It is time to delve back into another list concocted by myself. As usual, these are my opinions and if you feel different, please go ahead and list them below.
With that out of the way, let's begin this list. This is a list of 5 films that I feel earned their twist ending the most. This is not my personal Top 5 films that earned their twist ending, but more of 5 films that really did a good job of providing a film with a twist ending that you do not feel cheated with. So without further adieu, I present my list of 5 films that I feel earned their twist ending.
Obviously, while talking endings to films, spoilers will be had. You've been warned.
5. The Usual Suspects, 1995
Bryan Singer's 1995 crime drama about 5 criminals brought together to do a job for a shadowy figure named Keyser Soze. Written by Christopher McQuarrie, (who won the Oscar for this film) the film is told in flashback by a survivor, Verbal Kint, (Kevin Spacey, who won an Oscar for his role) of a massacre on a boat. As the story unfolds, Customs Agent Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) begins to question the validity of Verbal's story and believes that something more is going on.
I know most people list this as either one of the best twists ever or one of the worst twists ever. I can see both sides to this argument, but I feel the twist is earned. The audience views the story through Kujan's eyes as he is told the story by Verbal. So even though Kujan doubts certain aspects of the story, he still sees the picture that Verbal is painting for him.
When the twist does happen, Verbal actually is Keyser Soze, it is realized by Kujan after he has had time to assess the story by Verbal. Unfortunately for Kujan, his realization happens too late and Verbal/Soze is able to elude capture and return to being a spook story criminals tell their kids. This twist is earned as Verbal toys with Kujan by giving him clues throughout the story, but Kujan is too blinded by his determination to capture Keaton, (Gabriel Byrne) that he does not realize the truth until it is too late.
Fenton Mieks (Matthew McConaughey) walks into the FBI office in Dallas, Texas and speaks with FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) about his brother being a serial killer known as the God's Hands Killer. Agent Doyle is at first skeptical about Fenton's accusations, until he tells the story of his childhood with his brother Adam and their Dad (Bill Paxton).
As the story unfolds, Dad believes to have been visited by an angel and tasked with destroying demons on a list given to him. Dad wholeheartedly believes the story and begins to murder people who he thinks are demons with the help of his sons. Adam believes Dad, but Fenton believes Dad to be crazy for what he is doing. As the story progresses, Fenton becomes at odds with Adam and Dad until Fenton is forced to kill Dad in an effort to stop what he believes is madness.
Back in the present day, "Fenton" reveals himself to be Adam and has lured Agent Doyle out to the local rose garden. "Fenton" touches Agent Doyle who is revealed to have killed his own mother. "Fenton" destroys the demon and continues the angel's work.
There are multiple twists in this film. First, "Fenton" has to pretend to be the other brother to lure Agent Doyle out to the rose garden to be destroyed. Alongside that, after that twist is revealed, what I feel is the major twist kicks in. "Fenton" and Dad really were visited by an angel and can actually see who are good men and who are demons. This, like The Usual Suspects, relies on an unreliable narrator and flashbacks to conceal the twists the films have in store. This is exactly like the The Usual Suspects twist as we are in Doyle's shoes as the story is told to us. Unfortunately this film seems to have fallen by the wayside, but is truly a well made film and worth a look.
3. 12 Monkeys, 1995
Terry Gilliam's 1995 sci-fi thriller is one of the best time travel films of all time. Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a volunteer from the future who is sent to the present (1996) to gather information regarding a global virus that has been released. During his time in the "present" he tries to obtain help from Doctor Kathryn Railly (Madeleine Stowe) and mental patient Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt).
Probably a more subtle twist than a lot of films out there, the climax of the film takes place in an airport. James and Kathryn locate the person suspected of releasing the virus. As they attempt to stop the suspect, James is shot and killed while the suspect boards the plane to begin the release of the virus. As the suspect sits down for the flight, though, an astrophysicist from James' present sits next to him, claiming to be in insurance. The sad twist for James is that he is stuck in a loop where he dies while trying to stop the viral outbreak, but he did succeed in his mission for his present to identify the origins of the virus to help find a cure and make the Earth inhabitable once again in James' present.
2. The Shawshank Redemption, 1994
Forget about the twist ending, this is just an amazing film on its own merit. As this article is about twist endings, though, lets get to that. Frank Darabont adapted Stephen King's story into an Oscar nominated film about two prisoners: Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) and Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) who bond and become close friends over almost two decades in prison together.
The twist of this film comes from the point of view. Us, the audience, observe the film through Morgan Freeman's eyes. He is already in prison when Andy is brought in for the murder of his wife and her lover. The two bond as the years pass, but near the end of their time together, Red becomes worried about Andy's mental stability; until one day it is revealed that Andy escaped Shawshank Prison. Once Andy escaped, we are shown that almost from Day One, Andy had been plotting an escape and are shown details of how he escaped. Even though it is somewhat of a cheat by not being with Andy at all, you are so emotionally wrapped up in the story that even when it is revealed that Andy has escaped, you are just happy to see that Andy was able to free himself and you, along with Red feel the joy that Andy felt.
1. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978
Philip Kaufman provides what I feel to be one of the most earned twist endings in film. This version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a remake of the '56 'Invasion' and follows a small group of residents from San Francisco led by Donald Sutherland's Matthew Bennell who uncover that aliens are replacing humans who identical pod people, sans emotion. They try to stop the pod people, even as the number of humans is dwindling down fast.
Matthew and the remaining survivors make their way to the facility where the pods are being grown in an attempt to destroy the pods. Matthew is successful as the pod people begin to descend on Matthew's location. We then cut to daytime where Matthew appears to be blending in with the remaining pod people by showing a lack of emotion. In the street, he spots Nancy, (Veronica Cartwright) who had been separated while trying to flee the pod people. She is happy to see Matthew, but Matthew points his finger and emits a screeching sound to alert the pod people Nancy's location and reveals that Matthew has been taken over.
This is one of my favorite twist endings of all time. You are on this journey with Matthew to stop the pod people invasion and it is a bleak and sad ending to see that our heroes lose. This feels like a true ending though as the pod people had been, and still continue to take over the humans. It is an iconic and what I feel is a well-deserved ending.
Again, these aren't the best twist endings ever, some that I just feel are well deserved and justified. I know there are plenty of others including: The Sixth Sense, Citizen Kane, Primal Fear, Fight Club, Saw, etc. If you got anymore, please feel free to list them.