The Best Plot Twists in Movie History | 22 Words

We all love a good movie twist, don’t we? 

The plot is seemingly going one way when… boom. There’s a dramatic change in events, and the movie ends in a completely different manner to the one that you’d originally expected. Plot twists are usually met with a mixture of delight, disbelief, and rage, but people love them all the same. 

Throughout cinema history, many filmmakers have dedicated copious amounts of time into writing and crafting clever and unexpected plot twists, and I have painstakingly gathered together the best, most shocking ones in movie history for your reading pleasure. You’re welcome. 

Warning: There will be spoilers in this article.

Obviously. But my advice would be, if you see the title of a movie that you haven’t seen, quickly scroll past it to avoid any spoilers!

Or go and watch said movie immediately.

And come back to the article later. The following list of movies are absolute classics, so it is a crime within itself to not have watched them. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, please find a list of the best plot twists ever (yes, it's a scientific fact).

Shutter Island.

via: IMDB

Leonardo DiCaprio plays the role of US Marshal, Teddy Daniels, investigating a series of odd occurrences at an isolated lunatic asylum. Throughout the film, Teddy is tormented with memories of his late wife, who seemingly died in a fire in their apartment. And, as he becomes more and more confused about events in the mental asylum, Teddy realizes that he is in fact a patient at the hospital, having lost his mind after he murdered his wife (who had murdered his children). Dark stuff.


via: IMDB

Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman team up to portray Detective Mills and Detective Somerset, who are chasing a murderous psychopath who uses the "seven deadly sins" as inspiration for his kills. Viewers lose themselves in the story, only to miss the inevitable conclusion... The killer tricks Detective Mills into delivering the final sin (Wrath) after providing him with a horrific motive (Envy). The head of his now dead wife. It sounds gruesome, but it is beautifully done, I promise.

High Tension.

via: IMDB

This gruesome movie is basically about two tenacious young women trying to stay one step ahead of a brutal madman, but, at the end, it turns out that... You guessed it! One of the girls is actually the killer, and the whole movie was her slightly skewed version of reality.

Dark City.

via: IMDB

This movie follows John Murdoch, who is played by Rufus Sewell, as he struggles with memories of his past, which includes a wife that he cannot remember, and a nightmarish world without a sun. But the ending of the film reveals that the gloomy and decadent city was in fact a life-sized simulation that takes place inside of a giant spaceship.

A History of Violence.

via: IMDB

This movie follows the character of mild-mannered Tom Stall, who unexpectedly finds himself in trouble when mobster, Carl Fogarty, attempts to rob a diner that he is sat in. Our timid hero ends up killing 2 gangsters, prompting their boss to come after him. As the plot thickens, we find out that small-town Tom is actually (wait for it...) an infamous assassin who retired long ago but clearly retains all sorts of killer moves.

Primal Fear.

Edward Norton made his cinematic debut with this movie, as he played the victim who finally strikes back against an allegedly perverted bishop. Though the boy comes across as a fragile and innocent sexual abuse victim, it turns out that he is actually a schizophrenic and the mastermind behind a brutal murder. Convincing everyone that he suffers from multiple personality disorder, he reveals, in the end, that the quiet Aaron never really existed. He was acting the entire time.

Angel Heart.

via: IMDB

Mickey Rourke stars as a seedy detective who has been tasked with tracking down a missing singer called Johnny Favorite, but every witness that he interviews mysteriously ends up dead. However, we find out that our sleazy detective and the missing singer are actually the same guy. Yeah, didn't see that one coming, did you?

The Village.

via: IMDB

M. Night Shyamalan has made a bit of a name for himself with his insane plot twists, hasn't he? The Village is set in a seemingly early nineteenth-century era, in a village wherein its residents live peacefully alongside terrifying, cloaked beasts... As long as they don't walk through the forest, or ever leave the village. However, when Ivy's boyfriend is hurt, she risks the journey through the forest in order to find medicine for him from the "outside." But, in a dramatic twist, you find out that it is actually set in modern times, and that it's just this one group of elders (who all had bad experiences in the real world), that makes the entire village live like Tudors. Oh, and the monsters are just the parents in costume.

The Prestige.

via: IMDB

Christopher Nolan's masterpiece movie follows two stage magicians, played by the legendary Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale, as they engage in a battle to create the ultimate illusion while sacrificing everything that they have to outwit each other. However, it turns out that one of the magicians has a long-lost twin and that part of the magic trick is not a magic trick at all... These lunatics are actually creating a countless collection of clones, and are killing them! For entertainment, of course.


via: IMDB

This psychological thriller tells the tale of a surgeon, Jed, (Alec Baldwin) who runs into an old school friend and begins renting his spare bedroom in his grand Victorian house. His friend's wife, Tracy (Nicole Kidman), begins to have abdominal pains and is raced to the emergency room, where Dr. Jed cuts her open and removes more parts that he will need later. It turns out that Jed is actually in cahoots with Tracy, and that he's been shooting her up with fertility drugs meant to cause ovarian cysts so that they could split the malpractice settlement together.

Fight Club.

via: IMDB

Okay, I know the rule is that I'm not allowed to talk about Fight Club. But it's just too damn good to miss out. An insomniac office worker, played by Edward Norton and a devil-may-care soap maker, portrayed by Brad Pitt, form an underground fight club that evolves into somewhat of a cult. However, we discover that Brad Pitt's character is simply a fiction of the insomniac's sleep-deprived and frazzled mind and that he had been fighting and getting up to no good all by himself.

The Crying Game.

via: IMDB

Back in 1992, it was pretty uncommon to find a dark political thriller in which a man falls in love with a mysterious woman - only to quickly discover that she's actually a man! Shock horror! The movie follows British soldier, Jody, who has been captured by IRA terrorists, as he forms an unexpected bond with IRA member, Fergus. Not only does it incorporate the then-taboo subject matter into a smart and fascinating tale of terrorism, murder, and retribution, it does so in a fantastically matter-of-fact fashion.


via: IMDB

We all remember the overly-gory movie franchise that is Saw. The first film has a memorable plot twist in which we discover that our two "heroes" are not chained in a bathroom with a corpse, as previously suspected, but that they're in there with the killer himself, who has been playing dead this entire time.

Iron Man 3.

via: IMDB

Though Marvel doesn't usually do wild or crazy plot twists, Iron Man 3 took a slight diversion from this usual pattern. In this movie, the figure that most closely resembles The Mandarin, Iron Man's deadliest foe, is played by Ben Kingsley. But Kingsley doesn't play a villain at all. Rather, he plays Trevor Slattery, a drunken, aspiring actor playing the role of the Mandarin for the camera. Instead, Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce), turned out to be the main villain, a scientist driven mad with ambition and power.

The Game.

via: IMDB

At the beginning of the dark misadventure that anchors the film, Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) runs afoul of an elaborate role-playing "game" scam, and subsequently finds himself running for his life, resulting in him accidentally killing his brother. After the disastrous series of events, he then tries to commit suicide - only to discover that, yes, after all that, it was still just a game. Just like it says in the title.

April Fool's Day.

via: IMDB

The 1986 slasher horror movie follows a group of teens gathering to spend spring break together at a friend's remote mansion (classic horror plot so far). All members of the group but one are savagely murdered. But wait... Aprils Fools! It turns out that it's all an elaborate prank to fool the final girl into thinking that it's real. Talk about harsh.

The Gift.

via: IMDB

This move follows the tale of an oddball who runs into an old high school bully, who he then goes on to befriend. However, he then goes about inserting himself into virtually every aspect of his life. At first, the movie feels like a thriller about an unhinged lunatic, but it soon becomes apparent that the "victim" (Jason Bateman) is actually the aggressor, while the "troublemaker" (Edgerton) is, in a way, the victim.

Wild Things.

via: IMDB

This erotic crime thriller has many twists and turns. The movie tells the story of a police detective (Kevin Bacon) as he uncovers a conspiracy behind a case involving a high-school guidance counselor when accusations of rape are made against him by two female students. However, the plot twists when it is discovered that the girls are lying, and are actually in a conspiracy with the accused.


via: IMDB

Okay, this film may or may not have put me off having children for life. This movie tells the story of an American family who adopts an Eastern-European child. In a typical horror movie style, the little girl, Esther, gives off some eerie "killer-child" vibes. But the plot thickens. It turns out that creepy little Esther is actually a thirty-three-year-old psychopath who suffers from a rare disease that makes her look like a child. Yes, really.


via: IMDB

A classic movie that delves into dangerous - and slightly incestuous - waters. A man finds himself held a prisoner in a hotel room for fifteen years and then goes on a vengeful rampage once he's finally set free. He falls in love with a young woman while on his hunt for revenge... who he later finds is his long-lost daughter. After having sex with her. It turns out that his captors set this up deliberately all along. Good Lord.


via: IMDB

Frailty is about a father (Bill Paxton) who convinces his two young sons that certain people are actually "demons" who need to be killed. At the end of the movie, in which we assume that the father is clearly a raving schizophrenic, we realize the dad wasn't crazy at all, and he actually was killing real demons the whole time.

No Way Out.

via: IMDB

Kevin Costner plays a Naval officer who is tasked with tracking down a Russian spy - well,  that's until he gets caught up in a load of scandalous chicaneries when the secretary of defense is suspected of killing an escort. But, in the end, we find out that Costner's character is actually the Russian spy that he was supposed to be tracking down. It sounds confusing, I know... But watch the movie. It's a good one.

The Sixth Sense.

via: IMDB

Another M. Night classic. This iconic thriller sees Bruce Willis play a child psychiatrist who's helping out a little boy who claims that he can see ghosts. Queue the most iconic twist of all time... Bruce Willis is a ghost all along!

Jacob's Ladder.

via: IMDB

Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to uncover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. However, it turns out at the end that this soldier was actually dying, and the entire movie was just happening in his brain in his last hour. Great.

Arlington Road.

This movie tells the tale of a history professor who is mourning the death of his wife. He begins to suspect that his new neighbors are terrorists who are targeting the FBI headquarters. In the end, he's not only proven right, but he ends up being an unwitting mule for the bomb. He's killed in an attack at the FBI headquarters and ends up being remembered as a terrorist. An evil twist, but damn good all the same.

The Wicker Man.

via: IMDB

No, not the ridiculous Nicholas Cage remake. The original Wickerman, which was made in 1973, is about a police detective, played by Edward Woodward, who visits an isolated island community after a young girl is reported missing. After all sorts of strange investigations, the detective comes to the conclusion that there are still practices of ritual and spiritual sacrifices, therefore assuming that the girl has been sacrificed.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

via: IMDB

Yep, it's an obvious one. But the "Luke, I am your father" twist is perhaps the most ground-rumbling twist in cinema history, and it sent Star Wars fans into a complete frenzy. Long story short, Darth Vader turns out to be Luke Skywalker's dad. Yikes.

The Others.

A very Sixth Sense-esque twist for this classic movie. Nicole Kidman plays the exceedingly protective mother of two small children who seem to have a biological aversion to sunlight. After a while, it becomes evident that the family's wonderfully spooky mansion has been beset by unhappy spirits of some sort. But once our heroine delves into the mystery, she learns the horrible truth: she and her children are the spirits.


via: IMDB

This movie has a great plot, it's not just the famous "being stabbed in the shower" scene, guys! It's well-established throughout the film that oddball, Norman Bates, is kept on a short leash by his unseen, but thoroughly domineering, mother, but once an embezzling adulteress goes missing, and all sorts of people start poking into Norman's affairs, the grizzly twist is revealed: his mother died years ago, and Norman is, in fact, a maniacal schizophrenic who likes to dress up her corpse and speak to her like as if she's still alive.

The Unusual Suspects.

via: IMDB

Kevin Spacey plays a low-level crook who is the only survivor of a horrific massacre. We then watch as he embarks on a crazy and ludicrous story about what happened, who was involved, and how everyone died... Only to find out at the end of the movie that this guy's story is all a bunch of nonsense, and that he's the infamous kingpin that everybody's looking for.


via: IMDB

Bruce Willis stars as a man who slowly begins to realize that he has superhuman powers. He befriends a comic-book expert and eventually has to accept the truth - that he's a superhero who cannot be injured. The twist occurs when he realizes his new friend, Mr. Glass (played by Samuel L. Jackson), is actually an evil terrorist plotting against him.

Sleepaway Cabin.

via: IMDB

This iconic comedy-horror flick tells the tale of Ricky and his cousin, Angela, on a trip to a sleepaway camp, and people quickly start being murdered (obviously) upon their arrival. However, the twist in the film is the sudden final presence of gore, violence, and blood. The film weirdly features no graphic scenes of murder, so to have it so violently shown at the end is really shocking.

Planet of the Apes.

We spend the entire film under the assumption that a lost astronaut (Charlton Heston) is fighting for his life on a distant planet governed by super-intelligent apes... but then we learn that our "lost" astronaut is still on Earth, only far in the future, and apes have taken over. Un. Real.