The 30 Greatest Plot Twists in Movie History

10. The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006)


In this Nolan film, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are two rival magicians who compete to create the ultimate stage illusion. This battle for supremacy becomes jealous and obsessive along the way as they attempt to outdo one another in 19th century London.

The plot twist: Borden was a twin, which is how he pulled off the majority of his tricks, while Angier cloned himself and killed every one of his clones after each trick.


9. Fight Club (David Fincher, 1999)


The overused trick of split personality (spoiler alert) has resulted in some great twists throughout cinema history. This David Fincher masterpiece is one of those cases, and among the most recognized.

The plot twist: Brad Pitt and Edward Norton are two sides of the same character. Pitt plays the cool and manly side of the narrator’s (Edward Norton) personality.


8. Jacob’s Ladder (Adrian Lyne, 1990)


This dark and disturbing Adrian Lyne psychological horror movie features Tim Robbins in the leading role as a Vietnam vet haunted by terrible flashbacks of his first marriage and his son, who recently died in an accident for which Jacob feels responsible.

What’s real and what are hallucinations created by Jacob’s mind? That’s the main question for Tim Robbin’s paranoid character in this nightmarish horror movie.

The plot twist: Jacob was dying the entire time and he was on his deathbed. The flashbacks had him recalling key moments of his life in a dying hallucination.


7. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)

rosebud citizen kane

This film does not quite have an “awesome plot twist”, but is still one of the most unexpected twists in cinema history. The story of newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane starts with him lying on his deathbed where his last word is “rosebud”.

The plot twist: Rosebud is the name of Kane’s childhood sled, a symbol from his lost youth when he was truly happy.


6. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)


This famous film tells the story of Marion Crane’s murder and became part of cinema history, as well as the most recognized Hitchcockian masterpiece.

The plot twist: It was not Norman Bates’ mother who killed Marion Crane. In fact, it was Bates disguised as his mother, who he killed years ago, causing him to develop a split personality thinking he’s his mother.


5. The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan, 1999)

the sixth sense ending

Shyamlan is one of the big names in the world of cinematic twist endings. Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) goes to a friendly psychologist named Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis), telling him that he can see “dead people” so the doctor can help him.

The plot twist: Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is dead, and that’s why Cole can see him.


4. Les Diaboliques (Henri-George Clouzot, 1955)


This French classic from director Henri-George Clouzot holds one of the most surprising plot twists in film history. Christina Delassalle (Véra Clouzot) teams up with her husband’s mistress, Nicole Horner (Simone Signoret), in order to kill him, but things don’t go as planned as Michel’s missing body reappears in the family bathtub causing Christine to have a heart attack.

The plot twist: Michel isn’t dead. He and his mistress planned all of this!


3. Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner, 1968)


It can be said that this science fiction masterpiece is a case of an ending becoming bigger than the movie itself.

This is a story about three astronauts who, after traveling to a distant future, crash onto an unknown planet. In this land, homo sapiens are considered second-class citizens while apes rule the world.

The plot twist: The planet was actually Earth whole the time. The final shot is of the Statue of Liberty half-sunken on the shore in the film’s final scene. This is one of the biggest twist endings ever made.


2. The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)

The Usual Suspects

This is one of the most original cinematic stories ever told. “The Usual Suspects” won two Academy Awards, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor, due to a fantastic cast and an awesome story with an even bigger plot twist.

“Who is Keyser Soze?” This is what everybody wants to know, as the viewer sees a crippled man named “Verbal” Kint (who was part of a major crime alongside his partners) to the detectives assigned to the case.

The plot twist: Crime lord Keyzer Soze is “Verbal” Kint, who has just told detective Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) a pack of lies he’s made up. As he’s being released from custody, he steps out to the street and reveals himself as non-crippled. One of the greatest cinematic stories ever told and the greatest ending twist in film history.


1. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)


The film contains one of the greatest plot twists of all time. How many viewers already knew the twist before they got to see the movie? The often-misquoted “No. I’m your father” is possibly the most iconic line in cinema history.

The plot twist: Luke Skywalker’s mortal enemy, Darth Vader, is actually his father who he never knew.

Author Bio: João Vieira is a cinema aficionado since he can recall. His favorite director is Woody Allen and he likes to watch movies from all genres, years and countries. In his spare time you’ll probably see him reading a book or talking with his friends about a movie or series he just saw.