If there’s one thing you can count on M. Night Shyamalan movies for, it’s a twist ending. (Well, that and the director’s penchant for making weird, Hitchcock-like cameos). Ever since he shocked audiences with the reveal in The Sixth Sense — which, crucially, was made before the internet could ruin a film in 15 seconds — Shyamalan has leaned into narrative shocks, and strived to keep viewers guessing. His latest, Old, is about a beach that makes you old, sort of, sometimes. True to form, there’s a rug-pulling reveal late in the game — naturally, a nefarious force is up to no good, though the logic falls apart when you really think about it. Ranked against Shyamalan’s previous twists, Old sits near the middle. It’s nowhere near as good as “I see dead people,” but certainly isn’t as crazy as whatever was happening in The Happening (murder plants!).
Below, tidy summaries of each Shyamalan movie ending, from The Sixth Sense onwards. As you’ll see, his plot devices quickly go from simple and effective to absolutely bonkers, then briefly back to sensible (yay, The Visit!), before getting bonkers again.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The kid sees dead people — including a guy we thought was alive the whole time.
Brittle bone guy orchestrated a whole bunch of “accidents” so he could find a superhero nemesis and live his best supervillain life.
Aliens with a water allergy come to a water-based planet and run into problems, and inadvertently restore Mel Gibson’s faith in God in the process.
The Village (2004)
The characters aren’t living in a 19th century town, or under threat from porcupine monsters —a really rich guy just purchased some land and tricked them.
Lady in the Water (2006)
There isn’t one, unless you count the fact that when Heep has to... enlist four people to save a nymph living in his apartment pool, he makes the wrong choices and it causes problems.
The Happening (2008)
The trees are mad at humans, so they’ve been emitting a toxic gas to make people kill themselves in a rather hilarious fashion.
The Last Airbender (2010)
There’s no twist in this one, except that Shyamalan managed to make an Avatar film that even Avatar fans hate.
Four people are trapped in an elevator with the literal devil, but he goes away because one guy is really sorry for killing some other people. (Shyamalan didn’t direct this one, but did write and produce.)
After Earth (2013)
The Visit (2015)
The kids’ “grandparents” are actually two patients from a mental hospital, and their real relatives are dead.
Among Kevin’s 24 separate identities is a sociopathic entity called The Beast; also the movie is in the same universe as Unbreakable.
An organization is trying to capture and kill super-powered people to keep their abilities under wraps (wait, what?); the villains don’t succeed on the secret-keeping front, but Kevin and the characters from Unbreakable do die.
The beach makes you old... because a pharmaceutical company wanted to test experimental drugs more efficiently.