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How To Write Plot Twists & 30 Movie Examples

Writing a plot twist is as enjoyable as reading or watching it for the first time. It is an element of the story that will change everything learned about the characters up to that point. Moviegoers are becoming increasingly educated on story plots about to take a spiral, making the creative task that much harder.

And as a screenwriter, you should learn how to write them, especially in mystery stories as well as study what’s already worked in the past.

How Do You Create A Plot Twist?

The beginning and ends of the story will be what the audience remembers. The introduction and conclusion require the most effort from the writer. To help, here are 10 tips on how to write a great plot twist:

  1. Read your Work

A simple but effective task in writing is to read your own work, if possible, aloud, or use an automated text reader. Try to get through the entire story as a first-time reader would, say 3-6 hours a day until finished. 

Plot points subconsciously placed in the storyline will pop-out. Write 3 or 4 pages of scenarios that will finish the story off. It is worth spending time creating alternative endings after all the work put into writing the rest of the story.

  1. Lead them Astray

After the audience has fallen deep into the story, they will believe anything written. A pleasant character can turn around at the end and kill everyone with a spoon, if the reader takes the bait laid down at the beginning. 

Mislead the reader into trusting the wrong characters. End storylines of characters, before the conclusion of the story.

  1. Hints

Hints are vital in plot misdirection, leave a trail of clues to the wrong character. One of the most common storylines is to have the protagonist and antagonist, bump into each other on a regular basis throughout the story.

  1. Let it Flow

Authors create characters and the sequence of events as they go. Let it flow, a storyline is flexible, up until it reaches the screen it is changeable. 

  1. Keep it Logical

Writers, unsure about how to finish their twist ending movies, will produce a device to remove the main character from the story. Sometimes this will work, other times audiences are left scratching their heads, as they watch the credits roll. 

Try and stay within the bounds of believability.

  1. Double Twist

A single plot twist is not enough to keep the audience on their toes anymore. Releasing the details of the first twist will lull the reader into a false sense of security. Then what you’ll need to do is hit them with a second, larger, twist to knock the viewers off their chairs.

  1. Importance of a Subplot

This is where the bulk of the twist, or the double twist, will grow. The side story of an unimportant character is useful in keeping the conclusion believable. 

It is good to write at the completion of the initial story. Subplots aid in filling in any plot holes and add misdirection.

  1. Everyone Dies

An unlikeable character is going to be the most unlikely of protagonists. In the same vein, no one expects the most despicable, or lovable character, to be killed-off halfway through. This is a nice little twist that can have a reader reassess their predictions.

  1. Push-On

It is far too common for a story to fissile out after the twists are all gone. Try to keep the momentum going. 

The audience must remain with the story up until the end. Put in another clue that a character may come back, or that the plot may have another twist coming their way.

  1. Feedback

A story is great fun to read, fun to write, but there is something in a writer’s brain that fills in plot holes. It is vital to have close friends or family to read your work. 

They need to read and come back with objective points that need clearing up. Do not get offended, but they may have better twist suggestions. Listen to what they have to say, write it down and come back 2 days for modifications.

30 Movies With Effective Plot Twists

It’s definitely possible to write an original screenplay with old material. In fact, it may be the best misdirection you can offer in some cases. All storytellers use common themes. A story told a thousand times is the perfect place to put that twist, no one will see coming.

Here is a list of List 30 movies that have great plot twists:

how to write plot twists
  1. Sixth Sense (1999)

Depending on a viewer’s movie experience, the twist was obvious, or a complete surprise. This film brought back the genre of films with a closing chapter twist.

how to write plot twists
  1. Seven (1995)

The film is a good example of how the antagonist is less important than the protagonist for a jaw-dropping plot twist.

how to write plot twists
  1. Shutter Island (2010)

The film builds up the support for the main character well, making the audience believe in a big conspiracy. Very few people saw that one coming.

how to write plot twists
  1. The Village (2004)

Another film from Shyamalan, giving the audience a familiar storyline, with his own special twist.

how to write plot twists
  1. Pulp Fiction (1994)

A great film that shuffles the acts to mislead us. The audience believes the film has finished, when in fact, we missed the most important action in the middle of the story.

Plot twist endings
  1. Memento (2000)

Completely confusing for the first 10-minutes. It takes major processing in the brain, as we get the segmented chapters. Nolan is an expert movie maker and he often uses non-linear storytelling to add twists.

  1. Saw (2004)

Well-built characters and sub-plots are entirely misleading. The twist builds up from lengthy character introductions. The audience never saw it coming.

how to write plot twists
  1. The Usual Suspects (1995)

Suspect the one you least suspect, then go deeper, to the character that is impossible to suspect. This film got everyone going and uses the double-twist to perfection.

What are examples of story conflict?
  1. Fight Club (1999)

Narratives in a film helps the audience into the mind of the protagonist. This film shows how well, telling the audience what to think makes for a great twist.

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  1. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The conclusion to this film, placed into a satire on a regular basis, has a classic ending. A twist delivered at an emotional point in the movie, when the audience sees the fall of its hero.

  1. Carrie (1976)

A young telekinetic girl, pushed too far, ends up killing everyone. Stephen King takes a long time to introduce his characters. The twist leaves the audience rooting for the person doing all the killing.

  1. Brazil (1985)

A crazy film, satirizing the fall of society. The greatest twist is the titling a film that has nothing to do with Brazil. Thought-provoking, and closer to reality than we realized at the time.

  1. Planet of the Apes (1968)

A film that has people talking about its decades later. There are suggestive twists throughout the film. The story idea being, that we discover the truth at the same rate as the main character.

  1. The Prestige (2006)

A world of illusion becomes a world of deceit. The audience gets to see how far obsessive magicians will go to fool their audience.

  1. The Invitation (2015)

This was less than popular at the box office. A spiders-web of a film takes us through the journey of distraught parents. The mystery is unsolved right up until the end of the film.

  1. Blade Runner (1982)

The story is misleading in its action. We see the characters fighting and hunting each other. In the end, would any of us know if we were not human?

  1. Psycho (1960)

Hidden in plain sight, the audience did not stand a chance. Killing off main characters half-way through and showing that the Psycho was there the whole time. Perfect Hitchcock.

  1. 47 Meters Down (2017)

Two girls and sharks, what could go wrong? The premise seems weak, but that is what makes the twist less obvious.

  1. Raw (2016)

The horror of watching a cannibal getting a taste for human flesh makes a great red herring. Dark humor and graphic scenes distract us from the plot running beneath.

  1. The Boy (2016)

Is he a real boy? A final scene twist gives the audience the surprise they deserve. This is not Pinocchio.

  1. Primal Fear (1996)

The film tries to have the audience decide to back the wrong guy. Well-placed double twists in this film, give the impression that justice worked.

  1. Cloud Atlas (2012)

This is a confusing film that scrapped by at the box office. The story feels disjointed and it is only if you make it through to the end, do you realize why.

  1. The Signal (2014)

A good example of how not to end a story and how a couple of alternate endings could have paid dividends.

  1. Killing Ground (2016)

The bad guy just will not die and keeps coming back. This is not exactly a twist, but it does inject a level of surprise at the end of the story.

  1. Get Out (2017)

Death is not crucial, but it does increase tension. Killing off the right character adds confusion to the story, good to do just before explaining the plot.

  1. The Addams Family (1991)

It does not all have to be doom and gloom. Even with the simple plot twist explained at the end in a simple 1-liner. The film rolls well with a story that is surprisingly strong for a comedy.

  1. Old Boy (2003)

A Korean classic film. The storyline, twisted morally, throws the audience off the scent. There was a remake done in 2013 that was pretty forgettable. Make sure you see the original.

how to write plot twists
  1. Jacob’s Ladder (1990)

Remade in 1990, the film looks at the common ‘paranoia theme’ to fool the audience. The sub-plot in this film becomes the main plot, as is often the case to sustain multiple twists.

how to write plot twists
  1. Split (2016)

Night Shyamalan does love his twists. This is part of the Unbreakable trilogy and aims to surprise the audience with each film. Sequels are difficult to keep the surprises coming to a suspecting crowd. These types of films need fresh audiences each time.

how to write plot twists
  1. The Others (2001)

Creating a world from the perspective of an isolated family, living in a haunted house. The story does an excellent job of dropping the twist bomb in the final act.

Are You Ready To Write Your Next Plot Twist?

Now that you understand the different types of plot twists, it’s time to start writing! If you need some writing prompts or story ideas that you can build from, make sure to check out post on character secrets and 60 story ideas.

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Jay Carver

Jay Carver is a screenwriter, director and producer. Through his production company J-Style Films, he has done work for companies such as Turner Broadcasting. In the past, he has worked with Hollywood actor Omari Hardwick and won several film festivals including "Best Director".


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