'8 ½' (1963)
Italian film icon Federico Fellini weaves the (autobiographical?) story of a harried director who's having some trouble getting his latest project on course through a surreal series of dream, fantasy and present-day scenes that blend one into another and leave for the viewers that task of sorting out which is which.
"8 ½" opens with a dream sequence that includes director Guido stuck in impenetrable traffic -- struggling to even get out of his car -- and then floating toward the clouds before being pulled back down to earth by a rope tied to his ankle. Guido is going everywhere in his mind, while his film project chases its own tail [source: Sesonski]. The title, by the way, refers to the fact that this film was the eighth-and-a-half film Fellini had directed or co-directed.
The movie's free form helped unleash future filmmakers from the bonds of traditional, linear storytelling. It opened the door for generations of surrealist movie makers, including David Lynch, Terry Gilliam, Darren Aronofsky and Michel Gondry. Try following "8 ½" with Aronofsky's "Black Swan" or Gondry's "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and the influence is palatable [source: Sesonski].