5 Movies That Begin At The Ending
Some twist endings are satisfying, and some aren’t. But some make you want to watch the whole movie over again with a new perspective.
Finding out that, “Luke, I am your father!” is a pretty cool twist. It’s become such a huge part of the zeitgeist that it’s hard to remember that when you watched Star Wars for the first time at age 11, that moment blew your freaking mind. But as cool as it was, it’s not something that immediately makes you reconsider everything you’ve watched up to that point. It’s not something that makes you want to stop the movie, rewind it, and begin again at the beginning.
Here are 10 movies that don’t truly start until the twist is revealed and your perceptions are shattered, movies that almost demand a rewatch.
Spoilers for all movies mentioned, obviously.
1 – The Usual Suspects
The classic. This is the natural movie you think of when you think of movies that gain something on the rewatching because of their twist ending.
The shot above is from one of the scenes where Verbal Kint is telling his tale directly to Kujan, and it’s one of those cool moments that’s utterly meaningless on first viewing, but on the second, it’s very obvious that his long, lingering glance at Kujan’s coffee cup is where he picks up the name Kobayashi. There’s another shot like that, before he starts telling the story at all – just a long, slow look around the room. On the first viewing, you don’t think much of it. Verbal presents himself as tense and uncertain, and the look around could just be nervous energy. But once you know the twist, his look takes on a whole new meaning – it’s not the look of a nervous man, it’s the look of a very confident, clever man assessing a situation.
Another little gem that comes from rewatching The Usual Suspects is how Dean Keaton’s character comes across. In Verbal’s story, he’s a reluctant participant in the crimes, a man desperately trying to go straight, a man with a good heart. When Kujan tells Verbal about Keaton’s ruthless, terrible reputation as a crooked cop, the viewer is predisposed to dismiss him, because we see Keaton acting differently. Once you take into account the fact that Verbal is an Unreliable Narrator, though, Kujan’s impression is much more likely the correct one.
2 – Matchstick Men
Given Matchstick Men‘s premise, you’d have to be pretty daft to think everything is as it seems, but the scope of the twist in this one makes it ripe for a re-watch. Roy is basically Michael Douglas in The Game, where pretty much every situation he encounters was part of a larger plan, only instead of it being a birthday present, it’s to rip him off for over a million dollars.
Once you know the scope of the con being pulled on Roy, watching the movie over again makes it less lighthearted comedy and more depressing. But one of the cool things is looking at Frank and Angela and how much affection they have in reality for Roy – what’s part of the act, and what’s real? Is anything? Makes you put on your Emotional Detective Hat,
3 – Primer
Truth be told, Primer didn’t need a twist to be rewatchable – it almost demands a rewatch (or five) because of its complexity. I’ve seen it at least three times and I’m not 100% sure I could explain to a third party what the plot of the movie is, other than, “two people invent time travel and screw each other over with it.”
But once you realize one of the big elements – that during the entire second act, Aaron was actually Aaron from a week in the future, and was manipulating Abe and every event for his own ends – your entire perception of the movie changes. No longer is it about how two friends deal with their invention of time travel – now it’s about trust, betrayal, and how far someone will go to control things.
2 – American Psycho
This one sneaks up on you. How much of the movie takes place in Bateman’s twisted mind, and how much is just the result of the incredibly cynical and corrupt system he’s a part of? Once you realize that there’s a possibility that some of his actions are taking place in his head, you feel like you need to rewatch it and find out just where he went off the rails. Or is it even worse than that – did it all really happen, and the world is so oblivious and corrupt that Bateman’s crimes are ignored to such an extent that even he begins to doubt if they happened or not?
It’s a terrifically debauched movie, but it’s also a bit of a thinking person’s movie. Was Bateman crazy, or was the world?
1 – Hero
Despite its rather alarming message of conformity to the state being the moral obligation of individuals, Hero is a visually stunning movie with the narrative device of telling the same story from three different angles – one, from the nameless hero that are carefully-constructed lies, the second from the emperor pointing out the flaws and constructing his own version, and finally, the hero again telling the real story.
The interesting thing here, and what makes it so rewatchable, is that each version of the story highlights a particular grain of truth. The hero and the emperor are having a philosophical debate, and the way they tell stories is their battleground. If you go into it knowing that the first two versions are Unreliable Narrator to the extreme, but in a subtle way, the details and the differences spring out at you in beautiful, complex ways.
Awesome post – some other fantastic ones are Fight Club, Memento, and Forrest Gump!
Fight Club and American Beauty (since it’s narrated in past tense).
Memento is the best one of this “genre” in my opinion and should have been #1