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

Murder, My Sweet (1944)

Helen Grayle, aka Velma Valento, Was the Killer of Marriott; Helen's Husband Shot Her Dead, Followed by the Deaths of Both Moose and Mr. Grayle, and the Blinding of Marlowe

This great Raymond Chandler detective thriller from director Edward Dmytryk, was a hard-boiled tale - a superb, complex, shadowy film noir of murder, corruption, blackmail, double-cross and double identity, with witty dialogue and cynical voice-over narration.

It was told mostly in flashback, as blinded, blind-folded/bandaged private detective Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) described his sojourns, and how he was knocked out multiple times, taken hostage, drugged and temporarily blinded. He was involved in two cases of murder in war-time Los Angeles:

  • Lindsay Marriott (Douglas Walton), an effeminate gigolo, had asked Marlowe to accompany him as a bodyguard late at night to a secluded canyon to pay off a ransom - to buy an allegedly stolen jade necklace back (during the altercation, Marlowe was knocked unconscious, and Marriott was bludgeoned to death)
  • Jules Amthor (Otto Kruger), a master crook and blackmailer, was involved in setting up rich women (with valuable jewelry) as targets for Marriott. He was later found with a snapped neck (it was revealed that he was killed by Moose Malloy)

Marlowe was first engaged in a film-long quest - he had been hired by love-struck ex-con Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) to look for a mysterious Velma Valento, his missing ex-lover. Velma had sold him out 8 years earlier for unknown reasons, although he still remembered her: "She was cute as lace pants."

Marlowe's case led him to Brentwood to the wealthy mansion of the Grayles. There, he spoke to flirtatious and slinky femme fatale blonde Mrs. Helen Grayle (Claire Trevor), who was married to elderly millionaire Mr. Grayle (Miles Mander). The mysterious, flirtatious and slinky Helen Grayle also hired the detective to locate a stolen jade necklace of hers worth $100,000. Marlowe navigated through a perilous world, becoming further entangled with and threatened by despicable high- and low-class criminals.

The film ended in the Grayle beach house when Helen admitted to Marlowe that she fabricated the jade necklace robbery (Marlowe: "It was never stolen? There wasn't any holdup? You faked the whole thing.") She also confessed that she and Marriott had set up Marlowe to be killed in the canyon, because he was a "nosy detective" and would interfere with her schemes. Her intention was to kill Marriott and Marlowe, but her stepdaughter Ann Grayle (Anne Shirley) had arrived at an inopportune moment, and she was only able to murder Marriott.

Then, during a climactic, violent shoot-out in the beach house, Helen was shot to death by her jealous, concerned husband. Shortly afterwards, both Moose and Mr. Grayle exchanged lethal shots as well - scorching and blinding Marlowe's eyes in the process. It was revealed that mysterious, flirtatious, gold-digging, exploitative, double-identity Mrs. Helen Grayle - also known as Velma Valento, had set up numerous individuals over the theft of her jade jewelry, and was indeed a murderous femme fatale.

A witness to all the killings, Ann Grayle was able to clear temporarily-blinded Marlowe of all charges - and accompanied him home in the back seat of a taxi - where they shared a kiss.

Philip Marlowe (Dick Powell) In Police Station Telling Flashbacked Tale

(l to r): Moose Malloy (Mike Mazurki) and Marlowe

Mrs. Helen Grayle/Velma Valento (Claire Trevor)

Helen Holding a Gun and Shot to Death

Philip Marlowe Blinded During Shoot-Out

Ann Grayle and Marlowe Kissing in Back Seat of Taxi

Murder on the Orient Express (1974, UK)

All Twelve Suspects on the Train Had a Reasonable Motive and Were Guilty of Killing Ratchett as an Act of Revenge; Ratchett was a Mafioso Member Responsible for a Kidnapping/Murder Years Earlier of Young Daisy Armstrong, and The Perpetrators Were Seeking Revenge

This all-star who-dunit by director Sidney Lumet (with six Oscar nominations) adapted Agatha Christie's train-bound mystery for the screen. Although the mystery of the plot turned out to be outrageously preposterous, it was still entertaining.

Famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) delivered his sleuthing findings at the film's end to the assembled group of suspects aboard the Orient Express, snowbound between Istanbul and Paris. His conclusion about the murder of callous, millionaire American businessman Mr. Rachett (Richard Widmark) was:

No one person had killed him - Everyone was guilty.

"A repulsive murderer has been murdered repulsively, and, perhaps, deservedly."

All twelve suspects, all passengers on the train, had taken a turn at stabbing the drugged Ratchett in his train berth between midnight and 2AM (there were right-handed and left-handed stabbings, some lethal and some not, and he had also been poisoned).

Note: Ratchett was really a Mafioso member known as Cassetti, who had arranged for the notorious, unpunished 1930 kidnapping/murder of an American baby in the Armstrong family five years earlier (based upon the Lindbergh kidnapping incident in 1932). The young girl, Daisy Armstrong, was the daughter of a wealthy British Army Colonel Hamish Armstrong with an American wife named Sonia. 3 year-old Daisy had been kidnapped from her home in Long Island NY, held for $200,000 ransom, and then was found dead.

Each of the twelve suspects was avenging the tragic incident - "DAISY FOUND SLAIN." Each of the murderers was associated in some way with the Armstrong family, that had suffered greatly from the murder of the child:

  • Colonel Hamish Armstrong, the father, shot himself
  • Mrs. Sonia Armstrong, the grieving mother, died while prematurely giving birth to a stillborn child
  • Paulette, their wrongly accused, suspected French maid-servant also committed suicide
Hector McQueen (Anthony Perkins) Ratchett's secretary and translator Son of DA Prosecutor in the Armstrong case, looked upon Mrs. Armstrong as a mother figure
Edward Henry Beddoes (Sir John Gielgud)

Ratchett's English valet


Colonel Armstrong's army friend in Scotland, and the family butler
Mrs. Harriet Belinda Hubbard (Lauren Bacall) Multiple widowed socialite Mrs. Armstrong's mother (aka Linda Arden)
Greta Ohlsson (Ingrid Bergman) Swedish missionary Daisy's nursemaid/nanny
Count Rudolf Andrenyi (Michael York) Hungarian diplomat By marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Armstrong's brother-in-law
Countess Elena Andrenyi (Jacqueline Bisset) Rudolf's wife Mrs. Armstrong's sister
Princess Natalia Dragomiroff (Dame Wendy Hiller) Elderly Russian royalty Mrs. Armstrong's godmother
Miss Hildegarde Schmidt (Rachel Roberts) Princess' German maid The Armstrong family's cook
Colonel Arbuthnott (Sean Connery) British Indian Army officer An army friend of Colonel Armstrong in India
Mary Debenham (Vanessa Redgrave) Englishwoman, teacher in Baghdad, and Arbuthnott's girlfriend Mrs. Armstrong's secretary
Antonio ("Gino") Foscarelli (Denis Quilley) Italian-American car salesman, lives in Chicago The Armstrongs' chauffeur
Cyrus B. "Dick" Hardman (Colin Blakely) Talent agent, actually a Pinkerton detective A policeman/Armstrong family guard, in love with the Armstrongs' maid-servant Paulette

Rather than charge all of the suspects with murder, Poirot provided another simpler solution although it was a false scenario -- that the murderer was a rival Mafioso (dressed as a French conductor), Pierre-Paul Michel (Jean-Pierre Cassel), who was maid-servant Paulette's father. Michel killed Ratchett before leaving the train.

Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney)

The Many Suspects

"Armstrong Pays Ransom" Headlines

Murdered Businessman Mr. Rachett (aka Cassetti) (Richard Widmark)

Mrs. Harriet Belinda Hubbard (Lauren Bacall) Stabbing the Victim - One of Many

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

The Murders Were Committed for Dr. Mirakle's Experiments To Test the Blood of Possible Mates (Prostitutes) for Pet Gorilla-Ape Erik; Camille Was Abducted, and During a Blood Test, Erik Turned on Mirakle and Murdered Him; Camille Was Saved by Fiancee Pierre Dupin and Erik Was Shot Dead

This was the third film in Universal's blockbuster series of Pre-Code horror films in the early 30s - it was suggested by Edgar Allan Poe's classic tale of the same name.

Set in the mid-19th century Paris, this semi-blasphemous tale told of "murders in the Rue Morgue" committed by mad, lunatic side-show Doctor Mirakle (Bela Lugosi). He owned a caged pet gorilla-ape, Erik (Charles Gemora), who was announced by Mirakle's sideshow barker (Michael Visaroff):

"Behind this curtain is the strangest creature your eyes will ever behold: Erik, the ape man, the monster who walks upright, and speaks a language even as you and I. The ruler of the jungle whose giant hands can tear a man in half. Erik, the ape man. The beast with a human soul. More cunning than a man, and stronger than a lion."

Once inside the tent, after Mirakle encouraged patrons to sit in the front row, he introduced himself:

I'm Dr. Mirakle, messieurs and mesdames, and I'm not a sideshow charlatan, so if you expect to witness the usual carnival hocus-pocus, just go to the box-office and get your money back. I'm not exhibiting a freak, a monstrosity of nature, but a milestone in the development of life! The shadow of Erik the ape hangs over us all. The darkness before the dawn of man.

The audience was treated to Mirakle interpreting the words of the caged Erik. He described how Erik claimed he was seized by hairless white apes in the African jungle and carried away to a strange land. (Close-ups of Mirakle's ape were of a screeching chimpanzee, while long-shots were of a man dressed in an ape-gorilla suit.)

He stated his theory of human evolution (that the four-legged ape began to walk upright), as he pointed at his ape: "Behold, the first man!" When he was immediately accused of heresy by an older member of the audience, the diabolical Mirakle defended himself and went even further. He boasted of an unholy attempt (experiment) to mix animal and human blood:

Heresy. Do they still burn men for heresy? Then burn me, Monsieur, light the fire! Do you think your little candle will outshine the flame of truth? Do you think these walls and curtains are my whole life? They are only a trap, to catch the pennies of fools. My life is consecrated to a great experiment. I tell you I will prove your kinship with the ape. Erik's blood shall be mixed with the blood of man.

His bestial motive was that he was searching for a perfect specimen - preferably a virginal human female to presumably mate with the ape-monster as a 'bride.' But first, he had to test the blood of his prospects. Mirakle's initial subjects for blood tests were prostitutes or streetwalkers. When Mirakle was about to extract blood from one of them, a struggling and bound "Woman Of The Streets" (Arlene Francis) on a crucifix of huge wooden crossbeams, he said: "Are you in pain, mademoiselle? It will only last a little longer...It will only last one more minute and we shall see, we shall know if you are to be the bride of science."

Studying the female's blood after commingling it with the blood of Erik, he was dismayed by the results he sighted in his microscope - impure or tainted blood (probably from syphilis or some other sexually-transmitted disease): "Rotten blood! You… Your blood is rotten, black as your sins! You cheated me! Your beauty was a lie!" The strung-up victim died - and then he instructed his servant-assistant Janos, the Black One (Noble Johnson) to "get rid of her." Janos cut the ropes holding her, and she dropped through a trap door directly into the Seine River.

Mirakle became discouraged that he couldn't find suitable or compatible female blood matches for his ill-tempered, lonely ape. Meanwhile, corpses of discarded females (with foreign simian blood in their veins) were showing up regularly.

By the film's exciting ending, Mirakle had already committed four murders. He had sent Erik to kidnap sweet 'virginal' ingenue, Mlle. Camille L'Espanaye (Sidney Fox), and in the process of abducting Camille, her mother Mme. L'Espanaye (Betty Ross Clarke) was strangled and stuffed up the chimney by the ape, feet-first - a quite grisly sight.

Camille's Abduction by Erik - Seen in Silhouetted Shadow

In Mirakle's laboratory hideout, where the mad scientist was experimenting on Camille and finding her blood to be perfect, the police shot Janos as he attempted to block entry. Attracted by Camille, Erik turned on Mirakle, strangled him and broke his neck and scrambled off over the rooftops, clutching his victim. [Note: The scene predated a similar scene in the conclusion of King Kong (1933).] The heroine Camille was saved by her heroic fiancee/detective/medical student Pierre Dupin (Leon Waycoff (aka Leon Ames)) who shot Erik dead on a rooftop and watched as the ape's body rolled off into the river.

In the final scene, the morgue keeper (D'Arcy Corrigan) filled out Mirakle's death certificate. The snuff-using Gendarme (Christian J. Frank) supplied information about cause of death:

Morgue Director: Name?
Gendarme: Mirakle, I believe, or something like that....
Morgue Director: Age?
Gendarme: Oh, any age, it doesn't matter.
Morgue Director: Profession?
Gendarme: They say he was a scientist or something.

Morgue Director: Death caused by...?
Gendarme: Ha, ha, ha. An ape.

[Note: The murders in the original literary tale were committed by an orangutan, the escaped pet of a sailor.]

Poster of Erik, the Gorilla-Ape

Camille (Sidney Fox) and Pierre (Leon Ames)

Doctor Mirakle (Bela Lugosi)

Mirakle Speaking to Erik

"Woman of the Streets" Victim (Arlene Francis)

Music Box (1989)

The Contents of a Hungarian Music Box Retrieved from a US Pawn Shop Incriminated Hungarian-American Immigrant Mike Laszlo as a Nazi Sympathizer and Zealous Killer of Jews During World War II

Costa-Gavras directed Joe Eszterhas' script for this courtroom drama and political mystery. It was a remake (of sorts) of his earlier plot-twisting Jagged Edge (1985), with a Holocaust background, or the Costa-Gavras/Eszterhas film from a year earlier titled Betrayed (1988) with a backdrop of white supremacy and Klansmen.

Unglamorous and sturdy Chicago defense lawyer Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange) stubbornly believed in her beloved elderly, widowed father's innocence. Michael Laszlo (Armin Mueller-Stahl) was a retired steelworker who had immigrated from Hungary in the last days of World War II. When charged with lying to gain US citizenship and threatened with deportation, he was also accused by the crusading federal prosecutor Jack Burke (Frederic Forrest) of not only being an office clerk in his past, but a fascistic Nazi war criminal.

Burke charged that Laszlo was "Mishka" - the ruthless young captain and leader of a Nazi-trained, Special Section death squad named Arrowcross - "evil incarnate." Laszlo claimed he was innocent of cruel gang rapes, sadistic killings, and brutalities committed by Arrowcross on the banks of the Danube River: "It's not me. I am not a beast. I am a good American." Blindly and emotionally unbelieving, Ann went on a search to prove that her father was being framed by a revenge-seeking Hungarian Communist government and its secret police (known as the ÁVO) because he was fiercely anti-Communist.

More and more evidence and witnesses seemed to discredit her father, the most damning including Laszlo's many large blackmail payments to a Hungarian friend named Tibor Zoldan, now deceased after a hit-and-run accident. Laszlo claimed the funds were sent only to help his destitute friend. Devoted daughter Ann began to have doubts about her father's past, especially when she learned that Tibor was a member of Arrowcross.

Then, a pawn shop ticket (retrieved from Tibor's wallet by the Chicago police department) was given to Ann by Tibor's elderly sister Melinda in Budapest. It led to a music box in a pawn shop in Chicago.

As Ann activated the music box, it dispensed a number of incriminating black and white photographs of her father committing the alleged crimes. She confronted her father with the news - and accused him of running down Tibor and killing him. She exposed and revealed his guilt to Jack Burke by mailing him a typed letter (with enclosed photographs) - soon after, they became the daily newspaper's headlines: "Mike Laszlo: War Criminal! Justice Department Releases Atrocity Photos."

Michael Laszlo and Ann Talbot (Jessica Lange)

Prosecutor Jack Burke's (Frederic Forrest) Accusations

Incriminating Photos in Music Box

Mystic River (2003)

Dave Boyle, Suspected of Killing Jimmy Markum's Daughter Katie, Was Innocent (Although He Had Murdered a Child Molester the Same Night); The Real Killers Were 'Silent' Ray Harris, Jr. and Pal John O'Shea - Two Teenagers; Markum Blamed Dave, Forced Him to Make a False Confession, Then Killed Him and Dumped His Body in the Mystic River

The climax of this dramatic mystery film from director Clint Eastwood was the resolution of the central murder case - the murder of 19 year old Katie Markum (Emmy Rossum). The main plot was very similar to AMC's episodic murder mystery The Killing (2011-2014).

Its tagline was very apt - referring to an unsettling and mistaken act of retribution (that brought death to an innocent victim), although committed with the "right intentions":

We bury our sins, we wash them clean.

The findings of the crime were shared between two boyhood friends in Massachusetts:

  • Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon), a good-hearted Massachusetts State homicide detective
  • Jimmy Markum (Oscar-winning Best Actor Sean Penn), the grieving father, an ex-con and corner grocery-store owner

The confessed killers were revealed to have known the victim through a clue on a 911 call tape, and found indirectly by tracing the gun back to its registered owner "Just Ray" Harris and to a previous Looney Liquors hold-up 18 years earlier.

The two murderers were identified as:

  • 'Silent' Ray Harris Jr. (Spencer Treat Clark), a deaf-mute
    He was the younger brother of Brendan Harris (Tom Guiry), Katie's boyfriend, and the youngest son of father 'Just Ray' Harris (missing, and actually murdered)
  • John O'Shea (Andrew Mackin), 'Silent' Ray's skateboard pal

The two were playing with a gun that night and only meant to scare Katie, but during the prank they hit her with a bullet shot. When she knocked them down with her car door and fled, they chased after her and beat her to death in the local zoo/park with a hockey stick.

What was their motive:

'Silent' Ray feared that Brendan was leaving to elope with Katie to Las Vegas and would abandon him. He knew where his father's gun was secretly hidden above the Harris' kitchen ceiling, and used it in the accidental murder.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Markum had suspected a third boyhood friend as the murderer - a disturbed, violated, and haunted sexual abuse victim Dave Boyle (Tim Robbins) who had claimed on the same night that he murdered a pedophile in the parking lot of McGill's bar (where Katie was also seen dancing seductively before her late-night murder). He had seen the suspected pedophile having sex with a child prostitute. He said he had put the bloody body in his trunk, and dumped the body behind the bar. At first before confessing, he suspiciously claimed that he got his hand caught in a garbage disposal, using that as his alibi for an injured and bloody hand.

Disbelieving Dave, Markum forced the innocent man to admit that he committed Katie's murder after repeatedly threatening: "Admit what you did, Dave, and I'll let you live." When Dave falsely confessed, Markum knifed him in the stomach, shot him in the head, and dumped his body in the Mystic River - only a few hours before the real killers were identified.

[Note: Dave was killed in the same location where Jimmy had shot and killed "Just Ray" Harris for ratting him out and sending him to jail for two years. And it was revealed that Jimmy Markum was mailing $500 to the Harris family each month, and making it look like it was being sent from the missing "Just Ray."]

Sean reported to Jimmy that the murderers confessed and were in custody. When Sean asked Jimmy to help locate the missing Dave ("When was the last time you saw Dave?), after the body of the pedophile was located and Dave was considered a suspect, Jimmy was stunned.

He lamented to Sean: "Thanks for finding my daughter's killers, Sean. If only you had been a little faster," clueing the detective into realizing that Jimmy had killed Dave. Devine asked about the care of Dave's widow Celeste (Marcia Gay Harden) - the same way that Jimmy was caring for "Just Ray's" family: "Are you gonna send Celeste Boyle $500 a month too?" Devine didn't appear to want to press charges. At the same time, Sean was reconciled with his estranged wife Lauren (Tori Davis) and newborn daughter Nora.

Jimmy admitted his regretful mistake to his wife Annabeth (Laura Linney):

I killed Dave. I killed him, and I threw him in the Mystic. But I killed the wrong man. That's what I've done. And I can't undo it.

She consoled his remorse by speaking about their daughters, and how he had rightfully defended their lives and family, with the right intentions, even though he made a mistake. Annabeth assured Jimmy that even though things might have been different, his decision to kill Dave was the proper and strong one:

...their daddy would do whatever he had to for those he loved. And that is never wrong. That can never be wrong, no matter what their daddy had to do...Their daddy's a king. And a king knows what to do and does it. Even when it's hard. And their daddy will do whatever he has to for those he loves. And that's all that matters. Because everyone is weak, Jimmy. Everyone but us. We will never be weak. And you, you could rule this town.

In the ending sequence, all of the principals were attending the town's parade. When Sean glanced at Jimmy, he mimicked shooting him. Then, there was a superimposed shot of the concrete sidewalk with the three boys' names permanently carved into it and views of the Mystic River and the Tobin Bridge.

Sean Devine (Kevin Bacon)

Jimmy Markum (Sean Penn)

Jimmy's Vague 'Confession' to Sean About Killing Dave

Jimmy's Regretful Remorse Expressed to Consoling Wife Annabeth (Laura Linney)

Celeste Boyle (Marcia Gay Harden)

Lauren (Tori Davis), Nora, and Sean Devine

Annabeth and Jimmy Markum

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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