A movie twist done right is a rare pleasure: the cherry on top of the cinematic sundae, if you will. It conjures a sense of immediacy and pleasurable disequilibrium, compelling viewers to question all the information they’ve absorbed up until that point. Conversely, when a movie twist is sloppily executed or poorly thought-out, it can seem like the cheapest of gimmicks: a manipulative “gotcha!” moment that exists for no other reason than providing the viewer with an involuntary and fleeting thrill. In a film like David Fincher’s “Fight Club,” the major twist that defines the film’s final act is ultimately integral to the movie’s themes about fractured identity and mental instability. In a movie like Alan Parker’s “The Life of David Gale,” the twist that ends the movie merely exists to cap a narrative that’s already become howlingly ludicrous, adding no substance or context to the story at hand.
Cinefix has recently unveiled its list of the top ten movie twists of all time, and as to be expected, there’s a couple of indisputable selections. We’d all be remiss, for instance, for not paying tribute to the end of the original “The Planet of the Apes,” or the unforgettable reversal at the center of “Charade,” that Technicolor jewel starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. But those are just a couple of the examples that the video provides.
Predictably, “Fight Club” gets a mention here, as does Carol Reed’s towering noir “The Third Man.” The list also demarcates categories for the different movie twists that end up on the list, such as “conspiracy twists” (“The Sting”), the “unexpected bad guy” twists that are common in most murder mysteries and whodunits (“Murder on the Orient Express”) and the “I’m not dead after all” twist (“The Third Man”). Some other very interesting films are mentioned in a more marginal capacity, including Christopher Nolan’s “The Prestige,” which hinges on a series of clever narrative fake-outs, as well as David Cronenberg’s underrated “eXistenZ.”
What’s your favorite movie twist of all time? Let us know in the comments section and watch the video here. And obviously, spoilers ahead....