Adam Fresco guides you through a Top Ten History of Hollywood hokum, from “twists” so tortured you spotted them in the trailer to shocks and surprises so cool they entered popular culture. It’s not just annoying kids and work colleagues who try to prank, trick and fool us.
Movies love to try and upend audiences with a surprise twist. But for every “I am your father”, there’s a “and then I woke up” or “WTF?!” ending that works about as subtly as some joker taping a “Kick Me” sign to your back.
Like April Fool’s Day pranksters the world over, some films may think they’re big and clever, but you probably guessed their so-called twists from their trailer. Here’s our (mostly) spoiler-free Top Ten, from the films that fooled us and schooled us, to the ones that made us groan, leave the cinema and go home.
10. Run! It’s a freakin’ train!
Cinema’s been in the gotcha game ever since the first cameras rolled. Even if you’ve not seen Georges Méliès 1902 A Trip to the Moon—which you can enjoy online in all its glorious 15 minutes of trick photography, with modern music added by The Billi Brass Quintet—you more than likely know the imagery from Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011), or The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1996 music video Tonight, Tonight:
First screened in 1896, the sight of a train charging towards the screen entered urban legend, scaring the pants off spectators, who allegedly panicked and fled the oncoming locomotive. Heck, it’s a movie so cool it even spawned this remake by Real3House Productions, a mere 116 years later in 2012:
9. Who’s Your Daddy?
The problem with people (critics included) praising or panning a movie’s twist is that it gives away the fact there’s a damn twist! So, SPOILER WARNING, do not do what this guy did in the US town of Springfield when he first saw 1980 Star Wars sequel, The Empire Strikes Back:
D’oh! Anyway, now Homer’s spoiled the twist, you can relive it over and over again, right here:
Are we allowed to mention director, Bryan Singer anymore? Or Kevin Spacey? Only this particular K.S. starred in two of the best WTF, gotcha-good moments in modern movies. No spoilers here, just a strong April Fool’s contender in asking, just who the hell is Keyser Soze anyway?
Penned by Christopher McQuarrie (who’s gone on of late to write and direct two smash hit Mission: Impossible movies), The Usual Suspects is a 1995 thriller gem, from the same year as our next entry in the April Fool’s Day countdown.
Also released in 1995 and starring Kevin Spacey, Se7en made the Seven Deadly Sins even deadlier, in this rain-soaked, neo-noir thriller from David Fincher, the director of great gotcha movies, including 1997 classic The Game, and this one from 1999 that we’re not allowed to talk about, because, you know, them’s the rules:
Whether you guessed the secret from the trailer, or had it spoiled by a mouthy mate (yeah, Dave, so called school “friend”—I’m talking about you!), writer/director M. Night Shyamalan made Fool’s of us all with his 1999 release, The Sixth Sense.
Stephen King… Get your screen version of the master author’s novels wrong and you might just end up with The Dark Tower (2017), King’s self-directed debacle Maximum Overdrive (1986), or, heaven help us, Dreamcatcher—supernatural, sci-fi, Jaws-in-a-toilet anyone?
But, get King right and you might just be Frank Darabont, writer/director of three of the very best Stephen King movie adaptations—The Shawshank Redemption (1994), The Green Mile (1999), and the sensational The Mist (2007). A movie with an ending so good, Stephen King apparently told Darabont he wished he’d thought of it…
This one’s about as funny as your flatmate (yes, you again, Dave!) putting plastic wrap over the toilet seat every April 1st. It’s not big. It’s not clever. It’s very messy and it stinks.
3. I Want My Mummy!
Darren Aronofsky’s mother! (2017) had a Biblical twist, Universal’s Tom Cruise stinker of the same year, The Mummy, was just twisted, but the joint April Fool’s/Mother’s Day win of the century has to go to 2016s Martha-lous Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. How it should have ended? At the opening credits…
When it comes to doubling, Christopher Nolan takes both cakes. Throughout Memento (2000), The Prestige (2006), The Dark Knight (2008), and Interstellar (2014), Nolan loves taking audiences down the twisting corridors of double identity, yin and yang, and cosmic duality. I mean, this is serious stuff, not to be ridiculed, okay? I mean, 2010s Inception is so cool. It’s like a dream within a dream, a taco within a taco…
1. It Was All A Dream…
C’mon! You can’t end a movie with “And then I woke up”! Seriously? I watched six seasons of Lost on TV for that?! Still for every Jacob’s Ladder (1990 and 2019’s awful remake), Jim Carrey in The Number 23 (2007), or Tom Cruise in Vanilla Sky (2001), there’s always the ultimate dream, adapted into three silent movies, sequels, musicals, animations, spin-offs, a 3D conversion and the first Technicolor spin on the twist, with 1939s classic, The Wizard of Oz: