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November 4, 2021

3 Best Movie Plot Twists

You often hear people say a movie is excellent because it has a great twist in it. What this means is that the plot surprises viewers and subverts their expectations. But as a writer, you also have a duty to the integrity of your plot. You can't make your story seem utterly unbelievable for the sake of creating the most mind-twisting movies.

You also cannot introduce plot twists that make no sense: they have to hint at or foreshadow earlier in the script. Otherwise, you've cheated your viewer.

Plot twists also cannot betray the core of your character's beliefs without justification. The best plot twist movies tread a careful line between integrity and characters versus shock value.  

Here are some of the best plot twist movies and some lessons we can learn from them.

Frozen

Disney's Frozen is sometimes viewed as the first Disney film of a new era because of the twist at the end. It dispenses with the idea that a woman has to fall for the handsome prince to "live happily ever after."

Princess Anna believes a kiss from the dashing Prince Hans will save her from death after her sister Elsa strikes her down with a shard of ice, a power that she has no control over.

But the seemingly charming Prince Hans has other ideas. At the end of the film, he is exposed as corruptible, greedy, and with a Machiavellian eye for the throne. Anna falls in love with Hans very quickly: the pair are engaged within one day of meeting each other. This is typically how Disney films go. But characters around Anna caution her for moving too quickly.

Despise is handsome and cultured demeanor, Prince Hans in Disney's Frozen is not the prince charming we expect.
All rights reserved to Disney.

In the narrative, she is rebuffed by Hans, and we become only too aware that the new message is clear: marrying the first person that comes along and falling in love too quickly can have disastrous consequences.

Revelations about Hans and the film's overall message about not marrying a man you've just met are a subversion of the genre and classic romantic tropes. Viewers think they are going to get a classic Disney film but get a different ending.

Consider how you can subvert the expectations of the genre you are writing in. Could you take a classic plot structure like a Disney film and reinvent it with a surprising twist?

Psycho

Alfred Hitchock's masterpiece Psycho subverts our expectations through plot twists. Hitchcock famously kills off the main character - Marian Crane - in the shower when we're barely into the film's main action.

The film has been set up to suggest that Crane will be at the center. We expected to follow her as she tried to outrun the police with the money she stole. But her death wrongfoots the audience.

At the end of Hitchcock's Psycho, it is revealed that Norman has been dressing up as his dead mother.


After another murder - the detective investigating Crane's death - we change our point of view for the second time to Crane's sister. We believe it is the mother of the motel owner Norman who is behind the attacks. Instead, we find out that it is Norman himself, impersonating his mother.

Hitchock has signposted us in the wrong direction several times by showing a character in a dress with curly hair. But only ever in the form of a silhouette. At the last moment, he reveals that Norman has been dressing up as his dead mother.

Hitchock presents us with some clues in the form of conversations we supposedly hear between Norman and his mother. He is having a dialogue with himself, and he appears to have a split personality disorder.

When you're writing your plot twists and you construct scenes to mislead viewers, you must explain these at the end of the film. How have your viewers managed to get the wrong end of the stick? You need to make sure you have a credible alternative explanation for their misinterpretation of events. Norman's mental illness is a good enough reason to convince us he wasn't speaking to his mother.  

A great twist can often inspire the audience to rewatch the film with the knowledge of the twist in mind. It allows them to see the movie in a whole new light. These viewers will feel cheated if there is some plot hole, which means your twists don't make sense when you watch the film for a second time. Always plan your storylines before you write them to avoid this.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 2

In a poll conducted by the books' publisher Bloomsbury, Harry Potter readers concluded their favorite character was not our hero himself or his friends and foils Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger or even the beloved headteacher Dumbeldore.

Their favorite character was the sinister potions professor Severus Snape, played by Alan Rickman in the films. He tops most polls of both movies and books. Why is this?

Snape is a complex character. All of the films are told from Harry's perspective, so we only see how Snape and Harry interact together. We are led to believe that he is a cruel villain, a double agent for Voldermort. In the sixth film, we even see him kill Dumbledore.

Only when Snape dies, and he gives his memories to Harry - via the pensive - can we see events from his perspective and realize that he is a tired hero. Motivated by his unrequited love for Harry's mother, Lily, Snape seeks to protect her Harry. But Snape is a complex character and feels embittered towards Harry because he is the son of James, Snape's rival for Lilly's affections.

This one scene puts all of Snape's actions in a new light. We see how Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him because he would die anyway and stop Malfoy from carrying out the murder. In the first film, J.K. Rowling gave actor Alan Rickman some hints about the true loyalty of his character that helped him play the part well.

A plot twist can reveal greater depth about a character. It can help us see a darker side to a feeling we'd previously thought was whiter-than-white or, in the case of Snape, reveal a lighter, complex side to them.

In Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2, Snape's love for Harry's mother Lily is revealed as his true motivation for helping Dumbeldore and The Order Of The Phoenix.

Remember, characters are not black and white, good and evil. Characters, like real-life people, have many shades of grey. Write this into your scripts and consider when and where to reveal critical information that changes our perceptions of the character.

Also, consider that how we view characters is down to interpretation. So the point of view and positioning will affect the lens through which your viewers interpret characters.

Plot Twists Keep Viewers Hooked: Plan Them Carefully

Some of the best plot twist movies subvert viewers' opinions and expectations about the character or how a key plot point is interpreted. But getting plot twists right requires careful planning.

Plot twists involving character traits have to be within the realms of believability. What could external forces be at play that drives them down extreme paths? Snape in Harry Potter was initially a loyal servant of Voldermort, but it is revealed in the final film that his love for Lily drove him to seek out Dumbledore and the good side.

Remember, the greater the shock value of the twist, the more explaining you will have to do to your viewer to justify the twist.

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3 Best Movie Plot Twists
Harry Verity

Harry is a professional writer. His first novel The Talk Show was published in the U.S and the U.K by Bloodhound Books in 2021 and he is currently working on adapting it for screen. He's also written for Media Magazine - a UK magazine for students of A-level Film, Media and Television Studies. In addition, he was a senior ghostwriter at Story Terrace from 2015- 2021, the private memoir firm.

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