5 Ways Movies Always Telegraph Their Twists
The internet is obsessed with protecting viewers from spoilers, but let's be honest here. Most movies and shows spoil themselves. The templates for plot twists have become so standardized that you know what's coming long before it arrives.
WARNING: This article will, in fact, be spoiling the twists of a bunch of movies and shows.
If A Character Never Interacts With Others, They're Imaginary (Or An Impostor, Etc.)
The Sixth Sense is one of those movies whose twists really don't work the second time you watch, because it seems insultingly obvious in retrospect. Bruce Willis' character finds out he's been dead the whole time, but that means he spent the entire runtime talking only to the kid, Cole. The movie tries to explain that the dead see what they want to see, but the whole plot falls apart if only one person asks this unaccompanied ten-year-old why he's talking to himself.
In fact, if you're watching any film and there's one character who conspicuously never speaks to anyone but the protagonist(s), shenanigans are afoot. They're an impostor, or imaginary, or something else that will be revealed in a mind-blowing twist that kicks off the third act. At that point, you just trying to guess which. "Let's see, is she a ghost? Hallucination? Implanted hologram, because the main character is a cyborg?"
Shyamalan did it again in The Visit, in which the entire movie absurdly avoids putting the children's mother in contact with their grandparents for absolutely no reason. She sends her kids on a train to get picked up by grandparents whom they've never seen before, and doesn't even bother to show them a picture. She constantly calls them via Skype, but never once asks to talk to Nana. Of course, the "grandparents" turn out to be violent escapees from an asylum who killed their real grandparents, but no one knows this because the mom is on one hell of a cruise.
Then, of course, you have Fight Club, wherein Tyler Durden, the Narrator, and Marla Singer spend their days in the same house, but all three of them are never shown to interact at the same time, and the movie sometimes resorts to sitcom hijinks to achieve this. The Narrator finds out he is Tyler when Marla refers to him as "Tyler," which she presumably never once did up until that point and is something that can't be hand-waved away by Tyler's "Don't talk about me" rule.
The 2018 Charlize Theron film Tully, which is a lot like Fight Club except with less brawling and more postpartum depression, has a twist that relies on Theron's husband not once thinking to go and see the stranger he's letting into his house at night to look after his newborn child (spoiler: she's imaginary). The TV series Mr. Robot would manage to craft eight episodes' worth of carefully staged interactions before revealing the main character's friend is both imaginary and dead.
It's not like this technique was invented in 1999, either. In Psycho, Mrs. Bates is painted as a loud, intrusive, and controlling old woman, but is only heard when Norman isn't around. She also never talks over him when they're arguing, and never shouts from the house when she knows Norman is with Marion, which is something that kind of person would definitely do if they hadn't already been murdered by their own son.
Unseen Villain? It's Going To Be A "Good" Character In Disguise
When the villain's face isn't shown, there's a strong chance they're angling for a "Darth Vader is actually your father" thing. To hide it, these days movies will overcompensate by making the villain's secret identity someone who is A) currently in the movie and B) just impossibly nice. Like in Big Hero 6, wherein the villain turns out to be the inspiring professor who seemed like a super cool guy to the hero. It's never too early to teach our children to distrust grownups!
In Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, they do this with Prowler. He's secretly Miles' awesome down-to-earth uncle who's supposed to be a screw-up, but is living in a very expensive-looking apartment in New York and does undefined "engineering" jobs during all of Spider-Man's run-ins with the villainous alter ego. How can an uncle this cool be a secret bad guy? Probably the same way the peace-loving Sir Patrick Morgan turns out to be the alter ego of the evil warmongering god Ares in Wonder Woman.
Yeah, superhero movies love this trope. In Batman: Mask Of The Phantasm, the titular Phantasm turns out to be Andrea, Bruce Wayne's girlfriend, who has the most reason for killing mobsters but is portrayed in the movie as the goodest of the good. The Flash TV series also has a masked villain, the Reverse-Flash, who turns out to be the head honcho at S.T.A.R. Labs and a friend of the Flash. Of course, they try to hide this from the audience by putting him in a wheelchair, but come on. This is the Flash we're talking about. One of his main villains is a radioactive telepathic gorilla. A wheelchair fools no one.
The Secondary Character Who Suddenly Gets An Emotional Scene Is Going To Die
Supporting characters are usually around to push the hero in a certain direction, and this often occurs through them dying. Of course, this is rarely a surprise, as Hollywood has made it known that the grim reaper loves to come a-knockin' after sentimental monologues. Think Odin in Thor: Ragnarok, Jonathan Kent in Man Of Steel, or most famously, Uncle Ben's "With great power something something responsibility" speech in Spider-Man.
It's like they'll reach a point in the story where they know the character has to die, but realize at the last minute that they haven't quite built up enough empathy for them yet. "Quick, have them reveal something deeply personal!"
Harry Potter And The Goblet of Fire does this with Cedric Diggory. He's competing in a big tournament when his father (and only his father, out of all the other contestants in this high-stakes, prestigious competition) comes to wish him luck. So now you know how much his father loves him, and it's assured that Harry has someone who won't betray him, because Cedric is such a good, lovable guy. One climax later, Cedric is super dead. "Don't cry, sir. Your son had to die in order to raise the stakes in a blockbuster."
Prestige TV shows certainly aren't above this. In Killing Eve, the title character has a revealing conversation with her colleague Bill (the first time he really opens up) before he goes off to get murdered in a nightclub. In Game Of Thrones, to throw us off the scent of who would die in Season 8's big battle episode, they devoted the entire preceding episode to having all of the characters get emotional "letting the guard down" moments. Fans were actually annoyed when most of them survived the next episode. This trope is so well-established that it felt like a letdown.
A "Dead" Character Whose Body Hasn't Been Found Has Never Been More Alive
A good way for a movie to get a sad audience reaction when a character dies is through a funeral scene with, you know, a body. So it's particularly noticeable when a movie tries to go through all the familiar steps of a funeral, but without, you know, the actual dead person. This pretty much always means that whoever is supposedly deceased is not. Especially if they died on or around a body of water.
Take Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows, a movie from a long-forgotten time when Robert Downey Jr. was affordable, whose climactic scene sees Sherlock Holmes throwing himself and his archnemesis Moriarty over a waterfall. This is followed by a memorial service for Holmes, whose body was never found, but of course he's presumed dead. Watson narrates an obituary he's writing for him, and you'll never guess who was hiding in plain sight waiting to read it as soon as he left the room.
Other movies with a similar "presumed dead" character who turns out to still be alive for the big twist include Gone Baby Gone and Big Hero 6. Superhero movies do this a lot too, like with Bruce Wayne in The Dark Knight Rises, Jean Grey in X2(who returns in The Last Stand), and T'Challa in Black Panther. Those last two are more egregious, because they're set in universes with supernatural elements where resurrection is a possibility, so "The body vanished underwater" feels like a formality. And the first is egregious because it lets Michael Caine cry for what seems like an hour.
Meanwhile, in the Hannibal TV series, the only reason we don't find out that Will and Dr. Lecter survived their tumble off a cliff is that the show got canceled. Congrats on subverting the trope, guys!
Dire Consequences That Aren't Shown Onscreen Will Turn Out To Be Lies
OK, here's the situation: You're in a room, and there's an authority figure nearby telling you that you can't leave. Why? Because it's awful outside, so awful that you'll die. They go on to reaffirm the terror that lays outside over and over, but never show it to you, and it's about now that you're probably remembering a few movies with this exact plot. Because this doesn't so much ruin a twist as it does give away that there is a twist. And the twist is this: The outside? It's just fine.
M. Night Shyamalan's third entry on this list, The Village, is a good example of this. It's set in what looks like a 19th-century village whose inhabitants are told not to go outside at night or stray too far because there are monsters. The twist is that the fearsome monsters (which never kill one person) are in fact the village elders playing dress-up. And the awful world that lies outside of the village's boundaries that the elders keep describing? It's mostly trees, and then the modern world in which the story actually takes place.
In the 2014 Godzilla, Bryan Cranston visits an abandoned city that's supposedly heavily irradiated. But when he gets there, he finds he can take off his mask without being transformed into a 300-foot nuclear MechaCranston. You can also find this in the recent Netflix film I Am Mother, wherein a little girl discovers that her robot caretakers are lying to her about the outside world being a toxic death zone because, get this, the Earth has been taken over by robots.
So think about that the next time a friend tells you some outrageous fib like "Hey, don't go outside, there's a really bad tornado heading this way" or "Hey, stay inside. There's a rabid dog on the porch." They're just hiding something really cool out there! Go look!
The big twist of this article is that KJ loves you, and the only way you can let him know you love him too is through his email.
Also, we'd love to know more about you and your interesting lives, dear readers. If you spend your days doing cool stuff, drop us a line at iDoCoolStuff at Cracked dot com, and maybe we can share your story with the entire internet.
Follow us on Facebook. You won't regret it.