In most cases, the quality of a plot twist usually determines the quality of a movie. Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time in The Sixth Sense. Great twist, great movie. Robert Pattinson was actually a 9/11 victim the whole time in Remember Me. Awful twist, borderline offensive movie.
But sometimes things don't add up. Sometimes, in going for that perfect little story zigzag, a film will overshoot (undershooting is also an issue) and leave us with a big twist that either makes no sense, or makes plenty of sense and is just monstrously stupid.
So prepare yourself, as we travel through a list of unquestionably great films, then point at the big twist and say "hey, actually that's kinda dumb." It's bound to be an enlightening experience.
Oh, and if you've gotten this far and you still haven't grasped the concept that this list will be spoiling the twists of the eleven movies tagged at the bottom, THERE WILL BE SPOILERS. Lots and lots of 'em. Also, for the NSFW crowd: stabbings, gunshot wounds and foul language abound.
The Twist: Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) and his band of heroes have saved the day and vanquished the evil Lo Pan (James Hong) once and for all. And then Jack Burton promptly ditches all of them, because he's not the kind of guy you tie down like that. And as he drives off into the night, the camera slowly lurches right, until we reveal:
THE GIANT MONSTER HIDING IN THE BACK OF HIS TRUCK!
Why It's Just the Worst: This is a bit of a tricky situation. There's no doubt this twist is stupid. It doesn't add anything to the movie and it's just there to set up a "Big Trouble in Even Smaller China" sequel that has never even been close to existing. Also, for a jump scare, it's not even scary. But then, "Big Trouble in Little China" is so good at riding the line between genius and insanity that John Carpenter might have added in the surprise Chinese Bigfoot to make things intentionally stupider. In a... good way.
It's best not to overthink this. Someone might get a headache. Maybe even the Big Trouble baddie up at the top of the page, who got so mad he just decided to explode. Again- colossally dumb, or brilliantly dumb? The world may never know.
The Twist: When three masked killers start racking up a body count at Erin (Sharni Vinson) and her boyfriend's family reunion, Erin seems like the perfect candidate for the slasher movie survival girl. Only, when the killers actually attack, she dodges an axe like a ninja and then dispatches one of them with a good thirty seconds of hammer to forehead. Someone snuck a female John McClane into our regularly scheduled slasher movie.
That twist is cool. The next twist- that youngest brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) and his girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn) hired the killers to get their inheritance a little early, is about as boilerplate as a stale "Law & Order" rerun.
But then we find out that Erin's boyfriend (A.J. Bowen) was the real mastermind all along. Which is a little cooler. Until the film ends with a policeman taking an axe to the face and Erin almost certainly dying in a hail of police gunfire. Not so cool.
Why It's Just the Worst: A, that's like three twists too many (maybe just two). And B, if you're going to do the movie with four consecutive twists in it, make sure they're all up to snuff. The dull ones have a way of canceling out the ones that are actually exciting.
The Twist: A posh German household is held hostage by two sadistic teens- typical home-invasion horror type stuff. But then courageous housewife Anna (Susanne Lothar) makes a grab for the gun, killing one of her captors in what's clearly the part of the movie where the family finally starts to escape. Until the remaining bad guy (Arno Frisch) grabs the TV remote and rewinds the movie back to before her daring escape.
Why It's Just the Worst: On the one hand, this is a high-concept Austrian thriller and not a Michael Bay film, we can expect a little outside-the-box craziness. On the other hand, having the good guys finally win one, then giving the bad guys a do-over is a little like slapping the audience in the face. Whether that's actually a good or a bad thing is entirely up to you.
Fun Fact: director Michael Haneke eventually remade his own film, complete with the same time-rewind scene, in the most elaborate meta life-rewinding headgame in film history.