Ranking The Most Shocking Twists In M. Night Shyamalan's Movies

Photo: Buena Vista Pictures
After years peppered with critical failures like The Last Air Bender and After Earth, M. Night Shyamalan returned to his purest form with 2015's The Visit. It wasn't merely a return to the horror genre that made fans pay attention: the mark of an iconic Shyamalan movie has always been its twist, and The Visit's surprise ending was as jaw-dropping as ever.

Now, Shyamalan has a new film about to hit theaters, and fans are ready for the promised third-act shocker. Split, which arrives in theaters on January 20, stars James McAvoy as a man with dissociative identity disorder who takes a trio of teenage girls hostage. While some of the man's personalities are kind, the one the teens have to watch out for is the mysterious "Beast."

It seems that the answer to what the so-called Beast wants is the film's twist — but, as with any Shyamalan twist, don't you dare spoil it for yourself.

Of course, not every Shyamalan surprise ending is created equal. In anticipation of the writer-director's latest flick, we've ranked his most twisted twists from least surprising to most. Warning: spoilers (obviously) to follow.

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The Happening (2008)

The Happening still makes no damn sense, which is why it's the worst twist Shyamalan has come up with. In the movie, hoards of people commit suicide for seemingly no reason, and it's up to Mark Wahlberg's high school science teacher to figure the whole thing out. Though an airborne toxin is initially blamed — maybe it's an act of terrorism or some government-sanctioned population control — the twist revealed at the end is ridiculous rather than illuminating.

It turns out that it's plants — yes, plants — that are giving off the toxin in order to protect themselves from mankind. Yes, really.
Just in case you thought that star Wahlberg thought the movie was better than it was, he knew exactly what he had gotten himself into. During an interview with MovieLine, the Fighter star is quoted as saying: "It is what it is. Fucking trees, man, the plants. Fuck it. You can't blame me for wanting to try to play a science teacher."
2 of 8
Signs (2002)

Unlike The Happening, Signs is a great movie — its biggest flaw is that the twist isn't entirely logical. In the film, aliens arrive on Earth, causing mass panic. When they arrive at the home of former pastor Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), Graham puts it together that water is toxic for the aliens. Ultimately, his daughter's water glasses, which she leaves throughout the house because she believes the water is contaminated (get it?), prove to be a weapon against the extraterrestrial life forms.

Here's the issue: it makes very little sense for the aliens to be harmed by water. Earth is 70% of it, cells are made up of it, and it's already in the atmosphere. Why would aliens plot to take over a planet with poisonous stuff everywhere? Signs can mostly be forgiven for this lapse in logic, as defeating the aliens isn't actually the point: the movie is more about finding faith in life's random occurrences and the strength to move on from pain. Still, in terms of simple things that defeat alien species, War of the Worlds did it better.
3 of 8
Devil (2010)

Technically, this isn't a true Shyamalan movie. It was directed by John Erick Dowdle, and the script by Brian Nelson was based on a short story that Shyamalan wrote. The premise is simple: several people are stuck in an elevator, and one is the Devil. After people die in disturbing, elevator-related ways, the devil finally reveals its host body: it turns out that the older woman in the elevator, who faked her own death earlier in the movie, is the one causing the mayhem.

However, there's a double twist: before she can attack Tony (Logan Marshall-Green), Tony repents for the hit and run he committed years earlier. The devil vanishes, powerless now that Tony has asked God for forgiveness. Later, Detective Bowden (Chris Messina) reveals that Tony's accident was the same one that took the life of his child and wife, and he forgives Tony as well.

Devil doesn't have a bad twist — and there are certainly plenty of red herrings set up that make it challenging to predict the real threat — however, the car accident storyline ties up in a neat little bow that feels... predictable.
4 of 8
Unbreakable (2000)

Unbreakable is one of the most original movies in Shyamalan's roster. It stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn, an "unbreakable" man whom Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man with extremely fragile bones, mentors in order to become a superhero. However, for every superhero, there must be a supervillain: at the end of the film, Price is revealed to be behind a series of terrorist attacks he planned in order to find a man like Dunn. The twist is poignant — Price is a tragic villain who used Dunn to find purpose in his own life — but considering the film was about a superhero, it's reasonable to think that "Mr. Glass" would end up his opposite in every way.
5 of 8
The Village (2004)

The twist in The Village works because it makes you realize that the movie you think you're watching is not actually what you're seeing. The film sets itself up as a monster movie: an 18th-century village is being stalked by mysterious creatures in red cloaks, making venturing out into the woods impossible.

However, by the end of the movie, it's revealed that something else is going on entirely. Not only are the monsters an invention of the village elders to keep the children in the town, the entire village isn't actually in the 18th-century at all. The film is set in present day, and the village elders have kept the truth a secret in order to protect their simpler life. Shocking twist? Absolutely. A little silly? Definitely.
6 of 8
The Visit (2015)

Grandparents can be terrifying too! The Visit's twist works because the movie sends your brain to a million more places before landing on its final, fairly simple shocker. In the movie, Becca (Olivia DeJonge) and Tyler (Ed Oxenbould) spend a weekend with their grandparents (Deanna Dunagan & Peter McRobbie) for the first time, only to find that their mom's folks are insanely weird.

Are they "just old," as their mom (Kathryn Hahn) suggests, or is something more sinister going on? The movie will have your brain jumping to a million different conclusions — are the grandparents possessed? — but the answer is actually pretty simple. The children's so-called grandma and grandpa murdered their real grandparents and then took their place.
7 of 8
The Sixth Sense (1999)

Let's pretend for a moment that the twist ending of The Sixth Sense isn't ubiquitously known, and remember a time before we knew that Bruce Willis' Malcolm was a ghost for the majority of the film. The beauty of this shocking ending is that, honestly, we all should have seen it coming. Malcolm talks to no one in the film (or, rather, no one who talks back to him), save for Cole (Haley Joel Osment) the only person in the film who can see ghosts.

Through smart direction and clever scenes (we only assumed that Malcolm talked to Cole's mother about starting therapy) Shyamalan was able to craft a twist that was both jaw-dropping as well as right in front of your face. The Sixth Sense earns an A+ for so many reasons, but the twist is certainly a big part of that.
8 of 8
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