Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description

The Game (1997)

The 'Game' - A Unique Life Experience That Was Life-Threatening, Turned Elite Wealthy Investment Banker Nicholas Van Orton's World Upside-Down; It Was a Birthday Gift from His Younger Brother Conrad, To Make His Life More Intriguing

Director David Fincher's psychological thriller, his third feature film, was an account of the long 'journey' of its main character:

  • wealthy, cold-hearted, analytical, privileged and soulless, workaholic, "control-freak" San Francisco investment banker executive Nicholas "Nickie" Van Orton (Michael Douglas), divorced from his wife Elizabeth (Anna Katarina) who was living in Sausalito with her new doctor husband

Nicholas was presented with a 48th year birthday gift - marking the same age that his similar Scrooge-like father had died from suicide, by jumping off the roof of their home onto the driveway (seen in scratchy Super-8 footage, a flashback). The gift was from his estranged, rebellious, free-spirited younger brother Conrad (or "Connie") (Sean Penn) while they had lunch together - a gift certificate to Consumer Recreation Services (CRS), a game voucher for a unique, customized 'game' experience of a lifetime. Conrad mused to himself: "What do you get for the man who has everything?" He promised his brother:

"They make your life fun...It's an entertainment service. A profound life experience...I think you'll like this. I did. It was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Van Orton promised that he would contact CRS, though added: "I hate surprises." He ventured to the 14th floor of the high-rise building on Montgomery Street in SF, to enter CRS' offices, where he was greeted by Jim Feingold (James Rebhorn), VP of Engineering and Data Analysis. He was told he had contracted for an intriguing game -

"specifically tailored for each participant. Think of it as a great vacation - except you don't go to it, it comes to you...It's different every time...We provide whatever's lacking...You don't have to decide today. Take the silly tests, fill out the stupid forms. One day, your game begins. You either love it or hate it. Decide then. You know, we're like an experiential book-of-the-month club. You can drop out at any time with no further obligation. That was my sales pitch."

Van Orton was instructed to endlessly fill out psychological tests (including the MMPI), application forms, and submit to "cursory" physical examinations required at CRS. An ex-participant of the "game" experience told him he should reference John, Chapter 9, Verse 25 to know what it was all about: "Whereas once I was blind, now I can see." He was notified later that his application had been rejected. He didn't know that he had already started to play the increasingly-elaborate "game." When he drove to his SF home-mansion (actually Filoli in Woodside, CA) that night, Van Orton discovered a life-sized wooden harlequin clown or doll lying in his driveway (in the same position his father had died). At the end of its long cloth tongue was a key marked CRS. Daniel Schorr (Himself), the anchor on the evening news, talked to him through the TV set and called him "a bloated millionaire fat-cat." And little things began to aggravate him - a leaky pen in his shirt pocket, a jammed lock on his briefcase, and a messy collision with a waitress named Christine (Deborah Kara Unger) - who was subsequently fired.

At first, he thought the incidents were only a series of "elaborate pranks." However, the ultimate object and purpose of the game became a life/death threatening proposition. The 'game' was composed of an unpredictable series of increasingly life-changing events, causing him to paranoically ask: "Is it real or not?" He wondered: "I'm being toyed with by a bunch of depraved children." Along the way, he met up with his brother who exclaimed about CRS: "They just f--k you, and they f--k you, and they f--k you. Then, just when you think it's all over, that's when the real f--king starts."

  • he rode in the back of an ambulance to the hospital with a stroke patient; the electricity went out, and Christine and Van Orton were trapped in an elevator
  • he was pursued by CRS armed security forces and attack dogs
  • he jumped from a fire-escape into a dumpster
  • at the Hotel Nikko, he was astonished to find he had been a guest who had spent over $2,000 for one night in the Presidential suite; there, he found sexy Polaroid pictures of himself with Christine, and evidence of snorting cocaine, while a porno videotape played in the background
  • he was trailed by a private investigator (with a loaded gun) through SF's streets
  • his house was broken into and vandalized; a blacklight revealed the interior had been painted with graffiti, psychedelic designs, colors, and messages: "Welcome Home," and "Don't Cry, Pretty Boy" as Jefferson Airplane's White Rabbit song played
  • a ride home in a runaway taxi landed him in SF Bay, and he barely escaped from drowning
  • the 14th floor headquarters of CRS was unrented and vacant
  • while Van Orton was visiting, Christine's home was assaulted with gunfire by CRS (Cable Repair Specialists), and they escaped in his car; he learned that she was a CRS employee and the home was staged
  • Van Orton's Swiss bank account had been drained of $600 million, and he feared that his lawyer had duped him and was "in on it"; he was left broke
  • Christine drugged him into unconsciousness; afterwards, he was kidnapped, and found himself buried alive in a coffin-crypt in a Mexico cemetery (from which he escaped); he was reduced to begging in a foreign country, with no money, identification, or passport; he sold his gold watch to pay for transportation

When he returned to the US, he found his house foreclosed. He took some hidden money and the book "To Kill a Mockingbird" that was concealing a weapon. He confronted Feingold at the SF Zoo, who was revealed to be a TV actor named Lionel Fisher, who then confessed: "They (CRS) own the whole building. They just move from floor to floor." Van Orton, calling himself "extremely dangerous," forced Fisher to take him to CRS, believing it was a covert operation out to destroy him ("I'm pulling back the curtain. I want to meet the wizard").

After he took Christine hostage, guards opened fire on them and they retreated to the roof. She told him that everything was a hoax ("This is all a game...There was always a safety net...That's what you hired us for") but he didn't believe her. He shot his white tuxedo-wearing brother Conrad dead as he approached with a champagne bottle from behind the other side of a door. Devastated, Van Orton suicidally jumped off the multi-story building to his death (!). He crashed through two sets of skylight glass and onto a giant air-filled bag-mattress with an 'X' target in the middle.

After the fall and the breakaway glass was cleared, he opened his eyes and realized that he was experiencing the start of his own birthday party thrown by his living brother Conrad. A grand ballroom was filled with guests, applauding him and celebrating his special day - on the 20th of October. Conrad was holding up a T-shirt: "I WAS DRUGGED AND LEFT FOR DEAD IN MEXICO - AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS STUPID T-SHIRT." Van Orton spoke briefly with his ex-wife, and greeted others, and then split the expensive bill for the experience with Conrad.

Outside, Christine was getting in a taxi on her way to her next Game (or "gig") assignment in Australia (with a small "walk-on" role). After she revealed her real name was Claire ("You don't know anything about me"), Nicholas invited her to dinner. She counter-invited him to join her for coffee at the airport - the film's final line: "Would you like to have a coffee with me at the airport?"

The General's Daughter (1999)

Vengeful, Sexually-Traumatized, and Promiscuous General's Daughter Elisabeth Campbell Permitted Herself to be Tied Up So That Her Respected, Retiring Father Would Be Forced to Deal With Her Covered-Up West Point Rape 7 Years Earlier; He Refused; Colonel Kent Was the Murderer (Via Strangulation) of The General's Daughter And Afterwards Committed Suicide

Director Simon West's often-offensive, misogynistic psychological military thriller was based on the 1992 novel by Nelson DeMille. It told about a sexual murderous assault (and its scandalous corrupt and "lunatic" underworld within a military base).

The film began by introducing its two main military characters, a father and daughter:

  • respected three-star Lieutenant General "Fightin'" Joe Campbell (James Cromwell) at Fort MacCallum, Georgia, who was soon to retire within a week and become a VP nominee
  • pretty, blue-eyed, blonde-haired Captain Elisabeth "Lizzie" Campbell (Leslie Stefanson), a West Point graduate, and a specialist-teacher at 5th Psychological Operations (she described it thusly: "Mostly we f--k with people's minds")

At the Army base outside Savannah, Georgia, Elisabeth was soon found murdered. She was staked down with tent pegs and ropes, spread-eagled, mock-raped (there was no semen found and after tests, no sign of rape), and strangled in the middle of a training compound field for urban warfare training.

The case was investigated by two undercover warrant officers (from the US Army's Criminal Investigation Command or CID) who had a romantic history together:

  • Chief Warrant Officer Four Paul Brenner (John Travolta), at first aka First Sgt. Frank White, from Virginia; a Vietnam War veteran who was in town to arrest Belling (Peter Weireter) for illegal arms trading
  • ex-wife Sarah Sunhill (Madeleine Stowe), a rape counselor and specialist

During the initial investigation, Brenner met with the base's Provost Marshal Colonel William Kent (Timothy Hutton) and the general's overprotective adjutant Colonel George Fowler (Clarence Williams III). Brenner curtly summarized the motives for murder to Sunhill:

"Possible motives for murder are profit, revenge, jealousy, to conceal a crime, to avoid humiliation and disgrace, or plain old homicidal mania. Right there in the manual."

The CID officers had 36 hours to investigate before the FBI entered the case with a task force, when the media would make the death "a goddamn circus." Brenner was cautioned by Fowler to do things "the Army way" - not "the right way or the wrong way." Soon, secrets about the daughter's dark sexual past were revealed. A hidden room behind a false wall with a sliding door in her basement was found complete with a bed, condoms on a table, bondage paraphernalia (handcuffs, harnesses, a belt with a dildo on it, etc...) as well as a camera and videotapes. As Brenner left the room, he was attacked by an unidentified masked man who stole the bag of videotapes.

At the murder site, Sarah astutely examined the evidence. Strangely, there were no signs of a struggle, although there were tear marks on Elisabeth's cheek. Panties placed under the rope tied around her neck were there to presumably prevent rope-burn ("What's a little rope burn if you're going to kill somebody?"). Either more than one person was the killer/rapist, or she had been compiant with her killer(s)/rapist(s). Her clothes and dog-tag were found stashed in a plastic bag on a nearby rooftop. Headlights were seen at the scene the night of the murder at 3:00 am, 3:30 am, and again at 4:00 am.

Elisabeth's mentor and commanding officer Colonel Robert Moore (James Woods) was arrested on suspicion of murder (or accessory to murder) - with his fingerprints found on Elisabeth's dog-tag. Shortly later after being released under house arrest, he was found dead in his home - with a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. It was assumed that his guilt caused him to apparently shoot himself - and the case appeared to be solved.

As the investigation proceeded, it was revealed that Elisabeth had been involved in flagrant S&M sexual activity with her father's officers and staff (many married) to embarrass her father ("The general's daughter banging his entire male staff"). She called it "psychological warfare, and that the enemy was daddy." Elisabeth was dating the Chief of Police's deputy son Wes Yardley (Chris Snyder), but only for outward show.

Seven years earlier, she had been gang-raped by six men as a West Point cadet (in her sophomore year) during a nighttime training exercise when she became separated from her group. Her rape was in the same manner she was found at the time of her death (held down with stakes in an isolated area) by men dressed in camouflage. [The gang-rape was committed by the 6 man recon squad led by Captain Bransford (Brad Beyer), who was fooled into confessing to the gang-rape.] She was hospitalized, and treated for venereal disease and pregnancy. However, this rape case was covered-up and kept confidential, when Gen. Sonnenberg (John Frankenheimer) convinced her Lt. General father to cooperate and protect his daughter:

"Better one unreported and unvindicated rape than to shake the foundations of West Point. To cast suspicion on a thousand soldiers who did not gang-rape a woman that night. All you have to do is convince your daughter that she, the academy, the Army, and the cause of equality would be best served if she just forgot about the whole thing."

In the hospital, the General had coerced and urged his daughter to forget the incident: "It never happened. None of this ever happened." When the General met with Brenner, he still believed that the rapists couldn't be caught, and that he had no other choice but to deny the rape. Brenner presented him with the list of 6 names - the men in Captain Bransford's squad, who had been arrested and faced 20 years in prison. Then Brenner described that sexually-traumatized Elisabeth had deliberately re-enacted or recreated the original rape incident from seven years earlier, just before her murder, to show her father first-hand what had been covered up:

"I think the whole recreation of the rape was Elisabeth's idea. God knows why she did it. Perhaps because you were going into politics, she thought this was her last chance. But I think she got Moore to put her in exactly the same position that the rapists did seven years ago."

It was revealed, in flashback, what had occurred. She had herself tied up at 3:00 am, aided by Col. Moore -- to force her father to deal with her earlier rape. Her father had given her an ultimatum - either resign her commission, or agree to undergo therapy. When she refused both options, he threatened to draw up charges of misconduct and present her for a general court-martial. Campbell strode onto the site at 3:30 am where Elisabeth was spread-eagled. She provoked him: "Do you see what they did to me?...I want to hear you say it happened." She called him a coward for covering-up and denying her rape. After betraying her and telling her: "I don't give a damn what happened to you 7 years ago," he walked away. As an aside, Colonel Fowler had wrongly thought all along that the General had killed his own daughter.

Afterwards, Kent met with Brenner and Sunhill on a training site, where she hypothesized: "I think this was a woman giving it out all over the post, and the one man who cared about her, the one who's willing to risk it all for her, is the person she doesn't want. And that's because she couldn't want anybody." Kent confessed to what had happened: "She owned my heart. She tormented me. She became my obsession. So I followed her and found her out there on the range, on display." When Kent came up to her after she had been rejected by her father, she threatened him - and was strangled to death by the spurned soldier:

"This time I won't be quiet. This time I'm gonna tell everything. About him. About you. I'm gonna tell your wife. I'm gonna tell your kids....You repulse me. You're a disgrace. You're not a soldier. You're not even a man. You're just a f--k. I f--ked you."

To avoid capture by Brenner, Kent suicidally killed himself by stepping on a "bouncing betty" mine that he had planted in the surrounding mine-field training site.

In the conclusion, Brenner reprimanded General Campbell, who still claimed he had done nothing wrong: "Nothing is gained by my involvement." He was planning on further covering-up his participation in the entire incident. Brenner was steadfast as he confronted the General:

"You really don't get it, do you? The only mind Elisabeth wanted to f--k with was yours. And you still don't get it....You killed her...7 years ago in that hospital room when you told her to just forget about it, you killed her....Kent just put her out of her misery. I once asked Moore what was worse than rape. Now I know. Betrayal...You traded her trust for your career. You made a deal, didn't you? You kept silent, and they gave you another star...I'm gonna say that in my report. That you knew she was out there, that you went out and talked to her and left her there to die....I'm gonna have you court-martialed, General, under Article 32 for conspiracy to conceal a crime. When this all started, I told you that we would find the son of a bitch, sir. I never expected that the son of a bitch would be you."

The General was court-martialed and found guilty for failing to report and concealing the West Point gang-rape. He subsequently withdrew from public life. The film's ending title: "Today, nearly 200,000 women serve on active duty in the military services."

Get Carter (1971)

After Seeking Revenge For Brother's Murder, Carter Was Killed by Sniper Fire on a Beach

In the depressing and bleak ending of this thriller, ruthless London-based hitman/protagonist Jack Carter (Michael Caine) sought revenge for the murder of his brother Frank Carter, who was killed by underworld gangsters because he knew that his teenaged daughter Doreen (Petra Markham) was illegally involved in pornography.

Jack brutally dealt with Eric Paice (Ian Hendry), the last of the killers, on the beach. He forced him to drink a bottle of alcohol, butted Eric's skull with a shotgun, and dumped his body in the sea.

As he was walking along the deserted, blackened beach, he was whistling and relieved that his killing days appeared over. He was contemplating ending a life of brutality and violence (by throwing his shotgun into the water and moving abroad). But then he was shockingly and depressingly assassinated by a single shot in the forehead from sniper fire - from a man named "J" (identified from his signet ring near the trigger, in close-up).

The waves lapped around his corpse near the surf line, as the sniper packed up his killing gear and walked off.

The GhostWriter (2010)

The New 'Ghostwriter' Was Murdered Like the Previous One; Prime Minister Lang's Wife Ruth (A CIA Operative) Was The Power Behind His Decisions

"Read between the lies" was the intriguing tagline for Roman Polanski's taut and increasingly-claustrophobic film about paranoia and power struggles, with similarities to real-life political figures including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his wife Claire, US Sec. of State Condoleeza Rice, and the Halliburton corporation.

It opened with the hiring of a new unnamed ghostwriter (Ewan McGregor) for retired, semi-disgraced British PM Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan) forced into foreign exile. The body of the previous writer of Lang's autobiography and memoirs, Mike McAra, mysteriously washed up on the shore of Martha's Vineyard (supposedly he had drowned and had been drinking), when his vehicle aboard the ferry was found abandoned (it was rumored "it was the book that killed him").

The naive and apolitical Brit replacement writer, hired by publisher Rhinehart, Inc. in London was told that the 624 page manuscript was a "crock of s--t" - and needed complete revamping within a month. The site of the rewrite was Marty Rhinehart's secure, isolated, modernist beach house on Martha's Vineyard off the coast of Massachusetts. At the time, Lang was front-page news - he was being accused of illegally using British forces five years earlier to seize (secretly kidnap) four suspected Al-Queda terrorists (all British citizens) in Pakistan, and then authorized secret torture flights to hand them over to the CIA for questioning (and torture with waterboarding). He was threatened with extradition by the Hague's International Criminal Court to be charged with war crimes (the "extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects), accused by his former cabinet minister British Foreign Secretary Richard Rycart (Robert Pugh).

During his research into Lang, the 'ghostwriter' uncovered a tangled web of secrets, conspiracies and lies involving Lang's long-suffering wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) when he began to follow the trail of his predecessor McAra, discovering hidden files and photos (in an envelope taped under a closet drawer) that demonstrated how the deceased biographer had begun to discover the real truth about Lang and his wily wife (the power behind the throne). There was a discrepancy of two years regarding apolitical Lang's 1975 membership in the Labour Party, and his work with Ruth in the party two years later.

The 'ghost' suspected that McAra was murdered, after a frail and elderly resident (Eli Wallach in a cameo) told him the currents couldn't have carried McAra's body so far west to wash up on the beach where it did, and that a local woman named Annabeth Wurmbrand saw flashlights on the beach the night the body washed up (but had fallen down stairs and gone into a coma a week earlier).

Another secret involved a former acquaintance of Lang's at Cambridge, suspicious and shady Harvard Law Professor Paul Emmett (Tom Wilkinson) who (during a visit in his Belmont, MA home) claimed he didn't really know Lang, although pictures showed he was a graduate student actor at Cambridge with Lang - and a current Internet search identified Emmett as a member of a think-tank and connected to an anti-terror defense conglomerate named Hatherton (with strong ties to Lang's regime). Further searches revealed that academia expert Emmett was a nefarious CIA operative in the Foreign Resources Division (who joined the covert organization in 1971) - implying that Lang went into politics soon after and became his puppet, and Emmett was his "handler."

The 'ghostwriter' also met with Rycart, and learned that McAra found the documents that linked Lang to the "torture flights" - and passed them onto Rycart - presumably the reason for the writer's murder. Rycart had been told by McAra that there was a clue in the "beginning" of the manuscript "that explained everything that had gone wrong" when Lang was in power ("the truth was in Lang's memoirs - it's all there in the beginning").

After Lang was unexpectedly shot dead at the local airport by an embittered peace protestor (a British military veteran outraged at his son's death during "one of Mr. Lang's illegal wars"), the memoirs were published posthumously and the publisher hosted a book-release party in London, attended by the ghostwriter and both Ruth and Emmett [Emmett had been Ruth's tutor at Harvard]. The 'ghost' finally pieced together clues regarding Lang's hidden 'beginnings' left by McAra - the first words of each chapter revealed the message: "Lang's wife Ruth was recruited as a CIA agent by Professor Paul Emmett of Harvard University." [It meant that Ruth, also a CIA operative under Emmett's tutelage, helped nudge her husband into politics, who thereafter made decisions in the US' interest - Iraq, Middle East policy, Star Wars defense, buying American nuclear missiles, support of terrorist rendition.]

The 'ghostwriter' wrote the sentence on a piece of paper, passed through a number of hands to Ruth, and shortly after as he stepped outside with the original manuscript, he was run-down (off-screen) in the street (the same thoroughfare in the film's opening), murdered like McAra to silence him - or were both deaths an accident? His manuscript papers blew down the street in the wind as the film faded to white before the credits.

The Gift (2000)

Jealous Wayne (not Donnie Barksdale) Killed Jessica, Seen in Annie's Vision; The 'Ghost' of Buddy Saved Psychic Annie From the Same Fate

In this supernatural thriller's twisting plot, spoiled, promiscuous sexpot Jessica King (Katie Holmes) - the sultry daughter of a prominent citizen in Brixton, Georgia, was suddenly and mysteriously missing in a baffling case.

The Southern swamp town's widowed psychic and single mother Annie Wilson (Cate Blanchett) ultimately had a vision that backwater resident Donnie Barksdale (Keanu Reeves) was innocent, but because of his violent abuse of wife Valerie (Hilary Swank), he was erroneously charged with the crime of Jessica's murder - and imprisoned.

The twist ending was revealed in a flashback, in which Jessica unexpectedly ripped off her shirt and bared her breasts before her fiancee Wayne Collins (Greg Kinnear) - an established, nice-guy Georgia school principal. He was angered over her affair with 'redneck' Barksdale ("You just f--ked him, didn't you? Donnie Barksdale!...Why would you do this to me? I love you!"). She replied: "Maybe I wanted to be with a man for a change?" He slapped her, and she responded by slapping back and pushing him: "Watch your mouth! F--k you! We're through. I don't like being spied on. (She removed her ring) The only reason I'm with you is my daddy likes you."

He strangled her as he forcibly held her over the car hood, and then put her body in the misty swamp water.

Collins was also about to kill Annie who knew of his guilt during a vision at the lake with him, but was saved from a similar fate by the 'ghost' of mentally-deranged Buddy Cole (Giovanni Ribisi) - who was thought to be institutionalized at the time and alive, but was revealed to have hung himself earlier that day.

Ginger Snaps (2000, Canada)

Ginger Fully Transformed Into a Werewolf, Killed Sam, and Then Was Killed by Sister Brigitte

Director John Fawcett's werewolf horror cult film tagline was: "They Don't Call It the Curse For Nothing." The film's theme tied together puberty with blood, sexual desire and metamorphic body changes (including possession and infection).

16 year-old red-haired Ginger Fitzgerald (Katharine Isabelle) and 15 year-old Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) were two morbid, late-developing teenaged sisters. They were rebellious, death-obsessed, world-hating Goths and disdainful school outcasts in a suburban Ontario high school (in the town of Bailey Downs, a "safe and caring community").

When Ginger was attacked/bitten by a beastly lycanthrope ("The Beast of Bailey Downs") while walking through the woods, linked to the time of her first menstrual period ("the curse") and a full moon, she developed spiky tufts of body hair and a phallic-tail, feral teeth, cramps, a craving for flesh, and a foul temper. The changes caused a major rift between Ginger and her sister, who had made a pact to never be "average" and to suicidally "go together" when puberty arrived.

Ginger also became more sexually interested in previously-taboo males, and drew male wolf-whistles when she strutted (and bounced) down the school hallway. Sexually adventurous and hormonal, she was lustily aggressive during her loss of virginity to football player Jason McCarty (Jesse Moss) in the back seat of his car, and during sex, she "infected" him. Unsatisfied by the blood-inducing date in which she delivered bite wounds to Jason, Ginger expressed her predatory teenaged blood-lust by killing the neighbor's dog. She also killed a school janitor (Pat Kwong-Ho), disemboweled him with her hand, and then told her sister that she loved the blood, linking the violence to solitary masturbation. Threatened, Brigitte argued back: "I'd rather be dead than be what you are."

The film concluded with Ginger transformed into a monstrous Ginger-Wolf engaging in a killing spree, including a threatening showdown with her sister, who up until this point had attempted to rescue Ginger from her animalistic urges. Brigitte felt she no longer had a bond with her sister - she had a choice to either cure her sister with a syringe of "werewolf antidote" or to kill her with a knife, and chose the latter ("I'm not dying in this room with you"). She was intimately close to Ginger-Wolf, hugging her when she exhaled her last breath.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (2009, Swe.) (aka Man som hatar kvinnor, or Men Who Hate Women)

Martin Vanger Was The Serial-Killer; Harriet Was Found Alive in Australia; Mikael Blomkvist Was Acquitted of the Charge of Libel, While Guilty Wennerstrom Committed Suicide; A Disguised Lisbeth Had Swindled Wennerstrom

Danish director Niels Arden Oplev's slick and haunting thriller-who-dun-it was both a complex serial-killer procedural and a neo-noir, with themes of generational sexual abuse, sadistic violence against women, revenge, family secrets, corporate corruption, and Nazi racism. It was the first adaptation of the Millennium Trilogy, a series of books by Stieg Larsson. There were a number of questions to be answered in the film as it told its story. In the opening scenes, discredited, middle-aged Millennium magazine investigative journalist and publisher Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) was sentenced to serve a three-month sentence after being convicted of libeling corrupt but successful Swedish businessman Hans-Erik Wennerström. He firmly (and rightly as it turned out) believed that he had been framed, for uncovering incriminating information about how the businessman was gun-running and conducting other serious felonies.

In the six months before serving his prison term, he resigned from the magazine when hired by aging, reclusive, brooding and obsessed 82 year-old industrialist Henrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube). He was commissioned to find the truth about the disappearance (was she dead or not?) of his favorite 16 year-old niece Harriet Vanger in the fall of 1966, 40 years earlier, from a family reunion/board meeting at their retreat on Hedeby Island. Harriet was the daughter of Henrik's brother Gottfried. Mikael was chosen to find out about her, because he was often baby-sat by Harriet. A crash of a fuel tanker truck on the only bridge from the island had blocked access for 24 hours, causing Henrik to believe one of the detestable Vanger family members was responsible.

During the beginning of his search (conducted like the film Blow-Up (1966)), Mikael became suspicious that he was being tracked and someone had hacked into his computer. [In fact, Vanger's secretary Dirch Frode had employed a hacker/researcher to do a background check on Mikael and continually monitor his computer during the trial. The researcher concluded regarding the recent case: "Blomkvist's totally clean...I think he was set up."] The smart hacker was a bisexual, black-leather clad, punk-goth, 24 year-old, nose-ring wearing biker named Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), who had a history of sexual abuse and man-hating in her own life (flashbacks revealed she had murdered her father by setting him afire with gasoline after repeated abuse) and was raised by the state from a young age. She also suffered brutal sexual abuse from her new guardian - a perverted, manipulative probation officer (Peter Andersson), who first demanded blow-jobs in exchange for money and favorable reports, and then forced rape after handcuffing her to a bed - until she found retributive revenge. She secretly videotaped her rape, threatened blackmail, beat him and tied him up, subjected him to dildo-anal rape, and tattooed his abdomen with the statement: "I'M A SADIST PIG AND A RAPIST."

Lisbeth (the "girl with the dragon tattoo" on her back) was curious about Mikael's quest into the Vanger family, and provided him with an essential clue (regarding some strange numbers). She soon after joined him on Vangers' remote island, exemplifying her advanced computer research skills and photographic memory. Together, they pursued leads from photographs, news articles, Harriet's belongings, unsolved police cases, and the Vanger's own business records. One of the major breaks in the case of Harriet's disappearance was a set of intriguing multiple photographs taken during a Children's Day Parade in 1966 in the town of Hedestat, shot in rapid sequence and viewed as a film. The most important of the photos was the one seen from Harriet's point-of-view - she was fearful of the startling sight of her teen brother Martin Vanger (in a tell-tale blue striped sweater) stalking her from across the street during the parade - after which she fled and disappeared.

The major step forward in their investigation came from a set of puzzling strange names and numbers (not phone numbers) in the back of Harriet's diary. As Lisbeth suspected, they referred to verses in the third book of the Bible, Leviticus, with descriptions of rationales for the racist murders of five female victims, all with Jewish names ("It fits with the pseudo religious rituals").

Victim Name
Jewish Form
Bible Citations
Rationales for Murder
Actual Unsolved Murder
Magda (Lovisa Sjoberg) Magdalena 30112 Leviticus 1:12 "He is to cut it into pieces...including the head and the fat. And the priest shall arrange them on the burning wood on the altar." Murdered in Dalarna, 1954. A mutilated body (with fat cut from buttocks), also beheaded. (The head and fat were burned.)
Sara (Witt) Sara 32016 Leviticus 20:16 "If a woman approaches an animal to have sexual relations with it, kill both the woman and the animal. Their blood will be on their own heads." Murdered in family's barn, 1962, in Vilhelmina. Body was mutilated in a religious ritual, as well as an animal.
BJ (circled in red) (Rebecka Jacobsson, nicknamed Bea) Rebecka 32027 Leviticus 20:27 "A man or a woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them." Stoned to death, in Karlstad, 1965. (Worked for Vanger Group until her death, as secretary for Gottfried)
LJ (Liv Ingvartsson) Eve 31208 Leviticus 12:8 "She is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering, and the other for a sin offering. The priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean." Prostitute, murdered in Ange, 1949.
Mari Maria 32018 Leviticus 20:18   17 year-old, killed (strangled) in Uppsala, 1964.

Harriet undoubtedly knew the killers and had "discovered a pattern" of murder (from 1949 to 1965) - that's why she disappeared. Mikael and Lisbeth pursued the business accounts of the Vanger Group family, finding evidence that Martin had traveled to the five murder locales with his father Gottfried. Along with other victims, Harriet was being raped by her father Gottfried Vanger (a member of Hitler's youth group in the 30s and later a Nazi, along with two other Vanger brothers, Richard and Harald) and her own brother. At the family dock (witnessed by Martin), in an act of self-defense in 1965, she clobbered drunken Gottfried with a rowboat oar and drowned him, and then fled in a car (hiding under a blanket) with the help of look-alike cousin Anita (who later died of breast cancer in England at the age of 37), her closest friend. Anita had covered up the fact that she had aided Harriet in escaping the island. (Mikael realized he was mistaken. Both Anita and Harriet were his baby-sitters.) Gottfried's death was blamed on his drinking and a fall into the lake.

Ultimately the two uncovered evidence to incriminate Martin, who was the current head of the Vanger group and befriending the quest of Mikael. (Martin's father Gottfried was a racist Nazi sympathizer who had passed on the love of killing "whores, immigrants" to his son, although Gottfried "mixed his hobby with race and religion"). Martin was still active as a serial sex-killer and had lost count since the mid-60s regarding how many he had killed (Mari was his first kill in 1964 - Gottfried had showed Martin how to strangle her.) He admitted he left behind no bodies like his father had, by dumping his corpses in the sea. When he was found out, Martin almost killed Mikael by hanging him in his underground torture cellar, but was saved by Lisbeth at the last minute. She watched as his fleeing vehicle crashed, overturned down an embankment, and caught fire, and his immobilized body was incinerated in the blaze. She had no sympathy for him, unlike Mikael: "He was a killer and a rapist and he enjoyed it...He wasn't a victim. He was an evil motherf--ker who hated women."

Harriet (taking the name Anita Vanger when she fled) was found grown up and living in Australia, although every year on her birthday from a different worldwide location, she had sent Henrik a framed, pressed and dried flower (he had thought they were coming from her taunting killer).

In the conclusion, Lisbeth provided Mikael with "reading material" during the last few weeks of his incarceration. The material consisted of hacked documents proving that Mikael had been set-up. Mikael's next issue of Millennium exposed Wennerstrom for using his companies to commit serious financial crimes (setting up cartels for drug trafficking and gun-running). An unidentified woman was seen in a surveillance tape, recognized as Lisbeth only by Mikael. She had extorted money from 44 year-old tycoon Wennerstrom (he had withdrawn funds from his offshore bank account in the Cayman Islands) before he committed suicide in his apartment in Marbella, Spain. In the final image, she had taken a new disguise, was chauffeured in a limousine, and strolled along a resort beach area.

The 2011 Hollywood remake directed by David Fincher starred Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara in the lead roles.

GoldenEye (1995)

British Agent 006 Trevelyan Had Faked His Death; Bond Battled And Killed Both Villainess Xenia Onatopp and Trevelyan

The plot revealed that "murdered" former British secret agent 006 Alec Trevelyan (Sean Bean), the mastermind behind the theft of GoldenEye (a top secret satellite weapons system that was to be used on London to cripple its economic system and cause a worldwide financial meltdown), was the villainous terrorist of the Russian crime ring named Janus Syndicate, based in Cuba in the mid-1990s.

Nine years earlier, in the pre-title credits sequence, he had worked alongside British agent 007 James Bond (Pierce Brosnan) during an assignment to destroy a Soviet nerve gas factory at the Arkangel Chemical Weapons Facility, but the mission went awry and Trevelyan was executed (he called out: "For England, James" as General Ouromov (Gottfried John) pulled the trigger).

Later in the film, however, Trevelyan revealed himself in a St. Petersburg, Russia scrapyard littered with broken-down statues and busts of former Soviet leaders. Within the maze of bronze objects, a dark and backlit figure emerged ("Hello, James") -- Bond was shocked as he looked upon the half-scarred face of traitorous defector Alec Trevelyan who had faked his own death ("Back from the dead"), and sneered as he greeted his former friend who was so doggedly loyal to MI6 and its missions.

In the film's tense conclusion, the two agents engaged in a fight-to-the-death combat atop his destroyed control center-lair in Cuba. Bond raced to disarm the transmitter-antenna of a large satellite dish communicating with a second, deadly rogue GoldenEye satellite nuclear-weapon. Reversing the situation, Bond held his enemy over the massive parabolic dish by his ankles, and they exchanged a final brief conversation before Bond dropped him: ("For England, James?" "No. For me"). After the villain fell to the ground, the massive satellite transmitter-antenna crashed down on him to end his life.

The Good German (2006)

Before Leaving Germany by Plane, Lena Admitted to Jake That She Had Turned in 12 Jews to the Gestapo, To Survive The War

Steven Soderbergh's atmospheric, film-noirish and experimental B/W film was a mystery-thriller tale of sad romance. At the location of the Potsdam Conference (bombed-out, post-war Berlin, Germany, a divided city) of Allied Powers in 1945, American war correspondent (for The New Republic) "Jake" Geismer (George Clooney) was shocked to encounter a past acquaintance and femme fatale character -- German Jew Lena Brandt (Cate Blanchett). He soon learned that she was now the sex-slave of his sleazy, pimping, cruel and callous US Army driver Tully (Tobey Maguire) - an opportunistic black marketeer who was attempting to help her escape to the West.

Lena had been Geismer's love interest and secretary before the war, but he had lost track of his former love and he was determined to find out more about her and her missing husband, Emil Brandt (Christian Oliver) (Lena falsely claimed her missing and wanted husband had died in the war).

The three main sections of the film were told from different viewpoints: first Tully, then Jake, and finally Lena (looking very similar to Marlene Dietrich). Geismer was warned not to get involved by various competing interests, and clearly cautioned by American Colonel Muller (Beau Bridges): "When I was at West Point, we put a uniform on a mule."

As the plot unfolded after Tully was found murdered and pulled out of the river with a bullet in his gut, the persevering Geismer was often bloodied and beaten up, but he slowly put together the pieces of the puzzle:

  1. US forces were holding known Nazi war criminal Franz Bettman, chief engineer of the V-2 rocket - at a safehouse, intending to secretly transport him to the US for the Cold War and escalating arms race to follow, in a code-named operation called Overcast
  2. Emil Brandt had been an SS officer and Bettman's secretary at the concentration camp named Camp Dora where slave labor (Jews and POW's) was used
  3. Lena was helping to hide her husband, Emil, and was the murderer of Tully when he got too close to the truth
  4. Geismer came into possession of Emil's notes on Camp Dora, incriminating evidence of the crimes committed there
  5. Emil's attempt to turn himself in to the American prosecutor was intercepted and he was murdered (and Lena was wounded) in the midst of a crowd
  6. Geismer traded Emil's documents in exchange for Lena's safe passage out of Berlin to the West
  7. in a scene paying homage to the airport runway ending of Casablanca (1942), the desperate Lena admitted her last secret to Geismer - she had given the names of 12 Jewish individuals to the Gestapo ("That's how I survived. It was all to survive, everything. Now you know. The last piece in the puzzle"), before she boarded an airplane

The Graduate (1967)

Benjamin 'Rescued' Elaine From Her Marriage Ceremony, But Their Future Was Uncertain

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) made a mad rush to interrupt and stop Elaine Robinson's (Katharine Ross) wedding, running head-on to the church, where he entered the upper balcony and looked down as the ceremony concluded. He pounded on the glass, hopelessly calling out: "Elaine! Elaine! Elaine! Elaine!", then grabbed the newlywed in front of her startled parents and bridegroom, and raced out of the church with her, to board a passing city bus.

They rushed to the rear seat of the city bus and looked out the rear glass window, amidst puzzling, stern and cold looks from the other elderly passengers of another generation. The Sounds of Silence was reprised on the soundtrack as they stared silently ahead, uncharacteristically silent toward each other and not even looking at each other - journeying toward an unpredictable future after successfully rebelling against the parental generation.

The Grifters (1990)

Desperate Con Artist Lilly Accidentally Killed Her Son Roy And Took His Money

In this complex story of three con artists whose lives were inextricably intertwined, professional grifter Lilly Dillon (Anjelica Huston) - the mother of small-time con Roy (John Cusack) - was confronted by him in the film's conclusion as she was stealing his money.

In a bizarre twist, she swung a suitcase full of cash at her son's head as he was drinking water from a glass. The glass smashed and cut an artery in his neck - and he bled to death on the floor! Lilly gathered up the strewn cash, descended in an elevator, and drove away.

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

Previous Page Next Page