Some masterpieces can only be appreciated by digging deep beneath the surface by superintelligent persons such as myself. If you’ve seen these movies, you probably thought they were straightforward, because you are not as smart as I. You just have to watch really, really carefully. It’s all there!
Vanilla Sky (2001). David Aames (Tom Cruise) is disfigured in a car crash who gradually discovers he has been cryonically preserved, and the events of his life after the crash have taken place inside a simulated reality.
Taxi Driver (1976). Travis Bickle (Robert de Niro) is an alienated and possibly psychotic taxi driver who is grievously injured while rescuing a teenage prostitute from her pimp’s apartment building. Afterward, he is hailed as a hero, but certain clues allow the audience to infer that he actually died in the shoot-out and only dreamed what followed.
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1979), conventionally seen as a tale of an archaeologist’s search for the Ark of the Covenant, is actually a journey to the depths of the psyche. Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) dies in the opening scene, crushed by a giant stone sphere. He never meets the government officials, never travels to Nepal or Cairo, and Marion is herself only a symbol of Indy’s own superego.
Pollock (2000), a biopic starring Ed Harris, concludes with Pollock dying in a car crash, as he did in real life, but alert viewers will have noticed that an earlier scene shows Pollock getting drunk. In fact, in the film Pollock dies of an undiagnosed aneurysm while asleep and the rest of the movie takes place entirely in his imagination as his brain is slowly leached of oxygen. Clement Greenberg and Peggy Guggenheim were just figments of Pollock’s imagination, and he never invented his style of drip painting. Once his secret is understood, it transforms an otherwise by-the-numbers biopic into a vivid and terrifying exploration of consciousness.
Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). The second half of this story of a custody battle between divorced parents is hallucinated by Billy, the son, after he falls off a jungle gym and dies.
The Bicycle Thief (1948). This Italian neo-realist drama about a poor man searching the streets of postwar Rome for his stolen bicycle, upon which he depends for his livelihood, is finally revealed, through a series of extremely subtle clues, to be taking place inside a neural simulation conducted at a base on the dark side of the Moon, where aliens from the distant Ophiuchus cluster conduct experiments designed to determine human psychological weakness in preparation for an upcoming invasion of Earth. The stunning conclusion reveals that protagonist Antonio Ricci is himself the one who stole his own bicycle, by traveling back in time via a glitch in the simulation’s programming. Digging deeper, the viewer, if sufficiently perspicacious, will intuit that the Ophiuchian invasion has already taken place, Earth has been subjugated, but that all of this, the hunt for the bicycle thief, the moon base, the invasion, has all been taking place inside another simulation conducted by yet another race of unimaginably powerful aliens, who may have seeded the Earth with life 3 billion years ago.