A movie always needs to start with some inciting incident to kick things off and get things rolling. What is better than someone realizing they forgot a bunch of super key stuff, only to have it come back to them in a quick flash or slowly over time to make for some interesting storytelling. You will see plenty of that of the below list of the Best Amnesia Movies of All Time.
Paycheck is based on a short story by Sci-Fi writing legend Philip K Dick (Blade Runner, Minority Report, Total Recall). Ben Affleck is an Engineer in the near future who wipes the memory of other Engineers he works with once they complete something in order to protect the intellectual property of their projects. Affleck gets a little too close to something so the evil corporation he works for tries to wipe his memory. Good luck with that, Ben Affleck is laying down for anyone.
#24 Dark City
In 1998, writer/director Alex Proyas (The Crow) hit the world with a very ahead of its time sci-fi-fi thriller in Dark City. The world has transformed into an endless sea of darkness where no one has a past. John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) awakens in a hotel bathtub, suffering from amnesia. He is carted to a room with the gruesome murder of his wife and is forced to put pieces together to solve it. All while doing this, he needs to deal with a strange group of pale men in trench coats with a strange hidden agenda.
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#23 Angel Eyes
Jennifer Lopez leads this 2001 romantic-drama about a man mysteriously drawn to passionate female policeman. Their meeting seems so coincidental it almost seems too good to be true. Turns out it is and these two have met before. Things get out of control and the film delves deeper into their past secrets.
#22 Dream House
This drama-mystery-thriller teams the great Daniel Craig and Rachel Weisz for an incredibly suspenseful story. A family moves to a small New England town. Slowly over time they realize that the previous tenants were brutally murdered and the surviving husband is the prime suspect. Amnesia plays a very interesting role in the film and without saying too much, we will just tell you to watch and find out for yourself.
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#21 Dead Again
In 1949, a woman is brutally murdered and her husband is convicted of the crime. It is 40 years later and a mysterious woman shows up at an orphanage, can’t speak and has nightmares. You slowly realize that there is a connection and over time everything unravels. With a great cast led by Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Andy Garcia, Wayne Knight and Robin Williams, you will be on the edge of your seat the entire time.
#20 Vanilla Sky
The great Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) has always been the master of character and storytelling, but wanted to foray into something more psychological in this 2001 fantasy-mystery-romance. Tom Cruise is a rugged playboy who is heir to a massive publishing empire. After cheating on his girlfriend, she purposely kills herself in a car crash and horribly disfigures Cruise. To save him, Cruise is put into a lucid dream state where reality is blurred. Vanilla Sky really throws what is real and what is not on its head in this mind altering thriller.
#19 While You Were Sleeping
This quirky rom-com from 1995 surrounds a love triangle of Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman and Peter Gallagher. Bullock is in love with Gallagher even though they had never met. They finally do meet when he falls on train tracks and she is forced to save him even though he is now in a coma. She accidentally claims to be his girlfriend which is all fine until she meets his whole family and they love her. All while his is in a coma, Bullock starts to fall in love with his brother played by Pullman. Things get incredibly complicated but in the try fashion of a 90s rom-com, it has a happy ending.
In this 1997 animated film, the royal Russian family is being brought down by and undead villain, and their only hope is a long lost child of the epic royal lineage. Anastasia joins up with two con men in an effort to join up with her dying grandmother and take her rightful place on the thrown.
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The oldest title on our list of best amnesia movies falls to Alfred Hitchcock’s 1945 classic Spellbound. Ingrid Bergman and Gregory Peck play the leads in a story about a psychiatrist who protects the identity of an amnesia patient accused of murder while attempting to recover his memory. In true Hitchcock fashion, you will be on the edge of your seat as new twists and turns make themselves apparent.
#16 The Majestic
The Majestic is a 2001 American romantic period drama film directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile). Jim Carey plays a successful movie producer in the 50s, who gets caught up in the red scare, being called a communist, and looses everything. He escapes, but gets in a car accident and gets amnesia. He finds his way to a small town where an old man claims he is his long lost son. Carey settles into his new life but things don’t turn out as exactly as you would expect. This one fell pretty under the radar but is a very sweet film and one of Jim Carey’s best.
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#15 Regarding Henry
Before J.J. Abrams became the super-producer entrusted with both the Star Trek and Wars franchises, he wrote this incredibly touching 1991 drama. It follows Harrison Ford as a New York City lawyer from a dysfunctional family who struggles to regain his memory and recover his speech and mobility after he survives a shooting. He has been detached from his family but through this crisis he inadvertently restores his family’s importance and integrity in the process.
#14 Desperately Seeking Susan
Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) is a bored suburban housewife living in New Jersey, who is fascinated by a woman she knows about only by reading messages to and from her in the personals section of a New York City tabloid. Her fascination reaches a peak when an ad, with the headline “Desperately Seeking Susan,” seeks a meet up with the man who regularly seeks her (Robert Joy). Roberta goes to Battery Park, too, sees the woman (Madonna), and in a series of events involving mistaken identity, amnesia, and other crazy comedic elements, all the characters become entwined.
#13 The Long Kiss Goodnight
Geena Davis plays a sweet stay at home mom only interested in taking care of her young daughter. She has trouble remembering her past but has made a sweet little life for herself in a quaint town. That is all until some of the trouble from her supposed past finds her, and soon after some of the memories, she has chosen to forget. Turns out she is a super assassin and Samuel Jackson enters the picture to help her remember. Not only is she bad ass, but she is as resourceful as they come just in the nick of time.
#12 The Forgotten
The Forgotten is a 2004 sci-fi psychological horror thriller film starring the amazing Julianne Moore, Dominic West, Gary Sinise and Anthony Edwards. The film’s story revolves around a woman who believes that she lost her son in a plane crash a year earlier, only to wake up one morning and be told that she never had a son. All of her memories are intact, but with no physical evidence that contradicts theses claims, she sets out in search of solid evidence of her son’s existence.
#11 50 First Dates
In Hawaii, a sweet simple man played by Adam Sandler falls in love with Drew Barrymore and goes out on one fantastic date. He is horrified, however, when the next day she remembers nothing of it. He dives deeper and realizes that she has a condition that makes her think it is the same day over and over again. Sandler sets out to help and create a life for her that lives outside of the one day she continually lives. It is really nice to seem him care and really work hard through all the hurdles to find a way to be together.
#10 The Vow
Another steamy romance on this list of best amnesia movies is this 2012 gem inspired by a true story staring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum. The married couple gets in a terrible car crash and Paige (McAdams) comes too with no memories of the last few years. Leo (Tatum) is now a stranger to her, but he is determined to win her over again. This film reminds us that true love can conquer all.
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#09 Mulholland Drive
From the incredibly weird mind of writer/director David Lynch (Twin Peaks) comes Mulholland Drive. After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman with no memory, she and a upbeat Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across LA in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality. For his part, Lynch would receive an Oscar nomination for best director.
Liam Neeson and his wife arrive at a biotechnology summit in Berlin Germany. They separate and he gets in a horrendous car accident, putting him in a coma for four days. When he wakes up, he is desperate to find his wife, but when he does she is with another man she claims is her husband. Neeson can’t seem to figure this out and then plot twist after plot twist happens, revealing some crazy circumstances. We will not ruin anything, just note that the story and the action that takes place, is incredibly satisfying. Out of the Neeson “I will find you” old man justice films, this one is up there with Taken.
#07 Finding Dory
Finding Dory is the sequel to finding Nemo that completely follows the story of Dory, Nemo’s optimistic but forgetful best friend. The film opens up with an incredibly sad montage of how Dory lost her parents, immediately forgot who they are, and would spend the rest of her life looking for them. You feel so much for Dory and want her to find her way. Like all Pixar movies, there is a happy ending, everything is made right again by the end.
#06 Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
In the near future, people have the option of removing people, places or things from their memory that are too painful for them to remember. After a troubled relationship, the leads played by Jim Carey and Kate Winslet both decide to remove each other from their memories. Through a chance meeting, they find each other again and decide to date. They both embark on a surreal journey of what is and what is not real and explore if they truly love each other. Praised by critics and backed up by exceptional performances, this is not a title you are going to want to miss (or forget).
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This is probably the most light-hearted entry on the list of best Amnesia Movies. Goldie Hawn is a stuck up socialite and Kurt Russel is a charming but rough around the edges blue-collar handyman. After a wave knocks Hawn off her yacht and she has amnesia, Russel convinces her that she is his wife. Originally a plan to get back at the spoiled rich girl, he slowly realizes she does a lot of good in his life and a relationship develops. A really sweet and funny movie, this 1987 film has really held up.
#04 Total Recall (1990)
Arnold Schwarzenegger was just an everyday construction guy on Earth in 2048, growing more and more confused by dreams of another life he had on Mars. Deciding to play out some of his dreams, he goes to the Total Recall center to have a virtual vacation implanted in his head, an inexpensive option. The programing scrambles his brain and unlocks all the hidden memories that he is in fact that other person, and everything he had known was a fake identity planted in his head to stop him from defeating the major corporation stopping efforts on Mars. Schwarzenegger is forced to fight off all the fakes planted in his life to stop him, and save the day.
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#03 The Notebook
The Notebook is quite possibly the most popular Nicholas Sparks novel. Sparks is known for his unrealistic fantasy love stories that fans like to escape into the world of its romantic possibilities. A young Ryan Gosling falls in love with a young Rachel McAdams but they are driven apart by their different economic statuses. They never fall out of love and while at war, Gosling writes to McAdams everyday. They have a chance to come back together after war, but it turns out there is a major plot twist in the end. The film has a tremendous following and is considered one of the most romantic films of all time.
This 2000 neo-noir psychological thriller was one of the first theatrical films from the great Christopher Nolan (Dark Knight, Inception, Dunkirk). Guy Pearce stars as a troubled man who has no short term memory. He is haunted by the death of his wife and tattoos clues on his body as he tries to uncover the reason and needs them to remember. The film is told unconventionally from the beginning and the end to conclude in the middle. It is a masterful piece of filmmaking and the ultimate twist will blow your mind.
#01 Bourne Franchise
One of the best action franchises of all time is the Matt Damon vehicle the Jason Bourne series based on popular novels. He plays a CIA assassin suffering from extreme memory loss who must figure out who he is. It is him against the world and though his former operation tries to stop him, Bourne will stop at nothing to get the answers he needs.