15 Movies With the Worst Twist Endings
The art of the twist ending is a difficult one. It can be a brilliant bait-and-switch that deepens the story, or it can be a nonsensical turn of events that cheapens everything that came before.
Psycho and The Sixth Sense did it right, but for every successful twist, there are about a dozen pale imitations trying to blow everyone’s mind without putting any actual thought into the whole thing. Here are the worst twist endings we’ve ever seen in movies. Spoilers ahead, obviously.
15. Now You See Me
The Jesse Eisenberg-helmed mystery caper was a hit in theaters. Alongside big name costars like Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, and Morgan Freeman, audiences saw Eisenberg lead a team of skilled magicians on a heist with such ease that it seemed nothing could go wrong.
Of course, many things did go amiss for the group, and the end revealed this fact … plus a lot more. The last several minutes of the film saw everything unravel before the group’s eyes, and left viewers wondering what the heck they just witnessed. Like the tagline, “Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see,” the movie ends up using a lot of words to say very little.
14. Wild Things
At the height of their ‘90s popularity, actresses Neve Campbell and Denise Richards appeared in this erotic thriller alongside Kevin Bacon and Matt Dillon. With that many Hollywood heartthrobs in one film, it’s no wonder Wild Things is best remembered for its sex scenes.
But in a close second place are the constant twists and turns the movie provides. The blame is shifted constantly, with each central character taking the heat in turn. The end result is that the poor, down-on-her-luck girl was the bad guy all along, but despite her IQ, it seems unlikely that she was able to keep so many different moving parts in play.
Like all films adapted from books, changes were made when it came to Savages. But Oliver Stone’s big-screen version completely pulled the rug out from under viewers, especially those who were familiar with the novel. After a traumatic finale featuring murder and suicide, as was depicted in the book, the film “rewinds,” and shows us a much happier ending for the lead trio.
In a tale of kidnapping, drug cartels, and violence, the most shocking twist of all is a conclusion that isn’t bloody at all. Even if you’re an “all’s well that end’s well” kind of person, it still feels cheap the way that Stone chose to use both endings.
12. The Others
Horror is likely the most common genre to feature huge twists in the final act. One of the most notable in modern cinema is The Sixth Sense, which put writer-director M. Night Shyamalan on the map as someone you can always count on for a surprise ending.
So when The Others was released, the film’s twist ending didn’t make quite as big of an impact, arriving two years after the aforementioned thriller. There was plenty of suspense, and the story was told well and acted beautifully by Nicole Kidman, but ultimately, the end was predictable, and a bit lame.
11. Boxing Helena
It’s not hard to see why this film did poorly, ending aside. Starring Julian Sands as an insane doctor who becomes obsessed with a woman, the movie follows him as he uses his surgical skills to amputate her limbs so that she is forced to stay with him.
The film faced much controversy, from legal battles with Madonna and Kim Basinger (both of whom were attached to the lead role at one point) to an appeal for an R-rating (it was originally given an NC-17 denotation from the MPAA).
In the end, it turns out that the whole thing was a dream, and the doctor imagined all of it, leading viewers left with the thought that they need some serious therapy.
This psychological horror film takes a common trope, the evil child, and then uses it to trick the audience. The premise of Orphan is fairly simple: A couple adopts a young girl, everything starts to go wrong, and she’s to blame.
If you’ve seen the film, you know the twist: Esther, the orphan, is actually an adult woman. She just has the appearance of a child due to a genetic condition. While some found this to be a surprising conclusion, others just saw it as a cop-out. Still others felt that the whole film shed a negative light on adoption.
9. The Number 23
Poor Jim Carrey. He’s beloved as a zany comedian, but his serious turns are hit or miss. In The Number 23, he becomes obsessed with — you guessed it — that very specific numeral, seeing it everywhere he goes. He falls into insanity, delving deeper and deeper into a complex web of loose connections.
So, what’s the big reveal? The book that he found, the one that fostered his affixation, was written by him. That’s right, the good old amnesia plot. When you look back on this twist, you’ll feel like you wasted an hour and a half of your life trying to solve the mystery.
8. Safe Haven
Love stories aren’t the usual breeding ground for dramatic twists and turns, but the film adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven has a unique angle. Of course, when you actually discover the surprise at the end, it doesn’t really have much of a punch to it.
The premise is fairly simple: A woman moves to a new town, starts a relationship, and makes a friend. There’s a domestic abuse plot that moves the story forward, but in the end, it turns out that the couple at the center of it all was drawn together by the ghost of his deceased wife. Too much filler, not enough thriller.
7. The Happening
Mister big-thriller-twist himself, M. Night Shyamalan, has had hits and misses in his very specific chosen genre. But there are only so many ways in which one can plan to shock audiences. Especially when so many of the best ideas can be seen a mile away.
So, Shyamalan went with a very strange premise: This time, the reveal was that the big bad was actually … nature. Yup, that’s right. Plants were behind all of the “terrorist attacks” on humans, making us pay for how poorly we’ve treated them in the past. While the message is a sound one, it didn’t exactly work in a horror setting.
6. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan’s underwhelming, too-long follow-up to The Dark Knight made quite a few mistakes, but perhaps its biggest error was inexplicably turning Bane into a henchman. Yes, we found out along with Christian Bale’s Batman that the masked villain was nothing but a devoted lapdog to Marion Cotillard’s Tate, revealed to be the daughter of late villain Ra’s al Ghul.
It makes little sense, and it completely removes any agency from Bane and his actions, which drove the film up until this point. While he’s made plenty of commentary about modern society and the way we live, who cares? He was just doing it for the girl.
It was easy to get wrapped up in the moralistic mind games and torture porn of the first Saw film — so much so that we allowed six (!) sequels in the subsequent years. The first and best of the gory franchise revolves around a pair of men chained in a boiler room with a dead body on the floor. They’re forced to either let their families die at the hands of their maniacal captor or kill each other and saw off a foot to escape and save them.
The big reveal here is that the killer — wait for it — has been the dead body the whole time! He was just pretending to be dead — and not breathing, making any noise, or eating. Don’t think about it too much.
Though the twist in Shyamalan’s film, The Village, is often derided, we find the one in the more well-liked Signs to be far more egregious. The alien invasion film is desperate to drive home its theme that everyone is connected. They do this by having Mel Gibson’s retired priest recall his dying wife’s last words to tell his ex-baseball player brother to swing a bat at the aliens, thus knocking over one of the glasses of water Gibson’s daughter has been inexplicably leaving around the house the entire movie. The water is poison to the aliens, so they’re easily defeated.
There are about two dozen things wrong with this. Why would hydrophobic aliens invade a planet that’s 75% water? Why is the idea of attacking an intruder with a blunt object (a bat, in this case) such a revelation? And why did Gibson’s wife have to die so that he might suggest swinging a bat? Everything may be connected, but none of it makes any sense.
3. Remember Me
Like Safe Haven, Remember Me isn’t some sort of thriller, action epic, or horror film. It’s simply a romantic coming-of-age tale — pretty standard and trite until a final twist meant for emotional impact, catapult the whole affair into laughable, near-offensive tragedy.
Once the film resolves its primary conflict and allows its two leads (Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin) to be together, it yanks the rug out from under them by revealing that Pattinson’s character is working in the Twin Towers! On Sept. 11, 2001! Using a national tragedy to score an added emotional impact for your contrived film is decidedly uncool.
Identity squanders an hour-plus of fun horror mystery antics with a few moments of ridiculous explanation. The film follows a group of stranded hotel guests (John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet, and Alfred Molina, among others) who join forces to figure out who’s murdering their lot, one by one.
The twist? It was all in Cusack’s mind. You see, his mentally ill character possesses multiple personalities, and the most evil of them all is systematically eliminating his other, healthier personalities. No one simplifies complex psychological issues quite like Hollywood, eh?
1. Planet of the Apes
When Tim Burton decided to remake the 1960s sci-fi classic about a world ruled by primates, there were obviously a few issues. One of the biggest was how his new film would match the famous twist ending of the original, wherein Charlton Heston’s surly protagonist sees the destroyed Statue of Liberty and realizes he’s actually on Earth, rendered unrecognizable by an apocalyptic (likely atomic) event.
The remake is a miserable failure all the way through, but its lowest moment comes in its so-called twist, when Mark Wahlberg’s protagonist discovers an ape memorial statue almost identical to the Abraham Lincoln memorial. It’s as though the filmmakers thought the first twist worked simply because it involved a national monument, and not because it, you know, made sense. It’s impossible to make any sort of sense of this twist — and for that, it wins the top spot here.
Additional reporting by Becca Bleznak.
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