Film School: The Plot Twist

The Sixth Sense (1999) The Sixth Sense (1999)

What makes a twist work – and why, when it’s done well, is a story just as enjoyable even after we know its secret?

Spoilers for: Durarara Season One, Fight Club (1999), Knives Out (2019), Oldboy (2003), The Prestige (2006), Primal Fear (1996), Planet of the Apes (1968), The Sixth Sense (1999), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), The Usual Suspects (1995).

Now You See It posits that, even when spoiled, a twist done well is satisfying when it’s a surprise not for its own sake, but a surprise which doesn’t contradict a story’s established logic:

Just Write‘s Sage suggests that a twist done well is devastating because it persuades us that two seemingly contradictory ideas can be the same thing. This undermines our reliance on binaries (good vs bad, black vs white) – and creates moral confusion in the viewer:

The Closer Look sees a unique, teachable moment about plot twists in contrasting two films from the same writer/director, Rian Johnson – why Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s twist(s) don’t work, the lessons Johnson perhaps learned from that, and how they informed the more effective twist(s) in his follow-up, Knives Out: