A film’s ending can make or break it – and a convincing and compelling twist can elevate a good movie to a great one. Films that have twists have to balance the element of surprise with foreshadowing throughout the film – if a twist is effective the viewer shouldn’t see it coming, but afterward, they should be able to see how the twist effortlessly fits into the rest of the film.
On the flip side, a bad twist can ruin a film. If a twist is too obvious, then the viewer will be bored by the outcome; if the twist is too far-fetched, then the viewer won’t believe the end of the film. Either way, the viewer’s experience is taken out of the narrative of the movie, and they are critical of the story rather than enjoying it.
The films on this list are not necessarily bad films – in fact, some of them are great films. The twists themselves aren’t necessarily bad either, although that depends on how you define “bad”. These twists may be very emotional in the moment for the audience, and they can be clever or shocking. However, when the events of the film as a whole are examined retroactively, the elements of the plot simply do not make sense. The twists create problems in the narrative that cannot be explained.
Because this article deals with twists in movies, there are spoilers for all of the films mentioned (obviously).
Here are 12 Movie Plot Twists that Make No Sense:
M. Night Shyamalan has given us so much material that we could populate half of this list with his movies alone. Shyamalan is famous – or perhaps infamous – for his twists, and sometimes they come at the expense of the movie’s quality. One example of this is Signs (2002), which follows a family as aliens invade Earth. The aliens seem to be unstoppable, and then, at a critical life-or-death climax, it is discovered that they have one fatal weakness: water.
Hypothetically, if you were a ruthless and powerful alien race looking for a new planet using your impressive and advanced technology, would you choose to land on a planet where over 70% of the surface is covered in a hazardous substance? Honestly, this twist might save Graham (Mel Gibson), his brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), and children (Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin), but it’s even more anticlimactic than War of the Worlds.
11. The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense (1999) is one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best films, and is highly regarded by fans and critics. Its twist, despite this praise, does create some strange plot holes. First, the ghost of Malcolm (Bruce Willis) haunts his wife without realizing that he’s dead. Apparently, she ignores him all day every day, and he just accepts that she is the queen of the silent treatment. It might be believable to the viewer, who is only seeing a snapshot of Malcolm’s life (or is it death?), but she literally never speaks to him.
Even more glaringly, Malcolm goes to help Cole (Haley Joel Osment), the young boy who sees dead people, but we never learn how, why, or who sent him there in the first place. Given that he’s a ghost, could anyone send him?
Saw (2004) was such a success that it spawned a number of gory sequels, but the original film is claustrophobic and disturbing in its unrelenting and unflinching gaze. Except, that is, its inexplicable twist: at the end of the film, Jigsaw, the mastermind behind the horror, is revealed to have been the corpse that has been in the room from the beginning.
How Jigsaw orchestrated the whole ordeal while posing as a corpse is already hard to believe, and his motives for doing so are obscure at best. But it’s even harder to believe that the two men who were held captive did not notice the corpse moving – or breathing – at all for the full duration of the film.
9. The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects (1995) is known for its brilliant twist ending – in which it is revealed that Kevin Spacey’s “Verbal” Kint is actually Keyser Soze, criminal mastermind, after all. But if Keyser Soze organized the events of the film in order to kill everyone who had seen his face, why would he go to the police station in the first place?
The film ends with Baudelaire’s quote, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” But Soze has actually done the opposite – he has convinced a group of people who didn’t believe in him that he does exist, and on top of that, he’s shown them all his face, too.
8. The Number 23
The Number 23 (2007) uses a twist pitfall that occurs over and over again in movies – the killer was the protagonist all along! Whether it’s Johnny Depp in Secret Window (2004) or Halle Berry in Perfect Stranger (2007), the tired tropes of alternate personalities and secretly murderous main characters is rarely pulled off (Fight Club (1999), anyone?).
But The Number 23 is perhaps the worst example of this trope. Jim Carrey plays Walter Sparrow, who discovers a book about the number 23. He becomes obsessed with trying to find the author of the book, Topsy Kretts (yes, as in Top Secrets), who turns out to be himself. The twist is so painfully obvious, even from the beginning of the film, and yet it simultaneously leaves gaping plot holes.
7. Seven Pounds
In Seven Pounds (2008), Ben Thomas (Will Smith) accidentally causes a car accident that takes the lives of seven people, including his fiancee. He decides that the way to atone for this is to find seven people who could benefit from his organs, and then kills himself (via jellyfish) in order to give his organs to these seven special people. He also falls in love with one of these beneficiaries, Emily (Rosario Dawson).
However, Ben’s whole plan wouldn’t work, because that isn’t how organ donation works. The organ donor does not get to choose who will benefit from their organs after death, and Ben would have no control over who received his organs after he died. Instead, there is a strict list system that would dictate who received his organs. The whole premise of the movie is flawed.
Javier Bardem’s Raoul Silva is followed by Bond (Daniel Craig) to a remote island, and is eventually captured. After Silva is brought back to MI6, it turns out that he planned to be captured all along, and by escaping from MI6 he is in the exact right place at the exact right time in order to attack M. While Silva as a former MI6 agent, could believably navigate the MI6 facilities in order to escape his captivity (because apparently the facilities have not been changed or updated since his departure), there is no way that he could have timed this operation to coincide with M’s public inquiry.
He would have had to account for Bond following him, Bond taking him alive (even after murdering Severine), as well as international travel and processing time. There is no way that he would have been able to guarantee that this plan would work.
5. Planet of the Apes
While Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes (2001) was a travesty, the problem wasn’t so much that the twist was bad so much as that the movie was bad. However, the original Planet of the Apes (1968) has a now-renowned twist, although looking back at the film, it doesn’t quite add up.
When Charlton Heston’s Taylor sees the dilapidated Statue of Liberty, he realizes that the planet he has been on has been Earth all along. For some reason, he doesn’t have any suspicions to begin with, when his ape-captors speak fluent English to him. The climate, the culture, everything about the planet and the ape’s civilization mark striking resemblance to Earth. Why doesn’t he realize that the planet of the apes is Earth right away?
4. Running Scared
Running Scared (2006) follows mob enforcer Joey Gazelle (Paul Walker), who needs to track down his son’s friend Oleg. Oleg has stolen a gun that Joey was supposed to dispose of, because it was used in the murder of a police officer.
It’s later revealed that Joey is an undercover police officer, but his behavior during the film is not consistent with how a police officer would act: first, why would he choose to hide this gun, which is potential evidence, in his basement rather than at the police station? Second, why does he act so recklessly – he points a gun at a baby in one scene and takes Oleg to a mob meeting that inevitably devolves into a shootout? The only explanation for his inconsistent and unprofessional behavior seems to be that Joey Gazelle is the worst police officer of all time.
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) was the fourth and much later installment of the Indiana Jones franchise. The previous three films largely dealt with mystical and pseudo-religious elements to further its plots. Crystal Skull, however, opted to incorporate aliens and flying saucers, which was a twist that simultaneously seemed too obvious (as it did receive heavy foreshadowing before the final “reveal”) and disjointed.
While the science fiction elements were clearly connected to the 1950s-Cold War vibe that the movie added, it did not quite match up to the pre-established universe of the previous movies, leaving many fans disappointed and confused.
2. Jurassic Park: The Lost World
In Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997), a T-Rex is being shipped aboard a cargo vessel to the mainland. Somehow, the T-Rex manages to get free itself from the cargo hold, kill the crew (who are in a cabin that is too small for the T-Rex to fit into), and then return back into the cargo hold with the door closed behind it.
While this can be explained by a deleted scene – the crew was originally killed by raptors – the final cut of the movie implies that the T-Rex is somehow responsible for the carnage, even though it is trapped in the hold the whole time. And even if the crew was killed by raptors… where did the raptors go?
1. The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight Rises (2012) contained multiple twists, but none of them were terribly convincing. First, the reveal of Talia Al Ghul (Marion Cotillard) nullified Bane’s (Tom Hardy) initial mission and character, disappointing many fans. It’s debatable whether or not this twist was bad, but the final twist of the movie truly made no sense: Bruce Wayne’s will.
At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) leaves Gotham behind in order to run away with Catwoman (Anne Hathaway). He ends up faking his death when he flies a bomb out over the bay away from the city. How he survived, of course, is never explained. But even when you accept “he survived somehow!” there is no way to explain how Bruce Wayne had the foresight and faith to modify his will to John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a person who he had just met.
Did we forget any endings that created massive plot holes? Were there any cringe-worthy twists that should have made the list? Let us know in the comments!