April Fools' Spoilers: The Top Five Plot Twist Films
Hah, gotcha! It was his sled, he was really a ghost all along, and the doctor was a female! Never saw that coming, did you?
Here's a homage to the best movie plot twists in recent memory. We're awarding points for skillful setups, but honestly, how picky do you expect a top five list to be?
If the title wasn't enough tip-off: SPOILERS! How many times do we have to say it?
The Usual Suspects
The canonical movie everybody brings up when discussing twist endings. Yes, this one is brilliantly set up, almost impossible to see coming, and hits you like a shot of heroin. We're stunned after the reveal, mind-blown at the sheer artistry of such a character and what we have just been led through. We're compelled to watch it over and over again so we can see the details. All those props in the office right there in front of us - how could we be so stupid?
In a twisty psychological thriller like this, it's easier to see the plot twist come when we've been so ensnared in Leonard's tortured existence that you don't know what to expect. The rapist could have turned out to be Bozo the Clown or a trans-dimensional alien fog or Leonard himself and we'd just shrug and go "OK, whatever you say." It's still nicely set up, still brilliantly set up, but in a film like this, you were already expecting a doozy. It's like saying David Lynch has twist endings; no he doesn't - David Lynch has twist movies.
The Holy Mountain
Never has there been a twist ending that was so deserved by the rest of the story, and yet so absolutely unexpected. Alejandro Jodorowsky has already stirred our brains with swizzle sticks for a couple hours by this point; we could have had anything from pink elephants to the "all just a dream" ending and it would have made just as much sense. But with a grand hand gesture and the words "Zoom back camera!" we are taken right through the fourth wall while the lecturer doesn't miss a single beat continuing his final lesson. You wanted the meaning of life, you've got it, buster!
The Cabin in the Woods
What could be more beaten than the dead horse that is the teen summer horror flick? Even though this movie is clearly a parody, deconstruction, and general rending of the genre, it's still too little too late. We'll pay our ticket and take the ride anyway, because it is still one awesome ride. It's a lampoon of horror movies while simultaneously being a horror movie no horror movie fan could have anything but the most puppy-eyed love for.
Wait, what? Wasn't that an unexpected ending to this list? Well, yes, and just like your expectations for the last item on this list, Hitchcock played with our expectations with this movie. All through the story, we've been led by the nose to expect that Jeff, Lisa, and Stella were wrong about everything. Every clue had an alternative explanation. Hitchcock made this late in his career; audiences had come to expect the unexpected and then he had to change it up. Throughout this film, he's practically winking at the audience. It's like a practical joker who passes you the sugar and says "Yeah, but it's probably salt, you know I'm always kidding!" And then it really was sugar this time. When the creator does this, he's taking back his original power to surprise, just when you were thinking he couldn't thrill you anymore.