Movies with paradigm shifts
For me, movies can be cleanly divided into two categories.  In the first are movies that you wouldn't care to watch again, whether you liked them or not.  In the other are those you must watch again because your viewing experience will be incomplete without having seen the entire film all over again.

A special class of movies in the latter category are those with paradigm shifts.  That is, the viewer's understanding has been altered so profoundly that the entire storyline must be viewed in a new context.  This is different than just finding out who the murderer is at the end of the mystery.  When you come to a paradigm shift, it is a radical alteration the audience's perception of events from the beginning of the film through to the end.


To keep you from seeing too much and reading spoilers, portions of the text below is obscured.  To read it, just drag your mouse over it and hold down the left button to highlight it.


The Crying Game - "It's a boy!"  Yes, the rationale behind the Pet Shop Boys having Boy George sing the title song suddenly makes so much more sense.  Arguably the grandfather of the modern paradigm shifter, this is one that has you trying to get your head around what came before while asking you to keep up with just where it is going.

Donnie Darko - There's so much that is gradually unraveled in this one, that people continue to watch it over and over with new in insights.  A plot synopsis would be longer than the screenplay, so suffice it to say we have here a parallel universe that needs to be fixed by time travel causing the timestream to loop back upon itself.  Did that help?  No, didn't think so.

eXistenZ- We exit the game.. or did we?  This is an ending that just keeps wrapping your mind up in knots trying to figure out where the film just took you.  The game wasn't what it was, was it?  The entire premise of the film is altered by the time it is over.  Then you can watch it from the very beginning and enjoy a whole new movie with your new-found knowledge.

Fight Club - "Say my name."  "It's Tyler Durden, Tyler Durden!"  If that's the case, who blew up the apartment?  Who's screwing Marla?  Who's screwing with the audience's head?  The audience is as confused as our protagonist, not that we know who he is anymore.  Watching this movie again means trying to figure out who is the "real" one in each scene.  Is he brushing his teeth or taking a bath?  Okay, maybe not that scene.

The Matrix - Neo takes the red pill and wakes up.  Up till this point the film was about a computer hacker in LA.  Suddenly Neo finds himself naked and hairless in a vat of goo and now we're in an epic post-apocalyptic tale set in the far future.  This shift means re-evaluating the early scenes in the movie as it turns out they were not exactly in Kansas anymore.



Mulholland Drive - Each scene is a revelation that makes you revise your thinking about the previous few minutes.  We thought we understood where Betty/Diane and Rita/Camilla came from and their relationship, but things keep shifting.  It's fun to work this puzzle over from many angles, but nothing beats the first time you see it and have your head twisted around a couple times.

The Shawshank Redemption- When the warden throws a stone through the poster in Andy's cell, suddenly we have to go back and re-interpret every scene that has come before.  Just what was Tim Robbin's character up to all those years?  How did he do it?  The movie spells it out almost too explicitly, but a second viewing offers additional insights now that you know how it is all going to end up.

The Sixth Sense - Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) finally realizes he's dead.  The role of this character suddenly switches from observer to participant in the supernatural events.  The viewer must revisit various scenes in order to understand the nature of his interaction with the living world.  What's going on when he has dinner with his wife/widow?  We even wonder about the implications for Cole's (Haley Joel Osment) actions.  Did Malcolm guide Cole or vice versa?

If you think of any other films with similar "shifts," let me know (but don't spoil the ending for me).  Email me.

For example: I got a couple suggestions from one reader of this page:





Copyright 2005-2007 fractAle[x].  Updated 2013.
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