Top 15 Plot Twists in Movie History (Spoiler Alerts!)

One of the hallmarks of a great movie is the inclusion of an unexpected plot twist that makes viewers gasp in surprise and leaves them thinking about it long after the twist is revealed. Not every film can achieve this with success and most twists are cliche at best but there are some that completely blindsided us and set the bar for films yet to come. Or at the very least showed us that while it has all been done before, it doesn't have to all be done the same.
Check out our list of top 15 plot twists in movie history! If you haven't seen these films shame on you! Oh, and spoiler alert!

The Sixth Sense (1999)

The Sixth Sense PF WENN Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is a child psychologist working with a young boy Cole named Sear (Haley Joel Osment) who believes he can see the dead. Near the end of the film, however, it is revealed that Dr. Crowe actually died at the beginning of the movie, and is, in fact, one of the dead people Cole can see. It was the twist heard around the world and seared The Sixth Sense in movie history as one of the best films ever made.
 

The Departed (2006)

The Departed   Irish mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) plants newcomer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) as a mole within the Massachusetts State Police at the same time the police assign Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to go undercover in the very same crime organization led by Costello for the same purpose. The film shocks viewers in a cruel twist of fate when Costigan is suddenly shot in the head shortly after capturing Sullivan, whom he discovered was the mole inside the police force. The death of Costigan also reveals that Costello had planted more than one mole. The movie takes another unexpected turn when Sullivan, seemingly getting away with his crimes, is shot in the head immediately after entering his apartment just as the credits roll.
 

The Usual Suspects (1995)

The Usual Suspects 3 Con artist Roger “Verbal” Kint (Kevin Spacey) undergoes a police interrogation after he is one of the only two survivors of a massacre and fire aboard a ship docked at the port of Los Angeles that killed several known criminal figures. Kint is also involved in an investigation regarding the mysterious and well-known crime lord Keyser Soze who seems to be pulling all the strings. Verbal looks to be an unassuming character with cerebral palsy, but looks can be deceiving and at the very end of the film the audience learns that Verbal is none other than the mastermind, Keyser Soze, himself.  The Usual Suspects set a precedent for unassuming twists in crime thrillers, but as the saying goes: often imitated, never duplicated.
 

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars Episode V: Empire Strikes Back This Sci-Fi classic is famous for one of the most memorably shocking and iconic twists in movie history. It begins with "Luke," and ends with "I am your father." The dark Darth Vader reveals to our hero Luke Skywalker that he is much more than just his nemesis, he is his father: Anakin Skywalker.
 

Saw (2004)

SAW The gruesome Saw thrills to the very end when we discover that a corpse seen lying on the floor throughout the entirety of the film--presumed to be another victim of the twisted Jigsaw Killer-- is not only alive but is a cancer patient of oncologist and fellow captive Dr. Lawrence Gordon. The real kicker though, is that said corpse/cancer patient, is also the Jigsaw Killer.
 

Psycho (1960)

Psycho 3 This classic suspense horror takes an unexpected turn when it is revealed that the one committing the horrific murders at Bates Hotel is not Norman Bates’ mother as we believe but the peculiar Norman Bates himself, who murdered his mother years before the events of the film. Traumatized by his mother's abuse and possessive behavior, Bates develops an alternate personality where he becomes his “mother” and dresses the part before killing his victims.
 

Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island 5   U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio), dealing with the loss of his wife and 3 children who were killed in a fire by arsonist Andrew Laddeis, travels to Ashecliffe Hospital for the criminally insane on Shutter Island to investigate the disappearance of a patient who was incarcerated for drowning her three children. At the end of the film we find that Teddy is Andrew Laeddis, a patient sent to the hospital for the murder of his manic depressive wife after she drowned their children. Laeddis created an alternate personality to escape what he had done, and the events of the film are merely a part of a test given by the doctors trying to treat him.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club Fight Club presents to us an unnamed protagonist/narrator (Edward Norton) who is severely unsatisfied with his life and battling a severe case of insomnia. The Protagonist meets a man by the name of Tyler Durden, and soon the two form a Club for recreational fighting. The pair are total opposites; the Protagonist a spinless, mediocre man and Durden a tough, exceptional fighter. However, they aren't as different as we suppose, in fact, they are two halves of the same whole. See, Durden isn't a real person but a fabrication; an alternate personality idealized by the Protagonist that takes over his body while he is asleep.
 

Memento (2001)

Memento 3 Insurance investigator Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) suffers not only from the loss of his diabetic wife but a head trauma that prevents him from storing new memories. After killing who he supposes is his wife's murderer, Shelby goes on a hunt for the man that caused his head injury. As more pieces to this fast-paced psychological puzzle are put together it turns out that Shelby's wife survived the night of her supposed murder but was later killed by Leonard's own hands. Not believing his head injury and the resulting memory loss, his wife asks for repeated doses of insulin as an attempt to get him to break his “act," but her game only results in her death when he continues to gives them to her.

Fallen (1998)

Fallen 4 Homicide detective John Hobbes (Denzel Washington) discovers that the recently executed serial killer he helped capture was not actually the one committing the murders, but rather the culprit is a demon named Azazel, who hops from vessel to vessel by touch. Before the end of the film, Hobbes learns that Azazel must find a new host soon after losing his previous vessel or he will die. He isolates Azazel in a cabin, kills his current host, and then poisons himself to prevent Azazel from surviving. It's just too bad the plan didn't work. In an O-M-G revelation we discover that voice narrating the film we believe belongs to Hobbes actually belongs to Azazel, who possessed a nearby cat just before Hobbes died.
 

Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet of the Apes Surviving humans George Taylor (Charlton Heston) and Nora (Linda Harrison) discover at the end of the film that they were not on an “alien” planet ruled by apes, but were in fact on Earth the entire time. An Earth overthrown by the apes.
   

The Others (2001)

The Others Grace Stewart (Nicole Kidman) and her two children move into a remote mansion in Jersey during the aftermath of World War II and soon strange things begin to occur. The family believes their new home is haunted by the dead, but the twist is that they are actually the deceased inhabitants haunting the house they live in.
 

Righteous Kill (2008)

TRK 6 New York City police officers David Fisk “Turk” (Robert De Niro) and his partner Tom Cowan “Rooster” (Al Pacino) investigate a series of murders committed by a man known as the “Poetry Boy,” a vigilante who takes it upon himself to kill criminals who escape the justice system. Throughout the film, the viewer is led to believe that David Fisk is the Poetry Boy, and that he looks up to his partner of 30 years, Tom Cowan. Viewers are later thrown for a loop when they find out that Turk is actually Tom Cowan and Rooster is David Fisk, revealing that Rooster is the Poetry Boy and not Turk.

Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable 6 Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are pitted against each other in this realistic superhero thriller. David Dunn (Willis) discovers he has a nearly indestructible body when he is the only survivor of a train accident that killed 131 people. Soon after, he is approached by Elijah Price (Jackson) who believes that David's supernatural indestructibility parallels his own odd physical state. Price suffers from a disease which renders his bones incredibly fragile. The two develop something of a friendship but we later discover that Elijah orchestrated many of the fatal accidents that occurred in the film, including the train accident in order to find David insisting that his purpose in life is to be the “Archvillain” to David’s “Superhero.”

Wanted (2009)

A A down-on-his-luck account manager (James McAvoy) discovers he is the son of a recently-killed professional assassin and former member of a secret guild created to kill those will cause destruction in the future called “The Fraternity.” After an offer from Sloan (Morgan Freeman), the head of the guild, Gibson decides to join The Fraternity in an attempt to seek revenge on Cross, the assassin said to have murdered his father. The twist comes when a now specially-trained Gibson learns that Cross is in fact in his real father, who left the guild after discovering the evil intentions of Sloan. Unfortunately, it's too little too late as Gibson doesn't learn this until after he has already killed him.    

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Comments

  • bigdawgman

    KEYSER SOZE!! ‘NUFF SAID!

  • kae

    the shocking twist to departed is that this movie was basically stolen scene for scene from the original Infernal Affairs and dude won an Oscar for best director!!! wtf???

    • kae

      wait the last five min were new

      • dan

        you are an idiot dude.

    • Sean

      And the adaptation is credited at the end of the film…people remake other films all of the time. Whats the problem? Directing has nothing to do with creating or writing the story.

  • keith

    fight club!!

  • Momma Dee Tha Q.U.E.E.N

    What about the movie Identity? That movie had one great plot twist. Also i think Inception should be included too.

    • Jermo48

      Inception wasn’t really a plot twist, it was simply an explanation of a character’s backstory that we already knew was mysterious.

  • chuck

    enough ads? jeeeeeeeeeez

  • Elwood

    “Witness for the Prosecution” . . . you never know who is telling the truth.

  • MJB

    “Luke, I am your father” is not actually even a line in Empire Strikes Back.

    • Baylor Bear

      Well to be fair, it did say it starts with “Luke” and ends with “I’m your father”, not that they were connected in the same sentence.

      • Aron Bender

        You are incorrect sir.
        “Obi Wan never told you what happened to your father.” – DV
        “He told me enough! He told me you killed him!” – LS
        “No, I am your father!” – DV

        • Baylor Bear

          Ahh you are good there sir! Good I wasn’t quoting the movie or I would be in trouble.

    • vin b

      it’s all part of the same speech. he starts by addressing him and than a few sentences later says I am your father so really its:
      “Luke ~ blah blah blah blah ~ I am your father”, it’s all part of the same conversation

  • RipX

    Geez, get it right! Its NOT “Luke, I am your father”, its “No…I am your father.”

    • J Jay

      I think the author realized that. That’s why it says the reveal starts with “Luke” and ends with “I am your father”. It’s a far more quotable line, especially since a lot of people remember it that way than “Luke, Obi-Wan never told you…”

  • Jamie

    Presumed Innocent with Harrison Ford should have been on this list. Who saw it coming that his wife was the murderer??!!!

    • hornacek

      SPOILERS!!!! (haha)

  • ExonOuroboros

    Um, yeah. Oldboy has a better twist than any of these.

  • Bob Cronley

    Man, does this page have enough ads? I had to shut the sound down so the tampex commercial that kept blaring in my ear while I was trying to read the article would quit distracting me. No sooner than I did that, a pop up opens up right in the middle of the text I was reading. Each time I went to the next page, the text would keep moving around while I was trying to read it, as more ads loaded up. I understand that you need advertisers to pay for your web page, but this is ridiculous.

  • SebastianLovelace

    Where is “the entire damn movie” for The Cabin In The Woods?

    • Jermo48

      Um, that was a twist for the characters, perhaps, but not for us. Had they not shown any of the underground parts until the characters discover them, sure.

      • J Jay

        Unless he’s referring to how there was a antagonist-protagonist shift after they enter the cabin where the so-called “bad guys” become the “good guys” because there’s an even worse guy under the place that’s under the Cabin in the Woods.

  • thissitesucksass

    The best twist would be to visit this site without it freezing up due to all the ads

    • Kephas

      Copy the address. Then instead of clicking forward, paste the address into the address bar, and type in the next number to forward through the pages. You will avoid freezing.

  • Rybal

    How is “The Prestige” not on here?

    • whatthewhereis

      Cause the Prestige was super predictable? (still very enjoyable though).

      • J Jay

        You predicted that Nicola Tesla really invented a machine that created duplicates of people before the cat reveal? How? The movie did not have supernatural elements before that plot point was introduced.

        • Keith G. Alderman

          I agree. The Prestige had a great twist. I had guessed the duplicates thing, but didn’t see the twin aspect until the end. That was awesome. The movie on this list that doesn’t deserve it to me, is “Shutter Island”. Although I love the film, I guessed the end when I saw the trailer.

  • D G R

    Actually, the Empire Strikes Back twist doesn’t read “Luke, I am your father.” He just says, “No. I am your father.”

  • Luke Baggins

    They should’ve made it a top 20 list and added The Cabin in the Woods, Seven, Black Swan, and I haven’t seen them yet, but sounds like it should be The Prestige and Oldboy. And I think The Game had a good twist too and might be a better pick than Wanted.

  • Guy person

    Shutter island didnt surprise me because of how easily he found the clues i knew where the movie was going from the start.

    • Superherologist

      I read the book for a bit, suspected what was really going on, read a bit more, became convinced of what the “twist” was, and skipped to the end to confirm. UGH!

  • kirrwed

    No Shawshank?????

  • dwcole

    No Way Out and Body Heat should be on the list.

    • disqus_8zbuSwYc2s

      No Way Out for sure!

  • Alan Atley Ho

    Well, if you watch Star Wars in its actual order, Darth Vader being Luke’s father isn’t a plot twist at all.

    • guest

      are u serious? the actual order is 4-6, then 1-3…they are called prequels for a reason..they were created after but set before the originals…anyone who actually likes and knows star wars considers 4-6 the first 3 movie…

      • thehouseofho

        Sorry, actual order is the incorrect wording. Chronological order according to the story would probably have been better.

        • J Jay

          I think the bigger issue is that a lot of people would prefer to pretend like the prequels did not exist at all. Jury’s still out on the sequels.

        • guest

          lol…ill let it slide this time…lol..sorry to nerd out on u!!

    • vin b

      sure, 20 years after it was a plot twist, if you want to be technical the entire existence of episodes 1, 2 and 3 are a result of that plot twist, the original movie as shown in theaters did not have the episode 4 heading on its first showing, it was added later when it was put back in theaters (around the same time they added color to the lightsabers in the 1980 re-release, the original showing in 1977 they were all white and the opening credits didnt have an episode number)

      the rereleased star wars in 1980 right before empire strikes back so that they could add the ep5 tag to empire and have color sabers from then on. most people only remember the redone versions, its very hard to find stock footage of the original ’77 release, it was the ’80 release that was put on vhs video (and than redone again in ’91 and redone again as the special editions a few years later

  • Eric

    “No, I am your father.” is the correct line…

    • vin b

      the speech starts with “Luke”, the “no I am your father” is later in the same conversation

  • Christopher Binder

    Witness for the Prosecution, A Beautiful Mind, and The Crying Game aren’t on here?

  • cmkeller

    No list of greatest or least expected plot twists is complete without No Way Out.

  • Bryan

    It’s “No…..I am your father.”

  • Starbuck

    “Primal Fear”

    • Grrl

      Totally agree!!! Best twist ever

  • MrAdventure

    Nova, not Nora! Sheesh.

  • Kevinicus

    Shutter Island? Really?? I spent the whole movie praying that they wouldn’t have that exact twist because that’s exactly where it looked like it was going. Terrible movie, and that’s a big reason for it.

  • Rob

    The line in fact is, “No…I am your father”.

  • Rob

    The Crying Game!?!

    • B33tle

      I was going to scroll a little bit further to see if anybody else had suggested “Crying Game”. FCOL, how can anyone come up with a list of plot twists in movies and not include this???

    • Tobias David Smith

      Agreed, Perhaps the most shocked I have ever been during a movie… I did NOT see that one coming. Far more memorable than almost everything else here.

  • DrForrester

    Wanted?! Puh-lease

  • BatZer0

    I am shocked an appalled at how WRONG this post is about the “twist” in Memento. The kicker is that Leonard Shelby ALREADY avenged his dead wife. His memory loss has forced him into a cycle where he continually seeks out individuals who fit the description of his wife’s killer. It’s a story of a man against his own psyche. Insulin has NOTHING to do with it.

    • Craig Stevenson

      Yeah, they got Memento all wrong.

      • vin b

        no, you just didn’t understand it. horncek already explained this but ill repost for you:

        while it is never specifically stated, it is strongly impled that
        Leonard’s tale of Sammy Jenkins (?) who had a similar injury and gave
        his wife an overdose of insulin (as this article describes) was really
        Leonard. At the end of the film Teddy tells Leonard that Sammy never
        had a wife and that Leonard’s wife survived the attack, leading the
        audience to believe that Sammy’s story was really about Leonard.

        One of the last shots in the film shows Leonard in bed with his wife
        with tattoos on his body, indicating that it takes place after the
        attack.

        So while the movie never comes out and says it and leaves it up for
        the audience to decide, it strongly implies what this article describes –
        Leonard killed his wife with an overdose of insulin.

    • hornacek

      Actually, while it is never specifically stated, it is strongly impled that Leonard’s tale of Sammy Jenkins (?) who had a similar injury and gave his wife an overdose of insulin (as this article describes) was really Leonard. At the end of the film Teddy tells Leonard that Sammy never had a wife and that Leonard’s wife survived the attack, leading the audience to believe that Sammy’s story was really about Leonard.

      One of the last shots in the film shows Leonard in bed with his wife with tattoos on his body, indicating that it takes place after the attack.

      So while the movie never comes out and says it and leaves it up for the audience to decide, it strongly implies what this article describes – Leonard killed his wife with an overdose of insulin.

      • Perversion

        Exactly.

        • Guest

          Post deleted.

  • Wut

    How come Scream isn’t on this list??

    • disqus_8zbuSwYc2s

      Good one! I forgot about it.

  • JD

    Charade and The Game should be on this list. They both effectively pull off multiple twists. I give Primal Fear and Frailty honorable mentions, too. Frailty is not really top #15 material, though.

    • Scott

      JD, I was just going to suggest Charade. Just about the time you’ve got it figured out, it takes another 90 degree turn.

  • Christian Good

    UM>>>THE MATRIX!!!!!

  • Wes

    Wanted came out in 2008. Don’t write something without research,

  • Sans Logic

    I always liked the end of “Shattered” where the guy was living with the wrong identity.

  • gene

    LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN!

  • Michael Guyer

    This was a great list, but it really needed to include “Shattered” (1991) and “Malice” (1993) to be complete.

  • hornacek

    Oh my God, I was wrong,
    It was Earth all along …

  • DLM

    So all the best plot twist have happened since 2000 except Star Wars? I find that hard to believe. Citizen Cane? The Sting?

    • J Jay

      As I said above I’m surprised “Psycho” is on this list. The movies are nearly all recent.

    • qt3dot14

      you cant really count the sting as the name of the movie itself implies a twist.

  • balls

    I read the title and said, “Kevin Spacey will be on this list twice.” And I think Se7ven deserves to be on here as much as The Usual Suspects. Perfect, blindsiding, wracking plot twist. “What’s in the box?!” And yeah, I enjoyed Wanted, but it doesn’t pass muster here.

  • tornado925

    these are not plot twists; these are surprise endings.

  • DAvallone

    Maybe a good idea to have someone who’s actually SEEN Planet of the Apes write the one about Planet of the Apes. “Surviving humans?” “Nora?” Huh?

    The bar for entertainment writing has never been lower.

  • Diana Roberts McKinney

    Am I the only person that thinks “The Sting” should be on this list?

    • J Jay

      I’m still surprised that “Psycho” is on the list most of these movies were after 1980.

    • Larry30

      Of course it should be on the list. It’s one of the greatest and most unexpected plot twists in the history of cinema. Also can’t believe Casablanca isn’t on the list. Two plot twists in five minutes at the end of that classic.

  • SF

    How could then not include The Sixth Sense

    • Siege

      Um….they did.

  • Gerald Logue

    Actually, the plot twist in “The Empire Strikes Back” begins with “No”, not “Luke”… although most people remember the line as “Luke, I am your father.” the line is actually “No. I am your father.”

  • Yetchie

    I effiing hate this site. I try to read the stories and all these ads show up and move the page down, and I’m forced to watch an ad. I WILL NEVER BE BACK!!!!

  • this site blows

    And how is the book of eli not on here

    • guest

      agreed

  • guest

    Fallen is an awesome movie…def worth watching!!

  • Bongs&Thongs

    i liked the six sense but there was enough things in the movie to disprove he was dead

  • Larry30

    Maybe the 2 greatest plot twists ever aren’t in the list: Casablanca at the end of the movie and The Sting.

  • Shoot_the_Critic

    VERTIGO??? Even though the twist comes at the middle, it’s still one of the best in the history of cinema. Also: LES DIABOLIQUES. Amazing French horror/thriller. Amazing twist ending.

  • Fritz

    I have never thought about any ad blocking plugins until this site. Wholly crap these greedy fuckers are shooting themseselves in the foot.

  • spetsu

    SOYLENT GREEN has the best twist in movie history, period!

  • Ron Gilbert

    I believe this was the best twist ever in a movie. It shocked me to the core and made me literally say “NO WAY!” at the end. I still talk about it to this day.

  • Mike

    REALLY? The headline is TOP TWISTS IN MOVIE HISTORY and then you list RIGHTEOUS KILL? A movie that no one saw and no one cares about and was a huge flop for both its stars – even though it was touted as a reunion of De Niro and Pacino? Aren’t we talking MOVIE HISTORY HERE????? Also, there are numerous inaccuracies and typos in this story. Sloppy journalism.

  • Rob

    What about The Crying Game?

  • disqus_8zbuSwYc2s

    Charade, No Way Out, Vertigo, Casablance. Isn’t anyone working on this site older than 23?

  • David Williamson

    Star Wars, Darth Vader being Luke’s father was a shocker? I guess it was a lucky guess, but after the first movie, I said Darth was his father.

  • Indestructible Cornbread

    Come on now Saw’s ending was retarded! You gonna tell me this @$$hole lays on the floor of Marilyn Manson’s bathroom all damn night…MOTIONLESS with a mask on just in case his plans go exactly the way he imagines and everyone does exactly what he images??? GTFOH!!!!

  • ImJustAGuy

    Go on Netflix and watch an Indian movie called Kahanni. It’s a really good movie that’ll throw you a plot twist that, if I never warned you, you would NEVER see coming!

  • Rickster Rickster

    it’s not Nora in planet of the apes it’s NOVA.

  • qt3dot14

    Saw

  • qt3dot14

    presumed innocent

  • tejaswoman

    HTH do you leave out that SOYLENT GREEN IS PEOPLE … IT’S PEOPLE!!

  • GoofyGopher

    Book of Eli
    WR2

  • Alan Holt

    How about Angelheart?

  • Say No To MPD

    These “psychological” thrillers that think the whole multiple personality thing is a twist are clearly not trying. It might have worked for Fight Club, but Shutter Island most certainly didn’t fool anyone who has seen one of these movies.

  • Daniel Hill

    The Sixth Sense has the best twist ending of any movie, ever. BUT, that does not make it one of the best movies ever made, as the author of this article suggests. Not even close.

  • dilleysb

    Witness for the Prosecution. Twist after twist after Twist plus hallmark performances from Marlene Dietrich, Tyrone Power and the irreplaceable Charles Laughton. It doesn’t get any better.

  • HmmLetMeThink

    Wanted — No luke, I am your father.

  • ChowYunPhat

    Shutter Island? That twist was obvious from the trailer. It shouldn’t be anywhere near this list.

  • Mike McAvoy

    umm darth vader never said “luke, I am your father.” he actually says “No, I am your father!”

  • kb

    Kevin Spacey again – The Life of David Gale

  • seely1138

    The line is “No…I am your father.” NOT “Luke, I am your father.” The best twist in cinematic history is also one of the most misquoted lines in film.

  • tommy forbes

    Titanic?never seen that coming

  • http://fivefeetofawesome.blogspot.com/ Angela D

    Now You See Me should be here! (Well, not in movie history yet).

  • Blombiddyshob

    Yeah, it doesn’t begin with “Luke”. Your resume should begin with “Fired from writing about movies” and end with “Unemployed”

  • CeCe Ma

    Where’s Wild Things? I thought that movie was chock full o’ twists!!

  • Chris

    Righteous Kill was so bad. No point in having a plot twist when it’s so obvious.

  • KLA

    Too bad this was written a few months before Frozen’s release. xD

  • thecman25

    All the Saw movies