Like a film with a surprise ending? Try these for size
Gone Girl, in cinemas now, has a much talked-about twist ending. But does it rival the shock, revelation and craziness of these ones?
The Usual Suspects (1995) Five years before he helped get the X-Men to the big screen, director Bryan Singer was busy shocking the world with one of cinema’s most memorable – and unpredictable – twist endings. As the sole survivor of a boat heist gone wrong, Verbal Kint, a small-time criminal with a limp (and played brilliantly by Kevin Spacey) describes to a detective the events leading up to the tragedy. He tells how Keyser Söze, an incredibly evil, dangerous mastermind who has been in hiding for many years, may have been involved with the massacre of the gang – the gang that Verbal had helped form, following a line-up where he had met two-bit criminals like himself. But when Kint leaves the office, the detective realises that Verbal had been fabricating the names in his story with the names of anything to hand – including the one on the detective’s coffee mug – and as Kint leaves the scene, his limp disappears. Keyser Söze has left the building.
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) After the kiddie-focused space adventure of the first Star Wars film, the saga’s creative team – George Lucas and Lawrence Kasdan – decided to go the way of the very, very dark side for its sequel. Even though its famous ‘I am your father’ reveal is thoroughly wedged in pop culture nowadays, the line was kept secret even from the actors who played Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in the scene, Mark Hamill and David Prowse. (Even then, Prowse was given the different line, ‘Obi-Wan killed your father’, while James Earl Jones – Vader’s voice – recorded the dialogue afterward. Hamill was told of the real line right before filming the scene). Lovingly parodied in the years since, and near-impossible to not already know on your first viewing of The Empire Strikes Back, the moment still astounded audiences back in 1980 who, until that shocking, operatic moment, thought that Star Wars was for kids only.
Fight Club (1999) Many plot twists feel forced, often shoehorned onto the end of a movie to give us something to talk about when the lights go up. Fight Club, directed by David Fincher and starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, isn’t one of them; Norton plays an unnamed man whose only goal in life is to own everything in the latest furniture catalogue. When he meets Tyler Durden, his world is turned topsy-turvy as he’s introduced to robbing soap factories, rallying against the powers that be, and starting the underground fisticuffs movement, Fight Club (which we’re not allowed to talk about). Little known to him, however, is that he and his newfound friend are actually the same person; he is Tyler Durden, Brad Pitt was just a figment of his imagination. The best thing about this particular twist is that it makes everything that’s happened up until that point make twisted, schizophrenic sense.
Soylent Green (1973) ‘Soylent Green is people!’ has become a go-to phrase for anyone taking the mick out of shady government goings-on. Of course, if we go back to 1973, we realise the line was a shocking reveal of stomach-churning proportions in a film concerned with the evils of the elite. The science-fiction thriller takes place in an alternate 2022, where New York City is overrun by a spiralling population and slowly poisoned by greenhouse gases, and the only food left to munch on is a mysterious green wafer, courtesy of the Soylent Corporation. While investigating the murder of a wealthy businessman, Detective Thorn uncovers the horrifying connection between the Soylent Corporation and the ‘Home’, a government clinic that euthanises elderly people. All together now: ‘Soylent Green is people!’
The Village (2004) Covington, the 19th Century: The small village has kept itself to itself for many years. Mysterious monsters haunt the surrounding forests, but the villagers have a truce with them; as long as they don’t go into their woods, the creatures will stay away from their homes. But when one of their own dies from lack of medical care, a minority votes to travel to ‘the towns’ to pick up any supplies they can – even though no one has ever left the village. When their wish is rejected by the senior townsfolk, one of the braver villagers, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) leaves in secret. Learning that the monsters are only men in costumes isn’t the biggest shock; when Ivy comes out the other side of the woods, we realise it’s actually the 21st century, and that the Elders formed the village to keep their children away from the evils of the real world.