Warning: Contains spoilers for, oh, everything
Sticking on some spandex and flexing in a pair of tights has never been as popular, meaning the box office stats of recent memory have been dominated by superhero movies.
Although they’re usually high-octane titles packed with A-list stars and dramatic action sequences, the average comic-book movie could be accused of being a little predictable. With a tragic hero arc and a villain setting a convoluted plan in motion, there’s usually a death (or fake death) along the way and a post-credits scene to set up the sequel.
That being said, writers have been known to throw a spanner in the works and shock audiences with something out of the ordinary. With this in mind, what are the biggest Shyamalan-esque twists that left our jaws on the floor?
1. Mr Glass is a supervillain – Unbreakable
Quite literally starting with Shyamalan, who could forget the ’00s masterpiece Unbreakable? When superhero movies were starting to find their feet and fans lived in a pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe world, Bruce Willis’ David Dunn was Earth’s indestructible saviour.
Samuel L Jackson turned in an equally mesmerising performance as comic book fanatic Elijah Price. The big twist came at the end when Shyamalan revealed that Price, apparently only there to provide buckets of exposition and a pinch of poignant contrast, was a wheelchair-bound supervillain going by the name of Mr Glass.
Causing various terror attacks over the years, Glass had been searching for a superhero like Dunn to validate his theory of outliers. For those who loved the movie, Shyamalan hopes to ‘shatter’ the box office with the appropriately named Glass.
2. Joker’s plan – The Dark Knight
While Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is up there with the best franchises of all time, there’s no escaping that 2008’s The Dark Knight is a jewel in the crown.
With Christian Bale’s muffled menace and Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning portrayal of the Joker, The Dark Knight was a gritty re-imagining of the Caped Crusader and Clown Prince of Crime’s complicated relationship.
When the Joker set his plan in motion and wound up where he wanted to be at the GCPD, there was a harrowing race against time as Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne tried to save Rachel Dawes and Harvey Dent.
When Batman arrived to rescue Dawes, however, he discovered that the Joker had switched locations. A disfigured Dent was saved and Rachel literally went out with a bang.
3. Ozymandias’ role – Watchmen
Love or hate Zack Snyder’s Watchmen, it is still a visually stunning (if a little long) movie to behold.
Comic creators Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ big bad was played by Matthew Goode, ostensibly leader of the Avenger-like Watchmen. The twist revealed that Goode’s Ozymandias, aka Adrian Veidt, had a complex plan of villainy.
With Doctor Manhattan blamed for the destruction of New York, the USA and USSR united against a common enemy to broker an uneasy alliance. Although Ozymandias is technically the de facto villain of the peace, his end goal was to bring the world together for the greater good. What happened to the days of megalomaniac villains who just want to watch the world burn?
4. The Mandarin, aka Trevor Slattery – Iron Man 3
Some might struggle to see why a twist as loathed as Iron Man 3‘s Mandarin bombshell can make this list, but remember just how shocking it was when audiences found out one of Iron Man’s biggest enemies was a drunk cockney.
In a moment of madness from director Shane Black, it turned out that Sir Ben Kingsley’s Mandarin was an out-of-work actor called Trevor Slattery – the toast of Croydon – and had been hired to cover the tracks of Guy Pearce’s Aldrich Killian.
Killian is about as lame as MCU villains come, but thankfully, the All Hail the King Marvel One-Shot managed to redeem the controversial twist with the secondary twist that the ‘real’ Mandarin is out there and coming for Slattery.
5. X-24’s identity – Logan
Audiences were promised a noir Western with Logan and James Mangold didn’t disappoint. With both Professor Xavier AND Wolverine tipped for an early grave, the story unfolded as a charming family tale with a depressing end on the horizon.
The memorable massacre at the Munson Farm led to the tear-jerking moment that Patrick Stewart’s aged Prof confessed his fatherly love for Logan.
In a scene as cold as Wolvie’s adamantium claws, the man lurking in the shadows was still played by Hugh Jackman but was revealed to be the genetically-engineered X-24. Making light work of Xavier, Mangold delivered one of the most tragic superhero movie deaths of all time and one hell of a twist.
6. Dorian Grey and Moriarty – The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Another marmite movie that will be the pride of a DVD collection or lurking in a bargain basement: Stephen Norrington’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which, like Watchmen, was an Alan Moore adaptation.
Featuring Sean Connery’s last performance before his retirement, the former Bond played sharp-shooting Allan Quatermain and assembled a team of ghouls and monsters to save the world. A double twist came with the reveal that not all of the League were working with the same intentions.
After framing Tony Curran’s Invisible Man for the plan going awry, Stuart Townsend’s Dorian Grey was exposed as a double agent. If this weren’t surprising enough, the League’s shadowy employer turned out to be none other than Moriarty from out of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
Although it was a clever twist, it didn’t stop The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen scoring a paltry 17% on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. Adrian Toomes’ family – Spider-Man: Homecoming
Michael Keaton flew to glory as Adrian Toomes in Spider-Man: Homecoming. Reinventing the comic book Vulture for a more realistic MCU outing, Toomes was part of the franchise’s shift to sympathetic villains like Killmonger and Thanos.
More than just an unhinged psychopath, Toomes’ goal was to secure a future for his family – albeit by selling weapons to terrorists. Seemingly away from Vulture’s plan was Tom Holland’s Peter Parker, trying to save the world and juggle the typical dramas of high school.
When Peter bagged a date with Laura Harrier’s Liz, most assumed she was a live-action version of Liz Allen. However, as Mr Allen opened the door, it turned out that Liz was actually Liz Toomes and had accidentally put Spider-Man in the claws of the Vulture. Talk about failing to impress the in-laws.
8. Miranda Tate’s daddy issues – The Dark Knight Rises
Bruce Wayne was a hit with the ladies in The Dark Knight Rises when he knocked boots with Anne Hathaway’s Selina Kyle and Marion Cotillard’s Miranda Tate. The big problem was that philanthropist Tate was nothing more than a cover for Talia al Ghul.
Many guessed that Tom Hardy’s Bane was the kid who escaped the Lazarus pit. That was until a chilling flashback revealed that the little boy was a shaven-headed girl and actually the bastard daughter of Ra’s al Ghul.
Quite literally twisting the knife, Talia stabbed Bruce and continued her plan to blow Gotham to pieces. It didn’t work out too well for Talia (or Cotillard) and she ended up getting one of the worst villain deaths of all time.
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