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.
- 1Photo: 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.Worth another look?
- Photo: 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.Worth another look?
- Photo: 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.Worth another look?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
The Plot: After a number of disappointing outings in other genres, M. Night Shyamalan burst back onto the horror scene with this found-footage flick about a couple of young siblings who are dropped off to spend a week with their grandparents, whom they have never met. Once there, however, they start to notice that the seemingly kindly old folks are acting mighty strange.
The Twist: It isn't their grandparents at all! The grandparents worked at a mental hospital, and two escaped patients knocked them off and took their place.
Why It's Underrated: Shyamalan reminds viewers of the control he had over generating suspense in early films like The Sixth Sense, while also injecting the proceedings with a surprising amount of (often dark) humor. This kids-in-peril flick may not be an altogether triumphant return to the horror genre, but it frequently calls to mind the best of Shyamalan's earlier films while also breathing some new life into the found-footage format.Worth another look?