Twenty years ago this week, Bryan Singer’s The Usual Suspects opened in theaters, and everybody lost their minds. What seemed initially to be a low-budget indie neo-noir/Tarantino riff became the summer’s must-see movie, launching the careers of director Singer, screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie, and co-stars Kevin Spacey and Benicio del Toro, among others. It ended up not only nabbing two Oscars (for McQuarrie and Spacey), but also redefining the “twist” ending, becoming a kind of shorthand for a left-field, eleventh-hour plot development that reconfigures everything that’s come before. But it was neither the first nor the last movie to do that ending, or do it well.
(And before you go clicking through and raging in the comments, Chuck-heads, no, your beloved Fight Club isn’t on here, because Fight Club does not have a good twist ending. Unlike the last-minute sucker punches of the films that follow, it arrives far too damn early, causing viewers — or this viewer, at least — to spend much of the film’s third act puzzling out the twist and finding its many holes, rather than paying attention to what’s happening on screen. Decent movie, mediocre twist.)
(And also, many spoilers to follow, duh.)