There’s a good argument to be made that every movie benefits from going into it knowing very little. If a film takes unexpected directions when it comes to its storyline, characters, or genres, it’s obviously nice to enter a movie without knowing such things. Also, with trailers, rumors, and social media sometimes revealing a little too much, genuine surprises are getting harder to come by.
With all that being said, some films benefit more than others from being entered into blind. The following are all shining examples of movies that provide a better experience the less you know beforehand. They will be very briefly summarized, with care taken not to reveal much at all. Long story short, if there are any here you haven’t seen and know next to nothing about, they should be watched as soon as possible, and before any pesky spoilers happen to come your way.
Updated on July 5, 2023, by Jeremy Urquhart:
As time goes on, it gradually becomes more difficult to surprise audiences by giving them something they’ve never seen before. Yet filmmakers are still finding new boundaries to push, and there are indeed other movies like Barbarian that have done it since that film’s release, like 2023’s Infinity Pool and Beau Is Afraid. Particularly daring filmmakers remain up to the task of delivering unpredictable movies, with the following titles – some older, and some new releases – all exemplifying this well while being examples of movies that should be entered into knowing as little as possible.
20 ‘Barbarian’ (2022)
Barbarian has already emerged as one of the most interesting horror movies in years. It plays straight and subverts various horror tropes throughout its well-paced, unpredictable runtime, and makes for a thrilling watch for horror fans in the process.
So, how much should you know going in? It’s probably important to know that if you have a hard time with claustrophobic and/or dark spaces, this may not be the movie for you, and neither is it going to convert non-horror fans. But as for the plot? Go in knowing literally nothing, because Barbarian is a unique and consistently thrilling ride that aims to keep you on your toes for every single one of its 102 minutes, and it largely succeeds in doing just that.
Watch on Max
19 ‘Infinity Pool’ (2023)
Brandon Cronenberg followed up the already uncompromising Possessor (2020) with something even wilder and more nightmarishly trippy with 2023’s Infinity Pool. It’s a very dark satire/psychological horror film that looks at wealthy people acting in a depraved way while also suggesting that money can buy one’s way out of any wrongdoing, no matter how serious.
The way it communicates these ideas are best left for audiences to discover themselves… at least those viewers who feel up to handling some extreme violent and sexual content. It’s an incredibly disturbing movie, but most of its shocking scenes are there in service of the film’s story and thematic content, meaning it will provoke thoughts while also churning stomachs.
Watch on Hulu
18 ‘Shutter Island’ (2010)
Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio have collaborated on crime films and historical dramas before, but Shutter Island represented a new direction for the director/actor pairing. This one’s a psychological mystery/thriller film that follows a U.S. Marshal investigating the disappearance of a potentially dangerous patient from a high-security psychiatric hospital.
Given the genre, it’s expected that a simple premise such as this will have its fair share of twists and turns, and Shutter Island indeed delivers in that regard. It’s the kind of film that’s legendary for the directions it goes after about the halfway point, being a slow-burn story with a strong pay-off, and certainly worth going into blind for anyone who’s yet to know how things wrap up.
Watch on Showtime
17 ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ (2021)
Some would say that the big reveals in Spider-Man: No Way Home weren’t the best-kept secrets. There were plenty of rumors surrounding the movie while it was in production, and it was speculated on more heavily than the average MCU movie, that’s for sure.
For anyone who went in maybe expecting certain things while not knowing for sure if they’d be there, it ended up being a hugely satisfying experience. And to the film’s credit, it is the most ambitious, dramatic, and twist-heavy Spider-Man film in the MCU so far, which means that even those who might know some reveals in advance likely won’t know them all.
Watch on Starz
16 ‘Psycho’ (1960)
Chances are, you’ll know about the big twists Psycho has to offer, even if you’ve never seen the classic Alfred Hitchcock movie. But assume for a moment that you don’t, just as viewers in 1960 didn’t know what they were in for. The things that happen in this movie – and in one particularly famous scene – were truly shocking for audiences back then. If Psycho‘s big moments hadn’t become so commonly referenced and parodied, they’d still shock viewers today.
Hitchcock famously had rules for cinemas that showed Psycho, which emphasized how closely guarded its twists were intended to be. Apparently, moviegoers before 1960 sometimes arrived to movies late, but Psycho screenings weren’t allowed to permit late admissions, given how early some of its surprises come. Still, even if it’s a movie that’s been spoiled to death, it’s worth a watch (just be sure to stay away from the bizarrely redundant 1998 remake!)
15 ‘Beau Is Afraid’ (2023)
Ari Aster followed up the already strange and unnerving Midsommar (2019) with an entirely different and even more unusual beast altogether. Beau is Afraid was the film, and it’s genuinely hard to explain anything when it comes to its plot, beyond saying that it’s about one man trying to get to a destination, only for seemingly everything to go wrong, sending him into some kind of nightmarish version of reality.
On top of having a simple premise executed in the most bizarre fashion possible, Beau Is Afraid also stands out for its nearly three-hour-long runtime, proving to be an exhausting and stressful watching experience. However, for providing something unique, and making a rare film that will surprise everyone who watches it in some way, Aster’s efforts should be applauded (though if audiences, like Beau, are themselves afraid of seeing this, perhaps that’s also understandable).
14 ‘The Man Who Stole the Sun’ (1979)
With a look at nuclear weapons that’s both dark and strangely funny, perhaps the easiest film to compare The Man Who Stole the Sun to is the Stanley Kubrick-directed – and Peter Sellers-starring – 1964 film Dr. Strangelove. However, the latter isn’t also a crime/thriller or romance/action movie, which is to say that it’s hard to compare The Man Who Stole the Sun to anything else, beyond looking at movies with similar subject matter/themes.
Even the plot feels unique, as it centers around a teacher who decides to build his own atomic bomb, and after doing so, uses it to extort various things from government, all the while the police are trying to find his whereabouts. It pushes into even wilder territory than its premise would suggest, and though it’s underseen and hard to track down, it’s absolutely worth watching for any jaded movie fans who think they’ve seen it all.
13 ‘Moon’ (2009)
One of the best films of 2009, Moon stars Sam Rockwell and barely anyone else. It takes place in a facility on the moon where Rockwell’s character is the only living inhabitant, and though his time there is almost at an end, something strange happens one day that throws his entire life off-balance.
To say more would feel criminal, so it’s best to just leave it at that. It’s small-scale, thought-provoking science-fiction at its best, and though it might not appeal to those who like their sci-fi action-packed, it will be enthralling to anyone who likes their sci-fi psychological, unpredictable, and surprisingly intimate.
12 ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ (2022)
On the surface, the plot of The Banshees of Inisherin seems so simple. Two friends – Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) and Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) – are suddenly no longer friends, and one of them can’t accept it. This deceptively straightforward story unfolds over the gorgeous rolling hills and open seas of a remote Irish island.
An award-winning tragicomedy that’s a true standout from its genre, the film goes to some dark places that audiences may not expect. It’s impossible not to spoil any more about its well-written narrative at this point, but it’s safe to say that viewers who want a dose of humor, heartache, and Irish folklore should consider this film as essential viewing.
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11 ‘Fresh’ (2022)
The broadest (and best) way to describe Fresh is to say that it’s a movie about the difficulties of dating in general in the 21st century. Daisy Edgar-Jones plays a young woman who seems unable to find an even halfway decent person to date until she happens to meet Sebastian Stan‘s character by chance, and the two hit it off surprisingly well.
This plays out until the opening title shows up over half an hour into the movie. By that point, the movie has revealed what genre it’s actually going to be, and gives you some idea why it’s called Fresh. If you can reach that point knowing nothing about where it ends up going, it would undoubtedly become an even more rewarding and jaw-dropping film to watch play out.
Watch on Hulu
10 ‘Godzilla: Final Wars’ (2004)
Truth be told, there aren’t really any plot-specific spoilers in Godzilla: Final Wars that absolutely need to be kept secret from those who haven’t seen it. This is mostly because there’s little to no plot in Final Wars; at least not one that makes any kind of logical sense.
However, unlike most movies, this isn’t a flaw, because Godzilla: Final Wars is not most movies. It’s an excuse to get one of the most powerful versions of Godzilla in the series’ history to fight as many monsters as possible, all the while featuring a wild human storyline that gleefully references Hollywood blockbusters like Star Wars, The Matrix, and X-Men. It’s probably the wildest giant monster movie of all time, so the less known going in the better.
Watch on Crackle
9 ‘One Cut of the Dead’ (2017)
One Cut of the Dead is a charming low-budget zombie film that’s rough around the edges, but still fun to watch. Part of that enjoyment comes from the way it’s presented in one take, and the fact it gets meta, with a story about a group of people making a low-budget horror film who then themselves get attacked by actual zombies.
Eventually, the movie shifts away from this initial premise, and becomes something else entirely. The “one cut” presentation vanishes, too, but for good reason, and in its place is something even better, with a fantastic second half that expertly recontextualizes and improves the film’s still enjoyable first half. It’s a masterfully written and ridiculously clever movie, and offers an experience unlike anything else.
Watch on Shudder
8 ‘Parasite’ (2019)
The already classic and critically acclaimed Parasite has a title that makes it sound like a horror movie. It’s not quite one, and saying so doesn’t give away too much. It is, however, a film that tackles numerous other genres, and it blends comedy, drama, and suspense in a way that’s never quite been done before.
Parasite is essentially a movie about two families who are separated by class and wealth, and what happens when they interact. That’s keeping it super vague, but seeing the plot slowly take shape before a plot twist at the halfway point shifts just about everything is one thing that makes Parasite such a memorable movie… and to give away anything that happens after that halfway point would be borderline criminal.
Watch on Hulu
7 ‘Red State’ (2011)
Red State is a film that truly stands out among Kevin Smith‘s other directorial efforts. It’s a far cry from the sort of laid-back comedy he’s best known for making, as any humor here is extremely dark and infrequent, with it being far more of a serious action/thriller than anything else.
It’s a movie that continually aims to subvert your expectations, and while the swerves it takes throughout may prove too jarring for some, they could likely prove thrilling and exciting for others. In any event, it’s great to see Smith take this kind of risk and have it pay off reasonably well, as it can’t be overstated how far removed it is from something like Clerks or Chasing Amy.
6 ‘Hereditary’ (2018)
By making one of the best – and most harrowing – horror films of the past decade, Ari Aster instantly made a name for himself as a director to keep an eye out for. Hereditary is a film that begins normally enough, with a suitably creepy atmosphere and some family drama… until it takes a turn into something far more disturbing and traumatic surprisingly early on.
After one unbelievably intense sequence, Hereditary never stops spiraling down into darkness and horror that’s as sad as it is disturbing, cementing it as one of the best unpredictable movies ever. Toni Collette is phenomenal in the lead role, too, with Hereditary emerging as a film that will likely shake even the most jaded and hardened horror fans.
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5 ‘Oldboy’ (2003)
A renowned South Korean neo-noir film with an infamous twist most people know, Oldboy follows the story of follows Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik), a drunkard and troublemaker who’s kidnapped and imprisoned for 15 years. When he’s released out of the blue, he embarks on a quest to find the person responsible for his suffering, but soon becomes embroiled in a dangerous conspiracy.
Without spoiling its big reveal, it’s not too far-fetched to say that Oldboy features some of the most impressive and flawlessly choreographed action sequences in Asian cinema. Directed by Park Chan-wook, it’s also an incredibly thrilling ride that takes some dark turns until it reaches its jaw-dropping conclusion, which isn’t for the faint of heart.
4 ‘Gone Girl’ (2014)
Director David Fincher‘s Gone Girl is a suspenseful psychological thriller based on Gillian Flynn‘s eponymous 2012 novel. The film revolves around Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), who becomes the center of a police investigation after his glamorous wife Amy (Rosamund Pike‘s career-defining role) mysteriously disappears. As a media frenzy forms around the case, things get complicated.
That’s all viewers need to know about the film before diving into the Dunnes’ unforgettable story. Those who have read the award-winning book it’s based on will, of course, already know what makes the narrative so unique. Audiences who can go into this incredibly gripping film should consider themselves lucky they’ve avoided spoilers for this long (and should probably stop tempting fate and watch the movie as soon as possible).
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3 ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ (2011)
The Cabin in the Woods presents itself as a fairly derivative horror movie in its opening scenes. As the title implies, there’s a cabin buried deep in the woods. It’s isolated, spooky, and, for some reason, seen as a desirable place to visit by a group of young people, all of whom seem like standard movie stereotypes in their introductory scenes.
However, what the film is really about is introduced pretty quickly, and from there, the plot thickens and becomes more and more unexpected. It never feels like a parody exactly, but does become something of a commentary on the state of horror films that calls out its audience for enjoying it. The way it explores its satirical, darkly comedic ideas are best left unspoiled, of course.
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In The Menu, a young couple (Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicholas Hoult) travels to a remote island to tour and eat at an exclusive restaurant known for its eccentric and reclusive celebrity chef, Julian Slowik (Ralph Fiennes). Chef Slowik has prepared an especially intricate menu unlike any other for that evening, which comes with some jarring surprises.
Already widely regarded as a must-see eat-the-rich movie by fans, that’s all newcomers should know before watching the film. Taylor-Joy’s stellar and confident performance will guide viewers through each unbelievable twist all the way to its dramatic finale.
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1 ‘Everything Everywhere All at Once’ (2022)
With its multiple Oscar wins, Everything Everywhere All at Once is already a film that needs no introduction. The absurdist comedy-drama film follows Evelyn Quan (Michelle Yeoh), a middle-aged Chinese American immigrant who struggles to balance her hectic business, failing marriage, and messy relationship with her daughter. When she learns that the fate of the universe is in her hands, it’s the last thing she needs.
Viewers can expect wild visuals, absurd comedy, a heartbreaking story, and philosophical concepts from this mind-blowing movie. And all of this information is just the tip of the iceberg, and is really more than enough for audiences who have been on the fence about sitting through this intimidating film. It’s a risk worth taking, and one that any cinephile definitely shouldn’t miss.
Watch on Showtime
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