Talking about endings: ever wondered why we as an audience have a much higher affinity towards twist endings than we do towards the overtly romanticised happy endings? It’s simply and trivially because of the one reason that we love to be surprised. To drive my point home, while you may not always remember the hero getting the girl, or even the hero killing the villain by the end of the film, as far as staple film plots are concerned, you will always, always remember Keyser Soze correcting his limp and delivering that shudder inducing monologue he began the film with, among countless other instances.
More than a well-earned payoff, we seem more content with films that are either able to blow our collective minds by the end or leave a lingering question by the times the credits roll, just for that additional fodder our brains require, or simply a jolt to shake us out through our senses. And what better than getting that jolt at the comfort of our couches, courtesy of Netflix, anytime we want? I may be typecasting, but it is surely a true thriller fan’s most vivid dream come true. So, without further ado, here is the list of some really good twist ending movies on Netflix that you can stream right now, and have your mind twisted all over again.
14. Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Love it or hate it, there is one thing that you absolutely cannot deny about this year’s early Netflix release. It is easily one of the most bizarre films that you will catch this year with an ending that should give the plot’s bizarrity a run for its money. There is frankly so much going on: social commentary, art critique, critique on the act of critique, and a horror plot in there somewhere, that you will have little to think about as the film progresses. There is also enough craft involved from the sizeable lineup of actors involved and from ‘Nightcrawler’ director Dan Gilroy to keep you involved as well. It is when the film ends that the inevitable questions start coming at you. If you can avoid those, ‘Velvet Buzzsaw’ can be a delightfully weird watch if you have the taste for it.
13. The Butterfly Effect (2005)
The theory itself at the centre of the film: the butterfly effect, dictating that any event at any point of time in the present is bound to have magnified impacts in the future, is superbly interesting to begin with, and a film trifling with showcasing the idea in a cinematic form is bound to be too. Yes, it is flawed at certain points and the performances may not be at par, but the exploration of the very theory keeps it adrift, as we see Evan Treborn cycle between his past and present, trying to change the course of his life by altering specific events in his past, only to largely upset the order of things in that perceived reality. There is an important psychological insight offered here as well, about free will and the inevitability of it all that is bound to ignite intelligible discussions.
12. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
Talking of twist endings, this film doesn’t have just one, but 5 main ones and close to 10-12 ones that you can reach if you are willing to spend the required amount of time. We all know ‘Black Mirror’ to be a favourite owing to its cerebral subject matter and innovative presentation techniques. However, with ‘Bandersnatch’, both Netflix and Black Mirror push the envelope to introduce interactive TV to a curious audience, and it scored on those very aspects. Akin to an RPG, you are allowed to make choices that lead to separately devised narratives further leading to different endings, or you go back to make a different choice in case the choice you made turned out to be a dead end. I was glued for hours at end trying to figure out all the endings, and ended up having a baller of a time despite being stuck in front of my screen for close to three hours. The marketing may have been more centred on the gimmicky nature of interactive TV and selling that, but trust me when I say that even the plot is well thought of, tailored to deliver you the definitive ‘Black Mirror’ experience with an additional edge.
11. The Village (2004)
One of two M. Night Shyamalan works in the list, (no points for guessing the first one), and although virtually his entire filmography could figure here, not all titles directed by him are available on Netflix. ‘The Village’ remains another film showcasing Shyamalan’s penchant for suspenseful tales with twisty payoffs, albeit a bit underrated compared to his other filmography. However, I have to stress that the most overlooked aspect of the film would remain Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. With amazing visuals to boast, a memorable film score and a slightly predictable yet effective twist, ‘The Village’ is one atmospheric thriller you ought not to miss.
10. Enemy (2013)
The only reason I liked ‘Enemy’ a little less than I should have is its ending that left me frustrated and scratching my head. I will also admit that it was hard to sit through for all its duration, since the film doesn’t have the appeal or production quality imminent in Villeneuve’s other works, of which ‘Prisoners’ or ‘Arrival’ are stunning examples. Yet in all its chaotic glory, ‘Enemy’ does get to your head and stays there long after the credits have rolled. The ending may not be as mind-blowing as some of the other films on this list simply because it isn’t spelled out in front of the audience and quite a lot of it is left for them to figure out themselves. But when you get it, or atleast think that you do, this story of a man’s struggle with his own identity and an identical psychology in this case makes the film stand true to its title card caption, “Chaos is order yet undeciphered”.
9. Cloud Atlas (2012)
One of the most vastly divisive films of modern times, and you’ll shook by the extent of it, with a few critics giving it a standing ovation, while others terming it one of the worst films of the year. Professing a theory not too vastly different from the butterfly effect, but in a more grandiose, more mythic way, ‘Cloud Atlas’ particularly drew criticism for its narrative structure and seemingly random cuts that separate its telling of multiple plots across six eras in time, all connected to each other. However, this uniquity is what drew me towards the film, and the ending cemented my likeness for it. As with a lot of twist ending films, it has a love it or hate it kind of consensus, but you simply cannot ignore its vision and scope in trying to tell story differently.
8. Ugly (2014)
The only Hindi language film on this list and for every right reason. Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Ugly’ ranks, for me atleast, right after ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ in the director’s dark filmography. It’s an excellent little film, one that I won’t completely blame you either for missing since it originally had a hush hush release and had virtually no “stars” to boast of. However, the film turned out to be one of the better surprises that year, and one of the year’s best films overall, with a twist so shocking and vile, it has the devastating power to keep you up at night, accompanied by a build-up that is cut out like glass but hard like nails. Saying anything more will be just taking away from what the twisted ending has in store for you.
7. Mr. Nobody (2009)
To watch this brilliant film with a closed mind is simply an extended exercise in futility. I would rather like to think of Mr. Nobody as a sustained mental exercise. As the happenings unfold on screen, there is a plethora of parallel thoughts and theories that crowd your mind, each coming at you with lightning speed, which is essentially a part of the viewing experience. Imagine an RPG where you have to make crucial decisions at certain points, and all of these decidedly lead to different outcomes, each spread out through alternating realities. To manifest such an idea in a film this good is an achievement unto itself and its central theme of the future, its uncertainty, the chaos theory, of existence and everything in between is a treat of a puzzle to piece together.
6. The Invitation (2015)
‘The Invitation’ is one relentlessly thrilling ride and a very well-crafted thriller, but believe me when I say that you are not ready for the final twist. Centred primarily along conversations that you do not want to be a part of, with mounting, slow burn tension in every scene, ‘The Invitation’ just furthered my hypothesis coupled with last year’s ‘Upgrade’ of Logan Marshall-Green’s excellent eye for effective scripts. One of those indie films that you unassumingly start watching but instead turns out to be one of the better decisions you’d have made in a long while.
5. Ex Machina (2014)
As good a cinematic debut as any in recent times, Ex Machina is a stunning modern portrayal of the age old plot of humans engineering sentient beings turning on their creators that has now come to define a rather different category of sci-fi films altogether. The film follows Caleb Smith (Domnhall Gleeson) who is invited to the home and research facility of an eccentric, narcissistic CEO of a leading tech company, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac). Nathan reveals his creation to Caleb, an AI humanoid named Ava (Alicia Vikander), and enlists him to administer a Turing Test to her, to evaluate whether Ava displays true intelligence and emotions, transcending her artificial intelligence. What follows is a suspenseful tale of one ups and dupes that ends in a shocking, jaw dropping climax, with Ava passing any and all tests Caleb was capable of administering. Well shot and technically brilliant, ably supported by all actors, this is an excellent indie that warrants a watch.
4. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Again, a futile attempt to exhibit the credentials of a modern classic, but I try nonetheless. A psychological thriller and a slow burn whodunnit at once, ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is undoubtedly one of the greatest American films of all time, and Hannibal Lecter, possibly among the greatest antagonists of all time, played to eerie and chilling perfection by Anthony Hopkins. The ending of ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ isn’t a particularly twisty one per se, as much as it is a twisted one, following a devastating and draining finale, albeit supremely well shot. Jodie Foster too is excellent in her role of FBI trainee Clarice Starling, bringing a lot of humanity to her character. ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ is one of only three films in history to have picked up the big 5 awards at the Oscars, and is now available on Netflix for streaming.
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3. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
‘A Clockwork Orange’ is social commentary at its most uncompromising, providing stark imagery that one may never recover from. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and it doesn’t provide redemption for those seeking it in a film with probably the bleakest rendition of a dystopia in societal terms. Unconventional in any way you can imagine, it provides us with protagonists that are spiteful to the core and indulge in acts of “ultraviolence” and rape; it comments on the socio political state of things in the most harsh way you can imagine, puts you in a state of confusion as Alex DeLarge (played by a charismatic Malcolm McDowell) is subjected to inhuman ways of reconditioning and ends leaving the audience in a farrago of all the things this disturbing experience makes you feel at once. Truly, a work of Kubrickian proportions.
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2. Se7en (1995)
‘Se7en’, as if its premise wasn’t interesting enough, had a finale so devastating and shocking, it drained one as a viewer. John Doe was the textbook definition of a psychopath turned serial killer but the horrendousness of his actions transcended either. If you’ve seen the film, you’d know that the MO of the murders were the seven cardinal sins. Why he’d commit those murders and choose that as his MO in the first place is what defines the extent of his psychopathy. Keven Spacey, in the role of John Doe delivers a chilling performance that is only complemented by the eerie calm straight face he holds before confessing to the murders in the end.
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1. The Sixth Sense (1999)
It wouldn’t be too much of an overstatement when I say that eventhough twist endings have been an effective cinematic tool for directors since probably as long as cinema has existed, Shyamalan’s classic thriller can be pinpointed as the one film responsible for popularising to it an extent that ‘The Sixth Sense’ was established as a modern landmark. The film announced the arrival of Shyamalan as a director on the scene and conveyed to the world his affinity for surprise endings, a motif that he would go on to use and popularise through all his future works. While its twist ending often takes all the limelight from the film, I often stress that it is also a very potent horror flick, perhaps the scariest that year delivering a well-balanced combination of modern and classical scares. If you still haven’t seen the film, there is little else that you should be doing except prepping your mind for a sense of disbelief towards its ending.
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