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Plot Twists That Ruined The Movie

A well-crafted plot twist can take a movie from good to great—in fact, some movies are regarded as classics specifically because of twists that completely recontextualize the story. But sending the narrative in an unexpected direction doesn't always work out, and sometimes it just ends up making a film worse. As great as it feels to be surprised by an excellent plot twist, these movies would have been better off without them. Spoilers ahead!

Remember Me (2010)

There's nothing wrong with a simple romantic movie, and as far as those go, Remember Me isn't too bad. Its leads, Robert Pattinson and Emilie de Ravin, are perfectly solid in their roles and have some nice chemistry. And while it may veer into cliché—what romance doesn't, really?—it's never at the expense of its charm. But all of that goes completely and entirely down the drain in the film's final moments, which contain one of the most bizarre, borderline offensive plot twists of all time. 

The film has become infamous for its final act, which reveals that the entire story has been leading up to Robert Pattinson's character being in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It's subject matter that should only be handled with the utmost care, and Remember Me bungles it badly, taking a horrific tragedy and using it as cheap emotional manipulation. Aside from being deeply insensitive, it's a case of blown potential—this would be an affecting little romantic drama if not for the way it falls apart in its final minutes.

The Village (2004)

The biggest problem with The Village is that its twist turns it into a completely different—and much worse—movie. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's last-act plot twists helped launch his career, but they ended up becoming notorious to the point of parody—and looking back, The Village is where he lost his way. 

Marketed as a hybrid horror film and period piece about a small village community in the 1800s, the movie takes place in a forest said to be populated by mysterious monsters, with whom the villagers hold a wavering pact of noninterference. It's actually revealed early on that the creatures don't exist—they're the village elders in costume, trying to scare people into staying. But then there's a second twist—the film actually takes place in the modern day, and the village elders created the monsters to keep their people secluded. 

It comes so far out of left field that, in retrospect, there was no way it could ever have hit its mark. The film already had a solid twist, and it was ill advised to further upend viewers' perception of the story's world. It also makes the story needlessly complex, when it was already doing its job perfectly well. 

Spectre (2015)

SPECTRE, the villainous organization headed up by the mysterious Ernest Blofeld, served as a narrative thread throughout the Sean Connery Bond films. So when it was revealed that they'd be making their modern debut in 2015's Spectre, it stood to reason that the film's villain would be Blofeld. Even when actor Christoph Waltz was announced as the film's villain and he insisted he wasn't playing Blofeld, it was easy for fans to put two and two together.

As it turns out, they were right. Waltz was, in fact, playing a new incarnation of Blofeld—but he was revealed to be Bond's adoptive brother, making a surprise return after faking his own death. The twist was superfluous: Blofeld in his original incarnation was a force of pure evil, and he didn't need to be tied to Bond in any way outside of their adversarial relationship to be effective as a villain. Furthermore, the revelation that Bond had a secret brother who ended up orchestrating the events in the previous Craig Bond films strained credibility—it's a twist that twists too hard.

Savages (2012)

Oliver Stone's film adaptation of Don Winslow's novel Savages initially seems to end like the book—a final act that tied the story together appropriately, with the death of basically every character providing a sort of nihilistic closure. It also fit in well with the way the storytellers want viewers to see the three main characters—they're too wild for this world, and it only makes sense for them to go out in a blaze of glory.

Unfortunately, Stone added a tacked-on plot twist that screams "A studio executive made us do this!" The kill-'em-all ending is revealed to be a fantasy playing out in the head of Blake Lively's character. Instead, the bad guys get arrested and the good guys get out clean, riding off into the sunset to live happily ever after. The film isn't exactly perfect to begin with, but having the guts to give the audience an ending like the one they see before the twist at least makes sense in the context of a story that's trying to be edgy. The tacked-on happy ending isn't just a cheat—it feels like a painfully safe move.

Planet of the Apes (2001)

It's almost impossible to remake a movie that already has an all-time great plot twist. You can't just repeat it verbatim, you have to make it your own. That's just what director Tim Burton tried to do with his Planet of the Apes—problem is, it didn't work.

Burton's Apes remake actually features a lot to like. The makeup by Rick Baker is extraordinary, and the big budget allowed for an appropriately massive scale. The problem is its bizarre twist: our protagonist (played by Mark Wahlberg) travels back to Earth through an electromagnetic storm, only to discover that the film's ape villain, General Thade, managed to beat him there by several hundred years and...win the Civil War? Why is he the new face on the Lincoln Memorial, which exists exactly as it does in real life only with an ape head? And why is the Washington Monument unaltered? 

There's nothing wrong with an ending that prompts questions, but they should come in response to narrative implications rather than whether the ending makes sense. Burton could have had something special here, but it's undermined by an ending that leaves you baffled for all the wrong reasons.

The Forgotten (2004)

The Forgotten starts out with an interesting-enough premise: a mother whose son passed away in a plane crash 14 months earlier wakes up one day to find all evidence of his existence has been erased. Nobody else remembers him, not even his own father, and as she digs deeper into the mystery, she discovers a conspiracy far larger than she could have expected. It's the sort of premise you'd expect to find in a Gillian Flynn book, the kind of perfectly acceptable conspiracy thriller just as approachable for soccer moms as it is for genre enthusiasts.

And then it takes a turn for the weird, with the parties responsible for erasing the son turning out to be aliens, of all things. It upends the film, turning it into a sci-fi story instead of a conspiracy thriller. It also makes little to no sense in the grand scheme of the story. Its implications are never fully realized and nobody has a truly satisfactory response to the revelation that memory-stealing aliens exist. The Forgotten could be a fun little thriller, if not for its weird, uncharacteristic twist.

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

JJ Abrams' second entry in the modern Star Trek franchise is polarizing, to say the least. The filmmakers stuck themselves with a nearly insurmountable task when they decided to cast Benedict Cumberbatch as a mysterious antagonist who's revealed halfway through to be legendary Trek villain Khan. The problems with the twist have very little to do with Cumberbatch's performance, or the decision to make Khan the villain. Rather, they stem from the character's identity being a twist at all. 

In the established universe of the film, none of the characters have any idea who Khan is. There's a throwaway mention of him being a notorious terrorist from a long time ago, but he's clearly not notorious enough for anyone to remember who he is, given that the crew has to look up that information to begin with. Much of the film's ensuing continuity doesn't stand up well to the slightest scrutiny—it's a twist done entirely for the sake of a momentary reaction from the audience when Khan's name is first said, one with little regard for how it would actually affect the story being told. And it's a shame, because that moment of recognition comes at the expense of a satisfying story.

High Tension (2003)

When crafting a good plot twist, it's incredibly important to consider whether it upends the plausibility of the story. Unfortunately for Alexandre Aja's High Tension, its Hail Mary of a twist ending—in which the killer is revealed to be a dissociative identity of the protagonist—sends plausibility down the drain. The film, up until that point, is a pretty straightforward (albeit extremely gory) slasher that stands out for being told uncommonly artfully. Its goriness also really can't be overstated. It already has everything horror fans want. So why the needless twist? 

It makes very little sense, and it totally upends the continuity and storytelling techniques Aja has utilized up to that point. Shots filmed from the villain's point of view make little sense after the twist, and the film's opening is even more confusing when it's watched while knowing who the killer turns out to be. All this, coupled with the troubling revelation that the protagonist's dissociation is a manifestation of her being in love with her female friend, which is a pretty vile way to depict the way queer people experience love, makes for a bummer of an ending to an otherwise enjoyable horror movie.

Secret Window (2004)

Ever notice how the very real handicap that is dissociative identity disorder has been wantonly sprinkled into an almost impressively large number of horror films, thrillers, and even comedies with very little understanding as to how it actually manifests in real life? If so, you probably had an issue with Secret Window, and you wouldn't be the only one. 

It should be a slam dunk of a movie. Based on a Stephen King short story, it's about a writer named Mort (Johnny Depp in his post-Pirates of the Caribbean prime) who retreats to a cabin in the woods to craft his next book, only to be confronted by a deranged stranger named Shooter (John Turturro) who claims Depp's character plagiarized one of his works. Tensions between the two escalate and eventually turn to violence and murder.

The twist, as you can probably conclude, is that Shooter doesn't exist. He's a result of Mort's DID, which—conveniently—has never manifested in the movie until this moment. Sometimes this twist works, but in Secret Window, it only comes off as uninspired; it's such a coincidence, it derails any suspension of disbelief. Secret Window starts off as a pretty engaging thriller. After that, it just feels like a waste of time.

Scream 3 (2000)

The first film in the Scream franchise featured a twist that was revelatory in the scope of the horror genre: there were two culprits behind the film's murder spree, not just one. The twist was so good that it was repeated in the sequel, Scream 2, and it still basically worked. For the third film, though, the filmmakers went with a new twist, and while the need to do something that was both fresh and also relevant in the grand scope of the franchise is understandable, it ended up being a (temporary) franchise-killer of an ending.

Part of the reason the first two films in the franchise were so successful is that they functioned as critiques of the genre—they were self-aware, and skewered the typical tropes that had started to bore audiences. The problem with Scream 3's needlessly complicated killer reveal, then, is that it resembles something from the films the franchise started out satirizing. 

The revelation that the killer in this film is Scream protagonist Sidney's secret half-brother—and that he effectively orchestrated the events of the entire series—is contrived and completely unbelievable. It's a jump-the-shark moment in a franchise that had always scoffed at jumping the shark. It's a shame that movies that made their name on (ahem) killer twist endings closed out their original run with such a whimper.