All of 2020 feels like a giant plot twist that we all never saw coming and now are just doing our best to make it to the credits. The big movie reveal is just a metaphor for life now! If you haven’t had enough, you might be looking for a great movie that also pulls the rug out from underneath you. Some of the most beloved films of all time have something in common: a twist. A great twist can elevate any piece of literature by raising the stakes and asking viewers to reconsider the diegesis that’s already been constructed.
From recent highlights like Parasite to classic examples like Citizen Kane, we’ve compiled a list of 10 movies with the most unforgettable plot twists. A master storyteller or a film director knows that they must lure an audience in with the familiar in order to make the absurd appealing. That’s the art of the twist, to hook an audience before they know they’re fully invested in the narrative. These ten movies will get you and then you’ll be left to debate how they did it for years to come. In order to avoid spoilers (because ew!), we’ve structured the discussion around the following films in two parts: the plot and the twist. Feel free to read the plot, but tread lightly on the twist because that’s where the spoilers live.
The plot: A tale of the haves and have-nots. The Kim family struggles to make ends meet by working odd jobs and making the best of their destitute life in a crowded subterranean apartment. Meanwhile, the wealthy Park family is living a life of care-free opulence.
The twist: The Park’s former housekeeper has been keeping more than the home, she’s also kept a secret. Her husband has been hidden away, living in a secret basement bunker unbeknownst to the Park family. Members of the Kim family make the discovery as they begin infiltrating the Park home and exploiting their expensive lifestyle for their gain. At the height of the film’s tension, the Kim family patriarch murders the Park family patriarch at a child’s birthday party. He seems to disappear after committing murder only to later be found hidden away in the same exact basement bunker.
Now streaming on Hulu or to rent.
The plot: Evelyn, the wife of a prominent bureaucrat hires a private investigator to look into her husband’s infidelity. As the PI, J.J. investigates he uncovers multiple murder plots, a good deal of corruption, and a mysterious young girl, Evelyn’s sister who is somehow involved.
The twist: It turns out Evelyn has some secrets of her own: her sister is not just her sister, she’s also Evelyn’s daughter. It’s revealed that Evelyn was in an incestuous relationship with her father. Yikes! One of the best movies ever made!
Available on Starz or to rent.
The plot: In this gritty crime drama two detectives: Somerset and Mills search for a killer obsessed with the seven deadly sins. Each deadly sin motivates a murder to reveal each victim committed the sin in their life.
The twist: What’s in the box? The murderer, John Doe, leads the detectives to the final two bodies that complete the seven cardinal sins. When they arrive at the location (in the middle of the desert), Somerset gets a box from a deliveryman… Inside he finds the decapitated head of Mills’ wife. Doe admits he murdered her out of envy, the sixth sin, and challenges Mills to murder him, making wrath the seventh and final sin. It’s such an intense movie!
Available on Showtime or to rent.
The Sixth Sense
The plot: After a gruesome home invasion, Dr. Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist decides to get back to work and resume his life. His first case: a young boy who is haunted by ghosts and he claims he can see and communicate with the dead.
The twist: Dr. Crowe is actually dead. Dun…Dun….DUNNNN!!!
Available on Showtime or to rent.
The plot: Brad Pitt must love a good twist because this is the second movie on the list that stars him. An unnamed (unreliable) narrator and his new friend, Tyler Durden, begin a “fight club” that turns into a national movement. Dudes. love. this. movie.
The twist: The narrator suffers from dissociative identity disorder and it’s revealed that he and Tyler Durden are the same person.
Available on HBO Max or to rent.
The plot: When his seemingly content wife, Amy goes missing, Nick, who is a bit of a flirt, becomes the prime suspect of her disappearance.
The twist: Amy had discovered that her husband cheated on her and decided to meticulously plan her own disappearance to make it look like her husband had murdered her. What a thrill! She then plots her return to Nick, complete with artificial insemination of his sperm, to ensure that he’ll take her back and stay with her. Amy is one of the most cunning characters Gillian Flynn has ever written.
Available on Hulu or FXNow or to rent.
The plot: A young African-American man, Chris is invited to spend the weekend with his white girlfriend’s parents. As he tries to navigate the complexities and politics around their relationship and how he’s received, things reach a boiling point.
The twist: Chris’s girlfriend is actually part of a cult-like family that targets and brainwashes Black people into being subservient. The mother has the ability to hypnotize her victims and uses it to subdue unwitting patients. She hypnotizes Chris who is then transported to a secret basement surgery used for brainwashing procedures. The seemingly friendly family had evil and racist ulterior motives the entire time. He must get out.
Available to rent.
The plot: Marion Crane decides to leave her comfortable life in Phoenix behind and embezzles thousands of dollars from her boss and makes a run for it. She stops at a remote hotel run by a shifty man named Norman Bates and his mentally-ill mother. While taking a shower, Marion is murdered by the unwell mother.
The twist: Norman Bates had murdered his mother years before Marion arrived at the hotel. He developed a sort of split-personality which make him vacillate between his own personality and that of his deceased mother. Viewers discover that Norman dressed as his mother, killed Marion. His mother’s mummified body rests in his home’s fruit cellar. This classic movie still delivers the chills.
Available to rent.
The plot: Newspaper magnate, Charles Foster Kane whispers the word “rosebud” on his deathbed. He dies. The mysterious word motivates a journalist to uncover aspects of Kane’s past which include scenes of his ruthless quest for power.
The twist: “Rosebud” it turns out is the name of Kane’s childhood sled. While he lived a great life, the tycoon wanted to remember a sentimental toy in his final moments.
Available on HBO Max or to rent.
The plot: Leonard Shelby suffers from amnesia following a traumatic home invasion that left his wife dead. His inability to create new memories following the event means he must leave clues for himself in the forms of tattoos, notes, and photographs. All of this is done in an attempt to find his wife’s murderer.
The twist: Leonard’s wife survived the home invasion, but he accidentally killed her later. It’s bleak!
Available on Amazon Prime or to rent.
There you go. 10 great movies with excellent twists! Honorable mentions: Mulholland Drive, The Usual Suspects, Friday the 13th, Saw, The Invitation, Arrival, The Others, Atonement, Donnie Darko, Us, and The Prestige all come to mind! There’s no shortage in the Hollywood twist market.
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