As the title may suggest, there will be spoilers, so read at your own risk!
In an era where superhero movies are indisputably the most popular and lucrative genre in Hollywood, producers constantly need to raise the stakes to put bums on seats and break box office records. A popular way of doing this is by sending viewers the entirely wrong way with a shocking twist to tear up the rule-book. Today, we're counting down five such twists that changed everything.
#5 - X-Men: The Last Stand - Professor X's Death
Cast your mind back to 2006. Batman Begins has just been released and turned the superhero genre on its head, and the franchises that dominated the landscape in this pre-MCU era were Spider-Man and the omnipresent X-Men. The latter's third entry, X-Men: The Last Stand was plagued with production issues as former franchise-handler Bryan Singer departed the series. Brett Ratner signed on to direct, and although The Last Stand wasn't the hit viewers wanted, it certainly wasn't afraid to take a risk, by killing off staples of its main cast, including James Marsden's Cyclops and, most notably, Patrick Stewart's Professor X. The deaths were bold and shocking at a time before killing off a main character wasn't so contrived, and the ambition has to be applauded despite patchy execution. It was daring and shocking, and definitely set the precedent for future superhero films to come.
#4 - Batman - The Joker killed Thomas and Martha Wayne
Many consider Tim Burton's 1989 flick Batman to be the film that kickstarted the superhero genre, and even if 1978's Superman: The Movie arguably holds that title, it's definitely fair to say it kicked off the trend of sucker-punch plot twists in this genre. In a massive deviation from the source material, it is revealed that Jack Nicholson's Jack Napier a.k.a. The Joker was the one that shot Bruce Wayne's parents, Thomas and Martha. Although jarring, it's safe to say this tore up the rulebook and instantly established that Burton's Batman would be nothing like you've ever seen before. You can check out our review of Batman here.
#3 - The Dark Knight - Rachel Dawes' Death
Critics and fans alike hail Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight as one of the finest examples of superhero cinema, and with the ways in which it subverted yet also complimented the genre, it's not hard to see why. One of the biggest factors of this was the ballsy decision to kill off Maggie Gyllenhaal's Rachel Dawes at the film's midpoint. Now, before you argue that this is just some character death - which is initially hard to disagree with - you need to take a look deeper at the execution of this. In your average superhero film when a character dies, there's the obligatory funeral scene, and plenty of dreary moping around, not forgetting the frequently-hamfisted foreshadowing that accompanies this. The Dark Knight's handling isn't like that. All signs in the film point to Christian Bale's Batman saving Rachel from her death trap, and when this doesn't happen, it's incomprehensibly shocking, and Nolan's handling of the ramifications are unlike anything viewers had seen before.
#2 - Captain America: Civil War - Tony finding out Bucky killed Howard and Maria Stark
Reasonably similar to the aforementioned Batman twist, this one is that times a hundred. More than just changing the our perception of the killer - in this case Sebastian Stan's Bucky Barnes a.k.a. The Winter Soldier - as was the case with Batman, this takes it to the next level and sparks conflict between a much larger array of characters, especially MCU spearhead Iron Man. Although the bombshell is revealed to Cap in 2014's The Winter Soldier, the execution of Tony Stark finding out the secret is so masterful that you'll need a minute just to comprehend how impactful this twist really is in terms of the relationships between the Avengers. It leads to some of the best performances ever seen in the MCU, with a totally different side of Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man being revealed and some brutal and emotionally-charged action scenes taking place, and it truly is one of the most shocking and jaw-droppingly excellent twists in genre history.
Edit: Thanks to your comments we've realised that this was revealed to Cap in The Winter Soldier, but due to the fact that the focus in Civil War is Tony finding out and his reaction, we've made the appropriate changes . Apologies!
#1 - S.H.I.E.L.D. has been infected by HYDRA - Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Another twist from the Captain America trilogy, this one was so shocking that its ramifications didn't just affect a few characters, or just the plot of this film, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe entirely, past, present and future. About midway through the fantastic Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is revealed that S.H.I.E.L.D., the organisation responsible for assembling and maintaining the Avengers, has been infected by the nefarious Nazi organisation HYDRA, flipping the entire universe on its head. Not only do you never see it coming, but it changes your entire perception of the previous eight films in the saga. It changes your opinion of characters, and makes you question everything that you've seen before, let alone sending the film in a completely different direction than the cookie-cutter superhero affair. Its effect is still felt massively four films later, and there's never been a superhero twist so impactful, so unforeseen, and so damn shocking. Be honest, you never saw this bombshell coming.
What do you think of the list? Are there any plot twists you'd have included, or left out? Be sure to leave a comment as we'll always reply, and if you enjoyed this article and want more like it, feel free to give us a follow. Thanks for reading!