Great twist endings are hard to come by. Movies that feature huge twists aren’t uncommon, and they can come in basically any genre, horror included. But films that manage to make those twists work are exceedingly rare. That’s why it can be so immensely satisfying to see a movie with a shocking ending that actually makes that ending feel earned.
The endings on this list hit that mark, not just on their own merits, but also because they make the rest of the movie even better. These shocking endings have stood the test of time, whether they’re three years old or 30 years old.
Warning: This list contains spoilers for every movie featured on it.
One of the things that makes a great movie twist is that rewatching the movie only makes the twist more satisfying. In the case of The Sixth Sense, understanding that Bruce Willis is dead the whole time does not make watching the movie any less enjoyable.
Instead, you see all the signs and clues you missed the first time, and come to appreciate the story that much more. The Sixth Sense has plenty worth watching other than the twist, and rewatching the movie will confirm that for you.
It was all a lie. That’s what we learn in the final moments of The Usual Suspect when it’s revealed that the mild-mannered Verbal Kint is actually the crime lord at the center of this whole knotted affair. The revelation comes after Kint has already been released from police custody, and we already know that he’s a ghost: They’ll never catch him.
On top of that, we also have to wonder whether anything about the movie we’ve been watching is actually true within its fictional world.
The mind games that occupy most of Saw‘s running time are brutal enough, but the final moments of Saw are what turned it into the franchise it ultimately became.
In its final moments, we learn that the corpse between the two men trapped together in a bathroom is the actual jigsaw killer, and he’s been faking his own death to watch the two men struggle against his puzzles. It’s a final moment of triumph for the killer, who manages to win a total victory over the central characters we’ve been following all movie long.
Psycho is terrifying long before its final twist, but the movie’s final moments give entirely new meaning to the movie’s name. The film reveals at the end of its run that the old woman who has been murdering everyone in sight all movie long is actually Norman Bates.
His mother died years ago, and Norman has started pretending to be her and acting out the aggression she often showed toward young women. The movie’s decision to explain Norman’s pathology isn’t universally beloved, but the twist itself still holds up more than 60 years later.
Fincher’s Fight Club delivers one of the all-time great movie twists as we discover that Tyler Durden and the narrator are one and the same. This revelation forces you to reevaluate everything you’ve already seen, but it also makes sense.
The film’s narrator is so deeply alienated from the world and himself that he built up a new character who would be willing to do things that he never would. It’s both surprising and inevitable, and that’s what makes it a classic twist.
While it’s not a movie that might immediately spring to mind when you think of shocking endings, Atonement‘s final moments may nonetheless leave you trying to pick your jaw up off the floor. As it turns out, the happy ending we get for the film’s two central characters is a pure fiction.
Briony, the young woman who ruined their lives by leveling a false accusation, wrote them a happier ending in order to atone for the one they never actually got. The young lovers at the movie’s center both died in the war, and there was nothing more to it than that. A tragedy, but one so common amid the tumult of war.
The reveal at the end of Us is just the icing on top of an already great cake. In the movie’s final moments, we learn that Red and Adelaide switched spots when they were just children. That’s why Adelaide didn’t talk when she returned: She never had before.
It’s the kind of revelation that forces us to reevaluate everything we’ve already seen. Us is a story about privilege, and what we eventually realize is that the movie’s events only occur because the real Adelaide knows what a better life looks like, and had it stolen from her.
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