Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Written by Tim Dirks

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

Back to the Future (1985)

After Journeying to 1985, The Next Time Travel Journey Would Be To the Future Year of 2015

In the comedy's funny twist ending, panicked mad scientist Dr. Emmett "Doc" Brown (Christopher Lloyd) suddenly returned to 1985 Hill Valley from the future year of 2015 in his silver DeLorean time machine vehicle, shouting:

"Marty! You've gotta come back with me!...Back to the future!"

He forced reunited teenagers Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells) into his car, as Marty asked:

"Wait a minute, Doc. What are you talkin' about? What happens to us in the future? Do we become assholes or somethin'?"

Doc responded with worries about their future children:

"No, no, no, no, no, Marty. Both you and Jennifer turn out fine. It's your kids, Marty! Something has gotta be done about your kids!"

As Doc charged up the DeLorean and squealed out of the driveway, Marty noted: "Hey, Doc. We better back up. We don't have enough road to get up to 88." Doc smugly replied with a famous line:

Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads!

The DeLorean unexpectedly levitated into the air, then zoomed down the street, turned, and flew directly into the camera.

Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) and girlfriend Jennifer Parker (Claudia Wells)

Doc Brown: "Where We're Going, We Don't Need Roads!"

The Flying DeLorean

Bad Education (2004, Sp.) (aka La Mala Educacion)

Juan (Posing as his Older Brother "Ignacio") and Father Manolo (Senor Manuel Berenguer) Both Killed Ignacio With a Heroin Overdose

Pedro Almodovar's noirish drama-thriller and murder mystery included a Hitchcock-like, Vertigo (1958)-inspired twisting identity plot in its 'story within a script' in the film. Its themes of trans-sexuality, drug abuse, and pedophilic child abuse brought a NC-17 rating. Its flashbacked themes included lost youth, mistaken and shifting identities and gender transformation.

The major plot line, set in 1980 in Madrid, was that successful Spanish filmmaker Enrique Goded (Fele Martinez as adult) was reunited after 16 years with his first-love interest -- his grammar school friend, Ignacio Rodriguez (Gael Garcia Bernal as adult), who had become a writer and was an aspiring actor.

During their visit, a bearded Ignacio/Angel brought Enrique a semi-fictional short story/script called "The Visit" about when they were in school in 1964 and experienced sexual abuse from their priest. Ignacio was hoping to play a starring role in the proposed film.

Upon reading the script set in 1977, it was revealed that Ignacio had grown up to become the karaoke, cross-dressing, heroin-addicted, drag-queen/transvestite character of Zahara (also Bernal) using the stage name Angel Andrade. Ignacio was actually a pre-operative trans-sexual ready for sex reassignment surgery. For revenge, Ignacio/Zahara was working clubs with his pal Paca (Javier Cmara), and was engaged in blackmailing his manipulative and abusive Catholic School headmaster-priest Father Manolo (Daniel Giménez Cacho). In exchange for one million pesetas, Zahara/Ignacio would not publish the damning "The Visit" script. The blackmail money would be used for Zahara's sex reassignment surgery.

In the script, it also described the earlier school-boy relationship between Enrique (Raúl García Forneiro as boy) and Ignacio (Ignacio Pérez as boy). There were flashbacks of the two boys who had been sexually-abused as boarding school students by the priest, especially Ignacio. They went to a movie theatre where they stimulated each other while watching a film, and they were found together (in the school bathroom after hours) by Father Manolo. When the priest threatened to expel Enrique, Ignacio offered to give himself to the pedophilic priest (Enrique was expelled nonetheless).

A dark secret (and double-identity) was then revealed back in the present year, 1980 - Enrique spoke to Ignacio's mother and learned that the real Ignacio had been dead for four years:

  • "Ignacio" - who had been killed four years earlier (the real Ignacio was played by real-life trans-sexual Francisco "Fran" Boira, seen in flashbacks) - was being impersonated by his younger heterosexual brother Juan. Juan was assuming Ignacio's identity in order to seduce Enrique into having him star in his new film based on Ignacio's story.

Enrique decided to produce, direct, and adapt Ignacio's film script, bringing the past and present (and fact and fiction) to collide together. Juan would play Zahara/Ignacio as he wished. As the film was being made, Enrique fell in love with Juan/Angel. The script was revised so that the blackmailed Father Manolo was murdered by Ignacio, who was raising funds for his trans-sexual surgery.

During filming on the set, another double-identity was revealed:

  • Senor Manuel Berenguer (Lluís Homar) -- actually Father Manolo with a new name/identity (and no longer a priest), described how he and Juan (in a relationship) had teamed up to murder the real Ignacio. They had conspired together to kill Ignacio by providing him with pure heroin for an overdose, because he was a harsh, unlikeable, drug-addicted individual who was blackmailing the priest about his molestation. After Ignacio's death, Berenguer then attempted to blackmail Juan for his part in the murder of Ignacio.

In the coda to the film, the film's epilogue, Father Manolo (or Senor Berenguer) was killed in a hit-and-run car driven by Juan (in revenge for being blackmailed by Berenguer for his role in Ignacio's murder).

Various Roles/Looks of Gael Garcia Bernal
Juan - Ignacio's Younger Brother

Enrique and Ignacio as School Friends

Father Manolo (Daniel Gimenez Cacho)

Enrique (Fele Martinez)

The Bad Seed (1956)

Sociopathic Rhoda Went to the Wharf To Try and Retrieve a Guilt-Betraying Penmanship Medal From the Lake - and Was Struck by Lightning (Divine Retribution?) - But the Story Was Only Fictional

Director Mervyn LeRoy's film-noirish horror film told of an evil 8 year-old grade-school girl, a blonde pig-tailed Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack) who often wore cute pinafore dresses. In the opening scene, Rhoda demonstrated her tap dancing skill.

During a school picnic near a lake, Rhoda's male schoolmate Claude Daigle drowned. (He had won a Penmanship Medal which Rhoda coveted. She later explained: "He wouldn't give me the medal like I told him to, that's all." She repeatedly struck him with her tap shoes, and he fell into the water. When he struggled to get onto the wharf and threatened to tell on her, she hit him repeatedly.)

Eventually, Rhoda's suspicious mother Christine Penmark (Nancy Kelly) - after finding her daughter attempting to dispose of the incriminating tap shoes, heard heartless Rhoda's confession that she had killed the boy. It now made sense why the boy had half-moon-shaped bruises on his head and hands - they were imprints of the taps on the shoes.

Peculiar handyman Leroy Jessup (Henry Jones) discovered Rhoda's secret, when he found her scorched shoes in an incinerator. He retrieved them, hid them, refused to give them up, and warned Rhoda: "Plenty left to put you in the electric chair." As a result, he was "accidentally" burned to death when she set his bedding ablaze while he slept.

[Note: Christine also learned that she had herself been adopted as a 2 year-old infant, and was the daughter of a foster father and his wife - a convicted serial killer/murderess named Bessie Denker. Christine surmised that the evil had been genetically passed on to her own daughter, Rhoda.]

To stop her 'bad seed' daughter, Rhoda's mother admitted to her daughter that she deposited the medal back into the lake after it was found in Rhoda's room. She then attempted to kill Rhoda with an overdose of barbituates (disguised as vitamins), and then shot herself in the head (but both survived).

To show that 'crime doesn't pay' (to satisfy the Hays Code censors), there was "divine retribution" in the film's finale. As rain-coated Rhoda searched for the medal on a dark rainy night, and grabbed a fishing net to retrieve it from the wharf, she was punished with a fiery bolt of lightning.

After a curtain-call with all the main cast members, Christine placed Rhoda across her lap and spanked her. The final title card reflected that the story was only fictional:

"You have just seen a motion picture whose theme dares to be startlingly different. May we ask that you do not divulge the unusual climax of this story. Thank you."

Rhoda Penmark (Patty McCormack)

Handyman Leroy Jessup (Henry Jones)

Retribution: A Bolt of Lightning

Rhoda's Spanking

Basic (2003)

The Jungle Mission Was a Cover-Up For an Anti-Illegal Drug Trading Operation, by a Group Dubbed "Section 8", Orchestrated by DEA Agent Tom Hardy; Training Exercise Leader Sgt. West and the Others (All 'Section 8' Members) Had Not Been Killed in the Jungle; The Only Innocent One By The End Was Col. Julia Osborne (Who Was Recruited With a Job With the Special Black-Ops, 'Section 8' Anti-Drug Unit) Because of Her Extensive Knowledge of the Operation

By the twisty conclusion of this violent thriller from director John McTiernan, all of the preceding complex circumstances, flashbacks, interrogations, and confrontations were almost entirely negated.

The film's premise began with an elite Army Ranger training exercise that had been held overnight in a rainy Panamanian jungle, led by detested Sergeant Nathan West (Samuel L. Jackson). Almost everyone seemed to disappear during the routine training - there were only two survivors, both of whom did not want to cooperate with the investigation:

  • Sgt. Ray Dunbar (Brian Van Holt), white
  • Second Lieutenant Levi Kendall (Giovanni Ribisi), a seriously-wounded homosexual; the drug-using son of a high-profile Joint Chiefs of Staff official

By-the-book Captain Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen) found that the two survivors did not want to cooperate with the investigation. Base commander Col. Bill Styles (Timothy Daly) called upon an old friend of his to aid Osborne:

  • Tom Hardy (John Travolta), a savvy, unconventional, and persuasive investigator; a hard-drinking ex-Ranger and DEA agent; Hardy was on leave and under suspicion of accepting bribes from local drug traffickers

A number 8 with a circle around it was an additional unknown element in the mysterious case. After a few very confusing run-throughs or flashbacks (derived from the differing and changing testimonies and far-fetched stories) of what may have transpired in the jungle that led to West's death and the deaths of four others, there were many startling revelations. The main revelations were regarding the two survivors - Dunbar and Kendall, who were Col. Styles' lackeys, and Styles was leading the drug-dealing on the base:

  1. Ray Dunbar was not Ray Dunbar (The real Ray Dunbar was African-American) - "Ray Dunbar is black" - the imposter was actually white-man Jay Pike who had switched identities with Dunbar by swapping dog-tags.
  2. Dr. Peter Vilmer (Harry Connick, Jr.), Col. Osborne's ex-lover, had been profitably selling drugs ("combat cocktails") at the base's hospital to ease soldiers' pain and had falsified drug tests to cover up the drug dealings.
  3. When DEA Agent Hardy suspected that Col. Styles was lying, was in on the drug trafficking, and had set-up training leader Sgt. West to be killed in the jungle, he forced Styles to admit to wrong-doing (drug-trading), including being responsible for Kendall's death by poisoning him in his hospital bed.
  4. When Styles offered Hardy a 40% cut of the profits if he kept quiet, Hardy refused, forcing Styles to pull out a gun --- causing Col. Osborne, who had been watching the entire conversation from outside, to shoot Styles dead to protect Hardy.
  5. Although the case seemed closed, Captain Osborne became suspicious of Tom Hardy when he suggested: "All we gotta do is tell the story right" - this was further reinforced when she followed him and she saw Pike jump into his jeep as he drove into Panama City.

After Col. Osborne followed Hardy into a basement club marked by an 8-ball, the Section 8's group headquarters, she pulled a gun on Hardy, but was completely startled to learn the film's major switcheroo. Hardy was the head of a special black-ops anti-drug unit, orchestrating a conspiracy that had been targeting Col. Styles and Dr. Vilmer (and drug-user Kendall) for illicit drug trade (cocaine trafficking).

West and the remainder of the soldiers in the training mission were actually alive. They were all colleagues -- members of a reportedly "renegade" drug unit called "Section 8" - with fake ("ghost") names: "Nunez," "Castro," "Pike," and "Dunbar."

Because of Col. Osborne's tenacity (and because of her knowledge of the entire operation), she was offered a job with them as the film ended.

The question then became: was the elaborate and very contrived hoax of a training exercise really necessary?

Captain Julia Osborne (Connie Nielsen)

DEA Agent Tom Hardy (John Travolta)

Dr. Peter Vilmer (Harry Connick, Jr.)

A Sign of Infinity (or the Number "8") Written in Dying Kendall's Blood, onto Col. Osborne's Hand

Col. Styles Pulling Gun on Hardy

Basement Club Scene in 8-Ball (Section 8) Club - The Training Mission Soldiers Were Alive

Basic Instinct (1992)

Catherine Tramell Was the Ice Pick Killer or Was it Police Psychiatrist Dr. Beth Garner (aka Lisa Hoberman) ?

Director Paul Verhoeven's glossy erotic thriller opened with views (from all angles, including a reflection in a ceiling mirror) of a couple making love - the unidentified female with her face obscured (the film's brutal ice-pick murder suspect) was atop rock star Johnny Boz (Bill Cable), and elements of S&M were revealed when she tied his arms to the bedpost with a length of sheet - before reaching back and stabbing him to death with an ice-pick.

The Opening Scene: A Brutal Ice Pick Murder of
Johnny Boz During Sex

The prime suspect in the subsequent investigation was:

  • Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone), a blonde, bi-sexual novelist, and Johnny Boz' girlfriend

In the film's final scene - paralleling the opening sex sequence, Catherine was making love to SF police detective/lover Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), and in the midst of their coupling, she stretched backwards and reached behind herself, then suddenly came down on top of him. Her whole body stretched across his - and both of them went motionless - as she (and he) climaxed.

The film teased the audience:

  • Was he still alive?
  • Had he been pierced with an icepick?
  • Was there something in her hand, when she half-turned and twisted around, and rolled to the outer side of the bed?

They were seen lying next to each other in bed, both staring up. He was smoking a cigarette. She curled away from him toward the outer side of the bed:

Catherine: What do we do now, Nick?
Nick: We f--k like minks, raise rugrats. We live happily ever after.

Her right arm reached over the side of the bed (was she picking up an icepick?), as she retorted: "I hate rugrats." He revised his epitaph:

We f--k like minks. Forget the rugrats. And live happily ever after.

She half-turned and twisted around, watching him turn his body away to put out his cigarette. The music built - was she holding something in her hand? They looked at each other for a long moment. She reached out with her hand, pulling his neck and face toward her own body for another kiss. The screen darkened for a moment, and then returned.

As they kissed more passionately as she pulled him down to her body, the camera slowly descended below her side of the bed. When it lowered to the floor, the camera came to rest on a close-up of the murder weapon - a thin, steel-handled icepick. The finale of the ambiguous film arbitrarily left the inexplicable question of the guilt and/or innocence of the main character still up in the air --?

Reaching Back

Had She Grabbed an Ice-Pick?

The Ice Pick on the Floor on Her Side of the Bed

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)

The Phantasm Was Andrea

The plot twist/spoiler in the downbeat and sad ending of this animated version of the Batman tale was that the murderous, masked, and vengeful vigilante villain Phantasm was not Carl Beaumont (voice of Stacy Keach), but his red-haired, blue-eyed daughter Andrea (voice of Dana Delany). She was costumed crime-fighter Batman's/Bruce Wayne's former girlfriend (or lost love).

She had used her father's voice and assumed his identity, to shift the blame to her father as necessary, by using her father's voice. She was identified a scythe-like blade for a hand, a mechanical voice, and a cloud of smoke. Her actions were often misidentified as those of Batman. Her motive was to exact revenge on Gotham City's gangsters and mob bosses who were responsible for her father's death:

  • Charles "Chuckie" Sol (voice of Dick Miller) - the Phantasm's first victim
  • lead mobster Salvatore "The Wheezer" Valestra (voice of Abe Vigoda) - but now decrepit (after years of smoking, and on an oxygen tank due to respiratory issues)
  • the future Joker (voice of Mark Hamill), a paid assassin/hitman for Valestra; the Joker was most likely the one who murdered Carl Beaumont, Andrea's father; the Joker also double-crossed his boss Valestra and killed him with venom

In the film's conclusion, Andrea shockingly rejected lover Bruce Wayne/Batman's (voice of Kevin Conroy) plea to forsake revenge and start a life with him - when Batman couldn't convince her to give up her revenge, Andrea vanished, and Batman battled against the Joker within a miniatured version of Gotham City and the old World's Fair grounds. The entire area was wired with explosives, and everyone (including Andrea who reappeared) escaped or disappeared in clouds of smoke and fire.

Batman was propelled down a waterway and found himself back in his Batcave, where he was grief-stricken about not having saved Andrea. His loyal butler Alfred Pennyworth (voice of Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.) consoled him:

"I don't think she wanted to be saved, sir. Vengeance blackens the soul, Bruce. I've always feared you would become that which you fought against. You walk the edge of that abyss every night, but you haven't fallen in and I thank heaven for that. But Andrea fell into that pit years ago, and no one, not even you, could have pulled her back."

Batman discovered a shiny pendant/locket that Andrea left for him in the Batcave, containing a portrait of the two of them.

The film ended sadly - Andrea was seen standing alone on the deck of an ocean liner, when a tipsy partygoer asked her if she wanted to be alone, she sighed: "I am." Meanwhile Batman was simultaneously standing alone on the ledge of a city building, looking out at the Bat-Signal shining in the sky. He lept and swung off the building, to pursue further vigilante-style crime-fighting.

Red-Haired, Blue-Eyed Daughter Andrea Beaumont Was The Masked Vigilante Known as the Phantasm

Batman Consoled by Alfred Pennyworth

Grief-Stricken Batman with Andrea's Locket/Pendant

Andrea Alone on Deck of Ocean Liner

Bay of Blood (1971, It.) (aka Twitch of the Death Nerve, Reazione a Catena, or Ecology of a Crime)

A Couple (Who Recently Committed Murders) Were Shot and Killed By Their Own Children

Mario Bava's influential and controversial, bloody Italian horror-thriller (one of the first slasher films) told about numerous murders (over a dozen) related to the acquisition-inheritance of the deed to some lake-bayfront property.

The film began with a few horrible killings:

  • Wheelchair-bound Countess Federica (Isa Miranda) was strangled to death by her husband
  • Filippo Donati (Giovanni Nuvoletti) was stabbed to death by an unidentified assailant after murdering his wife, the Countess

[Note: Later, it was revealed that the Countess' illegitimate son, Simon (Claudio Volonté), had killed Filippo Donati. Simon also gruesomely killed a number of individuals at the bayside mansion, including teenaged Bobby (Robert Bonnani) and his date Brunhilda (Brigitte Skay), and their friends Duke (Guido Boccaccini) and Denise (Paola Rubens) - who were speared while having sexual intercourse together.]

Simon was conspiring with corrupt real estate agent Frank Ventura (Chris Avram) and his lover Laura (Anna Maria Rosati), to acquire the Countess' (and Donati's) bay-front property illegally - but was unaware that Ventura had plotted with Donati to kill his own mother.

Another couple arrived at the lakeside property to investigate the disappearance of the unlamented, murdered Filippo, and to see about ownership rights to the property:

  • Albert (Luigi Pistilli)
  • Renata (Claudine Auger), Albert's wife and the Countess' daughter (she was the half-brother of killer Simon); as the rightful beneficiary to the property, she was there to find out what had happened to her father and mother

There were more murders that followed:

  • Renata stabbed Frank Ventura when he attacked her
  • Albert strangled Paolo Fassati (Leopoldo Trieste), who had witnessed Ventura's near-murder
  • With an axe, Renata decapitated Anna (Laura Betti), Fassati's wife
  • Simon vengefully strangled Laura, Ventura's lover
  • Albert murdered Simon
  • Albert killed the wounded Frank Ventura

And then in the film's ironic final shocking scene, Albert and Renata were talking about how they had eliminated all competitors for the property, and that there were no other living heirs:

"The whole bay will be legally ours."

The two hugged each other with congratulations ("All's well that ends well"), and then were abruptly shot-gunned to death as they stood at the trunk of their Mercedes. A killer called out: "Mommy, Daddy!" and shot them dead.

As the next blurry shot came into focus, it showed their two young children at a trailer window:

  • Son (uncredited Renato Cestie) - with a shotgun
  • Daughter (uncredited Nicoletta Elmi) - a red-headed, pig-tailed girl next to him

He gleefully said: "Gee, they're good at playing dead, aren't they?" They ran down to the bay to play as the film ended.

Couple: Albert and Renata

Murdered Parents

The Son (With Shotgun) and Daughter

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Nash's Friends (Parcher, Charles, and Marcee) Were All Delusionary Parts of His Mind

Director Ron Howard's biopic was a Best Picture winner. Its main tagline was:

He Saw The World In A Way No One Could Have Imagined.

The man with a "beautiful mind" was:

  • John Forbes Nash, Jr. (Russell Crowe), a Princeton University graduate student and a Professor at MIT; a mathematician with many prizes (the Carnegie Prize, the Nobel Prize, etc.)

The film began with the early years of the academic's life, and included his falling in love with one of his students, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). He began to exhibit signs of suffering from the mental disorder of paranoid schizophrenia, causing significant delusions. Although Nash in real-life had only auditory hallucinations, the film portrayed them as both auditory and visual.

The surprising twist in the film was that three pivotal characters in his life were only Nash's hallucinations:

  • William Parcher (Ed Harris), a representative of the Pentagon's Department of Defense, a mysterious agent who had given Nash a code-breaking assignment to detect secret Soviet messages embedded in newspapers and magazines
  • Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), Nash's former "prodigal roommate" at Princeton University, a literature student
  • Marcee (Vivien Cardone), Charles' young niece

In a dramatic scene in the film, Alicia discovered that Nash had turned their abandoned garage-shed into an office while working for Parcher, littering it with bits of newspaper, magazine clippings and code. She ran back to the house and saved their infant baby from being accidentally drowned by Nash in the bathtub (Nash claimed: "Charles was watching him - he was OK" although Alicia shouted back: "There is no one here!").

Meanwhile, Parcher attempted to persuade Nash that he was going to murder his wife ("She'll compromise us again") as she frantically phoned the doctor. Nash suffered a nervous breakdown when all three characters appeared to him in the same scene, but still was able to realize that they were only fabrications - he admitted his revelation concerning Marcee to Alicia:

"She never gets old. Marcee can't be real. She never gets old."

Nash's psychiatric doctor Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer) advised Nash, who had gone off his medications: "Without treatment, John, the fantasies may take over entirely." Stress triggered his delusions upon his return to Princeton.

To end his association with the fabricated characters, Nash shouted back, first at Parcher: "You are not real...There's no mission! I'm not a soldier!" and tried to ignore his 'best' friend Charles' and Marcee's presence. He determinedly vowed to them:

"I won't talk to you again. I just can't. Same goes for you, baby girl. Goodbye."

He refused to acknowledge their existence, although he was still haunted by them from time to time:

"They're not gone. And maybe they never will be. But I've gotten used to ignoring them and I think as a result they've kind of given up on me...They're my past...Everybody's haunted by their past."

John Nash in His Garage Office - Surrounded by Clippings

John's Concerned Wife Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly)

Nash's Serious Breakdown

John Nash's Delusionary Friends:

William Parcher (Ed Harris)

Charles Herman (Paul Bettany)

Marcee (Vivien Cardone)

Nash's Three Delusionary Characters

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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