The best twist endings in movies? Those that enhance the film’s previous two hours without rendering them moot.
From Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” in 1960 to modern classics like “Memento,” twist endings have shocked audiences for decades. Who can forget that she was dead the entire time? Or that he was the criminal mastermind? Or that they were all in his mind?
Below, enjoy ten of the greatest twist endings in movie history.
10. AMERICAN PSYCHO
The Set-Up: Manhattan trader Pat Bateman spends his days doling out fashion tips, eating in the city’s finest restaurants and occasionally hacking people to pieces with his trusty axe. He’s an American psycho, you see.
The Twist: Having confessed to his murders, Bateman realizes that many of his supposed victims are still alive and kicking, the suggestion being that his crimes have only played out in his head.
The Set-Up: Guy Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, a man incapable of making new memories. As he hunts for the villains who made him this way and killed his wife, he sets about tattooing himself with clues to help him remember the case.
The Twist: Leonard’s wife actually survived the attack. It was he who killed his diabetic partner by bungling her insulin injections. Rather than face up to his guilt, Leonard has chosen to exploit his condition to restore meaning and purpose to his life.
8. THE OTHERS
The Set-Up: Grace and her two kids seem to be sharing their country home with some uninvited guests from the spirit world.
The Twist: Grace is dead, as are her children. Not only are all three of them ghosts, but Grace is the one who made them so, having been driven mad with loneliness. She killed the kids and then herself!
7. THE MIST
The Set-Up: Tom Jane and friends finally lose all hope of salvation as their little car finally runs out of gas, a host of otherworldly beasties still milling around outside. Reaching for his gun, Jane sadly dispatches his fellow survivors, saving the last bullet for his young son.
The Twist: Two minutes later the army turn up. If only he’d been a little more patient…
6. FIGHT CLUB
The Set-Up: As Project Mayhem begins to spiral out of control, Ed Norton’s narrator sets about attempting to shut down the movement, following Tylder Durden’s paper trail from city to city.
The Twist: Wherever the narrator goes, he’s greeted as Tyler by the members of the project. Soon enough, Tyler turns up to spell things out: he and the narrator are two sides of one split personality. Or to quote Tyler himself: “I look like you wanna look, I fuck like you wanna fuck, I am smart, capable, and most importantly, I am free in all the ways that you are not.”
The Set-Up: A doctor and a photographer awake to find themselves trapped in a dingy bathroom, with only a corpse, a saw and some instructions for company. Having been told that one must kill the other in order to survive, the pair realize a grisly task lies ahead.
The Twist: When one of the men finally makes his escape (having sawn off his foot to do so), the other is left with the corpse as he waits for help to be sent. Suddenly, the corpse rises to its feet, revealing itself to be none other than the Jigsaw killer himself. “Game over,” he snarls as he locks the door behind him.
The Set-Up: Mad old Mrs. Bates has been preying on the guests of the Bates Motel, sneaking up on them during their most intimate moments before hacking them to pieces. As plucky Lila Crane goes prowling around the old Bates house, she spies Mrs. Bates sitting in the cellar and prepares to confront her.
The Twist: Mrs. Bates is nothing more than a mummified corpse. Norman on the other hand, is alive and well.
The Set-Up: Having worked his way through five of the seven deadly sins, serial killer John Doe inexplicably turns himself in to detectives Mills and Somerset, promising to show them where the last two bodies are hidden. As the trio reach the wasteland Doe has led them to, a delivery van arrives to bring them a package.
The Twist: The package contains the severed head of Detective Mills’ wife. Consumed by jealousy of Mills’ happy home life, Doe has become Envy, whilst Mills becomes Wrath as he shoots Doe in the head. And so the madman’s masterwork is finally complete.
2. THE SIXTH SENSE
The Set-Up: Young Haley Joel Osment suffers from an unusual condition—that’s right, he sees dead people. Fortunately, Bruce Willis’ friendly psychologist is on hand to help him through it. Not that things are all roses for Bruce, whose relationship with his wife has gotten so bad that she barely seems to acknowledge his presence.
The Twist: Bruce was dead all along, which is why only Haley Joel could see him. Ta-daaaa!
1. THE USUAL SUSPECTS
The Set-Up: When a botched heist leaves a boat full of corpses at the door of inspector Dave Kujan, he ropes in limping conman Verbal Kint for a protracted haul across the coals. As he leans on the hapless Kint, he learns the legend of a monstrous crime lord known as Keyser Soze.
The Twist: Convinced he has wrung the cripple dry, Kujan sends Kint on his merry way before realizing he’s just been fed a pack of lies. Meanwhile, out on the street, Verbal Kint shakes off his limp and rides off into the sunset. And just like that, Keyser Soze is gone.