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10 of Cinema's Most Notoriously Incomprehensible Classics

All the hand-wringing of late about how difficult The Tree of Life is to follow has got us thinking about some other films over the history of cinema that have stirred similar debate. These are the films that invariably end up getting talked about at parties, where you overhear someone saying, “Oh, Mulholland Drive? That made no sense!” and just can’t help getting involved in the argument. Here’s our pick of ten of the best — plus a snappy one-liner you can use to nip any such discussions in the bud.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

The gold standard for confusing films, and also for the idea that a film doesn’t need to have a coherent narrative to be powerful and compelling viewing. 2001 has been confusing audiences for the last 43 years, and remains the subject of much bewildered discussion among people who’ve seen it for the first time. And after all this time, quite what’s going on during the film’s crazily tripped-out ending sequence is still very much open for debate.

Ruin the discussion by saying: “HAL is just a metaphor for the government, man!”