19 Underrated Movies With A Huge Plot Twist
Let's face it: Twist endings don't always work. Sometimes, a twist ending can feel like a ripoff, but sometimes they really make the film. Other times, a film might even be worth watching in spite of a lackluster twist, as you'll find in these underrated plot twist movies. Some of these are flicks with brilliant twists that were hard to sell to audiences without giving the game away. Some are films whose twist endings did them a disservice, but are worth revisiting anyway for the picture's other qualities. Some are lesser-known entries in the canon of great directors, while others made a splash upon their release before sinking out of sight.
Whatever the case may be, these movies all have huge plot twists and are worth another look. And, of course, it goes without saying that spoilers abound from here on in.
- 11,929 VOTESPhoto: Universal Pictures
The Plot: What starts out looking like a simple bank heist turns into something quite different when the robbers gradually reveal they have ulterior motives.
The Twist: There are a few things in the script of Inside Man that could be considered a twist. The robbers turn out to not have real weapons, and to have faked what appears to be the termination of one of their hostages. The robbers disguise the hostages in the same painters' uniforms they wear, making it almost impossible to distinguish between robbers and hostages. The mastermind of the operation turns out to be hiding inside the whole time. The real twist, though, isn't any of the bits of subterfuge concerning how the robbers pull off the caper - it's why they're doing it in the first place: a plot to expose a Nazi collaborator who has been storing evidence of his misdeeds in one of the bank's safety deposit boxes.
Why It's Underrated: Directed by the legendary Spike Lee, Inside Man was a box-office and critical success, but many viewers may have given it a pass, assuming it to be nothing more than another star-studded caper, unaware of the thematic and political underpinnings running beneath the material.
- 2913 VOTESPhoto: Sony Pictures Classics
The Plot: Director Duncan Jones (son of David Bowie) made a splash with his feature debut, a veritable one-man show in which Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, the only human worker on a mostly automated lunar mining facility. Bell is nearing the end of his three-year contract and looking forward to going home to see his wife, who was pregnant when he left Earth. As the day of his departure draws nearer, however, he begins to suspect that all is not as it seems.
The Twist: When Bell recovers from a rover collision to find an exact duplicate of himself, he realizes that he is a clone and, what's more, the other him is also a clone. In fact, the facility is stocked with countless clones of the original Sam Bell, each one imprinted with false memories, and programmed to deteriorate as it nears the end of its three-year contract. The company has been producing new clones to save the expense of recruiting and training additional workers, simply incinerating them when they're "used up" and awakening a new one.
Why It's Underrated: Moon was a critical darling upon its debut, winning a Hugo Award and nabbing Jones a BAFTA, among other wins and nominations. But Jones's subsequent filmography - which includes the 2016 movie version of Warcraft - hasn't always borne out the promise he showed early on. This has led his debut effort to be somewhat forgotten in the years since its release, in spite of semi-sequels like 2018's Mute, a Netflix original, and a graphic novel.
- 3522 VOTESPhoto: Rogue Pictures
The Plot: Three vacationing couples who are spending time in Hawaii cross paths as a pair of "honeymoon killers" stalks couples on the island, leading the couples to suspect that the culprits might be among their number.
The Twist: From the beginning, we follow newlywed couple Cliff and Cydney Anderson (played by Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich), and our suspicions are cast on first one and then another of the other couples. Ultimately, however, it turns out that our ostensible protagonists are actually the villains, having already slain the real Andersons in order to assume their identities.
Why It's Underrated: Sure, the twist is pretty by-the-numbers, but A Perfect Getaway is a tight thriller in the old school, solidly directed by David Twohy (Pitch Black), and featuring performances by several actors who were either already big stars, or well on their way. Besides Zahn and Jovovich, look out for Timothy Olyphant and even Chris Hemsworth as a red herring, just two years before he would become Marvel's Thor. Plus, it was lensed in Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica, so the island locales are never short of breathtaking.
- 4632 VOTESPhoto: Paramount Classics
The Plot: An emaciated Christian Bale plays the eponymous machinist, whose chronic insomnia leads to an accident at work. As he spirals further into paranoia and depression, he stalks and is stalked by a mysterious figure named Ivan, whom no one else seems to be able to see.
The Twist: One year before the events of the film, Bale's character killed a child in a hit-and-run. The guilt has been driving his insomnia, which has slowly eroded his sanity. Ivan is nothing more than a manifestation of that guilt, created by his subconscious to torment him until he faces the truth.
Why It's Underrated: The Machinist is often overshadowed by director Brad Anderson's previous effort, the cult hit Session 9, which also boasts a not-dissimilar twist. While Session 9 is unabashedly a horror film, however, The Machinist can be tougher to classify, yet features a powerhouse performance by Bale, who lost 62 pounds for the role, only to pile them back on (and then some) in order to play the caped crusader in Batman Begins the following year.
- 5444 VOTESPhoto: FilmRise
The Plot: Australian actress Melissa George plays Jess, a single mom caring for her autistic son, who goes on a boat trip with friends. When a storm capsizes their boat, they're forced to take refuge on a seemingly derelict ocean liner, only to discover they're not as alone on board as they initially thought.
The Twist: This one's a doozy. Once aboard the ship, the group finds themselves stalked by a masked slayer who is mercilessly pursuing them. The twist is that the culprit is actually Jess herself. Somehow, she's been caught in a time loop where she and her friends arrive at the derelict boat over and over again, each time seeing the next batch arrive. She's trying to knock off the other versions of herself and her friends in order to break the cycle.
Why It's Underrated: It's difficult to overstate just how mind-blowing the twist is in this weird and haunting flick by perenially underrated writer/director Christopher Smith. Even once the rug has been pulled from beneath your feet, the way the film continues to lean into its wild conceit just keeps upping the ante in unexpected ways. Given that it beat other time-loop horrors like Happy Death Day to the punch by nearly a decade makes it extra impressive.
- 6512 VOTESPhoto: Warner Bros.
The Plot: Reeling from the stillbirth of their third child (which we see in a rather gruesome opening), a seemingly perfect couple decides to adopt a 9-year-old girl named Esther from an orphanage. Unfortunately, once she is ensconced within their lives, Esther proves to be much more than she seems.
The Twist: At a glance, Orphan seems like another in a long line of "creepy kid" horror movies, going all the way back to 1956's The Bad Seed. This time around, though, the twist is that Esther isn't what she appears to be in a very literal sense. Rather than a 9-year-old girl, she's actually a 33-year-old woman with a condition called "hypopituitarism" that has stunted her growth, leaving her with the appearance of a child. She poses as one to get adopted by families, only to attempt to seduce her new father and, if that doesn't work, knock all of them off, which is what she tries to do here.
Why It's Underrated: Director Jaume Collet-Serra went on to helm a number of Liam Neeson thrillers like The Commuter and Non-Stop, but his early horror flicks display a stylishness that has been eclipsed somewhat in his later work. (It's there a bit in his 2016 survival thriller, The Shallows, too.) Until its wild twist reveal, Orphan might be his most restrained and skillful production, and once the cat is out of the proverbial bag, the film isn't afraid to swing big. It's also worth noting that this features a pre-Conjuring star turn from Vera Farmiga.