There’s a beautiful moment that can happen while watching a movie, that usually comes during the second or third viewing of it. The moment when you notice something revealing that you didn’t notice before, a clue that, in many cases, hints about or even gives away a plot twist. Sure, highly intuitive viewers and liars might catch these on their first viewings, but when the clue is good, it’s almost impossible to detect right away. But in that moment when you do finally see it, you smile. You understand. You might say, “I like your style Mr. Screenwriter.” Probably not, but maybe. Either way, in that moment you feel smart, and you are. You’re very smart.
On the other side of the screen, the writers and directors try to place these clues in a way that they can hide in plain sight. When they’re too small, they’re only noticed by people who go through films frame-by-frame, and I have no time for those kind of people in my life. When they’re too large, they can ruin the movie worse than a Kristen Stewart cameo.
Here are 13 crazy plot clues place placed in movies that were done just right.
13. Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon
Clever fans were treated to a huge spoiler early on in this one. When the opening credits revealed that the film was again “Directed by Michael Bay,” they knew it would be a loud and obnoxious movie. But, for those who hung in there, there was another major clue dropped when, as Wheelie and Brains watch Star Trek, one of them asks, “Is this the one where Spock goes crazy?” Well, if you knew that Leonard Nimoy voiced (wow that’s difficult to say out loud) both Spock from Star Trek and Sentinel Prime, then you might have clued in that Sentinel Prime might go a tad cuckoo by the end of the film.
12. 21 Jump Street
When Schmidt and Jenko first try the H.F.S. drug, Jenko describes it as tasting like Cool Ranch Doritos. Right after, when the trippy-outies begin, Coach Walters runs into them carrying… you guessed it, a Sony Discman. No, no, just kidding, he was carrying Cool Ranch Doritos. But what does it all mean? Well, we can presume that because the coach likes the taste of Cool Ranch, that he made the drug taste like Cool Ranch chips. Or perhaps, he likes the taste of H.F.S. so much that he learned to love Cool Ranch because they tasted so similar. Or… maybe the people from Doritos just paid a bunch of money to get Cool Ranch chips in the movie as much as possible, even though that kind of shameful product placement is unlikely. But, if you’re ever looking for a light snack that packs a big flavorful punch, try Doritos Cool Ranch chips.
11. The Shawshank Redemption
When Red urges Andy to stop thinking about what’s waiting for him on the outside of prison, he calls his hope “sh!tty pipe dreams.” But those who have seen the ending of this great film might notice some clever word play here. You see Andy’s plan of escape is, in fact, a “sh!tty pipe dream” because he escapes through a sewage pipe and through poo. This is one of several neat little hints that Frank Darabont drops on his viewers, likely easier to catch on a second or third viewing than the first, but part of what makes this such a classic.
10. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
Even the most eagle-eyed viewers who caught that the two apples and one banana on Lt. Lois Einhorn’s desk were placed in a specific “bodily” position would have still been hard-pressed to predict how it all connected to the movie’s ending. While it was probably just passed off as bodily humor on your first watch-through, on a second viewing it is funny little nod to the big gender reveal at the end.
In the classic thriller Psycho, we learn that Norman Bates has an affinity for taxidermy through his large collection of stuffed birds. Though it might seem impossible to make the connection on a first-time viewing, Norman does give away quite a lot in an early discussion with Marion Crane. While trying to put Marion at ease, Norman says of his mother, “Why she’s harmless. She’s as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.” When we find out later that Mrs. Bates is very similar indeed to a stuffed bird, the meaning behind Norman’s strange comparison becomes quite clear.
The revelation in the third act which sees Cooper come full circle as the “ghost” which leads him on his journey may not have been as out of nowhere as you might think. In the beginning of the movie, after the voiceover ends, the first line that the young Murph speaks to Cooper tells us everything we really need to know: “I thought you were the ghost.” Spot on Murph, spot on.
The cheeky crew on the James Bond film Skyfall rolled the dice with a pretty big reveal during the opening credits, betting that their audiences would be lost in the sultry and dulcet tones of Adele‘s voice rather than looking for spoilers. Well they were wrong, and I want my money back. Nah, I didn’t catch it. Some keen-eyed viewers did though, spotting Judi Dench’s name superimposed over a gravestone and deducing that her character might get clapped-up in the film, and they were right.
6. The Matrix Reloaded
When Neo squares off against the Merovingian in the chateau scene, sharp-eared viewers are given vital information that reveals quite a lot about the ending. While it may not reveal the entire bombshell that the Architect drops on Neo when they meet at the end of The Matrix Reloaded, the Merovingian’s comments do explain that Neo is not the only “one” but actually one of several “ones,” not confusing at all. At first, when addressing Neo, the Merovingian states that “Your predecessors had much more respect.” Then, shortly after, he further states that, “I have survived your predecessors, and I will survive you.” Nearly an hour later, in the control room, when the Architect tells us that Neo is the sixth “one,” we say “yeah, yeah bro. We already know.”
5. The Usual Suspects
There’s a good chance that Turkish audiences were wondering what all the fuss was about with The Usual Suspects, while English-speakers were completely consumed by the mystery of, “Who is Keyser Soze?” This is because of an idiom in Turkish, “söze boğmak,” which means “to talk unnecessarily too much and cause confusion.” So clever Turkish viewers could very well have solved the mystery early on, connecting him with the character of “Verbal” Kint. This is reminiscent of “Vader” from Star Wars, which translates to “Father” in Dutch, or as the Dutchman Goldmember would say, Fahza.
4. Fight Club
Director David Fincher placed several well-hidden hints throughout Fight Club to help viewers clue in to the final twist, but perhaps none were as revealing, or as well hidden, as the payphone message. Displayed on the payphone in very small print is the sentence, “No incoming calls allowed.” Well when Tyler Durden calls the narrator right after this comes into view, the cleverest of the clever might have solved the puzzle right then and there. Or if you had read the book, you already knew the surprise ending anyways. Thanks, Obama.
3. Total Recall
As Quaid lies down in the chair preparing to delve into the Rekall program, the female in charge passes the information to her assistant causing him to make a comment that is often missed as merely background noise, but it’s very possible that it explains one of the most contentious endings in film. His line, “that’s a new one, blue sky on Mars,” may be nothing for most viewers, but when Quaid terraforms Mars at the end of the film and the beautiful blue sky is revealed, it seems likely that it was all just a dream, all just part of the program.
2. Jurassic Park
Long before we learned that the all-female dinosaur population of Jurassic Park were able to procreate because, like frogs, they can switch their genders as needed because, “life, uh, finds a way,” the audience was treated to a beautiful piece of symbolism in the helicopter ride to island. When faced with two “female-sided” seatbelts, Dr. Grant simply ties them together to make the seatbelt work. Brilliant Spielbaby, brilliant.
1. Shaun of the Dead
In what is probably the most amazing not-so-spoilish spoiler, the very first scene of Shaun of the Dead, a drunken conversation between Ed and Shaun, turns out to describe the entire plot of the film: “A bloody Mary first thing, a bite at the King’s Head, couple at the Little Princess, stagger back here and bang… back to the bar for shots.” First, the guys fight a bloody zombie named Mary in the backyard, then Shaun’s stepfather is bitten, then they meet the couple David and Diana at Liz’s apartment, then they stagger back home whilst pretending to be zombies, then they go back to the Winchester for a final zombie shootout. Cool Ranch.