Some of the most memorable moments in all of cinema are plot twists. Nothing quite compares to sitting through a film, only for a surprise plot development to take audiences off guard. From familial revaluations to killer reveals, these are the moments that make audiences demand a second viewing. There are more than a few plot twists throughout movie history, and today we are looking at ten of the absolute best movie plot twist endings of all time.
Major Spoilers For Each Film Ahead
10. Fight Club
One of the biggest pop culture hits of the ’90s was Fight Club, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk. The film gained popularity because of several reasons. The acting chops of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt are on full display, and the anti-consumerism message resonated with many. However, one of the most important reasons was the movie’s twist ending. For the duration of the film, The Narrator goes through the film without a real identity of his own. He even attends various meetings under a different alias each time. His life changes when he meets Tyler Durden. Near the end of the film, it is revealed Tyler Durden and The Narrator are one and the same. The entire time, Brad Pitt was simply a figment of Edward Norton’s imagination. This is easily one of the most iconic and best movie plot twists.
9. The Sixth Sense
Another iconic ’90s hit was The Sixth Sense by director M. Night Shyamalan. The popular Bruce Willis film follows Dr. Malcom Crowe, a psychologist who takes on a young boy as a client. The boy, Cole, claims to be able to see dead people. Malcolm quickly learns there is more to the boy’s claims than meets the eye. Eventually, Malcolm learns the tragic truth. This movie twist ending is Dr. Malcom Crowe has been dead the entire time. At the beginning of the film, Crowe is shot by a home invader. He is shown to have survived the attack, or so he thinks. Malcolm died that day, and he roamed the world of the living, believing he was still alive.
Alfred Hitchcock’s chilling classic is known as one of the best horror movies of all time and was one of the first slashers. The movie follows a woman, Lila Crane, investigating the disappearance of her sister. She is led to the Bates Motel, a rundown motel run by Norman Bates and his mother. Lila soon assumes her sister has been murdered and Mrs. Bates is the culprit. Norman seems desperate to protect his mother, and Lila is determined to discover the truth. That she does, and it is so much worse than she thought. One of the best movie plot twists, this one reveals Norman Bates had murdered his mother years prior. In Norman’s mind, his mother is still alive. He dresses like her and carries out murders in her name. As far as Norman is concerned, however, his mother is the true killer.
7. The Empire Strikes Back
While this plot twist is essentially common knowledge by this point, in 1980, it shocked audiences. The first Star Wars film sees Luke Skywalker long to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a Jedi. He soon meets Obi-Wan, a friend of his father’s. He also learns that the menacing Darth Vader is the man who killed his father. Empire Strikes Back sees Luke finally come face to face with the man who took so much from him. After a fierce duel, Vader tells Luke exactly what happened. Darth Vader didn’t kill Luke’s father; he was Luke’s father. This legendary reveal helped cement the Star Wars saga as iconic.
6. The Usual Suspects
The Usual Suspects is a crime thriller that earned high praise as well as earned disgraced actor Kevin Spacey his first Oscar. The movie follows Verbal Kint (Spacey) as he gives his statement of a heist gone wrong and an incident in which he was one of the only survivors. Kint and a group of thieves are under the employee of the mysterious Keyser Soze. The detective listening to the story reveals to Kint that Dean Keaton, a man Verbal trusted, was Soze the whole time. The detective learns all too late, however, that Kint was the true mastermind. What truly makes this one of the best movie plot twists, is it then reveals he had been using various objects around the room to fabricate the story. Verbal Kint, aka Keyser Soze, walked out of the station a free man. Verbal had gone so far as to fake a physical disability as well.
At this point, the Saw franchise is known for a plot twist in each movie. This first film, however, still manages to catch unsuspecting viewers off guard. Two men awaken chained up in a grungy bathroom with a corpse between them. They quickly learn they are the latest victims in serial killer Jigsaw’s sick game. Just when it seems as if they have hope of escaping, the corpse stands up, having been alive the whole time. If this wasn’t shocking enough, the man is Jigsaw himself. This reveal, mixed with the legendary music makes this twist still as shocking as ever.
4. Planet Of The Apes
Another twist ending that is well known is the final scene of the original Planet of the Apes. The film sees astronaut George Taylor as his crew crash lands on a strange planet. Taylor learns that the planet is inhabited by intelligent talking apes, and they are the prominent species. Humans are kept captive and are mute, much like the animals on Taylor’s Earth. When he sets out to investigate where he truly is, the truth is almost too much to bear. Taylor comes across the remains of the Statue of Liberty. Taylor didn’t land on another planet; he was on Earth all along. The final shot is of Taylor dropping to his knees in agony.
3. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese’s film Shutter Island is still discussed in detail to this day. Leonardo Dicaprio plays Teddy, a US Marshall, investigating a mental hospital along with his partner. Teddy soon learns something sinister is happening on the island, and the race is on to find out what. As it turns out, Teddy isn’t actually a real person, at least not as he knows himself. His real name is Andrew, and he is a mental patient at the hospital. His “partner” is actually his doctor. He believes that if he lets Andrew act out his delusions, he will get them out of his system. The shocking revelation that changes the entire film upon repeat viewings.
Orphan sees a couple adopt a young girl named Esther. Everything seems to be going great until unexplained disasters begin to happen. They fear that all signs point to their newly adopted child. Unfortunately for them, they are right. Fortunately for the audience, this isn’t the only plot twist. Esther isn’t a child at all. Esther is actually a 33-year-old woman. Thanks to a growth disorder, she is successfully able to pass off as a child as she commits sick and horrid crimes.
1. Sleepaway Camp
To many, Friday the 13th is the ideal summer camp horror film. For others, it is Sleepaway Camp. This is due largely in part to the unnerving twist ending. The film follows Angela Baker, a young girl traumatized after the death of her brother Peter. She attends a summer camp with her cousin in an attempt to come out of her shell. Things turn bad quickly when gruesome murders begin happening. The movie twist ending ending reveals that Angela is the culprit. If this wasn’t shocking enough, it gets crazier. As it turns out, Peter Baker didn’t die all those years ago; Angela did. The young girl that was in the entire film was actually Peter in drag, who over the years had taken the identity of his deceased sister.