For all us movie lovers out there, there is nothing better than a surprising plot twist. As we settle down to watch a great movie which we think is going along in a certain direction, then bam! The movie completely changes and everything we thought was happening is very different. Heroes become the villains, people who are seemingly alive are in fact dead, or these people and characters don’t even exist at all.
Unfortunately, plot twists have become so common in movies these days that, more often than not, a shocking or surprise ending is tacked onto a movie just to make it a bit more interesting. This makes the movie seem false and even overly complicates things in some cases, which is not the point of a plot twist. A plot twist should be a subtle undertone to a movie and the revelation at the end should have us talking about it with excitement for weeks afterwards. Some movies get it right and now we look at 15 movie plot twist that we all still talk about to this day.
Warning: If you haven’t seen any of these movies, this article contains huge spoilers.
15. Now You See Me
The first entry delves into the realm of magic and illusions. Now You See Me follows an FBI agent, played by Mark Ruffalo, who is on the hunt for four magicians who pull off daring bank heists in front of live audiences. The four magicians, led by Jesse Eisenberg, have been put together by a mysterious master magician who wants to get back at a rich insurance tycoon, played by Michael Caine. The magicians go about taking the tyrant’s money as the FBI get closer and closer to them until it looks like the magicians will be caught.
The twist in this movie is that the mysterious magician that put these guys together is Ruffalo’s FBI agent. He had been pulling the strings all along, both magicians and FBI agents. And his reason was for revenge.
When you have Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, and Kevin Spacey in a movie together, you know it’s going to be good. Seven definitely didn’t disappoint us. When a serial killer starts killing people that match the seven deadly sins, two detectives work together to try and stop him before he kills again. After coming close to catching the killer, they realize that there are still two more murders left in order for the killer to finish his deadly sins. With a few leads, the detectives are getting close, but to their surprise, the killer hands himself in to the police. But he has a request: the detectives have to take him to a certain place and then he will confess to everything. When they get to this place, a delivery driver drops off a package.
The twist for this movie is that, inside the box, is the head of Pitt’s wife. The last two sins are of wrath and envy. The killer is envious of Pitt’s character and the killer wants him to shoot him in order to be wrath. Once he finds out his wife was also pregnant, Pitt blows the killer away and completes the sins.
Next, we come to a classic piece of movie horror history in the form of Psycho. When a young woman is on the run for embezzling money from her boss, she comes across a hotel and decides to hide out. There she meets Norman Bates, who runs the hotel with his mother. Then comes that infamous shower scene in which the woman is killed by Norman’s mother. Following this, Norman starts to lose control as he can’t contain his mother and her crazy actions.
Most people know the twist to this movie, even if they’ve never seen it. Norman Bates’ mother is long dead, in fact he killed her years ago. But he keeps her body in his room in a wheelchair and takes on her personality in some seriously messed up multiple personality disorder episodes. This movie has become synonymous with shocking twists and paved the way for many horror movies to do similar twists.
12. The Others
Our next entry is a clever play on the traditional haunted house ghost story. The Others sees Grace, played by Nicole Kidman, become a recluse in the aftermath of World War II. Along with her children, who are severely photosensitive and can’t go outside at all, they stay in their house and live out a quiet life. That is until some servants turn up and then some strange and spooky things start to happen. Grace is convinced there are things living in the house which she refers to as “The Others.” To top things off, Grace’s dead husband suddenly returns.
With all the strange things happening, Grace is pushed right to the edge. It turns out that Grace and her kids are “The Others” and the spooky goings on are new tenants moving into her house. The war and loss of her husband were too much for Grace so she smothered her children and then killed herself a long time ago.
11. Planet Of The Apes (1968)
The original, and many will say the best, version of The Planet Of The Apes is our next entry. As a group of astronauts, led by Charlton Heston, awake from a hibernated sleep, they discover they are on a different planet. What’s more interesting is that the planet doesn’t seem to be able to support life, but they’re wrong as Heston get’s captured by Apes, the dominant species of this planet. He’s put on trial, tortured, and treated like an animal until he escapes. Once he escapes he’s desperate to learn about where he is and tries to find a way home.
While running along the beach, Heston discovers the ruins of The Statue of Liberty and realizes that he is in fact on Earth, but just in the future. Mankind had destroyed everything a long time ago with a nuclear war and the apes are in charge now. This movie spawned several sequels, TV shows, and reboots but this movie, and its twist, is still the best.
10. Angel Heart
Mickey Rourke plays a private detective, Harry Angel, who is hired to track down a missing New Orleans musician named Johnny Favorite. His employer is a strange man known as Louis Cypher, yes, we know how obvious that name is in hindsight, but at the time we didn’t make the connection! Cypher, played by Robert De Niro, drops a lot of clues to Angel about where he should start looking. Angel uncovers all sorts of crazy things and also, all the people that have information, keep showing up dead.
It turns out that Louis Cypher is the Devil and Harry Angel is Johnny Favorite. Favorite sold his soul to the devil but then stole the identity of Angel in order to hide from the Devil but now the Devil is here to collect what is his. It also turns out that Angel/Favorite killed all those people, had sex with his daughter, but then forgot about it.
9. The Sting
Following on from the huge success of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Robert Redford and Paul Newman teamed up once again to give us this classic tale of conmen. Set during the depression era, Redford and Newman play conmen who go after a crime lord and try to take his money. They set up a scam which involves rigging the outcome of horse racing, which in those days was announced over the radio. However, they get caught out. The crime boss isn’t happy and the cops come knocking on the door. Redford’s character is forced to betray his friends to the police, which Newman doesn’t like. A big shoot out occurs in which Newman is shot dead and the bad guys escape scot free.
From the very outset of this movie, twist and turns, bluffs and misdirections are everywhere. The final showdown has all been faked in order for the bad guys to think that they are dead. So no one really betrayed anyone, everyone’s alive and they get to keep all the money without any repercussions.
8. Primal Fear
Defense Attorney Martin Vail, played by Richard Gere, is hired to defend an altar boy, Aaron Stampler played by Edward Norton, who is being tried for murdering an Archbishop. During their meetings, Vale is convinced that Stampler is innocent, that is until a tape surfaces that show’s the Archbishop forcing Stampler to perform certain sexual acts. When Vale confronts Stampler with this evidence it’s clear that Stampler has a split personality and an angry and violent version of himself, Roy, comes out and confesses to the murder. The case goes to trial and the judge finds Stampler Not Guilty for reasons of insanity.
At the end of the movie, Vale visits Stampler in a hospital to inform him that he’s due for release. Stampler then tells Vale that he made the story up and he has no split personality and he killed the archbishop in cold blood. Vale then asks “There was no Roy?” To which Stampler replies “There was no Aaron.”
7. Shutter Island
A dark and gothic tale with our next entry, Shutter Island sees Detective Daniels, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, go to a remote island that is a prison for the mentally and criminally insane in order to find a missing woman that has killed her children. Once Daniels is inside the prison, other patients start to go missing and something just doesn’t seem right to him. He soon stumbles upon conspiracy after conspiracy which results in him finding a lighthouse in which lobotomies are carried out on the patients.
The twist in this movie is that Daniels is actually a patient in the institute. He had been put there when he killed his wife, he killed her because she killed their children. Daniels being a detective was all a charade so the doctors could see what he does and if he could begin to accept what he has done. It turns out that he can’t and he heads off to the lighthouse.
6. Empire Strikes Back
The second movie in the original Star Wars trilogy saw Luke Skywalker go off to find Jedi master Yoda in hopes that he will train him to be a real Jedi. Han Solo and Princess Leia head off for the city in the clouds. However, it’s a trap for Luke and Han and Leia are held prisoner. While training, Luke has a vision that his friends are in trouble and rushes off to save them which leads to the ultimate showdown between Luke and Darth Vader.
While they are fighting, Luke loses one of his hands and it looks like the end for Luke Skywalker. But the ultimate movie twist is about to come as Darth Vader confess to Luke that he is in fact his father. He wants Luke to join him on the dark side and rule the galaxy. Luke can’t take it any more and dives off the hanger and into a shaft, only to be rescued by Han.
5. The Crying Game
The Crying Game focuses on members of the IRA and their fight against the British. IRA foot soldier Fergus captures a British soldier, Jody, and is ordered to kill him if he doesn’t meet the demands of the IRA. Fergus however can’t go through with the killing and actually starts to befriend Jody. Jody confesses that he has a person in his life that he loves, Dil, and if anything happens to him, he makes Fergus promise that he will find her and tell her that Jody is dead. Jody dies by accident and true to his word, Fergus tracks down Dil but as soon as he meets her he falls in love and wants to leave the IRA.
The twist in this movie is a big one, no pun intended, and had us all open mouthed with shock. The twist in this movie actually comes early and the rest of the movie deals with it. So what’s the twist? Dil is actually a man.
4. The Sixth Sense
“I see dead people.” The movie that made director M. Night Shyamalan a star, The Sixth Sense followed a child psychologist as he takes on a new patient: a young boy that can, not only see dead people, but these dead people haunt him as they don’t realize they are dead. The two become close as he tries to help the young boy through what he feels is a psychological breakdown. The movie is full of subtle shocks and scares and draws us in to the ultimate conclusion.
Considering that Bruce Willis’ character was shot in the very first scene of this movie, the ending still had everyone talking about it for months, and years, after. The twist with this movie is that Willis has been dead for the entire movie.
3. Fight Club
First rule of fight club: No one talks about fight club! An unhappy office worker, played by Edward Norton, becomes addicted to support group meetings for terminal patients. Soon he meets a girl, Marla, and then Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt. The three of them become close, and with Durden in particular, he builds a close friendship. The two of them form an underground Fight Club in which men basically beat the crap out of each other. Durden then turns the club into a terrorist organization before he disappears.
We all know the twist in this one: there is no Tyler Durden and he is in fact a figment of Norton’s imagination and broken mind. Another one for the multiple personality twist. But it’s a great twist.
Momento focuses on Leonard, played by Guy Pearce, as he tries to track down the people that killed his wife. Unfortunately for him, the attack on his wife was so severe that he lost his memory and can’t form new ones. Because of this, the movie actually runs backwards with each scene being the one after the next rather than the one before. It does make sense when you watch it, honestly. So with the help of a cop, Leonard manages to track down his killer and take his revenge.
Because of the way this movie is shot and the story is told, there are many twists and turns but the biggest reveal is at the end. It turns out that his cop friend has been using his memory loss as an excuse to take out a load of bad guys and Leonard was actually the one who killed his diabetic wife.
1. The Usual Suspects
The number one entry on our list is one of the best movies ever made with arguably the greatest plot twist of any movie. The Usual Suspects sees a group of criminals that are constantly hounded by the police and pulled in for line ups. On one such line up, the gang get together and decide to do a job for the master criminal, and illusive, Keyser Soze. However, the heist goes wrong and Kevin Spacey’s character Kint, the dimwitted crook with a limp, gets called in for questioning. He tells the officers the story of what happened and who was to blame and then leaves the police station.
The twist here is the most famous twist in any movie as the officer who questioned Kint realizes that everything in his story is on bits of paper around his office and in fact none of it was true. As Kint walks away from the police station, his limp is gone and he jumps into a car and is gone forever.