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Top 10 Best Movies With Twist Endings
List of Best Films with Twists You Did Not See Coming
Shakespeare famously wrote, "All's well that ends well," and if there is one place that this is true, it's in Hollywood. Movies can be made or broken by their endings. Sometimes the whole movie lies in the climax that you weren't expecting at all.
This is particularly true of the movies of three of my favorite directors, Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Nolan, and M. Night Shayamalan. All three have directed thrillers and produced some classic suspense films that have lingered in the minds of viewers, and in the case of M. Night Shayamalan, helped raise the status of Indian actors and directors in world cinema.
Part of the reason that I love the films of these three directors is their twist endings. What I mean by a twist is anything unusual that you were not expecting at all. I have seen many films with twist endings, as well as films with twists that come in the middle of their plots. I love such movies.
That is why I thought of making a list of the top 10 movies with twist endings. I hope you enjoy reading it. If you find any of your favorite movies with twist endings missing, let me know in comments.
Spoiler Alert: The plots of these films are discussed. If you do not want to know about the climax and endings of these movies, then do not read their descriptions.
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Top 10 Movies with Twist Endings
Below is the list of my personal favorite 10 movies, based on their endings.
There are actually not that many twist-ending movies. What's more, there are even fewer original twists. The few truly original surprise endings have given inspiration to the theme and plots of dozens of other films. Hence, if you've seen the all of the best twist-ending movies in this list, I bet you can predict the climax of almost any other mystery movie you will come across.
#10: "Psycho"—You Must See It From the Very Beginning!
Description: The successive thrills of this movie—a grand theft, an isolated motel, an innocuous motel owner, an unseen mother, and a murder in the shower—all make Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho a real rush and have been imitated by other films ever since. In particular, the shower scene is one of the most thrilling scenes in cinematic history. Norman Bates, the proprietor of Bates Motel, is a nervous young man afraid of his own mother. While his hotel seems innocent, even quaint, the twist at the end will give you goose bumps.
A Scene: My favorite scene from Psycho is obviously the scary and iconic shower scene.
The Twist: Norman Bates was psycho. He killed his own mother along with her lover and developed a split personality, acting as his mother while killing his other victims.
#9: "Shutter Island"—Someone Is Missing
Description: Sixty-six patients are housed at Ashecliff Hospital on Shutter Island. When one escapes, US Marshal Teddy Daniels is asked to investigate the case with his newly-appointed assistant, Chuck. Daniels' ulterior motive for taking on the case is to locate Andrew Laeddis, the arsonist who killed his wife and who had escaped from the islands months prior. As the plot progresses, Teddy develops the impression that illegal brain surgeries are being performed on mentally ill criminals in the island's lighthouse. Although the patient who escaped is caught, Teddy feels compelled to find out the truth. Gradually, he learns the truth about his new assistant, Andrew Laeddis, Dr. John Cawley, Ward C, Shutter Island, and his own reality.
A Scene: In my favorite scene from Shutter Island, Leo gives a very good performance:
The Twist: The whole setup of his investigation was staged in order to make Teddy realize the truth: that he had killed his own wife because she drowned their three children, and he himself was the 67th patient of Shutter Island.
#8: "The Prestige"—a Friendship That Became a Rivalry
Description: Two men, Alfred Borden and Robert Angier, are rival magicians. However, they didn't start that way. In the beginning, they worked together. One fatal night, Borden ties the knots on the wrists of Angier's wife for an on-stage water escape. He has been experimenting with new knots, and Angier's wife, unable to escape, drowns. Later, Angier exacts revenge by sabotaging Borden's bullet trick, causing Borden to lose two fingers. This leads to a back and forth that further hardens the magicians against one another.
Borden becomes famous for a trick called the Transported Man. In this trick, he walks into a cabinet on one side of the stage and, seconds later, emerges from a cabinet on the other side of the stage. Seemingly, the only explanation for doing so with such speed is teleportation.
Angier becomes obsessed with learning the trick, and eventually builds a machine that can help him perform it. However, the machine does not actually transport; it creates an exact replica. With the machine, he begins to perform a trick called the Real Transported Man. In the trick, he appears to transport after entering the machine. In reality, he falls through a trap door and drowns, while his duplicate self walks in the other door.
Borden knows that Angier has found a way different than his own for performing the trick and is determined to find it out. During a performance, he sees Borden fall into the tank and drown, but then is discovered and charged with Angier's murder, which earns him the death penalty. Angier visits Borden in jail to announce he has won their long-standing feud, and Borden hangs.
A Scene: Hugh Jackman's magic trick scene defined the film. Here is the scene:
The Twist: Angier is in the theater when Borden's assistant enters and shoots him. As he does so, Angier sees that Borden's assistant is missing two fingers, just as Borden had after Angier sabotaged his bullet trick. Suddenly, he realizes that Borden's assistant is actually Borden, wearing makeup, and that he had to be Borden's identical twin, which had enabled him to do his "transportation" trick.
#7: "12 Monkeys"—The Future Is History
Description: In 1996, the whole world comes under the attack of an unknown virus, which destroys 99 percent of the human population. After 39 years, in 2035, the remaining population is fighting to survive, living underground. A convict named James Cole agrees to be sent back in time to commute his sentence. The plan is for him to transport back to 1996 to find out about the origin of the unknown virus which is believed to have been spread by the Army of Twelve Monkeys.
However, the convict is mistakenly sent to 1990. There, he meets Dr. Kathryn Railly, a psychiatrist, and Jeffery Goines, a patient in a mental institution. Jeffrey is the son of a famous scientist, and James suspects him as the leader of the Army of Twelve Monkeys. James focuses on Jeffery and his mysterious plans.
A Scene: This was the first Brad Pitt film I saw, and I became an instant fan of Pitt. Look at his performance:
The Twist: The Army of Twelve Monkeys was a red herring. Actually, the virus was released by Dr. Peters, an assistant working in the lab of Goines's father. By the time James realizes this, it is too late, and the world is destroyed again (or anyway, depending on your frame of reference).
#6: "The Empire Strikes Back"—the Saga Continues
Description: Evil Lord Darth Vader is planning to capture Luke to convince him to join the Dark Side. However, Luke is taking advanced Jedi training from Yoda on Dagobah, and so, Darth Vader instead captures Luke's friends, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and the droids R2-D2 and C-3P0.
After learning about his friends, Luke is in a dilemma—whether it is better to fight the evil Lord and free his friends or to complete his advanced Jedi training and become a full Jedi knight.
A Scene: This is the most famous scene from the entire Star Wars franchise:
The Twist: Darth Vader is the father of Luke Skywalker.
#5: "Memento"—Some Memories Are Best Forgotten
Description: Now here is a movie with more than one twist. Leonard, the main character, used to be an insurance agent, but was forced to stop because he now suffers from a short-term memory loss disease. This condition means that while his long-term memory is untouched, he is unable to store new memories. According to him, he got this disease on the night attackers raped and murdered his wife; while Leonard strangled one, the other escaped.
However, the police say that there was only one rapist and they do not conduct an investigation. The story proceeds with Lenny in search of the other rapist, "John G," compensating for his lack of short term memory by leaving himself notes written on paper, scribbled on the edges of Polaroid photos, and permanently inscribed on his body with tattoos. His investigation is both altered and aided by Natalie, Teddy, Sammy Jankis, and an unknown phone caller, and he eventually finds and shoots "John G."
The film is shown in two different sequences or phases. As each sequence begins, the audience is unaware of the preceding events, just like Leonard, thereby giving the viewer a sense of his confusion. That's why, like Lenny, even viewers are not sure about who is helping or using Lenny, leading to the twist in each scene.
The Trailer: Here's the trailer for Memento, which allows you to see how Leonard pieces together his memory the way he does throughout the film.
The Twist: Leonard accidentally killed his own wife. In order to not to deal with it he focused his short term memory on Teddy instead.
#4: "The Usual Suspects"—the Truth Is Always in the Last Place You Look
Description: A robbery takes place on a ship, and a faceless figure identified as "Keyser Söze" shoots a man called "Keaton" and sets the ship on fire.
The only two survivors from the incident, a Hungarian and a man named Roger "Verbal" Kint, are apprehended, then investigated separately. Under police custody, Verbal starts telling a story that begins six weeks before the ship robbery. According to his story, he and four other criminals, Dean Keaton, Michael Mcmanus, Fred Fenster, and Todd Hockney, met one another in a police lineup. The five found quick success when they looted a police van. But after that, they are forced by Keyser Söze's lawyer, Kobayashi, to stop a deal by Söze's rivals, a gang of Hungarians who will soon try to buy $91 million dollars worth of cocaine on a ship. They have no choice but to follow Kobayashi's orders, because as they learn from Kobayashi, who has extensive knowledge about their histories, each of them has at some point directly or indirectly crossed Söze's path. The only way Söze will spare their lives and that of their families is for them to stop this deal.
After one of their partners, Fenster, is killed while attempting to run away, the remaining four agree to work for Söze. During the ship robbery, all four except Verbal are killed by the unidentified figure. The officer interrogating Verbal accepts the fact that Verbal was spared because he was crippled, and is convinced that the man Verbal thought was Keaton was actually Keyser Söze, who is still alive. Verbal is allowed to leave.
The Trailer: Here is the trailer for the movie. The opening quote is the key to the movie: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."
The Twist: Verbal Kint was Keyser Söze. The whole story he told was partially or totally fictional and was made up on the spot.
#3: "Fight Club"—Losing Hope Is Freedom
Description: An unnamed insomniac narrator talks about his life and how he is fed up with following the system. On arriving home from one of his business trips, he learns that his house has been destroyed in a gas explosion. He calls Tyler Durden, a soap salesman whom he befriended on the flight, and asks for help. They develop a mutual friendship which grows into sharing a house, a girl, and a fight club. Tyler Durden, also fed up with the system, eventually turns the fight club into a project to destroy the government, a plan with which the narrator disagrees. The narrator's effort to stop Tyler Durden finally leads him to his true identity.
The Trailer: As in all of the best twists, this one is foreshadowed. In the narrator's own words, "I prayed for a new life. This is how I met Tyler Durden." Here is the trailer for the film.
The Twist: There was no Tyler Durden. In reality, he was the other half of the narrator's split personality.
#2: "Planet of the Apes"—Here, No Human Can Remain Human
Description: After a 2000-year of voyage at light speed, a human spaceship crash-lands on an unknown planet. The Captain of crew, George Taylor, suggests that they are 320 light years away from Earth but admits he is not sure. The crew later finds out that the planet is inhabited by the apes who dominate human beings. These apes think that Taylor and his crew are just like the human beings native to their planet—mute and easily outsmarted. They attack the crew and kill Taylor's crew mates. Taylor is captured, and finds himself in a situation where he bids his life to find out about the talking apes, the mute human beings, and the strange planet upon which he's landed.
The Trailer: The trailer of what was billed as "the year's most unusual and important motion picture":
The Twist: The planet Taylor is on was actually Earth the whole time.
#1: "The Sixth Sense"—Not Every Gift Is a Blessing
Description: Dr. Malcom Crowe is a child psychologist. After a mishap with a former patient who had hallucinations as a child, Dr. Crowe starts working with a nine-year-old boy, Cole Sear. Cole's problem is similar to that of Crowe's previous patient; the boy claims that he can see ghosts. Step by step, Dr. Crowe gains the trust of Cole, and they develop a mutual relationship. Dr. Crowe comes to believe that Cole actually can see dead people and that he had failed his previous patient when he refused to believe similar stories. Dr. Crow encourages Cole to overcome his fear of dead people and to help them. After overcoming his ghostly visions, Cole in turn helps Dr. Crowe find the reality of his life, his wife's changed behavior, and the mishap with his former patient.
The Trailer: Here is a summary of the best scenes of the movie:
The Twist: At the end, Dr. Malcom Crowe realizes that he is dead (the most unexpected surprise I ever saw in a twist-ending movie).
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