Nothing packs a punch more than an unexpected twist ending to cap off a movie. When done right, it can be the perfect finishing touch to a story and turn a movie into an instant classic. Twist endings can become the subject of water cooler talk for several weeks and actually inspire more people to turn out and see the movie than might have seen it in the first place. No twist endings in cinema are more memorable than these classic conclusions.
"The Sixth Sense" (1999): At least one movie exists as proof that M. Night Shyamalan used to be a good director. "The Sixth Sense" offers up a chilling tale of a young boy who is tormented by ghosts seeking help and features Bruce Willis as a child psychologist who helps him confront and deal with his fears. When we learn that Willis is a ghost himself in the movie's climax, it is a brilliant turn of events. The premise works thanks to a series of subtle clues peppered throughout the narrative. Of course, Shyamalan went to the same well too many times in subsequent movies with increasingly ridiculous results.
"Planet of the Apes" (1968): For all of his work in epics like "The Ten Commandments" and "Ben Hur," the role that defines Charlton Heston's acting career is his turn as an Earth astronaut who lands on a planet ruled by intelligent apes. "Planet of the Apes" is cheesy on several levels, but it attained sci-fi classic status when Heston's character rides away on the beach only to discover he has been on a future post-apocalyptic Earth all along when he sees the remains of the Statue of Libert buried in the sand.
"The Usual Suspects" (1995): When Kevin Spacey's character tells a police investigator that the Devil's greatest trick was convincing the world he doesn't exist, it is an apt analogy to the deception he pulls while narrating the events of the movie. The investigator and the movie audience learn too late that Spacey's character is the all-powerful crime lord Keyser Soze he has described through the whole movie. He disappears from the interrogation and into the mist like the Devil himself.
"Psycho" (1960): Alfred Hitchcock set new standards in the horror genre with this classic shocker about a killer who is stalking guests at the Bates Motel. We are led to believe that Norman Bates' controlling mother is behind it all, only to learn in the climax of "Psycho" that it is Bates dressed as his mother carrying out the murders. It changes the way we view Bates from earlier scenes in the movie and leaves an unsettling feeling long after the film has ended.
"Memento" (2001): Long before Christopher Nolan reinvented the "Batman" franchise, he produced a mind-bending thriller about an amnesiac detective who is on a quest to discover who murdered his wife. "Memento" pulls no punches when it reveals that Guy Pierce's detective is his wife's accidental killer. It is a tragic twist of fate made worse by the fact that the detective can't remember enough about his wife to truly mourn her death.
"The Others" (2001): Moviegoers get treated to a nicely plotted twist in this WWII-era supernatural thriller. Nicole Kidman is a mother is caring for her children who have a medical condition making them sensitive to light when their English manor begins to be haunted by Ghosts. The movie takes a turn from the ordinary in the final act when we learn the mother and her children are the ghosts and the "ghosts" are the manor's modern inhabitants trying to exorcise the spirits. It works as a truly original spin on the usual haunted house story.