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20 Great Movie Twist Endings That Left Us Totally Shocked

02 September 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

movie twist endings

The best twist endings in movies? Those that enhance the film’s previous two hours without rendering them moot.

From Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” in 1960 to modern classics like “Memento,” “The Sixth Sense” and “The Usual Suspects,” twist endings have shocked audiences for decades. Who can forget that he was dead the entire time? Or that she was dead the entire time? Or that he was the criminal mastermind? Or that they were all in his mind? Or that you blew it up?

Below, enjoy 20 of the greatest twist endings in movie history. Which ones did we forget? Let us know in the comments below!

 

20. The Descent

the-descent-2005

The Set-Up: An all-female group of spelunkers find themselves trapped underground when a cave-in blocks their way out. And surprise-surprise, they’re not alone down there…

The Twist: After various thrills and spills, the last surviving member of the caving party finally finds her way out, bursting into sweet daylight and her salvation. Until she wakes up and realises she’s still trapped. D’oh!

How Shocking? It’s a cruel, cruel twist. Too cruel for the American market, for whom the film finishes before the heroine awakens.

 

19. The Vanishing

the-vanishing-1988

The Set-Up: When his girlfriend is kidnapped by a stranger whilst backpacking in France, Dutch traveller Rex becomes obsessed with what happened to his lost love. Some three years later he comes face-to-face with the man who snatched her from him. Inviting Rex to the same café from which his girlfriend was abducted, the kidnapper tells him he will discover what happened to her if he drinks a proffered cup of coffee…

The Twist: Having drunk the coffee, Rex awakens to find himself buried alive in a coffin somewhere beneath the ground.

How Shocking? Terribly. The only thing worse than being buried alive would be the dying thought that your girlfriend went the same way. Truly horrific.

 

18. American Psycho

american-psycho-2000

The Set-Up: Manhattan trader Pat Bateman spends his days doling out fashion tips, eating in the city’s finest restaurants and occasionally hacking people to pieces with his trusty axe. He’s an American psycho you see.

The Twist: Having confessed to his murders, Bateman realises that many of his supposed victims are still alive and kicking, the suggestion being that his crimes have only played out in his head.

How Shocking? It’s more bewildering than shocking, as Bateman’s madness is revealed to be even more pervasive than we’d first thought.

 

17. The Orphanage

the-orphanage-2007

The Set-Up: A couple moves into a former orphanage, only for their young child to go missing soon after. When the mother spies a ghostly boy with a bag over his head, she suspects something spooky has been going on.

The Twist: The ghost-boy is actually the spirit of her son, who she had accidentally trapped in the cellar. The noises she had heard in the house were the sounds of him struggling to free himself.

How Shocking? It’s quite a convoluted payoff, with a hearty amount of hallucination involved, but somehow it manages to be simultaneously horrifying and uplifting. No mean feat.

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  • homiesglip

    Yep, of all the twists you mentioned, the Keyser Soze one gave me the biggest movie nerd hard-on.

  • Benjboi

    Uuummmmm no! The American Psycho ending is not supposed to indicate that he hasn’t killed anyone, it’s a satire about 1980′s wall street. Everybody looks the same, talks the same and everybody is so entranced by their own self worth that you can literally get away with murder. The fact that his lawyer doesn’t actually know him calling him the wrong name is the give away. He didn’t have dinner with Paul Allen because the lawyer doesn’t even know who Paul Allen is.

    • tubeman

      Bingo! In a later interview with the director of the film, she admitted that the ending didn’t work as it should have. Both her and Ellis (the books author) have said it over and over that Bateman most certainly killed all those people.

  • Rodriquez Montoya

    This article is blatant rip-off, words per words from original article here http://www.totalfilm.com/features/30-greatest-twist-endings/american-psycho-2000 Even the image is taken from there. Shame

  • Bels

    No ‘The Crying game’?

    • Ray

      Not so shocking if you saw SLEEPAWAY CAMP 10 years earlier.

      • Anon

        I didn’t, I think I would have been about 9, ten years previous to The Crying Game….

  • Elvis Morales

    Skeleton Key?? That is a twisted ending!

  • http://instagram.com/threadpool Threadpool

    Wait.

    Se7en
    Saw
    The Usual Suspects
    Planet of the Apes
    Fight Club
    The Usual Suspects
    The Vanishing
    These are all on the “10 Twist Movie Endings That Didn’t Work” list,
    on the same site… BY THE SAME AUTHOR?!
    *head explosion*

  • New120Man

    You got both Memento and American Psycho wrong. Memento is ambiguous, right down to releasing three contradictory director’s commentaries on the DVD. Your simply picking one and saying that’s what happened shows a woefully unsophisticated grasp of the movie. Others have pointed out AP.

  • awyisss

    I said to myself the whole time “the usual suspects better be #1 or they have no idea what they’re talking about”… hands down winner. great film

  • Samuel Nicholson

    The boy in the Orphanage isnt a spirit is he? I thought the whole point was that it was literally just her kid playing, and that she was afraid of the outward appearance, similarly to the kids who teased and picked on the kid who originally wore the mask when they were children.

  • Brent

    Shutter Island!

  • Anthony Poirier

    Although the clues were a bit more obvious, I thought “The Village” had a remarkable twist ending… If a little bit unrealistic.

  • Anthony Poirier

    And although I completely agree that Usual Suspects and Sixth sense were #1 and #2 respectively, I would’ve put The Others as #3. I never clued in that it was the family that were actually ghosts, and not the “invaders” that had moved in.

    • Richard Harney

      I guessed the ending to The Others before the movie even came out. I thought the previews and title sort of gave it away.

      • Anthony Poirier

        Maybe that’s how it got me. I never recalled seeing the trailers for this movie. Girlfriend just plugged in the DVD one night and said, “This will fuck you up, enjoy.” And I did.

  • http://fheathermoore.com Heather Moore

    Usual Suspects, Number 1. Too right. I watched it again last week, having not seen it in many years and I still wanted to stand up and applaud it like I and the whole cinema did when it came out. Probably my favourite film of all time.

    Pan’s Labyrinth was an unexpected ending for me as well as Obros Los Ojos (Open Your Eyes – The original Spanish version of Vanilla Sky). The Village had a totally unexpected ending, as was Knowing. I only saw the last hour of Descent but I thought it was a great twist. Jacob’s Ladder too, a fantastic film. So many goodies.

  • Gav Campbell

    Shutter Island was a goodie :)

  • Monette Bebow-Reinhard

    I thought The Sting would have made the list.

  • Rick Callahan

    I really think the best twist ending is The Game with Michael Douglas.

  • Foster H. Coker III

    I think the “Planet of the Apes” twist wasn’t one of the better ones…all the apes spoke English. What planet did Taylor think he was on?
    I would have put “No Way Out” on my list….

  • rai rai ken

    wow, spoilers

  • Sean

    Regarding Memento, Leonard didn’t bungle the insulin injections– he murdered his wife using the insulin injections. Why? He was a bit of a perfectionist and a neat freak, so my guess is that he felt as though his wife was tainted by the assault/rape. Leonard’s psyche couldn’t deal with being a murderer, so some sort of psychological disorder developed preventing him from remembering the murder (and everything after the initial assault/rape). The cop knew this and used Leonard to murder Trinity’s husband. Leonard is a smart guy, and he realized that he was used by the cop at the end of the film (which was the beginning of the stint of Leonard’s life that the movie illuminates). Leonard also knew that he would “forget” that realization, so he gave himself the first “clue” which lead him to murdering the cop (thereby getting revenge on the cop and preventing the cop from using him again).

    • RazorShines

      Sort of right. Leonard incurred short term memory loss after the attack. Remember he received a head injury trying to save his wife. He replaced a con man from his days as an insurance investigator as himself. So in his head the con man, Sammy Jenkis, killed his own wife when in reality Leonard killed his own wife. In fact, she allowed him to kill her, Accidentally. She was so sure he would remember things, she kept resetting her watch and telling Leonard it was time for her insulin shot. Of course, she overdoses.

  • Saurabh Ludhani

    You should have mentioned ‘take shelter’. it has got really brilliant ending…kills you…

  • Anil Batra

    ohh man, you haven’t included ‘the shawshank redemption’, ‘shutter island’.. i think these two movie reserve a place in top 5.

  • Luvita

    Planet of the Apes 1968 or 2001?

  • Desmond Linney

    Anyone seen “The Curve” 1998. Check it out, great twist. Didn’t see that one coming.

  • Christopher Binder

    I’m surprised Witness for the Prosecution and The Fugitive were left off.

  • Tyrone Binder

    agreed that usual suspects belongs at #1 … but you really have to update your movies .. you need to see confidence and matchstick men…