Plot twists and twist endings are an amazing device when done right. Nothing beats the buildup of suspense and dread giving way to another emotion, be it relief or all-consuming horror.
Twist endings are a staple in the horror genre, having been a part of it since the beginning of film history. Here are our top 15 picks for the best horror movie twist endings.
1. The Others
The 2001 psychological horror film The Others is a classic when it comes to twist endings. Nicole Kidman stars as the mother of two photosensitive children living in an old, dark house. However, as the movie progresses, Kidman grows to believe her house is haunted. Suspense builds as Kidman begins questioning her own senses, and the movie culminates with one of the most memorable plot twists ever, one which will leave the viewers themselves questioning reality.
2. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
A 1920 silent German film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a suspenseful classic with a shocking twist ending. The movie follows a man named Francis who gets wrapped up in murder and intrigue, involving a hypnotist named Dr. Caligari who uses his somnambulist to commit murder for him. It comes out that Caligari runs the local insane asylum. Just when the viewer thinks the movie has come to a close with Caligari becoming an inmate of his own asylum, it takes one final twist that will knock the viewer off their feet.
Orphan is a 2009 suspense thriller that tells the story of a family welcoming in a new member. After the stillborn birth of their youngest, a couple decides to adopt a 9-year-old girl. However, quickly, the girl begins exhibiting violent and worrisome behavior. When her mother tries to check into her background, she's not in any system. This leads to the unveiling of a shocking, unexpected plot twist at the end of the movie, which viewers will definitely be shocked by.
Carrie, a 1974 adaptation of Stephen King's acclaimed novel, features an unexpected plot twist at the end. The movie follows the life of a bullied and neglected teenager named Carrie, who discovers that she has telekinetic powers. After a particularly cruel humiliation, Carrie uses these powers to get her revenge. Just when the viewer thinks the movie has pulled out all the stops in terms of horror, it throws one final twist in the ending scene that turns the entire movie on its head.
5. Shutter Island
Shutter Island is a 2010 psychological thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie follows a US Marshal travelling to a remote insane asylum to investigate the disappearance of one of the patients. As the movie continues, the intrigue and suspense build, and we uncover the reason why the Marshal took on this case. However, the end of the movie takes a sharp curve, and we realize there was much more going on than we viewers had ever suspected.
6. Secret Window
Secret Window is a 2004 psychological thriller starring Johnny Depp. The story follows a man staying at a cabin to work on his latest manuscript. However, when a stranger comes by and accuses him of stealing his story idea, his trip quickly goes awry. Mystery and suspense fill each scene, and the ending throws out a big twist that will leave viewers' jaws gaping.
Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 psychological horror film Psycho is famous for its major plot twist and is acclaimed as one of Hitchcock's greatest masterpieces. Horror fans still adore the film some 60-plus years after its release, and for good reason. The film centers around the disappearance of a young secretary, whose last known whereabouts were at the Bates Motel. A nail-bitingly suspense mystery, the movie's iconic plot twist near the end has solidified it as a true horror classic and Hitchcock's most famous movie.
8. Get Out
Get Out is a 2017 horror flick that was critically acclaimed, and for good reason. Appearing to be a suspense centered around the nerve-wracking experience of interracial dating and wondering if your partner's family will approve of you, the movie takes a sharp curve into a true psychological horror experience. It's no wonder this film was a box office hit, and one of the top 10 most profitable of the year. It'll definitely keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.
9. 10 Cloverfield Lane
10 Cloverfield Lane is a sci-fi psychological horror film with a major final twist. The film centers around a young woman who, after a car crash, wakes up in a bunker with two strange men who insist the world has ended. According to them, the air is inhospitable, and she cannot survive outside the bunker. The movie has many twists full of intrigue and mystery and culminates in a massive twist ending that will leave you wanting to know more.
10. The Mist
Another classic Stephen King adaptation, The Mist is a 2007 sci-fi horror that King himself said was better than his own novella. It follows the story of a small town in Maine that is inexplicably overtaken by a fog containing monstrous creatures. The movie is a thrilling ride the whole way through and features a particularly tragic twist at the end that makes it all the more disturbing.
Another wonderful Hitchcock movie with one of the director's classic twists is the 1941 thriller Suspicion, starring Cary Grant. The storyline involves a young woman getting involved with Grant, a charming playboy with some hang-ups. He's penniless and deep in debt and as the movie progresses, she suspects him of being a murderer whose next victim will be her. The movie takes an unexpected, but positive, twist right at the end. All in all, it's a suspenseful watch that you won't be able to quit until you find out the truth.
12. Les Diaboliques
Les Diaboliques is a 1955 French psychological horror/thriller. The plot centers around a woman and her husband's mistress planning her tyrannical husband's murder. The two orchestrate a plot and see it through to the bloody end, however, things quickly take a turn. The movie culminates with an unnerving twist following even more conspiracy and suspense.
13. The Boy
The Boy is a 2016 supernatural horror film that takes many turns throughout its course. A young woman is hired by a family to be a nanny; however, she discovers her charge is a life-sized porcelain doll. But things get even stranger. She begins hearing disembodied crying and experiencing supernatural phenomena. The movie doesn't stop there, however, and packs a major plot twist right at the end that will leave viewers shaken.
Identity is a 2003 thriller loosely based on an Agatha Christie story. Much like Christie's work, it packs some major twists into it. The movie follows ten strangers stranded at a hotel, who are mysteriously killed off one by one. Like its inspiration, And Then There Were None, the movie packs a major twist at the end, however, it's a wonderfully shocking deviation from the novel.
15. The Sixth Sense
A list of incredible plot twists wouldn't be complete without mentioning M. Night Shyamalan's 1999 film The Sixth Sense. It became the 2nd highest-grossing film in its release year for a reason and one that's brought up every time someone mentions plot twists. The movie centers around a young boy who sees ghosts, and the psychiatrist tasked with helping him. The movie, however, throws in a major twist at the end, one its viewers still talk about to this day.
From Hitchcock to King and every creator in between, twist endings are the backbone of the thriller, suspense, and horror genres. If you're looking for a good way to spend the evening, we'd recommend any of these movies. They're all guaranteed to leave you guessing right up until the end.