The sign of a good movie twist is that it makes viewers rethink the entire movie, while also feeling like the natural conclusion to the story. That’s why the final twists in movies like Seven, Fight Club, and The Sixth Sense linger in viewers' minds and make them so powerful. Bad twists, on the other hand, can spoil the whole experience, with films like The Village and Spectre suffering from reveals that raise more questions than answers.
The best movies seed clues to the big reveal throughout the story, and many viewers won’t catch them until their second or third viewings. Some filmmakers have taken the next step in this regard; not only have they hidden clues within the narrative, they’ve even buried major twists that some viewers miss completely.
Of course, viewers might question the logic of hiding a major reveal at all, but some directors like to treat their movies like puzzles, and ones that reward those who take the time to dig a little deeper. In fact, there are lots of big movies that have done this, so let’s examine 15 Twists Everyone Missed On First Viewing, and the what they reveal about the story.
15 M's Real Name Is Revealed - Skyfall
Skyfall was a triumphant comeback for the Daniel Craig Bond era, which stumbled a little with its second outing Quantum Of Solace. The story found an aging, wounded Bond going up against M’s former top agent Silva, with M herself almost becoming the Bond girl of the story.
Despite 007’s best efforts, the villain’s plan ultimately succeeds anyway, and M dies of her injuries. At the end of the movie, Bond receives her British Bulldog ornament – which he hates – as a parting gift, and if eagle-eyed fans look closely at the box it comes in, they’ll see a long held secret.
It reveals that M’s real name was Olivia Mansfield, which backs up Bond’s gag in Casino Royale that her codename meant something. It’s also a cheeky pun – not unlike other classic Bond girl names like Xenia Onatopp or Holly Goodhead -- playing on M’s role in a male dominated field: I Live In A Man’s Field.
14 Cypher Allows The Call To Be Traced In The Opening Scene - The Matrix
It’s no secret that the sequels to The Matrix weren’t well received back in 2003, but if anything, they made the iconic original look even better. The first film was the perfect combination of high concept sci-fi, pitch-perfect casting, stylish action, and quotable dialogue, and it reminded everyone that Keanu Reeves is a national treasure.
While Hugo Weaving’s Agent Smith is the villain everyone remembers, Joe Pantoliano’s Cypher also made an impression. He's a rebel who grows disillusioned with the fight against the machines and makes a deal so he can return to The Matrix, leading him to murder part of the crew before they can put an end to his plan.
What some viewers probably don’t notice is his slippery nature right from the opening scene, where he talks with Trinity over the phone. Although it seems like an accident, Cypher’s allowing their call to be traced and leading the Agent’s straight to her door. It’s subtle nod for sure, but it’s one many fans may not have noticed.
13 A Flash Reveals Leonard Is Sammy - Memento
Memento was only Christopher Nolan’s second movie, but even then, he was showing signs of the great filmmaker he’d evolve into. The twisty thriller follows a man with severe short-term memory loss trying to track down his wife’s killer, with the story unfolding backwards.
Before the injury that cost him his memory, Leonard was an insurance investigator, and throughout the movie, there are glimpses of him talking about a case he investigated of another man with a similar condition to his. The ending reveals Leonard actually is “Sammy”, and the tragic story about accidentally giving his wife an overdose of insulin was true.
Memento is a movie that rewards repeat viewings, with viewers putting up on clues and details they missed the first time around. The movie even reveals the truth early on, with “Sammy” briefly morphing into Leonard during a flashback. It goes by so quick though that most audiences miss it completely, even on multiple viewings.
12 The Final Entity Is Jay's Father - It Follows
It Follows is one of the most memorable horror films of recent years, taking a simple but insanely creepy premise, and milking it for all the tension it can. The story revolves around a girl named Jay who is cursed to be stalked by an unstoppable supernatural phantom, who is constantly in pursuit of her.
This creature can take the form of whomever it wants, and it appears in various guises, from an old woman to some of Jay’s friends. Jay and her friends eventually lure it to a swimming pool for a showdown, and when Jay sees it, she appears even more terrified than normal and refuses to describe what it looks like.
That’s become the creature has taken the form of Jay’s late father, whose picture can briefly be seen in a family photo. The movie never draws attention to this, but all the pieces are there for viewers to do their own detective work.
11 Butch Is The One Who Keyed Vincent's Car - Pulp Fiction
For some reason that’s never really explained in Pulp Fiction, Vincent Vega has a big problem with Butch, with the two briefly squaring off while standing at the bar together. Even Butch seems confused by this, and the encounter does Vincent no favors when he later comes out of the bathroom in Butch’s apartment to find the boxer pointing a machine gun at him; it doesn't end well John Travolta's character.
It turns out that Butch got some revenge earlier in the story when Vincent complains that someone keyed his car while he was in the club. The movie doesn’t reveal who did this, but it's not hard to conclude that it was Butch himself. This was just a fun fan theory for many years, with Quentin Tarantino later confirming during an interview that it was absolutely correct, and that he wanted viewers to make this connection for themselves instead of spelling it out for them.
10 Doc's Mind Reading Machine Actually Works - Back To The Future
The Back To The Future movies portray Doc Brown as a lovable eccentric who spent decades on failed experiments before coming up with his time machine. He more or less says the same, and when Marty travels back in time, he gets a firsthand look at another one of Doc’s wild inventions; the Brain Wave Analyzer.
He greets Marty at the door wearing the wacky headgear and then attempts to read his mind. Doc's readings sound wide of the mark, and he eventually takes it off in despair at another failure. If viewers read between the lines on what he actually says, however, they’ll realize that the machine actually works. Sort of.
First of all, Doc guesses Marty has travelled “from a great distance”; considering he’s travelled back in time thirty years, he’s on the money there. Later, he guesses Marty is there to get a donation for the youth Coast Guard, based on his jacket. The donation part is actually based on the Clock Tower flyer in Marty’s pocket, which later holds the key to traveling back to 1985. The machine clearly needs perfecting, but some more R&D, and Doc would have another incredible invention on his hands.
9 The Movie Spoils Itself Constantly - Total Recall
The big question at the heart of Total Recall is whether the adventure is real or all an elaborate fantasy in Quaid's mind. The movie keeps the answer intentionally vague, allowing viewers to reach their own conclusion.
One thing that’s interesting to note is that the story spoils the events of the movie constantly, stating it will all work out. The first time comes when the Rekall agent tells Quaid that by the end, he’ll kill the bad guys, get the girl, and save Mars. Then when he’s getting the implant, he sees glimpses of the alien air reactor that plays a huge role in the finale, along with the lab techie talking about “blue skies on Mars”, which happens in the finale.
The last bit of foreshadowing comes with the doctor who tries to convince Quaid that it’s all a fantasy, who tells him if the dream continues, he’ll eventually become friends with the villain, have visions of alien civilizations, and that the walls of reality will come crashing in. The moment he rejects his, the walls literally crash in, and everything the doctor says comes true. It’s rare for a movie to spoil itself repeatedly, yet still feel surprising by the time the third act rolls around.
8 The Peddler Is The Genie In Disguise - Aladdin
This is another reveal that started life as an innocent fan theory, one which put forth the notion that the Peddler viewers meet in the first scene of Aladdin is actually The Genie in disguise. The evidence was plentiful; he frames the story, he's dressed in blue, he has four fingers on each hand, and – the most demanding evidence of all – he’s voiced by Robin Williams.
Aladdin’s co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements confirmed this as true years later, and that the movie was supposed to end with the reveal that the Genie was the Peddler. That twist was later dropped from the story while they focused on finishing up the movie, but they still consider the Peddler and Genie to be the same character.
Thinking back on the story, this reveal makes sense, but viewers watching it the first time – especially children – aren’t likely to join the dots connecting the two characters together. Perhaps the forthcoming live-action remake will explore this angle again.
7 Michael Is Elvis' Secret Son - 3000 Miles To Graceland
3000 Miles To Graceland is a long forgotten Tarantino wannabe, following a gang of thieves who rob a casino while dressed as Elvis. It’s a tacky exercise in style over substance with a remarkably high body count, but it attracted a hell of a cast, including Kurt Russell, Kevin Costner, and Christian Slater.
The film makes note of Costner’s villain and his obsession with Elvis, to the point that he put himself forward for DNA testing to prove he was one of the singer’s illegitimate children. His results were inconclusive, but it seems Russell’s character also threw his name in the hat. In the third act, he reaches his boat, revealing his father left it to him, while he looks at a framed gold record.
The final scene reveals that the boat is called Graceland, confirming for those paying attention that Michael was one of Elvis’ secret offspring. Since there’s so much random stuff in the movie, the reveal washes over many viewers. It also heavily implies Costner and Russell’s characters are half brothers, but stops short of confirming it.
6 Deckard Is A Replicant - Blade Runner
Blade Runner had a famously troubled production, where Ridley Scott clashed with his crew, his producers, the studio, and even star Harrison Ford. The director had a vision for what he wanted the film to be, and his uncompromising nature rubbed many the wrong way. One key area that Ford and Scott clashed over was the suggestion that Deckard himself was a replicant; Scott felt he absolutely had to be, while Ford disagreed. The actor felt that the audience need a human presence to connect with, and he refused to buy into the notion.
The film – especially the Director’s Cut – seeds many clues that Deckard is secretly a replicant, however, including his unicorn dream and his briefly glowing eyes. These clues can be easy to miss on first viewing, but Scott later confirmed in various interviews that Deckard is definitely a replicant, and that he realizes it in the final shot.
Fans still passionately debate the issue, noting the evidence against the theory. It’s confirmed that Blade Runner 2049 will provide a definite answer, so the confusion will soon be settled once and for all.
5 An Easter Egg Reveals That Wayne Palmer Died Between Seasons - 24: Redemption
24 is a show that thrived on shock twists and surprise deaths, but it had a bad habit of dropping characters and storylines too. The fates of important characters like Martha Logan, Behrooz, and even Jack Bauer himself are still up in the air, and these loose threads may be destined to be left dangling forever.
The ultimate fate of President Wayne Palmer was kept ambiguous as well. Following an assassination attempt in season six, he eventually suffered a brain hemorrhage and ended the day in a coma. The character was never mentioned again after this, with his Vice President Noah Daniels sitting out the rest of Wayne’s term.
The TV movie 24: Redemption finds Daniels finishing up his term, and a newspaper glimpse reveals that Wayne passed away sometime after season six. It’s unknown why the producers decided to sneak this detail into the show instead of confirming it outright, but at least it offers some closure for the character, even if it is tragic.
4 The Split/Unbreakable Posters Reveal A Big Surprise - Split
The Sixth Sense became famous for having the ultimate rug-pulling twist, one that made total sense but audiences just didn’t see coming. Director M. Night Shyamalan soon became famous for his twist endings, and he unleashed an almighty one with Split.
The final scene takes place in a diner, reporting on the crimes of James McAvoy’s villain Kevin. While watching the report, a lady comments that it reminds her of a similar case from years before. Bruce Willis’ David Dunn from Unbreakable then leans forward, reminding her the criminal's name was Mr. Glass.
The fact Shyamalan was able to keep this appearance a secret is impressive in itself, but he also hid a huge spoiler in plain sight. The posters for Unbreakable and Split both feature cracks like broken glass, and if placed side by side, they line up perfectly, confirming they exist in the same universe. Fans only made this connection after the film was released though, confirming Shyamalan is still the man when it comes to surprises.
3 Windows Dropped The Keys - The Thing
There are plenty of unsolved mysteries in The Thing, such as what really happened to poor Fuchs, when did Blair become infected, and what happened to Nauls when he disappeared during the finale? Another plot thread that isn’t resolved is who took the security keys and destroyed the blood supply, and when did they do it?
The film doesn’t appear to provide an answer; unless viewers keep an ear out. During the sequence where Windows finds Bennings being attacked by the creature, he’s seen holding the keys, but when he runs away, the sound of the keys being dropped can be heard.
This is when the intruder found the keys and used them during the resulting confusion. That’s also why Windows panics when the others discover what’s happened, feeling it will be blamed on him. Director John Carpenter intentionally kept this plot point vague to heighten the air of tension and mystery, and the keys being dropped is a beat even diehard fans of the movie tend to miss.
2 Yukio Accurately Predicted Wolverine's Death In Logan - The Wolverine
This twist was a real slow burn, since it took two movies for its impact to land. The Wolverine finds Logan heading to Japan to meet up with a businessman whose life he saved during World War II. During his stay, he’s given a bodyguard named Yukio, who has the ability to see the future.
During the story, she warns Logan that she’s had a vision of his death; he’ll be covered in blood and holding his heart in his hand. This image appeared to refer to the scene where Wolverine is doing some self-surgery and pulls a device off his heart. This temporarily stops his heart, but his heal factor soon kicks in, so it was a false alarm.
This prediction was long forgotten by the time Logan rolled around, but observant fans noticed Wolverine’s eventual death – where he’s covered in blood and holding his daughter’s hand – lined up nicely with Yukio’s vision. Director James Mangold confirmed that this was his intention and that he’d spoiled his own ending well in advance.
1 Verbal Accidentally Confessed During The Interrogation - The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is one of the most cleverly constructed thrillers ever, with a script that's layered with clues and secrets. Watching it again always seems to reveal some little detail fans missed, like Verbal not being able to use a lighter during his interrogation because his hand isn’t steady, yet in flashback, he uses it to fire a gun.
There are lots of clues to Verbal’s real identity when you know what to look for, but the movie flat-out gives away the major twist halfway through; it’s just that no one ever catches it. During the interrogation, Kujan becomes angry with Verbal’s constant stalling, yelling and screaming at him.
Verbal starts stammering nervously under this barrage, accidentally sprouting “I did, I did kill Keaton!” before correcting himself. Since Kujan is shouting over him, the line is hard to catch, and it just sounds like gibberish.
What other movie twists did most moviegoers miss the first time around? Let us know in the comments.