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

Wild Things (1998)

Ray Murdered Kelly; Sam Tried to Double-Cross and Kill Ray By Causing Him to Fall Overboard From His Sailboat, But Ray Was Ultimately Killed By Two Shots From Suzie (Who Had Faked Her Death) With a Spear Gun; Suzie Also Poisoned Sam; By Film's End, Mastermind Suzie Walked Away With a Suitcase Filled With Cash

This erotic crime thriller by director John McNaughton had many twists and turns - and many schemers. Greed, betrayal, and seductive manipulation were the film's main themes, exemplified by the tagline:

They can turn you on or turn on you.

The opening was about a rape case involving three of the cast's characters:

  • Sam Lombardo (Matt Dillon), Miami area high school guidance counselor
  • Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards), sexy student
  • Suzie Toller (Neve Campbell), goth trailer inhabitant

In the trial, Lombardo was defended by free-lance lawyer Kenneth Bowden (Bill Murray). Lombardo was acquitted since it was revealed that the accusations by the two females (both accomplices) that Sam raped Kelly and also raped Suzie, had been fabricated, in order to secure a huge money settlement ($8.5 million) extorted from Kelly's wealthy mother Sandra (Theresa Russell), also Sam's former lover.

The three schemers were in cahoots all the time -- and they celebrated with a drunken threesome after their success. Suspicious of the case was a fourth character, who continued to pursue the trio:

  • Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon), a duplicitous police sergeant

By film's end, suspicion and distrust led to a number of betrayals, double-crossing murders and unexpected events:

  • Sam bludgeoned Suzie with a wine bottle (off-screen) on a beach, but her death was faked (shown later, pliers were used to remove her own teeth to be left as evidence); her death was subsequently blamed on Kelly
  • Instead of framing Kelly, Ray murdered Kelly, then argued that he killed her in self-defense (shown later, he shot her with two rounds and inflicted a shoulder wound on himself with a third shot)
  • Ray was secretly collaborating with Sam Lombardo
  • On Sam's sailboat, Ray was deliberately thrown overboard when Sam jerked the steering, but Ray was ultimately finished off by Suzie (now with blonde hair) with two shots from a spear gun - he was propelled backwards into the water where he drowned; she later explained her actions as revenge for Ray killing Kelly and Suzie's boyfriend Davie years earlier in the Everglades
  • Suzie, a double-crosser, poisoned Sam with a doctored drink and the boom knocked him overboard

Suzie was revealed as the plot's mastermind with a high IQ ("that girl could do just about anything she put her mind to"). The film concluded in a beach scene when Sam's unscrupulous lawyer Kenneth Bowden handed Suzie the payoff - a case loaded with cash:

Cash is just walkin'-around money. The check is the balance of the numbered account minus the million we set aside for Ruby and Walter, less my usual fee. Case closed. (She kissed him, then strolled off with the briefcase) Suzie, be good.

"Be good"

The end credits showed off-screen sequences that hadn't been shown in the film to further explain the plot.

Kelly Van Ryan (Denise Richards)

The Schemers

Suzie's (Neve Campbell) Faked Death

Ray Duquette (Kevin Bacon)

Kelly Murdered by Ray

Ray Collaborating with Sam (Matt Dillon)

Suzie With Spear Gun

Sam's Doctored Drink

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

As a Surprise 'Witness For the Prosecution,' Christine Helm/Vole Lied During Her Testimony On the Stand - A Deliberate Ploy to Discredit Herself and to Find Her Guilty Husband Leonard Not-Guilty; Then, She Shockingly Killed Him in the Courtroom When He Actually Admitted His Infidelity and Guilt

The studio's publicity campaign requested that viewers not reveal the stunning plot twist in this film, although it was one of Agatha Christie's most famous, well-known short stories/plays (first published as a four-character short story in 1933). A voice-over narrator at the end of the film stated:

"The management of this theatre suggests that for the greater entertainment of your friends who have not yet seen the picture, you will not divulge to anyone the secret of the ending of Witness For the Prosecution."

[There was a TV remake in 1982 with Ralph Richardson and Deborah Kerr.]

The setting was Britain in 1952, in this convoluted courtroom drama. Crafty, cynical, weak-hearted barrister/attorney Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton) accepted a challenging case to take on the criminal defense of:

  • Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power), an American war veteran; a poor, unemployed and struggling inventor, seemingly-guileless

It was something not recommended by his doctors who wanted him to only take "bland civil suits." The defendant Vole was accused of murdering a 56 year-old lonely, and wealthy widowed acquaintance, Emily Jane French (Norma Varden), in order to inherit her property (80,000 pounds) as her will's beneficiary (in the recently-changed document a week before her death) - there was only circumstantial evidence implicating him in the crime.

Vole attempted to use his only alibi -- his enigmatic, glamorous wife/lover Christine Helm/Vole (Marlene Dietrich), an ex-German beer hall performer in Hamburg (whom he had married after WWII), to defend him. She would claim that she was home with him when Mrs. French was murdered. However, she could not, as the defendant's wife, be considered a very credible witness (as the "wife of the prisoner").

Witness for Prosecution Against Her Husband
Leonard: "It's not true. You know it's not true!"

When called to the stand by the prosecution as a "surprise witness", Christine said that she could provide evidence against her 'husband' Leonard Vole. She vowed: "I cannot go on lying to save him":

  • Christine was able to testify against Leonard, because he wasn't actually her legal husband - she was in fact still married to a German man named Otto Ludwig Helm in 1942 when she married Leonard
  • Christine claimed that she was forced by Leonard to provide a false alibi about his whereabouts and the timing of his return (she claimed he had actually returned at 10:10 pm, although Leonard had pressured her to say that he had returned at 9:25 pm)
  • Leonard had returned home with blood on his cuffs because he said that he had cut his wrist, but he also admitted: "I killed her" -- "It was that woman he had been seeing so often"

However, she was not even a credible witness for the prosecution. When she was on the stand, Robarts accused her of committing perjury for much of her life:

"The question is, Frau Helm, were you lying then, are you lying now? Or are you not, in fact, a chronic and habitual liar?"

Soon after, the barrister Sir Wilfrid was called to meet a mysterious Cockney woman who offered to supply him with evidence against "that German wife." The woman on the phone said to meet him at a train station in 30 minutes: "If you want the lowdown on that German bag, get yourself here." When they met, the heavily-accented woman offered Sir Wilfrid love letters that Christine had written to a mysterious lover named Max (so she could get rid of Leonard and be with him). The letters would suggest that Christine was actually having an affair and was an unreliable witness. She then proposed: "Wanna kiss me, duckie?" - and raised her hairline, to show disfiguring scars on the right side of her face, deep cuts inflicted by Christine's new lover/boyfriend who turned against her, when Christine stole him away. Now, she was getting her revenge ("Cold-blooded vindictiveness") by turning over the letters.

When the trial resumed, Sir Wilfrid called Christine to the stand and confronted her with the letters recently written to Max (with evidence she was on "intimate terms"), to prove that she had lied. One of the damning letters was read outloud for the jury by Sir Wilfrid:

"My beloved Max, an extraordinary thing has happened. All our difficulties may soon be solved. Leonard is suspected of murdering the old lady I told you about. His only hope of an alibi depends on me and me alone. Suppose I testify he was not at home with me at the time of the murder, he came home with blood on his sleeves, and that he even admitted to me that he'd killed her? Strange isn't it - he always said that he would never let me leave him. But now, if this succeeds, he will be leaving me because they will take him away forever and I shall be free and yours, my beloved. I count the hours until we are together. Christine."

She broke down on the stand and admitted: "I wrote the letter." Therefore, she had lied in earlier testimony. Having proven Christine to be a liar and unreliable witness, Leonard was declared 'not guilty' by the jury.

After the case was closed, Christine revealed her strategy. She explained that the only way to absolutely guarantee her husband's acquittal and get her guilty husband off the hook was to become a "witness for the prosecution":

Remember when I came to see you, and you said that no jury would believe an alibi given by a loving wife, no matter how much she swore her husband was innocent? That gave me the idea...The idea that I should be a witness, not for my husband, but for the prosecution. That I should swear Leonard was guilty and that you should expose me as a vicious liar because only then would they believe Leonard was innocent.

Then came the film's plot twist -- she revealed that she had masqueraded as the Cockney woman by repeating her accent to Sir Wilfrid: "Wanna kiss me, duckie?" Christine said that she was disguised as the Cockney woman who devised the ploy of love letters to get Vole acquitted. She explained to him that her all of her fraudulent letters and lies about Max (who didn't exist) were the only way to have the jury believe that Leonard was innocent.

But then, in the shocking ending set in the courtroom, a second, ultimate twisting revelation was that acquitted American Leonard Vole was actually guilty of Emily French's murder. The defendant, who entered and hugged Christine, was gloating about his solid verdict to Sir Wilfrid: "You got me off and I can't be tried again for this." Obviously, Leonard had indeed murdered the elderly wealthy woman - the suspected charge that was made against him from the start.

With his newfound inheritance, Leonard said he would take care of everyone (including paying for Christine's perjury defense) - and then he admitted another major double-cross:

  • Leonard had been unfaithful and was philandering with Diana (Ruta Lee) - and she arrived in the courtroom to run away with him ("I'm his girl!") on a cruise

Flabbergasted and shocked, Christine cried out: "Don't, Leonard! Don't leave me!" And then, in furious anger, Christine stabbed Leonard to death.

This climactic murder was followed by Sir Wilfrid's classic line when he corrected his nurse Miss Plimsoll (Elsa Lancester) about the killing:

"Killed him? She executed him."

Sir Wilfrid would now serve as Christine's defense lawyer.

Sir Wilfrid Robarts (Charles Laughton)

Christine Helm/Vole (Marlene Dietrich)

Leonard Vole (Tyrone Power): Charged With Murder

Phone Call from Cockney Woman to Sir Wilfrid From Train Station

New Evidence: Christine's Love Letters

"Wanna kiss me, duckie?"

Christine Recalled to the Stand - To Be Proven a Liar

Sir Wilfrid Reading Christine's Love Letter

Leonard's Relief at 'Not Guilty' Verdict

2nd Time: "Wanna kiss me, duckie?"

Diana (Ruta Lee) and Leonard

Leonard Stabbed to Death

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Dorothy's Adventures in Oz Land Were All a Dream, Caused By A Concussion (and Unconsciousness) During the Tornado

In this classic film's ending, it was discovered that Kansas teenager Dorothy Gale's (Judy Garland) adventures in the Wonderful Land of Oz were only imagined in a fanciful dream, after she had suffered a concussion during a Kansas tornado-twister.

In Oz-land before she clicked her ruby slippers together to return home, it was revealed that the Wizard (Frank Morgan) was fraudulent.

Her three friends already possessed the qualities they were hoping for: intellect, courage, and a heart:

  • Scarecrow (Ray Bolger)
  • Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr)
  • Woodsman (Jack Haley)

[The three fanciful characters were mirrors of her Kansas farmhands, Hunk (Bolger), Zeke (Lahr), and Hickory (Haley), and the Wizard character was the same as huckster Professor Marvel (Morgan).]

Dorothy insisted to her family and friends that her journey was real and not just a "bad dream":

It was a place, and you [Hunk] and you [Hickory] and you [Zeke] and you [Professor Marvel] were there. (Everyone laughs) But you couldn't have been, could you?

She was reassured at her bedside while surrounded by the anxious faces of her three familiar farmhands, and relatives. Dorothy was very grateful to be back in her own home:

There's no place like home.

The Woman in the Window (1944)

A Cop-Out Plot Twist -- Everything in the Film Was the Professor's Nightmarish Dream, Reflecting His Opening Conversation About Middle-Age With His Stodgy Social Club Friends

Director Fritz Lang's dark noir masterpiece originally was to end with a suicide, but this conclusion was substituted with one more suited for the Production Code at the time. It was not a coincidence that Fritz Lang made another similarly-plotted film noir with the same three stars, Robinson, Duryea and Bennett, titled Scarlet Street (1945) a year later - his follow-up film. The film's tagline was detailed:

A too-beautiful woman, a too-carefree man - and an evening of gay flirtation shifting madly into a panic of guilt and fear and crimson MURDER...That's excitement for you.

Soon to become enamoured by the requisite femme fatale was the film's main character:

  • Professor Richard Wanley (Edward G. Robinson), a mild-mannered, law-abiding, middle-aged and married criminal psychology (Assistant Professor) at Gotham College

While his family was away on vacation, he risked his future after meeting up with the femme fatale, when she emerged as a reflection next to a painting in an art gallery window:

  • Alice Reed (Joan Bennett), a beautiful but strange painting model

Invited back to her mirrored apartment where she was wearing a diaphanous dress, they sipped champagne and talked. Then, at 1 am, a taxi pulled up, and Alice's hot-tempered and jealous boyfriend "Frank Howard" (Arthur Loft) abruptly arrived. (Later, he was revealed to be a wealthy and prominent Wall Street financier/businessman of World Enterprises Inc. named Claude Mazard.) He immediately slapped Alice after accusing her of infidelity - and had misinterpreted Wanley's presence. He fist-punched the Professor and began choking him on the sofa. With a pair of scissors handed to him by Alice, Wanley stabbed "Howard" to death in the back.

The conservative Professor had become embroiled in a crime due to his unintentional self-defense murder of an assailant. Wanley suddenly found himself on the run when he and Alice decided to avoid contacting the police, and instead opted to put the body in his car's back seat (rolled into a blanket) and dump it far away in the country. During the cover-up, Wanley left a trail of clues (muddy tire tracks) and other witness sightings (the garage attendant, a policeman, Alice's upstairs neighbor, a toll booth collector, etc.). Alice planned to thoroughly clean her apartment, and discard the dead man's personal belongings (with a CM pendant) into the river the next day.

The headlines from the New York paper read: "MAZARD MURDERED: Body Discovered by Boy Scout in Suburban Woods." There were tense scenes when Wanley listened as his friend District Attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey) took the case and began to discuss his findings - and Wanley became increasingly-desperate, paranoid, and tense during a visit to the crime scene with Lalor. He worried that there was evidence of a scratch on his hand from barbed wire and a case of poison ivy acquired while he was dumping the corpse in the woods.

Alice (and Wanley) were soon marked as the killers and blackmailed by Mazard's sleazy bodyguard Heidt (Dan Duryea), nicknamed "Pappy," a wanted ex-cop and "known crook with a blackmailing record." Alice's attempt to be friends with Heidt and poison him failed. Realizing that he had been double-crossed, Heidt proposed an even heftier blackmail sum from Alice. However, as he left Alice's apartment, Heidt was shot to death in a gun battle with police (he was assumed to be the financier's murderer after the "CM" pendant and a large wad of Mazard's cash was found in his pocket - that he had just absconded from Alice). However, Wanley felt that he had come to the end of his rope - and was preparing to commit suicide with a drug overdose in his easy chair in his home.

However, in the comic (cop-out and fizzling) ending, now set in Wanley's men's social club, Wanley awoke to find that the entire plot had been a dream of his subconscious! And the hat-check attendant Charlie (Arthur Loft) at the club was none other than "Howard"/Mazard! Wanley exclaimed: "I can't tell you how happy I am to see you alive and in such good health." And Tim, the doorman was Heidt (Dan Duryea)!

Characters in Wanley's Dream at the Social Club
Charlie: Hat-Check Attendant
Tim: Doorman

The film's ending was the direct result of a discussion Wanley had in the film's opening with his two close club friends, Frank Lalor and Dr. Michael Barkstane (Edmund Breon) about the opportunities of 'bachelorhood' freedom (with his wife and children away), but also the dangers of amorous temptation for stodgy middle-aged elderly men who quit acting their age and ended up tragically:

Wanley:To me, it's the end of the brightness of life, the end of spirit and adventure.
Lalor: Don't talk like that. Men of our years have no business playing around with any adventure that they can avoid. We're like athletes who are out of condition. We can't handle that sort of thing anymore.
Wanley: Life ends at 40, hmm?
Lalor: In the district attorney's office, we see what happens to middle-aged men who try to act like colts. And I'm not joking when I tell you that I've seen genuine, actual tragedy issuing directly out of pure carelessness, out of the merest trifles. Casual impulse, an idle flirtation, one drink too many.

As his friends departed, Wanley surmised about what he would do if tempted by adventure -- forecasting his behavior at the very end of the film:

You know, even if the spirit of adventure should rise up before me and beckon, even in the form of that alluring young woman in the window next door, I'm afraid that all I'll do is clutch my coat a little tighter, mutter something idiotic, and run like the devil.

In the actual ending, when a woman came up to Wanley in front of the painting and innocently asked: "Pardon me, uh, will you give me a light?", he steadfastly refused and hurriedly fled: "No, oh, no. Thank you, indeed. Not for a million dollars!" The film ended on a close-up of the painting.

Femme Fatale Alice Reed (Joan Bennett)

The Stabbing of "Frank Howard" -- Claude Mazard (Arthur Loft)

Alice and Wanley

"Mazard Murdered"

District Attorney Frank Lalor (Raymond Massey)

Heidt (Dan Duryea)

Alice Trying to Ingratiate Herself With Heidt

Incriminating Evidence

Wanley Preparing to Commit Suicide

A Dream?

"Will you give me a light?"

The World is Not Enough (1999)

Femme Fatale and Evil Bond Girl Elektra, Who Had Killed Her Own Father, Was Collaborating With Terrorist Renard's Activities (She Earlier Suffered From Stockholm Syndrome); Bond Regretfully Killed Her and Thwarted Renard's Plans Before Killing Him Too

The 19th installment of the official James Bond films featured a 'Bond Girl' that was a female - the first instance in a Bond film in which the major villain was a female:

  • Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), a beautiful oil heiress

She was first seen at the Scottish funeral of her billionaire industrial father Sir Robert King (David Calder), an oil baron who had recently been murdered. He was killed by a massive blast activated by the radio-transmitter in his lapel-pin (someone on the "inside" had switched it with the original). Sympathy was aroused for the pretty daughter.

In her past, heiress daughter Elektra (with a "wild-child image") had previously been kidnapped and held for ransom for $5 million dollars, but M (Judi Dench), James Bond's (Pierce Brosnan) boss, had advised not to negotiate with the terrorist, Victor Zokas - aka Renard (Robert Carlyle), and pay the ransom. She escaped from her captors, but as the film progressed, it appeared that Renard, a treacherous, international terrorist and anarchist, hadn't quite had full revenge in the King incident, and was still targeting Elektra.

Bond was assigned to be Elektra's protective bodyguard after her father's assassination (to protect her from any further harm), and to find out who had switched the lapel-pin. However, she denied wanting Bond's help. In the course of his mission, he fell in love with Elektra, who had taken over her father's oil pipeline business. She explained her objective to the agent - to take over her father's work and build an 800-mile pipeline from the Caspian Sea through Turkey, past the terrorists in Iraq, Iran and Syria. In a northern area, the Russians already had three competing pipelines.

Although it seemed that Elektra's oil pipeline was being sabotaged, it covered up the fact of her collaboration with Renard to steal plutonium, set off a catastrophic meltdown in Istanbul, Turkey, and provide her with a monopoly on oil transport in the region by putting her competitors out of business. Bond was the first to suspect Elektra's involvement with Renard.

Bond diagnosed Elektra as suffering from Stockholm syndrome -- common in kidnappings. She had been a:

"young, impressionable victim. Sheltered. Sexually inexperienced. A powerful kidnapper skilled in torture, manipulation. Something snaps in the victim's mind. The captive falls in love with her captor."

He cautioned M: "Perhaps that girl isn't as innocent as you think." He thought that she might have switched her father's lapel pin to kill him. M was incredulous: "She kills her own father and attacks her own pipeline?"

The twist was revealed when Elektra presented M with a "gift" - repayment for how M had compassionately advised her father on "the best course of action" when she had been kidnapped - it was her father's original lapel pin. She had mercilessly killed her own father: "I just couldn't let it explode with the rest of him." Elektra remained spiteful over her abandonment by M, who she then seized and held as hostage: "Your people will leave you here to rot, just like you left me. You and my father." She believed she was the rightful owner of her father's oil empire, and was revealed as the sociopathic villain who was orchestrating events with her lover, Renard.

In a final confrontation with Bond, Elektra tortured the agent (and kissed him simultaneously). She uncovered an ancient Spanish torture device - a bench-chair with a neck-breaking garrotte, to hold Bond, and she taunted him as she continued to tighten the screw-bolt of the neck garrotte. She argued that her father had killed her ("He killed me the day he refused to pay my ransom"). She exclaimed: "It is my oil. Mine, and my family's! It runs in my veins, thicker than blood. I'm going to redraw the map. And when I'm through, the whole world will know my name, my grandfather's name, the glory of my people!" She was deluded and assured of her own success: "You understand? Nobody can resist me."

But then Bond escaped, freed M, and challenged her to radio Renard and "call him off" - to stop the nuclear launch. Bond was persistent: "I won't ask again." She looked seductively at Bond, hoping to change his mind. She taunted and doubted that he would kill her: "You wouldn't kill me. You'd miss me." When she refused to comply, he cold-bloodedly shot her, then quipped: "I never miss." He leaned over her body lying on her bed - he touched her hair, momentarily sorry for the loss. [Note: Elektra was the first 'Bond Girl' in the series that Bond personally killed.]

In the conclusion, Bond and his rescued partner, nuclear physicist Dr. Christmas Jones (Denise Richards) confronted Renard in the submarine where he was preparing to load the plutonium rod into the reactor. Bond manipulated a pressure hose to cause the reactor to backfire (Bond taunted that Elektra was already dead: "She's waiting for you"). The rod was ejected at high-speed, impaling straight into Renard's chest, and killing him. Bond and Jones escaped from the sub before its reactor harmlessly detonated underwater.

Elektra King (Sophie Marceau)


Falling in Love

Bond Tortured

"Call Him Off"

"You wouldn't kill me. You'd miss me."

Bond After Killing Elektra

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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