10 Great Films With Plot Twists You Never Saw Coming

Today’s post is about great films with mind-blowing plot twists you never saw coming. Most of them are about mental illness and trauma. Beware of spoilers.

Mental Illness Is Taboo (But Shouldn’t Be)

Unfortunately, mental illness is still a taboo subject. People often don’t want the stigma that comes with those two words.

When it comes to psychological trauma, the brain has its ways to protect us from it. Having said that, the human brain is pretty complex. Actually, we don’t always process traumatic events when we experience them. In many ways, trauma is like a poison that takes a while to act. It might take years for one to “digest” what has happened and another couple of years to overcome it.

The films that I’ve chosen today are kind of depressing. However, they are also beautiful. So, I guess there’s a certain beauty in sadness?

Every trauma is unique. In addition, there tons of different coping mechanisms. For instance, repressing painful memories is one of them and you see a lot of films with plot twists that reflect that. Sometimes when your brain doesn’t want to deal with something: it erases it. Actually, it locks all the unwanted stuff into a little box and sends it far away.

The following list features films with plot twists that will make you think. Many of them are indeed sad stories. Nonetheless, you should give them a try.

10 Great Films With Plot Twists You Never Saw Coming

#1 – Shutter Island (2010)

A US Marshall goes to a mental asylum to investigate the disappearance of a murderer.

shutter island 2010 films about mental illness

SPOILER: There’s no murderer, the main character fabricated everything is his mind. Teddy’s wife was clinically depressed and she killed their three children. As an act of mercy and anger, Teddy ended his wife’s life. Therefore, the whole “investigation” was his way of coping with the trauma of losing his wife and children.

#2 – The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Evan is a young man that experiences blackouts on a regular basis.

butterfly effect 2004 films with plot twists

SPOILER: There’s nothing wrong with Evan’s brain. The blackouts were a coping mechanism for “unwanted memories”. During his childhood, he was a victim of sexual abuse. His two best childhood friends’ father was a sexual predator. In addition, he used to forced the three to star in his “personal” videos.

#3 – A Tale Of Two Sisters (2003)

Two young girls return home to their father and sinister stepmother.

a tale of two sisters 2003 films about mental illness

SPOILER: The younger sister is dead. The creepy stepmother is not real. Actually, she is but she didn’t do the things that we’ve seen up until the twist. The main character was having a hard time accepting her sister’s death. Deep down, she partially felt guilty for her death. Therefore, she created this elaborate fantasy, where she paints her stepmother as the villain and herself as the hero.

#4 – Mysterious Skin (2004)

Two boys grow up to live very different lives after one fateful summer.

mysterious skin 2004 films with plot twists

SPOILER: The alien abduction never happened. That was Brian’s way of dealing with some of his repressed memories. The coach molested both Neil and Brian. However, they both viewed the abuse differently. Neil interpreted it as love, whereas Brian created an abduction fantasy to repress his feelings.

#5 – Sucker Punch (2011)

The main character “Baby Doll” and other four friends try to escape from the mental asylum.

sucker punch 2011 films about mental illness

SPOILER: The ending is open to interpretation. The fighting sequences were all part of Baby Doll’s escape fantasy. In the end, the “hero” fails to escape. She ends up getting a lobotomy. It’s sad, but if you think about it, Baby Doll got what she wanted. She did escape, her mind is somewhere else — a place where she can no longer feel pain.

#6 – The Life Of Pi (2012)

A young man is the sole survivor of a shipwreck. While cast away, he finds a Bengali tiger on the boat.

the life of pi 2012 films with plot twists

SPOILER: Richard Parker wasn’t real. The Bengali tiger was Pi’s alter ego. For instance, when we see the zebra being taking down by the hyena, it’s actually the cook killing the soldier. The same goes for the orangutan. “Orange Juice” represents Pi’s mother. Having said that, Pi is the one who ends up killing the cook.

#7 – Enemy (2013)

A college professor becomes obsessed with his look-alike after spotting him in a film.

enemy 2013 films with plot twists

SPOILER: There was never a “twin”. Adam Bell and Anthony Claire are the same person. The main character created these two personas to justify his cheating behaviour. In addition, the two men have very different lives. For instance, Adam has a girlfriend, whereas Anthony has a wife. The pregnant woman is real and she’s the main character’s wife. Having said that, the girlfriend is the “mistress”.

#8 – Black Swan (2010)

Nina is a devoted ballet dancer. Her obsession and mental health worsens as she gets closer to her “Swan Lake” debut.

black swan 2010 films about mental illness

SPOILER: No one is trying to sabotage Nina, it’s all part of her hallucinations. Her obsession with perfection has manifested into a darker version of herself. Therefore, the scene where she stabs her doppelgänger is all in her head, she stabbed herself.

#9 – Fight Club (1999)

An insomniac white-collar job worker and a “soap maker” form an underground fight club.

fight club 1999 films with plot twists

SPOILER: The narrator and Tyler Durden are the same person. Having said that, Tyler is an alter ego. He’s everything that the narrator wishes to be: charismatic and free of any social conventions. That also explains why Marla and Tyler were never in the same room, except when they were having sex.

#10 – The Machinist (2004)

An insomniac factory worker becomes obsessed by a co-worker that no one can see.

the machinist 2004 trevor trauma

SPOILER: Ivan is not real. About an year ago, Trevor ran over and killed a boy. However, he did not report his crime making it a “hit and run” case. Eventually, he became consumed by guilt. He developed insomnia, hence his emaciated look.

Final Thoughts

All the films listed above are tough to watch. However, what makes them great is their ability to present a story without judgment. Some of the main characters did horrible things, but as viewers we empathize with their actions. We might not agree, but we understand.

Why were their endings so unpredictable? We never saw the plot twist coming because we never took their mental health in consideration. We just assume that the main character is sane. In other words, we assume that what he/she sees is the reality. However, when they suffer from mental illness, they become unreliable narrators.

As you can see, there’s a handful of films that deals with trauma and how people overcome it (or not). Yes, they are not easy films to watch, but these type of films should never cease to exist. Art is not only about showing the beautiful, but showing the ugly in a beautiful way too.

Do you agree that films with plot twists make a deeper impression? Do we remember films with plot twists better?