When a plot twist is done well, it can leave you feeling absolutely speechless. You begin to question everything you've seen, and it makes room for countless rewatches where you to pore over every frame and every line of dialogue for hidden meanings.
Suddenly, like an optical illusion, the entire film opens up and you realize it can be seen in a totally different way.
But then there are bad plot twists.
Sometimes they're just eye-rollingly annoying, but they can also be so bad as to be insulting. A bad plot twist is disrespectful to our intelligence and an affront to storytelling. It's more than just a waste of time—it's a cheap trick that sours the entire experience.
What Makes a Plot Twist Bad?
Before we jump into the worst plot twists in cinema history, it's worth defining what a bad plot twist even means! The thing is, a plot twist can be bad for many reasons.
A plot twist could be good in theory, but dragged down by poor execution. Maybe it wasn't set up properly, making it feel like it came out of nowhere simply to surprise us. Maybe it felt rushed and underdeveloped.
On the flip side, a plot twist with too much foreshadowing or too little confidence from the director can end up being too obvious. If you can spot the plot twist from the very first act, it's not much of a plot twist.
But, without question, the worst kind of plot twist is one that makes no sense, destroys the logic of everything that came before, doesn't answer anything, and only creates more questions.
With that said, here are some of the worst plot twists in the history of cinema. Warning: Spoilers ahead!
7. Last Christmas (2019)
Most viewers saw Last Christmas's plot twist coming from a mile away: after falling in love with Tom, Katarina discovers that he's actually her organ donor. In fact, he gave her his heart—last Christmas.
To be fair, this plot twist certainly pulled on some people's heartstrings. But that doesn't make it any smarter!
Actually, it just makes me concerned for Katarina's health, since she just had a major organ transplant and is now experiencing hallucinations. Charming hallucinations, but hallucinations nonetheless.
6. The Forgotten (2004)
While Julianne Moore is an absolutely fantastic actress, The Forgotten was, sadly, a bit of a misfire.
She plays Telly Paretta, who mourns her son who died in a plane crash. However, one day her husband tells her that they never had a son. In fact, this is then confirmed by a doctor, who informs her that she had a miscarriage and that she's living out a delusion.
Alright, that's pretty interesting so far...
But then Telly—along with someone from her support group—ends up being tracked down by the NSA, who claim to be protecting Earth from "them," only for one of the NSA agents to be sucked into the sky.
As it turns out, there are aliens involved. Indeed, aliens are trying to make parents forget their dead children as part of a cosmic experiment to test the strength of parental bonds. Um... What?
5. Identity (2003)
Identity starts off as a film with a great premise and some very stylish execution. However, at about the halfway point, it starts to feel clichéd. And then... the bad plot twist.
As it turns out, everything that plays out is actually just a representation of what's going on in a certain character's head.
Sure, there's nothing wrong with unreliable narrators—many films have produced stunning plot twists using this narrative device. But other times, like in this instance, it just feels like a cheap misdirect.
4. Sweet Girl (2021)
One of the most egregious examples of a bad plot twist can be found in Netflix's Sweet Girl. The plot follows Ray and Rachel, a father-and-daughter duo who seek vengeance for the wrongful death of their mother.
However, in one climactic moment, it's revealed that Ray is fake—Rachel actually has dissociative personality disorder. Yep, yet another twist where it's all happening inside a character's head.
The problem here is that this twist opened up all kinds of plot holes, like how Rachel can pummel trained mercenaries as though she were six-foot-four and weighed 230 pounds. If she isn't actually Ray, then why can she fight like him? It makes no sense!
The twist opens more questions than answers and leaves us rightfully thinking that it's too far-fetched to take seriously.
3. The Number 23 (2007)
I love Jim Carrey, but I didn't love The Number 23. The plot of this movie follows a man who reads a book and grows increasingly concerned when he realizes the protagonist's life mirrors his own.
This causes a downward spiral. Walter becomes obsessed with the number 23 and begins to see the number everywhere—so much so that it begins to torture his psyche.
However, we're eventually given a resolution when the secret is revealed: he forgot that he wrote the book himself.
Ta-da, how ingenious! Actually, no, it's infuriating. We waited almost two hours, only for the reveal to be that he forgot he wrote a book? Not only is it a weak twist, it's downright insulting as a viewer.
2. Planet of the Apes (2001)
The 1968 version of Planet of the Apes featured one of the best plot twists of all time. Unfortunately, Tim Burton's 2001 reboot of Planet of the Apes featured one of the worst plot twists ever.
After looking confused for the majority of the movie, Mark Wahlberg's Captain Davidson jumps into a spaceship and flies all the way back to Earth. Finally, he has escaped the tyrannical clutches of the apes!
Once he arrives on Earth, he sees that not all is as it seems—and what better way to present that than by showing how the Abraham Lincoln monument is now replaced by an Ape-raham Lincoln.
Yep, the twist is as bad as that pun. There's no real explanation given as to why this happened, and Wahlberg looks just as perplexed as we are. Meanwhile, he's swarmed and arrested by the ape police.
1. Now You See Me (2013)
Now You See Me follows four career magicians, all of whom are extreme professionals at the top of their game. They attempt to pull off a heist while a detective tries to stop them.
The twist? The detective that's trying to stop them—who puts himself in great danger many times to stop them—is actually the mastermind behind it all. He was the one who hired them. Really? Come on...
Like many bad plot twists, this one makes no sense and creates plot holes. Why would he try to try to stop their escape in Vegas? Why would he run into a car that's about to explode? Suspension of disbelief isn't enough here; this one requires huge leaps of logic.
Part of the reason why this movie tops my list as the worst plot twist of all time is because of the people involved.
Now You See Me starred Oscar-nominated actors like Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, and Jesse Eisenberg, with Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in tow. They might not be in charge of the writing, but surely they knew this plot was just plain silly?