Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


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

Greatest Plot Twists, Spoilers, Surprise Endings: Avid filmgoers often speak about seeking rare movie surprises in the movie-going experience, such as discovering films that have cunning plot twists, a shocking surprise ending, an unexpected revelation about a particular character, or some other unknown or unsuspected narrative element.

Compiled here in this comprehensive collection is a detailed set of films
with the greatest movie twists, spoilers, and surprise endings.

During and after the 1970's, major motion pictures began to "play tricks" more regularly on audiences, partly in homage to the "Master of Suspense" Alfred Hitchcock, but also after the re-discovery and appreciation of acclaimed B-films - film noirs in particular that used plot twists fairly regularly - and found that audiences reacted well to them. For example, Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) was one of the first films to caution audiences to not reveal the "shocking secrets" - other films were to follow, e.g., Planet of the Apes (1968), Presumed Innocent (1990), The Crying Game (1992), The Sixth Sense (1999) and The Others (2001), though unlike Hitchcock's carefully devised marketing ploy, these were grassroots campaigns by the filmgoers themselves.

Plot twists often help to make film-viewing a renewed experience, because a lot of the hints and red herrings in the film (that were missed during the first viewing) take on new meaning during a second screening. However, some plot twists have become so over-used that they have become tiresome and expected cliches (Halloween (1978) - the "undead dead", or Open Your Eyes/Abre Los Ojos (1997, Sp.) - reality is only a dream). Directors who are best known for film twists include Alfred Hitchcock, Brian De Palma, Pedro Almodovar, M. Night Shyamalan, and Dario Argento.

A Word About Spoilers: When narrative elements, usually reserved for late in a film's plot development, are divulged to others who have not yet seen the film, they are termed spoilers. It is usually considered malicious, unfair and a major faux pas to reveal 'spoilers' without a warning, because their publication can 'spoil' or ruin the enjoyment of experiencing a film's twists and surprises for oneself - without advance warning. Film critics often fastidiously avoid providing spoilers in their reviews, in order to not offend their readership.

Spoilers may generally include the revelation of the criminal or culprit, some other secret identity, or some other major plot event that changes the entire direction or perception of the film.

However, some advance marketing of teasers and other ads have often revealed a film's entire plot. And some spoilers have become very common knowledge, i.e., Planet of the Apes (1968), so that they are no longer considered real spoilers. Sometimes, a spoiler has been embedded in a famous line of dialogue or tagline, such as "Soylent Green is people!" Many spoilers are inexplicably revealed explicitly on (1) video/DVD box covers and its cover art (i.e., The Letter (1940), Random Harvest (1942), The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), Planet of the Apes (1968), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)), (2) the DVD menu itself (i.e., Barton Fink (1991), The Shawshank Redemption (1994)), and (3) the trailer.

See also Greatest Film Death Scenes (with additional spoilers or surprise endings)

Note: The films that are marked with a yellow star are
the films that "The Greatest Films" site has selected as the "100 Greatest Films".

Major Types of Plot Twists
Plot Twists
(some are overlapping, not mutually exclusive)
Some Film Examples
(not exhaustive)
Time period shifts, or virtual reality Total Recall (1990), Strange Days (1995), 12 Monkeys (1995), Dark City (1998), eXistenZ (1999), The Thirteenth Floor (1999), Donnie Darko (2001), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), Inception (2010), Source Code (2011), Predestination (2014)
Story told from perspective of an 'Unreliable Narrator' who basically fabricated much or all of the entire preceding story Brazil (1985), The Usual Suspects (1995), Fallen (1998), Fight Club (1999), American Psycho (2000), Haute Tension (2003), Premonition (2007), Shutter Island (2010), Life of Pi (2012), Goodnight Mommy (2014)
Flashbacks (usually in the 'third act') or a sudden revelation, uncovering hidden elements, explanations or motives, often of a past event Citizen Kane (1941), Les Diaboliques (1955), Planet of the Apes (1968), Marnie (1964), Scream (1996), Swimming Pool (2003), The Machinist (2004), The Village (2004), The Prestige (2006), Safe Haven (2013)
Shock Ending Witness For the Prosecution (1957), Dead Calm (1989), Se7en (1995), The Mist (2007), Exam (2009), Remember Me (2010)
It's a "Conspiracy" The Stepford Wives (1972), The Parallax View (1974), Disclosure (1994), Enemy of the State (1998), The Truman Show (1998), The Da Vinci Code (2006), The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
Death-dreams ("it was all a dream"), or fantasies at the point of death Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (1962), Phantasm (1979), Jacob's Ladder (1990), Boxing Helena (1993), Open Your Eyes (1997), The Descent (2005)
Character(s) unacknowledged as dead; presumed dead, but actually alive Friday the 13th (1980), Gone Baby Gone (2007)
A sudden reversal of fortune (or character), or change in circumstances, or reversal of motivation Chinatown (1974), From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), The Game (1997), A La Foile...Pas Du Tout (2002, Fr.) (aka He Loves Me...He Loves Me Not), Saw (2004), Sunshine (2007), Hancock (2008)
Virtual reality (VR) worlds The Matrix (1999)
True nature or identity of a character(s) revealed, reversal of identity Psycho (1960), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Return of the Jedi (1983), No Way Out (1987), The Crying Game (1992), Primal Fear (1996), Fight Club (1999), The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), The Others (2001), Matchstick Men (2003), Oldboy (2003), Secret Window (2004), Orphan (2009), The Tourist (2010), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), The Visit (2015)
Non-linear films, constructed in non-chronological order or reverse chronology, and revealing truth outside of a clear timeline Pulp Fiction (1994), Lost Highway (1997), Memento (2000), Mulholland Drive (2001), Irréversible (2002), Sin City (2005), Inland Empire (2006)

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