Being caught off guard by an effective twist is a cinematic joy like no other.
Over the years, writers and filmmakers have dreamed up fresh ways of keeping audiences on their toes. Some remain astonishingly bold by today’s standards, while others have had the gleam worn off by the movies they’ve gone onto inspire.
There are some filmmakers who have attempted to make the twist their trademark (M Night Shyamalan), then there are others who have impressively shaped a film around its rug-pulling denouement (Christopher Nolan’s magician drama The Prestige was essentially one giant magic trick).
Either way, they make for memorable viewing. Intriguingly, twists are mostly prevalent in horror films, which is what makes it so breathtaking when they show up mid-way through a drama – or, even rarer, a comedy.
The Independent has tun through 35 of the greatest twists ever, from Planet of the Apes and Spider-Man: Homecoming to Oldboy.
Read on to see what has made the cut. Naturally, spoilers abound – and don’t go ruining the surprise for those who haven’t seen any of these films.
The set-up: The services of linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) are called upon when aliens arrive on Earth. While experiencing visions of her daughter, who we learn died from cancer in her teens, Louise attempts to communicate with the race in a bid to discern the purpose of their visit.
The twist: Louise deciphers the language, which gives her the ability to see into the future. What we thought were flashbacks are, in fact, flash-forwards – her daughter is yet to be born.
The set-up: Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) falsely accuses the housekeeper’s son (James McAvoy) of raping her cousin when she becomes jealous of his relationship with her older sister (Keira Knightley). He’s sent to prison, but is eventually freed to enlist in World War II – and the audience is told that he eventually rekindled his romance with Cecilia and lived happily ever after.
The twist: Only, they didn’t. We learn that this is another lie from an older Briony – both Robbie and Cecilia died in the war.
The set-up: Having been hired by Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway) to investigate her husband’s death, JJ Gittes (Jack Nicholson) discovers the existence of someone crucial to the case: Evelyn’s sister, Katherine.
The twist: After being confronted by Gittes, Evelyn reveals that Katherine is also her daughter – and the result of being raped by her father when she was 15.
The set-up: Having awoken in a bathtub, and discovering he has telekinetic abilities, John Murdoch attempts to find the truth behind a dystopian world that’s inhabited by an evil group who can stop time and implant memories.
The twist: His search for meaning sees him reach the end of the city. With nowhere left to go, he breaks through a wall and finds the city is actually an island floating through outer space.
The set-up: Cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates the organisation of gang chief Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) at the same time that criminal Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) infiltrates the police force – and both soon suspect they have spies in their midst.
The twist: Both end up dead. A shocking sequence sees Sullivan kill Costigan who believes he’s got away with it. Sergeant Sean Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) sees to that in an equally as shocking climactic scene.
The set-up: A woman named Christina is enlisted into murdering her husband by his mistress. However, once the deed is done, his body disappears.
The twist: Her husband faked his death with the help of his mistress. The pair wanted to make Christina believe she committed the murder in an attempt to destroy her.
The set-up: Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is trained by Obi Wan Kenobi and Jedi master Yoda to defeat the evil Darth Vader, leading to the showdown of all showdowns.