Sometimes, watching a normal movie isn’t enough. Sometimes we want something weirder, something thornier, something more self-referential. For those times, there are meta movies, films with the type of twisty-turny narrative that doesn’t even acknowledge that the fourth wall exists.

One could argue that every movie is “about movies,” but we’re not here to do that. Instead, we’ve chosen to celebrate the type of movie that turns moviemaking on its head, examining it from all angles, in ways that are often funny and often disturbing. The horror genre has plenty of these — yes, of course Scream made the list — but you can also find it in comedies, in dramas, and even (especially?) in documentaries, where the craft of filmmaking is laid most bare. It’s fun to watch these and feel them winking at you, poking your ribs, daring you to be entertained by not just the film but also by the experience of watching it and noticing all its little in-jokes.

There is, however, a slight difference between a meta movie and a parody. For this list, we’re highlighting the metatextual, so we’ve tried to steer clear of straight-up parodies like Spaceballs and Scary Movie, though even those have plenty of meta elements. The line between meta and parody is blurry, but meta movies tend not to just make fun of their subject matter. They can be pastiche genre mashups or anxious labyrinths, but they all promise one thing: to show us something we’ve never seen before.

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