- Plot twists can be game changers in storytelling, catching audiences off guard and demanding their attention for what’s coming next.
- Films like Toy Story 3, Your Name, and Black Swan use multiple twists that challenge, provoke, and leave a lasting impression on the audience.
- Whether it’s a heartwarming finale, a shocking revelation, or a morally ambiguous ending, plot twists can alter viewers’ perception and create a memorable cinematic experience.
Over the years, numerous movies across genres have used multiple big plot twists, shifting their narratives more than once and reshaping themselves in an instant. In the world of storytelling, there are many methods a writer turns to when crafting a screenplay. A plot twist is one such narrative device that manages to catch audiences off guard and demand their attention for what’s coming next. Although good stories don’t entirely hinge on plot twists, they can be game changers if executed effectively.
While many films content themselves with a lone, impactful surprise scene, some filmmakers value these twists more often. Their scripts aren’t just stories and characters but a deliberate method to provide major revelations with a shock element. Providing an unforgettable experience for the viewers, these movies don’t just entertain, but challenge, provoke, and leave a lasting impression on the audience.
14 Toy Story 3 (2010)
Director: Lee Unkrich, Writer: Michael Arndt
Despite being an animated film, Toy Story 3 had numerous mature elements and a subtle method to showcase them via various twists and turns. When the toys enter Sunnyside Daycare, they have no idea that its welcoming leader Lotso is, in fact, an evil dictator. Another revelation unfolds his heartbreaking backstory. Near the film’s ending, the toys manage to survive a burning incinerator when the Aliens save the day at the last moment. Eventually, the toys are handed over to Bonnie by Andy. A final twist arrives when he finds Woody, whom he wanted to take to college, in the same box. Initially hesitant, Andy lets Bonnie keep him in an emotional farewell scene.
13 Your Name (2016)
Writer and Director: Makoto Shinkai
Also known as Kimi no Na Wa, Makoto Shinkai’s 2016 anime film defies conventions in the romance genre. Beyond its enchanting tale of body-swapping, Your Name unravels a series of bittersweet plot twists. Taki and Mitsuha’s connection soon turns into love; but when Taki decides to meet her it turns out they exist in different times, separated by three years. Tragically, Mitsuha is revealed to have died in a comet’s wake, but before her demise, she met Taki who could not identify her. Through a sacred sake known as kuchikamizake, Taki gets another chance to rewrite destiny and save Mitsuha and her village. Ultimately, a touching twist results in the two forgetting each other’s memories before an ambiguous yet heartwarming finale reunites their souls.
12 Black Swan (2010)
Director: Darren Aronofsky, Writers: Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz, John McLaughlin
In Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller Black Swan, the line between reality and imagination blurs for Nina, a dedicated ballet dancer. Landing the lead in Swan Lake, she falls into a nightmarish struggle. The film’s dream-like narrative complicates distinguishing between the actual events and fantasies. As Nina starts believing that she’s transforming into the Black Swan, she also assumes that her rival, Lily, aims to steal her role. When she violently confronts Lily, a shocking twist reveals it was Nina who caused the wounds upon herself, imagining the confrontation. Bleeding but determined, Nina delivers her haunting performance, leaving her fate uncertain. The film’s mysterious conclusion raises speculation about Nina’s survival.
11 Knives Out (2019)
Writer and Director: Rian Johnson
Taking inspiration from Agatha Christie’s classic murder mysteries, Rian Johnson’s whodunnit revolves around the apparent murder of Harlan Thrombey, the patriarch of a wealthy family. However, the first major twist shockingly uncovers that the death was, in fact, an accident, caused by a lethal dose of morphine from his nurse, Marta. As Marta races to clear her name while the family engages in internal struggles to get their hands on Harlan’s will. Daniel Craig’s private detective, Benoit Blanc, leads the investigation. Adding a layer of dramatic irony, it’s unveiled that Harlan’s grandson, the charismatic Ransom portrayed by Chris Evans, is the true perpetrator in the ending of Knives Out.
10 Parasite (2019)
Director: Bong Joon-ho, Writers: Bon Joon-ho and Han Jin-won
Bong Joon-ho’s Academy Award-winning film received overwhelmingly positive reviews for its blend of social commentary and suspenseful storytelling. The film centers on the Kim family’s deceitful entry into the wealthy Park household. Initially portraying themselves as friendly, the Kims conceal their manipulative nature as they begin to mirror the Parks. The tipping point comes with the housekeeper finds out about their deceit. Incidentally, the housekeeper had a secret of her own as her husband had been living hidden in the Parks’ basement. Parasite‘s bleak ending manages to alter viewers’ perception of class divisions, leaving a haunting impression of the harsh realities faced by the different levels of the social hierarchy.
Mickey 17, Bong Joon-hu’s follow-up film to Parasite, is set to release on March 29, 2024.
9 Ex Machina (2014)
Writer and Director: Alex Garland
Alex Garland’s sci-fi thriller delves into the ethical complexities surrounding artificial intelligence. Oscar Isaac’s portrayal of Nathan, a tech mogul with suspicious intentions, introduces an unsettling tone. As the story progresses, the revelation of Nathan’s true purpose for his human-like androids becomes a thought-provoking twist. Complying with his wish, his creation, Ava, portrayed by Alicia Vikander, befriends Caleb and attempts to use him to escape from the facility. While she kills her creator, she also leaves Caleb to die and flees with her fellow android, Kyoko.
8 The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
Writer and Director: Anthony Minghella
Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s novel is a tense character study but not without its own twists and turns. Played by, Matt Damon Tom Ripley’s descent into obsession and deceit takes unexpected turns. The shocking murder of Dickie Greenleaf sets off a chain of events, revealing the depths to which Ripley will go to assume a new identity. Ripley’s actions blur the lines between a criminal and a victim, leaving viewers filled with the film’s moral ambiguity. In the final moments, Ripley and the viewers are relieved when Dickie’s father drops the investigation against Ripley.
7 Mission: Impossible (1996)
Director: Brian De Palma, Writers: David Koepp and Robert Towne
Long before the Mission: Impossible franchise turned into action spectacles, it arrived as an espionage thriller from director Brian De Palma and introduced Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt in a labyrinthine plot that was full of backstabbing. Accused of betrayal, Hunt goes rogue to unravel the layers of deception and clear his name. The complexity of the mission pushes him to his limits, creating a suspenseful journey for audiences. De Palma’s direction keeps viewers on the edge of their seats only to reveal that Jim Phelps, a protagonist in the original Mission: Impossible television series, is, in fact, the mole. The action does not stop here as Phelps murders his wife, Claire after she sides with Ethan. In a tense climax, Ethan is forced to confront both Phelps and the helicopter pilot, Franz Krieger, who also turns out to be a traitor.
6 Se7en (1995)
Director: David Fincher, Writer: Andrew Kevin Walker
David Fincher’s Se7en explored the dark realities of human nature by bringing together a murder mystery and a psychological thriller. Led by the cop duo portrayed by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, the film revolves around serial killings inspired by the concept of seven deadly sins. While each murder is more shocking than the other, the sadistic killer, portrayed by Kevin Spacey in an Oscar-winning performance, eventually surrenders prior to the final act. The film’s sinister endgame arrives when he takes the cops to the site of his final two murders. The famous “What’s in the box” scene reveals that the sixth victim has already fallen, and Doe planned his own demise at the hands of Pitt’s character.
Seven’s director David Fincher and screenwriter Andrew Kevin Walker have reunited for The Killer, which is set to arrive on Netflix, on November 10.
5 Get Out (2017)
Writer and Director: Jordan Peele
Jordan Peele’s directorial debut follows Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris, who innocently agrees to a visit to his girlfriend Rose’s family estate. As the tense atmosphere escalates, the Armitage family’s facade of hospitality slowly begins to unravel. The seemingly loyal servants, Georgina and Walter, are soon revealed to be the victims of a disturbing medical procedure to revive Rose’s grandparents in their capable bodies. The realization of their insidious plot, involving hypnosis and a terrifying “Sunken Place,” thoroughly unsettles Chris. The very final twist of Rose’s role in her family’s plan serves as a bombshell before she tries to further prevent his chances of escape. Incidentally, Peele won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for the Get Out.
4 Psycho (1960)
Director: Alfred Hitchcock, Writer: Joseph Stefano
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho remains an unparalleled achievement in cinematic history. Halfway through the runtime, Psycho‘s infamous shower scene subverts genre expectations. The early death of Janet Leigh’s Marion Crane early in the story, a shocking move considering her Hollywood stardom, sets the stage for further tension. Marion’s death is followed by several more brutal murders until the final truth about Norman Bates and his murderous “mother” comes to light. Anthony Perkins’ portrayal of Norman Bates introduces a character of haunting complexity, blurring the lines between victim and perpetrator.
3 The Dark Knight (2008)
Director: Christopher Nolan, Writers: Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan, and David S. Goyer
The second entry in Christopher Nolan’s fan-favorite trilogy successfully blends elements of crime and thriller within the superhero genre. Heath Ledger’s Joker, known for his unpredictability, introduces a series of shocking twists and turns. As the villain sets his plans in motion, viewers, alongside Batman and Gordon, are left in astonishment. These schemes involve the kidnapping of Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes, ultimately leading to tragic outcomes and Dent’s transformation into Two-Face. Moreover, the Joker’s arrest is also revealed to be a part of his sinister intentions. Additional surprises, such as the disguise of hostages as Joker’s goons and the threats to bomb the ferries, heighten the film’s suspense. The climax delivers one last surprise as Batman takes the blame for Dent’s death, becoming a fugitive pursued by the police.
2 Memento (2000)
Director: Christopher Nolan, Writers: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan
Christopher Nolan’s Oscar-nominated screenplay of Memento follows a non-linear storytelling that simultaneously unfolds in chronological and reverse-chronological orders, resulting in a film where no two scenes are continuous. Afflicted with short-term memory loss, the film’s protagonist, Leonard, finds himself in a web of betrayals as the plot keeps revealing that his allies are, in fact, villains. Just when Leonard begins to trust Natalie, an immediate flashback reveals how she tricked him, while Teddy is also shown to have been exploiting his condition by making him kill bad guys for the police. As the film reaches its final moments, even Leonard’s own morality can be questioned. A final revelation hints that Leonard may actually be Sammy, a patient who inadvertently caused his wife’s death.
1 Gone Girl (2014)
Director: David Fincher, Writer: Gillian Flynn
David Fincher and Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl presents the hidden struggles of marriage through a psychological thriller mastery. When his wife Amy goes missing, various revelations of Nick Dunne’s mistreatment of her and an extramarital affair, lead law enforcement and media to suspect him. Rosamund Pike’s performance as Amy Dunne elevates the film to a new level when a midway plot twist reveals that she planned the whole thing to frame her husband. As Nick faces the public eye in a televised interview, Amy comes back by gruesomely murdering Neil Patrick Harris’ Desi, and framing him for rape and kidnapping. The twists do not stop here and in a riveting climax, Amy shows another card up her sleeve: a calculated pregnancy to keep Nick entrapped.