74+ Best Twist Ending Movies

This list catalogs the best examples of twist ending movies. We emphasize horror and thriller films, but include a few exemplary twist ending films outside these genres.

High Tension (2003) seems like a typical scary home invasion movie, until the twist ending changes everything.

Twist endings are a narrative technique in which the plot shifts dramatically and without warning in the third act. This is especially common in whodunit style murder mysteries, but a film of any genre can have a twist ending. Generally, the plot is constructed so as to lead the audience one way, before pulling the rug out from under their feet at the end. If it’s done well, audience members will appreciate the thrill, if it’s done poorly, it can feel like a cheap trick.

The Sixth Sense (1999) is one of the most well-known (and well executed) twist ending movies of all time.

Common twist ending tropes include:

  • Identity Reversal. A main character is revealed to be far from what the audience thought they were. Example: Fight Club (1999), Hide and Seek (2005).
  • Dead Hero. The protagonist turns out to have been dead all along. Examples: Carnival of Souls (1962), The Sixth Sense (1999), Jacob’s Ladder (1990).
  • It Was all a Dream. All or some of the events of the film are revealed to have only been a dream or the fantasies of a mentally ill protagonist. Example: The Wizard of Oz (1939), Total Recall (1990), American Psycho (2000),
  • Return to Earth. The unexpected location or time period of a film are revealed at the end. Examples: The Planet of the Apes (1968), The Village (2004).

This list catalogs the best examples of twist ending movies. We emphasize horror and thriller films, but include a few exemplary twist ending films outside these genres. Spoiler alert: This article will contain spoilers, as inclusion on this list gives away that the film will have a twist ending. Proceed with caution!

Table of Contents

The Top 10 Best Twist Ending Horror Movies

These are the best high-quality horror movies that feature a shocking twist. These films surprised audiences and are memorable and satisfying to watch. While we think “best” is a subjective category and there are plenty of other great twist ending films on our list below, we wanted to give quick recommendation for readers who just want to watch something great.

  1. The Sixth Sense (1999) directed by M. Night Shyamalan
  2. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) directed by Robert Aldrich
  3. The Others (2001) directed by Alejandro Amenábar
  4. Frailty (2001) directed by Bill Paxton
  5. Carnival of Souls (1962) directed by Herk Harvey
  6. Goodnight Mommy (2015) directed by Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala
  7. Sleepaway Camp (1983) directed by Robert Hiltzik
  8. The Skeleton Key (2005) directed by Iain Softley
  9. High Tension (2003) directed by Alexandre Aja
  10. Identity (2003) directed by James Mangold

Old Twist Ending Movies (1940-1999)

Rebecca (1940)

Rebecca was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won for Best Picture and Best Cinematography.

Based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca is a romantic psychological thriller that tells the story of an unnamed young woman who falls in love with a wealthy widower, Maxim de Winter, while on vacation. The two marry and return to Maxim’s famously beautiful estate, Manderley. Maxim’s deceased wife, Rebecca, had been close to the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, who maintains loyalty to the first Mrs. de Winter and is rude to her new employer. Based on all the reminders of Rebecca, the woman believes Maxim is not over Rebecca’s death.

Rebecca was remade by Netflix in 2020 but while the original was a critical and commercial success, the remake was panned.

 Joan Fontaine portrayed the new Mrs. de Winter and Laurence Olivier was Maxim de Winter.

What’s the twist? Maxim is actually responsible for the death of his “beloved” first wife, Rebecca.

Psycho (1960)

Hitchcock altered Anthony Perkins’ voice in order to make it more high-pitched and unnerving.

Psycho is one of the most famous horror movies ever made and Alfred Hitchcock’s most well known work. It follows secretary Marion Crane (Janet Leigh) as she steals $40,000 from her boss and attempts to drive from Phoenix to her boyfriend’s home in California. Along the way she stops at a roadside motel and meets the strange proprietor, Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins). In trailers for the film, Hitchcock pleaded with audience members not to spoil the ending for others since “it’s the only one we have.”

Oscar nominations for this film included: Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, and Best Art Direction.

What’s the twist? The first twist is that star Janet Leigh is killed just 47-minutes into Psycho in the film’s iconic shower scene. The second is that Norman Bates is the titular psycho, and the “mother” he frequently references had died 10 years earlier.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

Director Herk Harvey had only five crew members on set to help shoot this film.

A psychological horror movie that opens with a woman named Mary (Candace Hilligoss) and her friends drag racing. After her car hurtles over a cliff, Mary emerges from the water below and swims to land, but there are no other survivors. She moves to Utah to work as a church organist, but Mary is continually drawn to an abandoned carnival on the outskirts of town, where she is tormented by the souls of the dead. It isn’t until the film’s end that we learn

Candace Hilligoss plays a woman who believes she escaped death only to be haunted by ghouls.

What’s the twist? Mary has also been dead all along, which is what makes her able to see other dead people. Carnival of Souls is considered to be the first usage of the “Dead Hero” twist ending in horror.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

This independent horror film was made for $114,000 and grossed over 263 times its original budget.

Credited with creating the modern zombie genre as we know it, this independent horror movie was directed and co-written by George A. Romero. It follows siblings Johnny (Russ Streiner) and Barbara (Judith O’Dea) as they travel to rural Pennsylvania to visit their father’s grave. At the cemetery, they encounter a ghoul who attacks and eats Johnny. Barbara flees and finds help at a local farmhouse where Ben (Duane Jones) and a group of survivors have taken shelter.

With his role as Ben, Duane Jones made movie history as one of the first times a Black man played a heroic role as a lead character in a film.

What’s the twist? The film’s hero, Ben (Duane Jones), appears to have survived the ordeal when a posse of “rescuers” show up. However Ben is carelessly mistaken for a ghoul and shot and killed. The film ends with Ben’s body being added to a pile of burning corpses.

Soylent Green (1973)

Long before climate change was a hot button issue, Soylent Green depicted the effects of overpopulation and pollution.

In a dystopian future (2022, to be exact), America is an overpopulated mess where the elites control everything—even including the food supply. Most of humanity survives on protein-rich crackers, the latest of which is called Soylent Green because it’s supposedly based on a mix of soybeans and lentils. Against this backdrop, NYPD detective Robert Thorn (Charlton Heston) is tasked with solving the murder of a Soylent board member.

The film’s twist ending is spoiled for many viewers because of people quoting Charlton Heston’s iconic line, “Soylent Green is people!”

What’s the twist? The Soylent Green crackers are made out of people.

The Wicker Man (1973)

British horror films often centered on themes such as pagan sacrifices and cultural tensions.

This British folk horror movie sees a devout Christian cop (Edward Woodward) from the English mainland sent to a remote isle to investigate a young girl’s disappearance. He discovers the island is inhabited by a pagan cult and becomes increasingly suspicious they plan to offer the missing girl as a sacrifice. The film’s title refers to a giant “man” made of wicker that someone is burned alive inside of during a festival.

The poor policeman naively takes the story of the missing girl at face value.

What’s the twist? The missing girl was only a ruse to lure someone who met the cult’s requirements (someone who visits the island of his own free will, someone who has the “power of the king” — which the cop has due to his profession, and someone who is both a virgin and a fool) to the island to be sacrificed in the burning of the wicker man.

Carrie (1976)

Sissy Spacek (left) was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for this role. Piper Laurie (not pictured), who plays her deranged religious fanatic mother, was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.

A supernatural horror movie about a bullied high school student, Carrie (Sissy Spacek), who discovers she has the power of telekinesis. One of Carrie’s classmates (Amy Irving’s Sue Snell) pities her, and encourages her boyfriend to ask Carrie to the prom. However, her more evil classmates use the opportunity to plan a cruel prank on Carrie and pig’s blood is dumped on her after she is voted prom queen. In a rage, Carrie unleashes her telekinetic powers to murder students and teachers indiscriminately before returning home to confront her abusive mother.

When Carrie was in theaters, Sissy Spacek would sneak into showings just to watch people react to the final scene, “People are all relaxed. The music is really beautiful and relaxing, and all of a sudden that (hand) comes up, and people just go crazy.”

What’s the twist? The film’s final scene shows Sue Snell visiting the ruins of the White home to leave flowers in memory of Carrie. Suddenly, a hand reaches up from the ground, startling Amy (and the audience), but this scene is revealed to only be Amy’s nightmare.

Friday the 13th (1980)

Counselors at Camp Crystal Lake are murdered by an unseen killer in Friday the 13th.

In the first campground slasher horror movie, a group of young people work to reopen Camp Crystal Lake more than 20 years after two counselors are murdered. However, the new counselors begin to meet a similar fate as they are murdered one by one. With the numbers dwindling, survivor Alice (Adrienne King) believes she has been rescued when she comes across the friendly Mrs. Voorhees (Betsy Palmer), and old friend of the camp owners.

The final scene was added on after seeing the success of the jump scare at the end of Carrie (1976).

What’s the twist? Friday the 13th has two major twists. The first comes when it is revealed that the camp counselors aren’t victims of Jason Voorhees. His mother has actually been killing everyone as revenge for the counselors who let her son drown decades earlier. The second twist occurs when final girl Alice is resting in a canoe on the lake and suddenly an undead Jason suddenly emerges from the water to pull her in. Although this second twist is revealed to be just a dream.

April Fool’s Day (1986)

This flick attracted a large cult following during late night television airings in the 80s and was a video store favorite in the 90s.

An 80s black comedy slasher movie about a woman named Muffy St. John (Deborah Foreman) who invites friends to her island estate for a week of fun over spring break. However, once the group arrives, her friends start dying one by one in brutal slasher movie fashion.

Muffy/Buffy (Deborah Foreman) demonstrates that her knife is actually a harmless prop.

What’s the twist? With only one survivor left Muffy reveals it was all a joke—an April Fool’s prank! Muffy had each of her friends help pull off the pranked after they “died”. She has plans to open up a murder mystery attraction on the island and used her friends for practice. April Fool’s Day is an example of the “It was all a joke” style of twist ending also seen in The Game (1997).

The Usual Suspects (1995)

The film’s title comes from a line in Casablanca (1942): “Round up the usual suspects”.

A crime thriller starring Kevin Spacey (who the role was written for) as con artist Roger “Verbal” Kint. Through flashbacks, Kint tells police investigators how he and others ended up aboard a burning ship. Supposedly, a mastermind named Keyser Söze orchestrated a foiled heist involving the group of criminals.

Kevin Spacey stars as a con man who escapes justice by blaming his deeds on a nonexistent alter ego.

What’s the twist? After he is free from police custody, Kint’s limp disappears and we realize that “Roger Kint” is actually Keyser Söze—the ultimate unreliable narrator.

Primal Fear (1996)

Richard Gere is the self-important Chicago attorney Martin Vail.

Richard Gere stars in this legal thriller about a shy man with a stutter (Aaron Stampler, played by Edward Norton) who is accused of murdering an Archbishop. A big reveal in the film happens when Gere’s character discovers that Stampler suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID) and has a violent alter-ego named Roy. Gere successfully gets Stampler off for the crime, he will be remanded to a psychiatric hospital only until he gets better.

Edward Norton received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor nomination for his very first film role with Primal Fear (1996).

What’s the twist? The chilling final scene reveals that the DID was faked, and that “Aaron” wasn’t Aaron’s real personality, the sadistic Roy was.

See also: ‘Primal Fear’ (1996): 18 Trivia Facts About a Flawless Legal Thriller

The Sixth Sense (1999)

Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan loves a good twist ending and delivers one of the most famous ones of all time in The Sixth Sense.

Who does a twist ending better than M. Night Shyamalan? In his directorial debut, a child psychologist named Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) takes on the case of a boy named Cole (Haley Joel Osment) who is tormented by his alleged ability to see “dead people”. Initially skeptical, Cole proves to Malcolm again and again that his ability is real.

While the fact that Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead the whole time was a huge shock to the audience, there are subtle clues throughout the film like the other ghosts not knowing they are dead and Malcolm not directly engaging with any character other than Cole.

What’s the twist? Malcolm realizes that he has been dead since a home invasion shown in the first scene of The Sixth Sense.

See also: 24 Facts About ‘The Sixth Sense’

Modern Twist Ending Movies (2000-)

The Others (2001)

Nicole Kidman almost quit The Others because the dark story gave her nightmares, “At one point I didn’t want to make the film because I couldn’t even go there emotionally.”

A haunted house movie set in 1945. Mother Grace (Nicole Kidman) lives with her two children in isolation after her husband Charles left to fight in WWII. Grace keeps the curtains closed as both children have an extreme sensitivity to light. The entire family hears odd sounds that make them fear the house is haunted, by ghosts they eventually refer to as “the others”.

At the beginning, the title seems to refer to the ghosts in the family’s haunted house as “the others”, however the twist ending shows that the family are also considered “the others” by the home’s current inhabitants.

What’s the twist? We don’t realize until the very end that the house is definitely haunted—by Grace and her children. All of the odd things they hear in the house are actually sounds from the world of the living. The family had died in a murder-suicide after Grace received news that Charles died in the war.

See also: The Best Haunted House Movies Ever

Frailty (2001)

A father tells his sons that God has given them a mission to destroy demons.

Bill Paxton made his directorial debut with this unnerving psychological horror movie in which he also stars as the single father of two boys, Fenton and and Adam. One day the dad tells his sons that he has had a vision from God that he is supposed to “destroy demons” with his sons. To older son Fenton’s horror, “destroying demons” looks indistinguishable from murdering random people. Younger son Adam goes along with this dad’s visions, but Fenton suspects it is only to please his father. Years later Fenton (Matthew McConaughey) visits the FBI to report that he thinks Adam is wanted as the “God’s Hand” serial killer.

Matthew McConaughey starred in Frailty after meeting director Bill Paxton on the set of U-571 (2000).

What’s the twist? There are two great twists in this film. The first is that Matthew McConaughey is actually Adam, not Fenton. The second is that their father wasn’t crazy, the people he killed really were terrible (demonic?) people. It’s left up to the viewer to decide whether he really was on a mission from God.

Identity (2003)

John Cusack and Ray Liotta star in Identity.

Identity is one of many murder mysteries based on the work of Agatha Christie. Ten strangers find themselves stranded in a downpour at a roadside motel. One by one, they start disappearing. We don’t find out until the very end that none of the nine people that get murdered are real—they are all personalities within the killer’s head. It turns out he’s been receiving an experimental rehabilitative treatment designed to help him “kill” all of his alternate personalities.

The role of Malcolm Rivers was played by Pruitt Taylor Vince.

What’s the twist? None of the nine murdered people were real. The narrative has actually been about mass murderer Malcolm Rivers “killing” his alternate personalities in an experimental treatment for his dissociative identity disorder.

The Life of David Gale (2003)

David Gale is a respected college philosophy professor whose career is ended by a false accusation.

A crime drama about a college professor (David Gale, played by Kevin Spacey) who is also a activist against the death penalty. Gale loses his career and social life after being accused of raping a former student, who had actually consented to the sex. Next, a fellow anti-death penalty activist friend of Gale’s, Constance (Laura Linney), is found raped and murdered with Gale’s semen inside her. Gale is convicted of this rape and murder and sentenced to death. He allows reporter Bitsey Bloom (Kate Winslet) to interview him for a story as he sits on death row.

The Life of David Gale’s twist ending reveals that David and his friend Constance orchestrated her murder in order to show how faulty the criminal justice system is.

What’s the twist? Bitsey’s investigation discovers that Constance was suffering from terminal leukemia and had carried out an elaborate suicide in order to frame Gale for her death and prove a point about capital punishment. A videotape shows that David and Constance were both involved in the plot from the beginning.

Saw (2004)

James Wan made his directorial debut in this famous twist ending horror movie.

This horror movie has one of the most well-executed twist endings in the genre. It follows two men, Adam (Leigh Whannell) and Gordon (Cary Elwes), who wake up trapped in a warehouse bathroom and are given clues as to how to escape. Compounding their horror, a dead man is lying in a pool of blood in between them.

At the end of Saw, the “corpse” gets up and walks out of the room, leaving Adam chained to the wall and unable to (ever) escape.

What’s the twist? The “dead” man in the middle of the room is actually alive — it’s John Kramer, the Jigsaw killer himself who has been toying with the men while hiding in plain sight.

See also: The Rise and Fall of Jigsaw: Making Sense of the Saw Franchise

Secret Window (2004)

Secret Window is one of many Stephen King stories where the main character is a writer.

A psychological thriller starring Johnny Depp as Mort Rainey, a writer living in his Upstate New York cabin. One day, a mysterious stranger named John Shooter (John Turturro) shows up at his door and accuses Rainey of plagiarism. Rainey must find a copy of one of his early short stories in order to prove to Shooter that he isn’t a plagiarist while also dealing with the fallout of his marriage to Amy, who has recently cheated on him. John Shooter becomes murderous as Rainey struggles to come up with proof he did not plagiarize the story.

Amy discovers that Mort has covered his cabin with the instructions “shoot her” and that John Shooter doesn’t exist.

What’s the twist? Mort Rainey has lost his mind. John Shooter (“shoot her”) is an alternate personality Rainey has constructed to cope with his desire to murder his ex-wife and her new lover.

See also: 19+ Famous Movies About Split Personalities

Hide and Seek (2005)

There are five alternate endings to Hide and Seek.

Robert De Niro and Dakota Fanning star as a father and daughter who relocate to Upstate New York after a family tragedy. Daughter Emily is troubled and acts out, citing the influence of a new imaginary friend named Charlie. While her father doesn’t think her imaginary friend exists, he has no explanation for how Emily manages to to do the troubling things she blames on Charlie.

Robert De Niro plays a father whose dissociative identity disorder make him a danger to his daughter.

What’s the twist? The twist ending reveals that “Charlie” and Emily’s father are the same person. Suffering from dissociative identity disorder, he actually killed Emily’s mother and is now a danger to her as well.

The Skeleton Key (2005)

The Skeleton Key is another contender for one of the best twist endings in horror.

This Southern gothic horror movie sees a woman named Caroline (Kate Hudson) take a job caring for a sickly elderly man and his wife on a remote Louisiana plantation. The house is allegedly haunted by, Mama Cecile and Papa Justify, two servants who were lynched for teaching hoodoo to the owner’s children. Eventually, Caroline is spooked enough to use hoodoo to protect herself.

Mama Cecile and Papa Justify needed to convince Caroline that hoodoo is real in order to use the spiritual practice to steal her body.

What’s the twist? Unfortunately, Caroline played right into the hands of Mama Cecile and Papa Justify. The lynched servant’s souls have been alive the entire time, first in the bodies of the owner’s children, then by stealing subsequent bodies like those of Caroline’s employers and then Caroline and the couple’s lawyer.

Atonement (2007)

Keira Knightley’s green dress in Atonement is famously beautiful.

A dark drama about a 13-year-old girl, Briony (Saoirse Ronan), who mistakes an interaction between her sister Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and the son of their housekeeper, Robbie (James McAvoy), for something untoward. She subsequently fingers Robbie in the rape of her cousin (which was actually committed by a visiting friend of her brother). Robbie is imprisoned and then conscripted to fight in WWII. As an adult, Briony encounters her brother’s friend again, and realizes he was the man who raped her cousin. She visits Robbie and Cecelia to apologize, but the couple cannot forgive her.

Vanessa Redgrave portrays Briony as an old woman, she has become a successful novelist and written the book Atonement about her childhood sin.

What’s the twist? Now an elderly woman, Briony confesses that the narrative of visiting Cecelia and Robbie to apologize was purely fictional. Ceceilia and Robbie never reunited after Briony’s accusation as both died shortly after in the war.

Perfect Stranger (2007)

Perfect Stranger: Is Halle Berry a reporter…or a killer?

A neo-noir psychological thriller about a reporter named Rowena Price (Halle Berry). Price goes undercover and poses as a temp to investigate a rich advertising exec (Bruce Willis) who she believes may be the killer of her childhood friend. When he catches her spying on him, she is fired.

Thought to be Rowena’s helpful assistant, Giovanni Ribisi is revealed to have more sinister intentions.

What’s the twist? Rowena discovers the online account she thought was the ad exec (and was sexting with) was actually her researcher Miles (Giovanni Ribisi) who is obsessed with her. The ad exec goes down for the murder of Rowena’s childhood friend, but then Miles tries to blackmail Rowena… the real killer.

A Perfect Getaway (2009)

Honeymooners in Hawaii hike to a secluded beach while a serial killer is on the loose.

Cliff (Steve Zahn) and Cydney (Milla Jovovich) are a newlywed couple spending their honeymoon in Hawaii. Even though they hear that two serial killers are active in the area, they still make plans to spend a few days hiking to a remote beach. Along the way they meet another couple they become friendly with, Nick (Timothy Olyphant) and Gina (Kiele Sanchez) as well as a couple they worry may be the killers, Kale (Chris Hemsworth) and Cleo (Marley Shelton).

The honeymoon killers kill honeymooning couples so that they can move from identity to identity and live their lives on vacation.

What’s the twist? When the hikers finally arrive to the isolated beach, it is revealed that Cliff and Cydney are actually the killers and Nick and Gina are their next targets.

The Last Exorcism (2010)

Cotton performs an exorcism on Nell.

Cotton Marcus (Patrick Fabian) is a second generation preacher from Louisiana who lost his faith after his son’s complicated birth. He agrees to perform one last exorcism with filmmakers Iris and Daniel in tow in order to expose the practice as a dangerous farce. However, his last subject proves to be a difficult case as the night after a “successful” exorcism, his subject, Nell Sweetzer (Ashley Bell), shows up at his hotel room in a disturbed state.

Having rediscovered his faith, the film ends with Cotton accepting his imminent death while confronting the cult.

What’s the twist? The end of The Last Exorcism is a total surprise and very satisfying. It turns out, Nell’s father is the leader of a cult and Nell is pregnant with a demonic entity.

Shutter Island (2010)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo star in Shutter Island.

A neo-noir psychological horror movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Teddy Daniels, a US Marshal who is investigating a disappearance at an island psychiatric hospital. The facilities staff are uncooperative and even hostile towards Teddy’s investigation. He also experiences PTSD flashbacks from WWII, where he was involved in liberating the Dachau concentration camp.

Teddy has visions of his wife Dolores (Michelle Williams), who he murdered after discovering she drowned their three children during a manic depressive episode.

What’s the twist? “Teddy” is actually a patient at the hospital named Andrew Laeddis, who was sentenced to the facility after he murdered his wife.

You’re Next (2011)

Horror director Ti West (second from left) has a small role in You’re Next as the boyfriend of Aimee.

This home invasion slasher movie follows couple Crispian (A. J. Bowen) and Erin (Sharni Vinson) as they arrive at Crispian’s parent’s rural estate for the weekend. Their first meal is interrupted by the appearance of masked home invaders. The family comes together to fight for survival, unsure of who is targeting them (or why).

You’re Next: a great example of cabin in the woods/home invasion terror.

What’s the twist? Two satisfying twists are revealed in You’re Next. The first is that Erin was raised in a survivalist cult and is able to outsmart all the bad guys. The second is that her boyfriend Crispian orchestrated the attacks with his brother Felix and Felix’s girlfriend Zee in order to steal their family’s wealth for themselves.

Side Effects (2013)

Side Effects‘ star-studded cast includes Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vinessa Shaw and Ann Dowd.

A Steven Soderbergh psychological thriller about a woman named Emily (Rooney Mara) who murders her husband (Channing Tatum) after being prescribed a new anti-depressant. Emily’s psychiatrist (Jude Law) fights for her to be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Due to her history of suicide attempts and testimony about her mental health history, she is instead remanded to a psychiatric hospital.

Blake Lively was cast in the role of Emily but later replaced by Rooney Mara.

What’s the twist? Emily never cared for her husband, she conspired with her girlfriend/psychiatrist (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to commit the murder in order to profit from the falling stock price of the medication she blamed for the murder.

Before I Go to Sleep (2014)

Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth are a married couple in Before I Go to Sleep.

A psychological thriller starring Nicole Kidman as Christine, a woman who has amnesia and wakes up every day not knowing anything about her past. To help her heal, her husband (Collin Firth) reminds her of the details of their life together. She also sees a psychologist and keeps a video diary.

Director Rowan Joffe had a personal interest in the story: his mother suffers from amnesia.

What’s the twist? It turns out that her “husband” is not actually her husband. He is instead Mike, a former lover who beat Christine so badly she developed the amnesia.

The Visit (2015)

The Visit has some great comedic moments along with its scares.

A found-footage horror movie about two young siblings spending time at their grandparent’s home for the first time. At first it seems as if their grandparents live an idyllic country existence complete with cookie baking and long walks in the woods. The siblings are shocked, however, when their grandparents begin behaving erratically.

The grandparents start acting in strange ways, especially after dark.

What’s the twist? It turns out that these were not their grandparents at all, but a pair of escaped mental patients.

Goodnight Mommy (2015)

Goodnight Mommy (2015) is an Austrian horror film about two identical twins and their relationship with their mother.

An Austrian horror film about identical twins Elias and Lukas, who live in a rural home with their mother. When she returns from getting plastic surgery, the boys begin to suspect she has been replaced by a doppelgänger. In addition to her face being bandaged, their mother’s behavior seems to have changed, she is colder and punishes them harshly.

Goodnight Mommy screenshot from the German/Austrian film.
The twins were played by actors Elias and Lukas Schwarz.

What’s the twist? There was never anything wrong with the mother. She was disfigured in the car accent that killed Lukas—Elias has been fantasizing that his twin brother has been alive the whole time.

Road Games (2015)

Andrew Simpson and Joséphine de La Baume star as Jack and Véronique.

A British-French thriller, Road Games tells the story of two hitchhikers who have a chance meeting in an area of France where a serial killer is on the loose. The hitchers, Jack and Véronique, are picked up by a local man, Grizard, who invites the two to dinner at his house. At dinner, the group discuss the serial killer and Grizard insists they spend the night. Jack wakes to find Véronique missing with Grizard insisting she left early that morning to find a ride on her own.

What’s the twist? Grizard is Véronique’s father. Her parents have been covering for her as she is the serial killer on the loose.

The Boy (2016)

You will spend 90% of this movie thinking it is about a haunted doll. It’s not about the haunted doll.

A horror movie about delusional British parents who hire an American nanny, Greta (Lauren Cohan), to watch their “son” Brahms while they go on holiday. Greta is shocked when she is introduced to her charge, who is actually just a doll. However, her employers still giver her specific requests about Brahms as if he is a living boy. When the parents leave, strange occurrences begin that lead Greta to wonder whether the doll is somehow alive.

Viewers may recognize Lauren Cohan as Maggie Greene from The Walking Dead.

What’s the twist? The strange events in the home are actually caused by a 28-year-old man (the real Brahms) who has been living in crawlspaces behind the house’s walls since he was eight years old.

Don’t Breathe (2016)

In this home-invasion thriller, three young people in Detroit who break into the house of an old blind man convinced that he has $300,000 in cash hidden in his home. The first twist in Don’t Breathe is that the man is not as helpless as he appears, he is an ex-Marine who is skilled at self-defense and is more than able to handle them physically. The second twist occurs when the would-be robbers venture into the man’s basement.

What’s the twist? The old man is holding the woman who killed his daughter in a drunk driving accident hostage in his basement. He had impregnated her and was waiting for her to deliver his “replacement daughter”.

The Handmaiden (2016)

Count Fujiwara tries to seduce Lady Hideko.

The Handmaiden is a psychological drama that is full of twists. The film is told in three parts. In part one, a pickpocked named Sook-hee poses as a handmaiden for an heiress, Lady Hideko, to help her friend Count Fujiwara seduce her and steal her money. This part ends with a double cross: instead of the heiress, Sook-hee herself is committed to a psychiatric hospital in the Lady’s place.

Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) and Lady Hideko (Kim Min-hee).

What’s the twist? Parts 2 and 3 reveal even more twists: as Sook-hee and Lady Hideko fall in love, they enlist Sook-hee’s family to help them evade the men who are trying to hurt them (Count Fujiwara and Lady Hideko’s evil uncle, Kouzuki). Sook-hee’s friend rescues her from the asylum, and the women are reunited while Kouzuki tortures Fujiwara.

Get Out (2017)

A savage twist on the universal “the boyfriend/husband did it” law of true crime and horror movies.

Writer/director Jordan Peele’s massively successful horror film tells the story of Chris, a young black man whose white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), invites him to her family’s house to meet her parents. At first Rose’s family seems overly friendly in a way that Chris interprets as the discomfort of a racist white politically liberal family. He also notices that the family’s black employees and neighbors seem strange.

In one of the best betrayal scenes in film, Rose holds up the couple’s car keys as her family descends on Chris.

What’s the twist? Rose’s family is in the business of giving their wealthy white clients immortality by transplanting their minds into the stolen bodies of young Black men and women. The Black victim’s minds also stay in their bodies, in a “sunken place” that renders them basically helpless to watch their lives play out according to their white host’s intentions.

His House (2020)

His House was released by Netflix to critical acclaim.

This horror movie that follows two refugees, Bol (Sope Dirisu) and Rial (Wunmi Mosaku), as they flee South Sudan with their daughter Nyagak. After losing their daughter on the dangerous journey to safety in England, they are granted temporary asylum in a dilapidated house. If the couple breaks any rules or draw attention to themselves, they will be forced to leave the country. They endure racism and discover the house they cannot leave is haunted.

Rial (Wunmi Mosaku) acknowledges that the supernatural events of His House terrify her less than the real life trauma the couple has endured.

What’s the twist? The twist ending begins with a flashback in which it is revealed that Nyagak was not Bol and Rial’s daughter at all, they kidnapped her in order to be allowed on a bus to escape, which was only accepting people with children. Nyagak’s mother was likely killed by gunfire in the ensuing chaos while Bol and Rial escaped.

More Movies With Twist Endings

  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) a silent German Expressionist horror classic that ends with the “neutral” narrator being revealed to be a madman telling his story from inside an asylum.
  • Les Diaboliques (1955) a French masterpiece in which a man’s wife and his mistress plot to kill him—but the man’s body goes missing.
  • Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) the twist in this film is that the accident that caused Blanche (Joan Crawford) to use a wheelchair was self-inflicted and not caused by her sister Jane’s (Bette Davis) actions.
  • The Planet of the Apes (1968) an astronaut trying to escape a planet run by apes realizes he has actually landed on a future Earth.
  • Don’t Look Now (1973) two grieving parents are given hope that their daughter is alive, but the twist reveals that not only were their hopes foolish, the father’s death was actually foretold to his wife.
  • Black Christmas (1974) thought to be the first movie ever with the plot twist of the killer living inside the house.
  • When a Stranger Calls (1979) a similar plot twist as Black Christmas, but in the context of a terrified babysitter (Carol Kane) who is told “the call is coming from inside the house”.
  • Sleepaway Camp (1983) in maybe the most bonkers twist ending of all time, the bullied girl named Angela is revealed to be a boy who was brought up as a girl after a boating accident killed the real Angela.
  • Jacob’s Ladder (1990) a Vietnam vet’s nightmarish reality is revealed to be his after life journey.
  • Seven (1995) the end of this film reveals a twist — the killer purposely sets it up so that his own jealousy leads to a husband’s wrath, completing his plan of committing seven murders based on the seven deadly sins.
  • Scream (1996) this whodunit slasher surprised many viewers when Ghostface’s identity is revealed.
  • Fallen (1998) the end reveals that the passive narrator is actually possessed by the soul of a dead serial killer, leading him to commit the murders he describes throughout the film.
  • Arlington Road (1999) a neo-noir where the villain wins.
  • Donnie Darko (2001) the ending reveals that Donnie was time traveling when he goes back in time to die and save the world.
  • Session 9 (2001) a crew cleaning up an abandoned insane asylum starts being picked off — by a crew member revealed to have dissociative identity disorder.
  • Gothika (2003) a psychiatrist is institutionalized in the same institution where she provided care to patients after a bizarre incident on the road.
  • High Tension (2003) two women trying to escape a violent home invader — until the twist ending reveals one of the women is the home invader.
  • Oldboy (2003) a South Korean revenge movie about a man who is released after being imprisoned for 15 years.
  • The Village (2004) the film’s time period is revealed to be not the distant past but the present.
  • Them (2006) A French home invasion movie about a couple living in a large rural home who are suddenly attacked one night by unseen assailants.
  • The Orphanage (2007) a mother panics when she realizes her HIV-stricken son is missing; she doesn’t know that he fell to his death after she accidentally blocked his secret passageway in and out of the mansion.
  • The Mist (2007) certain that fog monsters will kill them imminently, a father shoots his son and friends with his last bullets. Afterwards, he almost immediately notices the fog lifting and rescue vehicles arriving.
  • Lake Mungo (2008) a family mourning the death of 16-year-old Alice notices paranormal phenomena they think could be her contacting them from the other side.
  • Orphan (2009) after their unborn baby dies, a couple adopts a little girl, not realizing she’s a psychopathic 33-year-old.
  • The Cabin in the Woods (2012) a generic “cabin in the woods” horror movie morphs into something more meta as it is revealed the group has been randomly selected for slaughter by a group of super-elites.
  • Sinister (2012) a true crime writer moves his family into a house where the previous owners were murdered, the twist reveals that the demonic entity responsible attacks the home’s owners after they move to their next home and the writer is killed by his possessed daughter in the final scene.
  • Gone Girl (2014) a major twist happens when Amy Dunne reveals she is alive and plotted her disappearance as punishment for her husband’s ineptitude.
  • The Taking of Deborah Logan (2014) a film crew documents the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on a woman named Deborah Logan, it turns out, her symptoms are due to the fact that she is possessed by the spirit of a serial killer.
  • The Blackcoat’s Daughter (2015) the characters of Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Joan (Emma Roberts) are the same person, separated by a 9 year gap in the film’s timeline.
  • Circle (2015) a sci-fi thriller a group of people who awaken in a strange room full of circles and are forced to choose which of them should die next.
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016) father and son coroners conduct an autopsy on a mysteriously deceased woman, who turns out to be an undead witch.
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) after a car accident, a woman wakes up in an underground bunker with her captor claiming an alien attack has rendered the outside world uninhabitable.
  • Raw (2016) Justine discovers that her hunger for human flesh is genetic, and her father is full of scars from her mother’s own flesh hunger.
  • Better Watch Out (2017) a 12-year-old boy has a crush on his 17-year-old babysitter and the two are threatened by an unknown person outside the home.
  • Us (2019) a twist reveals the main character is actually the doppelgänger of the real main character, who’s been trapped underground the whole time.
  • The Guilty (2021) a crime thriller where Jake Gyllenhaal plays a 911 operator who gets personally involved in one of his calls.
  • Barbarian (2022) what viewers will think is a movie about two strangers sharing an AirBnB turns out to be about a man who abducted and tortured women in his home’s secret basement.
  • Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022) a group of friends riding out a hurricane together at a mansion think there is a killer among them, but the deaths in the groups have actually all resulted from accidents and paranoia.

Further reading:

Frequently Asked Questions About Twist Ending Movies

What was the first twist ending movie?

The first twist ending movie is thought to be the horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920).

What is the best twist ending movie?

The Sixth Sense (1999) is probably the best twist ending movie. It is #1 on our list of the top 10 best twist ending horror movies.

What is the most shocking twist ending of all time?

The ending of The Mist (2007) is one of the most shocking and upsetting movie endings of all time. While the film is based on a novella by Stephen King, director Frank Darabont wrote his own, much more shocking, ending for the film. Stephen King has said he prefers Darabont’s version.

See also: The Mist (2007): The Most Brutal Ending in Horror?

Which genre has the most twist endings?

Twist endings are most common in horror, especially whodunit murder mysteries and slasher movies.

Can a drama film have a twist ending?

Yes, twist endings are found in all genres. For example, Atonement (2007) is a great dramatic movie with a shocking twist ending.

What are the different kinds of twist endings?

The most common twist ending tropes are: Identity Reversal (a main character’s identity is far from what the audience was lead to believe), It Was All a Dream (the entire movie is revealed to have been a dream), Dead Hero (the protagonist/narrator is revealed to have been dead the whole time) and Return to Earth (the location or time period of the film is revealed to be different than expected).

Meet The Author

Chrissy is the co-founder of Creepy Catalog. She has over 10 years of experience writing about horror, a degree in philosophy and Reiki level II certification.

Chrissy Stockton