WARNING: THIS FEATURE CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS! (READ AT YOUR PERIL)
We all love a good movie twist, but what exactly constitutes a great one? Well, it’s that unexpected plot development that shakes you to the core, and then makes you look at everything that happened before it in a new light. A clever movie twist can make a good movie into a fantastic one and ensures that that movie is talked about for years to come.
So join us as we celebrate the greatest plot twists of all time...
All through Fight Club we’re led to believe that Edward Norton’s unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s Tyler Durden are bessie mates, plotting a wave of terror and destruction together. Except it turns out, in the film’s final scenes, that Tyler Durden isn’t real and that the narrator and Tyler are disassociated personalities in the same body. In fact, the clues are there if you're eagle-eyed enough – director David Fincher flashes up subliminal images of Durden before he even enters the story and we never see another character talking to the narrator AND Durden at the same time.
Alejandro Amenábar’s classy, understated ghost story is a undisputed horror classic. Starring Nicole Kidman as a widow who relocates to a remote mansion in the Channel Islands after the death of her husband it’s a movie that plants the seeds of its twist all the way through. Nicole Kidman and her two children spend the movie convinced that their new home is haunted, but the twist is THEY’RE the ghosts and the phantoms they see wandering around their house are the prospective new owners!
Planet of the Apes
We’re meant to think, for most of Planet of the Apes’ running time, that the simian-run planet the astronauts find themselves on is somewhere far beyond the stars. Except in the last shot, it’s established that Charlton Heston has been on Earth all alone, except far into the future, as he falls to his knees in front of a half-buried Statue of Liberty. Altogether now: “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
The Crying Game
Unusually this is twist that happens midway through the movie. Still, it’s a real game-changer. Neil Jordan’s sublime IRA drama focuses on an on-the-lamb terrorist, played by Stephen Rea, and his relationship with a beautiful young singer, Dil. All seems pretty conventional, until, about to sleep together, Dil removes her dress to reveal, erm, something that only men have!
The Sixth Sense
“You’ve seen The Sixth Sense? Don’t tell me the twist!”
For audiences in 1999, avoiding the spoiler to The Sixth Sense was a big deal. But actually, even once you knew the big reveal of the film, watching it again – to see if it made sense – made you appreciate the movie even more. If you’re reading this, we’re presuming you’ve seen the film, and know that Bruce Willis’ character was a ghost all along. And yes, watch it again, and you’ll realise that director M Night Shyamalan never cheats. In fact, you’ll be amazed at how you never figured it out the first time!
M Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to The Sixth Sense has a similarly shocking, though entirely different, twist ending. Throughout this chilly drama about a man, David Dunn, who discovers after a train accident that he has hidden superpowers, we’re led to believe that disabled comic book collector Elijah Price is trying to help our hero. Except it turns out that he's been orchestrating dozens of disasters in order to find Dunn. Fifteen years on from the movie, it looks like Shyamalan is crafting a Shared Unbreakable Universe, with this year’s Split ending on a shot of Dunn, played again by Bruce Willis, contemplating the knowledge of other superpowered people out there.
The Wicker Man
A policeman from mainland Scotland, Sergeant Howie, is sent to the island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl. Except, as we find out in the final scenes, it’s been a rouse to get Howie, a virgin, to the island in order to sacrifice him to their pagan god. From the moment he first sets foot on Summerisle, it transpires, he was doomed. The movie ends with Howie being burned alive inside a giant wicker man, as the crowds chant. A horrific ending to one of the all-time great British horror films.
The most surprising twists come in movies which don’t advertise themselves as having a gigantic twist. Denis Villeneuve’s low-key, Academy Award-nommed drama told its story of Amy Adams’ linguistics expert attempting to communicate with the aliens interspersed with what we were meant to think of as flashbacks to her daughter’s death from cancer. But it turns out her knowledge of the alien’s language has enabled her to see into the future, and the visions aren’t actually flashBACKS but flashFORWARDS.
The Usual Suspects
Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) IS Keyser Soze. ‘Nuff said.
Another movie where the twist comes halfway through the story, but one that's no less shocking for it. This David Fincher-directed adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestseller leads us to believe that Ben Affleck’s Nick killed his girlfriend, Amy, who went missing on their fifth anniversary. Except Amy is very much alive, having stage the whole thing, hatching an elaborate plot to frame Nick for her murder after their marriage fell apart.
Yes, it’s another M Night Shyamalan movie (that man loves his twists!) about a Pennsylvanian community in what appears to be the 19th century which is surrounded by a forest with red-hooded monsters who prevent people from leaving the village. Except it’s not the 19th century – it’s modern day and we discover that, over time, the people of the community created the monsters in order to discourage anyone from leaving.
Mickey Rourke has never been better than as the private eye - named Harry Angel - hired by the mysterious Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) to track down a singer named Johnny Favourite. There are two twists in this one, firstly that Louis Cyphre is the Devil himself (Louis Cyphre = Lucifer, geddit?) and that Harry Angel is Johnny Favourite. Trust us, when you watch it, it’ll make sense!
In Martin Scorsese’s tense, gothic thriller, Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a US Marshall trying, along with his partner, Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo), to track down a patient named Rachel Solando after she escaped from a mental hospital. Except Daniels isn’t really a US Marshall – he’s a patient at Ashcliffe Hospital, and the search for Rachel (his wife whom he had murdered) is just an elaborate stunt put on by the doctors to help him play out his psychosis and accept the truth.
The intense and disturbing horror from Adrian Lyne features Tim Robbins as a Vietnam vet haunted by flashbacks of his life. Throughout the movie the audience is asked to work out what is real and what is hallucination – except it all is. Everything we see in Jacob’s Ladder is what Jacob experiences in his final seconds after he is bayonetted by a member of his own unit and killed. An ingenious twist, but not an original one, as it’s copied from an old Twilight Zone episode titled 'An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge'.
Dead Man’s Shoes
Paddy Considine plays Richard, a former paratrooper who returns to his home town vowing revenge on the thugs who tormented and abused his mentally-impaired brother Anthony (Toby Kebbell) in this searing drama from Shane Meadows. All through the movie, we see Richard talking to Anthony in an abandoned farm near the town. Only at the end of the movie we discover that Anthony hanged himself and that Richard has been alone the whole time, and talking to a vision of his dead brother.
What’s your favourite movie twist? Tweet us @Cineworld