Man at His Best

13 Of The Greatest Movie Twists Of All Time

​You didn't see these coming.


It was Earth all along! He's actually dead! That's not really a little girl!

A good twist can make a movie, especially the sort that completely blindsides you and turns the who film upside down while still making you smack your head and cry "Of course!". Here are cinema's best 'gotcha' moments:

(Warning: Contains spoilers, violence, nudity, language, and references to ragtime jazz.)

1 | The Others

A clever subversion of the haunted house movie, written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar. A woman, Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her two kids who suffer from extreme photosensitivity live reclusively in a country mansion in post-World War II Britain. Three mysterious servants show up and weird stuff starts going down. The family sense there are "others" in the house, making Grace increasingly paranoid and skittish. Then the dead dad arrives.

The twist: Turns out the family are themselves the ghosts, and the "others" are new tenants living in the house. The servants died of TB and Grace has smothered her kids and shot herself.

2 | Fight Club

Aka "Stop hitting yourself, why are you hitting yourself?". David Fincher's morally ambiguous thriller builds a nightmare world of support group addicts, emasculated males and underground punch-ups which culminate in the anarchist movement Project Mayhem, spearheaded by Brad Pitt's charismatic Tyler Durden and Edward Norton's narrator.

The twist: Things are getting out of hand and Tyler's gone missing. Only it turns out the narrator and Tyler are disassociated personalities in the same body. The narrator has to shoot himself in the face to get rid of Tyler for good.

3 | Primal Fear

Ed Norton again in his movie debut, playing alter boy Aaron Stampler, accused of murdering a Catholic Archbishop. Martin Vali (Richard Gere) is the defence attorney who believes he's not guilty. A tale of financial corruption and sexual abuse unfolds and Vali is forced to confront his client, who…

The twist: Bam! Twist number one is that Stampler turns out to have multiple personalities, including one who admits to killing the Bish.

Vali orchestrates an incident in court, which encourages Stampler to reveal his other self—and the judge finds him not guilty by way of insanity. Vali visits him and discovers that Bam! Twist number two—the whole multiple personality thing was fake and Stampler did it in cold blood.

4 | Oldboy

Park Chan-wook's ultra-violent thriller starts with a mystery: a man is locked in a room for 15 years with no knowledge of who or why he's been imprisoned. Then one day he is freed and goes hell bent for answers and revenge.

With the help of a young sushi chef who he becomes intimate with, he discovers the motive and identity of his captor: when he was at school he witnessed an act of incest between and brother and a sister, who were in love. When he told his classmates the sister killed herself.

The twist: Oh, and it turns out the sushi chef he loves is actually his own daughter. Bad times.

5 | Planet of the Apes

Astronauts crash land on a planet ruled by a population of apes thousands of years in the future via a "time dilation". Here humans are mute and considered stupid and are hunted or kept as prisoners to experiment on. The apes, meanwhile, have developed a structured society.

Human Taylor (Charlton Heston) makes friends with a couple of curious primates who want to learn more about his origins and take him to a cave filled with "ancient" artifacts which indicate that humans once ruled this society – and, as Taylor learns, destroyed it.

The twist: Cut to the iconic final scene of Heston discovering the half buried Statue of liberty and realising the Planet of the Apes was Earth all along. Stop the planet of the apes, I wanna get off!

6 | The Crying Game

Neil Jordan's drama set during the Troubles is a serious political drama, though it's most notorious for its mid-film twist. Forest Whitaker plays black British soldier Jody, captured by the IRA in rural Northern Ireland. Stephen Rea is Fergus, the IRA man left to guard him.

Fergus and Jody bond and after Jody is (accidentally) killed, Fergus goes to London to find Jody's girlfriend to fulfill a promise he made to his hostage. He meets her, they fall in love but…

The twist: When they get naked for the first time, Fergus discovers she's transgender. There follows a story of love and loyalty, though what most people remember is the unexpected wang.

7 | The Sixth Sense

Okay EVERYONE knows this twist now, and thankfully The Sixth Sense is a film which holds up to multiple viewing regardless of its about-face. Bruce Willis plays Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist in a dying relationship who is working with a troubled child (Haley Joel Osment) who claims to be able to see dead people.

Crowe works with Cole, encouraging him not to be afraid of the walking dead and helping them to move on. The dead people don't know they're dead – you know where this is going. Fortunately before M Night Shyamalan became 'Mister Twister' and everyone came to expect it, The Sixth Sense delivered a total emotional gut punch – even without the surprise it's still one of Willis' most moving movies.

The twist: He's like, dead.

8 | The Sting

Robert Redford and Paul Newman's joyful conman caper is absolutely rammed to the hilt with scams, bluffs and sleight of hand, but the final twist is the killer. Or rather it isn't. Set in Depression-era America, Paul Newman and Robert Redford play a pair of con artists, Gondorff and Hooker, who swindle the wrong crime lord – leading to a very complicated plot of dual identities, double-crosses and a cat-and-mouse chase with the FBI all to the tunes of Scott Joplin's jaunty piano riffs. But they save the best till last.

In a final showdown at the gambling parlour it looks like our heroes have finally pushed the scam too far – Hooker has been forced to betray Gondorff, Gondorff has shot Hooker, a CIA agent has shot Gondorff and the bad guys get off scot-free.

The twist: Only of course they're not! It's their most elaborate scam ever and the whole thing is a fake. No one's dead, but the bad guys think they are. Hoorah!

9 | Shutter Island

Based on a novel by Dennis Lehane and directed by Martin Scorsese, it's a bleak and foreboding story of detective Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his partner (Mark Ruffalo), who travel to a remote island prison for the criminally insane to investigate the disappearance of a woman who drowned her three kids. Missing patients, conspiracy theories and a mysterious lighthouse where lobotomies are carried out all form part of spiralling gothic plot that grows more and more convoluted until the final reveal.

The twist: Daniels is actually a patient at the institute, and he killed his wife after she murdered their three children. The whole episode has been a charade put on by the doctors with the hope of allowing him to play out his psychosis and accept the truth. Only it's too much to live with. "Which would be worse? To live as a monster, or die as a good man?" he says as he calmly heads off for a lobotomy.

10 | Orphan

Jaume Collet-Sera's messed up psychological horror has one of the weirdest twists ever, and it only (just about) works because of the masterful performance by Isabelle Furhman. She plays a 9-year old Eastern European child adopted by parents Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard after their own child is stillborn. Only there's clearly something up with her. She knows way more about sex than she ought to, she's handy with a hammer and bad things happen when she's around.

The twist: When the couple investigate further they eventually discover she's actually an insane 33-year-old woman with a hormone disorder that stunts her growth. She moves from family to family pretending to be a kid so she can seduce the dads. As you do.

11 | Memento

Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) is a loss adjuster with anterograde amnesia – he can't make new memories. Tirelessly pursuing the man who murdered his wife and attacked him he uses tattoos, notes and polaroid photos to record his progress. The story is run in reverse and it gets complicated.

The twist: At the end (which is actually the beginning of the chain of events we've just watched) it turns out that Shelby killed the real attacker years ago and was himself responsible for his wife's death. Since then his policeman buddy has been manipulating him to off random criminals who were nothing to do with his case. Shelby consciously sets the wheels in motion to murder the cop – knowing he'll do it and never know what really happened.

12 | Angel Heart

Robert De Niro's creepy, long-haired Louis Cyphre (GEDDIT?) hires Mickey Rourke's private detective Harry Angel to hunt down a missing New Orleans musician called Johnny Favorite (yes – everyone has ridiculous names in this film). Unfortunately, the people Angel is questioning keep showing up dead.

The twist: Turns out that Angel actually is Favorite. He sold his soul to Cyphre, stole the identity of the real Angel to renege on the deal and then conveniently developed a case of amnesia and forgot the whole thing. Unfortunately for him, the devil has finally showed up to collect. Oh and Rourke killed all those people and had sex with his own daughter. What's a twist without a sprinkling of incest on top, after all?

13 | Jacob's Ladder

Inspired by Ambrose Bierce's short story An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, Adrian Lyne's PTSD nightmare about a Vietnam Vet experiencing flashbacks and hallucinations finishes with a gut-punch existential twist.

Beset by visions of demons and hell after his discharge from the army, Jacob learns that his unit was subjected to a drug that increased aggression, causing the men to turn on each other in a killing frenzy.

The twist: Jacob was bayonetted by a member of his own unit and killed – the entire film is his final death throes as he struggles and finally manages to accept his own death. Bleak.

From: Digital Spy UK.