The most bizarre films of 2017

2017 has been a bizarre year in many ways, and the cinema is no exception. If you're in the mood for a memorably strange viewing experience, you're in luck: this past year's film offerings include plenty to keep your mind reeling. From big-budget action thrillers to smaller, more intimate portraits that reveal the monsters of the human heart, the following movies dive deep into the realm of the weird.


Anne Hathaway has said she decided to sign on to Colossal to appease her 16-year-old self, who numbered 1999's delightfully wacky Being John Malkovich among her favorite movies. She reportedly valued the creative freedom that went with making a "monster" movie as an independent production, as opposed to a major studio who'd be more inclined to play it safe.

Indeed, it's hard to imagine a mainstream version of Colossal. The film, from writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, stars Hathaway as Gloria, a woman who slowly realizes her train wreck of a personal life is causing a giant Kaiju monster to destroy parts of Korea. We've all had bad break-ups that led to embarrassing public scenes, but this has to be some kind of record. Jason Sudeikis co-stars as Gloria's employer and childhood friend—but as with most of the Colossal, nothing is exactly as it seems.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

Science fiction epic Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets comes from the husband and wife team of Luc Besson and Virginie Besson-Silla. Besson, of The Fifth Element fame, wrote and directed the 28th century saga while Besson-Silla produced. It has the dubious honor of being the most expensive non-American independent film ever made, which is staggering when you take into consideration that Besson sourced nearly half of his $200 million budget following a one-day presentation at Cannes.

Jean-Claude Mézières, the French illustrator who created the long-running series of comics Valerian is based on, also worked with Besson on the storyboarding for The Fifth Element, so you'll likely notice some similarities in visual style. Besson can always be counted on for mind-bending visuals that confuse and dazzle audiences; unfortunately, as far as the critics were concerned, all that eye candy wasn't enough to make up for the movie's confusing plot. Still, if you want to immerse yourself in a bizarre, interstellar epic, this is 2017's best option.

A Ghost Story

Writer/director David Lowery has said of making A Ghost Story that the "high-wire concept" of the film was more terrifying than he initially expected, admitting, "I was very aware of falling flat on my face." Indeed, it easily could have gone that way—Casey Affleck stars as a ghost haunting the house he and his girlfriend, played by Rooney Mara, once shared.

While the premise is somewhat spooky, it's the representation of Affleck's ghost that pushes this into the realm of the bizarre: it's a dead ringer for the eyehole cutout bedsheet costumes from the 1966 animated classic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. If that's not enough to weird you out, there's also an extended sequence of Mara grief-eating a pie, and a plot that follows the inner lives and struggles of families across multiple timelines.

Endless Poetry

If the name Alejandro Jodorowsky doesn't ring any bells, perhaps you're familiar with the critically acclaimed 2013 documentary Jodorowsky's Dune, which chronicled this titan of avant-garde cinema's ill-fated attempt to film the first adaption of Frank Herbert's Dune

If it's weirdness on the silver screen you're after, look no further than Jodorowsky's latest film, Endless Poetry, which chronicles his early artistic development. While more narratively straightforward than some of his other works, it's still filled with the colorful, breathtaking visuals that are his artistic calling card. The main character Alejandro—played by Adan Jodorowsky, one of the director's sons—announces near the end of the film that he's leaving his native Chile to travel to Paris to "save surrealism." Somehow the moment manages to encapsulate both the innocence and egotism required of all young artists. Endless Poetry may be autobiographical, but it has a lot to say about the common experiences at the heart of all creative journeys.


Darren Aronofsky can always be counted on to deliver cinematic strangeness, and mother! is no exception. Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem are a couple (sort of) in a house with a beating heart (maybe?) struggling to keep their lives and work in some sort of balance. If that's not weird enough for you, there are also odd cult-like rituals involving human flesh.

Lawrence later revealed that she and Aronofsky had radically different approaches to promoting the film. While she felt that audiences needed a bit of information on the themes to connect with and better understand the picture, Aronofsky wanted filmgoers to go in cold. This had to be a bit awkward for them, as the pair were romantically involved at the time of the press tour. You can decide for yourself whether to read up on mother! before experiencing it.

The Shape of Water

Speaking of directors who deal in eccentric cinema, what bizarre films list would be complete without Guillermo del Toro? Well, you're in luck. This modern master of dark fantasy returned in 2017 with The Shape of Water, his cold-war espionage romance between a mute woman and the magical fish creature she loves. Though the plot recalls the "soothing the savage beast" trope of King Kong and Beauty and the Beast, del Toro cited childhood connections to his religious upbringing, when he was moved by the tragedy of Jesus Christ, and modern parables like Frankenstein as inspirations.

And maybe the film isn't even so fantastical after all: del Toro points out that the themes of "gender marginalization, toxic masculinity, dominance, overbearing power, [and] racial divisions" are really about the issues of today, though he set the story in the 1960s to allow audiences to lower their guard and absorb the strange fairytale in all its glory.


When a stay-at-home mom discovers her husband's affair, the escalating stress of her demanding schedule reaches a breaking point. This breakdown proves somewhat unusual, however—Mom assumes the persona of a fierce guard dog, naked and growling in the basement of the family residence. Starring Jason Ritter and Jamie King, this independent release divided critics, who weren't sure the execution lived up to the patriarchy-busting premise.

There's a significant amount of comedy to be mined from Ritter as a hapless husband thrust into the very role he took for granted, and a strong performance from writer/director Marianna Palka. These elements help to ground a picture whose central conceit requires a significant suspension of disbelief, and in a list of films like these, that's really saying something.

The Bad Batch

A young woman's desert walkabout goes seriously awry when she's attacked by a group of cannibals in The Bad Batch. Luckily, she's rescued by another society of desert people led by Keanu Reeves: a cult-like figure who throws raves. It's directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, who blessed us with the Iranian vampire thriller A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night in 2015. According to AmirpourThe Bad Batch is intended to address themes of "American systems" and cultural realities, but good luck uncovering those threads amidst all the violence, murder, and gunplay. Jason Momoa stars as a sexy cannibal who will give you conflicted feelings about consuming human flesh, and also includes an odd performance from an almost unrecognizable Jim Carrey.

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Colin Farrell reunites with director Yorgos Lanthimos, with whom he worked on 2015's bizarre anti-love story The Lobster—but this time around, unsettling quirkiness has given way to unsettling surreal horror. Farrell plays Steven Murphy, a surgeon who befriends a lonely boy who's recently lost his father. Murphy's wife, played by Nicole Kidman, is unnerved by the kid, but the doctor is undeterred from his attempt to mentor him.

The moral of the story: don't doubt your wife's gut instincts, as Murphy discovers to his horror. Or rather, his children's horror, as they're the ones who drag their newly paralyzed bodies around during the second half of the picture. It's a revenge tale underpinned by Greek mythology–the film title is itself a reference to a tale about the murder of a deer belonging to the goddess Artemis. When it comes to the otherworldly, it's tough to beat Greek myths and their rich tradition of death and sacrifice.


Kuso marks the directorial debut of Steve Ellison, also known for the experimental EDM and hip-hop music he released under the stage names Flying Lotus and Captain Murphy. Ellison has turned his creative attentions to the genre of body horror with Kuso, a film comprised of four shorts that follow the lives of some very odd survivors of a Los Angeles earthquake. But that's not really what the experience of watching it is like.

Inspired by a film poster of two magical cats he spotted on a trip to Japan, Kuso becomes a surreal romp of escalating gross-out scenarios that come across like a fever dream William Burroughs had after binge-watching all the Troma films. Starring Hannibal Buress and George Clinton, the sensationalistic sequences are soundtracked by Captain Murphy, of course, along with Aphex Twin, among others. Apparently Ellison also made this film to satisfy his 16-year-old self—one wonders what he and Anne Hathaway might cook up together.