The feeling you get after watching a great movie sticks with you for some time; that same feeling is greatly enhanced when the movie delivers a head spinning twist you never saw coming. People seem to feel the need to talk about those films that caught them off guard more so than others.
These shocking movie twists bring about passionate conversations: “I saw that coming a mile away” or “I knew it all along” is always met with disbelief. Regardless of the outcome, these conversations will continue to take place time and time again. There’s just something about being left shocked people can’t get enough of.
Countless films have been released over the years that attempted the twist ending met with varying degrees of success. What films have succeeded in doing the best job at tricking its viewers? What movie left you with mouth agape? Here’s our list of the most shocking plot twists you never saw coming.
14. High Tension
This gruesome horror movie pulls you through its blood-filled plot line one death at a time. From the first kill to the last, you’ll find yourself griping your seat, in hopes that the frail protagonist will manage to get away from the ruthless murderer who’s been wreaking havoc on all those in his path.
As the movie progresses, you find out the main character Marie has been the delusional killer all along, fixated with the urge to kill and mutilate her victims from the very beginning. This twist is dark and unforgiving, leaving the viewer feeling awkward and mortified.
The first entry in this modern horror franchise drew audiences in with its twisted and imaginative kills. Saw may have evolved into a gore fest that lacked substance, but the first movie introduced a shocking twist that nobody saw coming.
Amidst its unraveling mystery, the mastermind serial killer known as Jigsaw was lying down in plain sight during the entire movie, posing as a dead man. When killer Jigsaw aka John Kramer stood up at the end of the movie, it shocked everyone. Realising the killer was at the scene of the crime all along, ever viewer was left baffled; the ending will always be remembered as one of the most clever twists in horror movies.
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960’s classic Psycho could not be overlooked. Anthony Perkins’ role as Norman Bates was both eerie and fantastic, considering he played the role of two people. Audiences everywhere were convinced that the elderly mother Norma Bates, being mentally ill, was behind all the gruesome killings in the black and white classic.
But when the truth was revealed that Norma Bates had been dead for some time, and her son Norman had been responsible for all the killings, it sent shivers down people’s spines. Perkins’ impersonations of his mother added to his insanity as viewers put the pieces together in this horror classic.
11. Soylent Green
A dystopian setting is common for many Sci-Fi films, and this 1970s classic brought forth quite the twist among the hunger craze.
Suffering from overpopulation and depleted resources, a futuristic 2022 New York is desperate for food. The leading distributor of processed food rations, the Soylent Corporation, develops a new product called “Soylent Green”, said to be a high-energy plankton from the world’s oceans.
This new found life saver turns out to be the remains of human corpses, which shocked all those in the film just as much as those watching. This repugnant twist ending led to a shocking fate we humans hope to never endure.
10. Primal Fear
This crime thriller based on William Diehl’s 1993 novel follows the court case of Aaron Stampler, played by Edward Norton. Norton’s character is accused of murdering an Archbishop who allegedly forced him into performing sexual acts on other children. This controversial arrest grabs the attention of defence attorney Martin Vail – played by Richard Gere – who takes on the high-profile case for the spotlight.
However, shortly after meeting Aron, Vail believes his client is innocent. After a phenomenal performance by Norton who takes on multiple personalities throughout the film, his character is found innocent. The shocking twist is revealed in the last scene when Aron confesses to faking all of his multiple personalities. Vail is completely baffled, realizing he had been manipulated by a true killer.
9. Old Boy
Directed by Park Chan-Wook, this dark, mystery thriller will leave you feeling shocked and disturbed by the end. It begins with the imprisonment of lead character Oh Dae-su, who is locked in a hotel room for 15 years, without any idea of who is behind his captivity and why.
After his unexpected release, he falls in love with a young sushi chef in the midst of his search for vengeance. Once he finds the man responsible, Woo-jin, he is subjected to the horrifying, twisted truth behind his captivity. Oh Dae-su learns that the girl he has fallen in love with is his daughter; furthermore, Woo-jin is the same boy he spread rumours of incest about in school, which led to Woo0jin’s sister’s suicide. The whole imprisonment was an act of vengeance. This twist is dark and elaborate, leading to a slew of uncomfortable scenes.
Considering this entire movie plays out in reverse, it makes it that much harder to figure out the twist. This clever script written by Christopher Nolan is actually based on his younger brother Jonathan Nolan’s short story, “Memento Mori”. It follows the life of Leonard Shelby, who is searching for the man who raped and killed his wife; the thing is, he suffers from anterograde amnesia and is unable to store recent memories.
Because of his condition, Shelby tattoos clues on his body at the end of each day so when he wakes. up he has an ink trail to follow back to his prior leads. In the end, we learn Shelby had already caught the man who raped his wife and killed him, but because of his condition he doesn’t remember and continues to search for him. Even crazier is that Shelby is responsible for his wife’s death, due to an accidental insulin overdose. However, this twist is far more complex than explained and should be interpreted by the viewer.
7. The Prestige
Another Nolan film that left us slack jawed with its shocking ending twist, its star studded cast includes Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, David Bowie, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson and Andy Serkis, who all delivered stellar performances in this mysterious, magic-infused drama.
The non-linear storyline follows a slew of deaths and sabotages of rival magicians, leaving you guessing how the tricks were done and who is really behind all of this madness. In the end, you find out Christian Bale’s character Alfred Borden had a twin brother all along, making his tricks that much easier to pull off, and that Robert Angier – Hugh Jackman’s character – has been cloning himself with the help of Nikola Tesla so he could pull off his drowning act stress-free. The fact that this movie had two twists made it that much more shocking in the end.
This intense, crime thriller with touches of horror brings you along on the investigation of a serial killer who is picking off his victims using the seven deadly sins as inspiration. Detectives William R. Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt) chase this meticulous murderer on a roller coaster ride of puzzles and clues that the killer so graciously leaves behind at the scenes of his crimes.
As the movie nears its end, the killer, played by Kevin Spacey, surprisingly turns himself in, but not without an end goal. The killer still has two of the seven deadly sins left, so in order for the detectives to save the last two victims, Spacey requests both Mills and Somerset take him alone to the location of the last two victims.
The shocking twist is that detective Mills and the killer himself are the last two victims. Confident he has put together the master plan, Spacey reveals his villainous intentions, presenting detective Mills with a box containing his wife’s head, forcing the detective to complete the killer’s twisted masterpiece by shooting Spacey in the head.
5. Planet of the Apes
Academy award winning actor Charlton Heston stars as George Taylor, one of four astronauts who find themselves crash landed on an unknown planet in the far future in the Sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes. Shortly after they leave their ship, a squad of uniformed gorillas on horseback charge and capture them.
The confused yet terrified astronauts soon learn that the planet is controlled by various apes who can talk and think much like humans. Heston’s character manages to escape, eventually finding out that this ape world is actually Earth in the far future, long after a global thermonuclear war. Taylor then falls to his knees in shock and despair, infuriated with the inevitable fate mankind has doomed itself with.
4. The Sixth Sense
This supernatural thriller put M. Night Shyamalan on the map as one of the better known horror writers in film – sadly it was mostly downhill after that, but that’s for another list. The Sixth Sense follows the story of a little boy who can see and talk to ghosts – “I see dead people.” This little boy, played by Haley Joel Osment, is introduced to a child psychologist played by Bruce Willis.
Willis’s character, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, has just recovered from a bullet wound inflicted by a patient who shared a similar diagnosis as the ghost-seeing boy. The film is cleverly shot and leads the viewer to believe Willis’s character will eventually help the boy. But in the end, we learn Dr. Malcolm Crow has been dead all along and has only been able to talk to the troubled boy because of his rare ability to speak with ghosts.
3. Fight Club
With the hopes that Rosie O’Donnell didn’t ruin it for you, Fight Club has one of the most mind-boggling twists in movie history. The unnamed protagonist referred to simply as “Jack” is played by Edward Norton; the audience quickly learns that he is an everyday white collar nobody that hates his life…Until he meets Tyler Durden.
The movie spirals into a violent testosterone-driven dark comedy shortly after the introduction of Brad Pitt’s eccentric character. Upon meeting Mr. Durden, the protagonist seems to find his true calling with a Fight Club – kicking the sh*t out of people is sometimes the best therapy.
As the movie progresses, we come to find out Norton’s character has been Durden all along, and he has fabricated this alter ego to cope with his depressive state. Ultimately, the shock of everything resorts to his own death.
2. The Usual Suspects
Kevin Spacey fooled us all in the 1995 crime thriller The Usual Suspects. In the opening scene, we are introduced to an elusive man later known as Keyser Soze who shoots a wounded man and then sets fire to the docks where this murder took place. The movie revolves around the interrogations of five suspects, who may be involved in the murder from the first scene.
As the story unravels, many theories are presented, but the story told by Spacey’s character Roger “Verbal” Kint is most convincing. Spacey’s dialogue in the film is well written and manipulative, thus bringing us to the twist. “Verbal” Kint turns out to be the killer; not only did he fake his identity but he also faked his famous limp as well.
In the end scene, when Spacey walks out of the police station scot-free and transitions from a limp to a normal walk, viewers found themselves grinning to the realization of Verbal’s trickery, spawning one of cinema’s favorite antiheroes.
1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Known as one of the greatest movie sequels in the history of cinema and arguably the best installment of the series, it should come to no surprise that Star Wars: Episode V made the number one spot on our list. After the destruction of the Death Star in A New Hope, Luke and the rest of the Rebel Alliance take refuge at a new base on the icy planet Hoth. With Darth Vader and the Emperor Palpatine hunting the galaxy for revenge, this movie takes off right away.
Its stunning visuals and epic space battles blew the minds off all those lucky enough to see it in theaters. But it wasn’t just the visuals that made this movie the classic it is; the story is much deeper and mysterious this time around, with the introduction of Yoda and the focused on Luke’s training to become a true Jedi Knight. But the infamous twist towers above all else. As Luke takes on his arch nemesis Darth Vader in an epic lightsaber battle, he learns Vader is actually his father!
This shocked everyone including Luke so much so that people refused to believe the bitter truth. George Lucas really stunned everyone with this one; it is and forever will be remembered as one of the biggest twists of all time.