10 Best Movies to watch like Shutter Island

By Louie Fecou
Published: February 14, 2023 (Last updated: February 8, 2024)

We discuss the 10 Best Movies to watch like Shutter Island. Delve into these mind-bending movies and add them to your movie watch list. 

The quirky rug-pulling mystery thriller Shutter Island (2010) was based on the book by Dennis Lehane, directed for the big screen by grumpy film aficionado Martin Scorsese and stars jet-hopping climate activist Leonardo DiCaprio.

Leo plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal who has been brought in to get to the bottom of an incident involving an escaped murderer from a strange prison-like insane asylum on the titular island.

The trouble is, there is something not quite right about the affair, and Teddy finds himself slipping into a tangle of lies, deceit, and betrayal, where nothing is as it first appears.

With echoes of film noir and detective mystery, this dreamy slow-burn nightmare scenario leads the viewer into the island’s darkness, ending in a soul-shattering climax that you probably know, but I still feel wrong about spoiling.

With that in mind, here are ten other films like Shutter Island that you might want to seek, but be careful; it will be a twisted ride.

10 Best Movies to watch like Shutter Island

10. The Ninth Gate (1999)

Johnny Depp is in the lead role as rare book expert and valuator Dean Corso. He has been tasked to discover whether the copy of the rare occult tome The Nine Gates of the Kingdom of Shadows, recently acquired by the devilish Boris Balkan, is real or fake, and ends up on a quest across Europe, searching for the truth behind the book, that is slowly leading him to danger, death, and demons.

A mystery at the heart of this story, much like Shutter Island, pushes our hero to the point of no return. A dream-like descent through the nine gates makes this a sinister and mind-bending movie experience.

9. Vanilla Sky (2001)

Tom Cruise and Penelope Cruz star in this Cameron Crowe reality-shaping thriller, which is a remake of the Spanish flick Open Your Eyes.

Cruise stars as David Ames, the young publishing magnate on top of the world and living life to the full until a violent and scene-stealing accident leaves him disfigured and depressed.

David starts to find that reality is slipping away, and his life begins to descend into a nightmare. Just like Teddy, David is lost in his new world and is desperate for answers, and it all falls into place in the final reel.

8. Angel Heart (1987)

Directed by British genre-attacking genius Alan Parker, this film noir detective horror mash-up stars face-welded ex-boxer Mickey Rourke in what is possibly his best performance ever. Yes, I did see The Wrestler.

Rourke is seedy private eye Harry Angel, resplendent in an ill-fitting suit and trench coat that looks like the same outfit Leo wears on Shutter Island, looking for vaguely successful crooner Johnny Favourite, who has done a disappearing act, reneging on a deal with Robert De Niro as mysterious puppet master Louis Cyphre.

Will you guess the end? Well, you will get some of it, but this mix of Farewell My Lovely and The Exorcist has become another cult classic, and there are moments when Shutter Island almost appears to pay homage to it. Unmissable.

7. American Psycho (2000)

Christian Bale is mesmerizing as vain, deluded, corporate murder machine Patrick Bateman in one of his most quotable roles.

American Psycho, based on the controversial novel by Brett Easton Ellis,  and directed by Mary Harron, shares an unreliable narrator, just like Teddy, who seems to be losing his grip on what is real and what isn’t.

Branded a flop on release, it seems the film only grew in appreciation in the years that followed, and now it has been parodied and mimicked so many times, and it is almost part of pop culture itself. Set your business card down on the table and look in awe.

6. Dark City (1998)

Rufus Sewell stars as John Murdoch, alone and minus his memories, who finds himself hunted for murder by alien-like men in black, that seem to have supernatural powers.

A more out-of-this-world premise soon juxtaposes the crime noir setting, and it is not long before you realize that, just like Shutter Island, there is more going on here than meets the eye.

Sadly not a great success on its release; this is an underrated gem that found its audience a few years later on home video. A nice twist and great performances from Kiefer Sutherland and William Hurt help this entry.

5. Mulholland Drive (2001)

I will not try to pretend that I can fully understand Mulholland Drive. Directed by cherry pie-loving weather-reading genius David Lynch, the story of the dark underbelly of the Hollywood film industry is filled with cryptic scenes and dream-like storytelling.

Lynch creates a surreal and twisted story, with wide-eyed wannabe film icon Betty, moving into her aunt’s house and getting involved in a maze of half-truths, dream-like sequences, and disturbing imagery. Once again, the protagonist here is lost and in over their head, much like Leo on that island. Watch this with an open mind.

4. Taxi Driver (1976)

More Scorsese here, but back in the 70s, with a very young Robert De Niro and a tale of violence and revenge on the streets of New York.

The strangely named Travis Bickle is an ex-marine, plagued with insomnia, working nights as a taxi driver. He spends his days at run-down X-rated cinemas and obsessing over political PA Betsy whom he eventually makes a connection.

However, Travis is more troubled than he first appears, and his mission to help clean up the streets of New York escalates out of control. The style and cinematography that Scorsese plays with here are perfect by the time we get to Shutter Island, and Travis and Teddy both inhabit a shadowy world that they struggle to understand.

3. The Sixth Sense (1999)

The debut from divisive twist-obsessed director M. Night Shyamalan starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osman is a treat for first-time viewers.

With Willis as a disillusioned downbeat psychiatrist trying to help young Osman, who can see dead people, this film has one of the most extraordinary twists in cinema history. It would set Shyamalan on a strange film career that would see him fall out of favor, but he never gave up, with A Knock At The Cabin enjoying a wide release in 2023.

The reveal is a cracker, with the same devastating effect on the protagonist as Shutter Island delivers. Though there are moments on a rewatch that might not hold up as well, this is still a curveball worthy of mentioning on our list.

2. Memento (2000)

If you enjoy films that make you think about what you are watching, you probably have already devoured this Christopher Nolan masterpiece.

With a fantastic lead performance from Guy Pierce and a premise that is even complicated to write down, Memento all unfolds in reverse and follows our tragic lead, unable to make new memories, looking for the killer of his wife, and forced to tattoo everything he knows to be true, on his own body.

It is a puzzle box of a movie, a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing, an enigma wrapped in a … well, you get the idea. This is another unreliable narrator looking for the truth. How could we leave this off the list?

1. Fight Club (1999)

At first glance, David Fincher directs Fight Club, this tour de f0rce starring Ed Norton and Brad Pitt, commenting on modern lifestyles, the pursuit of happiness, and the banality of day-to-day living, but the multi-layered production has led to the film being deconstructed and analyzed so much, that it is almost hard to outline its themes.

Funny, violent, ridiculous, nihilistic, and satirical, the trick Fincher pulls off is the final act reveals, where we find the real identity of Tyler Durden. It’s a similar trick that Scorsese applies on Shutter Island, so it’s on our list.

Do you have other recommendations for the Best Movies to watch like Shutter Island? Let us know!

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