21 Best Movie Plot Twists of All Time

Hollywood movies tend to become repetitive after a while. They follow a similar pattern and rarely deviate from the plan. The outcome is satisfying yet predictable until a twist ending changes everything. Viewers think they have it all figured out when a mind bending plot twist changes everything.

The plot twist is a staple of Hollywood and international movies dating back decades. Iconic filmmakers built their reputations on shocking twist endings that had audiences walking out in a daze. There are various versions of the plot twist, such as a last-minute flashback giving the viewer a new perspective or placing a character in a different light.

The cliffhanger is the most famous plot twist device, with audiences returning for more. Audiences sometimes encounter the classic unreliable narrator and their misleading version of events. Plot twists usually occur in science-fiction, neo-noir mystery, or psychological thrillers, but can crop up in any genre movie. The compelling nail-biters draw audiences in only to flip the plot on its head. A good shocking plot twist can elevate a movie and cement its legacy in Hollywood, as you will find out with the movies selected below. 

21 Best Movie Plot Twists of All Time


1. Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is the critically acclaimed sequel to A New Hope. It’s the second film in the Star Wars franchise, set three years after the original. The war between the evil Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance continues in the beloved sequel, with the climax featuring a showdown between the Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker and Sith Lord Darth Vader.

The famous scene features the evil Vader revealing that he’s young Luke’s father. The earth-shattering revelation changed the Star Wars franchise forever. As the series progresses it is revealed that Princess Leia is Luke’s twin sister and Vader’s other child.

Critics consider the climatic reveal one of the best plot twists in cinema history, although, at the time of its release, the highest-grossing movie of 1980 got unfavorable reviews. Despite that, The Empire Strikes Back is now regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time.

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2. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Fans and critics agree that Sixth Sense has one of the greatest plot twists in Hollywood history. Months after a former patient broke into Malcolm Crowe’s home, the famed child psychologist begins seeing a new patient, Cole Sear. Young Cole reveals a terrifying secret to Malcolm; he can see dead people. That’s when the shocking plot twist reveals that Malcolm died in the opening scene and has been dead the entire movie.

Legendary filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan had his big breakthrough with Sixth Sense. Furthermore, Shyamalan became synonymous with twist endings. Starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment, the critically and commercially acclaimed Sixth Sense became one of the highest-grossing movies of 1999.

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3. Fight Club (1999)

Starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, the cult classic Fight Club is known for its famous twist ending. Directed by David Fincher, the plot follows the unreliable narrator (Ed Norton) dissatisfied with his mundane job and monotonous lifestyle. That’s when he forms an underground fight club with mysterious soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).

Initially, it underperformed at the box office but gained cult status as a DVD release. The gritty psychological thriller had audiences guessing until the shocking twist ending reveals that the narrator and Durden are the same person. Durden was simply a figment of the narrator’s imagination. Not only is the conclusion a shocker, but it also put the entire film in a new light.

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4. Psycho (1960)

Directed by the iconic Alfred Hitchcock, Psycho follows Marion Crane who is on the run after robbing her boss. Looking for a place to hideout, Crane comes across the hauntingly eerie Bates Motel and its owner, Norman Bates.

The legendary film features two shocking plot twists that had audiences running out of the theatre in fear. First, Bates shockingly kills  Crane in the famous shower scene midway through the movie. Up until that point, Crane appeared to be the film’s protagonist. Psycho then switches to Norman’s perspective, dealing with his relationship with his ominous mother.

The final plot twist reveals that Norman has dissociative identity disorder and is impersonating his mother, who he killed months earlier. The influential horror movie broke new ground with violence, sexuality, and a shocking ending that got people talking.

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5. Get Out (2017)

The critically acclaimed Get Out revolves around a young black man, Chris Washington, who meets his white girlfriend Rose’s family for the first time. Washington quickly uncovers a dark secret about her family and their neighbors. They transport their brains into the bodies of black men and women in a sick attempt at immortality.

Directed by Jordan Peele, Get Out is one of the best movies of 2017. It quickly established itself as a classic horror movie that’ll transcend time. Get Out deals with themes of race and equality against the backdrop of a terrifying horror movie. The shocking plot twist had audiences gasping for air and trying to escape the theatre. 

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6. Seven (1995)

Director David Fincher slowly unravels the mystery of serial killer John Doe in the psychological thriller Seven until the earth-shattering twist ending. Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) is nearing retirement and ready to put his crime-ridden city behind him. His new partner, David Mills (Brad Pitt), moves to the city with his pregnant wife, Tracy Mills.

He’s just in time for serial killer John Doe to terrorize the city with gruesome murders based on the seven deadly sins. The climactic final scene between Mills, Somerset, and Doe takes a strange turn when a delivery man shows up with a box. It turns out that Doe had one more surprise left, Tracy Mills’ decapitated head in a box. The horrifying discovery is one of cinema’s most shocking twist endings.

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7. Planet of the Apes (1968)

Set in 1972, a group of astronauts traveled 300 light years into the future, crashing on a strange alien planet. Starring Charlton Heston as George Taylor, the crew soon realizes they’re on a planet with a society of evolved apes. As the movie reaches the climax, Taylor discovers the destroyed Statue of Liberty, revealing the alien planet is actually Earth in the future.

In the late 60s, Planet of the Apes was a massive success and one of the most popular movies of 1968. Decades later, the plot twist is still one of the most shocking endings in cinema history. The first film’s giant success led to several sequels, remakes, and reboots.

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8. Gone Girl (2014)

With an all-star cast and gripping mystery, Gone Girl became David Fincher’s highest-grossing movie. The plot follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), accused of killing his missing wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). Dunne sets out to prove his innocence, but all the evidence is against him.

The shocking plot twist reveals Amy faked her death to frame Dunne after she found out he was having an affair. The earth-shattering plot twist only gets stranger when Amy returns to reunite with a furious Dunne. Fans and critics praised Fincher’s directing and Pike’s memorable performance.

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9. The Usual Suspects (1995)

With an Academy Award-winning screenplay and an all-star cast, The Usual Suspects is best known for its shocking plot twist. After a massacre on a boat in the docks, a con man with cerebral palsy, Roger “Verbal” Kint, tells a tale to the police about the events leading up to the killings.

His story features the enigmatic and ruthless crime boss Keyser Söze. The classic mystery slowly unravels as Verbal draws in viewers and the police before revealing that he is Keyser Söze. The revelation that Verbal/Söze’s story was a lie and the visual of him walking out of the police station without the limp remains an iconic Hollywood moment.

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10. Arrival (2006)

Arrival begins with linguist Louise Banks struggling with the tragic death of her young daughter. When twelve alien spaceships arrive on earth, the U.S. Army seeks Banks’ help. As Banks begins to communicate with the aliens, she has flashbacks to her daughter’s death.

By understanding the extraterrestrial language, Banks begins to experience the past, present, and future simultaneously. It turns out she’s not having flashbacks of her dying daughter; she’s having flashforwards of the death of her daughter, who isn’t born yet. Using this plot device, Arrival unleashes a heartbreaking plot twist that blows the audience’s minds as they cry their eyes out.

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11. Saw (2004)

The terrifying horror movie Saw takes audiences down a dangerous path full of surprises, traps, and an earth-shattering plot twist. With a nonlinear narrative, the main story focuses on two men who awake in a run-down bathroom. The room is empty except for a saw and a dead body. That’s when the notorious murderer, the Jigsaw Killer, makes his presence felt.

The horrifying movie only gets scarier and more disturbing as the film draws viewers into the haunting world of Jigsaw. It drops a terrifying plot twist when the dead body in the room stands up, revealing himself to be Jigsaw, who then condemns the two men to their deaths. 

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12. The Crying Game (1992)

The Crying Game is one of the most popular thrillers of the 90s. Winner of Best Original Screenplay at the 1992 Academy Awards, The Crying Game takes viewers on a thrilling ride with one of the era’s most shocking plot twists.

After forming a bond with a British prisoner, an IRA fighter falls in love with his prisoner’s girlfriend, Dil. The plot twist reveals that Dil identifies as transgender, which was groundbreaking in the early 90s. The critically and commercially acclaimed thriller has one of the most famous plot twists and deals with themes of race, gender identity, and sexuality.

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13. Shutter Island (2010)

Iconic director Martin Scorsese takes viewers on a wild ride full of twists and turns, ending with one of Hollywood’s most shocking plot twists. Set in the 1950s, U.S. Marshall Edward “Teddy” Daniels and his partner travel to a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island to investigate a patient’s disappearance.

Despite the little clues that Scorsese drops, Shutter Island’s plot twist always catches audiences off guard. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, you eventually learn that Teddy (DiCaprio) is actually a patient at the hospital and his partner (Ruffalo) is his doctor. The hospital allows Teddy to play out this scenario countless times to help him with the trauma of killing his manic-depressive wife after she murdered their children.

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14. Donnie Darko (2001)

In October 1988, teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) avoids a strange accident when he suddenly sleepwalks one night. He sees a bizarre figure in a rabbit costume, named Frank, who warns him the world will end in 28 days.

The mind-bending Donnie Darko takes viewers down a trail of twists and turns, with the cult classic known for its ambiguous twist ending. The plot twist has Donnie travel back in time after his girlfriend Gretchen’s death. Donnie goes back to the beginning of the movie and dies when an airplane engine falls on him while he’s sleeping, altering the lives of everyone he interacted with, most notably Gretchen.

While it did poorly at the box office, it gained cult status once it hit DVD. It’s now one of the most popular science fiction movies, partly because of the mind bending plot twist.

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15. The Prestige (2006)

Filmmaker Christopher Nolan is a master of earth-shattering plot twists, but  Nolan unleashes plot twist after plot twist in the popular thriller The Prestige. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman star as two rival magicians, Alfred Borden and Robert Angier. Set in the 1890s, the two sacrifice everything to master the “transported man” trick.

Nolan takes audiences on a rollercoaster ride ending with relentless plot twists that leave audiences in a stupor. The ending reveals that Alfred is actually a twin sharing one life to perfectly execute the transported man. There’s still one more plot twist, revealing that Angier made copies of himself that he killed to pull off his version of the trick.

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16. The Others (2001)

Starring Nicole Kidman, The Others revolves around Grace Stewart and her children moving into a haunted mansion following World War II. A mysterious family begins haunting Grace and her kids in this critically acclaimed supernatural and psychological thriller that is one of the best movies of 2001.

It keeps audiences on the edge of their seats and hiding behind their bed sheets with all the jump scares and spooky twists. With an innovative approach to the classic ghost story, The Others has one of the most famous plot twists when Stewart and the kids realize that they’re the ghosts. Fans and critics praised the directing, Kidman’s performance, and the surprising plot twist.

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17. Primal Fear (1996)

The critically acclaimed Primal Fear takes plot twists to a new level. Smug defense attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) takes on the case of teenage altar boy Aaron Stampler on trial for murdering the archbishop. As the case progresses, Vail realizes Stampler has multiple personalities, notably Roy. Vail uses the diagnosis to get a not guilty by insanity plea.

Vail and the audience are in for a mind-bending plot twist when Stampler reveals that he never had a stutter and faked the multiple personalities. He admits to Vail there was never an Aaron Stampler, just Roy, blowing everyone’s mind. 

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18. Final Destination (2000)

The supernatural film Final Destination keeps viewers in a state of panic throughout its runtime. When Alex Browning has a premonition about a plane crash while waiting for his plane to take off, he makes a scene and gets some of his classmates kicked off. Angry for ruining their trip, everything changes when the plane explodes mid-air, killing everyone onboard.

Turns out you can’t escape Death, who is not happy Alex and his friends weren’t on the plane. So Death decides to come after them one by one until Alex manages to outwit the Grim Reaper at the movie’s climax

But even when it seems like the movie’s over, it has one more shocking plot twist left. Six months after defeating Death, Alex and the remaining friends, Carter and Clear, vacation in Paris. With seconds left in the movie, Death returns to kill Carter before the end credits roll. Final Destination teaches a vital lesson; you can’t cheat death or plot twists.

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19. The Game (1997)

Starring Michael Douglas and Sean Penn, David Fincher’s The Game is a gripping mystery that keeps viewers guessing. As Nicolas Van Orton celebrates his 48th birthday, his brother Conrad gives him a voucher for a strange game. Soon, Nicolas finds himself caught in a web of lies, with his life in grave danger.

As the thriller reaches the climax, Nicolas witnesses Conrad’s death. Distraught, Nicolas jumps off the roof of a building. However, he lands on a giant air cushion. Conrad appears alive and reveals everything was part of the game as they celebrate. While The Game underperformed compared to Fincher’s previous movie Seven, it eventually garnered a loyal cult following, becoming one of Fincher’s most underrated movies.

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20. Goodnight Mommy (2022)

A remake of the 2014 Austrian movie of the same name, Goodnight Mommy follows twin brothers Elias and Lukas who return to live with their estranged mother. After their parent’s divorce, the brothers stayed with their father, but once they return, the brothers grow suspicious that “Mother” is an imposter.

At that very moment, viewers believe they have the movie figured out, but it drops one more major plot twist. Elias had accidentally killed Lukas months earlier. The trauma ripped the family apart, causing Elias to hallucinate Lukas. The earth-shattering plot twist changes the entire film requiring multiple rewatches. While the remake starring Naomi Watts received mixed reviews, the original is a hugely popular movie.

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21. Secret Window (2004)

Based on the Stephen King novella Secret Window, Secret Garden, the feature film Secret Window stars Johnny Depp as a writer, Mort Rainey. Struggling with writer’s block, Rainey moves to a remote cabin after catching his wife cheating on him with his best friend.

While hiding out at the cabin, a stranger known as Shooter begins appearing and accuses Rainey of plagiarizing one of his short stories. Rainey’s life and sanity begin to unravel with the lines of reality blurred. The plot twist reveals that Rainey and Shooter are the same person. As Shooter, Rainey had killed his wife and best friend, burying their bodies under his garden.

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