Audiences love a good plot twist. They love having the rug pulled out from under them and they love leaving the theater with their minds blown. Some might say that twists can ruin the rest of the movie, since it usually invalidates everything that came before it. With this in mind, it can either ruin the movie on re-watches or enhance it, depending on how you feel about having the knowledge of the twist that’s coming.
Sometimes twists are surprise endings or the result of an unreliable narrator telling us the story wrong; sometimes they’re characters or plot devices being used as red herrings to distract the audience or lull them into thinking something that’s not true. M. Night Shyamalan has made a career out of bamboozling his audiences. Now, people go into his movies expecting the unexpected at the end, which kind of defeats the point of shaking up the story in the first place. At least the success of his movies proves that people love a good mind-blowing U-turn toward the end of the road (or sometimes halfway or so down the road). Movies with plot twists become defined by those twists, so can you name these movie based on their plot twists?
The aliens’ primary weakness is water
Toward the end of this box office smash sci-fi thriller, it is revealed that the aliens invading Earth have one huge, Kryptonite-like weakness, and it’s water. Of course, even though the movie itself was well-received, this twist was considered to be rather silly, because why would an alien race who are effectively fatally allergic to water decide to come to Earth, a planet that’s basically all water. Literally 71% of Earth is water. An alien species that hates water would take one look at Earth and go, “Screw that!” But which whole movie centered around a similar race who decided to come down to our surface?
A letter arrives from 1885
At the end of this confusing, convoluted time travelling sci-fi movie, one primary character gets struck by lightning and disappears, leaving his companion horrified and distraught, standing alone in the rain. All looks bleak and terrible. And then a car pulls up and a man gets out, saying his office has been holding onto a letter since 1885 to give to him at this exact moment in this exact location – and it’s from the guy who just disappeared! Which time travel movie was that?
The entire story was an elaborate lie
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” In this complex crime thriller – a terrific example of the neo-noir genre and a career starter for many great Hollywood players, both in front of and behind the camera – a narrator explains to us the entire story as he relays it to the investigating detective, and at the end of the movie, it is revealed to be a complete lie. Just as he’s made it out of the building after telling the cop everything, the cop realizes all the names in the story were taken from items around the room.
The movie is set in the present day
This historically set movie takes place hundreds of years ago, in a simpler time before technology and the internet and Uber, except it really doesn’t. At the end of the movie, it turns out all of the characters have spent their whole lives being lied to about the year they’re living in, and the world around them in the world of the present day, where everyone has iPhones and watches funny cat videos on YouTube. It’s a huge slap in the face for the audience. Name that movie.
Leonardo DiCaprio is crazy
In one of his most popular and acclaimed roles, Leonardo DiCaprio is revealed to have been the patient of a mental asylum the whole time. The plot of the movie was merely a fantasy he had been allowed to live out as part of his rehabilitation, but that ultimately proves to be futile and he has to be lobotomized. It’s a cool, freaky twist until it turns grim with the lobotomy. So, which of his movies has this wild ending?
He’s actually the one that killed his own wife
This thriller follows a man desperately searching for the person who killed his wife. It’s a complex and entertaining thrill-ride that culminates in a horrifying climax in which it is revealed that the lead character has spent the whole film searching for himself – he’s the guy who killed his wife! Try wrapping your head around that for a second. Even as far as plot twists go, this is one heck of a mind blower. But which movie was it exactly?
Plants caused the global virus outbreak
This movie is fast-paced, exciting, engaging, and terrifying. A virus breaks out and starts to spread across the world, affecting anyone who happens across this invisible menace. The suspense and the mystery of this virus builds up throughout the whole movie with the audience desperate to know what’s causing all of this mayhem and destruction. And when the payoff finally arrives, what is responsible? What is causing this virus? Plants! Regular old trees, forests, and plants. What movie was that?
The main characters are the same person
This twist is a real trip the first time you watch it. If you’ve never seen it before and it hasn’t already been spoiled for you (which is highly unlikely in this day and age), then you’re in for a real treat, because as far as twists go, this one’s a real doozy. The movie builds itself up around the relationship between these two characters, only to reveal that they’re actually the exact same person with a split personality. Name that movie.
“What’s in the box?!”
At the end of this spooky crime thriller about the hunt for a serial killer, the killer turns himself in before his final victims have been reported. He requests that the detectives drive him out into the middle of the desert for the big reveal, and that big reveal comes when a FedEx van appears with a mysterious box addressed to the cops and specifically requested to appear at those coordinates. In that box is the killer’s latest victim’s decapitated head, and she has a personal connection to one of the cops. What movie is that from?
Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten by a shark
Midway through this great white shark-infested action extravaganza, Samuel L. Jackson (quite possibly the biggest star in the movie’s credits) is giving a loud, impassioned, typically Sam Jackson-esque speech, when suddenly he gets swept off his feet and eaten by a shark. He is completely engulfed in the shark’s jaws and then disappears into the murky depths, never to be seen or heard from again. It’s completely out of the blue and unexpected, and it’s unheard of to kill off your only A-lister right in the middle of the movie. So, which shark thriller had the balls to do it?
Bruce Willis was really dead the whole time
This plot twist is quite possibly the most famous of all time, and yet it’s one that makes such little sense. It’s full of holes, as the rest of the movie completely disregards this truth, which makes the reveal a complete shock. If he was dead, how could he be seen interacting with other characters (besides the one who can see dead people, that is). And someone hired him to do the job his character does in the movie, so how exactly did they get his contact information, and how could they not see him later on? It’s full of holes but it’s a famous twist. What movie is it?
Detective Hoffman is Jigsaw’s true accomplice
When the first Saw movie came out, it completely changed the game. It showed that a horror movie can be grisly, horrifying, jaw-dropping, and unabashedly blood-soaked and still have a complex and intriguing plot. As with all the hit horror movies, it was later followed by a multitude of sequels, each more convoluted and populated with double-crossing recurring characters than the last. A hallmark of the Saw series is its confusing twist endings, but which one is this twist from?
The sperm-filled turkey baster
The villain of this smash hit horror movie is menacing and terrifying from the get-go. But the audience has no idea just how sinister this guy is until about two thirds of the way through the movie when a turkey baster filled with his own semen shows up. His intention with this turkey baster is to tie up our protagonist and impregnate her. Many viewers thought this shocking and disturbing scene was going too far. What movie is it from?
She has a penis
Love stories have been a Hollywood staple since the dawn of filmmaking. They’re often cliché-ridden, occupied by two-dimensional characters, and as forgettable as they are cheesy. But there are a few that are so brilliantly told, affecting, and emotionally driven that they slip through the cracks and become classics. But which love story for the ages is marked by its shocking twist when the two lovers are getting ready to make love for the first time and the sensual mood is cut down with the reveal that the girl has a penis?
It was really Earth the whole time
The twist ending of this sci-fi classic has been parodied more times than you can count. It’s been parodied by everyone from Mel Brooks to Kevin Smith to The Simpsons. For the whole movie, you’re led to believe that it’s set on a barren alien planet inhabited by strange extra-terrestrial creatures (who just so happen to speak perfect English), but at the movie’s climax, which baffled viewers upon release, it is revealed that this planet was actually Earth the whole time. Name that movie. Funnily enough, this isn't what happens in the books.
She had a sexual relationship with her father
In this noirish thriller, the femme fatale female lead reveals to our protagonist, who is investigating a whole other can of worms at the time of this bombshell, “She’s my sister and my daughter!” When she says that, every jaw in the audience drops in unison. This harrowing moment reveals that the woman had a sexual relationship with her father. And not just that, it went so far that they conceived a child together and she carried it until birth. What movie is this from?
John Wayne is the bad guy
John Wayne is often regarded as a true American hero. He was the cowboy that kids could look up to, and his wholesome, family-friendly Westerns captured the American audience for pretty much all of his career. He even refused to appear in Mel Brooks’ Blazing Saddles to uphold his image as a heroic figure with good values and strong moral fiber that children could aspire to. However, the twist at the end of one of his movies is that it was actually him – not the politician, as we’re led to believe – who committed the ultimate crime. Which Wayne movie was it?
They faked their deaths
At the end of this classic con artist caper, the lead characters pull off the perfect con. And then it goes completely wrong right at the end as a swarm of FBI agents show up, the arrest goes south, and the con artists are gunned down in cold blood. But then it turns out that this was all a part of the plan. They get up, brush themselves off, and smile. They faked their deaths and the con is complete. It was all so real that everyone was fooled, including the audience. What movie is this from?
He’s been set up as a pawn in a much larger game
Following a string of political assassinations in the 1960s and then the Watergate scandal and the whole “I am not a crook!” Richard Nixon debacle of the 1970s, Hollywood responded with two decades of paranoid political thrillers. In one of them, a Presidential candidate’s assassination leads the investigator into a deep, dark web of political intrigue and deception. He uncovers a conspiracy headed by an evil corporation, and then realizes he’s being framed as the killer. Which paranoid thriller had this bleak ending?
He is really the wife
Peppered throughout this blackly comic odyssey are snippets of the lead character’s wife getting dressed up and going to weird sex parties. She’s shown to be blonde and pretty and she wears stockings and heels. Toward the end of the movie, we’re led to believe that she has witnessed the big murder, and just as the plot thickens, we see a closeup of her legs and then the camera pans up to reveal that it’s really been the lead guy in a wig this whole time. He gets beaten up by the murderers and it turns out he and his wife are really separated.
Everybody dies in a horrific explosion
This action adventure romp follows an intrepid team of valiant heroes on a noble quest. They’re a bunch of mismatched protagonist all thrown together against all odds and they all come together to accomplish a common goal. They take us on an epic adventure across strange lands, encountering dastardly villains and danger at every turn. At the end of the movie, which is filled with laughter and excitement and fun, the heroes accomplish their goal, complete their quest, and save the day. And then they are all killed in a terrible explosion (if they hadn’t already been shot to death). Which movie is it?
The little girl is really a woman in her 30s
Little girls are a staple of horror films. Something about them is terrifying. If you put them in the right light and they’re not smiling, making daisy chains, or playing with Barbie dolls, they look really creepy. That’s why horror directors use them. But one director took the trope to extremes and made their movie totally next level insane when he had his little girl character make sexual advances at the male lead. That’s when it’s revealed that she’s really a woman in her 30s with a physical condition that makes her look young. Which movie was it?
Their haunted house is actually haunted by them
This movie put a nice little twist on the haunted house genre. It’s about a family living in a house that they believe to be haunted, and they’re trying to weed out the ghosts. They’re basically just trying to figure out what’s up with all these strange goings-on in their huge, empty house until they finally figure it out: they are the ghosts! It’s a twist that you can’t see coming at all. Which movie does this brilliant twist come from?
He gets rescued at the worst possible moment
In this harrowing tale, supernatural beings descend upon a small town and a group including a father and son end up holed up in a grocery store, waiting for it to all blow over. Realizing that it may never all blow over, the group head out, get themselves a car, and drive. The guy passes by his home to find that his wife is dead. They keep driving to see if they can make it out of the monster-infested perimeter. When they run out of gas, they decide to give up hope and end it all. The guy shoots the other members of the group, including his young son, and then, just as he’s about to shoot himself, the military come through, clearing out the monsters and saving the world. If only he’d held out for another few seconds...
The teacher is in cahoots with the students who accused him of rape
This erotic thriller doesn’t go very far toward helping mend the assumption that rape claims are false. It follows a teacher who is accused of rape by two of his students. Then he’s disgraced. But all of a sudden, the three of them are having sex and celebrating the fact that their plan worked perfectly. He gets acquitted after the claims are found to be fabricated and he gets a huge cash settlement. He shares the settlement with his accomplices and they split. Then it turns out a cop is in on it, too. Then they all start killing each other. There’s a lot of twists in this one. Which movie is it?