A Definitive Ranking of All of M. Night Shyamalan's Biggest Twists, From 'The Sixth Sense' to 'Split'
By John Boone
There's a twisted little reveal at the end of M. Night Shyamalan's multiple personalities horror flick, Split -- though, that shouldn't come as a surprise to fans of the director, as an OMG!-worthy twist in the final act of the film has become his calling card in Hollywood. (Which wasn't always the case, as -- twist! -- he also wrote the script for Stuart Little.) As for how it stacks up against the twists of Shyamalan films past, we won't divulge the ending of Split here, but...
Massive spoilers for all other M. Night Shyamalan films ahead.
For Shyamalan's part, his favorite of his twists is in Signs. "I don’t know why, I find it so spiritual," he told ET. "The guy who lost faith and then remembers what his wife said. Then, he looks around the room and sees that his wife was talking about this moment. It always gives me chills."
Ahead of Split's release on Friday, we ranked all of Shyamalan's biggest twists and rated them on a scale of Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons. (If you don't remember that Mischa Barton starred in a M. Night Shyamalan movie, re-watch The Sixth Sense. If you don't know what Munchausen syndrome by proxy is, watch the last season of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.)
9. The Last Airbender (2010)
Shyamalan took a brief detour from his usual horror and thrills with back-to-back sci-fi fare: 2013's After Earth and, before that, The Last Airbender, based on the anime-esque Nickelodeon series about people who use psychic powers to manipulate the elements, though now -- twist! -- apparently they're all white? Perhaps the most unrealistic of all his twists. 0 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
8. The Happening (2008)
There's a lot to unpack in The Happening, not the least of which is that Mark Wahlberg plays a sweater vest-wearing high school science teacher named "Elliot." Anyway, when a neurotoxin causes people to begin committing mass suicide, it's believed to be a terrorist bio-attack, before it's eventually revealed that -- twist! -- it's the plants. Mother Nature is fighting back against human beings, and this is actually some sort of lame global warming revenge tale? But also, Spencer Breslin gets shot in the face in this. 1 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
7. Lady in the Water (2006)
If you don't remember the twist in Lady in the Water, we can't fault you. If you even vaguely remember that Lady in the Water was a real movie where...Bryce Dallas Howard played, like, a fairy? And was Paul Giamatti in it?, you're ahead of the curve here. Howard indeed played a Narf from the Blue World in this downright perplexing fairy tale where -- twist! -- Giamatti's character, an apartment super, turns out to be the Healer and Shyamalan himself plays a writer whose stories will change the world. (Insert thinking emoji face.) 2 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons, we guess??
6. Devil (2010)
Shyamalan didn't write or direct Devil, but it is his brainchild, so we're including it. The contained thriller centers on five people, each hiding a dark secret, who become trapped in an elevator, and each time the lights go out, one of them is killed off. In the end -- twist! -- it is revealed that the old woman is the Devil, having faked her own death earlier in the movie. It's a twist anyone who read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None in middle school could have called, but still a fun surprise worthy of 4 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
The Village may contain the most divisive of all Shyamalan's twists. The film leads you to believe it takes place sometime in the 19th century, where villagers live in fear of the monsters that inhabit the nearby woods. When a blind woman (Dallas Howard) is permitted by town Elders to pass through the woods to fetch medicine from a neighboring settlement, we learn -- twist! -- it is actually set in modern times and the townspeople are unknowingly living in a sort of colonial reenactment village created by the Elders in a forest preserve. Some fans find the reality of the film disappointing in retrospect, but no one can deny it's shocking -- well, unless you've read the '95 Y.A. novel, Running Out of Time, which has essentially the same plot. 5.5 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
4. The Visit (2015)
The movie that returned Shyamalan to greatness -- and his knack for last-minute twists. (Coincidence?) Two teens pay a visit to their Nana and Pop Pop, whom they have conveniently never met before, and are given foreboding instructions that bedtime is at 9:30 and they are not to leave their room after that. Of course, they eventually do just that and, of course, they learn that -- twist! -- their so-called "Nana" and "Pop Pop" are escaped mental institute patients who murdered their real grandparents. And then Nana tries to eat her granddaughter. It may be a bit predictable, but it's so insane that we award it 6 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
3. Signs (2002)
"There's a monster outside my room. Can I have a glass of water?" Bo (played by a young Abigail Breslin) sweetly and oh-so-casually asks in Signs. It's a moment that's easily overlooked in the grand scheme of the movie, considering there are also mysterious crop circles appearing and strange lights in the sky -- all of which turns out to be...aliens. There's actually no twist there, but -- twist! -- the aliens' weakness is water. So, all the glasses of water Bo left around the house come in quite handy in the final showdown. Why a supposedly superior species would invade a planet overwhelmingly covered in water, well, you'd have to ask Shyamalan. Still, it has that full-circle feeling that earns it 7 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
2. Unbreakable (2000)
The twist with this one could be that Unbreakable is actually Shyamalan's version of a superhero movie: After a security guard (Bruce Willis) is not only the sole survivor of a horrific train wreck, but walks away completely unharmed, he meets a crippled comic book shop owner (Samuel L. Jackson) who assists him in discovering how he can use his superpowers to fight crime. Then -- twist! -- Jackson reveals himself to be Willis' nemesis, having orchestrated those accidents and killed countless innocent bystanders to find a superhuman foe. It's a now-classic twist, where the villain turns out to be someone we knew all along, and the good guy becomes the villain we never knew existed. 9 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.
1. The Sixth Sense (1999)
There's no twist in this list: The Sixth Sense remains Shyamalan's best twist ending yet. Here, Willis plays a child psychologist who, at the beginning of the movie, is shot by a disgruntled former patient. He later begins working with a young boy (Haley Joel Osment) who tells him, "I see dead people." Twist! Willis is one of those dead people and has been dead all along, unwittingly killed in the first scene of the movie. Perhaps it seems cliché now, but it was genuinely shocking at the time and is one of those endings that make you immediately want to go back and re-watch the movie. A perfect rating of 10 out of 10 Creepy Munchausen by Proxy Mischa Bartons.