To find other movies that are like Mulholland Drive is near impossible. David Lynch is no stranger to creating wild, surreal filmic experiences, such as Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Inland Empire—and don’t forget about the otherworldly TV series Twin Peaks. Yes, Mulholland Drive has the kind of wild drama and intriguing mystery you can find in many other films. But what separates this 2001 masterpiece is Lynch’s arsenal of trademark dreamlike elements that bring about all kinds of hallucinations and sexual fantasies and dark visions as characters deal with obsession and jealousy and loneliness.
So…how do you compare other movies to Mulholland Drive? It’s not easy. But I believe I’ve put together a list of great films that collectively contain the most defining aspects of Lynch’s cautionary tale about Hollywood.
Also, be sure to check out our explanation of Mulholland Drive.
If you’ve got more suggestions for this list, please leave a note in the comment box!
Perhaps the most obvious contender for this list is Satoshi Kon’s classic Perfect Blue. Famously, it was the movie that Darren Aronofsky based Black Swan upon. But David Lynch could have also drawn inspiration from the beloved anime film, as Mima’s rise as a teen girl pop star recalls Betty’s (Naomi Watts) desire to become a star actress. Because of this approach, both Betty and Mima experience a classic Alice-in-Wonderland scenario. Through the use of memory loss, alter egos, and supernatural encounters, Perfect Blue constantly toes the line between fiction and reality in a way that feels very much like Mulholland Drive.
Other movies like this: Black Swan, The Neon Demon, Paprika.
Also, be sure to check out our explanation of Perfect Blue.
As much as Mulholland Drive is a discernible psychological thriller with classic twists and turns, it’s also a bizarre, experimental movie that transcends what we typically expect from Hollywood. In this way, it has an arthouse, European feel—which immediately makes me think of a film like Persona. Considered by many to be Ingmar Bergman’s greatest creation, Persona plays with the ideas of self-perception through an imaginative style that undoubtedly spoke to David Lynch.
Other movies like this: Last Year at Marienbad, 3 Women, Picnic at Hanging Rock.
In my opinion, Malignant suffered from misleading advertising. While it is very much a fun, entertaining horror film, Malignant also a deeply psychological experience about a young woman’s desire to move past her dark side—sound familiar? While director James Wan employs a much different style than Lynch does with Mulholland Drive, Malignant is nonetheless a stark, disturbing take about what can happen to somebody who doesn’t overcome trauma and hardship. A psychiatrist could have done wonders for both Annabelle and Diane.
Other movies like this: Suspiria, Diabolique, American Psycho.
This movie is a little tougher to find. But trust me: once you see it, you’ll understand why it has a cult following in the indie community. Tropical Malady comes from the mind of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is basically the David Lynch of Thailand. While his movies are much more lethargic and deliberate than Lynch’s, a film like Tropical Malady does a wonderful job of tackling the human emotion beneath its fantastical elements. In particular, Tropical Malady has a love story that recalls the pains that Diane faces with Rita in Mulholland Drive. Also, let’s just say that the final scene of Tropical Malady has some strong Club Silencio vibes.
Other movies like this: Punch-Drunk Love, Ryan’s Daughter, Chungking Express.
It might seem a mistake to compare a romantic drama about a lost woman with a thriller like Mulholland Drive. But Michelangelo Antonioni’s classic Italian mystery film has the core elements of identity and loss at its heart. The young man in L’avventura has Adam Kesher (played by Justin Theroux in Mulholland Drive) energy, while the Claudia character reminds me of Diane (Naomi Watts) and the lost woman Anna recalls Camilla (Laura Harring). Each of these parties play an important role in the existential crisis that permeates the film and drives each character to feel a profound sense of disorientation.
Other movies like this: Silence of the Lambs, Memento, Enter the Void.
In my opinion, a list like this would be incomplete without the inclusion of Sunset Boulevard, the ultimate movie about an actress’s perception of herself. While a famous film, it has still gone unseen by many—and that should change. Especially if you’re intrigued by Mulholland Drive’s cynical take on Hollywood. Billy Wilder’s 1960 film focuses on a washed-up actress who begins to have trouble differentiating reality from her life in the movies. Throw in some self-discovery and a destructive romance, and you’ve got a classic Hollywood story that can only end in tragedy.
Other movies like this: Being John Malkovich, This is Not a Film, F for Fake.
The best part of Total Recall is…you never know what’s real. From the very beginning, Douglas Quaid is implanted with a vivid memory that has a movie-like plot. From there, it’s up to the viewer to determine what’s fiction and what’s reality. This approach recalls a film like Mulholland Drive, which is also exploring how self-perception can be warped and twisted to match the stories sold to us by Hollywood—and all of the life-threatening danger that comes with that.
Other movies like this: Shutter Island, Jacob’s Ladder, Spring Breakers.
If there’s any director we should include in the same conversation as David Lynch, it’s Brian De Palma. While De Palma’s films often are not surreal like Lynch’s, they do own a number of fantastical and overtly dramatic elements that feel similar. And with Carrie, De Palma created a female character worthy of comparison to Betty. Both Carrie and the star of Mulholland Drive are driven to near-insanity because of their oppressive situations—and ultimately become killers. Both films are classic examples of what can happen to someone who doesn’t get the love and support they deserve.
Other movies like this: The Machinist, Misery, The Shining.