Top 20 Spoilers That Ruined Movies

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Top 20 Spoilers That Ruined Movies

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
These are the types of flicks that are best approached cold. For this list, we'll be looking at major spoilers that have the potential to completely ruin a film. Our countdown includes "Oldboy", "Harry Potter", "Fight Club", “Now You See Me”, “Shutter Island”, and more!
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Top 20 Spoilers That Ruin the Movie


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Spoilers That Ruin the Movie.

For this list, we’ll be looking at major spoilers that have the potential to completely ruin a film. These are the types of flicks that are best approached cold. Some spoilers, like the ending of “The Sixth Sense,” actually rewards rewatches and makes the movie even better. Movies like that will not be included. Uh, spoilers apply. Obviously.

Did you know about these spoilers beforehand? Did it ruin or enrich the experience? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: Esther’s Backstory

“Orphan” (2009)

Little kids can be creepy. The marketing team knew this and planned accordingly. Moviegoers were expecting a typical story about a disturbed child seriously creeping out her adoptive parents. And for a while, that’s what they got. Kate and John Coleman adopt nine-year-old Esther, who immediately makes them uneasy with her behavior and curiously mature knowledge. In the end, we learn that Esther isn’t nine years old, but 33. She suffers from a hormonal disorder called hypopituitarism, and she takes advantage of her stunted growth by posing as a little girl and killing the people who adopt her. It’s a very interesting twist, but knowing it completely ruins the movie and immediately answers the questions that it raises.

#19: Mr. Glass’ Origin Story

“Unbreakable” (2000)

Bruce Willis stars in this subversive superhero origin movie as David Dunn. Dunn has superhuman strength - a fact that he discovers after surviving a catastrophic train derailment. He goes under the wing of a comic book expert named Elijah Price, who suffers from brittle bone disease and theorizes that David is on the other end of the physical spectrum. One weak, one strong. However, the mentor turns out to be the villain, as Elijah directly caused the train derailment in an effort to find a superhero. It’s a devastating twist that nicely subverts the typical mentor-superhero relationship, not to mention the origin story itself. This isn’t David’s origin story - it’s Elijah’s. Knowing this beforehand completely ruins the experience.

#18: The Identity of the Mastermind

“Now You See Me” (2013)

In typical heist thrillers, there are two factions. There are the good guy authority figures and there are the bad guy thieves. “Now You See Me” plays its own magic trick on the audience and fools them into believing they are watching a typical heist narrative. But, like all magic tricks, this is just smoke and mirrors. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes actually masterminded the whole scheme and is working with the magician thieves to conduct an act of revenge. And, like all magic tricks, knowing how it is done completely ruins the illusion. This is purely a film for the uninitiated and the fooled.

#17: Gabriel

“Malignant” (2021)

It’s impossible to guess the twist of “Malignant.” This is the type of horror movie that needs to be watched without knowing anything about the plot, because the twist is just so incredibly outlandish. Madison Lake has visions of people getting killed, and those people end up dead in real life. The killer is revealed to be… a sentient tumor. You see, Madison has a twin brother who is formed out of a tumor. The twin is named Gabriel, and he shares a brain with Madison. His face physically appears out of Madison’s skull like Voldemort, and he operates her body backwards while her consciousness is in some type of fugue state. If you tell us that you guessed that twist, we’ll call you a liar.

#16: Malcolm Rivers

“Identity” (2003)

The twist of this movie confounded audiences and critics back in 2003, and it resulted in a divided reception. Some loved it, others hated it. The movie seems to tell two concurrent storylines. One is about an unstable criminal named Malcolm Rivers who is pleading insanity. The other is about ten stranded strangers who begin dying one-by-one inside a Nevada motel. It’s eventually revealed that these two seemingly separate stories are actually the same. Malcolm has dissociative identity disorder, and the people in the motel are “identities” that he has created in his mind. It’s an Agatha Christie story with a psychological twist, and this is not something that should be known going in.

#15: The Truth About Adelaide

“Us” (2019)

Jordan Peele is our new master of allegorical horror. “Us” is about The Tethered, a group of underground clones who literally rise up, kill their surface counterparts, and take over the world. The main Tethered that we follow is Red, who is the clone of Adelaide. But the ending throws a massive curveball. The real Adelaide was actually abducted as a child and replaced by her Tethered counterpart. This Tethered was then raised as the “real” Adelaide while learning how to talk and act like a normal human. The real Adelaide grew underground with the Tethered before kickstarting their rebellion. It paints her motivation in an entirely new light and has us questioning the dichotomy between good and evil.

#14: The Truth About Dad Meiks’ Motivation

“Frailty” (2001)

Spoilers have the capacity to ruin entire characters. This is a great example. “Frailty” stars Bill Paxton as Dad Meiks, a seemingly unstable serial killer. He claims that he has been tasked by God to rid the world of demons. He supposedly sees these demons inside the people he kidnaps and kills, but his son just sees a mentally unstable father who, you know, kidnaps and kills people. Audiences are led to side with the son because we know that demons aren’t real. But this is a work of fiction, and as it turns out, demons are real, and Dad Meiks is actually doing God’s work. Knowing this twist beforehand ruins the supernatural mystery of the movie, not to mention the entire character of Dad Meiks.

#13: Playing Detective

“Shutter Island” (2010)

This is another great example of a spoiler ruining a character. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal who investigates Ashecliffe Hospital to find a missing patient. Of course, the real patient is Teddy himself. He is actually Andrew Laeddis, an unstable man who killed his wife after what she did to their children. The staff of the hospital allowed Andrew to play detective in a desperate attempt to cure his insanity. This spoiler ruins the entire movie. Not only do we know that Teddy isn’t a real detective, but the entire mystery of the missing person story is tarnished. Detective fiction works when we don’t know the outcome and play along with the protagonist. It’s not so fun when we already know the answers.

#12: The Basement

“Parasite” (2019)

There is nothing like a good genre switch. “Parasite” has a great one. It begins as a fun rumination on Korean class discrepancies, with a poor family infiltrating a rich one and acting as their servants. But everything changes halfway through upon the discovery of the basement and the hidden Geun-sae. Genre switches obviously work best when we don’t expect them, as they throw the entire tone and mood of the story into disarray. Knowing about it beforehand brings with it preconceived ideas. We obviously expect it, and we begin to look for clues in scenes that were intentionally designed to mislead viewers. By knowing the spoilers, we are ruining the director’s entire intention.

#11: A Dying Dream

“Jacob’s Ladder” (1990)

Spoilers have a penchant of ruining the supernatural. “Jacob’s Ladder” follows Jacob Singer, a man who returns from Vietnam suffering from horrible visions. By limiting the point of view to Jacob, viewers are placed in his shoes. We follow the mystery along with Jacob, and the mystery results in many effective scares and memorable sequences. What’s with the tentacles and vibrating faces? What the heck is that hospital? These are fascinating questions the movie wants us to ask. The ending reveals that Jacob never actually left Vietnam and that the events in New York are some kind of purgatory experience meant to prepare him for death. Knowing this removes the mystery of the story and the visceral punch of Jacob’s visions.

#10: Ransom

“Knives Out” (2019)

It goes without saying that whodunits live and die on their mysteries. The entire genre is designed to raise questions and toy with audiences. We play along with the protagonists and try to figure out who actually done it, and that’s all part of the genre’s fun. “Knives Out” is a modern whodunit in the vein of Agatha Christie. The fun is found in the unraveling mystery and the beautiful subversions of whodunit clichés. By knowing these subversions beforehand, we fail to experience what makes the movie so refreshing. And by knowing the killer, we obviously lose the entire mystery of the whodunit. These movies can still be enjoyed on rewatches, but something in our enjoyment is permanently lost when we already know the outcome.

#9: Snape’s True Intentions

“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)

At this point, there’s not a single person on the planet who doesn’t know that Snape kills Dumbledore. It’s perhaps the biggest and most famous spoilers since “I am your father.” Unfortunately, this has somewhat ruined the entire “Harry Potter” experience. The books were once-in-a-lifetime cultural behemoths, and reading them brought many questions and shocking revelations. Snape’s loyalties were questioned and debated for ten years, and his killing of Dumbledore is one of the most shocking plot developments in recent fictional history. The reveal that Snape was a good guy all along answered long-asked questions and reassured people that their favorite character was in fact a hero. By knowing all this beforehand, modern viewers lose out on a key part of the “Harry Potter” magic.

#8: Ghostface’s Identity

“Scream” (1996)

The magic of “Scream” is in its subversion and acknowledgment of slasher movie tropes. There was simply nothing like it back in 1996, and “Scream” became a cultural phenomenon thanks mainly to the intelligent script from Kevin Williamson. The biggest subversion of them all was the inclusion of two killers. Both Billy and Stu are revealed to be Ghostface, having alternated who dons the costume and does the killing. This was a substantial and refreshing twist that single-handedly breathed new life into the dying slasher genre. Everyone knows about it now, and the movie’s iconic self-aware tone has long been copied. Knowing this spoiler removes much of the movie’s invigorating and revolutionary punch.

#7: The Future Past

“Arrival” (2016)

This is an invasion movie with intelligence and heart, not to mention a focus on its human characters rather than its extraterrestrials. Louise Banks is a woman dealing with the grief of losing her 12-year-old daughter. However, we later learn that her daughter hasn’t actually been born yet. Interacting with the aliens distorts time and allows humans to see into the future. The “memories” that Louise has been experiencing of her deceased daughter are actually flash-forwards to a future event. Much of this movie’s magic is found in its twist, so it’s hard to convert those who may think it’s just another alien invasion movie. Spoilers not only ruin the surprising nature of the aliens’ language, but also the entire backstory of Louise’s character.

#6: Jigsaw’s Location

“Saw” (2004)

This series became famous for its twists, but nothing ever topped the original. Knowing about it completely ruins the magic of the ending. We learn that the Jigsaw Killer likes to watch his victims, and we make the obvious connection to the numerous cameras in the room. But no, those are solely for Zep. Jigsaw himself is actually in the room, playing the bloody corpse. Watching him sit up and peel away the makeup while the music crescendos made for one of the finest twist endings of the 2000s. It helped solidify “Saw” as a modern classic and provided the twist ending template that the series would largely follow. This is the type of ending that needs to be experienced, not known about.

#5: Pretty Much Everything

“Psycho” (1960)

Unfortunately, “Psycho” has been permanently tarnished. Humanity will never again experience the shocking invigoration that was watching this movie for the first time in 1960. All of its twists are now universally known - Marion gets killed halfway through the movie, the PI hero Arbogast is disposed of, Norman is the culprit, and he has taken on the identity of his deceased mother. Not only that, but the movie undergoes a major genre shift, switching from a getaway heist thriller to a primitive slasher. The movie can still be enjoyed as a cinematic work of art, obviously. But as an unpredictable moviegoing experience meant to shock unaware audiences, it has been ruined. Experiencing this movie in 1960 must have been unbelievable.

#4: They’ll Never Be the Same

“Oldboy” (2003)

The twist of “Oldboy” is… well, it’s something else. Left unknown, it may prove to be the most shocking movie twist of all time. At least in terms of pure visceral reaction. It’s a twist that needs to be experienced and digested, and knowing about it greatly tarnishes its ability to disturb. Dae-su is released from Woo-jin’s captivity after fifteen years and falls in love with a sushi chef named Mi-do. The two eventually consummate their relationship, and it’s played as quite a touching gesture. But this gesture is completely re-evaluated when we and Dae-su learn that Mi-do is actually related to him. Woo-jin had taken revenge on Dae-su by imprisoning him, allowing his daughter to mature, and then hypnotizing him into having this relationship with her.

#3: Seeing Double

“The Prestige” (2006)

This film shares much in common with “Now You See Me.” Not in terms of story and tone, but in how it revolves around magic and its utilization in tricking the audience. Alfred Borden is a working-class magician who develops a spectacular trick called The Transported Man. Rival magician Robert Angier tries desperately to learn and debunk the trick. Of course, all is revealed in the end. “Borden” is actually Alfred and Freddy Borden, a pair of identical twins. Angier goes mad trying to one-up Borden and dabbles in science fiction. Borden simply used a primitive trick. It’s such a brilliant twist that we and Angier are flabbergasted by its simplicity. Knowing the ending ruins, dare we say, the magic of the reveal.

#2: One & the Same

“Fight Club” (1999)

This is another one of those spoilers that everyone knows. It’s simply impossible to divorce “Fight Club” from the famous twist that Tyler Durden is not real. In an iconic reveal, Durden is shown to be a dissociated personality of the Narrator’s. He represents the Narrator’s more misanthropic and destructive penchants, and his primary aim is to cause anarchy and eliminate the country’s credit card records. This twist is easily the most popular aspect of the film, and knowing it significantly hinders the enjoyment of its mystery. The movie raises many questions about Tyler, but the tantalizing mysteries surrounding his character evaporate once we know his true identity.

#1: Who Is Keyser Söze?

“The Usual Suspects” (1995)

It’s easy for a spoiler to ruin a movie when the entire movie is built around the spoiler. “The Usual Suspects” is a mystery-thriller from Bryan Singer, who raises the most tantalizing question of the 1990s - who is Keyser Söze? Most of the movie is aimed at answering this question, as Söze is revealed to be nothing more than a shadowy crime lord. As pretty much everyone knows by now, Söze is Kevin Spacey’s Verbal Kint, who iconically sheds his physical handicaps, lights up a cigarette, and goes back into the shadows. When an entire movie is built around one core mystery, it’s probably best not to know the answer.
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