Film Spoilers and
|Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description|
Charlie Finished His Script
In Spike Jonz' brilliant but often bewildering, twisting and turning comedy/drama, struggling screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) pursued and spied on the New Yorker author Susan Orlean (Meryl Streep) of the book The Orchard Thief while working on its movie adaptation, discovering her snorting lines of mind-altering, ghost-orchid green extract and committing adultery in an extra-marital affair with the real Florida orchid thief John Laroche (Chris Cooper).
The film's conclusion counteracted his earlier assertion to his studio contact Valerie Thomas (Tilda Swinton): "I don't want to cram in sex or, uh, guns or car chases, you know, or characters, you know, learning profound life lessons, or growing, or coming to like each other, or overcoming obstacles - succeeding in the end...life isn't like that, it just isn't."
Escaping with his alter-ego twin brother Donald (Cage in a dual role) into the Florida Everglades swamp (where Charlie received profound advice from Donald: "You are what you love, not what loves you" during the night), they were hotly pursued by Laroche and Susan after she madly wanted to kill him for witnessing her drug habit and extra-marital affair. Donald was 'killed' when thrown through Charlie's car windshield (extinguishing his alter-ego forever, and giving him new confidence), and Laroche was attacked and killed by an alligator, after which Susan madly exclaimed: "I want my life back. I want it back before it all got f--ked up. I want to be a baby again. I want to be new. I WANT TO BE NEW."
Upon his return home, Charlie met with pretty ex-dating partner Amelia Kavan (Cara Seymour) and openly admitted his affection for her by kissing her (with her own confession: "I love you, too, you know"). He simultaneously discovered how to finally end his script:
This was accompanied with the playing of the Turtles' song "Happy Together" - and a sped-up time lapse photograph of flowers and an LA street over a period of several days
The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
The Enduring True Love of Politican David Norris for Ballerina Elise Was A Test - Their Overwhelming Desire to Be Together Caused the Chairman (God?) of the Adjustment Bureau to Rewrite Their Predetermined Fates and Allow Them to Be Together
This highly-speculative sci-fi romantic thriller from director/writer George Nolfi (his debut film) was adapted from a Philip K. Dick story, "Adjustment Team." It speculated about fate, destiny and free-will orchestrated within an alternate reality.
The hybrid film told about gifted, young and charismatic NY politician/congressman David Norris (Matt Damon), who as the film opened had failed in his first bid for the office of NY Senator. He had a chance meeting in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel's men's rest-room with free-spirited, off-kilter ballerina Elise Sellas (Emily Blunt) who was hiding in a toilet stall (to evade security guards, actually Adjustment Bureau agents, from a wedding she had crashed), and overheard him practicing a concession speech. She made a deep impression upon him (and they shared an unexpected kiss). His subsequent off-the-cuff speech was influenced by her - it was heartfelt, "authentic," and devoid of the usual political rhetoric. [Later, it was revealed that she had deliberately been nudged in his direction this one time, to facilitate his next step on a pre-arranged track, although it turned out to be a risky maneuver.]
Although David was never supposed to see Elise again, he unexpectedly met her about a month later during a city bus ride, due to a failing adjustment made by Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie) regarding David's spilled coffee at 7:05 am. Harry was a rookie-angel in an operation known as the Adjustment Bureau. The Fates were represented by suited, hat-wearing operatives in the bureau led by Richardson (John Slattery), whose puppet-mastering job was to make minor adjustments, keep things on track, prevent ripple effects caused by behavioral deviations, and if necessary, lobotomize brains (a "square-one reset" or recalibration) to have things go according to plan (according to a grand scheme of things overseen by an unseen Chairman - God?). The AB had infiltrated David's office, frozen his co-workers, and were making adjustments after David had caused "ripple effects."
They captured David and confronted him in a warehouse after his two encounters and planned separations from Elise. Richardson explained that he and Elise were never to meet again (and then they burned her phone number). Afterwards, for three years, David persistently rode the same bus and per-chance spotted her on a street-corner. The Bureau's efforts (involving blocked phone calls, changing meeting places, crashing taxis) kept getting foiled by David's wild determination to keep in touch with Elise, and they reestablished their relationship and made love to each other.
A third major member of the Bureau from the Intervention Team, Thompson (Terence Stamp) was called upon to deal with David's resistance efforts against existential danger, and to break up their romance. [Note, the three main members of the AB were actually Tom, Dick, and Harry.] With a sophisticated rhetorical speech, Thompson responded to David's question: "Whatever happened to free will?" during their first meeting:
David was later warned by Thompson as he was watching Elise's ballet show-performance: "If you stay with her, it not only kills your dreams, it kills hers...Elise is about to become one of the most famous dancers in the country and eventually one of the world's great choreographers. If she says with you, she ends up teaching dance to six year-olds." He also cautioned that romance with Elise brought out David's reckless and impulsive side and would distract his attention from his need for accolades, crowds, and applause - and most importantly, it would jeopardize his promising and predestined political career that could lead to the Presidency. The Bureau caused Elise to fall during a dance performance and sprain her ankle, and David thought that staying with her would cause pain. After visiting her at the hospital, he abandoned her and intended never to see her again.
David's second campaign for NY Senator had him up by 16 points, and at the same time, 32 year-old Elise was planning to marry 37 year old French-born ex-boyfriend/fiancee Adrian Troussant (Shane McRae), to take place in front of a judge at the NY courthouse. Determined to "get her back" before her marriage - even though his efforts were being thwarted by Thompson, David asked for Harry's help to teach him about the secret of trans-dimensional teleportation doors leading to the substrate, magical hats, and obscuring rain to keep the stealthy Bureau agents off their tail.
In the climactic finale, David raced to Elise and in the courtroom's restroom, he begged for her not to marry. He told her that the plan in a book was to keep them apart: "This says that you love me and that I love you, and that we're not supposed to be together...But I know that I'm supposed to be with you because of the way I feel. I love you and I don't care what happens. I want to spend the rest of my life with you even if it's only a little while." After they fled from the bureau operatives led by Thompson, and a series of doorways took them to Yankee Stadium, downtown streets and then to the Statue of Liberty, he tried to explain that their love meant everything: "This can't be wrong." He gave her a choice and she decided: "I'm coming with you," as they entered a teleportation door into the NY Public Library - the office-hub of all the operatives, and ascended the building to get to the Chairman's office, to try to change their fate, plead their case, and rewrite their destiny.
When surrounded on the roof with no way out, they professed their love and passionately kissed - and the agents disappeared. They learned from Harry that they had been tested, and that their "inspiring" love for each other had affected the Chairman. Although their romance was considered "a serious deviation from the plan," their life's path was rewritten so that they could be together.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)
It Was All A Tall-Tale Story Told By The Baron
This entire Terry Gilliam adventure was a tale told by elderly Baron Karl Frederich Hieronymous von Munchausen (John Neville) about his alleged marvelous exploits to a group of theater-goers attending a play (about his own life) while the city was under siege from Turkish hordes.
The tale ended with the Baron's shooting "death"- assassination by city official "The Right Ordinary Horatio Jackson" (Jonathan Pryce) during a victory parade and the taking of his soul by the Grim Reaper 'doctor' -- the twist was that the Baron's tale was only a "story within a story."
It was the final scene of another tall-tale staged story the fabulist was telling the audience as he appeared back on stage: ("And that was only one of the many occasions on which I met my death, an experience which I don't hesitate strongly to recommend!").
Sally Salt (Sarah Polley) - the young daughter of the theater company's leader, remarked incredulously: "It wasn't just a story, was it?"
In the finale, the Baron rode off onto a faraway hillside, saluted the town, and then cryptically disappeared.
Aeon Flux (2005)
Aeon Was the Clone of Trevor's Wife
In the post-apocalyptic year of 2415, inhabitants were forced to live in the walled city of Bregna ruled by the totalitarian Goodchild dynasty of genetic scientists, following a devastating lethal virus in 2011 which killed 99% of the population (leaving only 5 million people) and caused everyone else who survived to be sterile (the cure had caused sterility).
[However, nature was beginning to find a way to overcome the sterility issue and women were again becoming pregnant naturally. This was the main reason for the murder of Aeon's sister Una (Amelia Warner).]
Mastermind scientist and Chairman Trevor Goodchild (Marton Csokas) revealed to assassin-rebel Monican agent Aeon Flux (Charlize Theron) that while researching for a cure, the original population had been cloned over seven generations, to ensure a population. At a certain age, everyone in Bregna was cloned and would begin again at infancy, thereby destabilizing the human race.
Aeon also learned from Trevor and the 400 year old hologramic Keeper (Pete Postlethwaite) that she was the clone of Trevor's wife from 400 years earlier, and was named Catherine.
[In a subplot, Trevor's younger brother Oren (Jonny Lee Miller) was staging a coup - he wanted to destroy Trevor's lab work to cure the sterility. His plan was to kill the clones which were reproducing. He also wanted to kill Aeon by destroying her DNA, but the Keeper preserved it and continued recloning her every time she died.]
In the finale, Aeon killed Oren, and destroyed the DNA library or storage system (that was housed in the "Relic," a giant blimp that circled around the city). It crashed into the outer wall and exposed the population to the outside jungle world.
After the Thin Man (1936)
David Graham Did It
The most surprising "whodunit" of the Thin Man series ended with the murderer being the least likely suspect -- spurned former fiancee David Graham (James Stewart). He was angry at ex-fiancee Selma Landis (Elissa Landi), so he killed her husband Robert Landis (Alan Marshall), and attempted to frame her.
The film was also famous for its surprise ending that was undetected by detective Nick Charles (William Powell) - his socialite wife Nora (Myrna Loy) disclosed her impending maternity on a train as she knitted baby socks -- Nora gently chided him: "And you call yourself a detective" when he finally, after a few moments, realized the significance.
The Creepy Mortician Was Not Keeping Anna Against Her Will. She Was Transitioning Between Death and the After-Life. She Had Died in a Car Accident, Although She Believed She Was Still Alive. In the Final Sequence, Her Boyfriend/Fiancee Paul Also Died in a Wreck, and Was Similarly Prepared For His Funeral and Burial By the Same Mortician.
Co-writer/director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo's feature film debut was this morbid mystery drama/thriller that told of a troubled relationship between:
At the beginning of the film after she had endured unfulfilling sex with Paul, she was showering (and experiencing a nosebleed). Paul asked the rhetorical question of whether she was happy:
Later, a verbal argument ensued with him at a restaurant during dinner (Paul was planning to propose marriage between them at the very "special occasion"). Brunette Anna (now with recently-dyed red hair) frantically drove off in a rainstorm when she thought that he was leaving her. He wasn't able to tell her that he wanted to take her to Chicago with him due to a job transfer. She experienced a deadly crash ? (she was using her cellphone and was distracted) and woke up on a cold slab in a funeral home the next morning.
Anna was attended to by soft-spoken, calm, solemn, psychic mortician/funeral director Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson), who cut off her dark dinner dress to reveal her red slip. He claimed that she was 'dead' when she asked where she was:
But she thought otherwise: "I'm not dead!" To prove it, he showed her the death certificate (dated 11/14/2009), with cause of death: "Massive internal trauma" from an auto accident.
Anna's boyfriend suspected that she was still alive ("She can't be dead. There must be some mistake"). At the same time in the morgue, Anna was protesting and pleading: "I can't be dead. Just let me go, please!" The mortician believed she was "in denial" about her mortality ("You're still in denial. You have to trust me. I'm only here to help you"). Deacon began to sew up her forehead wound and prepare her for an open casket to look "beautiful" for her funeral. He kept injecting her with hydronium bromide to relax her muscles and keep her body from experiencing rigor mortis, so he could work on her - and so that she would remain "radiant" and "beautiful." The mortician told her grieving, wheel-chaired, ailing mother Beatrice (Celia Weston): "The soul is still here. It's we who suffer. We who are left behind." When Paul came to view her body before the public viewing, the mortician denied him access, while Anna was downstairs in the morgue - unheard as she cried out: "Let me out!"
Later when she protested, "Why are you doing this to me?" Deacon responded: "They're all the same. You all blame me for your death as if it were my fault...The others, they just see you as a dead body on a slab. Only I can see you as you really are." He asked for her height: "I need to know your height, for your coffin."
He claimed that he had a special gift that allowed him to see her and speak to her. (Later in the film, he murmured to himself: "It's not a gift, it's a curse!") He promised that he would assist her in accepting her reality and transitioning from life to the after-life, although she thought she was still breathing:
Questions immediately arose:
Paul hallucinated (in a nightmare) that a naked Anna in his shower ripped out her still-beating heart from a gaping slit down her torso, with blood dripping down her body from the massive wound.
Anna told the mortician: "I'm not ready to die yet, not yet." He replied: "There's nothing out there for you anymore." Although she tried numerous times to escape and threatened to kill the doctor, she never fully carried out her plans. He told her after she failed to contact Paul by phone: "I'm the only one who can hear you now." He urged her to let go, so that Paul wouldn't be pained by her attempts to contact him ("It's time you finally accepted the truth. You are dead. You will never live again"). As she laid naked on the morgue table, she asked the mortician:
Feeling her presence, Paul (who some thought was "losin' it") made repeated desperate attempts to have access to her or to have Deacon investigated, after hearing that one of Anna's 'gifted' students named Jack (Chandler Canterbury) claimed he had seen her standing at an upstairs funeral home window. The mortician told the grieving Paul: "Denial is a natural part of grieving, but you have to accept she's gone...You can't help her anymore, believe me."
While final preparations were made to dress Anna before her funeral, she told Deacon how she had tried to change her life for the better, but she had so many regrets:
She finally admitted that she had wanted love since she was a child, but her cold, unloving mother had hurt her, and she learned to pull away and not love anymore ("so I decided not to love anymore") - and therefore pushed Paul's love away. He responded: "I thought you were different. You all say you're scared of death, but the truth is you're more scared of life." She replied: "I'm glad I'm dead. I'm glad it's over." At the gravesite being prepared, Deacon told young Jack - before becoming the young boy's mentor:
Anna was numbed with another injection just before her funeral, when Deacon told her about the end that was very close: "The last part's the most difficult. You're gonna have to face it alone, but you'll be at peace soon." During the funeral, Paul placed the engagement ring on her finger and kissed her - she attempted to respond by twitching her eyelids, but he didn't notice, before the coffin lid was closed. The mortician spoke to Anna's flash-Polaroid picture that he had taken of her, before posting it on a wall in his bedroom along with dozens of others before her:
As Anna was being buried alive, she heard the dirt clattering onto the top of her wooden coffin. One last storyline suggested that she might still be alive. She dug her nails into the top of the coffin (and its inner satin lining) - in futility, she desperately tried to scratch and claw her way out ("Let me out!"). To calm his suspicions one last time, a slightly inebriated Paul (during the wake) drove to the cemetery to prove to himself that she was really dead one last time, after being challenged by the mortician. A bright white flash of headlights during his hurried trip signaled that he had also suffered a horrific accident. An ambulance passed by with its siren blaring. At the cemetery, he dug up the coffin, pulled out Anna's corpse, and he hugged her limp rag-doll body as he told her: "I came back for you." He asked about a noise, and Anna explained: "It's just the scissors for your clothes. Eliot just put them on the table."
Suddenly Paul found himself on Deacon's lab table in the funeral home with a bloodied shirt. Eliot was standing over him as his shirt was being cut off. Deacon explained what had really happened:
Paul kept insisting - as he cried out repeatedly in anguish: "I'm not dead!" - the film's final line, as Deacon inserted a long trocar into his abdomen (a surgical instrument to drain his body cavity). The screen faded to a searing white and then to black for the ending credits.
Ash Was a Robot; The Only Two Human Survivors Were Ripley and Jones (the Cat)
This Ridley Scott film has become famous for its genuinely shocking and memorable "chestburster" scene during a mess table meal aboard the spacefaring freighter Nostromo. Crew-member Kane (John Hurt) experienced a seizure - coughing and choking on green, spaghetti-like strands of food. Kane was turned around, laid on the table, and held down by the crew, while they forced a spoon into his mouth to prevent him from choking on his tongue. Then, in a terrifying moment, blood graphically exploded out of the front of his white T-shirt - as he moaned, jerked violently, quivered, and died, the Alien burst from the bloody spot on his chest - the hissing, razor sharp-toothed monster/lizard was literally "born" from the guts of the first infected crewman.
A secondary shocking moment was when the crew discovered Science Officer Ash's (Ian Holm) true nature when Parker literally knocked his head off with a fire extinguisher and exclaimed: "It's a robot! Ash is a god-damned robot!"
One by one as the crew members searched for the creature, they were eliminated: ship's mechanic Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt) when searching for the beast in the air vents with a flamethrower. The next two gruesome casualties were navigator Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) and Parker (Yaphet Kotto).
Self-reliant, hard-assed, feminist action heroine Lt. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) learned the corporate machinations behind the alien - the Company employing them had deliberately rerouted them to pick up the alien, and that the crew was expendable. Left alone, Ripley heroically activated the emergency destruct system to blow up the ship. She successfully abandoned ship in the shuttlecraft Narcissus with the cat named Jones (she told herself: "I got you! You son-of-a-bitch"), not realizing that the alien had hidden onboard.
In the film's exciting conclusion, Ripley stripped down to her skimpy underwear, then donned a space suit when she realized the alien was present, opened the airlock hatch, and jettisoned the creature into outer space - and then blasted it with white-heat exhaust before entering hypersleep with Jones for the long journey home in the Narcissus ("This is Ripley, last survivor of the Nostromo, signing off").
All That Jazz (1979)
Gideon Died During Open Heart Surgery
The spectacular finale - the film's most outstanding dance/musical number - featured wild, imaginatively-surreal hallucinations that were experienced by near-death, drug-addicted, egotistical New York choreographer-director Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) after a heart-attack, as he underwent open-heart cardiac surgery.
At the end of a corridor, flirtatious angel of Death Angelique (Jessica Lange) tempted him to leave the world of the living. Chorus girls danced around his bed (while he and television host O'Connor Flood (Ben Vereen) sang Bye Bye Life to a heavenly studio audience).
This dark finale ended with Gideon in a body bag being zipped up in preparation for being sent to the morgue.
American Beauty (1999)
Colonel Fitts Killed Lester Burnham
Director Sam Mendes' Best Picture-winning film opened with voice-over narration of mid-life crisis-suffering suburbanite Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) revealing: "in less than a year, I will be dead."
The film's ending was still a shock when the death actually played out. Lester narrated the film's final lines, during which a pair of gunshots sounded in the Burnham kitchen. He described some of the meaningful experiences of his life (with a montage of images, some black and white from the past) - and despite his death, he expressed his feelings of "gratitude for every single moment of my stupid little life":
Lester was shot in the back of the head as he looked wistfully at a family photography in the kitchen, reacting: "Man, oh man." The gun slowly appeared on the right side of the frame, and the white-tiled kitchen wall to the left of the frame was splattered with blood and brains, sailing in the air over a vase of red roses after the gunshot. Daughter Janie (Thora Birch) and her boyfriend Ricky (Wes Bentley) were the first to see the blood and body. Ricky stared quizzically at the sight. Lester's voice-over narration began, returning to a few seconds before the fatal gunshot. In the home's bathroom, teenaged Angela (Mena Suvari) turned toward the sound of the first gunshot (Lester had aborted an attempted seduction of her moments earlier). Following the gunshots, Fitts rushed into his home, where he was shown breathing heavily and with blood on his white T-shirt. His gun rack showed one missing weapon.
Lester was murdered - not by his real estate agent wife Carolyn (Annette Bening) (who at the same time removed a gun out of the car's glove box and said to herself: "Lester, I refuse to be a victim") - but by his shamed and latent homosexual neighbor, retired Marine Col. Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper). Fitts had earlier kissed him in the garage (after he thought he had witnessed his son performing oral sex on Lester).
American Psycho (2000)
Patrick's Crimes May Have Been Hallucinations
Speculation arose over the numerous bloody murders in this film (mostly off-screen) committed by loathsome 27 year-old narrator/yuppie Wall Street broker and psychopath Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), who self-admittedly claimed he was into "murders and executions" (interpreted in a noisy bar as "mergers and acquisitions"). A greedy, image-conscious power broker on the side, he had an ever-present Walkman, and was obsessed with a facial cleansing regimen and body worship, dinner reservations at the most exclusive and hip restaurants, and showy business cards (a scene in which a group of homoerotic cronies competitively whipped out their cards and compared card stock, font, font size, color and layout.
Wearing a clear rainslicker in his own apartment, he committed the brutal axe murder of rival associate Paul Allen (Jared Leto) with a shiny new axe head. He also murdered two hookers in his apartment during a menage a trois when he stabbed one of the two prostitutes during intercourse under a sheet, then chased (in the nude) through the apparently empty hallway of his complex after the second fleeing hooker Christie (Cara Seymour) with a chainsaw and dropped it down on her from a stairwell.
Did the murders really happen, or were they only his own murderous impulses and cocaine-induced fantasies? In his own words, he clearly declared his paranoid psychosis amidst the shallow and empty aspects of competitive and consumeristic corporate culture: ("Did you know I'm utterly insane?" and "I think my mask of sanity is about to slip").
By the end of the film when the two worlds of business and sex/hyper-violence came together, he went on a murder spree (a woman at an ATM, a security guard, a janitor, etc.) and blew up police cars and officers hot on his trail. Believing he was about to be caught, in a sweaty panic, he called up his lawyer Harold (Stephen Bogaert) and confessed to everything on the answering machine ("I guess I'm a pretty sick guy"). But then later, the confession meant nothing - his lawyer thought the call was a clever prank, and reported he had recently had dinner with the 'deceased' Paul Allen in London.
The film's twist, in a blatant monologue confession scene (in voice-over) as the camera slowly panned toward his face, called into question what Bateman had actually committed, as he surrendered to the insanity around him. Was it true that the murders were all in his imagination, or not? He spoke:
Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A1 | A2 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | C1 | C2 | C3 | D1 | D2 | D3 | E1 | E2 | F1 | F2 | G | H1 | H2 | H3 | I | J-K | L1 | L2
M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z