Guest Post: Five Favorite Movies with a Twist Ending

With the recent release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel to Planet of the Apes, it got me thinking of films with twist/surprise/shocking ending. Since the original 1968’s ‘Apes’ movie was the godfather of twist ending, I figure I should list my favorite films that has a surprise ending. Don’t worry, there won’t be any mentions of M. Night’s films, I think that’s too obvious to name one of his films here. Although I still think Unbreakable’s ending was pretty cool and shocking (well it was shocking to me when I first saw it anyway).

— Spoiler alert! —
If you haven’t seen some or any of the films listed below, I’d recommend you don’t read any further. Unless you don’t intend to see any of these films (or don’t mind the spoiler), then by all means read on.

So here are the films with ending I didn’t see it coming:

1. Planet of the Apes (1968)
Why not start with the godfather of shocking ending right? The original Planet of the Apes ending’s wasn’t as true to the novel but it’s way better than the Tim Burton’s 2001 remake. Throughout the film, Charlton Heston’s character believed he was on a different planet that‘s ruled by apes, well the last shot of the film showed the floating head of the Statue of Liberty on the beach and he realized he’s already home. Classic!

2. No Way Out
This underrated and little-seen suspense thriller from 1987 was truly nail-biting and had a nice twist ending. Kevin Costner starred as a Navy Officer who was working under a powerful Secretary of Defense, played by Gene Hackman. Costner’s character had an affair with Hackman’s mistress, played by Sean Young. About 30 minutes into the film, Hackman’s character accidentally killed his mistress. So in order to cover up the murder, Hackman’s right hand man, played brilliantly by Will Patton, cooked up a story of how she was having an affair with a Russian spy named Yuri and Yuri was the one who killed her. They’ve decided to bring in Costner’s character to lead the investigation, the two of them doesn’t know that Costner was having an affair with Young‘s character. So upon finding out Young’s character was killed, not only did Costner have to find this so-called spy Yuri, he must also try to keep his boss from knowing that he was the one who’s been sleeping with his mistress!

Before I give away the twist ending, I really hope those who’ve never seen this film to check this out. It’s really a great suspense thriller and all the performances were quite great, especially Costner, Hackman and Patton.

So after everything happened in the film, we found out at the end that Costner’s character was actually a Russian spy named Yuri and his mission was to have an affair with his boss’ mistress. I know it might not make much sense for those who’ve never seen the film, but you’ll know what I mean when you see it.

3. Sleepaway Camp
This film came out in the early 80s, the time when slasher horror flicks were everywhere. What sets this one apart was the shocking ending. I mean seriously the first time I saw it, the ending freaked me out. The story is about a young shy girl who was sent to a camp and suddenly people in the camp were being killed one by one. Well, we find out the killer was actually the shy girl and she is actually a he. Trust me, when you see the film, you’ll understand why it freaked me out. Do check it out if you’ve never seen it.

4. Memento
Chris Nolan’s second film was probably one of the best films of 2000s in my opinion. I won’t go into the plot since I believe most people have seen this film already. I do want to know though, if you’re a fan of this film, what do you think of the ending? Personally I think it was great, here’s a guy who believed that he has this “disease” and will do whatever it takes to make people believe that he has this short term memory. Truly a classic suspense thriller that will have people talking for years to come.

5. Don’t Look Now
This 1973 thriller was probably one of the best of the genre I’ve ever seen. Again if you’ve never seen it, please check it out before reading my spoiler. The film is about a couple who are living in Venice, Italy and grieving the death of their daughter. The husband, played by Donald Sutherland, starts seeing a series of disturbing and fragmented premonitions which coincides with a series of murders in the city. He also sees a little figure who wears the same red-hooded cloak that his daughter wore when she died of drowning. He decides to follow this person who’s wearing the red cloak, a decision he’d surely regret.

When Sutherland’s character finally caught up with the little hooded figure, he turns out to be the little person who was responsible for the murders in the city. And of course Sutherland was killed by this little murderer. I know it doesn’t sound as shocking when you read about it now, but when you see the entire thing, you’ll know why I put this film on this list.


Well those are some of my favorite twist ending films. Name yours in the comments below.

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46 thoughts on “Guest Post: Five Favorite Movies with a Twist Ending

  1. Rob

    Have to still appreciate the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s “The Sixth Sense.” I remember avoiding many conversations about that movie to avoid hearing the twist at the end of this one.

    1. Hey Rob, yeah I know! Once you know about it, there is no way you could appreciate/enjoy the movie but I’m glad I didn’t know when I saw it and boy did it throw me out of left field! Even on second viewing I still went, ‘wow how could I’ve missed that?!’ Whatever you wanna say about M. Night now I think Sixth Sense is a brilliant movie.

    2. Ted S.

      I figured it would be too obvious to include The Sixth Sense on the list, since it was such a big hit, I assume most people have seen it. It’s definitely a great twist of an ending.

  2. Quite an impressive list you’ve put together, Ted. THE PLANET OF THE APES is a classic. But as you can see in later film posters (like the one you used), the studio’s stupidly give away the ending in the graphic! Arghhh… I remember well, too, I lot of folks disliked NO WAY OUT’s twist when it first hit theaters (especially some critics). BTW, I too love UNBREAKABLE and its finale.

    I admire all of these you’ve list. I’d only add to mine:
    • ANGEL HEART
    • THE PRESTIGE
    • PSYCHO
    • THE SIXTH SENSE
    • ABRE LOS OJOS (Cameron Crowe remade the Spanish original as VANILLA SKY)

    BTW, the sickest, gut-punch ending (that I kinda of like) is OLDBOY, and the one I absolutely cannot stand is THE MIST (Frank Darabont extrapolated and added his own to Stephen King’s wonderful source novella).

    Great post, Ted. Thanks.

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks Le0pard, your list is great too. I love Oldboy and was kind of disappointed the way The Mist ended. I didn’t read the short story it was based on but I knew Darabont wanted a dark ending to the film version.

      I didn’t see Abre Los Ojos but I did see Vanilla Sky, I sort of figured out what the “surprise” half way through the film.

    1. Yep, Usual Suspects is the quintessential movie w/ a twist ending! I love the cast on that one, it’s really a fantastic debut by Bryan Singer.

    2. Ted S.

      The first time I saw The Usual Suspects, I was blown away by the ending. But after watching it again recently, it didn’t really have the same impact as the first time I saw it.

  3. Nice post Ted. Totally agree with Memento and I would also add another Nolan movie, The Prestige. Others to ponder: Oldboy (duh!), Seven and Les Diaboliques.

    1. Ted S.

      Oh yeah I love The Prestige, Se7en and Oldboy, since I only wanted to list 5 films, those didn’t make the cut. Also, I just wanted to give a little shout out to some lesser known films like No Way Out, Sleepaway Camp and Don’t Look Now. Never fear though, the remakes of Sleepaway Camp or Don’t Look Now are on the way.

  4. PrairieGirl

    Witness for the Prosecution (1957). From IMDb: Directed by Billy Wilder. With Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester. Agatha Christie tale of a man on trial for murder: a trial featuring surprise after surprise.

    An excellent film, the twists in this movie just don’t quit!

    1. Ted S.

      Thanks, I really enjoyed Don’t Look Now unfortunately the good folks at Hollywood are prepping a remake of it.

      I haven’t seen Chinatown in years so I don’t remember the “twist”, might give a rent soon.

  5. Admittedly I had to skip through some of those because I didn’t want them spoiled, but the ones I have seen I agree with. My suggestions:

    EYES WIDE SHUT
    BREAKING THE WAVES
    MULHOLLAND DR
    THREE COLOURS: RED
    CACHE (HIDDEN)
    SE7EN
    CITIZEN KANE

    1. Ted S.

      Cool list Tyler. It’s kind of hard to do this kind of list without giving away the twist, I highly recommend Don’t Look Now if you’ve never seen it. It was quite haunting and the ending still shocks me.

      1. Yeah… big ups on Don’t Look Now. You can’t imagine how hard it was to find on VHS back in the 80’s.

        Tyler, the end of THREE COLOURS: RED gave me goosebumps. I was literally blown away. I guess I didn’t expect it from that kind of movie. A testament to just how great a filmmaker Kieslowski really was. A fun fact: Blue, white, and red are the colours of the French flag in left-to-right order, and the story of each film is loosely based on one of the three political ideals in the motto of the French Republic: liberty, equality, fraternity. Gotta see the trilogy in the right order to get the feel the full weight of the ending.

  6. Here’s the ones that really “got” me:

    The Nameless and Tesis (both Spanish horror)
    Se7en
    Three Colors: Red
    The Sixth Sense
    The Usual Suspects
    Oldboy
    The Shining
    Primer
    Primal Fear

    Ones that people hate but I quite enjoyed:
    Fight Club
    Saw
    The Game

    1. Ted S.

      I really like your choices Dave and yes I also enjoyed Fight Club, Saw and The Game. From your list I’ve never seen The Nameless and Tesis or Three Colors: Red. I’ll have to give those a rent.

      1. Tesis aka Thesis is the first film from Alajendro Amenabar (The Others, Abre Los Ojos aka Open Your Eyes). The Nameless is from Jaume Balaguero (Rec, Rec 2… both movies were shot in real time).

        Make sure you see The Three Colors trilogy in this order Blue, White, Red.

  7. This is a great idea for a list!!! I love it.

    I have to add what some folks have already said. These would be on my list (and I think, from the looks of it, many other people’s too):

    The Sixth Sense
    The Others
    Fight Club
    The Prestige
    Life of David Gale
    Impostor

    I think that’s it for me! If you haven’t seen Impostor, it should be streamable on Netflix! Check it out! Gary Sinise, Tony Shaloub, Vincent D’Onofrio, Madeline Stowe, and Mekhi Phifer!

  8. My favorites are:

    Se7en [I was numb for days after seeing that ending]
    Oldboy
    The Usual Suspects
    Bellflower
    Moon [while not really an ending, really creepy vital point]

    1. So many movies with a surprise twist ending…have to agree with Max on these (although I haven’t seen Bellflower) and have to add The Village to it. Of course the ending of Planet of the Apes was brilliant…

  9. Great post this one Ted.

    So many films that have that shock factor ending that it is really hard to choose. Apes is a good choice that is for sure!

    It has been mentions before in the comments here but Sixth Sense gave me massive goose bumps!! I had no knowledge about it when i saw it so it had an amazing effect on me for sure!!

    S

    1. Hey Scottie, yep Sixth Sense still tops this types of list IMO. Sure it probably doesn’t have a good re-watchability value but upon first viewing, I had goosebumps too!

    2. Ted S.

      Thanks Scott.

      Like Ruth said, The Sixth Sense just doesn’t have that re-watchability, well it doesn’t to me. I actually tried to watch it again after I saw for the first time and it sort of bored me to death. But when I first saw it, it was great. Also, I’m just anti M. Night at the moment, the last film of his I saw was Lady in the Water and I hated it. The man has some talents but he’s too full of himself the last few years or so.

    1. Hi Brenda, thanks for your comment. Yeah, if you still want to watch these movies, better not read the ending. What movie with a twist ending is your favorite? Just curious.

    2. Ted S.

      Thanks for stopping by Brenda, I recommend you watch No Way Out and Don’t Look Now, those are great suspense thrillers.

  10. I love memento!! the ending was indeed amazing.

    Planet of the apes is a bit guessable, when I first saw it I kinda guess he has return to earth.

    Haven’t seen the other three.

    I like Mother, I think it has great twist. I have been so sure that the other man was the murder…but the ending was surprising.

    The Mist also has great twist, the movie changed the ending.In the book it was left unfinished…the change made by the movie was dramatic

    1. Ted S.

      Yeah Memento’s great.

      I haven’t watched Planet of the Apes in a while but I remember the first time I saw it, the ending was a great surprise.

      I love Mother, especially the “twist” wasn’t anything spectacular but it made sense.

      I like The Mist but the ending was too depressing for my liking though.

  11. Sleepaway Camp! Yes!!! I love it when that movie gets recognized… at all. I memorialized it with stick figures last December:

    (sorry to link to my own work, Ruth and Ted, but it feels pertinent; feel free to delete my link if you want)

    1. Ted S.

      LOL, no prob John and I love that image there. Sleepaway Camp wasn’t that great of a movie but that ending still freaks me out.

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