What makes a plot twist so good? For us, it’s when the clues, hints, and foreshadowing are subtle but littered throughout.
If there aren’t enough clues for the audience to catch, then the plot twist not only feels cheap, but the movie doesn’t evolve on a second or third watch. Noticing the small hints on a rewatch is part of the fun.
But on the flip side, too many clues that are obvious and heavy-handed make the plot twist predictable. Essentially, it ceases being a plot twist.
One of the greatest examples of a movie plot twist done well is the question of “Who is Tyler Durden?” in Fight Club.
Director David Fincher sprinkles myriad clues in various forms throughout the psychological thriller, yet even with all of those hints, most of us were shocked by the big reveal at the end.
The unnamed narrator-protagonist of Fight Club (played by Edward Norton) turns out to have Dissociative Identity Disorder. His loose cannon of a best friend, Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt), is actually the narrator’s alter ego. He isn’t real.
“All the ways you wish you could be, that’s me… I am free in all the ways that you are not.”Tyler Durden
Tyler explains that he’s the physical manifestation of his subconscious talking to his conscious. It shocks the audience, who thinks they’re just watching a film about fighting capitalism. What’s more shocking is that we all could have seen it coming!
Here are some of the best clues and hints in Fight Club as to the true identity of Tyler Durden that you probably missed.
8. They have the same briefcases
This seems pretty basic, but when the narrator first meets Tyler, he notices how they both have the exact same briefcase.
Except Tyler’s briefcase contains soap, which he sells to various different department stores. From this soap, he’s also able to make explosives… which brings us onto the next clue.
7. Tyler makes dynamite, which blew up the narrator’s condo
When teaching the narrator how to make soap, Tyler says that if you skim off a layer of glycerin, you can turn it into dynamite.
This isn’t particularly surprising to viewers given Tyler’s wild personality—it’s exactly the type of thing he would know. Especially given his plans to blow up multiple buildings.
But earlier in Fight Club, the narrator is forced to move in with Tyler because his condo blows up.
We just assume a gas explosion, but given that the narrator hates his attachment to his IKEA apartment and that Tyler knows how to make dynamite, it makes sense that “Tyler” did it himself.
6. The protagonist doesn’t have a name
In the script for Fight Club, the protagonist’s name is never mentioned. He’s simply referred to as The Narrator. Similarly, none of the other characters in the movie ever say his name.
It’s a small thing that you probably wouldn’t notice on first watch, but the more you think about it, the more obvious it becomes.
You hear Tyler’s name and Marla’s name all the time throughout the film, but never the main character’s name? And when asked what his name is, Fincher cleverly cuts to the next shot without an answer.
5. The narrator isn’t allowed to tell Marla about Tyler
Although Tyler and the narrator share the same house, the narrator isn’t allowed to talk to Marla Singer (played by Helena Bonham Carter) about him.
Tyler and Marla regularly see each other, but the narrator is ordered not to mention his name. Tyler whispers to the narrator what the narrator should say to her—he literally becomes the narrator’s voice.
4. Tyler calls through a phone booth
The writing is tiny in the phone booth is tiny, but it’s technically there for eagle-eyed viewers: “No incoming calls.” That means the payphone that the narrator uses to call Tyler only allows outgoing calls.
But Tyler phones the narrator back after not picking up. This is impossible, so the narrator was surely just talking to himself.
3. Tyler flashes on the screen
This one might be the most famous of all the clues and hints in Fight Club, especially in web articles and internet forum discussions.
Fincher geniusly hinted at Tyler’s existence before we’ve even met him in the story. The narrator is initially addicted to self-help groups, during which Tyler flashes on screen for a split second.
This happens a few times—in the doctor’s office, at work, etc. It happens so fast you can barely see it, just like how Tyler cuts inappropriate images into movie theater reels.
2. The narrator climbs out the drivers seat
Tyler purposefully crashes the car to teach the narrator a lesson in “letting go.” The whole film is built around the narrator teaching himself these lessons through Tyler.
In this particular example, Tyler was driving the car—but we see the narrator crawl out of the wreckage from the driver’s side. In any other movie, this would be a continuity goof. In Fight Club, it’s evidence that Tyler was the narrator all along.
1. The narrator blacks out from insomnia
The whole way through Fight Club, the narrator suffers from severe insomnia. He admits to the audience that “nothing feels real” with insomnia, hinting that we shouldn’t trust everything in the movie. He’s admitting that he’s an unreliable narrator.
As the body needs sleep to survive, the narrator finds himself blacking out involuntarily. A common symptom of Dissociative Identity Disorder is blacking out or “losing time,” unaware of what’s going on while the alternate personality is in control. A perfect fit.
More Hints in Fight Club Quotes
Plot devices and editing techniques are the main way Fincher tells us that the narrator is Tyler Durden without actually telling us.
Another way, though, is through speech. Voice-over narration is used throughout Fight Club to talk directly to the audience. He tells us quite a few things that point towards the plot twist—though, of course, cryptically. Here are some examples:
“Tyler speaks for me.”The narrator
“Tyler’s words coming out of my mouth.”The narrator
“I was living in a perpetual state of déjà vu.”The narrator
“You love me, you hate me. You show me a sensitive side, then you turn into a total asshole.”Marla Singer
“[I’m] never really asleep, never really awake.”The narrator