There’s something about that moment in a film right before all your expectations come crashing down around you like a tsunami of the unexpected.
Wait, who’s been dead all along? So you’re telling me it’s been the narrator? That’s-- that’s not possible.
These are the moments where a film has successfully pulled the wool over your eyes and played you for a fool. You feel lied to, betrayed, angry even, and you love every second of it. Audiences love to be made a fool of, which is why when we hear about a movie with a great twist, we flock to it in droves. So, whether you’re checking to make sure your favorite twist made the list of just looking for some new ones, spoilers ahead.
10 The Sixth Sense
Well, we may as well get this one out of the way first. The Sixth Sense has such a good twist that it has become the film that not only solidified M. Night Shyamalan as the “twist guy,” but also became the film synonymous with the twist ending.
A young Haley Joel Osment begins working with a therapist after he has some negative experiences with the ghosts that he’s been seeing. Bruce Willis, after almost being murdered in the opening scenes, does his best to help this young boy while dealing a collapsing marriage due to the fallout of the near-fatal incident during the movie's opening. As it turns out, Bruce was dead all along. Classic. Now if only Shyamalan could manage to make a decent Avatar: The Last Airbender... That’s right, M. Night. People don't forget.
Memento is one of Christopher Nolan’s older films from before he signed on to do Batman Begins. The film follows Leonard Shelby's quest to find the man responsible for the death of his wife and take him out. The one problem is that Leonard has short-term memory loss and can’t remember much of anything. He manages to get around by leaving himself polaroids and tattooing the “facts” of the crime on his body. What follows is a cerebral and surprising film that demands a rewatch. Turns out that Leonard was responsible for the death of his wife and had been leading himself on all along in order to endlessly chase a killer he refuses to actually confront.
While the horror genre is known to have its fair share of twists, nothing had really come close to the levels of completely and utterly blowing the minds of audiences that Saw managed to reach. When Saw was first released, no one had any idea the massive film franchise that it would kick off. The first film had a simple enough premise: two men locked in a room — what lengths are they willing to go to in order to escape the twisted game of a madman? The film leaves the viewers horrified to watch as one man cuts off his own foot before revealing that the killer was in the room the entire time, disguised as a dead man on the floor; the key was in the room the entire time, and it doesn’t look like anyone actually makes it out of the room okay.
7 Get Out
Jordan Peele’s film is a masterclass on what a horror film can (and should) be. The film follows Chris Washington as he, along with his girlfriend Rose Armitage, travel to visit Rose’s parent’s for the first time. Chris, an Afro-American man, immediately feels the tension of arriving in a white suburban area, a tension that audiences mistakenly dismiss as racial tension that has almost come to be expected in situations like this in America. By the end of the film, Chris has been through an ordeal that involves hypnosis, body-swapping, and white people selling off people of color at auction... again.
6 Shutter Island
For some reason, it seems that Shutter Island hasn’t really received a lot of the attention that comes with a film starring Leonardo Dicaprio, which is a shame because it has some amazing twists. The film follows a U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels and his new partner Chuck Aule as they investigate an Alcatraz-inspired prison where a patient seems to have mysteriously vanished.
Throughout the film, Teddy confides in his partner that he lost his wife in a fire started by an arsonist so that by the time it’s revealed that Teddy is actually a patient who’s going through an experimental therapy to come to terms with the fact that he killed his wife, the audience is left in complete shock. Even more so when it’s revealed that Teddy may have willingly walked into a lobotomy rather than live with the reality of what he had done.
5 The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is another classic on any list of the biggest plot twist in film history. The film follows Kevin Spacey’s Keyser Söze as he regales an FBI agent with a fake story giving by a character Söze puts on that he calls Kint. Kint successfully manages to get the FBI agent’s attention off of him by crafting a bunch of fake details based on things that are in the room. The FBI agent, however, doesn’t realize this fact until after “Kint” has left the building; when he receives a fax with his picture and Keyser Söze’s name under it arrives. Decent fax machines, they're number one on the FBI’s most wanted list.
4 Fight Club
Fight Club is a more of a modern classic, but a classic all the same. The film follows the narrator—who is never referred to by name throughout the course of the film—as his life seemingly implodes. He, along with his new friend Tyler Durden, decide what they really need to do is start a club where men can just be men and beat each other like slabs of beef in the Rocky films. Cleary, the next step in any successful underground fight club is franchising, and then open rebellion on the powers that be. Right when the world around him is about to blow up, the narrator learns that he never met anyone named Tyler Durden, the narrator (Edward Norton) had been Tyler all along.
3 Primal Fear
For those following along at home, this makes the second film on this list that involves Edward Norton and multiple personalities. Primal Fear follows Edward Norton’s character as he navigates the stresses of being on trial for murder. He confides in his lawyer that he has no idea what’s happened and he doesn’t understand why he’s being put on trial. His lawyer is eventually able to recognize that his client has DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and it was his second personality that committed the crime. After getting Norton’s alter ego to reveal himself while on the stand, the lawyer is able to get his client off on the basis of insanity. The twist being that Norton was faking all along and there never was an alternate identity...
2 The Empire Strikes Back
Many people who may be reading this article might not be old enough to remember what it was like when Darth Vader revealed to Luke Skywalker that not only was his father not dead, but he also happened to be the very Sith before him. But for those old enough to recall what it was like describe it as an utter heartbreak captured completely only by Mark Hamill’s iconic “NOO!” after receiving the news. Empire was a revolution when it came out, in a way that seems oddly comparable to the response Avengers: Infinity War received after its grim ending.
1 Oldboy (2003)
No offense to Josh Brolin but if you're going to see Oldboy, you need to see the original film that came out in 2003. No questions asked. Not only is Oldboy a fantastic film with a brutal and heart-shattering twist, but it’s also an absolute must-see of a film.
Oldboy tells the story of Dae-su, an obnoxious drunk who, after a night of heavy drinking, is taken and locked inside a prison that looks like the room of a creepy motel for 15 years. Then one day, after 15 years and multiple suicide attempts, Dae-su is left in a trunk on the roof of a building in the outside world. What follows is a devastating tale of the lengths some men will go to for revenge and the horrific consequences that ensue. So if you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to put it on your to-do list.