Top 20 Amnesia Mystery Movies

Whether it’s the intrigue of Jason Bourne adventures or the farcical escapades of the Hangover films, memory loss remains a popular narrative device in fiction in general and at the cinema in particular. Here is a guide to my top 20 favourite movies dealing with the theme of amnesia, real or feigned, medically sound or pure Hollywood moonshine. I’m not sure they are necessarily the best, but they are some of the most distinctive that I’ve seen over the last 40 years or so. So, in strict chronological order, we begin with  …

The following is offered as part of the Tuesday’s Overlooked Film meme hosted by Todd Mason over at his Sweet Freedom blog and you should head over there to see the many other fascinating titles that have been selected.

Boris Karloff plays Gravelle, a once famed opera star who has been locked up in an insane asylum suffering from amnesia for the past thirteen years. Now he is on the run and as his memory starts to return, goes back to the opera house to perform his old standby (composed by Oscar Levant no less) to uncover a murderer, with the help of Warner Oland as Chan and Keye Luke as his number one son. For many this is the best of the Chans from the 1930s and with its great guest star and plush production values, it’s easy to see why.

This classic romance of forgotten identities from author James Hilton was turned into a plush four carat star vehicle for Greer Garson and Ronald Colman in the grand MGM manner. The plot is utterly and charmingly insane with a man falling in love and then forgetting it as a result of shell-shock and his innamorata going to ludicrous extremes to get him back again. Not sure if this can really be classed as a mystery but there is a moment, at the halfway mark, when Greer Garson walks though a door that counts as one of my favourite surprises in all of cinema which, in the cuckoo-land logic of the story, makes total sense. From the eponymous novel by James Hilton.

Ingrid Bergman is the new doctor at a psychiatric hospital who starts to believe that her new boss, Gregory Peck, may not be who he says he is – and it turns out he isn’t too sure either. Based on the Francis Beeding novel The House of Doctor Edwardes (to be reviewed at Fedora very shortly), this movie is perhaps the best-known of its kind even if the analysis is more than a little simple-minded – just marvel at the allure of the stars, the beautiful cinematography and the Salvador Dali inspired dream sequence. From the novel ‘The House of Dr Edwardes’ by Frances Beeding.

This is a classic film noir rendition of the story, with John Hodiak as the GI who returns home with no memory of who he is but soon realises that there are those who are out to get him. An early film by studio auteur Joseph l. Mankiewicz, this is highly entertaining and available in a very decent and inexpensive DVD.

Eric Ambler wrote the screenplay for this terrific murder mystery in which John Mills plays a man released from an asylum who starts to be assailed by past events he cannot yet remember. It was one of director Roy Baker’s first films and one of his best.

This extravaganza by Orson Welles (he writes, directs, produces and stars in the title role) ducks and dives all over the Continent as a small time criminal is entrusted with discovering if there are any hidden skeletons in the previous life of Gregori Arkadin – a powerful and wealthy man who cannot remember what he did in his youth and wants to protect his daughter from finding out anything bad about him. But just who is kidding who? Enormously entertaining is highly disjointed at times (it was seriously messed around in post production), this is scene by scene and shot by shot a fascinating and endlessly entertaining melodrama. I reviewed this one in full right here.

VERTIGO (1958)
Hitchcock;s classic movie sees James Stewart as an ex cop hired to shadow an old school friend’s wife (Kim Novak) who seems obsessed by the life and death of an old relative even though she claims to have no knowledge about the woman. I reviewed the original book here and the amazing movie in my post, Vertigo – Best Film Ever?. From the novel ‘From Among the Dead’ by Boileau-Narcejac.

THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (John Frankenheimer, 1962)
This classic story of brainwashing, mother love and political assassination, based on the novel by Richard Condon that owes perhaps a little too much to Robert Graves’ I, Claudius, was made into a masterful thriller by director John Frankenheimer and stars Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury and Frank Sinatra – and later into a rather less amazing flick by Jonathan Demme starring Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep. From the eponymous novel by Richard Condon.

Michael Caine plays Harry Palmer in this adaptation of Len Deighton’s classic spy debut, a story of foreign agents kidnapping scientists and ransacking their brains for data. The movie, while changing the novel a good deal, is a classic of the Sixties spy boom. Caine played the role again another four times, but never as well as he does here – and John Barry’s score proves a compliment to the fiendishly clever visuals devised by director Sidney J. Furie and cinematographer Otto Heller, which really managed to bring the Noir look up to date for the colour / widescreen / swinging sixties era. From the novel ‘The IPCRESS File’ by Len Deighton

I reviewed this movie here as part of my coverage of the series of suspense thrillers written by Jimmy Sangster for Hammer Studios. It’s far from being the best of their films but has an unusually solid plot – it’s a shame that the production is so cheese-sparing and that Robert Webber makes for a rather un-charismatic lead though.

MIRAGE (1965)
Gregory Peck is the scientist who loses his way during a New York blackout and Walter Matthau the PI who tries to find his marbles for him. One of the best amnesia mysteries ever, scripted by Peter Stone (who co-wrote Charade) from an early Howard Fast novel and directed with great aplomb by the talented Film Noir pioneer Edward Dmytryk. I previously reviewed the novel and movie in full here. From the novel ‘Fallen Angel’ by Walter Ericson (aka Howard Fast).

Billy Wilder’s classic take on the Sherlockian canon sees him helping out a beautiful woman suffering from memory loss for a case that includes Queen Victoria herself, his brother Mycroft and the Loch ness monster – what’s not to like?

Based very loosely on LP Davies’ novel The Alien, this great little movie stars George Peppard as the most macho detective this side of Mike Hammer which Michael Sarrazin is the sensitive amnesiac pawn in his complex spy game with a terrific payoff. I reviewed the book here and the movie right here.

A brilliant meshing of the amnesia theme so beloved of 40s noir but with a supernatural twist, in many ways this plays as an homage to the work of Cornell Woolrich. Despite a long and ludicrously self-indulgent section in which the protagonist goes around wearing a silly pair of glasses, Alan Parker’s film improves considerably on the original novel which, without cutting back from its pulpy excesses, makes for a truly powerful and frightening missing person case. It would be a crime to say more about the plot except to say that it is a private investigation into a missing man unlike any other you have ever seen which takes a remarkable left turn in its closing stages but which it seems to me has been more than adequately prepared for in the lead-up, though not everyone agrees. From the novel ‘Falling Angel’ by William Hjortsberg by

Kenneth Branagh is the star and director of this whodunit written by Scott Frank with fantasy elements that none the less plays scrupulously fair. He plays a private eye investigating what happened to amnesia victim played by (his then wife) Emma Thompson. Reincarnation and fantasy play a strong part here but the whodunit aspect is very smart and thankfully doesn;t use the fantasy trappings to get out of any plot problems (yes, I’m looking at you What Lies Beneath starring Michelle Pfeiffer and a very convenient spectre)

SUTURE (1993)
Probably the most obscure movie included here, which seems incredible to me. Shot in ‘scope and in black and white, it tells the strange story of identical twins played by two very different actors, one white and one black. What we see in the audience is not necessarily what the characters in the film experience making this a fascinating mystery about switching identities that is well worth looking for. I reviewed the film in full here.

DARK CITY (1998)
Memories of Film Noir dominate this fascinating piece of science fiction in which the stylistic tropes of the genre are given a rather unexpected dusting down for a new genre experience in which the expressionistic visuals and the deliberate artificiality we associate with dark crime films of the 1940s become crucial to the plot – also has a very good cast headed by William Hurt, Jennifer Connelly, Rufus Sewell and Kiefer Sutherland.

MEMENTO (2001)
The ultimate amnesia movie, with the narrative told in reverse chronological order. A brilliant idea, executed to perfection by writer-director Christopher Nolan in his pre Dark Knight days. Miss it at your peril.

First filmed as a TV-Movie starring Richard Chamberlain, Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity (and sequels) have spawned a new franchise starring Matt Damon (and now Jeremy Renner) that stray very far from the books but are enormously entertaining as a brainwashed spy tries to regain his memory. The second and third film are probably better than the first and these two really should be seen in tandem as they unexpectedly, but brilliantly intersect. Inspired by the novels of Robert Ludlum.

OLD BOY (Chan-wook Park, 2003)
Now remade by Spike Lee, it’s the Korean original that you should really keep your eyes on, though the basic plot and characters are pretty much the same. The story is amazingly complex and involved one of the most unlikely yet riveting revenge scenarios ever perpetrated on the screen as a man is kidnapped, kept prisoner for 15 years, and then released will little idea of who he is or what has happened to him. But there is a reason … a brilliant, brutal classic.

There are literally dozens of others I could have included (I shall forego quips about not being able to remember them … probably) as this is such a popular theme in mystery movies. Ones that came close to making the cut include the wonderful Crack-Up staring Pat O’Brien (from a Fredric Brown novella, ‘Madman’s Holiday’); Evan Hunter’s Mister Buddwing starring James Garner; the several treatments of the theme by Cornell Woolrich such as Nightmare (reviewed here); Hitchcock’s Marnie; the wartime adventure 36 Hours, again starring James Garner, from a Roald Dahl story; the silly-but-fun extravaganza, The Long Kiss Goodnight starring Geena Davis and most definitely the Richard Neely adaptation Shattered, starring Tom Berenger, Greta Scacchi and the late Bob Hoskins (and thanks for the reminder Mr Norris), Martin Scosese’s film of the Dennis Lehane novel Shutter Island (thank you peedeel) and …

Are there any I’ve missed that you especially like? Do tell …

This entry was posted in 'Best of' lists, Alfred Hitchcock, Amnesia, Billy Wilder, Boileau-Narcejac, Charlie Chan, England, Eric Ambler, France, Greece, Hammer Studios, James Hilton, Jimmy Sangster, John Frankenheimer, Len Deighton, London, Los Angeles, LP Davies, New York, Orson Welles, San Francisco, Spain, Tuesday's Overlooked Film and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

88 Responses to Top 20 Amnesia Mystery Movies

  1. le0pard13 says:

    Brilliant list, Sergio! There are only a handful of these I’ve missed, but are such fun for a sub-genre mystery. Well done. 🙂

    p.s., and yes, Miss Memento at your own peril.

  2. TracyK says:

    When you were talking about amnesia films in a previous post (comments), I could not think of any. But many of these I do like a lot. So, my memory for film plots is even worse than my memory for mystery novel plots.

    I especially like: Bourne Identity, Dark City, Dead Again, Manchurian Candidate, Vertigo. Others there I would like to look into. I have wanted to see Mirage ever since you did a post on it. Great post, I love your movie lists.

  3. neer says:

    Thanks a lot for this list Sergio. I am afraid I have seen only two of them: Spellbound and Vertigo. I found them to be good but not brilliant. Over the years, their plots have been re-hashed so many times that the novelty element was lost by the time I watched them.:(

    Now I want to see the other movies that you have mentioned, especially Random Harvest and Memento.

    • Thanks Neeru – well, I agree, those two have been copied so often that it hard to enjoy the plot but thankfully int he case of Vertigo, admittedly a somewhat misanthropic experience there is a lot to enjoy! I hope you find the other two – in their own special way, they are equally wonderful and strangely complimentary.

  4. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have seen the film Spellbound and also read the book The House of Dr. Edwardes. Though the film is said to be based on the book, the 2 stories are actually totally different. The book is more a thriller than a mystery, whereas there is a strong mystery element in the film. Hence I preferred the film to the book.

    • Thanks Santosh, a review of th book (and film) are due here at Fedora soon – Hitchcock often took incredible liberties with his sources (though not always, far from it if one thinks of Rebecca or Dial M for Murder or Psycho) and this is clearly the case here.

  5. Santosh Iyer says:

    Though I have not seen Memento, I have seen the Tamil film Ghazini (2005) and its Hindi remake (2008), which borrow ideas from Memento. Both were blockbusters. Though the story varies, the basic ideas are the same: A person develops anterograde amnesia following a violent encounter in which his beloved is killed. He develops a system of recollection using hand-written notes, tattoos, Polaroid photos and tries to avenge the killing.
    Christopher Nolan was aware that an Indian film with a story similar to Memento was released. He was reportedly upset about it and stated that he was neither credited nor compensated.

    • Well, there is, shall we say, a rich tradition of Bollywood remakes and certainly one can understand filmmaker feelign ripped off int eh markrtplave as opposed to maybe being flattered by a low key hommage that doesn;t trade on the reflected glory of the original …

  6. John says:

    I love SHATTERED! Why didn’t you include that one? Too many problems with it?

    You cover a lot of memory issue movies here not just films that deal specifically with amnesia. One variation on the theme would be the story down fairly well in THE MORNING AFTER (1986) with Jane Fonda as an alcoholic who blacks out frequently and the trouble she gets into when she wakes up in bed with a corpse and has no clue if she killed him or not. It’s not the best example of this plot by any means, but it’s not a terrible movie. Jeff Bridges is in it. That’s a plus. Sidney Lumet directed, another plus. I know there are hundreds of books with this plot and probably just as many, if not more, movies, but I can only remember THE MORNING AFTER. There’s my own memory problem and the curse of a true movieholic. ;^)

    • Shattered should have been there John, you’re right, and not just because it based on the Richard Neely novel Plastic Nightmare – shall have to do a post on them both now – I guess I just forgot (probably) … on the other hand, my recollection of the Lumet film is that it was really pretty weak despite the fine cast and great cinematography – I haven’t seen it since it came out but I think the resolution and Lumet’s rather heavy-handed treatment of a not very serious script annoyed me. Thanks for all the great feedback chum.

      • Todd Mason says:

        As someone prepared to love a Greta Scacchi movie based on a Neely novel, I too was deeply disappointed by SHATTERED. But, then, I was very much by MEMENTO as well (and every other film I’ve seen from Nolan, as handsome as they are). I certainly hoped for more from DEAD AGAIN, and DARK CITY, while a good film, keeps merging in my cratered memory with THE THIRTEENTH FLOOR (one of two filmings of Daniel Galouye’s COUNTERFEIT WORLD/SIMULACRON-3, along with the earlier Fassbinder telefilm), as well as seeming to owe a little something to Kim Newman’s novel THE NIGHT MAYOR. But I do love THE IPCRESS FILE, only wish the next two films were quite up to it (much better than that other spy-film series the producer was responsible for, and almost polar opposites except tor the mutual smartass tone). There is the crime of identity theft in ETERNAL SUNSHINE, among other sorts of abuse…and while it’s merely adequate, despite a decent turn by Madchen Amick, the adaptation of Woolrich’s I’M DANGEROUS TONIGHT touches on amnesia even if it’s more a matter of possession…

        • Thnan ks for all that Todd. I am always stunned by the way that Nolan polarises viewers but I thought I was on safe ground with Memento darn it and sorry you don’t love Dead Again much either, though I am a Branagh fan but I also think it is very clever and I have a lot of time for films that use mystery and the supernatural coherently, which is damn rare. And yes, definitely easy to get Dark City mixed up wht Thirteenth Floor (not seen the other version though).

          • Todd Mason says:

            I certainly Like DEAD AGAIN. The cast alone…I was hoping for more, is all, though the “twist” is pretty amusing. Nolan a ponderous bore. Like Godard, one who can frame a shot, but otherwise just another…

          • But Memento surely has it all? Stylistic innocation and cleverness to spare but also a strong thematic undercurrent and very strong performances – what’s not to love? OK, not a rousing argument but that was one film that I thought really succeeded at achieving the goals it set itself.

  7. Colin says:

    Really strong and comprehensive list there, Sergio. Only one or two of those I haven’t seen myself so I guess I’m doing pretty well – even more important is the fact I remember seeing them!

    One thing. You listed Somewhere in the Night, which is a fair enough little noir, but I think I’d swap it for Florey’s The Crooked Way. It tells essentially the same story but I prefer it.

    • You know what? I haven’t seen the Florey I don’t think – but thankfully it is available online so I’ll definitely be watching it this weekend in between episode of Naked City 🙂

      • Colin says:

        Enjoy. There are hard copies available too of course. It’s interesting to compare it with the Mankiewicz movie – in fact, it’s hard not to.

        • Thanks chum, really looking forward to seeing this now (not least becasue to online copy appears to be in suspiciously good nick) – I picked the Mankiewicz because it was an early example and I like the director but admittedly one could substitute many others…

          • Colin says:

            Oh, it’s not a criticism of the choice really. I think it’s a pretty good movie with a distinctive look and you’re right to flag it up.

            BTW, I noticed that a movie you mentioned in your post, not one directly featured, is the one I’m trying to write something on just now. Serendipity.

          • Ooooh, sound svery exciting – brain working furiously now (well, that won’t last, not at my age …)

          • Colin says:

            Well I should emphasize trying to write – my own brain is just about functioning – I think – at the moment.

          • It’s the heat … well, that’s what i keep telling myself …

          • Colin says:

            Yes, that’s the line I’m going to use too – it sounds reasonable anyway!

          • And also, givent he topic at hand … I have to say, I did embark on this with some trepidation because I know way too many people who really just can’t remember things any more but this is not the right forum for anythign too serious – definitely stick to genre for now …

          • Colin says:

            Indeed. All too easy to make light of, sadly.
            As a mystery movie plot device though, the amnesia angle is ripe with possibilities – it’s no wonder the theme has been revisited so often.

          • There is a wonderful episode of Columbo, shan’t say which, where the murderer doesn’t get arrested at the end because, due to illness, they can no longer remember having committed the crime – actually handled quite sensitively beyod it proving to be a rather neat reversal at teh climax – I’m guessing you’ve seen it but I’d hate to spoilt it for anyone

  8. Sergio, I have only seen “Vertigo,” “Dark City,” and a couple of the Bourne films from your great list of amnesiac/memory loss movies. Obviously, I have a lot of ground to cover. I’d love to see some of them in spite of being indifferent to films about amnesia. Very recently, I’d occasion to catch a few scenes from “The Butterfly Effect” and “The Vow” on cable though I never saw either of them fully. Memory loss and separated at birth were (and probably are) popular themes in Hindi cinema of the 60s, 70s & 80s with the films ending in grand family reunions.

    • Which is how most film should end Prashant! Or failing that, a song and dance number (a combination fof the two is ideal of course). I hope you get to track some fo these down at some point as I;d love to know your thoughts on them.

      • Santosh referred to “Ghajini,” the Hindi remake of “Memento,” which was a big hit in these parts. It starred one of India’s most versatile actors. I haven’t seen it because I have no patience for Hindi commercial films most of which make little sense and are unjustifiably lengthy, though, occasionally, I watch art or parallel cinema on television. In fact, the last Hindi movie I saw in the theatres was in 2001. Bollywood borrows rather shamelessly from Hollywood as well as from the American (and western) music industry. A lot of Hindi songs play to the tunes of US hits; Abba was a favourite. I think “Sleeping with the Enemy” was remade at least thrice.

  9. peedeel says:

    I’ve seen most of the films in your list. I loved “Mister Arkadin” and “Angel Heart” in particular. I also enjoyed “Shutter Island”, which you don’t mention. As to John Frankenheimer’s “Manchurian Candidate” it is a work of brilliance (IMO)…

    • Thanks Peedeel – ah, well, there are lots and lots of titles I could have included. Shutter Island is an odd one for me as I read the book and unfortunately worked out what was going to happen very early on once I realised the nature of some of the names and it did in fact get rather in the way of my enjoyment, though I think the movie is still impressive all the same, as you say – though I think the basic premise is so implausible at to strain credulity much too far!

  10. Margot Kinberg says:

    Sergio – Memory loss is a very tricky think to pull off. I’ll admit I’ve not seen all of the films that you mention here, but you’ve got a most impressive list. Thanks for going to the effort to pull this together.

  11. MarinaSofia says:

    Fantastic list – I am surprised by how many of these are familiar to me and are among some of the best films ever made. I haven’t read the book Shutter Island, and I thought the film was rather clever, although it didn’t play entirely fair with the viewer (It was deliberately misleading, perhaps so that we wouldn’t be able to work out things, as you did with the book).

    • Thanks Marina – well, no, the Shutter is not entirely fair, I admit – beyond the problems of unreliable narration and potentially delusional frames, the movie in particular is a lot less interested in playing by the rules than the book – which perversely, for me anyway, made the surprise twist unfortunately predictable. But the author was probably a bit unlucky as I have read rather a lot of books that have tried to pull off similar narative gambits, whereas I suspect most readers were caught completely off-guard and consequently got a lot more out of it. I prefer Lehane’s more naturalistic thrillers to be honest.

  12. Patti Abbott says:

    THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT and perhaps ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND. But your list is the best of the lot.

    • Thanks very much Patti – I love Eternal Sunshine, it is I think a great film, and only excluded it as I had trouble fitting it in with the crime and mystery genre.

  13. Yvette says:

    Ah, the good old amnesia ploy. It still works no matter how overmuch it’s been used. It still works. But the moment I saw the title of your post, my mind went blank. Ha! It’s true. So when I began reading your list, I kept thinking: Oh yeah, THAT one and THAT one and THAT one.

    I’ve actually seen 11 of these films on your brilliant list, Sergio. But ask me if I remember anything in detail about them and I must reply: Only for a handful. I LOVE the Charlie Chan film, needless to say, yes, it is the best though there are a couple of details in the plot that make no sense if you are the type to really bother about these picayune things. (Most of the time, I’m not. Thank goodness.)

    I’m the biggest fan-girl of the Jason Bourne/Matt Damon trilogy. I could watch those over and over even if I’m not, necessarily, a fan of most thriller action films.

    THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE is classic, I’m so glad you included it. I’m not a Frank Sinatra fan, but I tolerate him in this very brilliant movie. The tea party scene still has the power to astonish.

    DARK STAR, oh how I love this movie. I’ve been meaning to do a post on it, but maybe I’ll wait and see if you do one first. I liked what you had to say about it just in your short paragraph. Don’t remember (ha!) if you ever wrote about it before.

    Two films on your list I would definitely NOT see again: VERTIGO and THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. Both are not favorites with me though I know I am in the minority.

    I’m intrigued by SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT with John Hodiak and will definitely look for it. Also THE OCTOBER MAN, MR. ARKADIN, MEMENTO (Is that Tom Cruise? Maybe that’s why I never saw it.) and maybe, ANGEL HEART.

    Thanks for another terrific post, Sergio, most especially appreciated by me since I love lists.

    • John says:

      That’s Aussie actor Guy Pearce in MEMENTO, Yvette, recovering from his gaunt and lean years. I remember how scary he looked in L.A. CONFIDENTIAL. Hollowed out cheeks and sunken eyes like he had suffered through some wasting tropical virus. Three years later in 2000 he’s a lot more healthy if perhaps a bit too lean in MEMENTO.

      I think you’d like SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT. It’s easily found since it was released as part of the 20 Century Fox Film Noir DVD set. I rented it from Netflix several years ago and it’s still in there catalog. You can also view it on YouTube.

      • You got there before me John – Pearce is fascinating because he used to be a body builder and really does seem to be able to change his shape as needed (shown to good advantage in Iron Man 3 I thought).

    • Thanks so much Yvette for the very many kind words (though remind me again why you don’t adore the Sherlock Holmes movie as much as I do?). Memento is with Guy Pearce (very much the film that got him noticed along with LA Confidential). Angel Heart you might hate a bit actually as it is often a very horrific type of film with fairly unsympathetic characters throughout but so glad we agree about the rest 🙂

      • Yvette says:

        How’s this, Sergio, re: THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES. As a true and devoted Holmes fan, I didn’t like the actor who played Sherlock Holmes at all. Didn’t like the actor who played Watson so ridiculously. Didn’t like that they make fun of Holmes in a way that I thought very snarky. Didn’t like the plot much. Didn’t like the stupid gay jokes. In fact the only thing I did like were the canaries.

        As for VERTIGO, jeez, where do I begin? Kim Novak in ridiculous black hair and dark make-up is so obviously in disguise that I wonder about James Stewart’s intelligence. She looks like some sort of Mata Hari caricature. Now I haven’t seen the film (thankfully) in many MANY years, by choice, so maybe my memory is playing me false. But I just found Stewart terribly unbelievable as a man in this sort of distress. In fact I remember finding the film just boring. Best Film Ever Made? I think not.

        My own personal opinion, you understand, kiddo. I really do realize I am in a very tiny minority.

        • Shame we don’t agree about the Private Life of Holmes film, which I have always found to be an incredibly romantic take on the material. I really like how vulnerable Robert Stephens makes Holmes (after all, he does fail a lot here) but I take your point as it does seem as if Blakeley had to over-compensate by making Watson a Nigel Bruce style buffoon. I like Vertigo for its formal beauty and its fascinating thematic underpinning – I agree that the plot is basically ridiculous, but frankly I never minded that as the dream-like atmosphere seems deliberately created to make it seem OK. And I agree, James Stewart’s hairpiece is better than Kim Novak’s – but then, she is meant to be in dusguise and he is not exactly at his best after a mental breakdown!

  14. Yvette says:

    Of course, I meant DARK CITY. Hey, it’s an amnesia post. 😉

    • Well exactly Margot, it writes itself (or rather, rights) – I do want to re-watch that film as it’s been a bit but it made a huge impact on me at the time (and is in a way a fascinating companion to The Truman Show)

  15. I am so impressed with this list – I couldn’t believe you were going to get 20 such movies, but you easily did, and such good ones too. I need to check some of these out…

  16. Anders E says:

    THE IPCRESS FILE is one of my all-time favourites, but I don’t think the followup FUNERAL IN BERLIN should be dismissed so easily. The plot may seem fiendishly complicated, but it’s understandable if you stay focused – and then you will be amply rewarded. Plus, a lot of fantastic on-location shots from mid sixties Berlin. And Oskar Homolka!

    • I agree – I do like Funeral in Berlin a lot though stylistically it is a much more straightforward film – and the lack of John Barry is unfortunate – but I agree, Homolka is probably the highlight and the story is wonderfully complicated!

  17. Peggy Ann says:

    I’d love to find The October Man and Dead Again. Great post!

    • Thanks Peggy Ann – they are both great little movies. Dead Again is very easy to get online and on DVD, October Man a bit tougher if you are outside the UK

  18. Top marks for Dead Again. Absolutely love that film – such a clever, intricate plot. Love it to bits. And I’d almost forgotten about Dark City – another massively underrated film. But points off for the honourable mention for Shutter Island – was that really supposed to be a twist at the end? I sat through two hours for that???

    • Thansk Steve – well, the honourable mentions were the suggestions made by my faithful commentators – when I read the book i twigged very early on and so was quite disappointed – I like the film but mainly for the way it look and and sounds, not so much for its plot, I quite agree.

  19. Santosh Iyer says:

    I have just seen Dead Again. It is superb. A must see for suspense/mystery fans.
    As already stated, though I have not seen Memento, I have seen the Indian adaptation Ghazini (in 2 languages) and I found it quite good.

  20. Colin says:

    I’ve been meaning to revisit this thread but hadn’t the time before now. The October Man is such a great movie – apart from the intriguing theme, the whole atmosphere is just so engrossing.

    Lots of comments relating to Memento, which I think is a great film – a genuine modern classic in my opinion. I thought it was intellectually and stylistically successful, and great entertainment too. I remember being totally drawn in by it in the cinema when I saw it. As an aside, my girlfriend at the time reckoned I was the spitting image of Guy Pearce in the film and spent the evening afterwards eying me strangely!

    On Shutter Island, I liked that quite a bit, despite its flaws. I hadn’t read the book so went in cold, so to speak. Even so, I did pretty much spot the twist early on – not every aspect of it, mind – but it didn’t spoil my overall enjoyment.

    I think I’ve mentioned the Crime Doctor series of movie before. That whole series is essentially based on an amnesiac character. Although the memory loss is resolved in the first movie it’s still interesting to see a series spun out of the premise.

    • Thanks for that Colin. Shutter Island is beautifully made but inevitably implausible and indeed can leave an audience feeling they have been ‘had’ though I think it works fine if you accept its own cuckoo-land logic. I would love to see some of the Warner Baxter films but they don’t seem to be generally available (if anyone known different, I reckon it would be you 🙂 ) To me Memento is just an absolute classic of its kind – it really bugs me when people I really respect don’t go for it (indeed, Nolan does seem to have that effect – I am an unabashed fan however).

  21. Excellent post, and there are still many films on your list that I still need to see. My favorite is definitely Memento — I love that movie.

  22. vinnieh says:

    Some really cool choices, amnesia always seems to be a good ingredient in a mystery movie.

  23. Penny says:

    I have been trying to find a movie since childhood, but all I can remember is the plot or what I think is the plot. Not sure when I saw it but it was probably late 60’S or early 70’s. It was about a women and a man who were having an affair , I think and something happens and she kills him with a high heeled shoe. She dumps his body over an embankment. Years later he shows back up as a friend of the woman’s husband, but the guy has amnesia, he doesn’t remember anything about the woman, until the are at a dinner club and they play a song and the guy regains his memory, because it was a song that they shared when they knew each other. That’s all I remember. Do you know what the name of this movie is? This movie has had he stumped for years. Please if you know the name will you please let me know. Some of the details may be wrong , but its how I rember it. Thanks!

  24. Pingback: Jason Bourne – cinema review | Tipping My Fedora

  25. That’s a worthy top 20 for Amnesia Films. Here’s a few others worth mentioning:

    Two in the Dark (1936)–A man sitting on a park bench doesn’t know who he is. A stranger helps him unravel the mystery. Evidence shows he committed murder during that time.

    I Love You Again (1940)–William Powell plays a crook who has forgotten he who is for several years. He finds out he was a tee-totaling community man with a bored wife. Comedy ensues.

    Street of Chance (1942)–Burgess Meredith plays a man who is hit on the head by construction debris and gradually realizes he’s forgotten a year of his life. Evidence shows he committed murder during that time.

    Two O’Clock Courage (1945)–Remake of Two in the Dark

    Crack-Up (1946)–Pat O’Brien struggles with a lost memory of a train crash.

    Jigsaw (1968)–Bradford Dillman and Harry Guardino. A remake of Mirage featuring psychedelic drug scenes.

    • Thanks for those – I have subsequently reviewed TWO O’CLOCK COURAGE while JIGSAW is a remake of MIRAGE but have not seen it in a very long time. I love CRACK UP, from there Fredric Brown novella MADMAN’S HOLIDAY (ss I recall) and STREET OF CHANCE is, I think, based on Woolwich’s THE BLACK CURTAIN? All great stuff.

  26. barry smith says:

    Great list but what about Mr. Buddwing? My personal favorite.

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