Allow me to start my own conversation about same, and to begin by noting that far too many screenwriters are convinced that third-act twists are essential components for a strong commercial script. What they’ve become, in fact, is a kind of pestilence. The third-act switcheroos on the parts of Woody Harrelson and Emilia Clarke‘s characters in Solo (i.e., “You thought I was an ally but I’m not”) are but one example. That bullshit twist in Adrift is another.
People also need to understand the difference between a twist and a striking third-act plot development. Revealing that the young Charles Foster Kane‘s sled was called “Rosebud” is not a twist — it’s simply a revelation. Ditto Kevin Spacey telling Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman that he visited Pitt’s wife, Tracy, and cut off her head and then sent it special delivery in a box. That’s not a twist — that’s a stunning macabre occurence.
The coolest, most satisfying, top-ten twists in own moviegoing experience, and in this order: 1. M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Sixth Sense; 2. George Roy Hill‘s The Sting; 3. Bryan Singer‘s The Usual Suspects; 4. Gregory Hoblit‘s Primal Fear; 5. Irvin Kershner‘s The Empire Strikes Back. 5. Franklin Schaffner‘s Planet of the Apes; 6. Alfred Hitchcock‘s Psycho; 7. Alejandro Amenabar‘s The Others; 8. Alan Parker‘s Angel Heart; 9. John Ford‘s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. 10. Neil Jordan‘s The Crying Game.
Cheap, rabbit-pull twists that didn’t feel earned or particularly satisfying: Roger Donaldson‘s No Way Out; 2. David Fincher‘s Gone Girl; 3. David Fincher‘s The Game; 4. Christopher Nolan‘s The Prestige; 5. Martin Scorsese‘s Shutter Island. Others?