The 30 Greatest Plot Twists in Movie History

20. The Others (Alejandro Amenábar, 2001)


This is a stylish horror movie. Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives in a lonely house in Jersey with her two photosensitive children, as they wait for her husband to return from World War I. Grace is extremely religious and protective of her children. When a group of servants arrives, the family starts to hear voices and are tormented by unseen beings.

The plot twist: Grace and her children were dead the entire time and were the real ghosts.


19. Primal Fear (Gregory Hoblit, 1996)

Primal Fear (1996)

Edward Norton was introduced to film audiences with his strong Oscar-nominated performance for Best Supporting Actor in his debut picture.

This movie, based on William Diehl’s novel, is not a conventional courtroom thriller. Martin Vail (Richard Gere) is a defense attorney who takes the case of Aaron Stampler (Edward), an altar boy who is found covered in the blood of a Chicago archbishop.

Martin takes the case as a way of getting publicity, but during his jail visits with Aaron he starts to believe the young man might be really innocent, as he discovers Aaron suffers from multiple personality disorder and it was his alter ego who killed the archbishop.

The plot twist: Aaron doesn’t have multiple personalities. The entire time he was pretending to have the disorder.


18. Oldboy (Chan-wook Park, 2003)

best south korean crime films

After being imprisoned 15 years for unknown reasons, Oh Dae Su (Min-sik Choi) goes on a rampage trying to find who set him up so he can get revenge. Along his search he ends up sleeping with a cute and young chef named Mi-do (Kang Hye-jeong).

The plot twist: Mi-do is Oh Dae Su’s daughter, and Oh Dae Su’s kidnapper engineered the meeting as part of his revenge plan.


17. Angel Heart (Alan Parker, 1987)

Angel Heart (1987)

One of Robert De Niro’s best performances comes from this beautifully acted and scary movie. Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro) hires a private investigator named Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) to find a singer called Johnny Favourite. Quite simple, right?

The plot twist: Say “Louis Cyphre” slowly. It sounded like Lucifer? You’re right. Louis Cyphre is no other than Lucifer, Mr. Devil himself. Johnny Favourite? Johnny is Harry Angel.


16. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)

Chinatown (1974)

This Polanski classic noir film, awarded with an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and other 10 nominations by the Academy, is required on this list.

JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is a private investigator hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to follow her husband whom she suspects is having an affair, but JJ stumbles onto much more: corruption, a murder and… a plot twist.

The plot twist: “She’s my sister and my daughter!” Evelyn was in an incestuous relationship with her father.


15. Se7en (David Fincher, 1995)

Se7en (1995)

Released the same year as “The Usual Suspects”, in “Se7en” we follow an investigation by two detectives, the almost reformed William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and the young and recently transferred David Mills (Brad Pitt). They investigate a series of crimes representing the seven deadly sins. The investigation leads them to John Doe who ends up surrendering and claiming his guilt.

The plot twist: John Doe leads the detectives into the middle of the desert where – he says – there’ll be the final two bodies representing the missing sins. When they arrive Somerset receives a box from a deliveryman and inside there is the head of Mill’s wife, and Doe admits he murdered her for envy (the sixth sin). Mills, out of wrath (the seventh sin), murders John Doe. Like in “The Usual Suspects”, this is another twist brought by Mr. Kevin Spacey.


14. The Crying Game (Neil Jordan, 1992)

the crying game

This psychological thriller directed by Neil Jordan won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and five other Oscar nominations, thanks to an excellent plot and fantastic performances by Stephen Rea (Fergus), Jaye Davidson (Dil) and Forest Whitaker (Jody), among others.

Fergus, an IRA member, goes to London seeking out the lover of Jody, a British soldier who became friend of Fergus, but he ends up falling in love with her and they started seeing each other.

The plot twist: As the attraction between Dil and Fergus rises, Dil reveals to him that she is really still a “he”… with a masculine sexual member.


13. Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)


Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a US Marshall trying to track down a criminally insane patient named Rachel Solando (who murdered her three children) after she escaped from Ashecliffe Hospital.

The plot twist: Daniels is Andrew Laeddis, a patient at this mental hospital, and the search for Rachel (his dead wife who he had murdered) was just an elaborate “game” to shake Laeddis from his insanity.


12. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)


Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is a man medically incapable of creating new memories, and is also the hunter of his wife’s killers. His amnesiac state makes this task more difficult each time as he loses his memory continuously. His “partner in crime” is a shady cop named Teddy (Joe Pantoliano).

The plot twist: His wife survived the attack. It was Shelby who killed his diabetic partner after she manipulated him in order to know if he was lying about his mental disability. Teddy knew the truth about this case all along, and still helped Leonard as a way of exploiting his condition, and also as a method of restoring some meaning to his life rather than facing his guilt. Confused? Try seeing it in backwards.


11. Saw (James Wan, 2004)


Two random guys are kidnapped and locked in a dirty room by a guy named “Jigsaw”, who leaves them cryptic messages in order to play with the characters’ despair as he challenges them to complete a task or die.

The plot twist: Jigsaw was the “lifeless” corpse lying in the middle of the room between the two guys from the beginning.