There's nothing quite like a cinematic twist. There you are, comfortable in your seat, lost in a fictional world of wonder. You're adrift in a sea of thrills — when suddenly, the plug gets pulled. Then, you're swirling, round and round, grasping at anything you can as the firm footing you thought you had disappears. Such is the magic of a quality reveal, much like the one in The Usual Suspects, which hit theaters 20 years ago today.
With The Usual Suspects in mind, we've compiled a list of 20 surprise endings that truly rip the ground out from underneath you. We won't ruin the big reveal for you — after all, no one likes a spoilsport. We'll just whet your appetite for some of the most soul-sucking, mind-blowing, jaw-dropping plot change-ups in cinematic history. C'mon baby, let's do the twist
The Sixth Sense (1999)
The hints are kind of there all along; after all, little Haley Joel Osment's character does see dead people. Still, you want to believe Bruce Willis' child psychiatrist will actually be able to rid his tormented patient of his affliction.
Citizen Kane (1941)
One word: Rosebudddddddddd. But, what does that word mean to megalomaniacal newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane?
The rundown Bates Motel is overlooked by the sinister house on a hill where its owner/proprietor, Norman Bates, lives with his mentally ill mother, Norma Bates. When a guest is murdered in the shower by a shadowy figure, Norman attempts to dispose of the body and cover it up. The victim's sister and police come sniffing for clues, though, leading to a horrific discovery about the Bates family.
Leonard Shelby has anterograde amnesia, which means he has no short-term memory and cannot create new ones. He also can't recall how his wife was murdered. He relies on a series of tattoos, Polaroids, and other mementos to exist on a day-to-day basis, trying to piece together the puzzle of how he wound up in this condition. Told through both chronological and reverse-chronological order, Christopher Nolan's film is a master work of unreliable narration and the persistence of memory.
Friday the 13th (1980)
Welcome to Camp Crystal Lake, the newly re-opened summer haven where Jason Voorhees once drowned due to two negligent counselors who snuck off for some moonlight nookie. Good luck surviving with a killer (or are there multiple killers?) on the loose.
Fight Club (1999)
The first rule of Fight Club: Don't reveal the massive twist at the end of Fight Club. Do reveal that Brad Pitt is in top-notch form here as the nihilistic Tyler Durden, and that we meet the narrator (Edward Norton) at a "very strange time" in his life. Also, listen to The Pixies' "Where Is My Mind," which plays over the film's final scene and credits, to fully immerse yourself in David Fincher's seditious and sinister work.
American Psycho (2000)
Does Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) really detest the shallow conspicuous consumption of his time and social set enough to start murdering coworkers, prostitutes, and more? Put on a Huey Lewis and the News album and find out. Don't let your mask of sanity slip.
After their third child is stillborn, a couple decides to adopt nine-year-old Esther from a nearby orphanage. They start to wonder if their new daughter is who she seems after a string of bullying incidents and other telltale hints at a sexual knowledge well beyond her supposed nine years come to light.
Oh Dae-su is released from captivity after 15 years with no knowledge of why he was imprisoned in the first place. After learning that his wife was murdered, he embarks on a quest for vengeance and to discover the whereabouts of his long-lost daughter. Unfortunately, Dae-su's confinement didn't end when he was released from his hotel-like cell, and he's sill being subjected to a master manipulator on his own crusade for revenge.
The Others (2001)
"Sometimes the world of the dead gets mixed up with the world of the living." That's really all you need to know about Grace (Nicole Kidman) and her children, Anne and Nicholas, who inhabit a strange house in Jersey.
Two detectives (Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman) are tasked with tracking down a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) whose methodical murders mirror the seven deadly sins. After uncovering five of his victims, the detectives are confronted by none other than the killer himself for the gruesome final two. And, what's in the box?
Primal Fear (1996)
A stuttering altar boy (Edward Norton) is charged with the brutal murder of an archbishop and convinces defense attorney Martin Vail (Richard Gere) of his innocence. Let's just say innocent-seeming altar boys aren't always what they appear to be.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Okay, so the enduring repetition of one of the most popular lines from the original Star Wars trilogy may have ruined this one for you. Or, perhaps you caught Beca's spot-on observation about the German translation of Darth Vader in Pitch Perfect. If you've managed to make it this far without having the mind-blowing revelation about Luke Skywalker and the epitome of evil himself ruined for you, congrats; you've clearly mastered how to use the Force to shield yourself from spoilers.
A doctor and a photographer find themselves trapped in a subterranean bathroom with individual instructions as to how to escape. These instructions involve locating a bag containing a pair of saws, which at first seem intended for the chains binding their legs, but are revealed to be for their actual legs. There's also a corpse in the bathroom. Only one man will end up dead in this round of the Jigsaw killer's game, and it's not going to be the corpse, of course.
Let's put it this way: Katherine (Faye Dunaway) isn't just Evelyn's sister, and Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is going to get to the bottom of things.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
In the future, an astronaut crew crash-lands on a mysterious planet where apes are the superior species, and mute human slaves do their bidding. Except, the planet might not be such a mystery after all.
The Descent (2005)
A group of spelunkers gets trapped in an unexplored passage of caves, only to be preyed on by humanoid crawlers and their own deceitful actions. The final survivor appears to escape towards daylight when...well, we're not going to spoil anything for you, remember? But, do know that the original ending of this British flick was revised to make it slightly more hopeful for us gosh-darn optimistic Americans.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Sometimes, you have to be transported to a mythical land where you battle a wicked witch with a talking lion, scarecrow, and tin man while on a quest to reach an Emerald City to learn that there really is no place like home, and that happiness is in your own backyard. Or, do you actually have to travel anywhere at all to come to this realization? Lies, tornadoes, and bewilderment...oh my!
The Crying Game (1992)
An unlikely friendship develops between an IRA soldier and his British captive in Northern Ireland. When the captive's execution is botched, the soldier flees to London to start a new life as a day laboror, also pursuing the now-dead captive's girlfriend — or so he thinks.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Who is Keyser Söze? Just remember: "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist."