The Usual Suspects, Fight Club, Empire Strikes Back and more great twists
You know a film was worth the time and money when you walk away saying ‘I never saw that coming’. You can spend 100 minutes engrossed in a movie and at the last minute the script writers pull the rug from under your feet with a scintillating twist that leaves you reeling.
This week Oldboy is released in cinemas, directed by Spike Lee and starring Josh Brolin and Elizabeth Olson. This remake of a Korean movie of the same name has one of the best plot turns of the year that’s bound to shock and stun viewers. In celebration of a great twist, Time Out looks back at some of the best in movie history. But beware, if you haven’t seen these films, proceed with caution, as we might just give away the ending.
1 The Usual Suspects Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite, 1995 This thriller begins with the explosion of a docked ship, before one of the two survivors goes on to narrate the events of the previous six weeks that led him to the vessel. It’s a yarn involving five criminals unwittingly brought together in a police cell due to one thing they have in common: the master criminal Keyser Soze, who may or may not exist.
2 Fight Club Edward Norton, Brad Pitt, Helena Bonham Carter, 1999 In this genre-bending, action and psychological thriller, Edward Norton’s character used to be an upwardly mobile urban professional; now, he’s pallid, neurotic and unhappy. Then he bumps into Tyler Durden (Pitt), his apartment blows up, and everything changes. Gaudy and amoral, Tyler Durden lives on the edge and his raw physical grace embodies everything his alter ego has lost touch with; they trade body blows for fun, and you can sense the gain in the pain. Their ‘club’ starts to draw devotees from across the city and under Tyler’s subtle guidance, the group evolves into an anarchist movement. The film does everything short of rattling your seat to get a reaction, which is amplified when Durden turns out to be a figment of the narrator’s imagination.
3 The Sixth Sense Bruce Willis, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, 1999 Eight-year-old Cole (Osment) whispers his secret to shrink Malcolm Crowe (Willis): ‘I see dead people.’ But why have these purgatorial souls made contact with this bright, ultra-sensitive boy? Haunted by his failure to help a former patient, Crowe is oblivious to his estranged wife’s needs and desperate to redeem himself by saving the boy. The cruel twist is that Willis died at the start of the film.
4 Shutter Island Leonardo DiCaprio, Emily Mortimer, Mark Ruffalo, 2010 This movie set in 1954 sees DiCaprio play Teddy Daniels, a US marshal dispatched to the titular ocean-bound asylum to investigate the disappearance of a criminally insane inmate from her locked cell. He soon begins to suspect that this remote facility isn’t all it appears – is Ben Kingsley’s avuncular psychiatrist really as kindly and welfare-conscious as he seems? Why are the guards so heavily armed? And what’s with the mysterious lighthouse that all the patients seem so terrified of? To make matters worse, there’s a hurricane coming in and the generators are on the blink. Getting off the island may be difficult, and for DiCaprio’s Daniels, as it transpires he’s not the investigator he thought he was.
5 The Empire Strikes Back Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, 1980 In this now classic sci-fi epic, The Galactic Empire is under the rule of tyrant Darth Vader and he is in pursuit of Luke Skywalker and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. Skywalker’s detest of Vader comes from his belief that Vader killed his father, but it’s not until a now classic light sabre duel that Luke discovers Vader didn’t kill his father – and a famous Hollywoood line since quoted by millions was born.