The 10 best movie twists of all time
There is nothing like a movie with a plot twist. Twist endings are entertainment’s very own roller coaster ride powered by disbelief and torn preconceptions.
The best come from nowhere. So while everyone loved Sixth Sense, did anyone really not see it coming?
So which movies provide the most g-force intensified loop-the-loop and mind-altering misdirection? Read on to find out.
10. The Mist
Not many people will agree, but the best kind of twists are the ones that make the movie bigger than the sum of its parts.
The Mist twist, to this day, makes me cringe in sympathy.
The changing themes from horror to science fiction, from science fiction to societal breakdown all lead to an outcome that darkens what would be a typical Stephen King tale.
It’s brutal, out of context and almost jarring. It is so out-of-the-blue and redefines the movie immediately. It’s worth watching for the end alone.
When running through a checklist of movie typecasting, you’ll often see the name Denzel Washington and the role of detective hand in hand. So far, so obvious for Fallen.
Fallen then throws exhibit A into the mix, the supernatural. Denzel’s detective is in a battle against a body possessing demon. It’s not unique but it’s something different for the Equalizer to take on.
Then the twist rears its horny head. In a bleak ending, Denzel takes the possessed to a remote cabin to first commit murder and secondly commit suicide. Well, it was never going to end with a demon behind bars, right?
At least good prevails. Nope. It’s always novel when the good guy loses and only adds to the twists.
He’s lying there the whole time!
It was the film that created the torture-porn genre. A genre that mostly put graphic and gruesome acts above character development and story arcs.
The importance of Saw’s twist cannot be downplayed. Without it, would the film been such a success? There is no doubt the twist elevates the movie.
The mastermind of it all, being in the room, playing dead is so cunning and clever that it spawned countless sequels and an entire sub-horror genre.
7. Donnie Darko
Okay, so is Frank, the life-sized rabbit, actually death?
The film released in 2001, and there are still lingering questions about what the heck it all means.
Regardless, the film was delightfully dark, weird and delivered a twist that left a heavy question.
Was it his self-conscious dealing with his own death?
That’s a big question for what plays out like a dark teen science fiction thriller. It’s even stranger that more answers can be found the more you re-watch.
Donnie Darko is one of those rare films where knowing the twist doesn’t hinder, but rather allows you to look for much-needed answers.
By the time the movie ends you’re not sure what was real, what happened and what it all meant for the characters. It sounds terrible but is, in fact, a masterpiece.
Every character is fearful of losing reality. The environments look real and then change as if a dream. Both are weaved together to create an endless series of questions and possibilities.
It’s when you start to question “what next?” that the twists begin and never end.
The greatest twist is that questions snowball without answers. By the end, all you’re left with is an endless spinning top and the uncertainty of when reality stopped and the subconscious dream began.
5. The Usual Suspects
Anyone that tells you they could telegraph the twist in The Usual Suspects is full of baloney. Beware, spoilers are ahead.
The smart money was on it being Gabriel Byrne’s Keaton. It could have been the lawyer Kobayashi, played by Pete Postlethwaite. Heck, by the time the reveal came around I even considered Detective Kujan, it sounds a little Turkish right?
It’s that moment of unknowing that the reveal leaps forth. The penny drops, or in this case, the mug. As it breaks the twist hits you in the face like a heavy, well-placed uppercut.
The fact every piece on Detective Kuzan’s board is quickly fired through to reveal it was Spacey’s limping Verbal all along. The rug is pulled from under your feet, and while in free-fall this crime boss Keyser Söze walks away — like that, he’s gone.
It’s THE ending that trumps most other endings. And to boot, it’s a beast of a twist that’ll never be recreated so perfectly.
4. The Game
Michael Douglas has been in some absolutely great films and delivered some masterful performances. Everyone talks about his role as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, but the banker he plays in The Game is far more memorable.
In 128 minutes of screen time, Douglas is dragged from pillar to post, from death-defying scene to the cusp of suicide. It’s a nonstop thriller that gives no clues to where it’s heading.
What makes The Game a top-five movie is its roller coaster of an ending, which goes from tragic to both funny and uplifting.
3. From Dusk Till Dawn
Going into From Dusk Till Dawn knowing nothing about it is like going blindfolded to a theme park and having someone else just lead you from ride to ride. You just have no idea what is coming.
Obviously, if you go in informed then the moment it turns from glamorized villains to blood-soaked vampire flick is lost. The question is, what else feels like two movies in one, both hinged by a twist?
The transition should be jarring, but it feels natural with these characters on screen. That is all the more bizarre when you look back and consider the characters. A priest, two teens and at that point, TV heartthrob George Clooney.
How it works remains baffling and it remains one of the coolest twists I never saw coming.
2. The Prestige
Talk about magic tricks. The Prestige is an amazing movie that positions magic between two extremes — science, and suggestion.
The movie then goes about swinging a giant hammer between the two while giving you twist-concussion and shock-treatment throughout.
If you haven’t watched The Prestige stop reading. Go watch it. Yes, right now. If you have, you’ll know the twists and why it belongs at number two.
It’s not just a great story with great characters, including David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. It’s also an absolutely fantastic story that turns good to bad, bad to the innocent. And that’s before you consider any of the twists, which would be doing you a disservice to talk about here.
Watch it and be amazed.
1. Fight Club
The first time you see Fight Club, it’s an event, not a movie.
Edward Norton and Brad Pitt set the screen alight in what begins as an unusual friendship and end with mind grenades exploding, splitting your preconceptions across walls.
So what if it’s stylish and sophisticated on a level that was unheard of in 1999?
So what if the characters are amazing and the story, an alarming social commentary that alters your mind more so than Inception and The Matrix combined?
This list is about plot twists and twist endings, and that is why Fight Club is number one. The moment you realize Norton and Pitt are the same person you auto-eject into amazement.
This is where the social commentary fills those holes left by the mind grenades. Some movies are smart, slick and mind altering. Some are just the smartest in the room.
Fight Club inspired a generation of movie makers and quotes. It will be forever remembered.
Honorable mentions go to Shutter Island, Memento and American Psycho. Each of these are deserving of a place on this list but did not make it because I’m Tyler Durden.