Plot twists have been a staple of storytelling for hundred of years, and are an essential part of the suspense and awe we get when we see a film or read a book. The trick is, however, that you need to be able to come up with a twist that is believable and logical, otherwise there’s a danger the audience will feel cheated. This happens on quite a regular basis with “twist endings,” so, when we get a good one, it most definitely stands out.
Coming up with an intelligent plot twist that isn’t telegraphed, and doesn’t seem forced, is one of the most difficult challenges screenwriters face. And, while we can always look at a twist and have a few issues with it, clearly there are some twist endings that work better than others. Here are a few movies that got it bang on, and slam dunked the twist ending right away. Warning – this post contains SPOILERS if you don’t want any look away now. Still here? Okay, let’s dive in.
The Usual Suspects (1992)
One of the best twist endings in cinema history floors us when we find out Verbal Kint has been making the whole thing up from the start, and may actually be Kaiser Soze. The brilliance of this twist comes in the intricacies of the plot, and the clues taken from, around Agent Kujan’s office, not to mention a stellar performance from Spacey. The reveal at the end is expertly done and remains one of the best moments in modern cinema. Anyone who wants to know how to write a great movie twist needs to watch this film.
Fight Club (1999)
Fight Club is a definite Marmite movie for a lot of people, and that is largely to do with the twist ending. Once you find out Ed Norton and Brad Pitt are the same person, the movie reveals its hand. Helmed flawlessly by David Fincher, this movie is equal parts genius and equal parts bonkers. One of the most quoted and iconic movies of the decade, Fight Club has remained a firm favorite for so many out there. It is also considered to have one of the cleverest and most surprising twist endings ever.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The Sixth Sense is not just any old twist, it is THE twist ending to end all twist endings. Bruce Willis’ child psychologist treats a troubled boy who can communicate with ghosts, only to find out he is one himself! It’s an amazingly shocking twist (though, admittedly problematic beyond basic scrutiny), and rekindled the popularity of twist endings. It has become something of an albatross for writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, but, the twist itself fits gloriously into the movie, and ensured that, for a time, The Sixth Sense was one of the most rented films in America.
Many films have employed the “twist ending” plot device, with varying degrees of success. However, not many films managed to do it anywhere near as well as the ones we’ve included. As a special mention should go to Get Out, The Others, and Primal Fear, but none of them did it quite as well as these.