Jamie Dornan’s new thriller series The Tourist is the biggest telly hit of the new year. The whole country is talking about the BBC show, but it's just the latest in a long line of amnesia themed stories to capture the audience’s imagination.
From The Bourne Identity and Memento to recent C4 drama Close to Me and even Neighbours, memory loss has been at the heart of countless shows and films.
And no wonder — it guarantees instant suspense and mystery with a sympathetic hero and a thrilling journey for the audience to get involved with.
Or in the case of Neighbours, a great excuse to explain a beloved character’s return after a lengthy, washed out to sea, absence…
Fifty Shades of Grey and The Fall star Jamie Dornan is in fabulous form as a car accident victim left with absolutely no memory of his identity or life before the crash. Aspiring local cop Danielle Macdonald tries to help him, while all kinds of people seem to be trying to chase or kill him.
Created by the Williams brothers behind The Missing and Baptiste, this is one of the few to utilise both the humour and the horror offered by amnesia.
The Bourne Identity
One of the gold standards of memory loss movies is the 2002 Matt Damon spy thriller series which made him an A-list star and revitalised action movies for the new millennium.
Damon plays a young American lost at sea with no memory of who or where he is. But when he’s cornered by authorities, latent combat instincts kick in and he comes to the attention of spy bosses who want him taken out.
In the late 80s and 90s, Ian Smith’s lovable Erinsboro do-gooder Harold Bishop was one of the best known characters in soaps. But not long after he’d married Madge Ramsay — the love of his life — in 1991 he was cruelly swept out to sea.
Five years later the actor returned to the show, and was known as Ted after losing his memory. Like a less violent Bourne, his instincts kicked in and he worked with the Salvation Army before regaining his memory thanks to frenemy Lou Carpenter.
Kenneth Branagh made his big Hollywood debut with this brilliant Hitchockian, and super twisty, effort that’s definitely worth checking out. He and then-wife Emma Thompson starred in the great 1991 thriller about a private detective who helps out a woman with memory loss, but finds out through hypnosis that she may be connected to a brutal murder in a past life.
1991 was clearly the memory loss golden age. Harrison Ford plays a slick-suited shark of a lawyer, who is a terrible father and husband until he is shot during a corner shop robbery.
When he wakes up, he has lost his memory, and has to learn to walk and read again - and try to rebuild his family with wife Annette Bening without slipping into his old life.
The 2000 thriller announced former Neighbours star Guy Pearce as a proper Hollywood player, building on the success of the previous year's LA Confidential. The film, told in reverse, tells the story of an amnesiac man covered in tattoos and surrounded by notes and Polaroids as he tries to piece together the story of his wife’s death.
It also announced Christopher Nolan as the most exciting new director in the business.
Thor warrior woman Jaime Alexander is the star of this brilliant US thriller series about a woman who’s found in the middle of New York with no memory, but is covered in a series of tattoos which include clues to her back story and various crimes they must solve.
The tattoos are reminiscent of the Memento look, but the series works really well and lasted for five seasons, with the story completed before its eventual cancellation in 2019.
Close to Me
Connie Nielsen plays a mum who’s found unconscious at the foot of her stairs one day and has to piece together her life after discovering she has lost her memories of the whole previous year.
She has to work out how she fell, who she can trust and what part husband Christopher Eccleston played in it all.
This 2004 drama mini series starred John Hannah as a detective who is surrounded by memory loss after his wife disappears. Not only is his own recollection of that a bit foggy, but he encounters a man who may have killed his own wife and child but now has amnesia. An experimental memory treatment may provide more answers and more questions.
Christina Applegate had loads of fun in this comic take on the memory loss genre, as she plays a business executive who’s left without a clue who she is after a hit and run car accident.
She has to piece together her life with her friends and family and comically finds that she’s not always been the nicest person to work or live with. The series ran from 2007 to 2009 and also starred Jennifer Esposito and a pre-Bridesmaids Melissa McCarthy.
WATCH: Jamie Dornan on his post 50 Shades career