Memento: One Confusing Movie


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: tmdb

About This Quiz

Deception and delusion are central themes of "Memento," the kind of movie that prompts many people to scratch their heads in bewilderment. How much do you know about this brain-busting film?

The film "Memento" was released in 2000. It best fits which category?

"Memento" is a savage psychological thriller. It takes audiences on a mind-warping mental adventure with human trauma as its guiding force.


Actor Guy Pearce plays a man named Leonard, who is suffering from what?

Leonard is a man who is struggling with anterograde amnesia. In this type of amnesia, following a traumatic event of some sort, the sufferer is unable to hold onto new memories.


How does Leonard develop amnesia in the first place?

Leonard is attacked by two men. The physical trauma of the assault is what triggers the amnesia, which leaves Leonard unable to discern exactly what is going on around him.


Actress Jorja Fox plays which character?

Fox is Leonard's wife, whose death is a central plot point of the movie. She is raped and murdered, and Leonard spends much of the film trying to understand the events that led to her killing.


The movie has a very complex storyline. Who directed the film?

Christopher Nolan directed the film and also wrote the screenplay. He's made other hit movies, such as "Insomnia" and "The Prestige."


Leonard's memory loss means that he can only remember short-term memories for about how long?

Leonard is stuck in an infinite loop of sorts -- every five minutes, he loses his short-term memory. So he must develop a new way to function in daily life, otherwise, he's stuck repeating the same actions over and over again.


As he struggles to figure out how to remember daily events, what is Leonard's ultimate purpose?

Leonard is obsessed with understanding how he was attacked … and with finding the people who killed his wife. His mission of vengeance is greatly complicated by his memory loss.


What's unique about the storyline in "Memento"?

The story is chopped up and presented out of chronological order. The confusing, non-linear storyline evokes audience empathy for Leonard as he struggles with amnesia.


Leonard wants to find the man who killed his wife. What is Leonard's profession?

Leonard is an insurance investigator, so he's used to sorting through complicated stories. To find his wife's killer, he's faced with the challenge of a lifetime.


How many people attacked Leonard and his wife?

Two men attacked the couple. Leonard killed one man -- but the other is on the loose, and there's no easy way to find him.


The movie was made in 2000. What was its budget?

This was a bargain of a movie shot for only around $9 million, a pittance for the year 2000. It was a massive financial success.


About how much did the movie gross at box offices?

"Memento" was a surprise hit. It grossed around $40 million on a budget of just $9 million. It's become something of a cult classic.


The film is shown in both black-and-white and color. What do the black-and-white scenes indicate?

"Memento" is very confusing -- the black-and-white scenes are actually in chronological order. The color scenes are presented in reverse chronological order. At the end of the movie, the color and black-and-white scenes converge … in the middle of the story.


During the story, Leonard meets a bartender named Natalie. Who plays Natalie?

Carrie-Anne Moss, of "The Matrix" fame, plays Natalie, who at first doesn't believe Leonard's memory problems. But eventually, she decides to try and help him, while also taking advantage of him.


The movie's storyline is very complicated. How long did it take to shoot the film?

It took less than a month for the crew to wrap up shooting. That's about as long as it takes most audiences to finally understand what the movie was about.


How did Christopher Nolan come up with the crazy idea for "Memento"?

Nolan took a road trip with his brother and the two concocted the rough ideas behind the story of "Memento." His brother also wrote a short story on the concept, and the story was published after the film's release.


The filmmakers originally offered the part of Leonard to which actor?

Given his role in "Fight Club," it's very easy to see Brad Pitt playing Leonard. But Pitt had to turn down the offer because he was working on other projects.


Stephen Tobolowsky plays the role of Sammy. Tobolowsky actually experienced amnesia in real life.

Stephen Tobolowsky had a medical procedure that resulted in a scary episode of short-term memory loss. That experience no doubt helped him to play his role more convincingly.


Leonard can't remember daily life. What's one way he tries to keep track of his memories?

In desperate frenzies, Leonard tattoos key memories on his body to remember pertinent facts about the murder. He also takes pictures using a Polaroid camera.


The story veers wildly back and forth in time. How many times does it move from one period to another?

More than 100 times, the story flips from various periods in the chronology of events. So if you're confused, don’t feel bad … everyone else is bewildered, too.


Who did director Christopher Nolan want to hire for the part of Leonard?

Nolan really wanted Alec Baldwin as Leonard. Given Guy Pearce's outstanding performance, it's safe to say that the filmmakers ultimately made the right call for Leonard.


Cinematographer Mark Vargo was offered a job on set. Why did he turn down the gig?

Vargo has worked on major projects like "The Green Mile" and "3:10 to Yuma" but (understandably) didn't comprehend the script. He later regretted not taking the job.


During the movie, Leonard meets a man named Teddy. He puts a note on a picture of Teddy. What does the note say?

The note on Teddy's picture reads, "Don't believe his lies." Leonard needs Teddy's help, but the note reminds him that Teddy can't be trusted.


The film was a surprise hit that was nominated for two Academy Awards.

The film was in fact nominated for two Oscars, including Best Film Editing and Best Writing.


Of those two Oscar nominations, how many did the film win?

"Memento" was nominated for two Oscars, but it didn't win either one of them. It was also nominated for one Golden Globe (Best Screenplay) but walked away empty-handed.


"Memento" is much more complex than most Hollywood films. How did it fare with critics?

A majority of film critics really liked the movie's story and acting. Of course, some of them (like most people) had to watch it twice to really understand it.


Much of the story takes place in what location?

A seedy motel called the Discount Inn is the place where Leonard spends much of his time trying to understand his predicament. Filmmakers picked the motel in part because it's layout was so confusing to the eye.


Doctors panned the film as a totally unrealistic portrayal of amnesia.

Some doctors applauded the movie's treatment of amnesia. It closely follows the patterns exhibited by people who really suffer from amnesia in real life.


Who kills Teddy?

Teddy is an undercover officer who meets with Leonard … but Leonard can't trust Teddy. He shoots Teddy, a fact that drives home one of the weirdest plot points in the movie.


How can you watch the movie in chronological order?

The limited edition DVD set includes one disc that lets you watch the movie in chronological (i.e. understandable) order. But to access the movie, you first have to pass a memory test.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!