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12 Movies That Cleverly Gave Away Their Twists Early
The art of the twist is one of the single most rewarding things in scriptwriting. If done satisfyingly, it’s the kind of pay-off that justifies complex build and intricate seeding (assuming you’re not just one of those lazy writers who pulls something out of your ass to make things interesting in the final act) and it ends up being its own reward.
That’s why so many film-makers still seek to pull a fast one on their audiences. There’s a currency to twists that you just don’t get with straight endings and the potential for word of mouth promotion increases exponentially when prospective audiences get wind of a Big Twist (as long as it’s not spoiled).
There’s another layer to the twist though, which can be even more satisfying. That comes when a confident film-maker teases the audience with some trickery that actually reveals the magic of their twist early on in the movie. They effectively show a flash of the bunny inside the top hat before the grand reveal, and in hindsight, it just makes the “con” of the twist even more clever…
12. The One Man Fight – Fight Club
In one of the most famous twists in the entirety of Hollywood history, the end of Fight Club reveals that Tyler Durden and the Narrator are in fact one and the same. Durden is merely a projection of everything the Narrator wanted for himself: swagger, confidence, activism, anarchy… And the only way he can stop him is to kill that part of him.
There are vague hints that Durden isn’t real all the way through, which you can pick up on subsequent watches – like the single frames of Brad Pitt spliced in – but they’re nowhere near as revelatory as the scene that sees the Narrator beat the sh*t out of himself.
As he seeks to blackmail his boss, he assaults himself viciously and wrecks the office, not only giving a hint that he’s unstable (to say the least) but also cheekily foreshadowing the twist reveal by saying “For some reason I thought of my first fight … with Tyler.” He might as well have just help up a sign saying “I was fighting myself alone then, too.”
11. The Urdu Message – Iron Man
After believing he’s fighting a terrorist organisation called The Ten Rings who kidnapped him in Afghanistan, Tony Stark discovers that they’re actually working with Obadiah Stane, his father’s business partner, who put a hit out on him in order to take over as CEO of Stark Industries.
If you speak Urdu, the plot twist is spelled out in the first act.
When Stark is kidnapped (rather than the intended assassination), the Ten Rings send out a ransom video of him in captivity. The Ten Rings seemingly spell out their demands in Urdu, which Pepper Potts eventually gets translated and realises is actually a direct address to Stane. The terrorists literally reveal that Stane is calling the shots, but only Urdu speakers would have been able to understand.
10. The Faker – The Wizard Of Oz
In the greatest morality tale about dangerous expectations in cinematic history, it turns out that the Wizard Of Oz – who is presented as the paragon at the heart of Oz and the key to each of the Yellow Brick Road’s four pilgrims – is a fraud. He has no powers to give the Lion his courage, the Tin Man a heart or the Scarecrow his brain, because he’s a fake.
Had you been paying attention early on, you would know he’s a fake, because Dorothy meets his real-world equivalent in the film’s opening scenes. After she decides to run away to save Toto, she meets Professor Marvel, the fortune-teller who is supposedly “acclaimed by the crowned heads of Europe.”
He’s actually played by Frank Morgan, who also played the Wizard Of Oz, and the fact that he turns out to be a fake should have clued us all in on how the film would end.
9. The Seatbelt – Jurassic Park
Despite the fact that the dinosaurs bred for Jurassic Park have been consciously tinkered with to make sure that they’re all female, it turns out that the scientists messed up and accidentally used the genetic material of some frogs that can change their gender when population imbalance requires it.
Those scientists were never all that clever. Naturally, some of the dinosaurs become male and they all mate, leading to offspring, because life… finds a way.
There’s a very cheeky hint at this revelation early on when Doctors Grant, Sattler and Malcom join John Hammond and Donald Gennaro on the helicopter heading to Isla Nubar.
As the chopper makes it descent, everyone buckles up, only for Grant to find he has two female buckles. Undeterred, he “finds a way” and simply ties them together, offering a nice little hint of the dinosaur gender twist in the process.
8. Alfred’s Accidental Gag – The Dark Knight
When the Joker kidnaps Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent and forces Batman to choose which one he wants to save, he actually swtiches the addresses he gives the Dark Knight, knowing that he will try and save Dawes, in order to bring about Dent’s (and Batman’s) fall.
Batman unwittingly ends up saving Dent and Dawes dies.
It turns out her death was foreshadowed well before Sal Maroni’s men kidnapped her and Dent, by a brief exchange between the virtuous DA and Alfred:
Harvey Dent: You’ve known Rachel her entire life, haven’t you?
Alfred: [laughs] Well, not yet sir!
It’s subtle, but it’s a clever one to catch when you know what happens at the end.
7. Angel’s “Promotion” – Hot Fuzz
As Sgt Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) follows the trail of murders in Sandford, he eventually tracks the crimes to the cult-like Neighbourhood Watch Alliance (NWA) led by Jim Broadbent’s chief inspector (his boss). They’ve been attempting to preserve the village’s image and ensure they don’t lose out on Village Of The Year, basically dealing with anyone who threatens their prize.
The film is full of foreshadowing – since Edgar Wright loves a tongue-in-cheek nod to his narratives – but the biggest hint at the film’s big twist comes right at the start when Angel is given his job in Sandford. He’s “promoted” as his bosses feel threatened by his police record and he complains to his boss (Bill Nighy) suggesting that he can’t just make people disappear.
In a hilarious bit of foreshadowing (at least in hindsight), the cop boss says “Yes, I can. I’m the chief inspector.” Their conversation is essentially the film’s plot.
6. The Stuffed Birds – Psycho
Even those who haven’t seen Pyscho will be at least vaguely aware of the twist that Norman Bates is actually the Bates Motel killer who dresses up as his already dead mother (who he murdered along with her mother ten years earlier in a fit of jealousy).
Right at the start of the movie, Norman basically spells out the truth of his mother’s condition when he first meets Marion Crane. After she checks in, she overhears him and his mother seemingly having an argument over Norman inviting a woman into her house, in which she is abusive towards her son.
Marion then talks to Norman and suggests their relationship might be somewhat toxic, but Norman defends her, revealing her mental illness and explains to her that his mother is “as harmless as one of those stuffed birds.” She’s not just as harmless as them, she’s also as dead as them.
5. The Kitchen – Get Out
In one of the best twists in recent years, the end of Get Out reveals that the creepy community that Chris Washington is invited into to meet his girlfriend Rose’s parents is in fact in the business of body-snatching. They steal the bodies of young black people – tricked into visiting the community by Rose, at which point they’re hypnotised and have their brains removed.
It’s pretty subtle, but there’s a big hint to Chris early on in his trip that points towards the community’s true nefarious nature. As he’s given a tour of the Armitage household, the family’s patriarch says that the kitchen was his mother’s favourite part of the house.
Crucially, he also says they “keep a piece of her” in there, just as Georgina appears on screen, who of course now has the dead grandmother’s brain in her head. Nice.
4. The Orange Hints – Reservoir Dogs
As is revealed pretty early in Reservoir Dogs, there’s a rat in Joe Cabot’s gang of thieves and when the diamond heist goes wrong and their plan falls apart, the villains learn that it’s Mr Orange who is actually a cop undercover. The audience is clued into this earlier in the film, but even before the reveal, there are hints.
Right away, during the breakfast scene, Mr Orange reveals his true colours when Mr Pink refuses to tip and when Joe returns and noticed the tip is a dollar down, he asks who didn’t tip. Without thinking, Mr Orange rats Pink out, showing his fellow gang members why he’s not to be trusted.
There are other visual clues too. When Nice Guy Eddie rushes to the hideout to meet the heist survivors and work out what went wrong, there’s an orange balloon seen following his car tipping us off who the rat is. Quite literally, Orange is after them.
3. What’s In A Name? – Star Wars
Darth Vader is, in fact, Luke Skywalker’s father, who didn’t die as Obi-Wan Kenobi claimed (at least not in the strictest sense).
Just as JK Rowling gave a massive hint that Professor Remus Lupin was a werewolf (well two, in fact since Remus was the twin brother of Rome’s founder Romulus, who was raised by wolves and Lupin literally Lupinus in Latin means “of the wolf”), George Lucas gave a big hint to Vader’s secret in his name.
Though it’s pronounced differently, Vader means Father in Dutch (and has the same etymology as the English word father, in fact). Lucas basically gave the hint away as soon as he introduced Vader, even though some might say he did so unconsciously.
2. The Flash Of “Sammy” – Memento
Memento’s twist is one of the most emotionally devastating in film history as it reveals that the character you’ve believed is the hero all along was, in fact, the self-same “villain” he’s been seeking for killing his wife.
Eventually, we learn that Leonard accidentally killed his wife because his amnesiac condition led to him administering too many insulin shots to her, and that an undercover cop has been manipulating him into killing people he believes were the second attacker in his wife’s supposed murder.
it’s all very complex because of the way the narrative plays out, but Christopher Nolan tells us that Leonard and Sammy – the fellow amnesiac case who accidentally killed his wife – are one and the same person. Throughout the film, Leonard relates the story of Sammy in black and white scenes, which appear not to be connected directly to the main narrative.
But for one moment, Sammy actually transforms into Leonard during one of the flashback scenes, confirming that Leonard was the one who accidentally killed his wife.
1. Alfred Won’t Bury Batman – The Dark Knight Rises
Despite his arc fittingly ending with him sacrificing himself over Gotham Bay to save the city, Bruce Wayne turns out not to be dead (somehow) and reveals himself to be alive to Alfred in Florence, where he lives with his girlfriend Selina Kyle. He wasn’t exploded after all, HURRAY!
We should really have noticed this one in Alfred’s emotional speech to Wayne dealing with his concerns for his safety. As the butler resigns in an attempt to get Wayne to get on with his life after Rachel Dawes’ death, he says that he “will not bury” Bruce:
“I’ll get this to Mr. Fox, but no more. I’ve sewn you up, I’ve set your bones, but I won’t bury you. I’ve buried enough members of the Wayne family.”
Obviously, he means that he won’t stand by and watch his master drive himself into an early grave after he’s already seen his parents killed, but Alfred unwittingly gives away the twist that Batman actually gets out alive in the end.
Which other cleverly revealed twists belong on this list? Share your picks below in the comments thread.