Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


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

Boxing Helena (1993)

Helena's Surgical Dismemberment Was Only Nick's Obsessive Dream

In director Jennifer Chambers Lynch's (David Lynch's daughter) directorial debut film, an erotic and disturbing psychosexual work, obsessive brilliant surgeon Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) became entranced by his vivacious and bitchy libertine neighbor Helena (Sherilyn Fenn).

After a terrible hit-run vehicular accident outside his house, Nick performed surgery on Helena's crushed legs and made her a 'Venus de Milo' amputee (metaphorically and physically). He first removed her damaged legs - and then her arms to imprison her.

However, the entire sequence of his imprisonment of his captive, dismembered quadruple amputee female companion was a dream that was imagined during the six hours of Helena's surgery. Nick suddenly awoke in the hospital's waiting room.

In flashback, Nick was shown rushing Helena to the hospital with a medical response team and waiting for her recovery by her bedside. His final voice-over was: "I am still haunted by my love, by my dreams."





A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Vic Murdered Quilla June, Then Fed Her to His Starving Dog Blood

In this vulgar black comedy set in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear wasteland of post WWIV 2024 (near Phoenix Arizona), people must live underground in an agrarian place and community called Topeka. A ruthless, dictatorial and impersonal Committee below ground was forced to search for semen from suitable studs to restock the depleted gene pool and impregnate dozens of virgins.

Above ground, horny and lustful scavenging loner Vic (Don Johnson) used his wise-cracking telepathic dog partner-companion Blood (voice of Tim McIntire) to find solo females for him to rape. When Vic was seduced by beautiful new lover Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), she tried to lure him underground, so that he could be used for breeding purposes - and then be killed. However, after Quilla June turned against the Committee and told Vic about her love for him, Vic had to make a difficult choice above ground between his starving dog Blood and Quilla June.

He killed her (offscreen) and then cooked and fed her to his starving dog, to revive him. The dark comedy's final controversial pun/one-liner was 'spoken' by Blood:

Well, I'd say she certainly had marvelous judgment, Albert, if not particularly good taste.

Brazil (1985)

Sam's Rescue From Torture Was a Self-Deluding Dream At the Point of Death

In Terry Gilliam's disturbing and shocking ending, worker Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) was strapped into a torturer's chair in the middle of a circular platform that was situated under a vast, dark dome. A white-coated technician wearing a pock-marked, smiling baby mask approached to administer torture. Sam recognized him as Jack Lint (Michael Palin).

Suddenly, Sam was triumphantly rescued by a band of commandos led by Harry Tuttle (Robert DeNiro), and appeared to be reunited with his dream girl Jill Layton (Kim Greist) in a happy ending.

However, his ideal perfect world was revealed to be a self-deluding illusion or fantasy. The green vista of a pastoral backdrop where he had escaped was covered over, and he was back in the domed torture chamber. The two torture agents commiserated about Sam's death, as the spritely tune Brazil played:

Helpmann (Peter Vaughan): "He's got away from us, Jack."
Jack: "Afraid you're right, Mr. Helpmann, he's gone."


Brick (2005)

Laura Tricked Tug into Killing Emily (Tug Thought That Emily Was Pregnant with His Child)

Writer/director Rian Johnson's modern-day film noir (with hard-boiled 40s lingo), set in a Southern California (San Clemente) high school, told how brooding, jilted loner Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) investigated the murder of his ex-girlfriend Emily Kostach (Emilie de Ravin) with the help of his nerdy schoolfriend, the Brain (Matt O'Leary).

The film opened with Brendan finding Emily's body near a sewer tunnel entrance, and then flashbacked to two days earlier to provide backstory. There were many suspects in this twisting tale of drug dealing and violence, including:

  • stoned, greasy hood Dode (Noah Seagan), Emily's new boyfriend
  • menacing 26 year-old drug dealer The Pin (Lukas Haas) who had a club-foot, walked with a limp, and lived with his mother
  • the Pin's muscular, hot-headed enforcer Tugger (or Tug) (Noah Fleiss) with a white-knit cap
  • sultry femme fatale Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner)

Brendan learned that Emily had become a drug-user, and involved in some way with The Pin and ten bricks of powdery heroin. At the sewer tunnel, Tug shot and killed Dode at point-blank range when Dode attempted blackmail while revealing the identity of Emily's killer: "She had a kid in her and he couldn't stand it" - but Dode mistakenly believed that a jealous Brendan had killed his own ex. Later, Laura described the "slaughterhouse" at a "party" at The Pin's house that she had set up, eliminating all the major players and revealing Tug as Emily's killer: "The papers say six dead, three around the house, girl in the back of Tug's car [Emily's body], and The Pin and Tug. Tug tried to shoot his way out when the police got there. They tied him to Dode, too. Same gun. And the girl."

Then Brendan disclosed that he knew about Laura's double-dealing when he told her: "It's not finished." Although Tug took the fall for Emily's death, Brendan knew who "put her in front of the gun" - "That was you, angel." He explained how she had stolen one of the ten bricks of drug powder from The Pin, doctored up part of it (with a poisonous substitute) and then set up Emily to take the blame. Laura had also urged Emily to tell Tug that she was pregnant with Tug's child, supposedly to "soften him up," but it had the opposite effect when she was confronted.

Brendan accused Laura of the murder: "She took the hit for you and you let her take it," and then told her he had tipped off the Assistant VP Gary Trueman (Richard Roundtree) about her drug involvement with The Pin. A cut-away showed Laura's locker being searched by the authorities, proving that she had in fact stolen the last brick.

To retaliate, mean-spirited Laura then told Brendan that Emily was three months pregnant, already showing, and didn't love the father (and was seeking an abortion), implying: "Do you know whose kid that makes it?" The film's last line was: "All right, you don't have to tell me" - the Brain's assertion to Brendan that he didn't want to know the 'dirty word' Laura had just whispered in Brendan's ear ["Mother----"].







The Broken (2008, UK)

The Film's Premise: The Breaking of a Mirror Allowed a Person's Mirror Image to Enter a Gateway Into the World, Kill, and Then Replace the Person With Their 'Mirror Image' Doppelganger; The Real Gina McVey Met Up With Her Doppelganger in Her Pembridge House Apartment, Where She Was Murdered and Replaced by Her Clone; A Traumatic Car Accident Caused the Double To Have Fragmented Memory and Believe She Was the Real Gina For Much of the Film

Writer/director Sean Ellis' metaphysical (or existential) horror film has been compared to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970, UK), and Mirrors (2008). It opened with the Edgar Allan Poe quote: "You have conquered, and I yield. Yet henceforward art thou also dead - dead to the world, to heaven, and to hope! In me didst thou exist - and in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself." It hinted that the heroine would be replaced with apparently fearful alternate reality versions of herself (i.e., physical identify theft). The tagline appropriately stated: "Face your fear."

The film was accused of having an overly-protracted and lengthy story until the final 10-15 minutes. Recurring symbols included mirrors (and mirror images of originals) and a mystery doppelganger woman. It opened in London at the work place of successful 28 year-old radiologist Gina McVey (Lena Headey). She had just examined X-rays of a subject whose heart was located on the right side of her body – a mirror image of sorts, not unique but rare ("One in a thousand"). She had planned a surprise celebration for her father, retiring US Embassy ambassador John McVey (Richard Jenkins), and guests included Gina's French boyfriend/architect Stephan Moreau (Melvil Poupaud), her brother Daniel McVey (Asier Newman) and his girlfriend Kate Coleman (Michelle Duncan). During a toast, a large mirror in the dining room inexplicably shattered ("seven years bad luck?").

The next day at work, a colleague mentioned to Gina that he had already seen her leaving work (an unidentified woman with stilettos), and out on the street while in a phone booth, Gina saw herself driving by in a red Jeep Cherokee vehicle resembling her own vehicle. She followed the female into the Pembridge House apartment building's underground garage. In her flat in the hallway, she saw a picture of the look-alike woman with her father. [Early Spoiler: She was in her own apartment.]

Afterwards, as she fled in a disturbed state, she crashed head-on into a cab (seen multiple times in slo-motion), and afterwards in a hospital, she experienced substantial memory loss about the crash ("psychological scars"). When asked about the crash by counselor Dr. Robert Zachman (Ulrich Thomsen), she stated that she could only remember "fragments." After moving in with her boyfriend rather than returning home (a very BIG clue), she realized that Stephan was acting strangely ("I don't think Stephan is my boyfriend...He looks like him, but he's not him"), and saw that there was a strange dripping leak from the ceiling of his bathroom. She was frequently experiencing nightmarish, quick-flash montages of the distorted and horrific fragments of her memories. One occurred while she stood in front of a mirror - her reflected mirror image raised her hand to strike her, out of her view. The counselor suggested she was suffering from a rare disorder called Capgras Syndrome ("in which a person holds a belief that an acquaintance...has been replaced by an identical-looking imposter"). In most cases, he explained, the syndrome was directly caused by a "brain lesion."

It was hinted that both Stephan and John had been taken over by look-alikes. And then, during a bloody Psycho-like murder scene (occurring after the sound of a mirror breaking), Dan's girlfriend Kate was murdered while showering by her own doppelganger, who thrust her entire fist into her mouth to gag her to death. It appeared that the broken mirror during the opening scene's party had unleashed duplicate clones who inhabited the bodies of some of the McVey family members and friends. Gina found the dead original of her boyfriend Stephan in the attic of his apartment. (Dan found mirror fragments on his floor, and stood face-to-face with a cloned Kate.)

Gina began to fear that her own doppelganger was after her - and then the predictable plot twist was revealed when she retraced her steps back at her Pembridge House apartment. There, she found evidence of a struggle, broken fragments of mirrors, and relived the confrontation with her doppelganger (a scene that was not initially shown, and that withheld crucial information). She saw the suffocated and battered corpse of the original Gina lying on the bathroom floor. The surviving Gina was the 'mirror double' who had killed the real Gina when they first met in her own apartment, only to forget about it after the traumatic car accident.

An explanatory montage reconstructed and reviewed what had happened to her - signifying that her shattered memory had been restored. Then, at work in the lab room, she viewed her own X-ray - confirming with a technician that there was another case of "dextrocardia with situs inversus." She stood across from her brother Dan, who fled in fear down the hospital hallway when he realized she was a cloned alien with a smirking, bloodshot stare. The last scene was of Gina in harsh sunlight driving with an emotionless blank look.








The Brown Bunny (2003)

Daisy Had Died Long Before - The Fellatio Scene With Daisy Was in Bud's Imagination

This independent arthouse film about a cross-country road trip from narcissistic and vain producer/director/actor/writer Vincent Gallo was critically derided and scorned when originally shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

It told about the journey of motorcyclist racer Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) - a tortured, empty-hearted loner, who often idealized and thought about his former girlfriend Daisy (Chloe Sevigny, Gallo's real-life ex-girlfriend).

In the film's most notorious, explicit and controversial scene of unsimulated fellatio at the finale, Bud and Daisy were in a starkly-white hotel room - both lonely and needy individuals who were attempting to connect and speak to each other. After kissing and fondling of her naked breasts, as he stood before her at the side of the bed, he undid his belt buckle, released his pant's fly, and she took his male member into her mouth to begin the infamous 'blow-job' scene - as he held himself. As she pleasured him in her mouth, they still engaged in a conversation about their love for each other.

When he was finished and satisfied, he stuffed himself back into his underwear and zipped up his fly. He laid on the bed, in a blurry shot and told her: "Thank you so much." Then, they talked about the last encounter of their tragic relationship, when Bud reacted jealously to Daisy's past indiscretion at a party, where she had smoked dope and acted provocatively with some other guys. She apologized ("I never meant to hurt you, Bud"). He moaned about her drug-addicted habit, especially when she was pregnant. She admitted that she was assaulted and raped by the guys after she passed out from getting high (which Bud witnessed passively through the partially-open door of the bedroom). Bud confessed that he didn't help her, but walked away.

The film's plot twist was revealed when their discussion came to a close. When he returned to the scene of the rape, an ambulance had already arrived at the scene, and he sadly kissed her corpse on a stretcher. The film's ending gave greater meaning to everything that came before, including the sex scene. It was revealed that Daisy had in fact died as a result of the incident (choking to death on her own vomit) - "I was dead" - and was later taken away in the ambulance. It was revealed that the scene in the hotel room was only a fantasy masturbatory sequence that Bud experienced as he thought about Daisy, his lost love and the only woman he ever loved.

The controversy-provoking film ended with a shocking, melodramatic plot twist to explain Bud's complex personality and downer mood throughout the film. Bud's intense guilt about abandoning her and his continuing crisis of masculine insecurity were informed by the appearance of the deceased Daisy (in his mind only!) - as Bud had been masturbating alone to his memory of her.






Burn After Reading (2008)

The CIA Was Baffled

The Coen Brothers' dark comedic spy-thriller (with the tagline: "Intelligence is Relative") followed the tangled repercussions of the loss of a CIA analyst job by Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich), purportedly for a "drinking problem," after which he decided to write his memoirs. His cuckolding, cool bitch, pediatrician-wife Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton) determined the time was right to divorce him -- and with her lawyer's advice, copied all Osbourne's financial records from his computer onto a CD and began to empty his accounts.

When the lawyer's secretary accidentally left the disk on the floor of the locker room at a health club called Hardbodies, two idiotic employees cooked up a preposterous scheme:

  • preening narcissist and personal trainer Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt)
  • man-hungry assistant gym manager Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand)

They decided that they could blackmail Osbourne and receive $50,000 extortion money for the return of the disk, so that Linda could pay for four elective cosmetic surgeries (to improve her dating life) not covered by her club's HMO.

In the end, betrayal, greed, and violent murders were the results of their misguided scheme. Katie was having an affair with jogging buff and sex-addicted Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney), while he was also sleeping with online dater Linda. Harry was being followed throughout the entire film by a lawyer's agent hired by his wife Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), a children's book author. Sandy was secretly planning to divorce Harry and was also having an affair.

While searching through Cox's house, Chad was shot in the forehead by a startled Harry who found him in a closet - his unidentified body was dumped in the Chesapeake Bay (and later fished out and burned by the CIA). The only trustworthy individual in the entire film, Hardbodies' manager and ex-Greek Orthodox priest Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins), agreed to help Linda find missing employee Chad, and was caught at Osbourne's computer by an enraged and drunken Cox - Ted was first shot in the shoulder, and then was axed to death on the street as he fled outdoors (where a CIA agent shot Cox, leaving him in a coma). When a paranoid Harry realized that he had killed Chad, believing him to be a spy, he boarded a plane to Venezuela (a country that doesn't allow extradition) but was arrested and held.

In the epilogue set in a CIA office, two confused bureaucrats (J.K. Simmons and David Rasche) baffled by the contorted backstabbings attempted to "make sense" of the loose ends - they decided to allow Harry to leave the country, and to pay for Linda's surgeries to keep her quiet, and then the CIA Superior asked:

What do we learn, Palmer?...I don't f--kin' know, either. I guess we learn not to do it again...I'm f--ked if I know what we did...Jesus f--king Christ!





The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Multiple Trips Back Failed to Make Things Right - Evan Decided to Kill Himself During His Own Birth

The science-fiction psychological thriller was the debut film of writers/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. It used Chaos Theory as the premise of its ludicrous plot (similar to a negative reversal of It's A Wonderful Life (1946)), stated in the film's opening: "It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world."

It began with a short scene in which a desperate man broke into an office and feverishly scrawled a note on a pad of paper -- "If anyone finds this, it means that my plan didn't work and I'm already dead. But if I could somehow go back to the beginning of all of this, I might be able to save her." The film's tagline reinforced his plan to go back in time and make things right, with unpredictable consequences: "Change one thing, Change everything."

The film then flashbacked to 13 years earlier, where young 7 year old Evan Treborn (Logan Lerman) [his name was a play on the theme: "Event Reborn"] was feared to be disturbed, due to a family history of mental illness and insanity beginning with his grandfather. His institutionalized father Jason (Callum Keith Rennie) became violent during Evan's first visit, and a subduing blow to his head killed him. Living in upstate New York, Evan's single parent mother Andrea (Melora Walters) was concerned that Evan was following the pattern, after drawing a violent and bloody picture at school (a foreshadowing of future events), and found carrying a butcher knife. But Evan had no recollection of drawing the photo. He was encouraged to write down his thoughts in journal/composition books.

As the film progressed to six years later, there were three scenarios that would be repeated, with varying details, all involving Evan (John Patrick Amedon) with his three 7 year-old and 13 year-old childhood friends:

  • his child-abused sweetheart Kayleigh Miller (Sarah Widdows and Irene Gorovaia)
  • and her maliciously sadistic brother Tommy (Cameron Bright and Jesse James)
  • and sad chubby friend Lenny Kagan (Jake Kaese and Kevin G. Schmidt)

(1) a video-taping that occurred in the Miller basement by pedophile porn-making parent George Miller (Eric Stoltz),
(2) an incident in a junkyard that involved Evan's young friends and his pet dog, and
(3) a prank that involved blowing up a suburban neighbor's mailbox with a blockbuster stick of dynamite

In periods of stress (occurring during all of these scenarios and at other times), Evan would blackout, experience nosebleeds, but then found himself unable to fully recall what happened.

It wasn't until seven years later in 2002, when Evan (Ashton Kutcher) was a 20 year-old state college student, during a date with a coed in his room, that he realized that he could travel back to the past just by re-reading his journals. The page would vibrate and flutter and the physical world would shake, as he passed out, and then was transported back to the time of a traumatic blackout from his childhood. As he read more and more of his journal entries, he realized that he had the ability to fine-tune, change or 're-do' various details of each dream, by inhabiting his younger self. When Evan visited a psychic palm-reader with his mother, he was prophetically told: "You have no lifeline. You don't belong here....He has no soul. You were never meant to be." And his goth, overweight roommate Thumper (Ethan Suplee) wisely advised Evan: "I'd think twice about what you're doing. You could wake up a lot more f--ked up than you are now."

The remainder of the film demonstrated the repercussions of his intrusive changes that often brought unexpected side-effects or results. Evan became a prison inmate threatened by prison rape, a dynamite victim with two stumps for arms, and an insane institutionalized patient (in the film's opening scene). He was eventually diagnosed as diseased with irreparable brain damage, creating "alternate universes with colleges and prisons and paraplegics."

In Kayleigh's (Amy Smart) case, as a struggling and bitter waitress at the local Hilltop Cafe after being abused by her father, she ended up suicidally dead, but in another scenario, she became frat boy Evan's loving girlfriend at school, or a bitter, scar-faced, drugged-up prostitute, or Lenny's (Elden Henson) girlfriend in college, or the young victim of a dynamite explosion in her basement in 1995.

Tommy (William Lee Scott) was an auto-body worker, a recently-released juvenile delinquent that Evan murdered in 2002, a murder victim when Lenny knifed him with a shard in the junkyard in 1995, and a model, ultra-spiritual "Jesus freak" college student. In one instance, Evan's mother became a terminal lung cancer patient due to chain-smoking after Evan blew off his arms, and Lenny was institutionalized after murdering Tommy (he angrily told Evan: "You should be where I am").

Director's Cut: Returning to the film's opening, Evan frantically returned one more time to his past (this time by watching a home movie of his mother's labor during his hospital birth, since his journals no longer existed), to when he was a fetus. [His mother had earlier told him that he was a "miracle baby," born after two stillbirths.] He strangled himself with his own umbilical cord, to prevent his own birth, as he heard his mother in voice-over explain that she had three stillbirths before her next childbirth -- she was speaking to her new and future child, a girl - who had broken the family's curse.

As a result of his last sojourn, Evan's friends and family were happier without him, illustrated in a montage. Young Kayleigh and Tommy went to live with their mother, with more positive consequences. Evan's mother remarried and had a girl - her fourth child (her first living child). Lenny was a popular 13 year-old. Tommy delivered a high school graduation speech to his Class of 2000, and Kayleigh was happily married.

Theatrical Version: Evan went back to the first time he met Kayleigh at a birthday party, deliberately offended her with a threat, and thereby ensured she would happily grow up with her mother, and not know him when she passed him on a Manhattan street years later.










Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
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