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Lost Memories: Our 10 favorite amnesia movies

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Movies have dealt with the issues of memory and, specifically, amnesia since as far back as the 1932 Greta Garbo-starring As You Desire Me (and possibly even farther). Lost memories have become a go-to movie trope over the past few decades, with varying levels of success, and with the latest film to tackle the issue (the Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams vehicle The Vow) hitting theaters this weekend, we thought it might be a good time to round up some of the coolest amnesia movies we’ve ever seen. Write them down before you forget them!


“Memento” (2000)

Remember way back before the year 2000 when no one really knew who Christopher Nolan was? I certainly do. Then this little film called “Memento,” starring Guy Pearce and Carrie-Anne Moss, premiered in September at the Venice International Film Festival to vast critical praise and it began to pick up steam as it rolled out to a wider audience. Before we knew it, “Memento” rode its non-linear structure, fantastic performances, and little sticky notes all the way to box office success and Academy Award nominations for Original Screenplay and Film Editing. The Nolan the world would come to know for his brilliant reinvention of the Batman series and for the genius mind-bending film Inception was born.

The thing that makes “Memento” such incredibly compelling cinema, aside from those fantastic performances and the aforementioned non-linear structure, is its ingenious use of a very unique brand of amnesia. Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) has anterograde amnesia, which means he can’t store any new memories. He spends the entire film jotting down new information on sticky notes (so he can actually keep track of his life without the assistance of a properly functioning memory) while he tries to put together the pieces of his own personal mystery. It’s an interesting take on the amnesia trope and a hell of a film that showed everyone the kind of talent that Christopher Nolan would soon be known for worldwide.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ch9Y-fcGlKs


“The Long Kiss Goodnight” (1996)

Three years before Renny Harlin started genetically engineering Mako sharks to eat Samuel L. Jackson, he chose the actor to star alongside Geena Davis in one of the great amnesia movies of our time – “The Long Kiss Goodnight.” Written by the great Shane Black (“The Monster Squad,” “Lethal Weapon”), “The Long Kiss Goodnight” tells the story of Samantha Caine (Geena Davis), a mother and teacher in Pennsylvania who was found, washed up on a New Jersey beach, pregnant, injured, and suffering from complete amnesia. (Think Snooki in about three more years). After searching for the next eight years or so, Caine finally discovers that she’s actually Charly Baltimore, an assassin for the CIA. She finally starts recovering some of those memories, turns all badass, hangs out with Samuel L. Jackson and kicks ass all over the place. It’s maybe the most feel-good case of amnesia on this list. Either way, it makes for some great cinema in what has become a classic of the amnesia film subgenre and the action film genre.


“Total Recall” (1990)

Nearly ten years after Arnold Schwarzenegger hit the big time by playing Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, the actor was still one of Hollywood’s hottest tickets. Wrapped around the 1990 release of “Total Recall,” Schwarzenegger would star in hits like “Predator,” “Twins,” “Kindergarten Cop,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and “True Lies.” That’s a hell of a resume. Teaming up with director Paul Verhoeven (“RoboCop,” “Basic Instinct”) brought Ahhhhnold on the set of one of the weirdest amnesia films of all time – the sci-fi actioner “Total Recall.” Schwarzenegger stars as Doug Quaid, a construction worker who is really a secret agent that eventually ends up having to travel to Mars to figure out who he really is and why his memory was erased. He’s good. He’s bad. He’s a creepy killing machine from Mars. He becomes the first person (or thing) in a movie to tear off Michael Ironside’s arms. It’s a role only the Governator could love and one that he’ll likely never forget (even if his character would).


“Dark City” (1998)

Between 1994’s The Crow and 1998’s Dark City Alex Proyas seemed poised to be the next director to take Hollywood by storm with his dark, gothic neo-noir vision and technical prowess. Then he made I, Robot in 2004 and Knowing in 2009 and all the good will he earned with his early work went down the drain. We’re hoping he returns to form in 2013 with Paradise Lost but, regardless, we can always appreciate the amazing amnesia-centric film he crafted in Dark City. Sporting an all-star cast of Rufus Sewell, Keifer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, and William Hurt, Dark City starts with John Murdoch (Sewell) waking up in a hotel bathtub with a bad case of amnesia. He’s soon accused of murder and spends much of the film trying to clear his name by learning his true identity, all while on the run from both the police and the “Strangers.” And that’s just what’s going on right on the surface of this intelligent, creepy neo-noir sci-fi film. If you’ve never seen it, grab a copy of the Director’s Cut and consider yourself in for a real treat.


“The Bourne Trilogy” (2002-2007)

The 2002 debut of Doug Liman’s The Bourne Identity marked the beginning of what would eventually become one of action film’s greatest franchises. Starring Matt Damon as Jason Bourne, an amnesiac who spends three films trying to discover his true identity, and loosely based on Robert Ludlum’s novels, the film made a ton of money at the box office and turned Damon into a veritable action hero. Paul Greengrass picked up where Liman left off with The Bourne Supremacy in 2004 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 2007. Each film ratcheted up the realistic action that the series would become known for, gave Bourne a bit more information to process about his identity, and upped the ante for what action spy films could do without the extensive use of CGI. All three films revolve around Bourne’s amnesia and handle it in a way that’s both inventive and exciting. The only thing I’d like to forget about this series is the fact that Universal is likely moving forward on another Bourne film without Matt Damon.

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Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:

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The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.

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They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!

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Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.

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Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.