8 of the Most Predictable Movies of All Time
Sometimes there are movies where you can see the the plot twists coming a mile away. In some cases the other aspects of the film, whether it be the dialogue, the acting, or the cinematography, make it an enjoyable or quality movie to watch even though you know exactly what’s going to happen. In other cases, knowing exactly how the movie is going to turn out makes the film nearly insufferable to get through as the filmmakers bring out one predictable plot point after another. The following eight films come from a variety of genres and they certainly aren’t all bad, but it’s pretty easy to tell what’s going to happen right away. [Needless to say, there are plenty of spoilers ahead in this article.]
This Angelina Jolie-starring thriller used its promotion to raise the question “Who Is Salt?”. So you know pretty much right away that she probably wasn’t the American CIA operative being held captive and tortured in North Korea she seems to be after her boyfriend raises enough publicity to force the Agency to arrange a prisoner exchange even though it’s against their policy right at the beginning of the movie. Later on in an interrogation gone wrong, a Russian defector reveals the plan of the Russian government to use sleeper agents in America to kill the Russian President and tells them that the name of the agent who will perform the murder is Evelyn Salt.
After she’s revealed to be Russian spy, Salt does some insane stunts (many of which Jolie performed herself) and manages to escape the other CIA agents and hook up with her Russian compatriots. All of this happens early on in the movie, so unless the remainder is going to be filled with conclusion then Salt has to flip back to reveal her real sympathies lie with the U.S. The action in the movie is impressive, but given that the Cold War ended a long time ago Russia isn’t all that threatening of a villain to choose and Salt’s ‘reveal’ as a Russian KA agent has to be complicated in some way given how early it happens in the movie. Having her really be loyal to the U.S. is the most predictable plot twist that could’ve been thrown in.
2. Grizzly Man
This documentary about a man who dropped out of society and took to the Alaskan forest to commune with grizzly bears has a pretty predictable ending, especially for those cynics among us. Bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell became nationally known for his 13-year career working with wild grizzlies and raising awareness about the importance of conservation. He filmed himself interacting with the animals and believed that the bears came to trust him. Then in 2003 he and his girlfriend were eaten by one.
Werner Herzog’s award-winning 2005 documentary combines Treadwell’s footage with interviews with the people who knew him and experts on wild grizzly bears. But it still has a pretty predictable end. Herzog explains in the film how Treadwell took too many risks in dealing with the bears that resulted in the deaths of him and his girlfriend, including holding a romanticized view of nature and camping in bear territory into autumn when the bears behave more aggressively as they seek to feed and build up calories for the winter. Herzog doesn’t show the deaths, which were captured on the audio of Treadwell’s camera, but filmed himself listening to the tapes, clearly very disturbed. Treadwell’s close friend who owns the video archives has locked the audio tapes in a bank vault separated from all the other footage.
The historical context of this movie obviously makes the ending predictable, as well as the love story between the members of two different social classes. Making a movie about a historical event like the sinking of the Titanic is a different narrative challenge for a filmmaker since the audience knows what is going to happen from the beginning of the film. Obviously James Cameron’s 1997 high-grossing Oscar-winning Titanic has a predictable ending, but the fictional love story is what’s supposed to build the tension in the film. Still, we know that Jack and Rose are going to end up falling in love, shoving in it the face of her jerk fiancee, and that their quick but earth-shattering romance is going to end with Jack dying while saving Rose from the icy waters in which the ship sinks.
Despite the predictability of that storyline, the movie was the highest-grossing of all time when it came out, becoming the first movie to make $1 billion at the box office, and won eleven Academy Awards, the first movie since 1959’s Ben Hur to do so. Audiences were swept up by the love story, which employs almost timeless fairytale-esque elements that are and have been widely appealing for ages, and critics were impressed with the audacity of Cameron’s special effects, the film’s grandiosity, and the performances from leads Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. This is an example of a movie that is good even though you know what is going to happen every step of the way.
This live-action revisionist take on the story behind Sleeping Beauty focuses on the evil queen in the original story and why she decided to curse the innocent princess when she was just a baby. Angelina Jolie dons an awesome gothic costume to play the witchy sprite Maleficent, who was deeply wronged by the king of the kingdom in which she lives after a brief romance. She decides to get revenge on him by cursing his daughter, but when the princess grows into her own adolescence and begins hanging around Maleficent’s neck of the woods rather than at the castle with her cold-hearted father she slowly begins to win Maleficent’s heart and the powerful sorceress realizes what a mistake she’s made.
It’s really obvious the feminist angle the movie is going for throughout the film, which isn’t a bad thing at all and actually makes it a positive alternative or complement to other Disney classics for young children. But when the big moment comes for the princess’s teenage crush to kiss her and awake her from her slumber, you know before his lips even touch her that it’s not going to work. That kiss isn’t even close to the true love required to break the spell. When Maleficent does it, the kiss works because of the mother-daughter bond between the two woman, challenging the conventional heteronormative idea of “true love” that has constantly been presented in Disney films.
5. When Harry Met Sally
This 1989 romantic comedy written by the first lady of the rom-com genre Nora Ephron was hugely influential on the romantic comedies that followed. The genre is inherently predictable, so the fact that you know Harry and Sally are going to end up together happily ever after isn’t too surprising. It still makes listening to their arguments over whether or not men and women can be “just friends” a bit annoying, especially since Sally has a good and liberating point that gets proven wrong by the film when the two of them are made to end up together romantically. The high point of the movie is the dialogue, how Ephron writes the characters and uses them to explore the differing ways men and women view relationships.
Harry and Sally are two acquaintances living in New York City who have various chance encounters over several years before becoming friends. During the course of their friendship they have failed relationships with other people and talk a lot about love and sex, before predictably realizing that the right person for them was right in front of them all the time. Few rom-coms have been able to match the high bar Nora Ephron set with the films she wrote, which were entertaining and enjoyable despite working in a conceit in which the audience knows the main characters are going to end up happily in love at the end. When Harry Met Sally is so well-written that it is on multiple lists of the funniest films of all time and has some of the most memorable lines in movie history.
Was there any chance Liam Neeson wasn’t going to be able to save his daughter from white slavery? Neeson was a total badass in this movie, which has been responsible for making people afraid of Europe and Hollywood willing to cast old men as action heroes — now a genre called geri-action movies. According to the theory, these older actors have more personality established over the course of their long careers and so audiences are willing to suspend some disbelief in terms of their physical ability in order to watch them for their charisma.
Taken was supposed to be a French movie made on a medium budget that Neeson didn’t expect to do very well, but it went on to gross over $226 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo. Despite the predictable plot and the lukewarm reviews, people showed up in droves to see Liam Neeson kick ass all over Europe. His character faces impossible odds to get his daughter back from Albanian human traffickers who have captured her to sell her into sex slavery. He has to accomplish the task within four days from her kidnapping, which is the amount of time he’s told he has before she will never be seen again. You know the entire time he’s going to be able to do it, but that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining to watch him.
7. The Others
The Others won lots of awards, but its central plot twist is still considered by many to be highly predictable. The film stars Nicole Kidman as a devout Roman Catholic mother of a brood of kids that suffers from a weird disease which necessitates they avoid sunlight as much as possible. After she hires some servants to help her with the children, as she has health problems herself, strange things start happening and she begins to believe they aren’t alone in the creepy mansion where they live.
The film received good reviews for creating a creepy atmosphere and Kidman’s performance is convincing, but the movie’s twist that the whole family are actually ghosts themselves was pretty predictable. After all, they’re super pale, they act really weird and as if they’re from a different time, and there are repeated references to the worlds of the living and the dead being mixed together.
8. The Notebook
This 2004 romantic drama has gained a huge cult following in the wake of its release as one of the most over-the-top romantic movies of all time. Based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, the movie tells the story of the lifelong romance between a southern heiress named Allie and the country boy named Noah she falls in love with. Various obstacles including social status and World War II try in vain to keep them apart, but of course their love is strong enough to overcome such things.
Their story is old by an elderly man to an elderly woman in a nursing home. It’s one of those movies you either love or you hate, but it’s hard to deny that it’s not really surprising that the elderly couple in the nursing home reading the epic story of Noah and Allie are in fact Noah and Allie. It would be kind of a weird conceit to include them at all if they weren’t really the central characters in the narrative “Duke” (Noah) is telling. It turns out Allie has Alzheimer’s and when she began to lose her memory she asked Noah to write down the story of their lives so he could read it to her when she began forgetting who he was. Some people have a sweet tooth for a movie this saccharine, others feel like they’re going to hurl after fifteen minutes’ worth of that much sugar, but there’s no denying it’s completely predictable.
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