Top 10 Modern Horror Movie Twists
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Top 10 Modern Horror Movie Twists

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
What a twist! For this list we'll be looking at the Top 10 Modern Horror Movie Twists. Our countdown includes "The Cabin in the Woods", "10 Cloverfield Lane", "The Ring", "Saw" and more!
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Script Written by Nick Spake

Top 10 Modern Horror Movie Twists



What a twist… and we say that unironically. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Horror Movie Twists.

For this list, we’ll be looking at moments and plot turns in horror movies released from 2000 onward that totally caught us off-guard. If you haven’t seen any of these films, we have something really scary in store for you: spoilers!

#10: Oh My God

“The Cabin in the Woods” (2012)
This horror-comedy tells us a lot upfront, while also telling us nothing. While it’s evident that a secret organization is manipulating a group of students, it’s unclear why exactly they’re trying to recreate a classic zombie flick. Things start falling into place once our heroes reach the underground facility, which doesn’t just host zombies, but every horror antagonist you can possibly think of. What trumps werewolves, mummies, and mermen, though? Literal gods! Putting a clever spin on slasher tropes, it’s revealed that the characters are part of an annual ritual that requires five horror archetypes to be sacrificed, save maybe the virgin. Adding to the surprise, the director is played by Sigourney Weaver and the final two ultimately figure, “meh, humanity had a good run.”

#9: You Escaped… NOT

“The Descent” (2005)
After going to hell and back, protagonist Sarah finds the light at the end of the tunnel. Making it back to her car, Sarah and the audience breathe a sigh of relief as she prepares to drive off… until it’s revealed that she was hallucinating. Back in the cave, Sarah’s given no choice but to accept her uncertain fate. Now here’s an ending that has us all yelling at the screen. Not because it’s bad. On the contrary, the twist is quite effective, pulling the rug out from under us in a way that doesn’t come off as forced, and fits the film’s overall soul-crushing tone. After being given a false sense of security, though, this fake-out hits us like a pile of rocks.

#8: Out of the Bunker

“10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016)
This movie was already playing with audience expectations before its release. Most people didn’t know that a “Cloverfield” spiritual successor was in the works, and even after the title dropped, we all wondered how this franchise went from a giant monster movie to a small-scale psychological thriller. Our questions only piled up while watching the film. Is Howard a lunatic keeping Michelle prisoner or a good-intentioned survivalist protecting her from whatever is outside? Turns out, it’s a bit of both. Howard is off his rocker and the bunker isn’t safe as long as he’s around. He wasn’t wrong about the outside being unsafe, however, as aliens have arrived. As Michelle drives to Houston, we’re left to wonder what we would’ve done in her shoes.

#7: What’s in the Basement


“Don’t Breathe” (2016)
For much of “Don’t Breathe,” we’re not sure who to root for. Although Rocky is given understandable motivations, she’s still stealing from a visually impaired guy. Granted, a guy who could give Daredevil a run for his money, but still. We officially side with Team Rocky upon learning that Norman has been keeping a woman tied up in his basement. The prisoner accidentally ran over and killed Norman’s daughter. Norman’s not satisfied with the $300,000 settlement and expects the woman responsible for his daughter’s death to bear him a new child. As blindsided as we are, this twist is smartly built up, and matters only grow more shocking once the prisoner bites the bullet, requiring Rocky to fill in.

#6: Dastardly Duo


“The Invisible Man” (2020)
It’s only fitting that we didn’t see this twist coming. Everything seems to be wrapped up when Cecilia shoots down her invisible stalker, saving James and Sydney. As Cecilia takes off the mask, however, she’s surprised to find Adrian’s brother Tom, rather than her sadistic ex. Cue our collective gasp as Cecilia looks over Tom’s lifeless body, piecing together that there’s more than one invisible man. Although he was still clearly involved, Adrian has taken measures to paint Tom as the criminal mastermind, and himself as a victim. With the law believing Adrian’s claims, how can Cecilia possibly put a stop to this madness? Well, the film has a few more surprises up its sleeve.

#5: Samara Strikes Back

“The Ring” (2002)
With a tragic backstory, Samara seemingly emerges as a sympathetic character; and after Rachel recovers her body, all appears to be forgiven. This couldn’t be further from the truth, though, as the vengeful Samara is only getting warmed up. On his seventh day, Noah finds Samara on his television and there’s no changing this channel. It dawns on Rachel that she was only spared because she made a copy of her cursed videotape, allowing Samara to reach a wider audience. This means that Rachel’s son must also make a copy, saving their lives while dooming whoever watches the tape next. In retrospect, there were obvious signs that Samara was an all-around bad seed, but we still never anticipated the full extent of her evil.

#4: What Year Is It?

“The Village” (2004)
As Ivy climbs over a wall, it becomes clear what the village elders have been hiding. It’s revealed that the film isn’t set in the 19th century, but the modern present. Unfortunately, Ivy remains literally blind to the truth. When “The Village” first came out, audiences generally found the twist ending absurd, deeming it one of M. Night Shyamalan’s weaker efforts. Looking back years later, however, various critics have defended the big reveal. Vox’s Emily Todd VanDerWerff wrote an especially interesting retrospective review about how the twist reflects the 2003 Iraq War and “the blind spots of nostalgia.” However you interpret it, many would agree that this was the last movie with a trademark Shyamalan twist… until “The Visit,” that is.

#3: The Ol’ Switcheroo

“Us” (2019)
People are rarely what they seem in Jordan Peele’s movies. Although we could tell early on that something is off about Rose’s family in “Get Out,” we weren’t prepared for the reveal that Grandma Marianne’s brain was in Georgina’s body. Peele’s sophomore film has an even bigger twist in store for us, as Adelaide shows her true colors. Or perhaps we should say that Red shows her true colors. Circling back to the opening scene, we learn that Red switched places with Adelaide at the funhouse years go. The woman we’ve been fearing for this entire time stole the life of her tethered doppelgänger. It’s a twist that motivates us to rewatch the film, suddenly seeing the characters in a whole new light.

#2: No One Can Make Us Leave This House

“The Others” (2001)
Upon release, “The Others” was hailed by many as the next “Sixth Sense.” Alejandro Amenábar’s film puts a fresh spin on “seeing dead people,” however. Throughout the movie, we’re led to believe that Grace and her children are being haunted. As it turns out, the so-called spirits are actually a living family that has moved into the mansion. The true ghosts are Grace and her children. Following her husband’s demise in World War II, the grieving Grace smothered her children and took her own life. It’s a tragic revelation that sees “good mother” Grace transform into her own worst nightmare. To this date, we’re not sure whether to read Grace’s final words as hopeful or depressing. Either way, this ending will never leave us.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Identity Crisis
“Identity” (2003)

It Was All in Marie’s Mind
“High Tension” (2003)

Act Your Age
“Orphan” (2009)

It’s a Prequel, Y’all
“Final Destination 5” (2011)

Crispian, Zee, and Felix Planned the Whole Thing
“You’re Next” (2011)

#1: Puzzle Piece in Plain Sight


“Saw” (2004)
Before the franchise became over-reliant on gore, the first “Saw” hooked us in with a terrifying premise, sharp execution, and a killer payoff. Just when it looks like everything has fallen into place, Adam stumbles upon a missing puzzle piece in the center of the room. Zep was just a pawn in the Jigsaw Killer’s scheme, and the true puppet master has been lying on the floor. While many have pointed out the ending’s plot holes, nothing can take away from the shock and dread we feel when John Kramer lifts himself off the floor. It’s a twist nobody sees coming, even with all the clues we need sitting right in front of us the whole time. Realistic or not, it’s pretty ingenious.
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