Ever since M. Night Shyamalan shocked audiences the world over with his twist ending in The Sixth Sense, many films have tried to replicate his success with a similarly mind-blowing twist - most have failed. Very few contemporary twists have reached the height of excellence or relevance that Shyamalan did. He even tried doing it himself several times, and - through a series of diminishing returns in cinematic quality - became the butt of everyone's jokes.
Twists certainly have their place in cinematic history and are part of some of the best films ever made, like The Empire Strikes Back, Fight Club, Se7en, Oldboy and The Usual Suspects. The twists in those were not only totally surprising, but actually elevated the films themselves all the while staying within relative believability in each of their respective stories.
Many films now that contain twist endings are often terribly done or poor hatchet jobs, because those films relied solely on their twists to be popular. Just because it's a twist doesn't mean it gets any kind of special treatment or an automatic pass. It should be unpredictable, but not so completely far out of left field that it takes the audience right out of the viewing experience to puzzle over and scratch their collective heads. Here are 10 films which opted for twist endings that - for various reasons - didn't work, and in being revealed ruined their respective films for repeat viewings...
10. Now You See Me (2013)
Louis Leterrier directed The Incredible Hulk, which was pretty underrated, but he also gave the world the truly awful remake of Clash of The Titans. Right in the middle on the spectrum of Leterrier's career sits last year's Now You See Me. While it was certainly ridiculous in concept and execution, there was an undeniable sense of fun involved that simply couldn't be ignored. The plot twist is revealed, however, and makes no sense whatsoever. You suspend your disbelief for the sum of the picture until you find out that it was... Mark Ruffalo the whole time?
Based off this twist, there are a whole lot of things that had to have happened entirely by unbelievable coincidence for Ruffalo's plan to ever go exactly the way he somehow preordained. The twist makes the rest of the film invalid, because there were so many variables that he never could have accounted for. There's just no possible way that he could have known everything was going to happen as perfectly as it did that far in advance. Using "There's magic in it" as an excuse to cover up its flaws is just not a justifiable excuse in the slightest.
9. The Human Centipede II (2011)
Contrary to popular belief, the first Human Centipede movie wasn't bad because of its infamous subject matter. It was a bad movie because it was populated with agonizingly idiotic characters who made increasingly stupid decisions. The second Human Centipede movie was a bad movie because it was far more disgusting comparatively to the first, because every horrific image was only used for excessive shock value and nothing more. The twist that Tom Six employed is hands down one of the worst ever conceived that ironically nobody ever talks about.
The film ends with showing Martin back at his tollbooth job where he started from the very beginning. Apparently Six figured it would be rather genius to have the entire film take place in Martin's head. Not only is the "it was all a dream" twist ending one of the most tired and cliched cop-outs there is, but it makes the sequel that much more frustrating to have just sat through. The audience was just subjected to some of the most horrific images ever committed to screen, only to have all of what they just experienced mean absolutely nothing because none of it even happened. Who would bother watching it a second time based off of that? Nobody. That's who.
8. Remember Me (2010)
In an attempt to grow out his Twilight image, Robert Pattinson tried his hand at an actual dramatic role in Remember Me. Truth be told, the film wasn't actually half bad, other than the relatively cliched and predictable romance detailing it. The one glaring flaw with the film, however, would undoubtedly be the ending. The hero of the film Tyler decides to go to his father's office one morning and while waiting, looks outside the window. The camera zooms out from Tyler to reveal that his father's office takes place in one of the Twin Towers. The film ends with everyone mourning the loss of Tyler because he just so happened to be in one of the towers on 9/11.
Was the plot twist a surprise? It most definitely was a surprise because it totally came out of nowhere, and not in a good way. The twist, while shocking, felt entirely like a shameless exploitation of those who actually did die on that terrible day. Remember Me tried to emotionally manipulate viewers with a tacked on gut-punch twist ending that didn't work at all. Thanks to that horrible ending, the whole rest of the film is unfortunately soured in the process.
7. The Number 23 (2007)
Like most comedic actors trying to be taken seriously at some point in their career, Jim Carrey found both success and failure on that front. He knocked it out of the park with his performance in The Truman Show, which was fantastic in all aspects. Where he failed was in The Number 23 to truly abysmal results. Not only did nobody want to see him all dark, brooding and tatted up, but the film was just an unbelievable mess. It had moments of intrigue here and there to be sure, but whatever goodwill was originally built up was immediately torn down by the ludicrous twist at the end.
Like the terrible "horror" films Secret Window and Hide and Seek, The Number 23 employs the mind-numbingly stupid twist of "the main character did it and was crazy the whole time." As much as I wanted to like the movie and give Carrey the benefit of the doubt, I just couldn't. Diving into the obsession of a character's mind on that level can often be highly engaging, depending on the film of course. The Number 23 is most certainly not one of those cases.
6. Savages (2012)
Oliver Stone's pulpy and brazen drug-fueled saga Savages is another great example of an awesome movie that's frustratingly ruined by its horrible plot twist. Instead of going for the typical happy ending, Taylor Kitsch, Aaron Johnson and Blake Lively all get brutally shot up in the middle of the desert. Blood and gore is not spared in any fashion, as it's all on show for what's arguably a mostly gratuitous but certainly entertaining display. That's the exact moment that the film should have cut to black and had the end credits roll. What happens instead is utterly maddening in response.
All three heroes are dead and then Lively comes back in her narration and rewinds the entire shoot-out to a different result. She just decides to be an unpredictable narrator for no apparent reason other than cheap convenience. The climax happens again, but all three heroes survive to tell the tale and the film ends. This twist is so bad, because it's arguably one of the worst examples of a writer using deus ex machina within the last ten years. Lively ultimately pulling the strings makes their initial deaths meaningless in favour of being able to bend the rules of the story in her favour.
5. Safe Haven (2013)
Anyone who watches a Nicolas Sparks movie knows exactly what he or she is getting into whenever they watch one. Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough are good-looking and likeable enough on their own terms, but together their romantic chemistry simply falls flat. Even Hough's relationship with Cobie Smulders is also rather uninteresting for the few times that they're actually together on screen.
What sets this film apart from the rest of Sparks' ilk however is just how utterly confounding and atrocious the plot twist actually is. At the very end of the film, Duhamel saves Hough and his daughter from his burning down store and the bad guy is defeated. Everything is shaping up to be the sappy vanilla ending that we all expect. Then in the final minutes of the movie, Hough reads a letter from Duhamel's dead ex-wife who for some indiscernible reason turns out to be Smulders. She was a ghost the entire time who just had some unfinished business to attend to by making sure Hough was a suitable enough replacement wife for her hunky husband. The movie is fun in the trashy kind of way, but the completely out of nowhere supernatural element is unintentionally hysterical.
4. Signs (2002)
Signs was arguably the last "good" movie M. Night Shyamalan ever made, but its twist ending is just garbage. You'd think that an advanced alien race would be smart enough to not go to a planet that's mostly covered in their one weakness. The whole idea of water being the one thing to do them in is ludicrous because it's just such an easy answer to the problems. The twist is so unfortunate because the rest of the movie is actually pretty great by comparison. The scene where Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix are running through the corn maze to the sound of nothing but snapping stocks and heavy breathing is some of the best stuff that Shyamalan has ever done.
The scene leading up to the twist is also great up until the big reveal of course. Quoting the last thing that his dying wife says to him, Gibson tells Phoenix's character, Merrill, "to swing away." He picks up the baseball and does just that - thereby knocking the glasses of water on the aliens. A better and more logical weakness to these pesky extra terrestrials would be that of fire. Make some molotov cocktails instead, Merrill.
3. The Village (2004)
Putting another Shyamalan flick on this list may feel like an easy choice, and it is, but the sins committed in The Village can't go unmentioned. Where Signs was actually pretty good for the most part with a terrible twist, The Village is an bad movie that's made completely unwatchable by its twist. The film itself is an exercise in pure masochism on the part of the viewer. Bryce Dallas Howard goes looking for any kind of medication to help remedy Joaquin Phoenix because her village doesn't have what's needed to save him. This being unfortunately due to a lack of medicinal advancements because they live back in the old times.
She goes searching high and low until she ultimately finds herself on the outskirts of town. After a rather weary journey, she finally finds some kind of civilization. The whole film the audience is bored because of how bad the movie is until Howard finds out the truth, and then it just becomes laughable. Turns out that the film actually takes place in the present day and that the leaders of the village kept everyone dressed up in their old timey clothes for no reason at all. The elders wanted to keep the young frightened and in line in their little community, so that none of them would ever want to leave? Why exactly is this a thing?
2. Stay (2005)
One of the more confounding films from the aughts that bafflingly attracted some strong star power was the perplexing 2005 film Stay. Anyone that was a fan of Ryan Gosling, Ewan McGregor or Naomi Watts surely came out of this film either confused or flabbergasted. Where the Human Centipede II was just gross for the sake of being gross and had the cop-out "it was all a dream" ending, Stay does the exact same thing, but is infinitely far more disappointing. Tom Six's gross-out sequel never had a chance to be good and it sucked accordingly. Stay had so much more potential to actually be a decent film and ended up failing miserably, which is definitely far worse.
Despite the lack of a coherent or logical story, there was a hope that the ending would clear up the mountain of questions that the film poses. Instead of getting the desired answers, what the audience is left with is nothing more than pure frustration and headache. Stay tried and ultimately failed to be a thought-provoking meditation on both love and death, but was successful in neither regard. The film offers no real answers, but instead sheepishly plays "the dream card" simply because it doesn't have anything of real value or substance to offer in service of solely being asinine.
1. Planet Of The Apes (2001)
The mother of all terrible plot twists hands down goes to Tim Burton's re-imagining of Planet of the Apes. Now sure it has some merits here and there in having all of the actors playing apes in actual suits, makeup and prosthetics as opposed to horrendous looking CGI. The film isn't all that completely terrible story-wise, either. Some of the action is decently handled and mildly entertaining, too. Then you get to the end where Mark Wahlberg makes it back to Earth only to find the above confounding and entirely bizarre picture.
To this day nobody understands how the apes have taken over our beloved world. Not a single person is able to come up with even a plausible explanation for this nonsensical ending. The reboot tries its best to ape (no, I'm not sorry for that pun) the brilliantly shocking twist ending of the Charlton Heston original film. Where the latter had one of the best twist endings in cinematic history, Burton's ending just comes off as cheap and lazy. Thanks to this horribly botched final few minutes, the rest of what Burton was trying to do is basically unwatchable because of just how tremendously awful the answer to everything ends up being.