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Top 10 Shocking The Twilight Zone Twist Endings

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating
Prepare to have your mind blown by the Twilight Zone twist endings that defined Rod Serling’s groundbreaking creation. Even decades after the show’s initial release, these endings have left a handprint on pop culture that has never washed away. We can only hope that Jordan Peele can cook up some equally crazy twists with the 2019 incarnation. WatchMojo ranks the best Twilight Zone Twist Endings. What’s your favorite Twilight Zone twist ending? Let us know in the comments!

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Top 10 The Twilight Zone Twist Endings

Consider if you will this ordinary list of extraordinary twists! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Twist Endings from The Twilight Zone.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most shocking and iconic surprise endings to come out of the original run of Rod Serling’s influential sci-fi and horror anthology. As we’re talking endings, a spoiler warning is now in effect.

#10: The Real Monsters
“The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”

When a strange object flies over a suburb, knocking out all of the power, the residents of Maple Street at first assume it’s something harmless. But as talk turns to aliens, it’s not long before the neighbors violently turn on one another. The morality lesson about the danger of witch-hunts seems all set up – until the twist is revealed: Aliens ARE watching, and now know that they can exploit human paranoia to take over Earth! The twist hammers home the message that not only will fear and division destroy us, they leave us open to manipulation and coercion - a message that remains all too relevant today.

#9: Play Things
“Stopover in a Quiet Town”

It may just be the BIGGEST twist in the series. After a night of partying, a husband and wife wake up in an unknown house. Hearing a little girl laugh, they leave the house to find the town eerily empty. To their horror, they soon discover that they’re now play things for a giant alien girl. At least they might have it better than the guy who wound up in a zoo. There are a lot of signs in this episode that something’s wrong - but who would have seen a supersized extraterrestrial coming? This is a twist right out of left field.

#8: Dead Broke & Silenced
“The Silence”

Silence is golden . . . but can also come at a cost. Sick of Jamie Tennyson’s chatter, Colonel Archie Taylor bets him half a million bucks that he can’t keep silent for a year. Tennyson takes the bet, and pulls off the feat, returning to Taylor for his money. Turns out that Taylor lost his fortune years ago however - and it was all for naught. Distraught but still silent, Tennyson reveals to the others that he had the nerves to his vocal chords cut. The body-mutilation horror of this one makes the twist particularly effective, especially as Tennyson became a sympathetic figure over the episode. Don’t cheat to win, kids, you may still lose big.

#7: Going My Way?
“The Hitch Hiker”

Nan Adams is driving across America when she has a car accident. While following a mechanic into the closest town for repairs, she notices a scruffy-looking man hitching on the side of the road. She continues on her trip, but in the next town sees the same man. Convinced that he’s following her, and frightened because no one else can see him, she stops and calls her mother. But she’s instead told that her mother has had a nervous breakdown, following the death of her daughter. Nan didn’t survive the accident - and the hitchhiker is Death, waiting for her to realize. It’s a classic bait-and-switch, in which we’re first led to believe that Death is the ghost of the tale, when in fact it’s Nan.

#6: By Fire or Ice
“Midnight Sun”

The end is nigh - but not the way you think. When the Earth is knocked out of orbit, it drifts closer and closer to the Sun. In New York, Norma tries to survive the heat, along with her landlady. As the mercury climbs, and the landlady dies from heat stroke, Norma panics. Yet suddenly we cut to a snowy day, and Norma is in bed with a fever. At first, it seems like a cheap “it was all a dream” trick. Until it’s revealed the Earth IS moving - now past and AWAY from the Sun. Aaand everyone is going to freeze to death. The twist pulls the rug out from under our feet at the last second, as relief gives way to chilling horror.

#5: No Happy Ending
“La Rivière du hibou aka An Occurrence At Owl Creek Bridge”

So close . . . but so far. During the Civil War, a civilian prisoner is about to be hung from a bridge. At the last second however, the rope snaps and he falls uninjured into the water. He outruns his captors and escapes, making the long journey home to his darling wife. But just as they are about to embrace, his head snaps back. The scene changes to reveal him hanging from the bridge. Unlike other TZ twists, this twist isn’t horror: it’s straight up heartbreaking. His escape and reunion were just a fantasy before dying as he was dropping on the end of the rope.

#4: It’s Not Fair
“Time Enough at Last”

The same place can be both paradise and hell! Hen-pecked bookworm Henry Bemis just wants time to read . . . but is always interrupted. While taking his lunch break in the bank vault, the only place he gets to read, a huge blast knocks him unconscious. When he wakes, he discovers that nuclear war has left him in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The only consolation is that at least he finally has time to read! Looking forward to the solitary years ahead, he picks up his first book - and his glasses fall off and shatter. The disappointment is so real that we feel his distress like it’s our own. This is one of the show’s most famous and crushing twists. It really isn’t fair.

#3: How We Differ
“Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?”

Two state troopers track an alien from a crashed UFO to a diner, where bus passengers delayed by the snow wait for the roads to clear. When the troopers declare that one of them must be a Martian, confusion and tensions mount. It seems to be another morality play about witch hunts . . . But after everyone reboards the bus and it departs, one of the passengers returns . . . and we get our Martian after all. It seems all too simple, when there’s ANOTHER twist. The cook isn’t frightened of the Martian, or his approaching fleet . . . because he’s actually from Venus. It’s not every day you see an alien surprised by another alien!

#2: Real Beauty
“The Eye of the Beholder”

In an authoritarian state that demands conformity, Janet Tyler is desperate to look normal. With her face wrapped in bandages, we’re told only that her face is a “pitiful twisted lump of flesh”. The episode does a beautiful job of maintaining this ruse, keeping the hospital staff’s own faces hidden using shadows and clever camera angles. So when the bandages are removed, the audience is totally unprepared to see that she’s actually beautiful - at least by our standards! It’s everyone else who looks otherwise. Just goes to show, don’t believe everything you hear.

Before we unveil our number one pick here are a few honorable mentions:

They're Toys
"Five Characters in Search of an Exit"

Humans are the Aliens
"The Invaders"

The Stranger is Death
"Nothing in the Dark"

Hasty Decision
"I Shot An Arrow Into The Air"

"The After Hours"

#1: Double Meaning
“To Serve Man”

These aliens find us delightful - just not in the way we’d hope. When telepathic extraterrestrials arrive promising peace and prosperity, it seems too good to be true. Sure enough however, their technologies better the planet. Their benevolence seems confirmed when the title of an alien book is translated as “To Serve Man”. Relations are so good, humans regularly leave Earth to tour their planet. As cryptographer Michael Chambers boards the alien ship, however, his colleague reveals the awful truth . . . The horrifying double-meaning of the title, the fact that countless humans have already met this fate, and the screams of Chambers as he’s dragged onto the ship, are the stuff of nightmares.

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