Six Lesser Known Movies With Mind Twisting Endings

I love a good mindf*** ending. The kind of ending that swoops in from some direction no one is looking and switches the whole story up. I like it because I have lived a crazy life, and can honestly say, the mindf*ck endings mimic situations in real life far more than the good guy getting the girl does. The happy endings (snickers) is far more elusive in real life than Hollywood has led you to believe. Life will throw you curveballs when you are least prepared for them. You will often be blindsided by the unexpected.

Sometimes, someone will step in from the sidelines that you didn’t even know was there, and change your whole life. It is the idea that one single moment can change the tone and tempo of every moment that came before it, therefore redefining the entire experience. Here are six endings with surprising twists the made the entire movies infinitely more enjoyable for me. And I also do my best to avoid the Fight Clubs and Sixth Senses we all have talked to death, and focus on a few lesser known films that some of you guys may have missed.  Tread forth with caution, though, for a pack of vicious, underfed spoilers lay waiting in the brush ahead. I do my best to avoid dropping huge bombs, but some aspects of the films will be revealed.

Sleepaway Camp

This was my first viewing experience with spoilers and oh my God, did it set the tone for a lifetime filled with traumatic surprises. Honestly, I am indebted to this film for ruining me almost immediately upon viewing. Now, as a result of it, people can do some pretty strange stuff in front of me and I don’t react. There is no single moment that will ever catch me off guard as much as this moment did.

Let me do my best to explain a little further for those not familiar with this film. It all seems like a typical summer camp slasher movie, which, in the 80’s, was its own sub-genre. Kids are getting killed at a camp, and there is honestly nothing spectacular about the movie that would set it apart from all the other clones. Well, nothing until the end of the film, at which point it goes from zero to one hundred on a scale of pure mindf*ckery.

Here, rather than me explain it any further, why don’t you just watch this scene for yourself and try to figure out why I am starting the list with it. I do have to warn you though, this list is NSFW. Hell, this work is NSIYEWSA, which translates to: Not safe if you ever wanna sleep again.


Maybe you actually shouldn’t watch this.

And some people may watch this now and laugh, when you are nine years old, and you have NO concept of transgender people or hermaphrodites, it is pretty shocking. Hell, I still get freaked out by it. That look on her (it’s?) face, and that terrible screeching.  Oh please, someone erase that terrible screeching from my subconscious? My poor, innocent eyes had no idea what was coming with that film, and I still shudder as a result of it.

Primal Fear

Anyone who has followed any of my pieces on this site have seen an unspoken but constant trend, and that trend is Edward Norton. From lists about shocking moments in mainstream films, to lists about awesome movie speeches, it just seems that anytime I have to write about exceptional examples in film, that he is somewhere nearby. And with good reason, the man chooses brilliant films. From a weed dealer to a schizophrenic to a skinhead, his roles are never less than challenging, and never less than stellar. But this was the first time I ever saw Edward Norton, and I walked away in silent awe.

This is one of those endings where you walk away feeling played, and that is exactly the feeling they were trying to convey. It was a chilling portrayal into the (extremely manipulative) mental state of Norton’s character, who you come to find out did kill the priest he was accused of killing, and killed him in a completely sane state of mind. He then manipulated the shit out of the Richard Gere lawyer character, thusly convincing him that his character had a split personality.

Here we see Norton doing his best DeNiro eye squint impression.

And the best part of the twist? The fact that the submissive character we see throughout the entire film is the made up personality, and the insane, over the top side of him is the real him. And the fact that he just thanks the Gere character and just walks away is even more chilling.

It also introduced me and the the rest of the movie watching world to Edward Norton’s penchant for playing people with two incredibly different sides (Hulk, Fight Club and Leaves of Grass as just a few examples). A great ending to a wonderfully manipulative ride.

Arlington Road

I love this movie, and I find the ending to it to be one of the most disturbing and bleak endings of any film I have ever seen, and I have seen some terribly nihilistic films (another reoccurring theme for me). This is a movie about a college professor, played with usual aplomb by Jeff Bridges, who suspects his new neighbors of being terrorists. Do not be mistaken, though. These neighbors are not your typical Hollywood versions of third world terrorists.

No, what makes this film so terrifying is the fact that his neighbors are apple pie cooking, baseball loving Americans. Tim Robbins plays the neighbor, and does and delivers an absolutely mesmerizing performance, that, in my opinion, is a more honest and chilling portrayal of evil than I have ever seen. Honestly, I almost feel compelled NOT to spoil the ending of this film , because I truly believe too few of you have seen it, and I don’t want to ruin the sad realization the viewer gets hit with the exact second the Jeff Bridges character does.

When Tim Robbins is not in terrible comedies, he is awesome.

Hitting just two years before 9/11, this movie was almost too timely for some, and too chilling for others, and it slipped under the radar. Now that the proverbial and literal dust has settled, though, do yourself a favor and pick it up. I specifically did not ruin the ending in this piece, just so you could enjoy this experience as much as I did.


There are rumors of an American remake to this South Korean revenge flick, so this is another one I will deliberately dance around, so as to avoid huge spoilers. But I will say, though the whole movie acts as one giant, 2 hour mindf*ck, it is when we find out the master plan behind the whole series of events, we are as sickened by it all as the main character is. He cuts out his tongue when finds out the truth, I bleached my eyeballs. Honestly, this movie is perfectly executed, it was worth the burning of my retinas to see it though, honestly.

In the first half hour of this movie, the lead is forced to endure some things so terrible, that you cannot imagine it gets any worse for him. Once he starts getting his revenge, you are just rooting for him. It makes you even happier when you find out he has found love and a reason to live again in the midst of all this madness.

Best. Scene. Ever.

But then you find out that, well, he was a puppet, every single move he made was calculated and planned by other people, and you are crushed. And that is not even the big reveal. The big reveal actually involves his newfound love and some loose ends in his former life. Hold on, I need to vomit.

Anyway, see this film, right now, and see what I am dancing around. Those who have seen the film know what I speak of as they read this, and those who have not need to go find out right now.

Oh, and pay attention, Oldboy has the single greatest, one shot action scene ever. Sorry John Woo. By the way , this film is just one in a trilogy of revenge movies. Some site Sympathy For Lady Vengeance as the superior film with some great twists, but Oldboy gets you to the meat and potatoes quicker, and Sympathy is a slower build that loses some people on the way to the payoff.

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  1. “…Hold on, I need to vomit.”

    Thats it? Man you have a LEGENDARY THICK SKIN!! I was taking a bath for TWO HOURS EVERYDAY for the next TEN DAYS!!!

  2. I felt the same way about The Skeleton Key. The first time I watched it I thought it was just an average thriller with an overdone and unimaginative plot. Then the last 10 minutes happened and it became one of my favorite movies.

  3. Guys, I spelled South Korea wrong, and the way I spelled it looks a lot like Hong Kong, but it was a typing error, nothing more.
    Why does my spell check keep changing South Korea to Hong Kong. This feels oddly racist…
    I was in a complete blackout when I wrote this, and the fact that every single other aspect of the article isn’t wrong too is shocking to me.
    When Paul forgot to post this today, I had a feeling that might have been a testament to the quality of the piece.
    ( and lastly)
    Yeah, I screwed up.
    Yeah, I think that last one fits best.
    Forgive me, though. I just moved in with my girlfriend and life has been insane.
    *le sigh

  4. @ponder: Oldboy is the 2nd in the “revenge trilogy,” although the “trilogy” is really just a thematic one (first one was Sympathy for Mr Vengeance, 3rd was Lady Vengeance). The individual films are stand-alone, without recurring characters (although Choi Min-Sik, aka Oh Dae-Su, has a prominent role in Lady Vengeance). All three films are great, but Oldboy will always be my #1. Personally I put “Lady” at #2 and “Mr.” at #3, but they’re all fantastic films.

  5. also, when it comes to mindf*ck movies / endings, here’s a few recent (all in the past year) to consider:
    –The Skin I Live In
    –Marth Marcy May Marlene
    –Kill List

    I love your mention of Arlington Road, too… One of my favorites in the thriller genre.

  6. The “lesser known” part doesn’t apply to a lot of these movies (“Empire Strikes Back” being one of the most popular films in the history of humanity and all), but everybody loves a good mindfuck. Supposedly the plan is to have Will Smith star in the Oldboy remake. Only way I watch it is if he eats a live octopus on camera, no special effects……Big Willy style!

  7. I think Angel Heart’s underrated. It played by the rules and had good shock value. The worst example of a “twist” for me has to be High Tension.

  8. @trashcanman: regarding the Oldboy remake… Some details seem to finalized now:
    –Spike Lee directing
    –Josh Brolin as Oh Dae-Su’s character (now named Joe Duchette)
    –Elizabeth Olsen in the lead female role
    –Sharlto Copley (from District 9) as Lee Woo-jin’s character (now named Adrian Pryce)

    The Will Smith rumor was from a while ago, which also coincided with a Spielberg rumor. None of those materialized, which I think is a good thing.

  9. OldBoy was voted by Samuel L. Jackson as his favorite foreign film. This was from a few years back but I still remember it.

    God that action scene was insane. My friend posted a clip of it to my wall when he started college saying, “this is what I go through each morning to get to class”.

  10. oldboy is my fav film of all time. every scene is gorgeous, the german dub is phenomenal, the shoots are superd, the hallway seen is horrifying but you can’t look away. the ending is crass but so satisfying in its coherency. the film is a nightmarish beauty. there are some funny parts too. this is the film that made me realize just how awesome the medium can be and what a good direction is.

    i watched the cyring game only once and only up to THE POINT. i stopped and my mind was going NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO WHAT IS THIS FILM CHANGING INTO. i was too young at that point to comprehend that point and have never had the urge to watch it again. btw at that time i had already watched some REALLY freaky stuff (e.g.: takashi miike movies (THE ENDING OF GUZO HAS TO BE THE MOST WTF MOMENT IN FILM HISTORY) and also oldboy) but that scene in crying game was to hard to bear.

  11. Absolute agreement with The Skeleton Key. Among my friends it is the epitome of an amazing ending actually managing to save a relatively shitty movie.

  12. btw i don’t think history of violence has a real mind twisting ending: the brutality of the final is the kicker but the movie is still very formulaic. i don’t know anyone who didn’t think that the movie would play out any way different. the thing is that it all seems so shocking because the style of the film is very “real”. the couple, their kids, the life they lead, the town they are in, the cinematography, everything is natural and life like. to see the horrific thing/s viggo does towards the end in the “real” setting is the shocker. but thats it.

    the ending of mist was good. good in that it was so painful. the scenario in the car was really depressing because, yeah, the film showed no signs of hope till that point. but when hope does arrive its even more heartbreaking.

    another mind blowing ending is from “Lawn Dogs”, a truly underrated movie. great acting by Sam Rockwell (as always) and i think the only time misha barton was ever good in a movie (she was VERY young at that time). the movie develops towards a finale that is REALLY mind twisting coz to this day i can’t say if what happened in the final really happened and if it really matters and how everything that happens fits to the overall narrative, the fable and the story within a story. i don’t want to spoil anything so much of what comes next will not make any sense but well, there is a old fable at the heart of the movie that is a metaphor for what happens but that metaphor and the fable change throughout the movie. watch the movie if you enjoy movies and a good heart warming ending that is still very much mind twisting and make you think about what happened in the movie. i watched the movie the first time in my english class. me and my friends than held a 30 minutes presentation. all of us could pretty much recite the 10 pages of word document by heart because there was so much to interpret and talk and think about in this movie (we didn’t even touch upon the art direction, the soundtrack, the actors, only the basic story) and we love it.

  13. Actually, Comedy is a much less taken path than tragedy. MOST endings are tragic throughout the history of storytelling. Happy endings ARE the rarity. Do some research man.

  14. Awesome list Remy! 🙂 Love how you threw in The Crying Game in there too 🙂 That movie I swear messed me up for life LOL But still a good one 😉 Another one that is unknown for a mind twist ending I would have to say Muholland Drive. Talk about a weird movie, but awesome. Great job as always, and thanks for the share 🙂

  15. Remy,

    Fun read. I was going to complain about all the little typoes that got a bit distracting to my non-caffeinated mind, but since you addressed your major goof in such entertaining fashion, all is forgiven.


  16. No mention of “The Pledge”? The last scene of a version of Jack Nicholson sitting in a chair trying to go over and over the facts yet again to himself is chilling…

  17. @ Steve, thanks man. Definitely been a tough couple weeks, but there is no excuse for that on my part, so thanks for understanding.
    @ Timothy Collins, one of those great endings that slipped my mind, but I agree with on that. You can almost feel him thinking himself to death.

  18. Uh, I think you’re a little confused about “The Sting”. Those weren’t real Feds. They were fakes, in on the con, of course. That’s why their headquarters were in an abandoned building.

  19. This is a good, though not necessarily “lesser known,” list. I had to skip over the Oldboy part, though, b/c I still haven’t seen it yet!

    FYI, viz. the Sleepaway Camp entry, referring to a transgender child/teen/person in general as “it” is uncool. If you don’t know which pronoun to use, just use “they.”

  20. Just to expand on what Mel Phistopheles said, they faked being Feds to get the pain in the ass cop off the right trail. Keep your friends close and yoiur enemies closer – they made him chaperone Doyle Lonnegan. That kept him in the game and threw him off the track at the same time.

  21. Another great film with *more* than one total mindfuck moment is Martyrs. It starts off like a cross between Funny Games and The Grudge then turns into something else the likes of which I’ve never experienced in a film.

    The climax all hinges on one line whispered in the film that you never hear – it’s all down to your personal interpretation of what was said (although when you think about it, there’s only one sensible possibility of what it was). It’s a truly brilliant film – the best original horror in many years.

  22. Small correction, In the Skeleton Key, Kate Hudson is a hospice care nurse, which is how she gets the job. She is very much not a college student

  23. I’m hoping you didn’t intend it that way but your comments about Leathal attraction and sleep away came came across as very transphobic. I hope this is not what was intended.

  24. I remember going to see The Mist with my dad and both of us being really impressed by it. Then the last ten minutes happened we both, both of us hardened gore hounds who love a good monster movie, we left shaking and I swear my dad shed a tear. We were both actually sort of angry for a few hours afterwards and it took us a while to forgive enough to actually recognise how much we loved the movie.

  25. Perhaps I’m just king hipster in-crowd douchebag, but is this really a solid list of Lesser Known films? I’d suggest there’s considerable awareness of each.

    A Star Wars film making it on the honorable mentions list sort of cements my suspicions that this isn’t an aptly named article. BUT INTERESTING

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