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The Best Amnesia Movies You Haven’t Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: some of the best movies featuring amnesia or memory loss you’ve never seen… or may have just forgotten.)

A new movie called Unforgettable hits theaters this weekend starring Rosario Dawson and Katherine Heigl, and while it doesn’t appear to have anything to do with amnesia, audiences will probably be forgetting it as soon as they exit the theater. I kid. We love Rosario Dawson. 1996’s Unforgettable however, does involve ideas of memory. So now that we’ve established that incredibly tenuous connection for this week’s topic, let’s take a look at some great movies about memory loss!

Amnesia, whether medically sound or contrived for genre purposes, has been a popular plot point in film for decades, popping up in titles as diverse as Memento, The Bourne Identity, and 50 First Dates. Some are universally acknowledged masterpieces like Angel Heart and Overboard (I’ll hear no dissent on the matter), while others are Danny Boyle’s Trance. I kid. We love Rosario Dawson.

As is my won’t here, I’d prefer to point attention towards some lesser known but equally compelling films. So without further ado, here are six good-to-great movies involving memory loss you’ve probably never seen.

36 Hours (1964)

Maj. Jefferson Pike (James Garner) is working with the Allied forces to orchestrate the impending D-Day invasion and keep the details out of enemy hands, but the stress of it all is lifted from his shoulders when he passes out and wakes up six years later. It’s 1950, the Allies have won, and Pike is in a hospital in occupied Germany. The doctor (Rod Taylor) tells him he’s been suffering from amnesia, his wife (Eva Marie Saint) is one of the nurses caring for him, but they hope to cure him by having him recall the memories he holds tightest.

Director George Seaton’s (Miracle on 34th Street) war-time thriller is based on Roald Dahl’s “Beware of the Dog” and presents a twisty little tale of deception and intrigue. The film doesn’t hide what’s really going on and instead makes it clear from the very beginning – the Germans have abducted Pike in the hope of discovering invasion intel by way of their elaborately-constructed ruse. The film still finds suspense though, as the Germans work to find the information in time and viewers pull for Pike to catch on before it’s too late.

The tension snaps in the third act as characters on both sides discover truths both expected and surprising, and the film shifts briefly into an action romp. Its real strength though is in the relationship, the near friendship, that develops between Pike and Taylor’s American-born Nazi. The two do good work and add an additional layer of concern for viewers who hope for the best for both men. Saint is a bit less impressive, but hey!…

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