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Best Movie Twists (w/Spoilers)

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I have decided to create a collection of the best movie twists. Actually, I had originally planned on creating a list of best movie endings, but that would simply rehash the Usual Suspects. Everyone has a Sixth Sense about these types of movies and would have a list with at least Seven movies leaving the reader feeling like there was No Way Out. (All puns well intended)

I have ultimately decided to put a twist on the best movie endings list and provide my personal list of Best Movie Twists.
Spoiler Warning! I will discuss the twist of these movies after listing the movie title, so read with caution.

I have listed each movie followed by a brief explanation why this twist was so awesome:

Usual Suspects – We are setup to believe that Keaton was the mastermind, Keiser Soze and Verbal Kent was the stupid one. Turns out that Kent was Soze, and like that, he was gone.
Se7en – The levels of complexity needed to write the final outcome in this movie makes my head swim. In one scene, we see Greed and Wrath personified, with Brad Pitt reacted to seeing his wife’s head in a box.
The Sixth Sense – We are so caught up in watching Malcom Crow trying to help young Cole deal with his visions of dead people, we don’t even notice that Crow is actually dead too!
The Others – Had the wind taken out of its sails by the Sixth Sense, but still quite a twist. Quirky inhabitants of an old house that are presumably being haunted by ghosts and in fact ghosts themselves unwittingly haunting others.
Planet of the Apes (1968) – George Taylor finds himself on planet completely habitated by apes. However, this is not a new planet at all, it is Earth!
Primal Fear – Scizophrenic Aaron Stampler is accused of murder. After his star lawyer, Martin Vail gets him off, we learn that Stampler is not the true identity, the evil Roy is in charge, and that he DID commit the murder!
Identity – 10 strangers are trapped in a secluded motel and get killed off one by one. The strangers are not actual people, but specific personalities of a man with Multiple Personality Disorder “cleansing” himself of other personalities. When it seems that the murderous personality is gone, we find out that the young (assumingnly innocent) boy personality is the murderous personality, and he is about to kill the last remaining personality.
The Game – Nicholas receives a birthday gift from estranged brother, Conrad, which is supposed to be a game, but leaves Nicholas running for his life. In what should have been a fall to his death, Nicholas crashes into his own birthday party thrown by Conrad, proving that all the events were part of the game.

Chinatown – I don’t think I can do this one justice. Too many things going on to explain in a summary. Go rent it.
Frailty – Fenton Meiks confesses to FBI Agent Wesley Doyle about his father’s religious visions leads him to kill “demons” that have taken over individuals. We learn that Adam has taken over the identity of his slain brother, Fenton and was behind these killings. Then we learn that Doyle was really a demon, and that Adam is doing the right thing by killing him.
Secret Window – Mort Rainey gets a visit from John Shooter, accusing Mort of stealing his story. Rainey made up the persona of John Shooter to help him commit several murders.
Fallen – An evil spirit, Azazel takes control over any living being to commit murder. Detective Hobbes attempts to kill Azazel by poisoning himself while possessed by the evil spirit. Just before Hobbes dies, Azazel “jumps” over to a stray cat to continue on.
Mulholland Drive – If I couldn’t do Chinatown, did you really think that I could do this non-linear escapade?
Matchstick Men – Con man Roy Waller gets conned himself by his long time partner, Frank, who brings in a young girl to play the part of Roy’s long lost (non-existent) daughter to help get Roy’s money.
The Player – Hollywood producer Griffin Mill is being harassed by a writer whose script he recently rejected. During a fit of rage from the harassment, Mill kills the writer, but it turns out to be the wrong one.
The Devil’s Advocate – Lawyer Kevin Lomax dreams up an elaborate tale of being the son of Satan when he considers cashing in his integrity to win a case, although the devil still has plans to intervene, albeit subtlely.
Deathtrap – Playwright Sidney Bruel and his student Clifford successfully hatch a scheme to kill Sidney’s wife. In the process, Sidney steals Clifford’s play to use as his own. They end up murdering each other, found by mystical neighbor Helga, who uses these events in her own play which ends up as a smash success.
Crying Game – IRA fugitive Fergus escapes to London and creates the persona of Jimmy and meets another prisoner’s lover, Gil. Turns out that Gil is a man, man!
No Way Out – Kevin Costner spends the entire movie trying to prove that he is not the mysterious Russian spy, Yuri. At the end, you find out that Costner is in fact, Yuri!
Arlington Road – Terrorist expert and college professor Michael Faraday is convinced that his new neighbor, Oliver Lang is a terrorist. In a strange turn of events, Lang dupes Faraday into bombing an FBI building.

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About Steve Emanuelson

  • JR

    We are setup to believe that Keaton was the mastermind, Keiser Soze and Verbal Kent was the stupid one. Turns out that Kent was Soze, and like that, he was gone.

    Actually, I think the movie is even trickier than that. It’s Epimendes’ paradox: everything Kint says is a lie (he was a con man, after all). But for him to be Keyser Soze, then some of his story would have to be true.

    Consider this: if Kobayashi is just a name off of a coffee mug, who’s the dude driving the Jaguar at the end?

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    You left out two huge ones: Psycho and House of Games.

  • http://rodneywelch.blogspot.com/ Rodney Welch

    Oh, and Diabolique.

  • Bob

    I loved the new Outer Limits episode “better luck next time”. At the end the Lady detective put the triumphed over the non-corporeal aliens but good!

  • http://lethargicmind.org steve emanuelson

    Can’t believe I left Psycho off the list. I am not familiar with House of Games. I saw Diabolique when it first came out on video, but all I remember about it was that I didn’t like it. Whatever the twist was, it didn’t “stick”.

  • Eric Olsen

    Anyone remember The Last of Shiela? A buttload of twists in that one.

    Pretty twist in Wild Things as well

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Steve, very nice list

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    What about Empire Strikes Back?

  • Sunny

    I second “Wild Things” also, “The Life of David Gale” although predictable, still was pretty twisted.

  • http://www.midnitcafe.blogspot.com Mat Brewster

    Great list. My mind is nowhere in shape to sit down and think of other great twists. Though I will say I thought the ending of Identity sucked the life out of the rest of the movie. It was a nice little thriller up until the twist.

  • Duane

    Great list.

    Speaking of The Others, I nominate The Other as having a great twist, although some have said that they see the ending coming. The twist is that we watch two twins, one of whom does a lot of bad stuff, while the other is a little angel. We find out in the last 5 minutes of the movie that the “evil” twin is long since dead, and the “good” twin, who imagines all his interactions with the “evil” twin, has been the perpetrator all along. Plus it’s creepy.

    Also, Jagged Edge, Sea of Love, Consenting Adults, Mirage, Donnie Darko, and Rebecca.

  • http://halfbakered.blogspot.com mike hollihan

    Korean film: A Tale of Two Sisters. Great psychological thriller and ghost story. Turns out there’s only one sister!

  • http://spaces.msn.com/members/dorksandlosers Tan Hoang

    I’m glad no one mentioned the Village. I saw that coming a mile away.

  • Eric Olsen

    Rosemary’s Baby was pretty shocking the first time around

  • Michael Sutton

    Sleuth, with Laurence Olivier, Michael Caine, and…well, that would be telling. :-)

  • Michael Sutton

    Oh my God, I almost forgot: Witness for the Prosecution! Billy Wilder’s Agatha Christie courtroom thriller. “Please do not reveal the surprise ending to your friends who have not seen the movie…”

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    Just thought of some other ones. Fight Club, Vanilla Sky, and a Korean flick, Oldboy (it was some what predictable, but I was still floored by this one).

  • Hey Hey

    I didn’t predict the OLDBOY outcome (I don’t know anyone who did besides people who wrote blogcritics reviews of it), and if I had, wow.

  • http://orsoithought.blogspot.com Bat Boy

    I second Fight club.

  • Shark

    House of Games, Blood Simple, The Spanish Prisoner, 12 Monkeys…

    This could have been an interesting list — had it been done by somebody with a brain and a sense of movie history.

    “Chinatown – I don’t think I can do this one justice. Too many things going on to explain in a summary. Go rent it.”

    Feh.

    What a friggin’ waste of pixels.

  • http://lethargicmind.org steve

    I was wondering how long it would take a pretentious, self-absorbed, self-annointed movie buff to chime in with some obscure movie references to make him feel important. Took longer than I thought.

    I haven’t seen the movies you have mentioned, Shark, but had you suggested them in a cordial fashion I might have seen them. I will probably see House of Games, but that has more to do with Rodney Welsh’s comment than yours.

  • http://w6daily.winn.com/ Phillip Winn

    Steve, the movies Shark lists aren’t exactly obscure. 12 Monkeys was a Terry Gilliam film with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt in it, among many others! The Spanish Prisoner had Steve Martin in it, and Blood Simple was a Coen Brothers film. Ironically, the only movie of the four I didn’t recognize (and haven’t seen) is House Of Games, though IMDB tells me it is a Mamet film, like The Spanish Prisoner.

    Please, cut the pretentious, self-absorbed, self-anointed deflator of movie buffs routine. :-)

  • http://lethargicmind.org steve

    I can only list movies that I have seen. Period. If there are movies that I have left off this list (based on my personal opinion), then by all means suggest them, like several others already have. I encourage that. Attacking me for leaving off your favorite film helps no one. When I get attacked, I attack back.

    Now, let us return to discussing movies with a good twist. Any other suggestions?

  • http://www.temptationwaits.com visualsimplicity

    Hey Hey, well, I didn’t really predict everything that happened in Oldboy, but the thought of what happened crossed my mind near the beginning although it was quickly squelched. Then when it actually happened, even though I had thought about it, it still completely left me with my jaw on the floor. Definitely, wow.

  • Tara

    I’d like to see Clay Pigeons added, because I’m not sure I understood the ending. I suspect it was more of a half-twist than a twist, and I may just be trying to make it into something more unexpected than it really was.

  • mother engine

    “don’t look now”: the very unsettling nicolas roeg film which is based on a short story.

  • me

    oh, and “angel heart” is my personal pick for best twist ending in a film.

  • El Bicho

    Citizen Kane, The Sting, The Maltese Falcon, The Road Warrior…didn’t Treasure of Sierra Madre have a twist?

    The Game was so unbelievable that it lost all semblance of plausibility.

  • Asheeq

    1. I watched “my little eye” it had a twisted plot but the unravelling disturbing twist was mindblowing
    it was basically big brother gone very wrong

    2. “the wicker man”

    3. this is an interesting one “capturing the friedman’s” now this is a documentary with a twist but the fact that you are seeing real life (this family used to film themselves) makes it all the more hardhitting, and believe me it made for some compelling viewing

    4. “freeze frame” entertaining but nothing special

    5. “dogville” nicole kidman very unique film, twist could have been more imaginative

  • Donna

    I would include Basic though it’s confusing and SAW

  • m1000

    SAW
    – the best twist I have seen in a movie. I was floored

  • monte christo

    can’t believe no-one’s mentioned MEMENTO! like films that keep you guessing right up until the end – just recently watched OLD BOY – got the twist but still feel i need to chat about it some more, if only to get some sort of closure!

  • Matt Houston

    Memento is fantastic, with a dynamic twist.

  • ash

    well i think identity is d best… bombastic
    cant believe MPD….

  • Steve

    How ’bout the 1970’s remake of “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” with Donald Sutherland?? The ending was a bit of a switch from the original.

    “Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban”?? Assuming you hadn’t read the book of course!!

  • mg

    the sixth sense was an awesome twist ending

  • Chris Goodson

    I adore films that keep you on the edge of your seat and fling you off with a well crafted twist. Shawshank Redemption is the one for me. There are a lot of brilliant ‘twist films’ on this page but not including: Along Came A Spider, Runaway Jury, The Green Mile, Unbreakable, The Butterfly Effect and Frequency. And that’s just off the top of my head! More suggestions please…

  • B.N.

    How about ”Jacob’s ladder’ with Tim Robbins?–surely one of the the greatest ”is it real?” movie twists ever…see it

  • hassan

    how about SAW. i thought it had a genius twist

  • leylo

    dead mans shoes

  • J Man

    12 Monkeys and Saw I. Those two are both mind warping ending especially the first Saw movie no one saw that coming.

  • Rolrol19

    Hey dudes, you forgot britney spear’s movies from your list…haha just kidding
    anyway, you can add: eternal sunshine of the spotless mind (an outstanding performance by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet – twisted events in the life of 2 people who loved and hated each other i would say)

  • Brian C. Lauziere

    Seriously, the SAW series has some of the best twists. The first SAW is UNBELIEVABLE! It was fantastic. Se7en is also another favorite. And there is definitely one more you are missing. For those of you who haven’t seen the excellent twist, watch “Angelheart” with Mickey Rourke. Excellent.

    BC Lauziere

  • Dr Dreadful

    Angel Heart was a good movie, but the twist wasn’t exactly something you wouldn’t see coming. The client who hires Angel is called Louis Cyphre? Come on…

  • Jose Jiminez

    Nice list! I thought “flaming” went out with Nirvana. Guess I was wrong. I read the list and comments and forgot exactly how many times I said to myself, “Man, I gotta see that one again!” Thanks again for the great ideas and the time you took to post them.

  • Craig Chattoe

    So glad some of the best twist movies are being shared and a couple that i didnt know about, cant wait to rent. Some others are the number 23 with jim Carrey, American Psycho with Bale, Just Cause with Sean Connory, (the score with deniro, and ronin,fightplan,room1408, unbreakable, have kind of a twist.)revolver with jason statem – please someone explain this one to me, and the brilliant hot fuzz. I liked the movie dark city and its twist.

  • Necroman305

    Uh, ya… besides not listing alot of great movies, you wrote that Se7en “In one scene, we see Greed and Wrath personified”. Actually I believe that would be Envy and Wrath… I could be wrong… but seriously, I never am so I really doubt it.

  • bliffle

    “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, still shocking after all these years.

  • Prettyclevergirl

    My favorite psychological thriller of all time is Hard candy with the main actress from Juno. this movie is about a 14 year old that meets a pedophile on the net and turns the tables on him. Amazing movie with a twisted ending.

  • barry

    great list, you worked really hard at this and it looks good

    but you forget Saw, the first one, the twist at the end is just so unexpected and brilliant

  • Brian

    I lost a little interest in this list when I read the synopsis of “Se7en.” One, the final scene was Envy and Wrath (Greed was the death of the lawyer early in the film). Second, Brad Pitt never saw what was in the box; the only person to see Gwynyth Paltrow’s head was Morgan Freeman.

    Hey, trashy movie, but “WildThings” has got more plot twists than any movie ever!

  • http://theugliestamerican.blogspot.com Andy Marsh

    What I noticed about “Se7en” when I was watching it again the other day was that in the very beginning of the movie, Kevin Spacey’s name is never shown in the opening credits…I thought that was pretty clever…

    Wild things was my intro to Denise Richards! Nothing else needs to be said. She can wash my car any day!

  • http://bloggingontheedgeofsuicide.blogspot.com/ Jet in Columbus

    I guess Luke finding out that Darth Vader was his father doesn’t count?

  • Matt

    What about Eastern Promises?

  • Brad Schader

    You kind of messed up No Way Out. Hackman plays a Senator who murders his mistress and blames it on a fictional Russian spy that no one really believes exists. He gets Costner to look for this spy, unaware that Costner is actually the very Russian spy no one really believes in.

    Great list. Glad to see Deathtrap on that list. Haven’t thought of that movie in years.

  • Frausig

    Great list everyone I have like 10 movies waiting to be seen now.
    How about
    -The Departed – Jackie boy is undercover
    -Inside Man – Genius robbery: no guns, no kills, gets away
    -Lucky Number Slevin – Hartnett and Bruce work together to take revenger over dead father
    -The Prestige – Twins(its there but one keeps wondering)
    -The Illusionist – The bitch isnt dead
    -Mystic River – The fucker was telling the truth

  • Sam Bailey

    You just have to watch Following (Christopher Nolan) and Unbreakable (M. Night Shyamalan) best endings ever :)

  • alc

    departed’s twist definitely made me yell “what the HELL?!?!” at the tv, but my all time fave twist would have to be the black dahlia…. the mom? who knew?!? and how creepy was that suicide? anyone?

  • rw

    Donnie Darko!!! sick movie
    The prestige

    those 2 are really good movies

  • Dana

    “House of Games” was awesome. And the original version of “The Wicker Man” is quite possibly one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen.

  • Matt.

    Thirty odd years ago there was a film called ‘The Baby’. Its ending was so surprising everyone in the cinema remained seated during the credits, too surprised to want to leave.

  • Nathan

    Be prepared to add “Ashecliffe” to this list. It’s an upcoming movie adaptation of the novel “Shutter Island” by Dennis Lehane. The twist ending of the novel is mind-blowing, so I can only imagine how well it will turn out on the big screen. Martin Scorsese is directing it, so you know it will be excellent.

  • movie fanatic

    yeah, kevin spacey didnt want his name in the openin credits because he didnt want to give away how important his role in the movie would be, pretty clever

    its a movie with demi moore and bruce willis that i thought was pretty good, Mortal Thoughts

    the village had a great twist as well

    i hate to sound redundant but saw 2 twist was pretty fresh

    and just to name an excellent ass movie, Mr. Brooks!! go see it please

  • Adrian Shepherd

    I’m a big fan of twists and I would like to add a few movies to the list
    1. Above Suspicion (very clever)
    2. Dead Again
    3. Love, cheat and steal
    4. Shawshank Redemption

    enjoy

  • Tamal

    I think saw and prestige have a great twist in the end