20 Movies with Zero Plot Twists & Go Deep Instead

While many movie-goers crave the thrill of an action-packed plot, there are instances when cinema takes a different route.

Some films choose a slower pace, prioritizing character development and intricate relationships over adrenaline-fueled action. These movies may appear uneventful on the surface, but beneath the surface lies a rich tapestry of emotions, allowing audiences to delve deep into the complexities of the human experience.

Such films challenge the conventional notion of excitement, offering a unique and often profound cinematic journey.

1. ‘My Neighbour Totoro’

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“Nothing happens in My Neighbour Totoro, but in a good way. That’s what makes it so peaceful and relaxing to watch. Studio Ghibli movies have something almost magical about them that I don’t know how to describe in words.”

“My Neighbor Totoro” is a renowned Japanese animated film directed by Hayao Miyazaki and produced by Studio Ghibli. Released in 1988, it has gained a cult following and is often celebrated for its imaginative storytelling, stunning animation, and ability to evoke a sense of wonder and nostalgia.

The film follows the adventures of two young sisters, Satsuki and Mei, who move to the countryside with their father to be closer to their ailing mother in the hospital.

2. Dazed and Confused

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“Dazed and Confused is a fine movie, but it’s safe to say that not much transpires. Sure, events occur, but in the grand scheme of things, they don’t quite leave a lasting impact.”

“Dazed and Confused” is a cult classic coming-of-age film directed by Richard Linklater, and released in 1993. The movie is set in the 1970s on the last day of high school for a group of Texas teenagers.

It features an ensemble cast, including notable actors like Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Parker Posey. The film is renowned for its nostalgic portrayal of the ’70s and its exploration of the complexities of youth, friendship, and rebellion.

3. A Day in the Summer of ’89: ‘Slacker’

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“In Richard Linklater’s first film, Slacker, even less happens. It’s just a day in the summer of ’89 in Austin, Texas. There are no professional actors; it is shot entirely in public on a $23,000 budget. It’s also one of the funniest, most original films ever.”

“Slacker” is a distinctive and unconventional independent film directed by Richard Linklater and released in 1991. The film is known for its unique narrative structure, which meanders through a day in the life of various eccentric characters in Austin, Texas.

Unlike traditional films with a central plot or protagonist, “Slacker” presents a series of loosely interconnected vignettes, each following different characters as they engage in conversations and go about their daily routines.

4. Time Passes, But Does Anything Happen? ‘Boyhood’

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“Oddly enough, my first thought in response to this question was Boyhood. I mean, Linklater had an interesting concept with time, but in a way, I just felt like time passed, and that was about it.”

“Boyhood” is an extraordinary coming-of-age film directed by Richard Linklater released in 2014. What sets this film apart is its groundbreaking approach to storytelling.

Instead of using different actors to depict the passage of time, Linklater filmed “Boyhood” over 12 years, allowing the audience to witness the characters and actors age naturally in real time.

5. A Question of Identity: ‘Man from Earth’

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“Don’t be confused; it’s an amazing movie. I just didn’t like the ending to Man from Earth. Like they didn’t trust the audience to connect the dots, they should have left it up in the air with just a hint that he’s who he claimed to be.”

Directed by Richard Schenkman and penned by Jerome Bixby, “The Man from Earth” is a science fiction drama film that debuted in 2007. Rather than relying on conventional action sequences or special effects, the film is celebrated for its distinct premise and exploration of philosophical themes.

6. Lost in Space and Interest: ‘Ad Astra’

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“I VERY rarely leave a film thinking, ‘yep, I got nothing out of that,’ but Ad Astra was the picture-perfect example. I left it thinking, How did they make a Brad Pitt/Tommy Lee Jones astronaut movie with moon pirates and killer space monkeys completely unenjoyable?”

“Lost in Space” is a science fiction television series aired in 1965 and later rebooted by Netflix in 2018. The original series was created by Irwin Allen and followed the adventures of the Robinson family, who become stranded in space after their spacecraft, the Jupiter 2, is sabotaged. The show featured a blend of action, adventure, and campy humor and gained a dedicated fanbase.

7. The Language of Loneliness: “Lost in Translation”

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“I was so disappointed in that movie the first time I saw it. I may have watched it too young, but for some reason, the movie always stuck with me, so I recently decided to rewatch it, and I’m enjoying it.”

“Lost in Translation” is a 2003 romantic drama film written and directed by Sofia Coppola. The film stars Bill Murray as Bob Harris, a middle-aged actor in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey commercial, and Scarlett Johansson as Charlotte, a young woman who is accompanying her photographer husband on a business trip.

The movie explores the connection between these two characters as they navigate the loneliness and cultural disorientation of being in a foreign land.

8. Art in Stillness: ‘Sleep’

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“Warhol’s 1964 movie Sleep. Over 5 hours, I looped a video of a guy sleeping. They taught it to me like it was just some random guy and, therefore meaningless boredom, but it was his boyfriend then. Watching a person that you love sleep is different. You get fascinated by every little thing they do.”

One critique suggests that Andy Warhol’s fame stems from his ability to produce art that many consider devoid of purpose, shallow, and lacking in meaning.

However, individuals often hesitate to acknowledge their dislike or fail to grasp the supposed “significance” of his work, opting instead to express enthusiasm in order to avoid appearing out of touch or unobservant.

9. A Mind-Bending Experience: ‘Stalker’

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“Knew it must have been mentioned here, not disappointed. Stalker, or how three guys do the mile in 2h43m. Still an incredible movie with an even more insane backstory: it was effectively re-shot three times.”

“Stalker” is an adaptation of the science fiction novel “Roadside Picnic” by the Strugatskiy brothers, who also crafted the screenplay. Despite sharing a genre classification with the novel, “Stalker” primarily unfolds as a philosophical and psychological drama.

The science fiction elements are subtly alluded to, and I argue that they serve as no more than illusory constructs within the characters’ minds. Consequently, labeling it as pure science fiction can result in misguided expectations.

10. Life at a Standstill: ‘Clerks’

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“Another amazing movie where nothing happens. In this movie, nothing happening is the point.”

“Clerks” was undeniably a comedy, yet it held a deeper significance for many viewers. Regarded as an anthem for Generation X, it’s important to note that the profound impact it had on its audience can’t solely be attributed to Kevin Smith.

The emotional connection and resonance with its style and tone are largely the audience’s responsibility. Smith has consistently demonstrated in his subsequent Clerks sequels that he creates the films he wants to make, leaving the emotional interpretation to the viewers.

11. The Map to Nowhere: ‘The Blair Witch Project’

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“Nothing’s happening. Nothing’s happening… Something about a map. Nothing’s happening. …It’s over. A lot of people in the audience look annoyed.”

Directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, the movie follows a group of three student filmmakers—Heather, Mike, and Josh—as they venture into the Black Hills Forest in Maryland to document the legend of the Blair Witch.

Armed with handheld cameras and minimal equipment, their journey begins as an innocent documentary project but soon descends into a terrifying and harrowing ordeal.

12. Finding Beauty in Mundanity: ‘Paterson’

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“Wonderful, beautiful movie where absolutely nothing happens.”

The film takes its time to explore Paterson’s daily routines, which include writing poetry in his notebook during his lunch breaks and walking his dog, Marvin, in the evenings.

These seemingly ordinary moments are elevated to a meditative and poetic level by Jarmusch’s storytelling. The film celebrates the beauty of the ordinary, finding inspiration in the mundane and the routine.

13. The Big Lebowski’s Laid-Back Chaos

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“The main guy is tired of everything, the kidnapped girl never got kidnapped, the ‘villains’ are just lame nihilists, and the Dude’s friends are just stirring the pot. The only real plot point where something actually happens is what happens to Donny.”

“The Big Lebowski,” a 1998 cult classic directed by the Coen Brothers, defies easy categorization, but it can be best described as a satirical take on the film noir genre.

Jeff Bridges assumes the role of Jeffrey Lebowski, a lethargic and seemingly purposeless slacker who prefers the moniker “The Dude.” His tranquil existence takes an abrupt turn when a duo of intruders invades his home, subjects him to an undignified toilet dunking, and soils his prized rug.

These criminals mistake him for a local millionaire sharing the same name, Jeffrey Lebowski (played by David Huddleston, the titular “Big” Lebowski).

14. A Day in the Life of Music Lovers: ‘Empire Records’

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“It’s a great movie, but just a day in the life of an indie record store.”

Empire Records” is a 1995 cult classic directed by Allan Moyle. Set in a quirky independent record store, the film revolves around a group of eclectic employees who become unlikely allies in a last-ditch effort to save their beloved store from being sold to a corporate chain.

“Empire Records” captures the spirit of 1990s alternative culture and the importance of music in the lives of its characters. It’s a nostalgic trip back to a time when music was more than just a backdrop—it was a lifeline.

15. A Long, Meandering Hollywood Tale: ‘Once Upon A Time In Hollywood’

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“30 minutes of something happening diluted by 2.5 hours of nothing.”

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” is a 2019 film directed by Quentin Tarantino. Set against the backdrop of late 1960s Los Angeles, the movie weaves together multiple storylines and characters, blending fiction with real historical events.

The film primarily follows two central characters: Rick Dalton (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), a fading Hollywood actor struggling to revive his career, and Cliff Booth (played by Brad Pitt), Rick’s loyal stunt double and friend.

As they navigate the changing landscape of Hollywood, their paths intersect with real-life figures such as Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and Charles Manson (Damon Herriman).

16. A Neverending Story of Nothing

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“The entire film is about nothing happening.”

“Nothing” is a 2003 Canadian film directed by Vincenzo Natali, known for his work on films like “Cube” and “Splice.” The movie is a unique and thought-provoking dark comedy that explores the concept of nothingness in an unusual and surreal manner.

The story revolves around two disillusioned and eccentric roommates, Andrew (played by David Hewlett) and Dave (played by Andrew Miller).

One day, their lives take a bizarre turn when they discover that their house has inexplicably disappeared, leaving them stranded in an empty void. As they grapple with their newfound reality, they embark on a journey of self-discovery and philosophical contemplation.

17. The Unchanged ‘Go’

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“Young people party and get into some shenanigans, but nothing much changes between the start and the end. The implication of Manny’s last line of dialogue really sums up the film for me.”

“Go” is a fast-paced and stylish 1999 film directed by Doug Liman. This crime-comedy-drama is set in the vibrant and edgy nightlife of Los Angeles and follows the intertwining stories of several young characters over the course of a single chaotic night.

The movie features a talented ensemble cast, including Sarah Polley, Katie Holmes, Jay Mohr, and Timothy Olyphant, among others. Each character’s perspective offers a different slice of the wild night as they navigate drug deals, romance, and unexpected encounters.

18. A Stellar Cast in a Stagnant Plot: ‘American Hustle’

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“You have a stellar cast where nothing happens the entire movie.”

“American Hustle” is known for its meticulous attention to period detail, from the characters’ flamboyant fashion choices to the soundtrack featuring iconic ’70s music. The film’s screenplay and performances were widely praised, earning multiple Academy Award nominations.

At its core, “American Hustle” is a character-driven narrative that delves into its central figures’ personal motivations and moral ambiguities. The film explores themes of identity, ambition, and the blurred lines between right and wrong, all set against a turbulent era in American history.

19. The Drama in Dialogue: ’12 Angry Men’

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“Just a few guys sitting in a room talking. It’s so good.”

“12 Angry Men” is a classic 1957 American film directed by Sidney Lumet. Based on Reginald Rose’s teleplay of the same name, the movie is a gripping courtroom drama that unfolds primarily within the confines of a jury deliberation room.

The film delves into the jurors’ biases, preconceptions, and personal conflicts as they engage in heated debates and reevaluate their initial verdicts.

As the discussions intensify, it becomes a riveting exploration of the American justice system, the power of persuasion, and the responsibility of making life-altering decisions.

20. The Grand Scenery of ‘The Secret Life of Walter Mitty’

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“It’s good scenery, sure, but nothing happens in the grand scheme of things.”

The film follows the life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller), a daydreamer who escapes his mundane existence by immersing himself in elaborate and vivid daydreams. Walter works as a negative assets manager at Life magazine, handling photo negatives.

When he loses an important negative sent by renowned photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn) for the magazine’s final cover, he embarks on a real-life adventure to track it down, stepping outside his comfort zone for the first time.

Things To Look For When Choosing A Movie

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Curating a small selection of movies can simplify finding a film that suits your audience, setting, and mood.

  • Genre and plot that align with your preferences.
  • Cast and acting talent.
  • Director’s reputation and style.
  • Reviews and ratings from trusted sources.
  • Runtime and time commitment.
  • Mood or tone that matches your current mood.
  • Availability on your preferred streaming platform or in theaters.
  • Recommendations from friends or family.
  • Awards and accolades, if any.
  • Personal interest in the subject matter or theme.

And remember, sometimes, in the stillness of a movie, you might find the most profound moments of introspection and emotion.

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We rarely consider the impact of our habitual, seemingly mundane actions. But every now and then, a new perspective sends shockwaves through our understanding, forcing us to reevaluate and reinvent our ways.

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sources 1 2
Image Credit: Krakenimages.com/DepositPhotos.
  1. imdb.com/title/tt0109445/
  2. tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/TheBigLebowski
  3. warholstars.org/sleep.html
  4. reddit.com/r/AskReddit/comments/15szj5l/which_film_can_be_summed_up_as_nothing_really/

This article was produced and syndicated by Viral Chatter.

Martha A. Lavallie
Martha A. Lavallie
Author & Editor | + posts

Martha is a journalist with close to a decade of experience in uncovering and reporting on the most compelling stories of our time. Passionate about staying ahead of the curve, she specializes in shedding light on trending topics and captivating global narratives. Her insightful articles have garnered acclaim, making her a trusted voice in today's dynamic media landscape.