Top 20 Shock Movie Endings

500 Days Of Film Reviews The Shocking Conclusions Of 20 Classic Movies

The shock twist ending is a familiar trope in cinema. Utilised with varying degrees of success, these stunning cinematic conclusions are often the most talked about movie moments.


Here are 20 of the best films with fabulously surprising finales.

20 Classic Movie Shock Endings!

20. Buried

American truck driver, Paul (Ryan Reynolds), comes under fire while working in Iraq. He wakes up to find himself buried alive inside a coffin with only a mobile phone and a lighter to help him escape. Rodrigo Cortés film is surprisingly effective (and oh so claustrophobic) with an ending that really packs a punch.


19. Predestination

The Spierig Brothers’ time traveling sci fi film, Predestination, has many mysterious twists and turns. However, the movie’s finale is a real mind bender that will keep you puzzling for hours after the credits have rolled.


18. The Vanishing

While the original is the superior film, I enjoy the French version of The Vanishing and the American remake starring Jeff Bridges and Kiefer Sutherland (both films were directed by George Sluizer). One thing unites the two movies - a conclusion that will leave you stunned.


17. Don't Look Now

An absolute horror classic, Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now is based on a chilling story by Daphne Du Maurier. The film unsettles and disturbs from its very opening scenes until its shocking and utterly haunting end.


16. Memento


Christopher Nolan loves to challenge his audience and nowhere is this clearer than in Memento. Guy Pearce stars as Leonard, a man searching for his wife’s killer while suffering from short-term memory loss. Even as we piece all of the clues together, nothing can prepare us for the film’s final big reveal.


15. The Others

Featuring a standout performance from Nicole Kidman, Alejandro Amenábar’s The Others feels like a traditional haunted house movie - right up until the film’s shocking ending.


14. Shutter Island

Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island (based on the book by Dennis Lehane and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo) rewards repeat viewings even after you understand the secret at the heart of this film’s dark mystery.   


13. Kill List

An unbearably tense and unsettling film, Ben Wheatley’s Kill List left me shocked utterly stunned. The movie refuses to be bound by genre and, as a result, has the ability to take a truly surprising turn in its final act.


12. Primal Fear

When an alter boy (portrayed by Edward Norton in his debut film role) is accused of murdering a priest, his only hope lies in the hands of Richard Gere’s hotshot lawyer. However, the truth is a slippery fish in director Gregory Hoblit’s mysterious thriller.


11. The Wicker Man

In search of a missing girl, Sergeant Howie (a superb performance by Edward Woodwood) is sent to an eerie Scottish island. Little does he know what shocks await at the conclusion of his investigation.


10. Fight Club


The big reveal in David Fincher’s Fight Club is apparent from the start if you know where to look. However, whether you are in the know or not, the ending is still a satisfying surprise. 


9. Pan's Labyrinth

The final scenes of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth are both shocking and heartbreaking. We are so deeply invested in Ofelia (Ivana Baquero)’s journey that we desperately hope for a fairytale outcome. The reality of this film’s finale is far more complex - and wonderfully so. 


8. The Descent

The end of Neil Marshall’s The Descent was considered so shocking that it was removed for the film’s US release. However, this alteration is a major disservice to the movie. Far better to seek out the original conclusion - despite the fact that it will shock you to the core.


7. We Need To Talk About Kevin

Lynne Ramsay’s superb thriller, We Need To Talk About Kevin, is fuelled by foreboding. The tension in this film (based on Lionel Schriver’s novel) is almost unbearable. However, just when we think the worst is over, the movie hits us with another terrible twist.


6. Oldboy

After being kidnapped for fifteen years, Oh Dae-Su (Min-sik Choi) is released and given only five days to find his captor. Desperate to understand the reason behind his imprisonment, he enlists the help of young woman, Mi-do, with utterly horrific results.


5. The Sixth Sense


Many people claim that they were able to guess the ending of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense. I am not one of them. Unaware of the film’s big reveal, I was thrilled by its final scenes - so much so that I wanted to watch it all over again to see the clues that I had missed.


4. Seven

Seven, David Fincher’s second appearance on this list, is a dark and nasty film with a dark, nasty and utterly shocking ending. The performances from Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey in the movie’s last scenes are just superb.  


3. Psycho

Think of a twist ending and Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film, Psycho, inevitably springs to mind. Hitchcock was, of course, a master of surprise and genuine shocks await both at the beginning and the end of this movie.


In Francois Truffaut’s wonderful and enlightening study of the director, Hitchcock Truffaut, Hitchcock explains that “the public always likes to be one jump ahead of the story; they like to feel they know what’s coming next. So you deliberately play upon this fact to control their thoughts… Psycho has a very interesting construction and that game with the audience was fascinating. I was directing the viewers. You might say I was playing them, like an organ.”    


2. The Usual Suspects

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. Another classic in the shock ending genre, the twist at the end of The Usual Suspects is sheer genius. As Jeff Rabin (Dan Hedaya) says, “It all makes sense when you look at it right. You gotta like stand back from it”.  


1. The Mist


Topping my list of the most shocking movie endings is Frank Darabont’s The Mist. Adapted from a novella by Steven King, Darabont made one major alteration. Rather than sticking with King’s more ambiguous ending, the director decided to go for maximum shock impact. The final scenes of this film leave me stunned long after the credits have concluded. Largely thanks to this brave and uncompromising decision, The Mist has become a beloved horror classic. 


Over To You...

What do you think of this list? What is your favourite cinematic shock ending?


Let me know in the comments section below or let’s talk twisty twists over on Facebook or Twitter!

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Jane Douglas-Jones
Jane Douglas-Jones



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