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Movie Twist List

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" I bet he's a woman, that bloke. No, you think it's the future, but it's actually set in the past. It's not Earth. It's all a dream!"
Douglas Reynholm, The IT Crowd

This is a listing of movie twists by trope category. Please feel free to complete and add to the table by adding new twist-related tropes and examples.


Twist Trope Name Short Description Examples From Film
Luke, I Am Your Father Character who is loved or despised ends up being a family member. Star Wars, Watchmen
The Mole A character convinces us he has good motives when he really has evil ones, or vice versa / Betrayal. Batman Begins, The Da Vinci Code, Saw II
Tomato in the Mirror A certain character is revealed, to their own surprise as well as the audience's, that they are not what they believed themselves to be. The Sixth Sense, Blade Runner, The Others (2001), Shutter Island, Oblivion (2013)
All Just a Dream, Dying Dream The story is revealed by the end to have actually been a dream, illusion, or Near-Death Experience. A Beautiful Mind, Jacob's Ladder, Click
Dead All Along, Imaginary Friend A certain character is revealed as a ghost or an illusion, or actually never existed. The Sixth Sense, Fight Club, A Beautiful Mind, Spy Kids 3-D
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero The result of some sort of devastation was actually caused by the group seeking to fix it. Planet of the Apes (1968), Oblivion (2013)
Faking the Dead, Left for Dead, No One Could Survive That! Someone who is assumed to be dead actually never died. Mission: Impossible, The Illusionist (2006), The Third Man, Assassins, Conspiracy Theory
Double Agent Double and triple-agent surprises. North By Northwest, Reservoir Dogs, The Departed, Double Take
Platonic CaveA person or community is haunted by a fake reality that was set up to control or protect him/them. The Truman Show, The Village (2004), The Matrix, They Live!!
I Am Who?, Changeling Fantasy A character who believed he had nothing special about him learns that he is actually royalty or has special powers. Harry Potter, Hercules, The Princess Diaries, BattleTech, Stardust, Spaceballs
It Was with You All Along An object or piece of intelligence of great value for which a character was seeking was right under his nose the whole time. The Wizard of Oz, The Phantom, Harry Potter
Attractive Bent-Gender A character who is infatuated with another learns that the person is really a Wholesome Crossdresser or something similar. May lead to If It's You, It's Okay. The Crying Game, Some Like It Hot
Unwitting Pawn A character or group of characters eventually realize that they've been lured into unknowingly aiding the enemy. The Count of Monte Cristo, Ocean's Eleven
I Surrender, Suckers A character allows himself to be captured by the enemy. It is later revealed that he did so intentionally, as part of his plan. The Dark Knight, Se7en, ReturnOfTheJedi
Meaningless Villain Victory, Take a Third Option, Deus ex Machina The solution to a problem is less than ideal and it seems as if the antagonists have won; however, at the last moment, a third option is presented or some other unexpected occurrence takes place, which rekindles hope. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Hidden Purpose Test A reward or positive outcome is offered to a character based on his performance. However, the person doing the offering never made it clear what sort of performance he was expecting, and therefore the outcome is different than the viewer supposed. Men in Black, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Be Careful What You Wish For, Karmic Twist Ending A character makes a wish. He then begins experiencing strange things, which he assumes to be coincidences, practical jokes, or fiction. But in fact it is not fiction - his wish came true! The Neverending Story, Goosebumps, Liar Liar
Unreliable Narrator The narrator hides a secret from the audience. He eventually reveals himself to be someone he is not or to know something he didn't admit to earlier. The Usual Suspects, Fallen
Adopt the Dog The movie turns out to be less cynical than expected when a character chooses to be unambiguously heroic. American Beauty, The Dark Knight
Nested Story Reveal Events that the viewer is led to believe are "real" (within the movie) turn out to be a fictional Nested Story within a larger Framing Device. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Fountain