One of the favorite gimmicks of modern cinema these days is to deliver an unexpected turn at the end of our favorite movies. Whether one of our favorite supporting characters is almost killed, or we discover that one of those seemingly great supporting characters was guilty of killing our favorite leads’ parents, or we discover that the guy we thought was the bad guy all along was more of a triple agent really looking out for the best interests of our main character. At this point, we certainly expect the twist at the end. What we don’t normally expect is when writers are so confident in the shocking value of their twist that they foreshadow it like crazy and leave spoilers early in the movie for you to discover long after you’ve watched the movie through.
What’s weird is that if we all had firm grasps of story structures and a keen eye for distinguishing sarcasm from dramatic irony, we’d be able to see these foreshadowing spoilers from a mile away. And sometimes, we do figure it out before the writers intend us to when writers get just a bit too cocky. But a lot of times, we miss the spoiler even though it’s screaming at us to prepare ourselves for the climax of the film. Let’s reveal the not-too-discreet hiding places of spoilers that were hiding in plain sight in fifteen of our favorite movies.
Oh, and we really shouldn’t have to say it, but for good measure… spoilers ahead. Obviously.
15. Star Trek Into Darkness
Star Trek Into Darkness doesn’t exactly start off slowly. We’re thrown right into the middle of a dire mission wherein Spock nearly sacrifices himself to ensure the discreet nature of his mission and to save a young planet in an emergency. Shortly after, Starfleet Academy is attacked by an unknown terrorist threat, and our beloved Captain Pike is slaughtered. When our protagonist, Jim, approaches Marcus in order to gain permission to cross into Romulan territory in order to track down the terrorist, we’re so preoccupied with him getting the okay that we don’t realize Marcus is being very obvious about his intentions. He shows Kirk all the Starfleet ships in models on his desk, ending with a goliath of a ship that Marcus mysteriously doesn’t talk about (and ends up being the ship he attacks Jim with), though he does mention just how interesting a war with Romulus would be… then, he okays the mission. Had we been paying attention, we’d be screaming for Jim NOT TO GO!
14. Total Recall
We don’t really know why Total Recall got remade because the movie tells you exactly from the start what to expect. The only real question that anyone can have throughout the movie is “Is our protagonist really experiencing this, or is it a dream?” In the movie, people escape their monotonous lives by entering a virtual reality hypnotic experience that enables the “dreamer” to live out their fantasies. As our protagonist, played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original, is about to enter his dream, the aid assisting him lays out exactly what will happen, both to Arnold and, in effect, to us: “You’ll get the girl, kill the bad guys, and save the entire planet.” Can we really be surprised when Arnold does exactly that? Even if we’re unsure if the entire thing wound up being a dream or not, at least we knew from the start exactly what to expect.
13. Saw 3D
We all should’ve predicted Gordon’s return as a bad guy in Saw 3D from a mile away. For beginners, if someone doesn’t actually eat it in a Saw movie, it’s likely that that character’s been kept alive for a reason — rarely has anyone survived Jigsaw’s antics without a reason or purpose for them to live. Secondly, Gordon shows up very early in the movie after we haven’t seen him in ages, talking in a self-help group therapy session for those who’ve been made victims to Jigsaw and all of his dangerous games — sketchy, right? Where’s he been? Audience members had to know that an actor this famous and a character this important wouldn’t have been brought back just for one scene. If you didn’t guess from the moment after you saw him that he would be involved in Jigsaw’s antics, you missed a really big and fairly obvious spoiler.
12. Dark Knight Rises
While we’re on the subject of actors being too famous to be billed in cameo appearances, we all got an eerie feeling when we saw that Marion Cotillard was being cast in Dark Knight Rises. She was billed as a seemingly meaningless character named Miranda Tate, one that no one knew from the comics. As we watched the early stages of the movie, we should’ve gotten suspicious when we learned she had insider knowledge into WayneTech that literally no one else had; she took an odd interest in Bruce’s memories of his parents, and it was pretty weird that Bane didn’t want her killed. We had every reason to know early on that Miranda wasn’t who she said she was but was Talia Al Ghul, though it was kind of a bummer when we all figured it out since Christopher Nolan denied vehemently that he’d involve Talia in the series, and it kind of made Bane out to be a badass sidekick… again…
Norman Bates was a weird guy from the very start of Hitchcock’s Psycho. He just had a way about him: a creepy smile, an odd confidence, and something that looked like a secret hiding just below the surface. Marion Crane, the tenant of his motel that eventually meets an ugly end in her shower, sits down for a conversation with Norman after she just overheard a grisly and emotional abusive argument between Norman and (what seems to be) his mother. Norman laughs off Marion’s concerns and says, “She’s as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.” Little did we realize at the time that Norman was absolutely right — because his mother was just as dead and stuffed as one of his taxonomic decorations! It was the perfect bit of Hitchcock foreshadowing — enough to draw our attention and to remember after learning of the huge twist at the end of the movie but nothing that spoiled things too soon.
10. The Village
The Sixth Sense definitely had to be M. Night Shyamalan‘s best movie because no one expected his big twist at the end of the story. After that, we all knew to watch out for a twist, but we didn’t always know when it would come. If Shyamalan has a runner-up for best twist, it has to be with The Village. We all expected that the biggest twist must’ve been when we discovered that the monsters in the woods surrounding the colonial village were really just elders dressing up and scaring the villagers into staying put in the village, but few of us immediately questioned why elders would wish to do that. It wasn’t until the end, when Ivy stumbles out of the woods and we discover the story has taken place in modern times, that we realize the townspeople were being trapped in colonial conditions intentionally. However, we ought to have figured it out from the start! In the opening credits, a Pennsylvania town is shown that’s never mentioned again in the story. We should’ve figured out that the village was located near this Pennsylvanian town!
9. The Prestige
This movie, with its magic, mystery, and betrayal, was absolutely confusing the first time we watched it all the way through. We were just as lost as Hugh Jackman‘s character. How was Alfred Borden performing all of his tricks? How was it even possible? And why did he seem so temperamental, and why did it feel like we were missing some huge part of the story? Because at the end, it’s revealed that Alfred worked in secret with his identical twin brother. However, we could have guessed early on that this was the case, as Michael Caine‘s character practically lays it out for us in a monologue describing how magic tricks work: in it, he describes that there always has to be a clever trick in which something ordinary becomes extraordinary, and how doubles and secret duplicates (or clones) are what makes the tricks work. It’s exactly what Angler tries to do in literally cloning himself, though he was never able to achieve the success that a simple twin could deliver.
When a shark is terrorizing a small town’s beaches and eating kiddos and babes alike, a team of unlikely heroes sets out on a rinky-dink boat to kill the giant water-bound beast. They bring along with them a series of tools that they and audiences alike are quite sure won’t be up to snuff to take down this monster. In retrospect, we all should’ve taken more notice when Cooper elected to bring with him a random tank of compressed air (why he had it? psht, we don’t remember). When Brody questions Cooper and asks why he decided to bring that along, he answers that none of them know what the shark would do with it: “Might eat it, I suppose.” Well, do you remember how Jaws ends? The tank of compressed air is shoved down the shark’s throat until someone shoots it, and the shark literally explodes. Nothing like a little dramatic irony to spoil a movie!
7. Planet of the Apes
Nowadays, this movie is spoiled for young viewers years before they actually get around to watching it. When strange things were happening in the classic movie, Planet of the Apes, we kind of took things for granted that strange things were bound to happen; after all, an astronaut just crash-landed on a planet where monkeys were running the show and humans were on display in cages. But we stopped noticing some of the things that weren’t odd, which was even odder: where did human-like relics and objects, such as baby dolls, come from? And why didn’t it strike any of us or even George Taylor as odd that the apes all spoke English, not some alien language? We should’ve known from fairly early on that these monkeys, which, by the way, were not alien to Earthlings and were the early evolutionary version of mankind itself, had taken over the Earth that we know so well.
6. No Country for Old Men
Early on in the 2007 crime thriller period piece, No Country For Old Men, Llewelyn Moss (played by Josh Brolin) is seen out on a hunting excursion, attempting to bring down some elk. If you remember rightly, he gets one in his sights and fires well, but he winds up only wounding the animal and is unable to completely bring it down or kill it. Well, so goes the rest of the movie and his pursuit of the criminal Anton Chigurh (played by Javier Bardem); while Llewelyn is almost always just on his tail and is hot in his tracks and even gets close to killing him sometimes, he’s always quite unable to put Anton down completely. The pursuit even ends in his death as he’s trying to beat out the criminality of this unbeatable foe. The hunting scene was a beautiful example of dramatic foreshadowing and is still used today in film analysis classes for collegiate level film enthusiasts studying the best cinematic structures.
5. Shutter Island
In order to explain how this movie was spoiled over and over again before we had any idea what was going on, we’ve got to start at the end. At the conclusion of the movie, we discover that Teddy (played by DiCaprio) killed his wife after she murdered their children, then suffered severe post-traumatic stress disorder that involves hallucinations and forged scenarios, which allow him to come to terms with all of their deaths. So his therapist (played by Ruffalo) believes the only way for Teddy to overcome these hallucinated scenarios is to play them out and force him to confront reality. With this in our minds, it’s clear from the start why things don’t make sense from Teddy’s perspective. Chuck is clumsy with his gun and holster, which is uncharacteristic of a so-called detective; Teddy doesn’t have the permissions and access to do what he wants, which seems shady; and Chuck seems to impede Teddy’s “investigation” when things seem dangerous, which doesn’t add up.
4. Final Destination
We all walked into the movie theater pretty clear on the fact that we were about to watch a lot of teens die in a lot of grisly and gory ways; that much we could determine from the trailer alone. However, we didn’t know exactly what would happen to each and every character, but we should’ve as we waited through the opening credits. While we ignored actor names popping up over spooky looking images, we were ignoring the mega-spoiler for the entire film! The images in the opening credits depict loosely how each and every character would die: the shadow of a hanging doll, spinning blades in a fan that look pretty sharp and dangerous, a picture of a guillotine that might chop off somebody’s head, an image of what looks like a person lying down and being stabbed in the chest. It’s all laid out in advance for us!
3. Spider-Man 3
We’ve talked about dramatic irony, but do you know what it is? It’s essentially when someone says early on in a story that “it would be bad if ___ happened,” and then later, that thing happens. It’s the most obvious form of foreshadowing, and it’s just about what happened in Spiderman 3. When Harry, dressed up in his dear deceased dad’s old Green Goblin costume, attacks his known friend, Peter Parker, as Spiderman, an accident happens and Harry incurs a big injury, leaving him with amnesia. After Peter and M.J. leave his hospital room, the nurse tells Harry he has nice friends — to which, Harry answers, “I’d die for them.” When someone in a movie drops a line that serious, we should know that it’s going to happen. And lo and behold, Harry did sacrifice himself in a battle with The Sandman and Venom to save his good old buddies.
2. 21 Jump Street
The biggest plot turn in the remake of 21 Jump Street starring Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill was that the original star of the TV series, Johnny Depp, still made a big appearance. Johnny Depp is actually a character throughout the entirety of the movie, but he’s disguised as a member of the villain’s gang, wearing a wig and a fake beard and even a prosthetic nose. When the two young cops confront the gang for drug use in a public park early in the movie, Depp’s disguised character mocks them, saying, “If you’re cops, then I’m in the DEA.” Well, as it turns out, Depp and his old pal (played by Peter DeLuise) are DEA agents taking years undercover to infiltrate the intricate drug-running gang in Los Angeles. Too bad we didn’t take Depp’s word for it and figure it out sooner — and it’s also too bad that they didn’t rejoin the series in a way that could have lasted through the sequels.
1. Shaun of the Dead
Shaun of the Dead is one of those wonderful parodies of genres that’s able to remain a part of the genre while mocking it. Just as Cabin in the Woods mocks horror movies while also being a horror movie, Shaun of the Dead made fun of every zombie movie ever — while also being one of the best zombie movies we’ve seen in a while. However, one of our favorite parts is that the whole movie is essentially described for us when we didn’t even realize it when Danny gives Shaun a plan for a night of shenanigans: “We’ll have a Bloody Mary first thing (the first zombie that attacks them is named Mary), have a bite at the king’s head (Shaun’s rotten stepdad gets a bite taken out of his head), a couple (aka, Liz’s friends) at the little princess (aka, Liz herself), stagger back here — bang, back at the bar for shots (the same bar they end up in, taking shots at zombies pushing in through the windows).”
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