Movies are one of the most popular ways of escaping reality and getting wrapped in somebody else's story. And many of the best ones over the years have been those with a twist that blows our minds.
But nailing a plot twist is not as easy as it sounds – especially these days when viewers are actively looking for or expecting something unexpected. A twist that is too obvious, too contrived, or fails to leave us open-mouthed and aching to watch the whole thing again, can actually ruin what would otherwise be a great movie.
Here, we look at 10 movie plots that did nail the plot twist and have gone down in cinema history as true greats. And just in case there are any you haven't watched; we'll try not to give too much away. Because these are absolute must-see movies!
10. The Prestige
A work of genius by the great Christopher Nolan, this psychological thriller, set in London in the 1890s charts the intense rivalry between two magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale).
Their bitter feud begins following the tragic death of Angier's wife – a death he blames on Borden using the wrong knot as part of a water tank trick.
Both are hell-bent on replicating the 'transported man' illusion and will go to great lengths to beat the other to it.
This rivalry dominates the storyline of the movie – and the twist at the end is well worth the wait!
9. The Departed
This Martin Scorsese movie boasts a stellar cast and sees police officer Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrate the mob headed by Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Pretty straightforward so far, huh?
However, Costello has placed his own mole into the state police department. Pretty soon, both moles become aware there is a mole in their particular camp and must try to identify the other mole without revealing their own identity as a mole. Got that?
Well, it makes sense when you watch the movie. And you'll never guess the ending…
Another entry for Christopher Nolan. This takes some keeping up with and is not a film to put on late at night. You'll need to have your wits about you as you follow the protagonist, Leonard, an insurance claim investigator who has anterograde amnesia and is out to find his wife's killer.
All he has to aid him on his quest are his long-term memory, files, and tattoos. The tattoos offer clues to his life and purpose.
This one is full of plot twists from start to finish. But, of course, the best is saved 'til last.
Non-linear and displaying stunning use of reverse chronology, this movie follows Malcolm Rivers who is awaiting execution for a horrific mass murder. It becomes apparent that some of his journals were misfiled and not presented during his trial. This leads his psychiatrist and defense attorney to argue his insanity.
Elsewhere, ten strangers are holed up in a Nevada motel due to a torrential rainstorm. And one by one, they start to get killed.
Back at the trial, psychiatrist Dr. Malick introduces the theory of integrating the personalities of someone with a dissociative identity disorder.
What links the two stories? Does such a disorder really exist?
All becomes clear with the plot twist.
6. The Game
A wealthy investment banker receives a strange birthday gift from his brother. The gift is essentially the chance to take part in a game that will infiltrate his day-to-day life. Initially skeptical, he agrees to participate, but his application is rejected.
However, all is not as it seems, and strange things start to occur in his life. When he reports the organizers to the police, it turns out their offices are closed.
This is a tense thriller that keeps viewers guessing right throughout. Indeed Michael Douglas, who played the lead role, said it was one of his favorite movies to take part in as "it's one of the very few movies that you could not guess the ending."
5. The Shawshank Redemption
One that appears on almost every list of Best Movies Ever, this is a multi-layered movie that deals with the whole gamut of psychology and emotion.
You've almost certainly seen this one, but we did promise no spoilers. So, without giving anything away, this is a movie that offers a rare view on prison life and explores how human beings adapt to changing conditions.
And then there's an iconic plot twist at the end…
4. Shutter Island
How Leonardo DiCaprio didn't get an Oscar for this film I'll never know. This is another movie that sees Leo partner up with Martin Scorsese, and here he plays Teddy Daniels, a US Marshall sent to a fortress-like asylum on a remote island to investigate a murder and subsequent escape of an inmate.
It's clear from early on that all is not well, and Daniels suspects foul play. What role, if any, do the administrators have in the strange goings-on? And will his own deteriorating health prevent him from seeing through the investigation?
All your questions will be neatly answered via a stunning plot twist that will blow your mind!
3. Sixth Sense
Another one you might know the twist to already; this is surely one of the most famous in cinema history.
It's an M. Night Shyamalan classic that sees child psychologist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) supporting a child who claims to see dead people. Crowe gets (arguably) a bit too close to the case as it reminds him of a former patient who he feels he let down.
And while the ending may not seem so shocking 23 years after it was first seen, there is no doubt that this is a legendary film with an iconic ending.
2. The Usual Suspects
Following the deaths of 27 people in a boat explosion, police identify two possible suspects.
The story sees the interrogation of Roger "Verbal" Kint, a small-scale con man, who is one of only two survivors. Kint describes a complicated series of events that led him to the boat and talks about a mysterious crime lord known as Keyser Söze who controlled them.
Through Verbal's story and flashbacks, more details of criminality and Keyser Söze's backstory are revealed. Viewers are kept guessing about the truth behind the explosion right throughout the film.
And the payoff comes right at the end with a great twist that you will not see coming!
1. Fight Club
While this appears on the surface to be the story of the unnamed narrator's unfulfilled life spiralling out of control a little, there is a much deeper subplot at play that sends the movie in a whole new direction and takes viewers on a real rollercoaster ride.
This is a cacophony of violence, intrigue, and mystery that starts off as one thing and ends as something else altogether.
If you haven't seen this movie, you absolutely must. Just don't expect to guess what the plot twist is. Instead, just lose yourself in the story, go with the flow, and get ready to be wowed!