What is it that we love about movies? Each person has their own response to this question as everyone is drawn to a particular film for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you enjoy the acting of a particular actor. Maybe the style of films produced by a certain director catch you the right way. Or, perhaps the genre of film is just the kind of thing you love to sit back and take in on a lazy weekend evening. Whatever the reason, people love heading to the theatre to watch them, downloading them to watch at home or buying actual hard copies of DVD or Blu-Ray to build a collection.
When you think of it, there are some pretty bad films out there. You know, the ones where the acting is terrible, the special effects are laughable and the writing is so poor you are left wondering how on earth this thing got made into an actual film. Then there are those films that pull us in, have us on the edge of our seat or wanting to watch it over and over again. These successful films have some fantastic writing and acting and a director who is able to make everything just work. This can make all the difference between producing a film like The Godfather, Shawshank Redemption and The Dark Knight or one like Jersey Girl, Glitter and Jack and Jill.
There are many things that can make a movie stand out. One of the biggest is the addition of a major twist in the story. This usually shocks audiences and catches them totally off-guard. The following looks at 15 of the biggest and most mind-blowing movie twists. These films were all good to begin with but received a real boost when the story took a sudden and unexpected turn that left audiences wondering what the heck just happened.
***Major Plot Spoilers Ahead***
This 1995 crime thriller follows two detectives, played by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, as they try and track down a sadistic serial killer. The killer, played by Kevin Spacey, provides an interesting and gruesome trail of crimes thanks to the fact he kills his victims in a method which reflects the seven deadly sins. Nearing the end of the film, audiences were no doubt thrown off when Spacey turns himself in, apparently giving up and willing to show the detectives where his victims are. In a hard twist, Spacey has actually lured the detectives out to the middle of nowhere so a delivery man could deliver a box containing the head of Brad Pitt’s wife. The wife had been killed out of envy and Spacey completes his list of sin-based murders when Brad Pitt shoots him to death, fueled by wrath.
14 Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
The 1980 sequel to the smash hit Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back is a much darker film than the first, which refreshingly shows that the good guys don’t always win. Among the various storylines, audiences watched as Luke travelled to Dagobah and learned the Force from Jedi master Yoda. Impatient, Luke sets off to help his friends and ends up walking into a trap set by Darth Vader. The two enjoy a long light saber fight which ends with Luke getting his hand cut off. With things seeming bleak and with no way out, Vader drops a bombshell that no one (at the time) saw coming. Vader was Luke’s father. The event was a big twist in the story and added a more complicated element that would be resolved in 1983’s Return of the Jedi.
Psycho is considered an American horror classic and one of Alfred Hitchcock’s best films ever. The movie is centered on the Bates Motel and its proprietor, Norman Bates. Audiences know that Norman is strange but overwhelming evidence suggest it is his mother who is the real problem. After all, we hear her arguing with Norman, see her murder Marion in the shower and we’re pretty sure it was her that killed the private detective in the house. Or was it? In a shocking twist, we later find out that Norman’s mother has been dead for a long time and it is, in fact, Norman who is doing all the killing. He dug his mother’s body up and dressed up like her when he was killing.
12 Fight Club
In 1999, Edward Norton took on the role of a travelling businessman who suffered from insomnia. During one trip he befriends a man named Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt. The two decide they like beating the hell out of each other and form a ‘Fight Club’ (cue Peter Griffin-style laughter) for people who want to take part in recreational fighting. Audiences are led to believe that Tyler is the wild and unpredictable one and that Norton is the quieter and weaker in the relationship. In a twist, it turns out both are the same person and Tyler was just a personality which came out when Norton thought he was asleep. By shooting himself in the face, Norton kills off Tyler.
11 Secret Window
It’s fitting that after Fight Club we should bring up Johnny Depp’s Secret Window. This 2004 thriller sees writer Mort Rainey, played by Depp, suffer a breakdown when he discovers his wife is cheating on him. Mort heads to a cabin where he suffers from writers block. One day he is confronted by a creepy farmer, John Shooter, who accuses Mort of plagiarizing his work. For much of the film Shooter terrorizes Mort until audiences discover they are the same person. Shooter is a personality created by Mort which allows him to perform all sorts of illegal activities in order to cope with his troubled personal life – even killing his ex-wife and her lover in the process.
10 The Village
Anyone familiar with the works of M. Night Shyamalan weren’t surprised that there was a big twist in this 2004 film. Many people, however, were totally surprised when it was revealed. The Village follows life in a 19th century Pennsylvania settlement. The area is surrounded by forests and the population, believing there are monsters lurking, never venture beyond the barrier of lanterns and towers meant to keep the monsters at bay. When one of the characters ventures off to find medicine, audiences learn it’s actually present day and the village is a special commune set up in a wildlife reserve meant to be secluded from the rest of society.
9 The Others
In this 2001 film, Nicole Kidman plays Grace Stewart, the mother of two children who live in a mansion which they believe is haunted by spirits. Grace’s daughter draws a picture of the four ‘ghosts’ she says she has seen in the house numerous times. Despite her best efforts, Grace can’t seem to track down any of the intruders who are obviously existing in the house. Things come to a head when Grace and her two kids walk in on a séance. At the table are the four people the daughter had drawn a picture of and audiences quickly discover that Grace and the kids aren’t hearing and seeing ghosts; they are the ghosts. It turns out she had killed both her children before committing suicide many years before as a result of the grief she suffered when her husband failed to return from the war.
8 Citizen Kane
Orson Welles’ iconic film about a wealthy newspaper magnate, Citizen Kane follows the story of Jerry Thompson, a newspaper reporter, as he tried to track down the meaning of “Rosebud,” Charles Foster Kane’s final words. Thompson goes about interviewing prominent people in Kane’s past. Ultimately, he can come to no conclusion over what those final words mean. Audiences, on the other hand, discover in a twist at the end that Rosebud is the name given to Kane’s sled, a toy he used as a child and a symbol of a time when he had been happy with life.
7 Planet of the Apes
Based on a 1963 novel, Planet of the Apes was a critical and commercial success which spawned sequels and remakes over the following 50 years. Charlton Heston plays astronaut George Taylor who, along with his crew, crashes into a strange planet. Here they encounter a race of super powerful and smart apes who rule the planet which includes rather primitive humans. Enslaved, Taylor tries to escape and eventually negotiates a deal where the apes let him and another female captive head off for freedom. In a twist, they come across the remains of the Statue of Liberty proving this strange planet is in fact Earth – or what remains of it after a devastating thermonuclear war led to the eventual demise of the human race.
6 Les Diaboliques
This 1955 French film set the standard for big film twists. Les Diaboliques centers on Michel and Christina, a husband and wife who run and own a boarding school. Michel is not a good husband and has a mistress, Nicole. The two women join up in a plan to get rid of Michel by drowning him and making it look like an accident. Unfortunately for them, the body disappears. Over the course of the movie, Christina hears and sees evidence that Michel is around but can never seem to find him. When his body reappears in the bathtub and ‘comes to life,’ Christina suffers a heart attack and dies. In a twist, the audience quickly learns that Michel and Nicole have been in on it from the start and the whole plan was to kill Christina. The two are arrested, but before the movie ends audiences get a second twist when they find out Christina has interacted with a local boy – well after she was supposedly dead.
5 The Descent
This 2005 horror film has a twist at the end that you only saw if you lived outside of the US. The movie follows the story of six friends who decide to do a little cave exploration. Travelling deep underground, the spelunkers are set upon by a group a fierce humanoid cave dwellers with a taste for flesh. As the story unfolds, the group are tracked down and eaten by the creatures as they desperately try to find a way out. Sarah, the primary character, appears to be successful in finally reaching the surface and escaping the horrible ending experienced by her friends. At least, that’s how American audiences saw it. The rest of the world saw the real ending where Sarah awakens to find that her escape was all a dream and that she was still deep in the caves. Darkness is around her and the sound of the crawlers grows louder as the film heads to credits.
4 American Psycho
Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, an investment banker in 1980s Manhattan. Living the decadent lifestyle, Bateman ends up going on a murderous rampage killing and assaulting coworkers, friends, prostitutes and complete strangers. As the film nears its end, audiences believe the end is coming for Bateman as bodies are everywhere and he has even left a confession about his activities on his lawyer’s answering machine. Audiences get a strange twist when it appears that Bateman’s horrendous actions were largely figments of his imagination. The only evidence that actually exists to suggest he is a psycho are the drawings in his journal.
This 2004 horror film spawned several sequels and set a new standard for the genre. Saw seemed to be a standard style horror film with audiences introduced to two men (Adam and Lawrence) chained in a strange bathroom seemingly destined to die. Between them lay a bloody corpse. Audiences soon learned that nothing was ever as straightforward as it seemed, as their ordeal involved a range of quests, issues and challenges that all fit together – much like a jigsaw puzzle. Saw, and its sequels, were loaded with twists and unpredictability. Audiences found this out in the original when the corpse that had lay on the bathroom floor motionless for the entire movie got up. The ‘corpse’ was the Jigsaw killer who was actually John, a patient who had been treated earlier by Lawrence.
2 The Sixth Sense
Another M. Night Shyamalan thriller which you know translates into big twists. The Sixth Sense follows the story of Dr. Malcolm Crowe, played by Bruce Willis. Crowe is confronted one night by an old patient who shoots him before committing suicide. Fast forward and we find Dr. Crowe, still alive, in the process of helping a young boy, Cole Sear. Cole tells Crowe that he sees dead people and the little boy then proceeds to interact with the dead, solve crimes and mend relationships. His work complete, Dr. Crowe returns home where audiences are handed the big twist. Crowe is dead and has been since getting shot in the opening scene of the film. Cole could see dead people which is why he could see and talk to Dr. Crowe the whole time.
1 The Usual Suspects
In 1995, Kevin Spacey took on the role of a weak, crippled small-time crook named Roger Kint – aka Verbal. He is one of two survivors picked up after a firefight involving a legendary and near-mythical drug lord named Keyser Soze. For most of the film, audiences hear things from Verbal’s point of view as he is interrogated by police. Having filled in the detectives on ‘everything’ he knows, Verbal is cut loose as no one believes such a cripple could possibly have any value in a case of such magnitude. As Verbal is released, police get a sketch of what Keyser Soze looks like thanks to the other survivor who is under detention in the hospital. Audiences are shocked to learn that Spacey was Soze the whole time. The character of Verbal was simply a ploy to lose the cops. As the detectives rush out of the station to apprehend Verbal, the last we see is Soze, free of his crippling limp, getting into a car only to disappear into the city.