It's almost impossible to make a decent movie, let alone a good one. It requires dramatic conflict, compelling characters, and above all, an engaging story. No matter what the genre is or what kind of talent is involved, it won't work if the movie doesn't have these things. When a filmmaker decides to throw a dramatic plot twist into the mix, that makes it even more difficult to pull a film off.
Including a plot twist is one of the most risky moves a filmmaker can include in their movie. If it is done well, the twist can add a whole new layer of complexity and meaning to the film. In that case, the twist might pay off. However, if done poorly, the twist could derail the entire movie and undo a lot of the good things it had going for it.
These twists aren't just present in dramas or thrillers — they appear in superhero movies, too. Arguably, this is even riskier ground to attempt a plot twist because filmmakers deal with characters many fans know and love. When you mess with their stories, it could have some backlash. Despite that, twists can pay off if they're done well.
Here are 10 Twists That Hurt Superhero Movies (And 10 That Saved Them).
20 Hurt: John Blake is actually Robin (The Dark Knight Rises)
When people think of Batman, they usually think of Robin, too. Robin is one of the most iconic sidekicks around. He's appeared alongside Batman in television, various animated series, and even on the big screen.
We haven't had the best of luck with Robin at the movies, unfortunately. Joel Schumacher's two films Batman Forever and Batman & Robin, in particular, were huge hits to Robin's good name. Chris O'Donnell did his best in the role, but he wasn't enough to make up for the damage those movies did to the Batman mythos.
There's really nowhere to go but up with this character. However, even Christopher Nolan — one of the best filmmakers working today — couldn't make Robin work when he introduced a character named John Blake in The Dark Knight Rises. Blake was a decent cop who tried to save the city and helps out Batman. At the end of the movie, his real name is revealed to be Robin — a clear nod to Batman's sidekick.
More than anything, this twist seemed like an attempt at pure fan-service.
It's a nice gesture to suggest that Batman's legacy will continue on after the trilogy. However, to give the mantle to a guy the audience just met feels wrong. He's Robin only by name, and nothing more.
19 Saved: Killmonger is T'Challa's cousin (Black Panther)
Black Panther was groundbreaking for a number of reasons. It introduced the first black lead in an MCU movie with an army of strong, capable women surrounding him. It also offered a diverse, culturally rich setting with Wakanda.
In terms of the actual story, Black Panther also gave us a compelling villain in Erik Stevens/Killmonger. He and Ulysses Klaue steal a Wakandan artifact from a museum, prompting T'Challa/Black Panther and his team to get involved.
Killmonger arrives in Wakanda to challenge T'Challa in ritual combat for the throne. Here, he reveals himself to be N'Jadaka, T'Challa's cousin. He intends to use Wakanda's advanced technology to help his people fight off their oppressors.
Beneath the superhero aspects of Black Panther, this is really a story rooted in family drama. It began with T'Challa and Killmonger's respective fathers, and ends with these two facing off.
That's what makes Killmonger such an interesting character — you can completely understand where he's coming from, and you may even agree with him. Like T'Challa, Killmonger is trying to do what he believes is best for the world based on his own experiences of it.
This twist works because it advances the central conflict and makes you feel for the characters on both sides of the situation.
18 Hurt: Sir Patrick is Ares (Wonder Woman)
Wonder Woman is a great superhero movie. It has heart, hope, and moments of triumph, grounded by a charismatic performance from Gal Gadot as the title character. There are a lot of things to admire about it, from its stunning action sequences to the quieter moments between characters.
As much as Wonder Woman has going for it, it suffers from a trope that so many other superheroes face: a weak villain. It spends a lot of time developing Diana as a character, but it spends less time outlining what Ares' motivations are.
That makes it more difficult to care about the reveal that Ares is actually Sir Patrick Morgan in disguise. Sir Patrick is a British officer trying to negotiate an armistice with Germany. Behind the scenes, though, he's the one pulling the strings to make this war worse.
This twist might make you lean back in your chair with slight surprise, but it doesn't reveal that much more about Ares.
We spent very little with Morgan as a character, so either way, Ares' motivation doesn't seem to be anything beyond wanting to wreak havoc on the world.
Diana deserved a better opponent than Ares. Had she gotten one, this movie would be that much more amazing.
17 Saved: Syndrome's robot was a setup (The Incredibles)
People seem to leave The Incredibles out of the conversation when it comes to superhero movies. That's unfair for a couple reasons. Animated movies are just as valid as live-action ones — not to mention, they take way more work to produce. As long as the story is good, they deserve as much recognition as any other movie.
The Incredibles is an incredible superhero movie, and it's also still the closest thing we have to a good Fantastic Four movie. The reason for that is because it understands what makes a great antagonist: personal stakes. The movie's villain, Syndrome, is a wannabe superhero. As a kid, he looked up to Mr. Incredible, who in turn rejected him. Syndrome then orchestrated a plan to get revenge on Mr. Incredible and make himself out to be the hero. This involved using his robot to terminate all the other superheroes.
Not only was the robot setup a great twist, but it outlines Syndrome's motivations perfectly. The best villains think they are heroes, and that's exactly how Syndrome acted. He's ruthless in his pursuit of his goals. That's also what makes him so dangerous to Mr. Incredible and the rest of his family.
16 Hurt: Hawkeye's secret family (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Clint Barton/Hawkeye is easily the most underrated Avenger in the MCU. He's pretty handy with a bow and arrow. However, when you're surrounded by supersoldiers, suits that fly, and literal gods, it's hard to stand out in the crowd. He didn't even get a character poster for the latest Avengers movie - because he wasn't even in it!
Joss Whedon turned the spotlight on Hawkeye in Avengers: Age of Ultron. He tried to assure us that not only was Hawkeye important to the team, he was important to his own secret family — who we're supposed to care about for some reason.
Sure, Hawkeye deserves some more attention, but Whedon overcorrected the problem.
Giving him a family no one knew about — except Black Widow, apparently — is really just a plot device to develop Hawkeye as a character.
It has no bearing on the actual story. In fact, it detracts from the fact that the Avengers should be worried about Ultron taking over the world.
Hawkeye's secret family was certainly a twist, but not one that makes you care about Hawkeye more. If anything, it makes you question why Hawkeye is spending all of his time shooting arrows at bad guys when clearly his pregnant wife and children need him. That's just irresponsible parenting.
15 Saved: Mr. Glass was behind everything (Unbreakable)
Unbreakable is another movie that doesn't get thrown into conversations about superhero movies as often as it should. When you think about it, though, it's got the makings of a superhero movie just like Marvel or DC: unlikely hero, inciting incident, villain, and superpowers.
M. Night Shyamalan was doing a superhero origin story movie before it was a thing. You could even argue he's the guy who defined the plot twist. Combining those two things in a movie like Unbreakable made for an unconventional superhero story with some pretty great twists and turns.
Security guard David Dunn is the sole survivor of a train accident. He soon crosses paths with the mysterious Elijah Price, a man with osteogenesis imperfecta and an obsession with comic books. Towards the end of the film, David discovers that Elijah orchestrated the entire accident — and many accidents before that — to see if superpowered humans like David exist. Elijah then dons the name Mr. Glas and accepts his role as the villain of this story.
Not only is Samuel L. Jackson great in the role, but the twist truly makes the story work. Elijah is easy to sympathize with, and he seems relatively unassuming at first. That makes this revelation all the more unsettling, and affective.
14 Hurt: Amanda Waller's real intentions (Suicide Squad)
The DCEU has garnered its fair share of criticism over the years. Wonder Woman was well received, but every other installment in this franchise has been mixed at best. It hit the lowest of the lows with Suicide Squad.
Suicide Squad was supposed to be a fun, villainous team-up between the likes of Deadshot, Harley Quinn, Captain Boomerang, and many others. It turned out to be a mess — both visually and narratively. Nothing illustrates that more clearly than Amanda Waller's convoluted intentions for the squad.
Waller wanted to bring together a team that was easily dispensable but willing to get the dirty jobs done. That makes sense. What doesn't make sense is the mission the Suicide Squad is assigned. The Enchantress wreaks havoc on the city, but Waller tasks the squad with helping someone escape from the city — herself. She then shoots her coworkers to help cover up the mess she made with the Enchantress.
Just thinking back on the events of the film is head-spinning. Waller created the Suicide Squad to help the government, and in doing so, causes a life-threatening mess that the squad must clean up.
This is more of an error in storytelling than it is a plot twist simply because it's so confusing. Suicide Squad is already a mess, and this was the nail in the coffin.
13 Saved: Gwen Stacy's fate (The Amazing Spider-Man 2)
The Amazing Spider-Man movies are easily the most underrated of the Spider-Man iterations. They certainly weren't perfect, but they do a lot of things right, among them being the decision to cast Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Gwen Stacy, respectively. These actors have great chemistry and truly ground those two movies, even if some of the other storylines aren't as strong.
Another thing these movies did well was that they made you feel the stakes involved. Each character's actions and mistakes have consequences. This particular Spider-Man franchise displayed that best with the decision to end Gwen's life at the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
This is an established plot-point in the Spider-Man comics. However, it was still a risky decision to execute that on the big screen.
Gwen is one of the biggest characters, and her passing hit hard. Garfield really sells this moment with his performance, which makes it that much more difficult to digest.
These movies may not be the most beloved among fans or critics, but they still gave us the best Spider-Man couple with Peter and Gwen. The sequel wasn't afraid to deliver a faithful adaptation of how Gwen's story ends. As heartbreaking as this twist is, it was necessary and gave the movie emotional weight.
12 Hurt: Lois gets an amnesia kiss (Superman II)
We're so spoiled with all the superhero movies that come out now that we sometimes lose sight of where it all began. None of these recent movies would have been possible without the Christopher Reeve Superman movies back in the '70s and '80s.
Christopher Reeve was one of those actors who were born to play their roles. He captured Clark's sincerity and Superman's sense of justice in equal measures. Margot Kidder plays off of him beautifully as Lois Lane. Their versions of Clark and Lois still haven't been beaten.
As amazing and influential as these movies were, though, they do have some twists that affect the movie as a whole negatively. Superman II is a pretty good sequel, but its ending is a head scratcher. Lois finds out Superman's true identity as the film progresses. In doing so, she develops a deeper affection for both Superman and Clark, which only helps their relationship grow. However, Clark undoes all that at the end of the movie with a kiss that makes her forget about Superman's real identity.
Not only does this take away from Lois' character development, but it makes no sense with Superman's powers.
He never displays this ability prior to using it on Lois, which feels like a pretty convenient plot device. The movie is still good, but it would have been better without that twist.
11 Saved: The Vulture is Liz Toomes' father (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
The MCU isn't known for its plethora of amazing villains. These movies choose to focus on their heroes — which is fine, except it usually means that the villains suffer as a result. Plenty of MCU movies fall victim to that familiar trope, but Spider-Man: Homecoming isn't one of them.
Homecoming isn't a perfect movie, but it knows the value of including a good villain. It shows that by starting with Adrian Toomes/The Vulture's story first. He was a man who suffered from Tony Stark's mistakes, and uses that anger to fuel his own villainous endeavors. His ties to Peter Parker/Spider-Man become even more personal with the reveal that he is the father of Liz Toomes, Peter's crush and homecoming date.
The tension within that scene in particular is fantastic, because you can see both characters trying to calculate their next room. This makes the situation more personal for Peter, who's still trying to prove himself as a hero.
The Vulture is definitely one of the better villains the MCU has, and twists like this make that fact more clear. He survived the events of Homecoming, so the MCU may have a few more tricks up its sleeve with this character.
10 Hurt: Miranda Tate is Talia al Ghul (The Dark Knight Rises)
Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight trilogy is one of the best trilogies ever made. All three were box office successes and critical hits. However, trilogies often fall into that " the third is the worst" pitfall, and unfortunately, that's true of The Dark Knight Rises.
It's not a bad film, by any means - Christopher Nolan seems incapable of making a bad film. However, its villains and central conflict feel a little scattered — especially coming off the purple coattails of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Bane turned into a caricature rather than a menacing villain, and his motivations are somewhat murky.
Even more unclear is the decision to include Talia al Ghul, Ra's al Ghul's daughter. She posed as Miranda Tate, a woman who tries to romance Bruce Wayne/Batman. When Bruce returns from the Pit, Miranda stabs him, and reveals herself to be Talia.
While this twist was unexpected, it holds no weight with the rest of the story. Bruce learns about how Talia was the only person to ever escape the Pit. However, this is barely addressed again, and instead focuses on Talia's bloodlust.
Had Talia been a better defined character, she might have been a more formidable and interesting villain for Batman.
9 Saved: Gamora gets sacrificed (Avengers: Infinity War)
Avengers: Infinity War marks the culmination of the MCU's work over the past ten years. Every hero, every team-up, and every origin story led up to this moment. They finally faced a worthy and menacing villain in Thanos, who proved he would stop at nothing to achieve his goals.
There was a lot of build-up behind Thanos' arrival. Thankfully, the Russo brothers got him right by making him a villain with real emotions and struggles. The reason his arc works is because of his relationship with Gamora.
In a heartbreaking flashback, we see Thanos take in a young Gamora while he eliminates the rest of the people on her planet. This began a very complicated father-daughter relationship which comes to a head in Infinity War.
Thanos lures Gamora in because she knows the location of the Soul Stone. However, when it comes to actually retrieving it, he must sacrifice the only thing he loves — Gamora.
Gamora's sacrifice was unexpected, but emotionally effective.
She's a character we know and love from Guardians of the Galaxy, so it was devastating to see her go. While her return is always possible, this is a character exit that should stick, because it made the stakes more dire.
8 Hurt: Nick Fury is alive (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
As we all know, the MCU has an established problem with making character exits stick. There are other ways to convey stakes to the audience, but when the filmmakers keep faking us out, it's difficult to believe that these events on screen matter at all.
As good as Captain America: The Winter Soldier is, it still represents a perfect example of this problem with Nick Fury. Following S.H.I.E.L.D. being compromised, Fury comes under attack by assailants. He desperately tries to flee, but gets shot by the Winter Soldier in Steve Rogers' apartment. He seems to lose his life in surgery shortly after that.
Had this character exit stuck for good, it would have had a profound impact on Steve, Natasha Romanoff, and Maria Hill.
It also would have raised interesting questions as to where the Avengers Initiative would go from there.
However, none of those ideas could be explored, because Fury actually survived that surgery and faked his passing. Fury is a good character, but he hasn't really done much since the Phase One and Phase Two movies. It begs the question as to why he needed to be kept alive in the first place.
7 Saved: Diana is the Amazon's secret weapon (Wonder Woman)
A lot of superhero movies these days have opted for a more "realistic," gritty depiction of the world. There's nothing wrong with that approach, but sometimes they hide the fact that heroes are supposed to be inspiring and hopeful. If there's one superhero who embodies that, it is Diana Prince/Wonder Woman.
Diana is a character who is strong, but unflinchingly kind in the face of adversity. She is the hero our world needed, which is why Wonder Woman did so well critically and financially.
Throughout the movie, Diana believes that her sword is the key to defeating Ares, the god of war and the villain of the film. At the film's climax, though, it is revealed that Diana herself is actually the secret weapon and hero meant to take down Ares for good.
The reason this twist works so well is because it embodies the film's core themes: inner strength and hope.
Diana is strong all on her own — she never needed any special weapon to save the world. All she needed was to believe in her own abilities and trust that her actions were the right ones. Maybe that sounds cheesy on the surface, but it is true to what Diana represents as a superhero.
She fights for justice and for the good of the world. The fact that she is the Amazon's secret weapon highlights that.
6 Hurt: Loki survives (Thor: The Dark World)
Prior to 2018, if you asked anyone who the best MCU villain was, they would likely say Loki. The god of mischief was one of the most fleshed-out villains — and characters — in the MCU. The best thing about him was that he was unpredictable — you never knew what he would do, where his allegiance lies, or if he was truly deceased.
As Thor laments in Avengers: Infinity War, it looks like Thanos may have ended Loki's life for good. However, that wouldn't be the first time Loki has bitten the dust. He fell off the Bifrost in Thor, and then he seemingly got stabbed at the end of Thor: The Dark World. Despite that, Loki appears alive and well at the end of the movie, having taken Odin's place on the throne.
While it's definitely within Loki's character to pretend he had passed away, it also undercuts all of the stakes in Thor: The Dark World. Loki's (fake) passing was emotional, both for Thor and the audience. However, when you take that away, it cheapens the moment — especially on repeat viewings.
Truthfully, this is symbolic of the MCU's problem in conveying stakes. Why invest in the characters if you know they'll always be safe?
Loki was a nice addition to have in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War, but it still isn't right to trick the audience like that in The Dark World.
5 Saved: Star-Lord's dad is the villain (Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2)
Some viewers have mixed feelings about Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The central conflict isn't as clear, and some of the humor isn't as fresh as it was in the first movie. To be fair, it's pretty hard to top the first Guardians of the Galaxy. However, one could argue that Vol. 2 comes pretty close, and even surpasses its predecessor in one key way: the villain.
At the beginning of the movie, it seemed like the mysterious gold Sovereigns would be the Guardians' main antagonists throughout the movie. While they are somewhat antagonistic, director James Gunn opted to reveal the true villain later in the film — Peter Quill/Star-Lord's dad, Ego.
Ego was teased out at the end of the last film, but this movie follows through on that promise by bringing a major part of Peter's past to the forefront. Ego is a Celestial, which is why Peter was able to hold onto the Power Stone. However, Ego's true intentions come to light with the reveal that he had given Peter's mother cancer, and wanted to extend his powers throughout the galaxy.
On the surface, Ego may seem like another generic villain, but he actually marks the beginning of the MCU's attempt to incorporate more personal villains into its films. Ego's decisions have a profound impact on Peter, which makes this twist work.
4 Hurt: Bucky ended Tony Stark's parents' lives (Captain America: Civil War)
While it's still a good movie, Captain America: Civil War is basically Avengers 2.5. Steve Rogers/Captain America is still the central figure, but there are still a lot of characters looking for screen time. Among them are Bucky Barnes and Tony Stark/Iron Man.
Bucky is a pretty complicated character, having been brainwashed to do Hydra's bidding. Steve spent a long time looking for him. All that drama boils over in Civil War with Steve and Tony's feud over the Sokovia Accords.
As the Avengers wage a civil war on one another, Tony discovers that the Winter Soldier had actually eliminated his parents many years ago. Not only that, but Steve knew about this and never told Tony.
Certainly, that creates a lot of interesting tension and fuels Tony's rage toward both Bucky and Steve. However, it's still a bit of a stretch to say that Steve knew about it. In Winter Soldier, Steve and Natasha Romanoff discover a S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker that contains information on Hydra. Presumably, he learns about Bucky's involvement in the crime there.
While it's not a complete retcon, it raises some odd continuity questions regarding what Steve knew and didn't know, and what Bucky's role in all this is.
3 Saved: The Joker lies about Rachel and Harvey's locations (The Dark Knight)
The Dark Knight is arguably the best superhero film ever made. Under Christopher Nolan's visionary direction, The Dark Knight was a Batman film with real stakes, character development, and one of the best villains in film history.
When it was announced that Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker, no one thought he would be able to pull it off. Ledger quickly proved them wrong, offering a villain who was insane, cruel, and terrifying.
The Joker wanted to show that even the best people can become the worst villains, to reveal Gotham's true nature. The scary thing is, he basically succeeds in that goal. It all goes back to his decision to lie about Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent's true locations.
As Batman interrogates him, the Joker forces him to choose between saving Harvey and Rachel — who is surrounded by explosives. Batman chooses Rachel, but when he arrives at the location, he discovers that Harvey is there instead.
Harvey survives the explosion, but the Joker's lie meant that Batman couldn't save Rachel.
It's no small thing to end the life of a major character — especially someone like Rachel. As heartbreaking as this twist was, it gave Batman the motivation he needed to take the Joker down and avenge Rachel. It also led to Harvey's transformation into Two-Face.
2 Hurt: The Mandarin (Iron Man 3)
Iron Man 3 is one of the less conventional installments in the MCU. Director Shane Black definitely brings his personal touch to the movie. While it may be a fresh take on Iron Man as a character, it's not always a good take.
The first half of the movie sets up the Mandarin as a ruthless villain launching terrorist attacks on the country. He also releases mysterious videos broadcasting his messages. Tony Stark/Iron Man — still coping with the trauma he endured from the Battle of New York — makes it his mission to stop him.
However, once Tony discovers the location of the Mandarin's hideout, he learns that the Mandarin's image is all a ruse. In fact, the Mandarin is just an actor named Trevor Slattery, and the real man behind these attacks is scientist Aldrich Killian.
The Mandarin is one of the more prominent villains in the Iron Man comics. To change his backstory so dramatically in the movies feels manipulative and wrong. Had the movie gone with a more faithful adaptation, he could have been a real, imposing threat.
This twist has polarized a lot of fans — for good reason. It's okay to offer a different take on characters, but this wasn't the way to do it.
1 Saved: S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised (Captain America: The Winter Soldier)
Captain America: The Winter Soldier is still one of, if not the best MCU films to date. It turned a Captain America story into a dramatic spy thriller with shifting allegiances and heartbreaking revelations.
One of the smartest moves the MCU has ever done was to explore S.H.I.E.L.D.'s history more extensively. This is the governing body behind the Avengers, after all, and the reason a lot of these heroes are around in the first place.
The Winter Soldier flips that whole concept on its head by revealing that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been compromised by Hydra. Steve Rogers/Captain America becomes aware of this pretty quickly in the iconic elevator scene. He singlehandedly takes out a whole group of Hydra agents as they try to detain him. Then he makes his escape to try to get to the bottom of all this.
This twist defines Winter Soldier as a whole, and sets it apart from many of the other MCU movies. It goes beyond a mere superhero film by blending various genres together. Steve's reaction to all these events further defines his character as virtuous and just.
A twist like this could have failed if it wasn't handled well. Thankfully, the Russos have showm they're pretty adept at telling these stories right.
What's your favorite (and least favorite) twist in a superhero movie? Let us know in the comments!