The Twelve Most Amazing Horror Movies With Twist Endings
We all love a good twist ending. Something that catches us completely off guard and hits us with the unexpected. This sub-genre of movies is my particular sweet spot. I love when a movie sucks you in and then sucker punches you out. There is nothing as fun as being caught off guard. These movies also tend to be a lot smarter and more creative than the average slasher as well. Here’s our list of the top twelve twisty movies.
12. High Tension– A beautiful young Frenchwoman, Alex (Maïwenn Le Besco), travels out to the country to visit her family and brings along her friend Marie (Cécile de France). Soon after they get settled in the secluded home, Alex’s parents are brutally attacked by a psychotic truck driver (Philippe Nahon), who proceeds to stalk the two women as well. When the killer kidnaps Alex in his truck, Marie hides in the back to try and rescue her, but the bloodshed is far from over.
The twist is good but the are a few too many plot holes and misdirects that do not have any explanation for this to be higher on the list. It is bloody, gory, gruesome and brutal. The kills lack nothing in the way of carnage and even though it gets a little wonky by the end it is still well worth the ride. How it approaches homosexuality is more than a little problematic. Be warned. You can get it VOD on Vudu, iTunes, YouTube, and Amazon Prime.
11. Silent House– Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) is working with her father (Adam Trese) and uncle (Eric Sheffer Stevens) to renovate an old family home to prepare it for sale. Long vacant, the house has no utilities, forcing the trio to rely on battery-operated lanterns to light their way. Sarah becomes separated from her relatives and soon finds she is trapped inside the cabin, with no contact with the outside world. Panic turns to real terror as the young woman experiences events that become increasingly ominous.
This movie does not get great reviews and is universally considered mediocre at best but the cast is good and Olsen really holds her own in this one-man-band of lunacy. The score is wildly successful and the anxiety inducing camera work is well done. It’s a good movie if for no other reason than it revels in the space between what is shown and what we think was shown. You can stream it VOD or on Hulu.
10. Europa Report– After unmanned probes suggest that a hidden ocean and
single-celled life exists on one of Jupiter’s moons, six astronauts embark on an ill-fated exploratory mission.
Is there life on Jupiter’s moon Europa? If there is life what does it look like? This is what the found footage style film seeks to answer. Shown in dizzyingly non chronological order, the movie written by Phillip Gelatt is patient, smart and deliberate. If you love his other work like we do you should check this one out. It is not full of space jockeys systematically blowing things up or tired tropes of evil corporations seeking to weaponize alien life. What it does have is incredible acting with Daniel Wu(Into the Badlands), Embeth Davitz(Ray Donovan), Sharlto Copley(District 9), and Michael Nyqvist(The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo original trilogy). This movie is a prime example of what can be done with a great script, good actors, a low budget, and incredible restraint. It is available on Hulu and VOD everywhere.
9. Saw– Two strangers, who awaken in a room with no recollection of how they got there, soon discover they’re pawns in a deadly game perpetrated by a notorious serial killer.
When I first saw this movie in theaters my jaw dropped open. I really did not see the twist coming. It was so unexpected and the kills so inventive it spawned seven more films despite some seriously questionable acting in the first film. I love you Carey Elwes(The Princess Bride) and Leigh Wannell(Insidious) but damn that was not your strongest work. Luckily, The Princess Bride is so great I could forgive him for anything and Wannell has gone on to do great work in front of and behind the camera. Jigsaw is a thinking man’s killer and I loved the sense of bizarre justice this film invokes. I’m not saying we should all take bloody revenge on people, but I could at least relate with the anger. Easily the best in the series with the coolest ending. You can catch it on VOD or check out The Horror Pod Class’s Episode devoted to Saw and biopower.
8. 2036 Origin Unknown– Following a deadly crash on Mars, Mackenzie Wilson launches a mission find out what went wrong. But when her ship’s artificial intelligence takes control, they discover a sinister object on the surface of the red planet.
One of my favorite movies of this year this mindbender is a nerdist fantasy. Katee Sackhoff(Battlestar Galactica) holds the entire film in the palm of her hand with very little support from the sparse cast. It is confusing and surprising but in a lets waste several days searching Reddit for an explanation to what we just saw kind of way. The effects are well done without any budget to speak of and once you have seen it watching it a second time is just as good as you catch all the little hints you missed the first time around. You can get this on Amazon Prime Video, YouTube and iTunes. After watching we did a full explanation piece that will definitely satisfy your obsession.
7. The Others– Grace (Nicole Kidman), the devoutly religious mother of Anne (Alakina Mann) and Nicholas (James Bentley), moves her family to the English coast during World War II. She awaits word on her missing husband while protecting her children from a rare photosensitivity disease that causes the sun to harm them. Anne claims she sees ghosts, Grace initially thinks the new servants are playing tricks but chilling events and visions make her believe something supernatural has occurred
A great ghost story that is scary and totally unexpected. The only true ghost story on our list this period piece has a ton of things going for it. Great acting in particular by Nicole Kidman keeps the tension building and the scares very real. A nice combination of jump scares and eerie imagery allows the film to move forward at a nice pace and keep the pressure on. There is zero gore which is rare for modern horror movies but the film needs none of it to deliver terrifying results. You can watch it on VOD everywhere.
6. 10 Cloverfield Lane-After surviving a car accident, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up to find herself in an underground bunker with two men. Howard (John Goodman) tells her that a massive chemical attack has rendered the air unbreathable, and their only hope of survival is to remain inside. Despite the comforts of home, Howard’s controlling and menacing nature makes Michelle want to escape. After taking matters into her own hands, the young woman finally discovers the truth about the outside world.
This movie works so well because John Goodman delivers a powerhouse performance. He normally plays the aw shucks good guy so well that when the tables are turned and we are forced to see him in a new way we lean in……hard. His portrayal of Howard is nothing short of brilliant and is the reason the twist and the movie works so well. This is available VOD everywhere.
5. Split-Though Kevin (James McAvoy) has evidenced 23 personalities to his
trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all of the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey, Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him — as well as everyone around him — as the walls between his compartments shatter.
With Glass coming out next year this film is worth revisiting. The second film within the Unbreakable franchise(Spoiler alert if you live under a rock) this is a return to Shyamalan’s previous good work. He went off the rails a little with The Happening and Devil. If you haven’t seen it run, don’t walk! I might have a little crush on James McAvoy but even ignoring that, Split is great. Is he a human monster or something altogether different? You have to watch to find out.
4. Identity-Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rain-storm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they’re being killed off one by one.
The twists come one right after the other at the end of this star studded film. John Cusack(1408 and Say Anything) Amanda Peet(2012), John McGinley(Stan Against Evil), Clea Duvall(The Faculty), Alfred Molina(Spiderman 2),and Ray Liotta(Goodfellas) are all part of this stellar ensemble cast. Cusack holds the film together and his likable everyman allows the film to work as well as it does. For lovers of twist endings this is a must see. It is available VOD everywhere as well as HBO Go.
3. The Sixth Sense– Young Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment) is haunted by a dark secret: he is visited by ghosts. Cole is frightened by visitations from those with unresolved problems who appear from the shadows. He is too afraid to tell anyone about his anguish, except child psychologist Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis). As Dr. Crowe tries to uncover the truth about Cole’s supernatural abilities, the consequences for client and therapist are a jolt that awakens them both to something unexplainable.
Surely by now everyone has seen this movie from the late nineties. Willis and Osment give believable performances of grief and suffering in the quintessential Shyamalan film that made the phrase “I see dead people” a household phenomenon. This is the movie that put Shyamalan on the map. Everything from the color symbolism, to the hints hidden in plain site are fantastic. That doesn’t even mention the several scenes of outright terror that happen throughout. Revisit this horror classic on Netflix or VOD.
2. Pandorum– Astronauts Payton (Dennis Quaid) and Bower (Ben Foster)
awake in a hypersleep chamber with no memory of who they are or what their mission might be. While Payton stays behind to monitor the radio transmitter, Bower ventures out of the chamber into the seemingly abandoned spaceship. The men quickly realize that they are not alone and that the fate of mankind hinges on what they do next.
One of the greatest mashups of science fiction and horror to date this is one wild trip to the darkside. The color design and set is grimy and industrial and just this side of wrong. Dennis Quaid(Interspace) is so honest in his confusion and abject fear that we instantly buy into the story being told. If you love films like Event Horizon this is your jam! Watch it on Netflix or VOD everywhere.
1. Shutter Island– The implausible escape of a brilliant murderess brings U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner (Mark Ruffalo) to Ashecliffe Hospital, a fortress-like insane asylum located on a remote, windswept island. The woman appears to have vanished from a locked room, and there are hints of terrible deeds committed within the hospital walls. As the investigation deepens, Teddy realizes he will have to confront his own dark fears if he hopes to make it off the island alive.
This one is number one on our list because not only does it have one excellent twist that most won’t see coming, but the acting and directing is fantastic as well. The cast list reads like a who’s who of Hollywood royalty, Leonardo DiCaprio(Django), Mark Ruffalo(Hulk), Michelle Williams(Venom), Ted Levine(Silence of the Lambs), Ben Kingsley(Ender’s Game), Max von Sydow(Game of Thrones), Jackie Earl Haley(Watchmen), Patricia Clarkson(Maze Runner), John Carroll Lynch(Channel Zero No End House), and Elias Koteas(The Fourth Kind). That isn’t even the complete list. A packed house of high-octane actors who bring such humanity and interest to their roles each one adds to rather than just fills a spot in the film. This movie has a sepia daydream quality to it that is equal parts gorgeous and surreal. The set design, costuming, and accents work hand in hand to deliver the viewers to an all immersive world where we have the same myopic view of what is going on as the lead character Teddy Daniels(Leonardo DiCaprio). The intensely oppressive nature the film has keeps its secrets until the end. I won’t spoil the surprise by giving away the twist. I’ll just say you should go see it. It is streaming everywhere now including Hulu.
If this list doesn’t compel you to watch everyone single one of these greats and fall in love with this sub-genre all over again, I don’t know what will. They all have hands down some of the best actors, directors and writers anywhere. With the weather turning cold go ahead and indulge yourself. Grab some popcorn and settle in for a night of mind blowing fun.
As the TV/Streaming Editor for Signal Horizon, I love watching and writing about genre tv. I grew up with old school slashers, but my real passion is television and all things weird and ambiguous. When I’m not watching and writing about my favorite movies and series, I’m introducing my family to the wonderful world of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. My only regret, there is not enough time in the day to watch everything.