who’s lost their grip on reality. Natalie Portman, in what for me was a career-defining performance, plays the role of a committed dancer who struggles to maintain her sanity after winning the lead role in an upcoming production of “Swan Lake.” Alternating between moments of sheer exhilaration and utter distress, Black Swan’s a mesmerizing production that deserves to be added to your watch-list.
Where to watch: Disney+ Hotstar
7. Split (2016)
The second instalment in M. Night Shyamalan’s Eastrail 177 trilogy, Split follows a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder with 23 distinct personalities who kidnaps three young women and imprisons them in an underground facility.
James McAvoy’s in terrific form and does a fine job of selling his character’s varied personae. The scene towards the third act of the film where he switches from one personality to another with relative ease is an absolute masterclass. It’s a shame that Glass, the conclusion to the franchise doesn’t quite do justice to his character. You’re better off viewing this as a standalone film.
Where to watch: Netflix
8. Memento (2000)
The second Nolan film on this list, Memento’s an audacious attempt at narrating two parallel storylines, one told chronologically and the other in reverse. Based on Jonathan Nolan’s short story Memento Mori, the plot revolves around a man with anterograde amnesia and his hunt for the people who brutally raped and killed his wife. He uses an elaborately designed system of polaroid photos and tattoos to track information that he can’t remember. It’s a fascinating movie-watching experience that only gets better with every re-watch.
9. Get Out (2017)
Both Get Out and Shutter Island start off in a similar fashion. An unsuspecting protagonist is thrown into an unfamiliar environment that isn’t quite what it seems. While Scorsese’s film is conceived around the central character’s mental illness, Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is built around race. Daniel Kaluuya stars as a young African-American who visits his white girlfriend’s parents for the weekend. Little does he know the unsettling events that await him. Get Out works not only as a genuine horror film but also as a savage indictment of a careless system which for years has not been bothered about the alarming rise in cases of missing Black males.
A large part of Shutter Island’s fun is in solving of the mystery along with the lead character. The twists are part of a bigger narrative with subtle foreshadowing and clues scattered throughout the film. This is also exactly why multiple viewings of such films can be very rewarding. Your turn! What other movies like Shutter Island would you recommend that aren’t on this list? Tell us your favourites in the comments below.
A self-proclaimed movie buff who swears he's funnier on the Internet than he is in real life. He also constantly makes sitcom references to make sense of a life that is slowly succumbing to entropy.