10. The Sting (1973)
This classic kicks off the top 10. In a film all about deception and con-men, it would only be fitting that the end of the film had a twist which would be duplicated but never equated ever again. Paul Newman and Robert Redford spent the entire film trying to con a gangster only to have Redford betray Newman at the very end of the film in a big shootout. Eventually we are all taken for a ride when in fact the double cross was in fact part of the ruse and Redford and Newman had planned the entire stunt. This film is often credited with the original movie twist and won over the Academy as well pulling in Best Picture honors.
9. Saw (2004) and Saw IV (2011)
You may all think I am a freak but I love the Saw films. Yes I have seen every single one of the 7 films including the brilliant 7th film which concluded and wrapped up the series. The first film for me was such an iconic film that will forever go down as one of the only films to really shock me. Other than the fact that I loved the entire film, there were numerous twists, none of which topped the ending of the film. As the one footed Dr. Lawrence is crawling hopelessly to find help, Adam is left in the dungeon room and without any expectation or warning, the figure who had apparently blown his head off lying in the middle of the room rises to reveal himself as Jigsaw, the mastermind behind all these diabolical games. Jigsaw is then revealed as John (the cancer patient from earlier in the film) who has put his subjects into games which tests the subject’s will to live. I have also added the final film in here because the way the producers tied in all seven films were amazing. I will be the first to tell you that not all the films were great but to have Dr. Lawrence from the first film be revealed as Jigsaw’s true partner throughout the entire series was not only a perfect tie in but a perfect end to the series which started off shocking us all.
8. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Thought not always called a “twist” ending, the ending to this film scared the garbage out of me.
Hopkins gave the performance of his career giving the infamous Hannibal Lector some of the greatest scenes and lines in movie history. The ultimate villain line “I’m having an old friend for dinner” is a pure work of genius. Having Lector escape from captivity while wearing the skin of one of the cops while at the same time showing the horrific scene in Buffalo Bill’s basement was amazing. I remember the first time I ever saw that scene with Clarice waving her gun blinded in the darkness as Buffalo Bill stalked her like a shark; it was one of the scariest moments of my life. There are few who will debate that this was not only an amazing film but an amazing ending as well. It is well deserving of the top 10.
7. Memento (2001)
It was only a matter of time before Nolan broke the top 10 with a fantastic ending to a fantastic film. Momento is often considered one of the most ingenious pieces of film making/film editing of all time. A fairly basic story transforms into a masterpiece as the entire film is shown backwards in 5 minute clips, intended to imitate the mind of the films star who suffers from short term memory loss. As we follow Leonard (Guy Pearce) attempt to find his wife’s killer despite his short term memory loss, we become aware of acts just as he does. In fact, all is revealed in the last 5 minute clip of the film. It was Leonard himself who killed his wife; she had tried to help him remember things by forcing him to repeatedly give her medical shots. Leonard’s intent to kill John G. who had raped his wife, had already come true over a year ago when Leonard had killed him but continued to pursue him unable to remember it. The ending not only revealed a ton about Leonard but about his past as well. As the films come to a close we realize that Leonard is on a never ending path in which neither his tattoos nor Polaroid’s will help him remember the truth, that he in fact was his wife’s killer.
6. Psycho (1960)
From the Master of Suspense himself, this Alfred Hitchcock classic will go down in history for some of the craziest movie twists of all time. Firstly, unlike 99% of movies made, Hitchcock went against every norm and movie rule and ended up killing of his main character. What would audiences have done if Sidney was killed 75% of the way through the first Scream film? Yes, that is how crazy this decision was. But perhaps nothing was as shocking as when Norman Bates was revealed as the murderer. Portraying his dead mother with nothing but skeletal remains propped up in a rocking chair will go down as one of the greatest endings in movie history.
5. Fight Club 1999
David Fincher’s awesome film is one of my favorites. The film was a mind-warping piece with awesome performances by Pitt (Tyler Durden) Edward Norton (Nameless Narrator) and Helena Bonham Carter (Marla). The film depicts the growth of a revolutionary movement which stands to emasculate the consumer culture found in our society. The movement started with Pitt and Norton starting a fight club in which man’s materialistic things are proved worthless in pure hand to hand combat. There are hints throughout the film but all are ignored until you finally realize that Tyler Durden is in fact the Nameless Narrator. Pitt is a figment and expression Norton’s psyche. The big twist comes at a perfect time in the film, leaves you wanting to watch the film again, and sets up the beautiful final scene as a half blown to hell Norton stands with his twisted girlfriend Marla as they watch the destruction of the entire credit system of society. There is no doubt this cracks the top 5.
4. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
I can watch this movie a million times over and still not get enough. In fact I may have just seen it that many times. Not only is this one of the best films ever made, it also has one of the best endings ever. As we are all seemingly watching the demise of Andy Dufrene (Tim Robbins) we are unaware that he has in fact tunneled his way out of prison. As warden Norton (Bob Gunton) discovers the hole in Andy’s cell hidden behind the Rita Hayworth poster, the amazing tale of Andy Dufrene is wrapped up. As Andy remarkably makes it out of his cell and subsequently clears all the money from the phony bank accounts, he also brings the demise of the warden. When Red (Morgan Freeman) is eventually released he follows the bread crumbs left by Andy on his way to finding a box full of cash and instructions to meet Andy in Mexico. As the friends are reunited on the shores of the beach, the perfect ending to one of the best films comes to a close. It was a perfect ending to an otherwise perfect film.
3. Seven (1995)
This David Fincher thriller will always be considered an amazing classic, if for nothing else than jump starting the careers of a few of our best stars. The film had two major twists including a shocking revelation at the end. The first big twist towards the end of the film is when the nameless murder of the 7 deadly sins turns himself in. The killer played by Kevin Spacey is amazingly eerie as the villain. But the biggest surprise of all comes at the end when it is revealed that Spacey has killed and decapitated Detective Mills’ (Brad Pitt) wife Tracy (Gwenyth Paltrow). As Mills becomes aware that his wife was the 6th victim of Envy, he shockingly kills Spacy with Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) watching; thus completing the 7 deadly sins by killing with Wrath. The ending was pure genius and yet so bleak at the same time. Easily one of the best endings ever.
2. The Usual Suspects (1995)
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” These are the haunting and foreshadowing words of Kevin Spacey’s limping thief in this film. The film itself did not win over a ton of critics but has some great supporting roles who all take a back seat to Spacey whose gimp gone criminal mastermind won him the Best Actor. As the movie is told from the perspective of a police interrogation, the final moments of the film reveal that in fact Spacey himself is the diabolical Keyser Soze and he has in fact fabricated the entire story from the confines of a police holding room. As investigator Chass Palminetri realizes he let the world’s greatest criminal slip through his fingers there is the iconic image of Spacey’s gimp walking as his limp turns into a confident stride as Keyser Soze makes his amazing escape, “And like that, poof, he’s gone!”
1. The Sixth Sense (1999)
To me this is the greatest ending ever in film. M Night Shyalaman went from an unknown to a Hollywood stud with this mind blowing conclusion to an otherwise dark and dreary movie. The film follows Dr. Malcom Crowe (Bruce Willis) helping young Cole (Haley Joel Osmet) deal with his apparent ability to communicate with the dead. The revelation at the end of the film that Dr. Crowe is in fact himself dead just blew the mind of everyone who saw this film. This shocking twist forces you to watch the movie again and notice all those little things that actually hint to the Doctor’s death. The revelation changes the whole perspective of the film and creates a beautiful message about remembering those lost and how to move on from such tragic events. It rightfully deserves the #1 spot on the list.