A great plot twist makes a good movie unforgettable. Throughout the history of cinema, and especially more recently from the 1990s to the 2000s, plot twists have become an invaluable part of a film. From The Sixth Sense's "I see dead people" line to the first rule of Fight Club, plot twists have become a defining element of any movie as well as a trademark of many directors, some of which have mastered the art of a good plot twist, notably Christopher Nolan and M. Night Shyamalan. While a great plot twist can save a dying movie, it could also kill a decent movie. Not all plot twists are great, but the ones that are, usually lead to the movie achieving an 'iconic' status coveted by all actors and directors in the industry alike, no matter the awards they have on their shelves.
Movies basically follow a set pattern of story, based upon three acts, involving a setup, a conflict/confrontation, and a solution occasionally with variations depending upon the nature of the story and the preference of the director. Recently, it has become a four way ordeal, with a setup, a conflict, an apparent solution, and a final twist, to leave the audiences dead in their seats, gasping with gaping mouths, on the edge of their seats, walking out of theatres with an air of confusion and excitement about them. This is why a good plot twist usually reveals itself nearing the end of the movie, sometimes to set up a sequel, or for a final huzzah to end to, and while many have come and gone, here are ten that left our mouths open, and our minds boggled.
The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is a non-linear story that follows a lone survivor of an armed intervention to a big-money drug deal, Verbal Kint, a petty criminal with cerebral palsy narrating the events leading up to and involving a group of criminals led by Dean Keaton, who meet at an investigation into a hijacking of a truck with arms. Here, due to their repeated status as suspects to crimes, they are named 'the usual suspects.' Following their dismissal, they regroup and form a criminal partnership, and run jobs, until they get entangled with an infamous almost mythical figure, Keyser Soze, who is feared amongst the criminal underworld due to his ruthlessness and success. As they pull one last job to intercept a big money drug deal, they realize that everything is not as it seems, and some end up losing their lives, Kint lives to tell the story, to David Kujan, an investigator, in charge of their case. The twist at the end hits like a truck, and is unforgotten even today, with its ending line now iconic. "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Starring Kevin Spacey, Benicio Del Toro, Gabriel Byrne and Stephen Baldwin to name a few, The Usual Suspects is undoubtedly one of director Bryan Singer's trademark movies, and Mission Impossible: Fallout director Christopher McQuarrie's greatest screenwriting.
A cinematic masterpiece by Christopher Nolan, this unconventional, non linear, and (of course) confusing movie follows Leonard, an insurance claims investigator with anterograde amnesia, looking to find the killer of his wife. He embarks on this journey supplied only by his long term memory, his files, and various tattoos on his body, that remind him of facts about his life and his mission. In an unforgettable movie filled to the brim with plot twists, the movie ends where it began and begins where it ended, something only Christopher Nolan himself has the wit, audacity and skill to pull off. Filled with lies, deceit and action, all in the search of truth, leaving the audience at time, dumbfounded at what Leonard is doing and why he is here, only to be explained a bit later. But the whole movie comes full circle through the plot twist, nearing the end, or actually the start, based on which perspective you look at it from. Co-developed with his brother, Johnathan Nolan, during a road trip, originally into a short story, this film is a standout, and a must watch for any cinephile. With Memento only Christopher Nolan's second feature film, it is arguably one of his best, and most original works, with a story and script co-developed with his brother, based upon a short story, titled Memento Mori, based upon similar lines,
The realization of a dream pairing between veteran director, Martin Scorsese, with fan-favorite actor Leonardo DiCaprio, something which was also massively successful in The Departed, the movie follows DiCaprio as an investigator, Teddy Daniels, with his partner Chuck, played by Mark Ruffalo. The two land on an island for the mentally unwell, to investigate the disappearance of a patient there. He links the whole ordeal to an infamous patient, Andrew Laeddis, and asks questions of the brutal trans-orbital lobotomy procedure, along with the overall mysteriousness behind the whole complex. Facing headaches and deteriorating health himself, suspecting it to be a desperate attempt to conceal the truth by the administration, he questions the people behind the complex, interrogating the patients and orderlies at the complex, and suspects it to be an inside job. With the mind-blowing final twist at the end, the audience is left dumbfounded, and only to marvel at the genius behind Scorsese's amazing direction and DiCaprio's convincing acting.
Another successful director-actor pairing of Martin Scorsese, and Leonardo DiCaprio, The Departedboasts an A-lister cast, with Mark Wahlberg, Matt Damon, Alec Baldwin and one of the greatest actors of the generation, Jack Nicholson. Set in Boston, The Departed follows Billy Costigan (Leo DiCaprio), a state police officer, sent undercover into Irish mob gangster, Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson)'s operation, to act as a mole and provide insights to the police into Costello's operations, while simultaneously being infiltrated by a mole themselves, as Costello places Collin Sullivan (Matt Damon) into the state police to act as a mole for their operation. Eventually the two catch on to each other and must investigate to find the other as the insiders and moles, without being identified by the opposing party. An unexpected finale and an unforgettable twist, this film also has an un-godly amount of f-bombs, so put the children to sleep before watching this one. The film has evolved to garner mass praise for the performances of Jack Nicholson, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Matt Damon. While it also became the subject of a recent fan movement to digitally remove the rat in the final sequence, the backlash was countered by backlash, as the fans were reminded of their true control over the movie. Nevertheless, The Departed has achieved an iconic status as a Scorsese movie and is considered one of his best works in the 2000s. While it is not common knowledge that The Departed is a remake of Internal Affairs, a 2002 movie with a congruent plot, directed by Andrew Lau, which opened to a generally positive response, and a huge profit turnaround for the studio, made on a $6.1 million budget, and amassing $55 million globally.
A David Fincher masterpiece, Se7en follows retiring detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) on his last assignment, paired with newbie Mills (Brad Pitt) on a quest to find a killer using the seven deadly sins as maps for his murders. The origin of the iconic "What's in the box?" line, and one of the most shocking finales in movie history, Se7en is a true David Fincher movie, and a shocking mix of philosophy, murder, nature of man and religious ideology. The true twist arrives nearing the end of the film to bring all of the seven sins full circle, as the detectives run a race against time to find a ruthless psychopath hell-bent on killing, to avoid the unidentified murderer to successfully execute his seven kill plan, and fulfill his twisted ideology, while providing a dark glimpse at society, and the tendency of man to commit sins of great punishment, in great amounts, on an almost daily basis.
Another Christopher Nolan masterpiece, The Prestige, follows the bitter rivalry between two magicians, Robert Angier, played by Hugh Jackman, and Alfred Borden, played by Christian Bale, following the death of the wife of Angier, in an illusion gone wrong, where the tying of an unconventional knot, led to the death of the woman. The two attempt to best each other in attempts to replicate "The transported man' illusion, involving apparent teleportation by the magician as he seemingly instantly, appears at a place a considerable distance from where he left. While the Nikola Tesla- Thomas Edison rivalry plays in the background, almost as a reflection of Angier-Borden rivalry, the stakes are upped when Borden is arrested and set to be hung for the murder of Angier, one which he did not intend to commit, even though Borden is a father. Boasting a star-studded cast of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett Johansson, long-time and frequent Nolan collaborator Michael Caine, legendary singer David Bowie, Andy Serkis, and Rebecca Hall. The ending twist, a nod to the starting format of a magic trick, where the final act is called 'the prestige' the twist is sure to leave your mouth hanging wide open, processing that which you see in front of you for hours at end, as you possibly shed a tear or two.
Arguably David Fincher's best and most recognized work, starring big names such as Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, along with Helena Bonham-Carter, Fight Club narrates the story of an insomniac office worker, known only as 'The Narrator' (Edward Norton) who meets Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) during a flight, as they form an unlikely friendship, leading to them living together after The Narrator's apartment complex is the victim of a bomb blast. Together, finding fun and profit in violence, they organize an underground fight club, which quickly evolves into something much larger than a club, and more so of a cult, and as the stakes rise above anything the two men could have thought of, questions are asked, and nearing the end of the movie, when earlier asked questions of sanity are asked, and the shocking answers revealed, the audience is left wondering at what they watched. Infamous for its violence, and the fabled 'rules' of fight club, the movie has now become iconic, and a trademark name associated with David Fincher as he became a household name. Based on a widely discouraged and banned 1996 book, Fight Club does not cease to amaze in its unorthodox story, and amazing direction, and the final twist pieces together an invisible mystery, completely altering the way the audience has been looking at the film, leading to mouths flying open out of shock and awe and truly spiraling into something very different than the preface upon which the movie started. Evolving into one of the most defining cult movies of all time, Fight Club is a movie that is a blind addition to the watch list of all cinephiles and moviegoers hungry to be blown away by a twist.
The Sixth Sense
One of the best movies of its generation, milking the PG-13 rating to its very edge, The Sixth Sense is an amazing horror thriller by legendary director M. Night Shyamalan, starring Bruce Willis as Doctor Malcom Crowe, a child psychiatrist and Haley Joel Osment as a mentally unwell child who apparently has incidents with the supernatural in one of Willis's greatest performances and one of the greatest performances by a child actor ever, executed by Haley Joel. The movie follows Bruce Willis as a child psychiatrist who treats a child who feels and sees spirits of the deceased. Developing a personal stake in the case, as he sees the case a mirror of a child he once failed to treat properly, he devotes himself to the child, who has multiple supernatural occurrences, with many different spirits. With the help of his doctor, he finally learns to overcome the fear and use his gift for good. The origin of the fabled, and iconic "I see dead people" line, The Sixth Sense is a beautifully terrifying story of death, family and devotion. Nominated for six academy awards, and being the second highest grossing film of 1999, The Sixth Sense checks all the boxes, story, direction, acting and twist. The ending plot twist acting as the heart of the film, completely altering the very perspective the film is seen in, coupled with the chilling style of M. Night Shyamalan, it is a must watch for those who have not seen it, and makes for a good re-watch.
The Shawshank Redemption
This 1994 prison movie has aged like fine wine, gaining its place amongst the premier prison movies of all time. Boasting a cast of Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins, and Bob Gunton, the movie follows the arrest and imprisonment of accountant Andy Dufresne, who is convicted of killing his wife after the discovery of her infidelity. In prison, he has a life-changing experience, and makes a few friends. Praised for its unique perspective on prison life, and the sense of purpose prison gives to many of its inmates, who are not accustomed to the real world, as shown through the experiences of the elderly Heywood. A surprisingly long film, but one with great twists and turns, dealing with complex subjects like the discovery of a sense of purpose, and the struggle for convicts to fit into an ever-changing world that has seemed to pass them by, with prison halting their very sense to adapt, while the outside world changes drastically, the movie shows struggle to adapt, to fit in, and the experience of prison in a new light, with inmates stuck in a prison that is impenetrable and inescapable, coming to terms with the fact that they are there to stay forever. Coupled with a corrupt warden, seeking Andy's intimate knowledge of finance to support his corrupt scheme of bribery and laundering under the guise of social work for prisoners, the movie is the perfect mix of reality to fantasy. The ending now iconic and unparalleled, only few have come close to beating the final twist of the film, and the realization that everything prior was merely a build up, and it is certain that possibly none could ever beat the shocking ending of The Shawshank Redemption.
Now You See Me
One of the most prolific and famous recent movies based on magic and magicians, this follows a group of amateur street magicians brought together to form 'The Horsemen' by a mysterious figure pulling all the strings. They get viral and rob a bank, while being thousands of miles away, and give it all away, with everyone asking the questions how and why. At this point, the police get involved and they adopt a vigilante persona, due to which, they get arrested and after a constant back and forth with the FBI and Interpol as agents Dylan and Alma, played by Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent, are sent after them, they pull off the unthinkable, robbing their wealthy benefactor and distribute his wealth amongst the audience. As everyone looks to their next move, they pull off unthinkable illusions and become social icons, all while making the police look like bumbling idiots. Starring big names such as Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, Now You See Me boasts an impressive cast involving Mark Ruffalo, and enough to gain it a renewal into series, and a sequel already released. However, the final twist at the end, upholding the legacy of legendary magicians, and making the story come full circle, the audience remains fazed and dumbfounded while witnessing a story of mystery, lies, hidden truth, deceit, illusion and magic.