Well, Marvel seems to have figured out the formula to a successful movie. That continued success was not always the case though, and it was touch and go there through the years. Marvel and the studios that it worked with did not always make the best stories. However, when the stories worked well they were amazing.
A lot of superhero films (and movies in general) rely on effective plot twist. A plot twist can make or break a film. Some of the best scenes in Marvel films have a twist incorporated with them. So, although not every aspect of Marvel movies have been perfect, when the creators are able to nail the plot twist their films tend to fare better.
With this in mind, this list sets out to find the plot twist that helped Marvel films, and the plot twist that made them worse off. To be clear, a plot twist is being defined as a turn in the plot that changes the direction of a character’s motivation or the structure of the plot. Plus, “saving” a film merely means helping the film stand and pull off the story. Saving the movie does not mean the movie was a complete success. Similarly, hurting the movie means the plot twist did not work well, but the movie could still be successful overall. Also, the list focuses on earlier Marvel movies not included in the MCU (they need some love too).
Here are 10 Plot Twists That Hurt Marvel Movies (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Harry Osborn Discovers The Green Goblin Liar
Look, Spider-Man 2 is an incredible movie. Seriously, go back and watch it. It holds up. That being said, this final plot twist to set up the sequel was filled with so much melodrama that it made many viewers cringe.
Harry Osborn works tirelessly to uncover Spider-Man’s secret identity. When that intense moment finally comes he is unable to end him. Now, that detail would be fine on its own, but the additional twisting of the plot gets a little dicey and hurts the ending. Osborn starts hallucinating and hearing the voice of the Green Goblin, his father. He argues with the spirit (how exactly he starts hearing the spirit is unclear), and throws an object at the spirit causing the mirror it was in to break. The broken mirror turns out to actually be the Green Goblin’s lair and this plot twist would go on to flatten one of the most promising character arcs in the trilogy.
19 Saved: Ben Grimm Turns Back Into The Thing
Superhero movies need heroic moments, and Fantastic Four lacked those moments almost entirely, with the exception of this one plot twist. Ben Grimm returning to save the team by turning back into The Thing was a fist pumping moment, even the harshest critics can admit that.
Grimm is abandoned by his wife and scorned by the public. He went from lovable friend to monster, while his team also got powers without altering their looks. It made sense that he would seek Doctor Doom’s help in returning to his normal appearance. So, when Grimm decides to reverse the effects that make him normal it’s the kind of heroic sacrifice that makes a movie worth viewing. Sadly, the rest of the movie, including the third act action piece, do not hold up alongside this great moment.
18 Hurt: Darwin's ending
X-Men: First Class is filled with some great moments. Writing Darwin off at the turn of the second act is not one of those moments. In fact, it pissed a lot of viewers off to see it happen.
To be fair, the moment is meant to add stakes to the conflict and highlight the villains power. However, the end result feels like a bit much. Darwin dying feels like the cherry on top a crap sundae. The plot twist was overkill. Sebastian Shaw had already displayed immense power, and Angel Salvadore could have turned anyway. The stakes were already high, so this move felt like too much and left viewers disappointed.
17 Saved: Mary Jane Gets Engaged to John Jameson
Losing out on the love of your life is a hard pill to swallow. When Mary Jane accepts John Jameson’s proposal fans feel Peter Parker’s heart sink. It is a surreal moment in the Spider-Man 2 storyline.
After all, no one likes losing out on the chance to be with the person you love. However, what makes this plot twist stick is the context around it. The fact Parker is losing his powers and now his crush feels deafening. It shows the shaky confidence our hero is displaying at the moment. It is the exact emotional weight the story needs to build up to an emotional third act.
16 Hurt: The Caretaker is Carter Slade
Oh, Ghost Rider, what a wacky, wild ride this film turned out to be. Nicolas Cage is an all-star actor (he does have an Oscar after all), but this film’s plot is what dragged it down. Johnny Blaze, the new Ghost Rider, is charged with finding the Contract of San Venganza because apparently the antagonist wants to use the 100 souls the contracts holds to make himself super powerful.
Where things get real dicey is with this plot twist. The Caretaker is the character who explains the history of the Ghost Riders to Blaze, and explains that the previous Ghost Rider, Carter Slade, hid the contract. Well, about that, you see, it turns out The Caretaker is Carter Slade. That’s right, the dude who explains the quest to Johnny Blaze knows where the contract is the entire time. Viewers were left wondering why The Caretaker makes it such a task to find it. The worst kind of plot twist are the ones that lead to plot holes.
15 Saved: Pyro Switches Sides
Nothing builds up interest like a good old fashion rivalry. So when X-Men 2 writers had Pyro (Aaron Stanford) switch to Magneto’s (Ian Mckellen) side it bolstered the film and pushed on a theme of mutant ideals that went underrepresented to that point in this film.
Magneto is technically on the hero’s side for this film, but seeing him still be able to warp a student of Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) is astounding. The move also sets up the clash between Iceman (Shawn Ashmore) and Pyro for later down the road. It is the kind of conflict fans were itching to see play out as the tension built between the two characters and their representation of the next generation of mutant hopes. It is a bummer that the third film did not pan out as well.
14 Hurt: The Fantastic Four have to Work with Doctor Doom
Talk about taking ten steps back. In Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, the Fantastic Four are forced to team up with Victor Von Doom (whose injuries from the previous film are healed thanks to an encounter with the Silver Surfer). Since Doom is familiar with the Silver Surfer and a brilliant scientist he apparently has to be on the team.
Now sometimes villains teaming up with the heroes makes sense, but this is not one of those times. Doctor Doom tried to end them all in the previous film, that is hard for someone to ignore. This plot twist felt forced and inauthentic. Overall, is was a glaring misstep for a movie that was already doomed from the start (pardon the pun?).
13 Saved: Jean Sacrifices Her Life
One more time for the people in the back: heroic moments make superhero films. Here is another one of those plot twist that worked to perfection. This time it comes from a solid film, X2: X-Men United.
As the Quinjet is set to take off they are overcome by the water surge from the dam that just exploded. The entire team will not survive if nothing is done. So, in a sincere moment of pure heroic courage, Jean Grey uses her abilities to hold the water just long enough so that the jet can escape. It is a climatic moment that emphasizes the sacrifice it takes to be a X-Men. Without this moment, the movie loses a lot of the emotional baggage it carries.
12 Hurt: Elektra's ending
Okay, every fan of Daredevil knows this: Elektra is a badass, but she also has to pass at some point. So when the Daredevil movie came out and fans saw Elektra go so soon in the film it felt wrong.
Now, sure Bullseye does take her out, so she does not go at the hands of some scrub. Still, she passes so quickly. Fans barely see enough of her character for her motives or abilities to be fully appreciated. Her passing is the second act plot twist, but her characters potential made her way more worthy of a later third act ending at the very least.
11 Saved: NightCrawler Was Being Controlled
Phew, what a scene the opening to X2: X-Men United is. Fans lost their minds seeing Nightcrawler as a villain making his way through levels of White House security to threaten the president. However, it made viewers worry that Nightcrawler was going to be a full-on villain in the film.
Luckily it is revealed that William Stryker is actually controlling Nightcrawler during that seen. The twist makes Nightcrawler’s actions more forgivable and sets him up for his redemption arc. Even more useful, the twist illustrates the strength of Stryker’s mind control serum and gives validity to his evil plot.
10 Hurt: Flint Marko is the Real villain
Now see here, the Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church) turns into Sandman scene is one of the only bright spots in the entire Spider-Man 3 film. It gave weight to Marko as a character and just looked amazing for the time.
However, the twist that led to the conflict between him and Spider-Man felt unnecessary. The writers reveal that Flint Marko is the robber who actually took out Uncle Ben, and Peter Parker went after the wrong guy. Not only does this twist push away Marko’s sympathy points and feel illogical, but it also weakens the first films dramatic confrontation.
9 Saved: Magneto’s Heel Turn
Michael Fassbender is a godsend as Magneto. Still, it felt odd to many fans to see him play the reluctant hero in X-Men: First Class. This was a character that does not always play face so directly. So, when Magneto put on his signature helmet and ends Sebastian Shaw, many viewers likely felt a satisfying feeling of balance.
Magneto’s heel turn is an excellent third act twist that built slowly throughout the plot. The kind of tension the writers slowly lay under the main conflict makes the betrayal worth every moment of heroic posturing by Magneto. The film is definitely better off for it.
8 Hurt: Fisk Discovers Matt Murdock’s Secret Identity
Every fan gets it, writers on superhero films want to set up the plot for the next film. The creators want you excited for the possibilities that might happen in the next movie. They want the buzz. Sadly, that kind of twist did not work in Daredevil.
For starters, it seems like everyone and their mother finds out Daredevil’s secret identity in this film. So the rush to set up another Daredevil film by allowing Wilson Fisk the opportunity for revenge because Fisk overpowers Murdock and uncovers his identity. The whole scene feels lackluster because everyone seems to do it in this film and, on top of that, Murdock claims it won’t matter because Fisk cannot admit to being beaten up by a blind man. Yeah, the film is that silly, not kidding.
7 Saved: Ajax Reveals there is No Cure
Deadpool is an easy anti-hero to root for, and fans had no trouble doing that in his first feature length live action movie. Still, a quality plot twist that builds sympathy for an unstable person like Deadpool will still go a long way. That is why the plot twist at the end of Deadpool really solidified the film’s character arc.
The fact that Ajax is lying to Deadpool the whole time may seem obvious to some. However, the fact there is no cure for Deadpool’s disfigurement symbolizes much more than the villain being a bad guy. Wade Wilson now has to confront the woman he loves knowing he can never be the same man he once was, and that plot twist of there being no cure adds another layer to their confrontation at the end of the film. Without it, the film misses some key sympathy points for its protagonist.
6 Hurt: Magneto Abandons Mystique
Deep breaths, people. X-Men: Last Stand sucked. There is no other way to say that, sorry. However, the most irredeemable moment is when Mystique (Rebecca Romijn) sacrifices herself to save Magneto only to be abandoned because the dart she took for him made her human.
It was a cold moment for the writers to pull on the viewers. Mystique is a staple to Magneto’s arsenal. She rescued him from prison and kept his plan alive through two films. Mystique carried the team! The character decision in this plot twist makes no sense and its service to the plot is minimal. Mystique turns to the good side because of it, but there were so many other ways the writers could get that information to the protagonist. Overall, it was a terrible decision made by storytellers.
5 Saved: Professor X Shuns His Powers
This entry is heavy. Professor X (James McAvoy) is an aspiring and confident leader in almost all the films. Fans do not normally see him at a low point. So, when X-Men: Days of Future Past depicted a broken, defeated Charles Xavier fans were stunned in a good way.
The decision to make Professor X a failed man who could not complete his dreams resonated with the audience. Suddenly, the film added additional rooting interest outside the main plot. It was a risky plot twist but it worked to perfection. The empathy created by the decision locked viewers into the story and kept them on track with the plot throughout the film. Not to mention it helped make the story actually work, because Xavier could not locate Mystique as easily.
4 Hurt: Magneto’s New Family
Leave Magneto alone! Poor Michael Fassbender has been through a lot during his turn as Magneto, and this was the culmination of some sad moments. The reason this hurt the film is it felt just as sudden as the family’s introduction.
Look at it this way, if writers are going to introduce new characters and create a new life for Magneto all in one moment, they should at least hold on to it for two acts of the film. Nope, instead the writers end both Magnetos wife and child in a first act plot twist to give Magneto the motivation to turn evil, again. The plot twist felt cruel and unusual and only hampered the story as it struggled to an ending.
3 Saved: Quicksilver is Magneto’s Son
So, remember that last entry, well it was at least saved by this moment a little. Magneto appears to lose everything in the first act of the movie, but the confrontation between him and Quicksilver feels a bit redeeming.
However, the writer’s never have the two characters address this head on, but the feeling between them is enough to keep viewers holding onto the moment. One of the biggest flaws in X-Men: Apocalypse is that it lacks earned emotional moments. This is one of those view earned ones in the film, and that saves the movie from falling into the realm of Last Stand bad. So, at least the plot twist gives audiences hope for further development in the two characters and a chance to redeem Magneto in the last film.
2 Hurt: Weapon XI
A decision that will live in infamy. X-Men Origins: Wolverine made awful decisions. Fans have forgotten many of them thanks to time, but this one will never be forgotten. The decision to turn Wade Wilson into Weapon XI (Ryan Reynolds) is one huge head scratcher. Not only to the merc with a mouth no longer have a mouth, but his character design sucked.
Note to all superhero movie writers: if your third act plot twist is going to include a big villain reveal, then that villain needs to look cool. Weapon XI drained all the cool traits of Deadpool from the character and turned him into a mindless, traitless machine. It was devoid of inspiration and the plot twist completely sank a movie that was on its last leg heading into that finale anyways.
1 Saved: Peter Parker Loses His Powers
Everything was pumping along smoothly in Spider-Man 2 (has it become clear yet that this movie is pretty amazing). Peter Parker is a the hero viewers expect him to be and the plot seems to be a straight forward action movie. However, everything changes when the plot reveals that Spider-Man is losing his powers.
This is the kind of plot twist that can elevate a whole story. Sure, many fans came in expecting this to happen, but the turn still raised the stakes in a positive way. All the sudden an internal conflict presented itself and the film developed layers that many superhero films still have not come close to. This plot twist worked so well because it exposed unfamiliar themes of lost confidence and questionable motivation to the superhero genre.
Which of these Marvel plot twists were your favourite? Let us know in the comments!