One thing screenwriters never forget is that amnesia is a go-to plot device that moviegoers respond to time and time again. In this weekend's romantic drama The Vow, Channing Tatum plays the husband of a woman (Rachel McAdams) who suffers severe memory loss after a car accident. Despite his valiant efforts to win back her heart, McAdams's character has become the one woman on earth immune to Tatum's advances. If you forget to see The Vow this weekend in theaters, we have a few other amnesia movies worth remembering on disc and VOD.
The Vow isn't the first—or we fear the last—romantic flick to play the amnesia hand. In 50 First Dates, Drew Barrymore plays a gal with anterograde amnesia—someone who has no short-term memory and forgets what happens every day—and Adam Sandler plays the guy who falls in love with her and has to think up new ways to "meet" her daily. Kurt Russell plays a carpenter who swoops up the wealthy heiress played by Goldie Hawn and convinces her that she is the mother of his children after a fall off a boat gives her amnesia in Overboard. In The Notebook, an old man reads a love story to a woman suffering from Alzheimer's disease that is actually the story of their own romance that she doesn't remember. The opposite happens in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play an estranged couple that deliberately has the memory of each other erased from their minds.
The most successful cinematic amnesiac series has got to be the Jason Bourne movies, including The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum. Matt Damon stars as the mysterious titular character who wakes up not knowing who he is but finds the CIA hell-bent on taking him out for failing a mission he doesn't remember.
Extreme memory loss seems to be a frequent symptom of assassins and government agents—at least on film. In Unknown, Liam Neeson gets confused after his taxi takes a swim in Berlin and he cannot separate his cover from reality. In The Long Kiss Goodnight, Geena Davis is a happily married schoolteacher until she hits a deer, crashes her car and starts to remember the lethal assassin she used to be. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a construction worker who discovers that he is really a Mars freedom fighter whose memory has been erased in Total Recall, the remake of which is due in theaters this August.
Like Total Recall, Paycheck is also based on a Philip K. Dick sci-fi story and stars Ben Affleck as a reverse engineer who undergoes memory wipes to protect his clients' intellectual property as well as himself. The entire populace in Dark City undergoes memory wipes and memory implants every night at the hands of the alien Strangers until one man (Rufus Sewell) remembers that it's not right to mess with our minds and rises up against them.
Sometimes the worst thing about remembering who you are is not liking the person that you find. This happens to Laura Harring's character in David Lynch's psychological thriller Mulholland Drive. Harring loses her memory after a car wreck on the famous street and stumbles down the hill and hides out in a stranger's apartment. There she pieces together fragments of the terrible things she did to wide-eyed aspiring actress Naomi Watts. Watts also shows up in Dream House to help Daniel Craig remember what really happened to his wife and daughters in the house across the street from where she lives.
The most intricate and mesmerizing film about memory loss has to be Christopher Nolan's Memento starring Guy Pearce as a guy unable to form new memories who is desperately trying to figure out who raped and murdered his wife. Pearce's anterograde amnesia forces him to write copious notes and tattoo reminders on his body because he can't remember who to trust. The movie interweaves two sections—black-and-white sequences that take place chronologically and color sequences shown in reverse order that converge at the end for a shocking revelation that you will never forget.