In the new movie Trance, James McAvoy loses his memory and needs to be hypno-probed by Rosario Dawson. Amazingly, science fiction and fantasy have produced tons of way sillier amnesia storylines than that. Here are the 13 most insane memory-loss stories of all time.
When the aliens examine Earth culture, they are going to think humanity is a race prone to constant bouts of amnesia. One small crack to the head, and we forget everything — until we're hit on the head a second time, that is. Science fiction and fantasy abuse amnesia as much as any soap opera — except that they use magic and science instead of blunt force trauma.
1. Superman II
Superman is crazy powerful. He can fly, has super strength and can survive in space. Almost the only thing he can’t do is mind-control people. Except in the case of the movie Superman II, in which the plot requires he pull some power out of his ass to make Lois Lane conveniently forget that he is also Clark Kent. A power he dispenses with a kiss, for maximum canon-breaking cheese.
Speaking of power laden kisses, when Renard woke Juliette up from her coma with a kiss, and she couldn’t remember her boyfriend Nick, there was an audible groan in TV land. Apart from the overall cheese factor, there was the fact that we still hadn't seen enough of the relationship between Nick and Juliette for her memory loss to matter. Whipping out an amnesia storyline so early in the show's run felt contrived and random.
At least the Angel episode “Spin the Bottle” did something interesting with its characters when they got amnesia. Angel and the gang are mentally reverted to their seventeen-year-old selves after a spell goes wrong. Hilarity ensues, because it is totally hysterical they all think they are teenagers and acting outside their normal parameters. And yet, the whole amnesia thing mirrors events in the Buffy episode “Tabula Rasa” a little too closely — so the whole thing felt like goofy fan service that rewarded longtime Buffyverse viewers.
4. Total Recall
While awesome in its over the top insanity of a three boobed prostitute and Arnold in drag, the plot of the original Total Recall doesn't really make sense under scrutiny. Unless you buy into the theory that Quaid never actually left the memory machine and the entire adventure was a dream, but the It Was All a Dream trope is way more B.S. than amnesia. The bad guys set up a ridiculously convoluted plan of memory-wiping Quaid and implanting false memories, and then totally fail to have any kind of control or any contingency plans in place.
5. Men in Black II
If you have the secret to saving the world, maybe you should maybe tell someone about it before you have all your memories wiped and go into retirement. (Not to mention the fact that being an MIB agent is inherently dangerous, and Agent K could have been easily killed in action and taken the secret of the Light of Zartha to the grave.) Also, why can some memories be restored but others not? If people can have their memories restored by a random alien with a cobbled-together deneuralizer, how is wiping memories even an effective strategy to begin with?
Superpowers and magic are only convincing if the story adheres to the rules it established. Push fails to do this. The entire story is based upon a watcher, a genetically enhanced person that can see the future, setting into motion a series of events that occur even before the main characters are born. In the course of the story, several of the characters wipe their memories to throw evil watchers off their trail. What? They aren't mind readers. The original watcher could read the intentions of the kids that weren't even born. Anyway, the main character actually plans out his entire scheme and writes it down before wiping his memory. If the watcher actively tracking him was a mind reader, wouldn't she have gotten the plan before it was wiped? What the hell does inflicting amnesia actually do in the story besides add a veneer of cleverness?
7. Terra Nova
Maybe it’s not fair to kick a show that has already crashed and burned, but the internet makes sure no idiocy is ever forgotten. In the episode “What Remains,” several people catch amnesia. Seriously — they catch it as a disease, and lose the last 20 years of memories. And if they lose all their memories, they will die. Terra Nova’s illustrious leader, Taylor, goes off the deep end and thinks he is fighting in a war in Somalia. The dude has amnesia not impaired cognitive abilities. You’d think one look at the lush tropical environment — and oh yeah, the freaking dinosaurs — might convince him he isn't in Somalia. Apparently, he caught stupid along with amnesia.
8. Lost Girl
You can’t catch stupid if you already have it. In the episode “Fae-nted Love” Bo gets amnesia from some magic water being tossed on her. She runs away from her best friend, because she can’t remember who she is — but then immediately decides to marry a guy she can’t remember, who claims to be her boyfriend and tries to take advantage of her blank state. Um, that is a bit rapey. Sure, it turns out he's enthralled by her sexy succubus blood, but still — not cool.
9. Lois and Clark
In the episode “All Shook Up,” Superman loses a battle with an asteroid — and winds up forgetting he's Superman. Even suspending your disbelief long enough to think SUPERMAN crashed willy nilly into an asteroid and was knocked out, the rest of the episode makes little sense. His super strength is not something he can just turn off. Clark would be breaking walls and causing casual property damage all over the place. Instead, the amnesia is played for goofy moments, like Clark’s parents pushing him off a building to get him to to fly. His memory is eventually jogged by his deep feelings for Lois, and a cliché overdose.
10. Samurai Jack
When the stoic Jack has his memories wiped by siren enchantment, he transforms into Brent Worthington, a surfer dude with more than a passing resemblance to Ted “Theodore” Logan. Adding to the overall silliness of the two-part episode is the fact that the gifted insulter, The Scotsman, has to rescue him from a base and common existence. A funny episode and diversion for fans, but ridiculous from start to finish.
11. X-men Origins: Wolverine
Wolverine’s amnesia is induced at the end of the movie by an adamantium bullet to the head. Let’s just assume for a moment it could penetrate Wolverine's admantium fused skull. People actually get impaled or shot in the head, and survive with their memory intact. It would have had to hit a pretty special spot to cause memory damage. Maybe his brain was totally scrambled by bullet fragmentation, but why doesn’t he lose his language or motor capabilities? Perhaps it isn't surprising, since reading the comic history of Wolverine is a laundry list of amnesiac episodes. He is the poster boy for amnesia in the Marvel universe.
12. Doctor Who
The two-part episode "Human Nature"/"Family of Blood" is a fan favorite for good reason — it shows the Doctor finally becoming human and falling in love with an ordinary woman. And yet, the basic premise seems kind of bizarre — both the idea that the Doctor can take out his very essence of Time Lord and transform it into a watch, and the notion that the Doctor would put a whole school full of innocent kids in harm's way just so he could hide from some evil aliens whom he doesn't want to have to hurt.
13. Knights of the Old Republic
The Jedi council makes some seriously questionable decisions — like memory wiping their most powerful Sith adversary and setting him lose on the world again with no monitoring. Although to be fair, retraining said Sith lord in the ways of the Force might also be a bad decision in the long run. Even though the game is truly awesome, the setup is complete nonsense.