The Plot Twist Gamble

Nothing like a sudden turn of the wheel that leaves the audience in disbelief. But what happens when the audience actually disbelieves? Screenwriters are aware of the double edged sword quality of plot twists: they can make a story successful almost by themselves, but can also turn against it if they come off as predictable or implausible.

In some genres (horror, thriller) they have become an expected, almost mandatory device. Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) set the foundations for the use of narrative unreliability in films. And it’s already a great example of a twist that didn’t only aim for shock- it also tried to provide a solid justification for the visual and narrative styles of the film.

Night Shyamalan’s irregular career illustrates both the rewards and the risks of subjecting the story to a plot twist. The recent success of Split may have brought him to a second youth, but for many years, the ‘Shyamalan twists” served more as a burden than a perk, becoming the smoking gun that proves and defines the film’s failure.

So what makes a good plot twist? If Aristotle stated that good art should be both unexpected and inevitable, contemporary screenwriters like William Goldman have pinpointed a reality that Hollywood has exploited well: that a controversial ending may still work effectively if it’s at least satisfying.

Some examples of films with memorable plot twists are:

(1941) The Maltese Falcon

(1958) Vertigo

(1960) Psycho

(1968) Planet of the Apes

(1973) The Sting

(1973) Soylent Green

(1973) The Wicker Man

(1980) The Empire Strikes Back

(1987) Angel Heart

(1992) The Crying Game

(1995) The Usual Suspects

(1995) 12 Monkeys

(1996) Primal Fear

(1999) The Sixth Sense

(1999) Fight Club

(2000) Memento

(2004) Saw

(2006) The Prestige

(2016) Arrival

Gone Girl Script

Year:2014
Director:David Fincher
Written by:Gillian Flynn (Novel), Gillian Flynn (Screenplay)

Script Synopsis:With his wife's disappearance having become the focus of an intense media circus, a man sees the spotlight turned on him when it's suspected that he may not be innocent.
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Se7en

Year:1995
Director:David Fincher
Written by:Andrew Kevin Walker (Screenplay)

Script Synopsis:Two homicide detectives are on a desperate hunt for a serial killer whose crimes are based on the "seven deadly sins" in this dark and haunting film that takes viewers from the tortured remains of one victim to the next. The seasoned Det. Sommerset researches each sin in an effort to get inside the killer's mind, while his novice partner, Mills, scoffs at his efforts to unravel the case.
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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Year:2011
Director:David Fincher
Written by:Steven Zaillian (Writer), Stieg Larsson (Writer)

Script Synopsis:This English-language adaptation of the Swedish novel by Stieg Larsson follows a disgraced journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, as he investigates the disappearance of a weary patriarch's niece from 40 years ago. He is aided by the pierced, tattooed, punk computer hacker named Lisbeth Salander. As they work together in the investigation, Blomkvist and Salander uncover immense corruption beyond anything they have ever imagined.
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Zodiac

Year:2007
Director:David Fincher
Written by:James Vanderbilt (Screenplay), Robert Graysmith (Novel)

Script Synopsis:Based on the actual case files for one of the most intriguing unsolved crimes in America, "Zodiac" tells the story of a serial killer that terrified the San Francisco Bay Area, taunting police with his ciphers and letters. The case becomes an obsession for four men as their lives and careers are built and destroyed by the endless trail of clues.
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The Social Network

Year:2010
Director:David Fincher
Written by:Aaron Sorkin (Screenplay), Ben Mezrich (Novel)

Script Synopsis:On a fall night in 2003, Harvard undergrad and computer programming genius Mark Zuckerberg sits down at his computer and heatedly begins working on a new idea. In a fury of blogging and programming, what begins in his dorm room as a small site among friends soon becomes a global social network and a revolution in communication. A mere six years and 500 million friends later, Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in history... but for this entrepreneur, success leads to both personal and legal complications.
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The Game

Year:1997
Director:David Fincher
Written by:John D. Brancato (Writer), Michael Ferris (Writer)

Script Synopsis:In honor of his birthday, San Francisco banker Nicholas Van Orton, a financial genius and a coldhearted loner, receives an unusual present from his younger brother, Conrad -- a gift certificate to play a unique kind of game. In nary a nanosecond, Nicholas finds himself consumed by a dangerous set of ever-changing rules, unable to distinguish where the charade ends and reality begins.
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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Year:2008
Director:David Fincher
Written by:F. Scott Fitzgerald (Novel), Eric Roth (Screenplay)

Script Synopsis:Tells the story of Benjamin Button, a man who starts aging backwards with bizarre consequences.
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Panic Room

Year:2002
Director:David Fincher
Written by:David Koepp (Screenplay)

Script Synopsis:Trapped in their New York brownstone's panic room, a hidden chamber built as a sanctuary in the event of break-ins, newly divorced Meg Altman (Jodie Foster) and her young daughter Sarah (Kristen Stewart) play a deadly game of cat-and-mouse with three intruders - Burnham (Forest Whitaker), Raoul (Dwight Yoakam) and Junior (Jared Leto) - during a brutal home invasion. But the room itself is the focal point because what the intruders really want is inside it.
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Fight Club

Year:1999
Director:David Fincher
Written by:Jim Uhls (Author), Chuck Palahniuk (Novel)

Script Synopsis:A ticking-time-bomb insomniac and a slippery soap salesman channel primal male aggression into a shocking new form of therapy. Their concept catches on, with underground "fight clubs" forming in every town, until an eccentric gets in the way and ignites an out-of-control spiral toward oblivion.
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