The first question on your mind when you read the title must have been: “what exactly is a high concept film?”. Well, a high-concept film is one whose idea can easily be summarized in a sentence or two. It can be contrasted with low-concept, which is more concerned with character development and other subtleties that aren’t as easily summarized. Basically, in short, a film that focuses more on the idea than the characters is a high-concept film. With that out of the way, here is the list of 10 best high concept movies, or “films for highly intelligent people.”
10. Coherence (2013)
‘Coherence’, a story of eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events, is essentially based on a scientific theory referred to as Schrödinger’s cat theory. Schrödinger’s cat is a thought experiment, sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1935. In simple terms, it is the possibility of existence of multiple simultaneous realities at the same time.
9. Pi (1998)
‘Pi’ is notable for its covering of an array of themes including religion, mysticism and the relationship of the universe to mathematics. The story about a mathematician and the obsession with mathematical regularity contrasts two seemingly irreconcilable entities: the imperfect, irrational humanity and the rigor and regularity of mathematics, specifically number theory.
8. Source Code (2011)
Jake Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens is a pilot and a part of secret program of the government, by which he is given to relive the last few minutes in the life of another man, who died in a train explosion. Stevens is needed to learn the identity of the bomber, but when he takes up the task, he sees many things are at stake, the least available being time. ‘Source Code’ gives a new twist to the time-travel films we are used to seeing, and does so brilliantly.
7. The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Chaos theory is a mind-boggling theory. According to it a small event at some place could lead to influential events far away. When Eric Bress and Mackye Gruber made this theory into a film, obviously that was going to be something we hadn’t seen before. Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is a teenager who frequently blacks out due to unbearable headaches and is transferred to the past, where he can make alterations to his life and of others too. But when he finds out that small changes in the past can drastically change the present, Evan finds himself in macabre parallel realities. It is not a perfect film, but it is a damn interesting one.
6. Predestination (2014)
Predestination’s a befitting reality to how time-travel movies are made, and how uncertain they are. It embodies a timeless traveler, revolving in time between 1945 to 1993 in search of the fizzle bomber. The film is based on a concept known as predestination paradox. Predestination paradox is a sequence of events (actions, information, objects, people) in which an event is among the causes of another event, which in turn is among the causes of the first-mentioned event.
5. Upstream Color (2013)
It’s next to impossible to pinpoint one thing that ‘Upstream Color’ is about, but on a broader perspective it explores the symbiotic relationship between man, animal and nature through personal journey of two individuals to self discovery after they have been stripped off everything they know and posses. Metamorphically, ‘Upstream Color’ is multi-layered, but primarily it’s about the things that are outside and beyond our control.
4. Inception (2010)
When you have countless forums, articles, blog-posts, think-pieces being written about a spinning (or falling) top, it is enough of evidence of the popularity and influence of ‘Inception’ in pop-culture. ‘Inception’ made intellectual movies cool again — even though the heavy doses of CGI could have been avoided. Whether ‘Inception’ is truly a great piece of cinema will remain arguable, but I have no doubt in my mind that it will remain a fodder for discussion and arguments for years to come, and that’s enough to warrant its place on this list.
3. 2001: Space Odyssey (1968)
Loosely inspired by a short story named ‘The Sentinel’ penned by Arthur C. Clarke; who co-scripted the screenplay along with Kubrick; the movie chronicles the journey of a crew of scientists to Jupiter along with the sentient computer HAL 9000. ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ dexterously uses science and space travel to dig deep into philosophical theories ranging from existentialism to evolution.
2. Primer (2004)
‘Primer’ is not just a film; it is an elaborate science puzzle. In short it is about two friends who (sort of, accidentally) invent a form of time travel. Initially, they think of using it just to make money, but soon selfishness and shortsightedness lead them to create so many overlapping timelines (at least 9) that they lose control of themselves, their friendship, and the technology. To fully understand each and every aspect of ‘Primer’ requires multiple viewings. When you finally “get” the film, don’t be surprised if you feel ecstatic and victorious, not very different from how you feel when you are able to solve a difficult puzzle.
1. The Matrix (1999)
Way more than just a movie, ‘The Matrix’ has been nothing short of a phenomenon. It changed the way people looked at the world around them and even turned them cynical. A film that virtually introduced the rather terrifying concept of simulated reality, it asked a number of vital philosophical questions about humanity and its actual purpose. Till today, not every question that the film asks has been answered.