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The best movies to activate your brain

Posted on November 24th, 2016



Movies are about entertainment first and foremost; but being entertaining and thought-provoking are not mutually exclusive, and some movies have a reputation for making their audiences think about what is happening onscreen.

There are genres of movie that by their very nature are thought provoking and make audiences engage with them on an emotional level. Here we will take a look at some of these.


Gambling/Casino movies: A movie with a gambling theme makes its audience think by taking them to the heart of the action, where characters must make split-second decisions. Take the 2008 movie 21, based on the real-life exploits of the MIT Blackjack Team. They were a group of students and ex-students who used card counting and other sophisticated strategies to beat casinos across the world at the game of blackjack. The tension that comes from wondering if the players will succeed in besting the casinos keeps those watching at the edge of their seats. In a similar vein, such heist movies as Oceans Eleven leave viewers wondering how a plan to put one over on a rival or enemy can be carried out successfully. The plan in Oceans Eleven involves robbing three Las Vegas casinos at the same time. Watching a gambling movie might even have the effect of generating a wider curiosity about the world of gambling. Some of the best UK betting sites contain a mine of information on gambling and what it involves.


Science Fiction: The blend of speculative fiction with scientific concepts that is science fiction has left cinemagoers from one generation to the next wondering about themes as varied as time travel and extra-terrestrial life. Surely one of the most thought-provoking science fiction movies of all time is director Stanley Kubricks ground-breaking 2001: A Space Odyssey, released in 1968. Pioneering special effects and a realistic depiction of space travel enthralled audiences who were left to reflect on such themes as human evolution and artificial intelligence.

Science fiction and the heist movie came together in 2010 for director Christopher Nolans Inception, in which thieves attempt to steal information by entering the subconscious. The movie poses questions about the difference between reality and dreams and may even be a metaphor for how people engage with the film-going experience itself.


History Movies: Movies set in the past allow their audiences to engage with issues of real historical significance in a way that cleverly blends entertainment with education. Schindler’s List, the 1993 drama directed by Stephen Spielberg, depicts World War II from the perspective of The Holocaust and the role of a German businessman who saved the lives of Polish-Jewish refugees by employing them to work in his factory. By focusing on a more personal drama, Spielberg engages cinema goers with an aspect of the conflict that more battlefield-based World War II movies have tended to overlook. Audiences are given a brutally realistic insight into the inhumanity of the Nazi regime as well as a more positive reflection on the kindness of others amidst such cruelty.

To be entertaining a movie must be interesting and what better way to engage with audiences than by making a movie something that those watching it have to think about.

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