Thriller films are known for their surplus of suspense and anticipation. But what all thrillers have in common is their love for plot twists. To find a thriller without a twist is rare, but to find one with a truly shocking twist is even rarer. By definition, a plot twist is something truly unexpected, and unfortunately, more often than not, the audience can see it coming from a mile away.
A truly successful thriller movie has a plot twist that is so out-of-pocket that it has the audience’s minds scrambled by the credits. From Memento to Flight Club, these films have perfect plot twists.
10 ‘Memento’ (2000)
After a man breaks into his home and his wife is murdered, Leonard (Guy Pierce) is left with brain injuries. As he attempts to find the murderer of his wife, Leonard’s head injury prevents him from remembering anything past several minutes. One story line moves forward in time while the other tells the story backward, revealing more each time.
This unique thriller is told solely from the perspective of someone who can’t remember anything. So how does the film make sense? By being told backward, from the end to the beginning. Constantly full of surprises, Memento is one film that keeps audiences enthralled the whole time.
9 ‘Knives Out’ (2019)
When celebrated crime writer Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer) is discovered dead at his house just after turning 85, Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) is mysteriously hired to investigate. Blanc sorts through a labyrinth of red herrings and self-serving lies, from Harlan’s dysfunctional and vulturous family to his devoted staff, to discover the truth about his sudden demise.
This comedic thriller will have viewers suspecting every member of the family as they are all thoroughly unlikeable. But nothing is as it seems, which Blanc painfully realizes. When it comes to the moment of truth, Knives Out plays the scene out in one of the most satisfying reveals ever.
8 ‘Gone Girl’ (2014)
On his fifth wedding anniversary, Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) files a missing persons report on his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike). With the police and the media breathing down his neck, Nick’s tale of a happy marriage begins to crumble. With his strange behavior and mountains of lies, people begin to wonder, did Nick Dunne kill his wife?
A thriller about a broken marriage: one is missing, and the other is distraught. Or is he? With two main characters that live within lies and deceit, Gone Girl presents the audience with a cast of thoroughly unlikeable characters. Though some may see the twist coming, Gone Girl has done wonders at convincing people to root for the evil within the movie.
7 ‘Mulholland Drive’ (2001)
A naive young actress (Noami Watts) moves to Hollywood only to become involved in a sinister plot involving a woman (Laura Harring) who was nearly murdered but now has amnesia due to a car accident. Eventually, both women are pulled into a nightmare involving a dangerous blue box, a director named Adam Kesher, and the mysterious nightclub Silencio.
Many find Mulholland Drive a confusing and deeply psychological film that makes them question reality. While it is sometimes confusing, a patient mind will get the best from this film. With a beautiful love story and plenty of twists throughout, the ending is something no one can see coming.
6 ‘The Sixth Sense’ (1999)
Child psychiatrist Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) is confronted one night by his former patient, who he failed to help. After his ex-patient shoots Crowe in the stomach and kills himself, Crowe can’t stop thinking about it. A few months later, he is hired to help a troubled boy named Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), who has many of the same problems Vincent had including seeing ghosts who don’t know they’re dead.
This thriller is as heartbreaking as it is shocking. Viewed as M. Night Shyamalan‘s crowning achievement, The Sixth Sense has retained its notoriety as one of the best plot twist reveals in thriller history.
5 ‘Primal Fear’ (1996)
Hot-shot attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) takes up the defense of a young man named Aaron (Edward Norton), who is accused of the horrible murder of Archbishop Rushman. Before being taken in by the Archbishop, Aaron was a homeless child living on the streets with a stutter and shyness. Vail is certain that Aaron is innocent, but he starts to have second thoughts after watching a video that suggests Aaron might have had a legitimate reason for wanting the Archbishop killed.
Throughout the film, Martin exposes more and more secrets that point to his client as the murderer, but with a determination to win does all that he can to prove his innocence. Primal Fear truly belongs to Norton, who is simultaneously innocent and disturbed. Norton delivers twists like gut punches, and audiences are in for a treat.
4 ‘Fight Club’ (1999)
A nameless office worker (Edward Norton) participates in support groups to manage his emotions and control his insomnia. His life seems to get a bit easier when he meets Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), another participant in support groups. However, he becomes involved in an illegal fight club and a soap-making plan when he befriends Tyler (Brad Pitt). Together, the two men go off the rails and enter into a power struggle for love.
Fight Club has been celebrated since its release as one of the best thrillers ever made, with audiences still debating over the film’s overall message. With fans often missing the point of the film, it is a necessary two-time watch. With plenty of Easter eggs and clues to the big twist, Fight Club holds its own.
3 ‘Oldboy’ (2003)
Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-sik), an alcoholic kidnapped on a rainy night in 1988, awakens in an odd hotel room with no windows. Oh Dae-Su is then freed after spending a torturous fifteen years in captivity. Oh Dae-Su is now encouraged by his merciless kidnapper to find the one responsible for his bizarre kidnapping and exact his savage, long-awaited retribution on the tormentor.
With one of the most heart-wrenching and inherently gross twists in thriller history, Oldboy has anyone who watches it clutching their pearls and shielding their eyes towards the end. The less said about this film the better.
2 ‘The Prestige’ (2006)
In London at the end of the nineteenth century, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman), his loving wife Julia McCullough (Piper Perabo), and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) are friends and the magician’s assistants. The two men become envious of one another after Robert accuses Alfred of triggering Julia’s unexpected death during a performance. Both develop into highly popular, aggressive magicians who try to outperform one another on stage.
With two strong men at the forefront of the film, the male bravado is strong in The Prestige. Constantly butting heads, the two magicians go to enormous lengths to be on top. And when the twist is revealed, it begs the question; Was it worth it?
1 ‘Arrival’ (2016)
When enormous spacecraft touch down at 12 different locations worldwide, linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is in charge of an elite team of investigators. Banks and her crew are racing against time to figure out how to communicate with the extraterrestrial visitors as the world teeters on the brink of war. She risks her life and maybe the survival of all humanity to solve the mystery.
This movie has no murder mystery, no revenge plot, and no punchy action scenes. Instead, Arrival is a beautifully nuanced story about the realities of what communicating with aliens looks like. The entire film has a tense and serious tone so that when the twist comes, it isn’t something you see coming. And instead of being overly shocking, it mostly makes the audience think long and hard about what they just watched.
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