7 Best Avant Garde Movies of All Time | Top Experimental Films

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Sarthak Koul
Sarthak Koul
Sarthak brings a technical perspective to the everyday aspects of life through his blogs. Breaking down the storyline of movies and shows is something he enjoys thoroughly. He firmly believes in contributing to this flawed and beautiful world in his own way. His mantra is to take things one day at a time.

Avant Garde movies or experimental films are the kind of narratives that set themselves apart from the mainstream cinema with their intricate plotlines along with unusual storytelling techniques. Follow through the article as we disclose the 7 best avant garde movies of all time.

Often set in a horrifying and suspenseful manner with jump scares and intended jump cuts, avant garde films don’t follow traditional cinema language like plot continuity and focus on the more abstract part of the story.

In an avant garde film, the intent is more on experimenting with storytelling techniques and expressing the story in an evolved and somewhat poetic manner. Watching these movies can lead to a new perspective of understanding the cinema. And that’s why we’ve curated the 7 best avant garde movies of all time including Scorpio Rising, Eraserhead, and more.

You may have come across hints of experimental aspects in modern cinema like in the visual effects of astral projections in Doctor Strange. These hints of experimentalism can also be found in the traditional cinema in movies like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Memento, and even Inception.  

Best Avant Garde Movies of All Time

Now, without further ado, let’s dive into the heart of the article to witness the plots of some of the best avant garde movies of all time covering the old classics to the new visually enhanced techniques of modern cinema.

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1. Scorpio Rising (1963)

Scorpio Rising is easily among the best avant garde movies. It is an experimental short film that depicts the themes of homosexuality, Catholicism, and Nazism. The plot of the movie centers around a biker, Scorpio, who is a part of an occult subculture of bikers. 

Scorpio Rising features a prominent playlist of soundtracks from the 60’s pop, including songs by Ricky Nelson, the Angels, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and more. There are no dialogues in the film and the theme explores the pleasure-pain relationship of Nazi bikers as sadistic symbols are interlude into this chaotic underground film.

Runtime: 28 min
IMDB ratings: 6.9/10
Cast: Bruce Byron
Director: Kenneth Anger

2. Swimming in Your Own Skin Again (2015)

As described by the film’s director, Swimming in Your Own Skin Again is a film about motherhood, banality, Miami, and the divine feminine. The experimental short film takes you on a surreal journey through the hot and humid swamps, churches, and coastal oases of South Florida.

The film comprises beautiful yet powerful themes from singing in church to call forth your adulthood to dance performances about police brutality and even celebratory music. This magical tale engulfs watchers in a world of spiritualism and channels the messages of nurturing love and relationships.

Runtime: 21 min
IMDB ratings: 6.3/10
Cast: Vickie Washington, Darielle Williams
Director: Terence Nance

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3. Mulholland Drive (2001)

Mulholland Drive is a surreal mystery film revolving around the story of an aspiring actress, Betty Elms. As a newcomer in LA, Betty befriends an amnesiac woman recovering from a horrible car accident. 

Witness the duo’s journey as they face unexpected and unknown life-altering experiences in an intricate labyrinth of faded memories, half-truths, and dangerous encounters with the ugly side of the sun-kissed Hollywood city.

Runtime: 2h 27min
IMDB ratings: 7.9/10
Cast: Justin Theroux, Naomi Watts, Laura Elena Harring
Director: David Lynch

4. Eraserhead (1977)

Eraserhead is an experimental horror film that defies conventional storytelling by its dark and surreal imagery and disturbing ghastly visuals. The film was preserved in the National Film Registry as one of the culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant American films.

The plot of the movie follows a wretched factory worker, Henry Spencer, who on his vacation finds out that he’s the father of a deformed inhuman creature. Follow through the strange and gruesome narrative as Henry and his girlfriend try to take care of the child in one of the best Avant garde movies of the previous century.

Runtime: 1h 29min
IMDB ratings: 7.4/10
Cast: Jack Nance, Charlotte Stewart, Allen Joseph
Director: David Lynch

Also, read Best Mind-Bending Movies 2021

5. Lost Highway (1997)

Another film on this list by David Lynch, Lost Highway follows the story of a musician, Fred Madison, who begins to receive mysterious VHS tapes of him and his wife, Renee Madison, in their home. 

The plot further complicates when under mysterious circumstances, Fred is suddenly convicted of Renee’s murder. On his death row, Fred disappears and morphs into a young man, Pete Dayton in an unfathomable turn of events. Witness one of the best suspenseful, intriguing, and surreal plotlines in one of the best Avant garde movies of all time.

Runtime: 2h 14min
IMDB ratings: 7.6/10
Cast: Bill Pullman, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty, Robert Blake
Director: David Lynch

6. Enter the Void (2009)

Enter the Void is an experimental drama film set in the ambiance of nightclubs around Tokyo. The narrative of the film follows a young American drug dealer, Oscar, who gets shot down by the police but continues to witness subsequent events from an astral experience. 

The film is shot from a first-person POV with Oscar floating above the city streets in a beautiful spectrum of colors. The narrative follows in a disorderly manner with intertwined flashbacks and current events happening during an out-of-body experience.

Runtime: 2h 22min
IMDB ratings: 7.3/10
Cast: Nathaniel Brown, Paz de la Huerta, Cyril Roy, Ed Spear
Director: Gaspar Noé

Also, read 8 Best Realistic Space Movies of All Time – 2021

7. Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

The Last Year at Marienbad is a French-Italian film based on a screenplay by Alain Robbe-Grillet. It is one of the classic examples of Avant grade noir with its fluid structure of time and space.

The plot of the movie follows a single man approaching a woman and claiming that they had met a year back which she has no recollection of. Follow one of the best enigmatic narratives as the man tries to convince the lady that they indeed had an affair the previous year.

Runtime: 1h 34min
IMDB ratings: 7.8/10
Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoëff
Director: Alain Resnais

Wrapping Up

This concludes our journey to find out about some of the best avant garde movies of all time. Witness a new perspective in these experimental narratives and dive into the unknown, somewhat horrifying, and unusual storytelling techniques. Comment down below your favorite pick from the list.  

Feature Image Credit: Kanopy


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