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The 2001 Gothic horror The Others stars Nicole Kidman as the troubled mother of two children who cannot go outside. As strange and scary events unfold around the house, the family begin to suspect the house is haunted. A tragic twist comes at the end, as the family realize the house is in fact haunted – but that they themselves are the ghosts.
2022’s Barbarian was a huge hit with horror fans due to its shocking and unpredictable twist. A young woman, Tess, arrives at an Airbnb only to find it is already occupied by a suspicious man. Audiences are led to believe the man is the villain, but Tess discovers a horribly mutated woman in a labyrinthine basement below the home is the film’s real antagonist.
Sleepaway Camp pretty much follows the blueprint for most slashers of the 80s – promiscuous teens enjoying their summer camp are picked off one by one by a mysterious killer. After the killer is revealed to be troubled young Angela, an added layer of craziness comes from the fact that Angela is actually a boy named Peter, traumatized by being raised as his dead sister.
The Saw franchise has no shortage of crazy twists and terrifying turns, but one of the most terrifying comes in the very first movie. The grisly horror starts with two men chained up in an abandoned bathroom, with a corpse in the middle of the room. At the very end of the movie, the corpse rises to reveal himself to be the sadistic Jigsaw Killer, who orchestrated the whole event as one of his terrifying ‘games’.
Psycho is one of the most iconic horror movies of all time, thanks to its shocking twist. Throughout the 1960 film, its clear that something is not right with Norman Bates, the quiet owner of the Bates Motel. The full extent of his mommy issues don’t become clear until the gruesome reveal that Norman has been keeping the corpse of his mother in the cellar, and has adopted her murderous personality.
Malignant gives new meaning to the phrase ‘eyes in the back of your head’. The film follows Madison, a woman plagued by visions in which she is helpless to watch a mysterious killer brutally murder his victims. As it turns out, the reason Madison can see these murders is because it’s her doing them – or rather, the half-formed parasitic twin brother living inside her skull.
M. Night Shyamalan is known as the king of twist endings, and The Village is one of his most famous. Residents of an isolated 19th century village are too scared to leave for fear of being attacked by monsters in the woods. The truth itself is far more terrifying – the village is actually part of the today’s modern world, but it has been cut off from society by a group of rich elders.
This Austrian psychological horror film follows twin boys, Elias and Lukas, who begin to suspect their mother might be an imposter. They begin to torture their mother in order to find out the truth – which is in fact that Lukas died prior to the events in the movie, and Elias has been hallucinating his brother out of grief.
The Sixth Sense
Perhaps the most famous twist in all of horror history, M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense follows child psychologist Malcolm as he tries to help a young boy, Cole, who believes he can see dead people. Tragically, the ending reveals that Malcolm did not survive being shot in an attack months earlier, and has himself been one of the dead people that Cole can see.
This psychological horror is heartbreaking and scary in equal measure. Vietnam War veteran Jacob finds himself haunted by visions of monsters and hallucinations of his late son. The world around him grows more terrifying, before it is revealed that Jacob has been dying of his injuries the whole time, and that he never made it out of the war.
In The Boy, nanny Greta is tasked with caring for Brahms, a lifesize porcelain doll, as if he is a real boy. Strange occurrences around the old house lead to Greta thinking Brahms might be haunted, when in fact the sinister truth is that the real, human Brahms is actually a grown man living inside the walls of the home.
Jordan Peele’s psychological horror Get Out tackles issues of race and prejudice head on. When Chris, a young black man, meets his white girlfriend’s family, most of the family seem kind – if a little insensitive – but Chris soon comes to the horrifying realization that they have been implanting the brains of sick or elderly white people into the healthy bodies of young black people.
The Scream movies are famous for their twists, as characters and viewers alike try to figure out the identity of the Ghostface killer in each franchise entry. It all started back in 1996, when the teen slasher shocked audiences by revealing the Ghostface killer was not one but two people – protagonist Sidney’s boyfriend Billy Loomis and his friend Stu Macher.
When a mourning couple adopt a child, they can’t wait to start their new life as a family together with adorable little orphan Esther. Esther is smart, she’s sweet – she’s also secretly 33 years old. Esther’s true identity is revealed to be that of a murderous grown woman with a hormone disorder that keeps her looking young.
The bleak twist of The Mist left viewers in shock. As a supernatural mist and terrifying monsters usher in the end of the world, a group of survivors led by protagonist David find themselves with nowhere to run. In an act of mercy, at the end of the movie David kills the group, including his eight-year-old son – just minutes before the military arrive from the mist to save them.
This Gothic horror starring Mia Farrow is considered to be one of the greatest supernatural movies of all time. Throughout the film, pregnant Rosemary believes that her husband, friends and neighbors are plotting something sinister and Satanic with her unborn baby. The shocking reveal proves that Rosemary is right; the baby is in fact the spawn of the devil himself.
A Tale of Two Sisters
Korean horror A Tale of Two Sisters follows siblings Su-mi and Su-yeon as they navigate life after the death of their mother. Living with their cruel stepmother and absent father, older sister Su-mi realizes that her little sister actually died trying to save their mother, and that Su-mi’s grief led her to assume the identity of her dead sister.
Don’t Look Now
This 1973 thriller stars Donald Sutherland as John, a father who relocates to Venice following the drowning death of his daughter. John and his wife become involved with two mysterious sisters, one of whom warns John he is in great danger. Far too late, John realizes that the harrowing visions he’s been having are premonitions of his own death, at the hands of a strange woman in a red coat.
Friday the 13th
The camp slasher Friday the 13th sparked an iconic franchise around the hockey mask-wearing maniac Jason, but he isn’t even the villain of the first film. His mother, Mrs Voorhees, is actually responsible for the first set of killings at Camp Crystal Lake.
Cabin in the Woods
Horror-comedy Cabin in the Woods is both funny and scary – not least because of its mindblowing and meta twist. In the typical set up, a group of students head to a dilapidated cabin for a weekend of partying. Little do they know the entire weekend is orchestrated in order to obtain sacrifices for ancient, evil (and gigantic) gods who are apparently huge horror movie fans.
British horror Final Prayer has been called the most terrifying found footage film of all time – and for good reason. The film follows three men as they investigate supernatural goings-on in an ancient English church. Unbeknownst to them – and us – the church is actually a gigantic, living organism that devours the three men in a most horrifying twist.
10 Cloverfield Lane
This pseudo-sequel to Cloverfield follows Michelle, a young woman held hostage by a menacing doomsday prepper. Michelle has been told that the air outside is fatally toxic due to an unknown attack, but upon escaping the bunker realizes she’s been lied to – the air might not be dangerous, but the alien invasion certainly is.
Bloody French horror High Tension follows two students, Marie and Alex, as they are stalked by a serial killer who murders Alex’s family. Brutality ensures, before it’s revealed that the killer was Marie all along, who has been driven mad by her delusional, unrequited love for Alex.
From Dusk till Dawn
The first half of From Dusk till Dawn plays out like a crime thriller, following outlaw brothers Seth and Richie (George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino respectively) as they kidnap a family to get them across the Mexican border. Upon arriving, the movie twists entirely into a bloody vampire action horror.
Gothic horror Crimson Peak stars Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain as Thomas and Lucille, siblings plotting to steal the fortune of Thomas’ wife Edith. Their relationship is more than just sinister, however, as Edith discovers the brother and sister are in love and even conceived a child together. Yuck.
Ready or Not
After she marries into her husband’s hugely wealthy family, Grace (Samara Weaving) is forced to fight for her life in a deadly game of hide and seek which the family claim is to stop a curse that has plagued them for years. Grace thinks they’re insane, only to watch each member of the family explode like bloody water balloons as the curse takes them.
Yes, it’s another Shyamalan entry! In The Visit, two young children are sent to stay with their estranged grandparents. Nana and Pop Pop’s erratic and frightening behavior leaves the kids wondering if they’re really who they say they are, and, in true horror movie fashion, of course they aren’t. The pair are actually escaped maniacs on the run from the local mental asylum. Scary!
We expect characters to stay within their movie, but twisted home invasion thriller Funny Games breaks this rule entirely. Psychotic antagonist Paul breaks the fourth wall throughout the film, and at one point even rewinds a scene in which the family finally get their revenge – meaning their actions were entirely futile.
One of the earliest movie twists, 1955 French thriller Les Diaboliques sees two women, Cristina and Nicole, team up to kill their abusive lover, Michel. After doing so, Cristina is haunted by what she thinks is the ghost of Michel, eventually dying of a shock-induced heart attack when she sees him. As it turns out, Nicole and Michel orchestrated the whole plot so they could finally be together.
Drag Me to Hell
Drag Me to Hell follows Christine, a woman cursed to die in three days by a violent demon. The only way to stop it is by returning a cursed object (a button) to the demon – which Christine thinks she has done, before the reveal that the button was actually in an envelope in her unsuspecting boyfriend’s car. Christine then does in fact get dragged straight to hell.
Thai horror Shutter is exceptionally creepy, following a young man named Tun who is haunted by a ghostly woman who appears in photographs. As the spirit gets more and more aggressive, Tun’s girlfriend Jane discovers that the ghost is actually a woman whom Tun photographed being sexually assaulted – and is seeking her righteous revenge.
This British horror starring Michael Fassbender sees couple Steve and Jenny hunted by a group of aggressive teenagers. After they’ve tortured and killed her husband, Jenny thinks she has finally found salvation in a house full of adults – only to discover too late that these adults are the parents of the psychotic teens, and are just as violent.
47 Meters Down
Few things are scarier than sharks. Sisters Kate and Lisa learn this the hard way in survival horror 47 Meters Down, which sees the pair trapped in a cage at the bottom of the ocean while hungry great whites stalk them. Lisa manages to survive and initially believes her sister did too, until the nitrogen narcosis wears off…
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
This 1978 sci-fi horror is famed for its terrifying twist ending. After an invasion leaves human beings turned into ‘duplicates’ by body-snatching aliens, protagonist Matthew seems to have made it out alive. That is until the very last scene of the film, in which Matthew lets out a horrifying screech, signalling he has been assimilated.
‘Dead all along’ might be a common horror twist, but it can still be an impactful one. In this Spanish horror, a woman named Laura and her son Simón move into an old orphanage. Mysterious events suggest the orphanage is haunted, and it sure is – but not by any old ghost. Little Simón actually died earlier in the film, and his spirit has been restless ever since.
Two identical androids play very different roles in this sci-fi horror. Walter, who respects humans and wants to help them, is eventually killed off by David, who is well and truly on the side of the xenomorphs. In the movie’s final moments, protagonist Daniels realizes that the android aboard the ship isn’t Walter – but falls into stasis sleep as the malevolent David reveals himself.
In Come True, a girl named Sarah suffers from terrifying nightmares each night. She participates in a sleep study and her sanity begins to unravel. In the final scene, Sarah receives a text informing her that she has been in a coma for years, and doctors are trying to wake her up through her dreams.
The Empty Man
This complex psychological horror follows a cult and their worship of a being known as ‘the Empty Man’. Protagonist James tries to solve the mystery, becoming more tangled in the cult’s sinister doings, before it is revealed that the cult invented James as a vessel for the Empty Man, and despite having a lifetime of memories, he has only existed for a few days.
Controversial French horror Ghostland follows two sisters recovering from the trauma of a home invasion attack 16 years earlier. Beth returns home to face her past, only to be shocked back into the reality that she never escaped, and in fact the attack is still ongoing. In a tragic twist, teenage Beth imagined her entire adult life as a coping mechanism to mentally retreat from being held hostage.
This neo-noir thriller might not be a traditional horror, but it’s truly terrifying. Aspiring star Betty is dragged into a mystery involving an amnesiac woman named Rita. Against the glitzy, romantic backdrop of Hollywood, the pair try to discover Rita’s identity – only for Betty to wake up as a depressed, failed actress who dreamed the entire glamorous adventure.