"Sammy didn't have a wife. It was your wife who had diabetes."
1. In Get Out, when Rose revealed she had been playing Chris all along:
It was already looking pretty bad for Rose considering she lied about never having dated Black men before (and then Chris found a box of photos with her and different boyfriends who were Black), but she was so convincing looking for her keys that I really didn't think she was so involved in her family's scheme. And then she switches on a dime and it's just the perfect twist.
2. In Frozen, when Hans turned out to be the bad guy instead of Anna's true love:
I'm still just so impressed that a Disney movie pulled off such a dastardly twist — especially because they used their own tropes to trick us into thinking that Hans really was the love interest of the story. This was such a shocking move coming from Disney, but it added complexity to the story and to Disney's themes of true love and ultimately helped enforce the idea that true love is earned through time (and even not romantic) and not instantaneous.
3. In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, when Darth Vader revealed he was Luke's father:
I mean, this is just the GOAT. Many have tried and failed to accomplish similar twists, but none have lived up to this one. It makes both Luke and Darth's journeys and characters far more interesting, and it's set up so well because I doubt this possibility even occurred to anyone due to the trust you feel as a viewer in Obi Wan in the first film. (I say "I doubt" because like the rest of my generation and younger generations, I knew the twist before watching the film just from its significance in pop culture.)
4. In Promising Young Woman, when Cassie found out that Ryan witnessed Nina's assault:
Focus Features/Universal Pictures
This twist reminds me of Get Out's twist in a lot of ways: there's that one "good" character that we trust even though they're connected to the villains, only to be proven wrong and feel utterly betrayed (just like the main character). It serves to reinforce the movie's theme about even "nice guys" often being complicit in sexual assault, if not actively perpetrating it, and men excusing each other's behavior while failing to take accountability for their own role in enabling it (Get Out says something similar about even "progressive" white people being complicit in racism, or even actively participating in violence against Black people). The fact that both twists are revealed in a single moment (despite perhaps earlier signs that we ignored) just makes them even more of a gut punch...and hopefully, causes us to reexamine our own tendency to make excuses for people like Ryan.
5. In The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, when Gale revealed District 13 was gone:
So I already knew about this twist because I'd read the book, but I still think it was done so well in the movie. The last few minutes pack so many twists — the plan was always to get Katniss out of the arena! Haymitch knew the whole time! Peeta has been captured! But this final one utterly changes the nature of the rest of the series so that nothing about it is a "game" anymore.
6. In Kill Bill: Volume 1, when it was revealed that the Bride's daughter was alive:
This is another great twist that's revealed in the final seconds of the film (which is super hard to pull off!!!). The entire revenge story was based on the fact that the Bride's unborn daughter was killed, so to have a twist this big in the last seconds completely blew my mind and hyped me up for the second film.
7. In Crazy Stupid Love, when it was revealed that Hannah was "Nana" — aka Cal and Emily's daughter.
Warner Bros. Pictures
I know this one's from a rom com, but it's still one of my absolute favorite movie twists of all time because it's so unexpected and it's pulled off so flawlessly. The second Hannah walks out, we realize she's Cal's daughter and that Cal and Jacob's stories are far more connected than we realized. The ensuing chaos is the perfect climax to one of my favorite rom-coms, managing to be both hilarious and shocking.
8. In Parasite, when it turned out the housekeeper's husband was living in the basement:
The entire GENRE of the film changed in this one moment. I have literally never before seen this pulled off and it's a moment that will go down in film history. The film lulls you into a false sense of security about what you're watching and then completely switches it on you.
9. In Scream, when Billy and Stu were revealed to be the killers:
Technically this is two lines and two reveals, but I'm counting them together because both lines are iconic and they happen so close to each other. All the Scream killer reveals are incredible, but the first one is the best. Stu especially shocked me, maybe because I watched this long after it came out and I mostly saw Matthew Lillard and Shaggy from Scooby Doo.
10. In The Planet of the Apes, when Taylor stumbles across the Statue of Liberty and realizes he's on Earth:
20th Century Fox
As far as visual reveals go, this has to be one of the most iconic. It's basically the blueprint for all future mind-blowing twists, and I kind of can't believe this is from a 1968 film and not, like, a modern M. Night Shyamalan movie.
11. In Jojo Rabbit, when Jojo came across his mom hanging:
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Speaking of visual reveals...this one in Jojo Rabbit absolutely gutted me. The tonal shift of Jojo watching the butterfly to the audience seeing his dead mom gave me emotional whiplash in a good way. Jojo Rabbit excels at this kind of dual tone of innocence and humor contrasted against the stark realities of war, but this was the first time the war actually seemed to become real to Jojo, and it changed everything.
12. In Fight Club, when it was revealed that Tyler and the Narrator were the same person:
20th Century Fox
I couldn't make this list without including this one. Fight Club isn't my favorite movie, but it absolutely nails this twist to the point where it will go down in history as one of the best film twists ever.
13. In The Uninvited, when Anna realized that Alex died in the fire and she had killed Rachel:
The Uninvited was the very first horror film I saw. I watched half of it with my eyes closed, but I still remember being shocked by this twist. Maybe it's because I was young enough that this was the first "they were dead the whole time!" twist I'd experienced, but it was still such a memorable "oh shit!" moment that completely blew my preteen mind.
14. In Psycho, when Marion's killer/Norman's mother was revealed to be Norman:
I think Psycho was probably the second horror film I watched, and I found it a lot less scary. Still, the reveal that Norman's mother is dead and that he's actually just been dressing as her and talking to her is such a classic and chilling reveal that I had to include it on this list.
15. In The Shining, when Wendy finally saw what Jack was writing:
Warner Bros./Columbia-EMI-Warner Distributors
This was maybe not the biggest surprise if you'd seen trailers or knew anything about the book, but it's still such a great reveal. Wendy flipping through all the pages that say the same exact thing while creepy music plays is a top tier horror movie moment that I will never forget.
16. In Memento, when it turned out Leonard had killed his wife — and also that he'd killed "John G" already.
This movie is such a trip. I watched it in my high school film class and I remember being absolutely shocked at this twist. It's made even more heart-wrenching and horrifying because you know exactly what happens after this, as the movie's played backwards.
17. In Arrival, when it was revealed that Banks's memories of her daughter were actually visions of the future:
Paramount Pictures / Sony Pictures Releasing International / Stage 6 Films
Oof, talk about heart-wrenching. This is such a gutting twist, and to know Louise now has no choice but to watch her daughter die...they nailed this one.
18. In The Village, when it turned out it was modern times and the "monsters" were just members of the village:
Buena Vista Pictures
I know this is a polarizing one, but I personally think it was genius. There's nothing like a twist that the genre film we're seeing actually takes place in our world (see number 10).
19. In Saw, when Jigsaw revealed himself to Adam as the apparent corpse they'd seen in the beginning:
Lions Gate Entertainment
This has got to be one of the freakiest twists of all time. Watching the "body" we've assumed to be dead the whole movie get up still gives me chills just thinking about it.
20. In The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, when Peeta attacked Katniss:
I obviously first came across this twist in the book, but it was done so well in the movie I'm including it. Peeta has been this kind-hearted devotee to Katniss for the entire series prior to this, and there is zero indication that he'll be any different when they rescue him — when Katniss spends the entire movie trying to do. To see that he's been brainwashed against her and is no longer the Peeta we knew is devastating.
21. And finally, in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when the Winter Soldier was revealed to be Bucky:
I had to end on one I just personally like. Steve's whole thing is that everyone he knew in his life is dead (well, Peggy was alive for a bit but had dementia), so to see Bucky pop up here is such a mindfuck for both Steve and us. The Winter Soldier is a top tier Marvel film (and film in general) and I'll fight anyone who says otherwise.