Courtesy/Design by Yousra Attia
The best directors are hunters. Their prey? You, the audience. They lure you in with bread crumbs of fancy camerawork and bait you with gripping storylines. And then, when you least expect it, they spring their traps with third-act revelations, and they’ve got you. Not just for the duration of the film, but for posterity, for water cooler chitchat, and for film buffs and critics to debate and pore over for decades to come. In cinema, they call that a twist. But really, it’s a hook. And the directors of the following films hooked us line and sinker. Scroll through for a list of films with the best plot twists we never saw coming.
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The Plot: The poor Kim family leave squalor behind to infiltrate the affluent Parks’ home.
The Twist: Once inside, they learn the Parks’ former housekeeper, Moon-gwang, is keeping a secret in the basement—her husband. She then learns the Kims’ secret too. All this leads to a bloody massacre that plays out at the Parks’ son’s backyard birthday party. In the end, the Kims’ patriarch, Ki-taek, stabs and kills the Parks’ patriarch, Park Dong-ik. Ki-taek then goes AWOL, but the final twist of the film reveals his whereabouts: He’s taken up shop in the Parks’ now-vacant basement.
2 of 50
The Plot: A family’s beach vacation takes a violent turn when they learn they’re being hunted by some very curious doppelgängers.
The Twist: Matriarch Adelaide Wilson, who is clearly wrestling with a secret for a good chunk of the reel, turns out to be the imposter doppelgänger, with Red, the uninvited murderess, serving as the actual Adelaide Wilson. Adelaide’s identity was stolen as a little girl when she was abducted at the very same beach decades earlier.
3 of 50
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019)
The Plot: Two dudes—Rick Dalton, an aging star from TV westerns, and his stunt double, Cliff Booth—live out their bromance in the Manson-era ‘60s.
The Twist: Three would-be Manson family killers storm into Rick’s Hollywood Hills mansion, where Cliff—high on acid—is there to welcome them. A brutal brawl, the wrath of a Pit Bull, and the fury of a flamethrower later, and revisionist history rewrites Sharon Tate’s fate. She doesn’t die. The Manson killers do.
4 of 50
The Plot: When a dozen alien aircraft land on earth, a linguist, Louise Banks, is recruited to work with the military to decipher the reason for their visit.
The Twist: We aren’t watching a linear film. We’re watching a palindromic film. As Dr. Banks hacks the heptapods’ language, we learn their means of communicating aren’t linear; they know the ending as they’re writing the beginning. Applying the revelation to the film’s narrative, when Dr. Banks gives birth to her daughter, she knows she’s giving birth to a baby who will die young. She knows how her baby’s story will end before it ever begins. Further, she names her baby Hannah, a palindrome.
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The Plot: A little boy named Miguel has guitar skills in his bones, but his family forbids him from any kind of music. To mend this generations-old taboo, he travels to the Land of the Dead to find his great-great-grandfather, the famous singer Ernesto de la Cruz.
The Twist: While mingling with the dead, Miguel meets Héctor, a sad sap trying to reconnect with his family. The big reveal, however, discloses that Ernesto murdered Héctor, and that Héctor is actually Miguel’s great-great-grandfather, and Coco’s father.
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The Plot: A squad of all-female spelunking enthusiasts dive into a bat-infested cave inhabited also by some very hungry humanoids the director calls Crawlers.
The Twist: Main character Sarah is your final girl, dragging herself out of the ground and speeding away in her SUV from the bloody entombment she just experienced. Until, not so fast, an apparition of antagonist Juno riding shotgun jerks Sarah out of her own mania and puts her right back into the cave where she really is. The camera fades to black. And we hear the Crawlers drawing near.*
*This is the director’s final cut of the film. U.S. audiences were treated to a diluted ending in theaters.
7 of 50
The Plot: The guests of an interstate motel in the Nevada desert quickly learn there’s a homicidal killer among them, as they’re getting knocked off one by one.
The Twist: The murderer is the little boy—which is explained as we learn each of the 10 strangers stranded at the roadside joint are manifestations of a man who suffers from an extreme case of dissociative identity disorder. The boy is one of those personalities.
8 of 50
Gone Girl (2014)
The Plot: When his seemingly perfect wife Amy goes missing, philandering Nick becomes the prime suspect.
The Twist: After learning Nick cheated, Amy meticulously planned her disappearance to make it look like Nick killed her. Later, when she decides to return home to Nick (after seducing, then murdering, an old ex-boyfriend to make it look like he kidnapped her) she gets artificially inseminated with Nick's semen to ensure he stays with her.
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The Departed (2006)
The Plot: Billy Costigan goes undercover within the Irish mob to implicate sadistic boss Frank Costello. Meanwhile, Staff Sergeant Colin Sullivan, a dirty cop secretly doing Costello's bidding, tries to hunt out the "rat."
The Twist: Sullivan determines Costigan's identity, shooting him in the head in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sequence. After Costigan's funeral, Sullivan returns to his own apartment, where Costigan's handler, Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam, is waiting to kill him.
10 of 50
The Plot: Briony Tallis has a crush on the son of her family's housekeeper, Robbie; when she walks in on her sister Cecilia having sex with Robbie, Briony misinterprets the situation. Later that night, she blames Robbie for an assault on her cousin Lola even though she didn't witness the attack. Robbie is sent to prison, later joining the army to fight in World War II, while Cecilia becomes a nurse. Years later, Briony, feeling guilty for derailing Cecilia and Robbie's lives, visits them in their apartment to apologize, but they turn her away.
The Twist: Cecilia and Robbie never had a life together; Robbie died in the war, while Cecilia died in a bombing in London. As an old woman, Briony wrote a book in which they lived happily ever after as repentance.
11 of 50
Citizen Kane (1941)
The Plot: The film opens with newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane on his deathbed, where his last word is "rosebud." This inspires a journalist to chronicle the enigmatic life of the mogul, uncovering his ruthless quest for power and fortune.
The Twist: "Rosebud" is the name of Kane's childhood sled—proving the tycoon had a touch of sentimentality after all.
12 of 50
Planet of the Apes (1968)
The Plot: Three astronauts crash-land on an unknown planet after traveling at light-speed for 2,000+ years. In this new land, non-human primates—gorillas, orangutans and chimpanzees—rule the world, while Homo sapiens are considered second-class citizens.
The Twist: The film's final scene sees the surviving astronaut stumbling across a half-sunken Statue of Liberty on the shore—he's been on earth the whole time.
13 of 50
The Plot: Marion Crane is murdered at a desolate motel by the mentally-ill mother of its shifty owner, Norman Bates.
The Twist: Bates murdered his mother years before, then developed a split personality that made him believe he is his mother. He murdered Marion disguised as his mother.
14 of 50
The Plot: The wife of a prominent bureaucrat hires a private investigator to follow her husband, whom she suspects of infidelity. Along the way, the PI uncovers murder plots, corruption and a young girl, Evelyn's sister, who is somehow involved.
The Twist: Evelyn reveals her sister is also her daughter—Evelyn was in an incestuous relationship with her father.
15 of 50
Friday the 13th (1980)
The Plot: Camp Crystal Lake closed 20 years ago, when a young boy drowned and two counselors having sex were murdered. The body of the boy, Jason Voorhees, was never found. Now, counselors trying to reopen the camp are murdered one by one.
The Twist: Jason's mother, Mrs. Voorhees, is responsible for all the deaths—she believes her son died because the negligent counselors were having sex. She reveals this to the only surviving counselor, Alice, who successfully kills Mrs. Voorhees. While awaiting help from the police, she is attacked by the decaying body of Jason.
16 of 50
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The Plot: As the Rebel Alliance runs from Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker trains to become a Jedi Knight.
The Twist: Luke abandons his training to save his friends from Vader but ends up in battle with the Sith Lord. Get ready for what is arguably the most famous (though, oft-misquoted) film line of all time: "No, I am your father."
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The Usual Suspects (1995)
The Plot: Five criminals plot against the police after being called in for a crime they didn't commit, but begin to uncover a larger plot stemming from legendary criminal Keyser Söze. The job for Söze goes wrong, and only Roger "Verbal" Kint survives. He attempts to explain to the police what happened so they'll let him leave.
The Twist: After the police let Kint go, they realize he's actually Söze.
18 of 50
The Plot: Two detectives, Somerset and Mills, search for a serial killer obsessed with the seven deadly sins.
The Twist: The murderer, John Doe, offers to lead the detectives to the final two bodies that complete the seven cardinal sins. When they arrive at a location in the middle of the desert, Somerset receives a box from a deliveryman—inside is the head of Mills' wife. Doe admits he murdered her out of envy—the sixth sin—and challenges Mills to murder him, making wrath the seventh and final sin.
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Primal Fear (1996)
The Plot: Defense attorney Martin Vail's latest client, altar boy Aaron Stampler, has been charged with the murder of the archbishop. Stampler suffers from multiple personality disorder, blaming the murder on his alter ego, "Roy."
The Twist: Stampler doesn't actually have the disorder—his true personality is that of the sociopathic Roy.
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The Plot: A masked serial killer targets a group of high schoolers, including Sidney Prescott, whose mother was murdered the year before. At a party to celebrate school's closure following the killings. the murderer kills Sidney's boyfriend, Billy, in front of her after they have sex, then hunts Sidney and her friends.
The Twist: The murderer is actually two people—Billy and his friend Stu.
21 of 50
The Game (1997)
The Plot: Traumatized from witnessing his father's suicide, financier Nicholas Van Orton throws himself into his work, alienating himself from his wife and brother, Conrad. For his 48th birthday, Conrad gifts Nicholas a ticket for a game that he promises will change Nicholas's life. The game leads Nicholas on a mind-bending journey through his life. As he loses his fortune, he begins to fear the game and the company that runs it, Consumer Recreation Services (CRS). Cornered on a roof by CRS employees, Nicholas accidentally kills his brother. Horrified, he leaps do his death.
The Twist: "The Game" is nothing more than, well, a game. Conrad and Nicholas are both alive—Conrad orchestrated the entire thing to prevent Nicholas from ending up like his father.
22 of 50
The Plot: Detective John Hobbes recounts how he "almost died"—after witnessing the execution of a serial killer, he begins trailing a copycat killer, who reveals himself to be the demon spirit Azazel, who can inhabit the different bodies of people through touch. Hobbes concocts a plan to lure Azazel to a remote cabin and kill himself and the body inhabited by the other demon—causing Azazel to die without a host body.
The Twist: In the final showdown, Hobbes kills himself to take down Azazel—but the demon possesses a cat wandering nearby. The narrator who "almost died" wasn't Hobbes, but Azazel using Hobbes' voice.
23 of 50
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Plot: After a home invasion, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist, returns to work by attempting to help a young boy who sees the dead.
The Twist: Dr. Crowe is actually dead.
24 of 50
Fight Club (1999)
The Plot: An unnamed narrator and his new friend, Tyler Durden, begin a "fight club" that turns into a national movement.
The Twist: The narrator is suffering from dissociative identity disorder—he and Tyler Durden are the same person.
25 of 50
American Psycho (2000)
The Plot: Patrick Bateman, a wealthy, entitled businessman in 1980s New York City, leads a double life as a serial killer.
The Twist: In the final scene, Bateman learns many of his victims are supposedly still alive—he may have imagined everything.
26 of 50
The Plot: Leonard Shelby suffers from anterograde amnesia following a home invasion that left his wife dead. Now, he searches for his wife's murderer with clues he leaves himself with tattoos, notes and photographs.
The Twist: Leonard's wife survived the home invasion, but he accidentally killed her later.
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The Others (2001)
The Plot: While awaiting her husbands return from WWII, Grace Stewart and her two children are tormented by unseen beings.
The Twist: Grace and her children are the ghosts—she murdered them and herself in a bout of insanity but never realized it.
28 of 50
Donnie Darko (2001)
The Plot: After an airplane engine crashes through his bedroom, Donnie Darko is visited by Frank, a life-size rabbit who warns him of the oncoming apocalypse and inspires him to carry out crimes.
The Twist: At the moment the apocalypse is supposed to take place, Darko travels back in time, dying in the crash in his bedroom.
29 of 50
Secret Window (2004)
The Plot: Mort Rainey, an author suffering from writer's block while coming to terms with his wife's affair, withdraws to the country, where he is harassed by John Shooter, an author claiming Mort plagiarized him. Suddenly, Mort is plagued by inexplicable events—his dog is murdered, his wife's house is set on fire and he stumbles across a murder.
The Twist: Mort is Shooter—he suffers from dissociative identity disorder. Mort is responsible for the strange occurrences, and when his wife and her lover arrive with divorce papers, he kills them.
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The Village (2004)
The Plot: Townspeople in the secluded 19th-century village of Covington fear "Those We Don't Speak Of"—monsters who roam the surrounding forests.
The Twist: Covington exists in modern times—it was founded by a group of people attempting to escape their suffering in the outside world. The tale of "Those We Don't Speak Of" was created to discourage the villagers from leaving.
In literature, film, television, and even video games, a plot twist is an unsuspected occurrence or turn of events in the story that completely changes the direction or outcome of the plot from the direction it was likely to go. It's a hugely popular and frequently used narrative technique in fiction.What is a plot twist examples? ›
A plot twist is a surprise in your story that changes everything. It makes the reader reassess what they've been reading so far, and it changes the meaning of everything you've already written. For example: In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy goes to see the Wizard because she wants to get home.What was the first plot twist? ›
The earliest use of this device as a twist ending in a murder mystery was in "The Three Apples", a medieval Arabian Nights tale, where the protagonist Ja'far ibn Yahya discovers by chance a key item towards the end of the story that reveals the culprit behind the murder to have been his own slave all along.What was the first film with a twist ending? ›
The first cinematic twist ending is often said to be 1920's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. We'll freely spoil the twist in the next sentence because we imagine that all of you interested in watching an hour-long silent German film have already heard how this particular famous movie ends.What happens at the end of the story? ›
An epilogue is the final chapter at the end of a story that often serves to reveal the fates of the characters. Some epilogues may feature scenes only tangentially related to the subject of the story.What is a plot in a story? ›
In a literary work, film, or other narrative, the plot is the sequence of events in which each event affects the next one through the principle of cause-and-effect. The causal events of a plot can be thought of as a series of events linked by the connector "and so".What is a great plot twist? ›
101 Plot Twist Ideas
Red Herring — All suspicion points to one character, but when the truth is revealed, it's another that did the terrible deed. The narrator is not the person we thought they were. A weakness of a character is actually their greatest strength. A character's strength defeats them.
- It must be plausible. The reader needs to be surprised by the revelation, but not shocked. ...
- It must be a surprise. ...
- It must be foreshadowed.
- Shutter Island (2010) ...
- Taking lives (2004) ...
- Se7en (1995) ...
- The Secret in Her Eyes (2009) ...
- Usual Suspects (1995) ...
- The Prestige (2006) ...
- The Sixth Sense (1999) ...
- Memento (2000)
A dirty cop changes his ways after meeting a woman (who secretly is a dirty cop). A wacky scientist creates a perfect clone of himself; the clone takes over his life until he is forced to consider suicide. A superhero gives up his life of valor to become evil. A blind man hires a chauffer to take him around the world.
What's in the box? Se7en ends with a devastating big reveal, as it turns out Doe has decapitated Mills' pregnant wife and her severed head is what's in the box. With Mills distraught and overcome with grief, Doe taunts him further, revealing that Tracy was pregnant.What is another word for plot twist? ›
|odd turn||plot reversal|
|surprising turn of events||unexpected development|
|unexpected twist||strange development|
|bolt from the blue||unanticipated turn of events|
The CLIMAX of the story is when the CONFLICT of the PLOT is resolved.It is often the most exciting part of the story: when the hero saves the princess, discovers the buried treasure, or slays the dragon.Who made the plot twist? ›
The Man Who Invented The Plot Twist | Forgotten History - YouTubeDoes The Shawshank Redemption have a plot twist? ›
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION
here's the twist – Andy's been innocent all along and had been planning his escape the day he entered. It took him 20 years to chip away at the wall with a tiny rock hammer in order to get into the prison's sewage pipes and out to freedom.
What's in the box? Se7en ends with a devastating big reveal, as it turns out Doe has decapitated Mills' pregnant wife and her severed head is what's in the box. With Mills distraught and overcome with grief, Doe taunts him further, revealing that Tracy was pregnant.Is The Sixth Sense scary? ›
The film's blend of heartbreaking character work and potent, bone-chilling scares is uncannily effective. While The Sixth Sense boasts no shortage of goosebumps-inducing spectral encounters, none hold a candle to the film's most terrifying encounter of all with a vomiting child ghost.