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

Michael Clayton (2007)

Unstable Attorney Edens Was A Threat to U/North, and Was Killed (Made to Look Like a Suicide); U/North's Corrupt Counsel Crowder Was Caught Offering 'Fixer' Michael Clayton Hush Money

In writer Tony Gilroy's directorial debut film, George Clooney was featured as the title character - Michael Clayton, a ruthless, high-powered former prosecutor turned troubled "fixer" corporate lawyer (or "special counsel") in New York for Kenner, Bach and Ledeen (headed by Marty Bach (Sydney Pollack)).

His job was "janitor" - to clean up various problems and keep high-paying clients out of trouble, although he had problems of his own: a divorce, gambling addiction to poker, and a remaining debt of $75,000 (for a sour deal regarding a failed restaurant business) that he was struggling to pay off for his alcoholic brother Timmy Clayton (David Lansbury).

The film opened with issues involving the law firm's involvement in a multibillion-dollar class-action lawsuit (that was about to be settled pre-trial) against their client, an agro-chemical company named U/North. The company was accused of using a cancer-causing pesticide, and there were additional problems with their unstable defense lawyer Arthur Edens (Tom Wilkinson). Edens had been working on the U/North case for 6 years and suffered a breakdown during a deposition in the case in Milwaukee when he stopped taking his medications.

Then the plot revealed a failed attempt on Michael's life by a car-bombing - he had inexplicably left his parked car in the countryside to view three beautiful horses on a hillside at dawn, as he watched it explode from a distance.

The film then flashbacked to four days earlier and explained the circumstances of Clayton's predicament. Guilt-ridden Edens (who opened the film with a rambling, voice-over rant about his condition: "...I had been coated in this patina of shit for the best part of my life") was revealed to be planning to sabotage the pre-trial settlement of the lawsuit with U/North's ruthless chief in-house counsel Karen Crowder (Tilda Swinton), by distributing large numbers of red-bound copies of a confidential scientific report (Memorandum # 229). The report, from one of U-North's own internal research teams (and signed by CEO Don Jefferies (Ken Howard)), told about the hazardous effects of human exposure to the weed killer involved in the lawsuit.

Arthur had been persuaded to turn against U/North by one of the young plaintiffs in the case - a farm-girl named Anna (Merritt Wever), with whom he had became infatuated. To stifle Edens, Crowder hired henchmen to track and spy on Arthur's phone-calls and whereabouts - and then to kill him - by faking his suicidal death from an overdose (by injecting him between the toes). They also plotted to kill Michael with a car bomb, after he was suspicious that Arthur didn't leave a suicide note at the scene, and that Arthur was on his way to meet Anna at the airport on the same evening he died.

In the film's final scene, Karen Crowder calmly assured U/North executives at a board meeting about the settlement of the lawsuit, when she was surprised by a live confrontation with Michael Clayton - not dead from the car-bomb but quite alive. He blackmailed her, proposing that he could be bought off for $10 million to keep quiet ("$10 million dollars, bank of my choosing, offshore, immediately!") . She agreed ("You have a deal"), but didn't realize that he had secretly broadcast their conversation about her offer of hush money. He then told her: "You're f--ked" - after which he snapped her picture with his cellphone's camera and then identified himself: "I'm Shiva, the God of Death."

As she collapsed to the floor, she was arrested by Michael's police detective brother Raymond (Kevin Hagan), who had heard everything. The end credits played over Michael Clayton's $50 drive around town ("Just drive") in a taxi, viewed in a long-held shot.

Mighty Aphrodite (1995)

Lenny and Wife Amanda Adopted Linda's Child; Later, Linda Became Pregnant By Lenny and Raised the Child; When They Met Later, They Didn't Know That They Had Each Other's Child

The plot of this Woody Allen comedy-romance film was based on the classic Greek myth of Pygmalion (the basis of George Bernard Shaw's play and My Fair Lady). It used the technique of a mask-wearing Greek chorus device (composed of F. Murray Abraham, Olympia Dukakis, David Ogden Stiers and Jack Warden) with characters who performed songs and dances to comment on the film's events.

Manhattan sportwriter Lenny Weinrib (Woody Allen) and his wife Amanda (Helena Bonham-Carter) adopted a bright boy named Max. It was revealed that Max's real mother was ditzy, foul-mouthed, high pitch-voiced porn actress-prostitute Linda Ash/Judy Cum (Best Supporting Actress winner Mira Sorvino) - the product of a broken condom.

Meanwhile, Amanda had an affair with her work colleague Jerry (Peter Weller). When Lenny found out, he was consoled by Linda and they had sex together. When she became pregnant, she never told Lenny. Conversely and ironically, Linda ended up with Lenny's child. As described later:

Lenny and Linda did make love that night like he was Zeus and she was Aphrodite with an aphrodisiac...The point is Linda did that night conceive a child. She became pregnant with Lenny's child, but not wanting to complicate his life with Amanda, she never told him. lnstead she went off with her new husband who stood behind her loyally as she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl...they have each other's child. And they don't know.

By this film's happily-ever-after "smile" ending in a postscript a few years later, they both met a year later in a toy store, each having the other's child - without each other's knowledge. Linda had left her hooker business and exchanged it for a normal suburban life, working as a hairdresser, with marriage to helicopter pilot Don, while raising Lenny's fathered child as her own.

Mildred Pierce (1945)

Mildred Was Accused of Killing Second Husband Monte Beragon - The Real Murderer Was Mildred's Promiscuous Daughter Veda

This melodramatic, film-noirish murder mystery opened with the killing of thin-mustached Monte Beragon (Zachary Scott) in his shadowy, dark beach house at night; a gun was heard being fired six times in rhythmic tempo as the victim muttered the film's first word: "Mildred!"

The murderer was unseen - a missing action shot in the film that was not revealed until the end.

It was eventually learned that the killer of Mildred's second husband was not prime suspect Mildred Pierce-Beragon (Joan Crawford) who was thoroughly questioned at the police station.

The murderer was Mildred's crazed and impassioned daughter Veda Pierce (Ann Blyth) who was having a long-term, surreptitious affair with her own mother's husband. Veda became enraged when Monte called her a promiscuous "rotten little tramp" and denied loving her.

Veda was booked in the police station as her mother looked on, in the film's conclusion.

Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Boxer Maggie, After A Severe Injury During a Championship Bout, Became a Paraplegic; Her Trainer Frankie Euthanized Her

31 year-old Ozark white trash waitress Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) was trained to become a boxer by the reluctant gym owner of LA's The Hit Pit Frankie Dunn (director Clint Eastwood), who was estranged from his own daughter Katy.

She was winning a welterweight championship title bout in Las Vegas when she was sabotaged by foul play. Her East German opponent Billie the Blue Bear (real-life boxer Lucia Rijker) struck her with an illegal blow on the left side of her face when the referee wasn't looking. The dirty punch sent her into a red corner stool and broke her neck. She was left with a spinal neck injury that made her a quadriplegic. She was bedridden and had to have a leg amputated due to muscle atrophy and bed sores.

In the film's conclusion - one that contained a controversial and dramatic ending, Frankie knew that she wanted to die (she had tried killing herself by biting her tongue and bleeding to death). After having reflected deeply over the issue of her mercy-killing, and having prayed and sought advice from Catholic priest Father Horvak (Brian F. O'Byrne), he then decided to assist in Maggie's suicide. The irascible but caring trainer Frankie entered her room and told her the meaning of the Gaelic phrase on her green fight robe: "Mo chuisle" ("Pulse of my heart" or "My pulse") that cheering crowds had chanted.

After kissing her, he turned off her life-support breathing machine, removed her breathing tube and injected her with a fatal dose of adrenaline to cause her instant death.

The entire film was a 'narrated' letter Frank's friend, colleague and ex-boxer Eddie "Scrap Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman) - the film's narrator - was writing to Frankie's estranged daughter about her father's character.

Mind Hunters (2004)

The Serial Killer in the Group was Psychopathic Lucas, Who Admitted Killing His Parents When He Was 10 Years Old and Developed a Desire to Kill; As a Personal Challenge, He Had Orchestrated Rube-Goldberg Style Death Traps For All the Other FBI Profilers ("Worthy Prey") on the Island

Director Renny Harlin's long-delayed mystery thriller was thoroughly described in the film's tagline: "For an elite team of FBI profilers, hunting a serial killer is a process of elimination. Their own." Seven young FBI students were to be trained as profilers during weekend practice exercises with their teacher off the coast of North Carolina on the small island of Oneiga (a deserted US Navy Training Facility) 50 miles offshore. Their goal was to use their brains (Mindhunters) to search for a mock serial killer suspect known as the Puppeteer. Arrogant and egocentric Jake Harris (Val Kilmer), the instructor, had devised a "sick, twisted crime scenario" or simulation for the group.

The preposterous film's premise, being stranded and picked off one-by-one, was similar to other who-dun-its including Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (1945) and Ten Little Indians. A major clue to the killer's modus operandi was provided by the title of the movie playing on the Majestic Theatre's marquee: The Third Man (1949) - it referenced Orson Welles' line about "the cuckoo clock." It also hinted that the killer was not a third party, but one of the group members. A character named Gabe gave a slangy summary of the film: "Eeny, meeny, miney, mo. Who's the next motherf--ker to go?"

The participants, each of whom had a specific fear, habit, hang-up, trait (skill or weakness) that would be exploited by the profiling killer, were:

  • Gabe Jenson (LL Cool J, listed as James Todd Smith), former Navy SEAL and current Philadelphia PD detective and resident profiler; an observer suspiciously considered an outsider by the others, although sent to investigate Harris' extreme training methods
  • J.D. Reston (Christian Slater), the team leader always "out front" yet worried about his abilities
  • Vince Sherman (Clifton Collins Jr.), an ex-cop, confined to a wheel-chair and illegally carrying a gun ("My gun goes where I go")
  • Rafe Perry (Will Kemp), British investigator; addicted to coffee
  • Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey), Rubik's Cube master, smart (a "Mr. Fix-It") although insecure regarding his own intelligence
  • Nicole Willis (Patricia Velasquez), sexy Latina girlfriend of J.D., craved cigarettes although trying to quit
  • Sara Moore (Kathryn Morris), fearful of water and guilt-ridden over sister's drowning (and rape) death
  • Lucas Harper (Jonny Lee Miller), lost both parents as a 10 year-old kid in a "freak thing," grew up "livin' real hard" and admitted he was still confronting his personal demons; he claimed he was "fearless" although he wasn't; he resented Sara's lack of romantic interest in him; obsessed with time and wanted the challenging thrill of setting up elaborate death traps for fellow FBI profilers

The first morning (Saturday), a dead cat was found hanging with a watch stopped at 10 am in its mouth - a possible warning sign of the time of the next life-threatening incident or killing. Elaborately-staged Rube Goldberg-style death traps began to eliminate each of them according to a time-frame devised by the killer (signaled by timepiece clues left at each death scene): "With each new killing comes a resetting of the clock." After the first death, the group began to suspect each other (especially Gabe, then Sara, and even Jake).

When everyone passed out from drugged coffee at 12 noon, the killer set up the rest of the surprise traps. Letters (with phosphorescent powder) inscribed on the back of their jackets spelled Croatoan -- "like the island, the of the first sites settled by the Europeans in the New World" - the island was the ill-fated, lost colony location (the name was carved on a tree) where over 100 original settlers vanished in the late 1500s.

Killings (the serial killer was never seen directly killing anyone) were conducted in various gruesome ways, at set times:

  • J.D. - (at 10 am, Sat.) his legs were frozen with liquid-nitrogen sprayed from a tank; his body broke into smashed-up fragments
  • Rafe - (discovered at 5:40 pm, Sat.) he suffered a severed neck, decapitated and bled out (with the head still intact on the neck stem)
  • Bobby - (just after 6:00 pm, Sat.) he was harpooned in chest and neck by three sharp rods, after turning off a broken water pipe
  • Nicole - (at 8:00 pm, Sat.) she was acid-poisoned by a laced cigarette that burned her insides
  • Jake and two other FBI agents (on Friday at 10:30 pm, discovered much later) had secretly stayed behind to watch the exercise - he was strung up like a marionette
  • Vince - (at 8:45 pm, Sat.) his mis-firing gun backfired with shrapnel
  • Lucas - (at 10:10 pm, Sat.) was identified as the serial killer by powder on his hand from resetting a clock (Sara's trap), although presumably shot to death at first (he was saved by his bullet-proof vest); he had murdered his parents when he was young; Sara shot him in the neck during an underwater pool struggle and also shot him in the forehead on the deck and killed him; Gabe commented: "I guess we found out his weakness. Bullets."

Gabe and Sara, the two survivors, awaited a rescue helicopter the next morning. Gabe quizzed Sara as a potential profiler when he asked her: "One last question: When's the situation secure, Agent?" Sara responded: "On the drive home" - something that she had learned in the opening training sequence.

J.D. Reston (Christian Slater)

Rafe Perry (Will Kemp)

Bobby Whitman (Eion Bailey)

Nicole Willis (Patricia Velasquez)

Jake Harris (Val Kilmer)

Vince Sherman
(Clifton Collins Jr.)

Lucas Harper (Jonny Lee Miller)

Sara Moore (Kathryn Morris)
and Gabe Jenson (LL Cool J)

Minority Report (2003)

Burgess Cleverly Murdered Anne Lively, the Mother of Pre-Cog Daughter Agatha; Anderton Was Framed for the Murder of Detective Witwer; When Exposed for the Crime by Anderton, Burgess Committed Suicide; The Law Enforcement Experiment Was Shut Down --- Was the Film's 'Happy' Resolution a Wish Fulfillment Dream By Imprisoned Anderton?

In this mystery-thriller's conclusion, it was discovered that the Department of Pre-Crime's boss Lamar Burgess (Max Von Sydow) had killed Anne Lively (Jessica Harper), but in such a deceptive way that the psychic pre-cogs (who forecasted/envisioned future crimes) weren't able to report that he was the murderer.

The motive for the killing was that Anne, who had conquered her drug habit, had wanted to remove her fragile pre-cog daughter Agatha (Samantha Morton) from the Pre-Crime flotation tanks. Threatened by the thought, Burgess wanted to prevent the shut-down of his sinister, futuristic law enforcement organization.

Burgess revealed that he was Lively's guilty murderer by abruptly shooting his dedicated federal oversight Justice Department detective Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell) who knew too much - to set up and imprison Pre-Crime cop Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) by using his gun, and by telling Anderton's ex-wife Lara (Kathryn Morris) that Lively had died by drowning. This was something that he shouldn't have known if he had no knowledge of her death as he claimed.

When imprisoned, Anderton told Burgess that he knew about the killing - using as proof Agatha's pre-vision of Burgess killing Ann Lively. As a result of Burgess' confession (broadcast by an undercover camera), Burgess committed suicide.

The film ended with Anderton's voice-over about the demise of the 'experiment':

In 2054, the six-year Pre-Crime experiment was abandoned. All prisoners were unconditionally pardoned and released, although police departments kept watch on many of them for years to come. Agatha and the twins were transferred to an undisclosed location, a place where they could find relief from their gifts, a place where they could live out their lives in peace.

Anderton and his ex-wife were reunited and she was expecting.

Another twist in the film was possible -- the earlier line of dialogue by prison guard Gideon (Tim Blake Nelson) to imprisoned cop Anderton hinted that the final favorable resolution of events in the film was just a dream and wish-fulfillment on Anderton's part, or that the entire film before had been Anderton's dream:

They say you have visions, that your life flashes before your eyes, that all your dreams come true.

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

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