The first rule of twist endings is you don’t talk about twist endings. Most of them don’t land. Some can be seen from a mile away (Shyamalan’s The Visit) while others are so undecipherable they may as well have been in Greek (Primer, we’re looking at you). Sometimes, they actually are in Greek (Dogtooth), which is mindbending in an altogether different way. But there is no greater thrill than experiencing the most unexpected, shocking, and head-spinningly cunning twist ending.
One thing you can be sure of is that even in such occasions as when you forget entire films, the chances of you forgetting a twist ending are pretty slim. And we’re of the opinion that what you choose to do with this knowledge kind of defines the person you are. If you’ve ever spoilt a twist ending before then we recommend you leave this page right this very instant and never come back because here’s the other thing about movies with iconic twists: You can’t really enjoy them the same way again. If you can ever bring yourself to watching them again, that is. Spoiling a movie, and getting murdered for that atrocious crime, to us, is fitting punishment.
We do, however, find ourselves at an impasse of sorts. We can’t really talk about the movies we’ve compiled here for fear of giving away the twists of course (you know how we dislike that). So we’ll leave you with images, hints, teasers and similar tantalizing factoids that make you either nostalgic, hungry or both.
The Mist (2007)
Let’s start with this. The Mist has one of those endings that can really make you fall to your knees in disbelief at the utter devastating sadness of it all. Thomas Jane deserves two Oscars for that final scene. No, make that three.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Have you ever wondered if M Night Shyamalan’s breakout hit would still work if it were released in the internet age? You’d probably have morons spoiling the hell out of it on Twitter after watching a bootleg copy off Piratebay or something. But there’s a reason why this film is so damn good: The tender story comes first. Then that iconic twist ending.
Fight Club (1999)
You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. Now shut up and play Where is My Mind.
A Greek tragedy made by a twisted South Korean genius. The whole thing will no doubt end with you asking yourself this: “Even though I’m no more than a monster – don’t I, too, have the right to live?”
David Fincher is a master of the twist ending, arguably even more so than Shyamalan simply because of the fact that his movies don’t draw attention to their twists. You didn’t even realise it, but there are already two Fincher movies on this list. And there could easily have been two more.
What a smashing debut this was for Duncan Jones. A pure, hard sci-fi movie with themes that really mean something: A film about the most important things of all: Life, death, love and what it really means to be human.
We’re willing to wager you haven’t seen this little gem. Or maybe you have, in which case let us extend equal parts congratulations and apologies. In any case, Orphan probably has the creepiest twist of all these flicks. So if you actually haven’t seen it, you probably should.
The Village (2004)
For our money, the twist here is even better than the one in Shyamalan’s two other classics: The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable. Maybe it’s because of Roger Deakins’ elegant camerawork or James Newton Howard’s fantastic score. But whatever it is, there’s something about The Village that just does it for us.
The Others (2001)
This one began a new wave of sorts in Spanish horror and the twist here is one that you’ll refuse to believe slipped your astute observational powers.
Primal Fear (1996)
You guys, isn’t Edward Norton just brilliant? You’ve loved him in American History X, 25th Hour and pretty much everything he’s ever been in but his performance here is something else. Well, good for you Ed.
This film is one of the most carefully constructed puzzles ever. It’s better than Memento in its intricately detailed plot (bold statement, agreed) and more visually stunning than a Damien Hirst artwork. And we haven’t even enticed you with the excellent cast yet. Here you go: Ewan McGregor, Ryan Gosling, Naomi Watts.
The Book of Eli (2010)
There needs to be at least one guilty pleasure on every list, and this one’s it for ours. If you saw that twist coming then you are either a fibber or a savant. Something tells us it’s probably the former.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Fun fact: “Luke, I am your father” is one of the most widely misquoted lines in the history of films. What Vader actually says is “No, I am your father.” Notice how we didn’t even try to cover up the twist here because frankly, if you don’t know this yet then it’s shameful. Shameful, we say.
The Truman Show (1998)
All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.
Incendies is one of the best films of the last decade. It’s so much more than just a great twist ending. Do yourself a favour and watch this.
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The author tweets @NaaharRohan