Recommend me some ontological mystery movies

An ontological mystery, according to TV Tropes is when:

The characters are locked in, have no idea how they got there, why they’re there, or how to get out, nor do they know exactly who is behind their predicament, if anyone.

I love these movies. I loved all of the *Cubes *(although *Hypercube *was the weakest of the three). Memento, while not a true example was awesome. Nine Dead, weak ending, great movie though. I just saw *Unknown *and enjoyed it greatly too.

Please: I don’t want to watch *Saw *and its ilk. I actually think I’d like it but it sounds far too gruesome. I don’t mind Cube-style gore; it wasn’t that bad, really, but I can’t stomach Saw. I prefer more mental stuff.

I prefer them best when even the characters don’t know who they are, but Nine Dead they knew who they were and it was still good.

I see a short list on TV Tropes. Are any of these good?

Waking Life
Jim Henson’s The Cube (? really?)
Dark City
Source Code
The Exterminating Angel
House of 9
Eden Log
Alien Cargo

I’ve seen Inception. Also, any others you know of that are worth watching? I do prefer to know the answers at the end but I never got an answer to *Cube *and it’s one of my favorite movies of this genre.

Please help!

Not a movie but your request immediately reminded me of the Twilight Zone episode, Five Characters in Search of an Exit.

You ought to watch Fermat’s Room.

The Nemesis Game is a rather more literal ontological mystery. You might like it if you like these.

Of that list, I haven’t seen all of them. But I know a few.

Dark City is excellent.
Source Code is good. It’s more ontological mystery in the sense that 12 Monkeys is (partly) one.
Identity fits the genre. But it’s more of a psychological thriller.
Paycheck doesn’t quite fit. It is Philip K. Dick, though. Unfortunately, it’s not one of the rare good adaptations of his work.
And if you enjoy Waking Life and Philip K. Dick, see A Scanner Darkly.

If you play video games (and have a Nintendo DS), take a look at 9 hours, 9 persons, 9 doors. Especially if you end up liking Fermat’s Room.

You might like the Korean cult film Oldboy - the hero “is locked in a hotel room for 15 years without knowing his captor’s motives.” And the mystery is actually solved at the end. It’s a very well made movie but with lots of pulp violence in the Quentin Tarantino style.

If you can find it, the PBS version of Steambath would fit (thought the mystery is revealed at the end of the first act).

It’s resolved in a typically ST:TNG way, not terribly deep perhaps, but the Star Trek: TNG episode “Allegiance” is the type of setup you’re describing.

Hunger - but it kind of went in to Saw territory a little.

You probably mean the one with Liam Neeson

But check out this film with the same name.

Ark is an online series of nine mini-episodes, starring Renee O’Connor (Gabrielle, from Xena). Should be available on Hulu.

Eden Log was flawed, but OK. in a similar vein, Pandorum was pretty good, I thought, though some people disagree.

There is an episode of Dollhouse that is like this, except that the viewers know all the answers and it is the characters who are baffled. (the show revolves around the discovery of technology to write and erase human minds.)

From your list, I highly recommend Source Code, Dark City and Waking Life. I don’t think I’ve seen the others.

While it may be outside the scope of your OP, this is a common set up for videogames as well.

Final Fantasy 6, 7, and 10 all start with this device.(6 amnesia, 7 memories that don’t match other people, 10 apparently transported into the future…or is it?)

Cave Story- You wake up in a cave with total amnesia, slowly you begin to figure out what is going on and who you are.

There’s a great horror film, ‘dead end’ which involves a family starting a trip in their car to a thanksgiving reunion, but find themselves trapped in a strange back country road trapped in by a wire fence. It’s fairly nice horror, not gory at all like ‘Saw’.
I’ll second ‘Dark City’ from your original list, but if you do watch it, mute the sound at the beginning for the first minute or so- until you see a man wake up in the bath. There’s a completely redundant bit of narration that ruins a good portion of suspense in the film. You’ll pick up everything mentioned throughout the course of the film.

Ok, in response to all of your comments:

I don’t have a DS, so the game * 9 persons 9 hours 9 doors * is out, though it sounds like a lot of fun.

I did not watch the liam neeson unknown, but indeed the one you reference, ** Typo Negative**, the one with the men in the warehouse.

I’ve actually played all of the Final Fantasies from 5 up to 13 (which is the one that finally turned me off. Between teeny-bopper whinefest Hope and Too Much Grinding I just got bored).

I’ve seen the entire run of Dollhouse. It was good…but Echo was boring and Alpha was phenomenal. I didn’t know [that actor] (I don’t want to give away the spoiler. I was totally shocked when I saw it) could act so damn well. I loved Victor. I remember the episode grude mentions.

What is Ark about? Is it just those 9 episodes? I’m more inclined to watch shows if I know they have a finite ending.

I just saw Oldboy not too long ago; also loved it.

I saw a Scanner Darkly. Um…those suits really took away my enjoyment. I know that was the point, but it was very difficult to follow the movie. I read the book not long after and liked it much better - the visual medium of the suit didn’t distract nearly as much.

I threw all the movies in the OP onto my queue and I added these, too:

Existenz and Dreamscape
Fermat’s Room
Dead End
The Nemesis Game

I hope * Hunger *doesn’t freak me out too much, but I’ll try to watch it in the daylight. :slight_smile: I’m pretty good with scary movies but as I said I could do without the gore and ludicrous gibs everywhere.


There’s a fantastic PC game worth playing for the story purely called ‘Torment’ where you play as an amnesiac immortal who wakes up on a mortician’s slab. The rest is up to you.

Are you kidding…it’s on my desk and I replay it every few years. You can pry it from my cold dead hands…ha! I made a funny.

I also liked the Cubes. However, they reminded me of something I saw on television many years ago with a similar story. It was called The Cube and I kept looking for it to reappear on TV or someplace, but it never did.

The other day I searched for it again, and lo, there it was on YouTube. I also learned that it was originally created by Jim Henson (yes, the Muppet guy) but there are no Muppets/puppets in it.

I’m convinced that all of the Cube movies were extensions of this original idea. You can see it here.


Exam is decent and on Netflix last I checked. It’s a bit a different in that they all know why they are there, and they don’t want to leave. They just don’t really know what’s going on.

Oddly, I watched both Exam and Fermat’s Room recently on NetFlix. It must have been one of those “If you watched this, then you’ll like this…”

Anyway, while both are definitely what you’re looking for genre-wise, I was pretty disappointed with both. I’d revise your expectations downwards a bit, because both are pretty flawed in my opinion. But not everything can be as good as masterpieces like Memento or even Cube.