Good Movies with Twists

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 at 2:59 am

Films with Surprise Endings

Traditional film endings are fine, but I occasionally tire of the predictable Hollywood formula where the guy meets the girl, loses the girl, and then gets the girl back just in time for the end credits. When such a mood strikes me, I dig into my collection of movies with twists that I’ve been stockpiling. These are some of my favorites.

NOTE: There are no spoilers in the text below, although links may contain such information.

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The Crying Game (1992) – Another off-kilter relationship movie from Neil Jordan, this time dealing with the burgeoning romance between a member of the IRA (Stephen Rea) and the girlfriend (Jaye Davidson) of a dead British soldier (played briefly by Forest Whitaker). Boy George sings the title song, giving the performer his first hit since the mid-80s. The twist comes a little earlier than in some films, but that just means you’ll have more time to relish it.

The Sixth Sense (1999) – Director/writer M. Night Shyamalan would rise to fame with his tale of a boy (Haley Joel Osment) who’s plagued by visions of the dead. Bruce Willis adds his considerable starpower as the child psychologist who helps the kid while dealing with some personal problems of his own. The twist ending for this film caused a major sensation, which unfortunately led Shyamalan to try and duplicate it in every subsequent film (with increasingly lackluster results). Other actors to look for include Toni Collette, Mischa Barton, and Donnie Wahlberg.

Memento (2000) – Director Christopher Nolan has put together an impressive resume of films in a short time (The Prestige, The Dark Knight, Inception), and it all started with this innovative tale shot partially in reverse chronological order and black-and-white. Aussie acting powerhouse Guy Pearce stars as Leonard Shelby, a man obsessed with finding the person who raped and murdered his wife. But due to severe psychological trauma, Leonard can no longer store new memories, and so he’s forced to take photographs, make copious notes, and even tattoo the most promising clues onto his body. You’ll be guessing right up until the end. Co-starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano.

The Usual Suspects (1995) – Following a massacre on a ship filled with cocaine, the lone survivor–a conman with cerebral palsy (Kevin Spacey)–is forced to tell his story to a U.S. Customs agent (Chazz Palminteri). What follows is a look back at events leading up to the bloodbath, with a mismatched group of crooks (played by Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, Kevin Pollak, and Benicio del Toro) thrown together in a police line-up and eventually forced to pull a job for legendary underworld figure Keyser Soze. The always-engaging screenplay won an Oscar, as did Spacey for his memorable performance.

Oldboy (2003) – Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, Oldboy is the second (and best) film in director Park Chan-wook’s “Vengeance Trilogy.” Based on a Japanese manga, the stylish, violent, and darkly comic film follows businessman Oh Dae-su (Choi Min-sik) as he’s abducted by an unseen figure, imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years, and then released back into the world and challenged with learning the identity of his tormentor. The twist ending features the requisite craziness and poetic violence you’d expect from a South Korean film. Do yourself a favor and see all the films in this trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance) as soon as possible.

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Seven (1995) – Morgan Freeman is the burned out homicide detective in an unnamed city, while Brad Pitt is his idealistic new partner. Together, they must try to stop a serial killer from completing a series of murders based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The identity of the madman isn’t revealed until the final act, and things become even more tense when he learn the answer to “What’s in the box?”. A masterpiece of suspense from director David Fincher.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – The most bleak installment of the George Lucas franchise, The Empire Strikes Back features the bad guys getting their way for a change. Boba Fett makes his first appearance, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) begins his studies under Yoda, and the climactic showdown between Luke and Darth Vader (David Prowse) drops a major bomb in the laps of viewers. If you’ve only seen the crappy second trilogy, go back and discover what made the series so great in the first place.

Planet of the Apes (1968) – Charlton Heston stars as an astronaut who crashes on a distant planet, wakes from a 2006-year hibernation, and is promptly confronted by intelligent apes brandishing firearms. The combination of social commentary, Heston, and cutting-edge prosthetic makeup techniques made the film a major hit with fans and critics, and four sequels would follow in short order (as well as a 2001 Tim Burton “re-imagining” and a 2011 prequel). The twist comes in the film’s final moments, resulting in one of the most well-known shots in cinematic history.

Angel Heart (1987) – Most of the films on this list only have one twist, but this Mickey Rourke movie offers several bombshells in rapid succession. Set in 1955, the film opens with private eye Harry Angel (Rourke) being hired by a mysterious client (Robert De Niro sporting long hair and fingernails) to track down a once-famous singer named Johnny Favorite. The trail quickly lands Angel in New Orleans, where he encounters the supernatural, a horny voodoo practitioner (Lisa Bonet in a controversial role), and a rising body count. I’m a huge fan of Rourke’s work from the ‘80s, and I consider this the finest example.

Primal Fear (1996) – Richard Gere is at his best when playing assholes and egomaniacs, and this crime/courtroom drama allows him to do just that. He stars as Martin Vail, a publicity-chasing Chicago defense attorney who represents an altar boy, Aaron Stampler (Ed Norton), accused of killing the city’s beloved Archbishop. But as the plot thickens, we learn more about the clergyman’s dark past, his relationship with Aaron, and the identity of a dangerous figure known only as “Roy.” Norton and Gere are both at the top of their game, and the supporting cast is bolstered by Laura Linney, John Mahoney, Frances McDormand, and Alfre Woodard.

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The next you’re looking for a film that’ll throw you a curve, be sure to give these good movies with twists a try. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself in an unpredictable world filled with gender-bending beauties, gimpy liars, and a surprising amount of incest.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011 at 2:59 am and is filed under Good Movies. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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