There are some movies that surprise you. The plot rides along and then the story is suddenly turned on its head, and viewers are left to grapple with a very different film. While there are many movies that use this trope, these are the most shocking twist endings of all time. There have been many variations on the "twist" over the years, but it's often suspense and horror movies that take advantage of this format. If you're feeling a lot of anxiety while watching a film, that makes the twist so much better. However, that isn't always the case, and sometimes other genres will take advantage of this format. It's even more of a turn when a romance or drama has a surprise ending, and can leave the unsuspecting audience reeling.
In the Internet age, it's more difficult to watch these movies without reading the spoilers first. The really lucky viewers get to go into the movie unknowing, and feel the full effect of the story. If you're a movie buff and suspect that there could be movies on this list whose twist ending have not been spoiled for you, here's your Spoiler Alert. Turn back now, get yourself to the nearest Netflix account, and then revisit this article. However, if you're not concerned about spoilers, and you know all about Tyler Durden and Bruce Willis, read on.
Here are some of the best twists in cinematic history.
1. The Usual Suspects
In this Kevin Spacey film, five criminals are falsely accused by the police. In a plot against the cops, they start to reveal a larger plot by notorious Keyser Söze. When the other criminals are killed in a mysterious accident, Spacey's Verbal crafts an elaborate story and is set free.
Twist: When Verbal walks free, the detectives realize moments after the release that his story was completely made up and he's Keyser Söze.
Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) catches her sister Cecilia having sex with their housekeeper, Robbie, and misunderstands what she's seen. When Briony falsely accuses Robbie of assaulting her cousin Lola, he is sent away. Cecelia becomes a nurse, and Robbie fights in World War II.
Twist: While the movie shows Briony visiting a reunited Cecelia and Robbie, it turns out this is just a book she's written out of guilt. The couple never truly had a life together; Cecelia is killed in the London bombings, and Robbie dies in the line of duty.
3. Fight Club
Fight Club has one of the most notorious twist endings in movie history. A depressed insomniac meets a volatile soap salesman named Tyler Durden, and the two men start an underground club where men bored of their mundane working lives can physically fight each other. Their bond is tested when they both pursue Marla, a mysterious woman who crashes support groups with them.
Twist: Tyler Durden and the unnamed man are the same person, they are dissociated personalities.
5. Gone Girl
This twist is unique because it comes halfway through the film, instead of at the end. A writer named Nick Dunne and his wife Amy move to Missouri from New York, and shortly after, Amy disappears on their wedding anniversary. Nick is a prime suspect, and for the first half of the film it seems certain that he committed the crime.
Twist: Amy framed Nick, changed her appearance, and disappeared into hiding.
In this 1996 horror film, Sidney Prescott becomes the target of a killer named Ghostface. The school in town closes until the killer is caught, and the teenagers throw a party in celebration. Sidney's boyfriend Billy is killed in front of her, and attempts to hunt her friends.
Twist: Billy wasn't killed, and the killer turns out to be both him and his friend Stu.
7. Shutter Island
In this film, based on Dennis Lehane's novel, a U.S. Marshal named Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner Ben Kingsley attempt to find an escaped murderer named Rachel Solando who drowned her three children at the Ashecliffe Center for the criminally insane on a mysterious island in Boston Harbor
Twist: Teddy Daniels is actually a patient at the hospital named Andrew Laeddis who murdered his wife Rachel after she killed their three kids. The search for Solando is an attempt to bring him back to reality.
Christopher Nolan directed this mind-bending thriller, and it too stars Leonardo DiCaprio. The film follows Dom Cobb, a thief with the ability to enter people's dreams and steal secrets from their subconscious. Cobb can only have charges against him dropped and he will be able to return home. It's revealed that Cobb and his wife Mal spent fifty years in dream limbo creating a world from their memories. When it was time to wake up and return to reality, Mal believed she was still dreaming and committed suicide.
Twist: When Cobb returns home to find his father and children, he puts the totem which reveals if he is awake or asleep on the table. It keeps spinning, and it's possible that Cobb is still in a dream world.
9. The Sixth Sense
Young Cole Sear can see and talk to ghosts, and is terrified by the dead people visiting him with unresolved problems. He meets with a child psychologist named Dr. Malcolm Crowe, who tries to find the reason for his supernatural power.
Twist: Crowe is actually dead and has unfinished business regarding his wife and son.
In Alfred Hitchcock's classic horror film, Marion Crane steals money from her employer and escapes to a motel owned by Norman Bates. Crane is murdered by Bates' ill mother.
Twist: Norman Bates killed his mother years ago, and then developed a split personality that makes him believe that he is his mother.
10. The Lizzie McGuire Movie
In Disney's classic film, Lizzie McGuire is mistaken for a famous singer named Isabella by her musical partner Paolo on a class trip to Italy. Paolo convinces Lizzie that Isabella lip-syncs, and begs her to perform at the Italian Music Awards in her place.
Twist: Isabella shows up at the last second to let Lizzie know that Paolo is scheming to cut her microphone and humiliate her during the performance. Even worse, Paolo is the one who lip syncs.
11. The Wicker Man
If you're trying to watch a thriller and not a comedy, stay far from the campy Nic Cage remake and stick with the 1973 version of this film. Sergeant Howie visits a remote island of Summerisle to try and locate a little girl reported missing. He's a conservative christian and is confused by the island resident's phallic imagery, sexual displays, and pagan rituals.
Twist: Turns out Sergeant Howie is a virgin, and he's been lured to island as a sacrifice to the pagan gods.
12. Planet of the Apes
When three scientists are launched into space and frozen in cryogenic fluid, they wake up hundreds of years later when their spacecraft has lands on a mysterious planet. Here, chimpanzees rule the world and humans are kept in zoo-like confines.
Twist: When one lone scientist finally escapes the clutches of the primates and makes his way into the wilderness, he finds a sunken Statue of Liberty. He's on Earth.
13. Get Out
In Jordan Peele's recent horror film, Chris and his girlfriend Rose go on a weekend getaway to meet her parents after a few months of dating. Chris' friend Rod warns him not to go. Turns out Rod is right, and Rose's parents are part of an evil society that transfers the brains of aging relatives into the bodies of younger black people. It's not clear whether or not Rose is in on their insidious dealings.
Twist: She is. Turns out Rose has lured many other people to her home as part of this plot.
In this incredibly dark and not for the faint-hearted David Fincher film, Brad Pitt plays a detective named David Mills who joins forces with retired private eye William Somerset, played by Morgan Freeman. Together, they try and catch a serial killer who uses the seven deadly sins in his murders. The killer, played by the unofficial king of the twist-ending movie Kevin Spacey, lures the detectives into the desert.
Twist: The serial killer has murdered David Mill's wife, and forces him to kill him as the last deadly sin, wrath.
15. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
In this second installment of the original Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker trains with Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda so he might help take down the evil Sith Lord, Darth Vader.
Twist: Remember how Luke Skywalker was adopted and never knew his real family? Well, turns out Darth Vader is his father. Drama!
Christopher Nolan loves to mess with an audience's mind, and this film about about a man named Leonard Shelby who suffers short-term memory loss after a violent home invasion is no exception. Or Inception. Huh? Where are we?
Twist: Leonard Shelby suspects that his wife was murdered during the home invasion, but it is revealed that she survived only for him to accidentally kill her later.
17. Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko is a bizarre movie about a teen who starts seeing an enormous villainous rabbit after a plane crashes into his bedroom. It's a confusing film, and not just because you were scared of Jake Gyllenhaal, but also maybe had a crush on him. The rabbit teaches Gyllenhaal the secrets of the universe and gives him the power to alter time.
Twist: The apocalypse is about to befall suburban America, and Donnie travels back in time and dies in the plane crash in his room.
18. The Village
M. Night Shyamalan directed The Village in 2004, and it's another movie with a twist ending. The movie follows the inhabitants of a rural 19th century village of Covington who live in constant fear of strange creatures in the surrounding forest.
Twist: Did that just say 19th century? When one resident, Ivy Walker, tries to wander into the woods to seek medicine for her husband it is revealed to be the present day. Covington was founded by a group trying to escape the suffering of the modern world, and they use the myth of monsters to keep the villagers from leaving.
19. The Departed
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as cop Frank Costigan in the classic film, The Departed. Costigan goes undercover to infiltrate the the organization of South Boston gang chief Frank Costello, played to scary-guy perfection by Jack Nicholson. Costigan gains his trust, but a career criminal named Colin Sullivan simultaneously infiltrates the police department. When both organizations release there are spies in their midst, Costigan and Sullivan race to find out each other's identities.
Twist: Sullivan determines Costigan's identity and shoots him in an unexpected sequence that will make you jump. In a double twist, Sullivan returns home from Costigan's funeral and Police Sergeant Sean Dignam is waiting to shoot him.
20. Gone Baby Gone
Apparently many twist endings take place in Boston, as this thriller follows two Boston detectives trying to investigate a little girl named Amanda's kidnapping. The two detectives face dangerous situations but also resistance from a lawyer named Helene McCready and Police Captain Jack Doyle.
Twist: The kidnapping was fake, and Amanda has been living with Jack Doyle and his wife.
21. The Faculty
In this super weird science fiction thriller from the writer of Scream, the students of Harrington High suspect that their teacher's are aliens. A group of students form a Breakfast Club style friendship and band together to stop the uprising and save the school
Twist: Turns out one of the students, Mary Beth, the nicest and most unassuming of the whole group, is actually the queen of the aliens.
22. The Others
In this horror film, Nicole Kidman plays a mother who suspects that her house is haunted. The kids are spooky and haunted happenstances keep occurring in their home.
Twist: Turns out there's a perfectly reasonable explanation. Nicole Kidman and her kid are the ghosts.
23. The Prestige
Two magicians named Alfred Borden and Rupert Angier feud after a trick goes wrong. Their fight escalates and they try not only to outsmart but also destroy each other.
Twist: Borden is actually two twins pretending to be the same person, and Angier plagiarizes his tricks by cloning himself with the help of Nikola Tesla and killing off his clones after the trick is finished. Now that is a twist nobody could have seen coming without some magic.
Even after perusing this spoiler heavy list, there are moments in these films that will make you jump, cry, or even have to cover your eyes. Well, maybe besides the Lizzie McGuire movie, that one will probably just make you want to dance. If you haven't seen any of these iconic movies before, the shocking twists alone make them worth the watch.