Greatest Film Plot Twists
Film Spoilers and
Surprise Endings


Written by Tim Dirks

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings
Title Screen
Film Title/Year and Plot Twist-Spoiler-Surprise Ending Description

Boxing Helena (1993)

Helena's Surgical Dismemberment Was Only Nick's Obsessive Dream; Another Alternative - Almost the Entire Film was a Dream

Director Jennifer Chambers Lynch's (David Lynch's daughter) directorial debut film was an erotic and disturbing psychosexual work of incestuous obsession, using the armless Venus de Milo statue as a major symbol and metaphor.

Its main character was obsessive brilliant surgeon Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) in Atlanta. In a flashback, he was shown to have a promiscuous and uncaring blonde-haired mother named Marion (Meg Register) who simultaneously teased, ignored and tormented him as a young boy. As a result of his unhealthy attachment to her, he developed problems with premature ejaculation as an adult. At the death of his mother, he inherited her home and moved into it, where he lived with pretty hospital colleague Anne Garret (Betsy Clark).

However, he was still entranced by vivacious, unattainable, bitchy and libertine neighbor Helena (Sherilyn Fenn). In the past, Cavanaugh had experienced a brief one-night affair with her and they broke up, but he maintained lustful desires for her. He even peered into her window from a tree during a sensual evening tryst she was having with her sleazy macho boyfriend Ray O'Malley (Bill Paxton).

To attract Helena's attention and impress her, he invited her to his newly-acquired palatial house for a fancy party, during which she sensuously showered herself in slow-motion in his outdoor fountain while stripped down to her black lingerie - and then left the party early with his friend Russell (Bryan Smith). However, she left her purse in his house, called and requested that Nick bring it to her at the airport the next morning before she departed for Mexico. When he arrived late, she noticed her address book was missing from her purse, and demanded to be taken to his place to retrieve it, before returning back to the airport. At his home, she point-blank told him: "You don't get it, do you? What is it gonna take, Nick, for you to realize I don't want anything to do with you. Wasn't last night enough?" When he revealed her address book on a silver platter, she was exasperated: "I'm leaving."

Out on the street, as she turned to speak to Nick, she was the victim of a terrible hit-run vehicular accident. The screen turned black. And then Nick was reported absent from his hospital job for two weeks since his party (Anne had moved out), and he had cut off all contact with the outside world (he disconnected his telephone). He was hiding Helena in his house - he had performed surgery on Helena's crushed legs (off-screen) and made her a 'Venus de Milo' amputee (metaphorically and physically). He had removed her damaged legs. When chief surgeon Dr. Alan Harrison (Kurtwood Smith) visited the home, he discovered the victim-amputee in one of the bedrooms, and was shocked: "Why isn't she in the hospital?" Nick explained how he had whisked the horribly injured Helena into his own home to perform emergency surgery, and he promised to care for her 24/7 since he loved her, now that he was resigning from his job (and Dr. Harrison would be his replacement).

Nick had imprisoned Helena and was keeping her as his possession in his home. He did everything he could to cover up his atrocious entrapment and attend to his imprisoned possession. She was in shock and kept repeating reassurances to herself: "It's a dream, everything's okay." Although still captive and dependent, much of the time, she criticized Nick for his poor love-making techniques and performance. And then he also removed her arms. She would continue to scorn and emasculate him with denouncements of his manhood, although eventually taught him (with limbs in a dream sequence) how a woman should be loved:

A woman is something soft; something warm when you feel her. When she's naked, when she's touched, discovered. You see that things happen inside of her. She opens up. Sometimes a woman is sad. Sometimes she's angry, helpless, beautiful. Sometimes she's strong. She's still only that one woman. Talk to her - in deep whispers. Tell her what you're doing, what you see. Move slowly. Tell her you're inside of her. Tell her how it feels. Touch her. Use your tongue. Your breath. When she's about to come, she'll grab for you. But don't let her come. Make her wait. Tease her. Play with her. Make her feel. She may touch herself. She's so sensitive now. You can't be afraid. Take her. Take her.

However, it was finally revealed that the entire sequence of the imprisonment of his captive - a dismembered quadruple amputee female companion - was a dream that was imagined when Nick was sleeping at the hospital following Helena's accident. Just before the dream ended, Ray attempted to rescue Helena when he came upon them kissing in Nick's house. He was shocked by her amputations: "Helena? What happened? What the hell happened to her? You! You did this! You made her a freak!" Ray beat Nick up and bloodied him, although Helena yelled that Ray should stop and leave:

"Leave him alone. Don't hurt him, Ray. Don't you hurt him...Yes, I want you to stop. Stop. Stop it!...No, I'm fine. You don't belong here. Get out of here!...Put the gun down, Ray. This is none of your business...Ray put the gun away. We don't need you here. Go away!"

After Ray departed, she yelled at Nick: "Nick, I need you. I love you. Wake up, please wake up" - as he was about to be struck by an overturned, life-sized Venus de Milo statue.

The End of the Dream: Waking Up

Suddenly, a curtain was pulled open in the hospital's waiting room by Nick's colleague Dr. Alan Harrison: "Back with us, Nick?" Nick awoke and asked about Helena, and learned she was recovering in Room 308 from six hours of surgery. He entered her hospital room, sat by her bed, and kissed her right hand.

Replay of Accident - in Flashback

In flashback, the accident was replayed (seen from Helena's POV), and Nick was shown rushing Helena to the hospital in an ambulance with a medical emergency response team, and waiting for her recovery. He awoke again (!) from sleep in his own bed next to Anne, and rushed over to his Venus de Milo statue, as he heard his own echoing voice-over:

"I am still haunted by my love for her. Those dreams."

Nick (as young boy)
(Matt Berry)

Haunted by His Mother Marion Cavanaugh (Meg Register)

Nick's Live-In Girlfriend Anne Garret (Betsy Clark)

"Peeping Tom" Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands)

Helena (Sherilyn Fenn) with Ray O'Malley (Bill Paxton)

Nick with Helena at His Party

The Hit and Run Accident the Next Day

Without Legs

Helena As an 4-Limb Amputee

A Lesson in How a Woman Should Be Loved

Nick and Helena Kissing

Nick Awakening in Hospital's Waiting Room

Nick Visiting Helena in Hospital Room

A Boy and His Dog (1975)

Vic Murdered Quilla June, Then Fed Her to His Starving Dog Blood (Off-Screen)

In this vulgar black comedy set in a post-apocalyptic, nuclear wasteland of post WWIV 2024 (near Phoenix Arizona), people must live underground in an agrarian place and community called Topeka. A ruthless, dictatorial and impersonal Committee below ground was forced to search for semen from suitable studs to restock the depleted gene pool and impregnate dozens of virgins.

Above ground, horny and lustful scavenging loner Vic (Don Johnson) used his wise-cracking telepathic dog partner-companion Blood (voice of Tim McIntire) to find solo females for him to rape. When Vic was seduced by beautiful new lover Quilla June Holmes (Susanne Benton), she tried to lure him underground, so that he could be used for breeding purposes - and then be killed. However, Quilla June turned against the Committee and told Vic about her love for him.

Blood was both injured and starving - "He needs food and he needs medicine, We gotta get it fast, because we can't make it without him" said Vic, and he was faced with a difficult choice above ground between his starving dog Blood and Quilla June.

In the final scene after a fade to black, (and after killing Quilla June offscreen), Vic then cooked and fed her to his starving dog, to revive him. He rationalized the killing: "She said she loved me. Oh, hell, it wasn't my fault she picked me to get all wet-brained over."

The dark comedy's final controversial pun/one-liner was 'spoken' by Blood, as they walked off into the sunrise - chuckling to themselves:

Well, I'd say she certainly had marvelous judgment, Albert, if not particularly good taste.

Vic (Don Johnson) With Quilla (Susanne Benton)

Walking Off With Dog Blood Into the Sunrise

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (2008)

The Privileged Young Son of a Nazi Commandant at a Jewish Extermination Camp Lost His Life In a Gas Chamber with His Young Jewish Inmate Friend

Co-writer/director Mark Herman's intense childhood historical war drama told, through the eyes of a young boy, the development of a forbidden relationship during the Holocaust in WWII-era Germany:

  • Bruno (Asa Butterfield), the 8 year-old innocent son of Ralf and Elsa (David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga); Ralf - who was the Nazi commandant of a nearby concentration camp in occupied Poland, lived near the camp with his family
  • Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), a Jewish concentration camp prisoner

Without any other playmates, Bruno disobediently ventured over to the death camp, believing it was a farmhouse with farm workers tending a garden - surrounded by barbed wire. Although he was forbidden to venture afar and play in the garden next to the camp, he struck up a friendship with one of the young prisoners, believing that Shmuel was wearing striped pajamas (and not an inmate uniform). Both boys were unaware of their true circumstances. The two boys met regularly with the electrified barbed wire fence in between them. Ultimately Shmuel divulged why the fence was there to keep his from escaping: "I'm a Jew." Bruno began to sneak food to Shmuel, and played board games with him.

When Shmuel's father disappeared after participating in a march, Bruno decided to help Shmuel find his father. Bruno put on a prisoner's striped outfit and a cap to cover his unshaven head, and dug with a shovel under the barbed wire fence to join his friend Shmuel.

While Ralf and his wife Elsa went on a search for the missing Bruno, the two boys and other inmates were led to a changing room, and ordered to strip off their clothes for a "shower." In reality, they were about to be herded into a gas chamber. The two boys held hands as the lights went out. Nearby, Ralf realized that his boy was being gassed to death, and frantically went running to search for him. Agonized, he cried out his son's name "Bruno!" (the film's last line of dialogue), as Elsa fell to her knees and wailed at the fence after discovering Bruno's discarded clothes.

Stripped Inside Gas Chamber

Holding Hands

Sealed Gas Chamber Door

Ralf: "Bruno!"

Elsa Discovering Bruno's Discarded Clothes at Fence

Slow Tracking Shot Away From Gas Chamber Door

The final shot was a reverse tracking-shot view of the closed door of the gas chamber, backing up with views on either side of the uniforms removed by the prisoners.

Shmuel (Jack Scanlon)

Bruno (Asa Butterfield)

The Two Boys Inside the Camp

Led to the Gas Chamber With Other Inmates

Brazil (1985, UK)

Sam's Rescue From Torture in a Cylindrical Chamber (By Renegade Anarchist Harry Tuttle) Was a Self-Deluding Dream At the Point of His Death

Terry Gilliam's satirical science-fiction drama was part of a three-film trilogy:

  • Time Bandits (1981)
  • Brazil (1985)
  • The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989)

It told about an austere, dystopian futuristic society, in which one typical drone worker was harried by inefficiency, malfunctioning machines, corruption, automation, and bureaucratic mistakes:

  • Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce), a low-level technocrat worker stuck in a tedious, mind-numbing civil servant job

He often dreamed of a life in which he could leave the reality of his totalitarian-authoritarian society and fly away (as a winged superhero) with dream girl Jill Layton (Kim Greist) (in real-life, a truck driver), after rescuing her from a giant, Samurai warrior. He was targeted after attempting to manipulate and falsify her records so that she wouldn't be arrested as a suspected underground accomplice of a terrorist.

In the disturbing and shocking ending, the troublesome Sam was blamed for a string of terrorist bombings and charged with treason. He was strapped into a torturer's chair in the middle of a circular platform that was situated under a vast, dark dome. A white-coated technician wearing a pock-marked, smiling baby mask approached to administer torture. Sam recognized him as his friend Jack Lint (Michael Palin).

Suddenly, Sam was triumphantly rescued by a band of commandos led by terrorist Archibald "Harry" Tuttle (Robert DeNiro), a renegade (free lance) air-conditioning engineer, and Sam appeared to be reunited with his dream girl Jill in a happy ending, as they drove away from the city.

However, his ideal perfect world was revealed to be a self-deluding illusion or fantasy. The green vista of a pastoral backdrop where he had escaped was covered over, and he was back in the domed torture chamber.

The two torture agents, Lint and Deputy Minister of Information Mr. Helpmann (Peter Vaughan), commiserated about Sam's death, as the spritely tune Brazil played:

Helpmann: "He's got away from us, Jack."
Jack: "Afraid you're right, Mr. Helpmann, he's gone."

"He's gone."

The final view of Sam was as he was humming "Brazil" to himself - insanely lost in his inner world.

Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) as Winged Super Hero

Dream Girl Jill Layton (Kim Greist)

Sam Battling Giant Samurai Warrior


Dream-Rescue by Tuttle (Robert De Niro)

Dream of Escaping with Jill

Brick (2005)

Laura Tricked Tug into Killing Emily (Tug Thought That Emily Was Pregnant with His Child)

Writer/director Rian Johnson's modern-day film noir (with hard-boiled 40s lingo), was set in a Southern California (San Clemente) high school.

The film opened with brooding, jilted lonely teenager Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) finding the body of his ex-girlfriend Emily Kostach (Emilie de Ravin) near a sewer tunnel entrance. He hid Emily's body, and avoided contacting authorities, when he decided to investigate the murder himself, with the assistance of his nerdy schoolfriend the Brain (Matt O'Leary).

The film then flashbacked to two days earlier to provide backstory. Just before Emily's murder, Brendan had learned from a phone call from her that she was very scared and in trouble. She gave him some key words that made no sense at first, among them: "pin," "brick," and "tug." Brendan soon discovered that Emily had become a drug-user, and involved in some way with a drug-dealer nicknamed "The Pin" - and "brick" referred to ten bricks of powdery heroin (and there was one missing brick).

There were many suspects in this twisting tale of drug dealing and violence, including:

  • Dode (Noah Seagan), Emily's new boyfriend, a stoned, greasy hood
  • The Pin (Lukas Haas), the menacing 26 year-old drug dealer who had a club-foot, walked with a limp, and lived with his mother
  • Tugger (or Tug) (Noah Fleiss), the Pin's muscular, hot-headed enforcer with a white-knit cap
  • Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner), a sultry femme fatale

Brendan learned that Emily was pregnant when she was shot and killed. He was threatened by Dode, Emily's new boyfriend, who saw Brendan suspiciously hide Emily's body. Dode mistakenly believed that a jealous Brendan had killed his own ex: "You couldn't stand it, your little Em. She was gonna keep it, it was mine, and you couldn't stand that...I loved her, and I would've loved that kid. I'm gonna bury you!"

During a tense confrontation at the sewer tunnel, Brendan was accused of Emily's murder by Dode, but Brendan denied the false allegation. Dode hinted to everyone that someone close to Emily had killed her - and her pregnancy was the motive - he pinned the murder on Brendan:

"She had a kid in her and he couldn't stand it."

Instead of Tug attacking Brendan, he went beserk, assaulted Dode, and shot and killed him at point-blank range. [It was Tug's belief that Emily was pregnant with his child.]

Later, Laura described the "slaughterhouse" at a "party" at The Pin's house that she had set up, eliminating all the major players and revealing Tug as Emily's killer:

"The papers say six dead, three around the house, girl in the back of Tug's car [Emily's body], and The Pin and Tug. Tug tried to shoot his way out when the police got there. They tied him to Dode, too. Same gun. And the girl."

Then Brendan disclosed that he knew about Laura's double-dealing when he told her: "It's not finished." Although Tug took the fall for Emily's death, Brendan knew who "put her in front of the gun" - "That was you, angel." He explained how she had stolen one of the ten bricks of drug powder from The Pin, doctored up part of it (with a poisonous substitute) and then set up Emily to take the blame. Laura had also urged Emily to tell Tug that she was pregnant with Tug's child, supposedly to "soften him up," but it had the opposite effect.

Brendan accused Laura of the murder: "She took the hit for you and you let her take it," and then told her he had tipped off the Assistant VP Gary Trueman (Richard Roundtree) about her drug involvement with The Pin. A cut-away showed Laura's locker being searched by the authorities, proving that she had in fact stolen the last brick.

To retaliate, mean-spirited Laura then told Brendan that Emily was three months pregnant, already showing, and didn't love the father (and was seeking an abortion), implying that Brendan was the father: "Do you know whose kid that makes it?"

The film's last line was: "All right, you don't have to tell me" - the Brain's assertion to Brendan that he didn't want to know the 'dirty word' Laura had just whispered in Brendan's ear ["Mother----"].

Murder of Emily at Tunnel Entrance

Emily - Missing

Brendan Frye (Joseph Gordon-Levitt)

Tug (Noah Fleiss)

Dode (Noah Seagan)

The Pin (Lukas Haas)

Laura Dannon (Nora Zehetner)

Murder of Dode by Tug

Brendan with Conniving Laura

Laura's Locker With Brick of Heroin

The Broken (2008, UK)

The Film's Premise: The Breaking of a Mirror Allowed a Person's Mirror Image to Enter a Gateway Into the World, Kill, and Then Replace the Person With a 'Mirror Image' Doppelganger; The Real Gina McVey Met Up With Her Doppelganger in Her Pembridge House Apartment, Where She Was Murdered and Replaced by Her Clone; A Traumatic Car Accident Caused the Double To Have Fragmented Memories and Believe She Was the Real Gina For Much of the Film

Writer/director Sean Ellis' metaphysical (or existential) horror-thriller has been compared to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970, UK), and Mirrors (2008). It hinted that the heroine was replaced with apparently fearful alternate reality versions of herself (i.e., physical identify theft). The tagline appropriately stated:

"Face your fear."

The film was accused of having an overly-protracted and lengthy story until the final 10-15 minutes. Recurring symbols included mirrors (and mirror images of originals) and a mystery doppelganger woman.

It opened with the Edgar Allan Poe quote, that gave away much of the plot:

"You have conquered, and I yield. Yet henceforward art thou also dead - dead to the world, to heaven, and to hope! In me didst thou exist - and in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast murdered thyself."

It opened in London at the work place of successful 28 year-old radiologist Gina McVey (Lena Headey). She had just examined X-rays of a subject whose heart was located on the right side of her body – a mirror image of sorts, not unique but rare ("One in a thousand"). She had planned a surprise celebration for her father, retiring US Embassy ambassador John McVey (Richard Jenkins), and guests included:

  • Stefan Moreau (Melvil Poupaud), Gina's French boyfriend/architect
  • Daniel McVey (Asier Newman), Gina's brother
  • Kate Coleman (Michelle Duncan), Daniel's girlfriend

During a toast, a large mirror in the dining room inexplicably shattered ("seven years bad luck?").

The next day at work, a colleague mentioned to Gina that he had already seen her leaving work (an unidentified woman with stilettos), and out on the street while in a phone booth, Gina saw herself driving by in a red Jeep Cherokee vehicle resembling her own vehicle. She followed the female into the Pembridge House apartment building's underground garage. In her flat in the hallway, she saw a picture of the look-alike woman with her father. [Early Spoiler: She was in her own apartment.]

Afterwards, as she fled in a disturbed state, she crashed head-on into a cab (seen multiple times in slo-motion), and afterwards in a hospital, she experienced substantial memory loss about the crash ("psychological scars"). When asked about the crash by counselor Dr. Robert Zachman (Ulrich Thomsen), she stated that she could only remember "fragments."

After moving in with her boyfriend rather than returning home (a very BIG clue), she realized that Stephan was acting strangely:

"I don't think Stefan is my boyfriend...He looks like him, but he's not him."

She saw that there was a strange dripping leak from the ceiling of his bathroom. She was also frequently experiencing nightmarish, quick-flash montages of the distorted and horrific fragments of her memories. One occurred while she stood in front of a mirror - her reflected mirror image raised her hand to strike her, out of her view.

The counselor suggested she was suffering from a rare disorder called Capgras Syndrome ("in which a person holds a belief that an acquaintance...has been replaced by an identical-looking imposter"). In most cases, he explained, the syndrome was directly caused by a "brain lesion."

It was hinted - as a red herring - that both Stefan and John had been taken over by look-alikes. And then, during a bloody Psycho-like murder scene (occurring after the sound of a mirror breaking), Dan's girlfriend Kate was murdered while showering by her own doppelganger, who thrust her entire fist into her mouth to gag her to death. It was presumed that the broken mirror during the opening scene's party had unleashed duplicate clones who inhabited the bodies of some of the McVey family members and friends. Gina found the dead original of her boyfriend Stefan in the attic of his apartment. (Dan found mirror fragments on his floor, and stood face-to-face with a cloned Kate.)

Gina began to fear that her own doppelganger was after her - and then the predictable plot twist was revealed when she retraced her steps back at her Pembridge House apartment. There, she found evidence of a struggle: broken fragments of mirrors. She relived the confrontation with her doppelganger (a scene that was not initially shown, and that withheld crucial information). She saw the suffocated and battered corpse of the original Gina lying on the bathroom floor. The surviving Gina was the 'mirror double' who had killed the real Gina when they first met in her own apartment, only to lose her memories after the traumatic car accident.

An explanatory montage reconstructed and reviewed what had happened to her - signifying that her shattered memory was now restored. Then, at work in the lab room, she viewed her own X-ray - confirming with a technician that there was another case of "dextrocardia with situs inversus." Without any reaction, she took the X-ray and deposited it in the hallway's trashcan. There, she stood across from her brother Dan, who fled in fear down the hospital hallway when he realized she was a cloned alien with a smirking, bloodshot stare. The last scene was of Gina in harsh sunlight driving with an emotionless blank look.

Gina McVey
(Lena Headey)

Gina Seeing Herself Drive By

Gina's Scary Reflected Mirror Image

Stefan (Melvil Poupaud)

Murder of Dan's Girlfriend Kate (Michelle Duncan) in Shower

The Suffocated Corpse of the Original Gina

Gina's Own X-Ray With the Rare Condition

The Final Images: The Cloned Alien Gina, With a Frightening, Blank, Unemotional Stare

The Brown Bunny (2003)

Daisy Had Died Long Before - The Fellatio Scene With Daisy Was Only in Bud's Imagination

This independent arthouse film about a cross-country road trip from narcissistic and vain producer/director/actor/writer Vincent Gallo was critically derided and scorned when originally shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

It told about the journey of motorcyclist racer Bud Clay (Vincent Gallo) - a tortured, empty-hearted loner, who often idealized and thought about his former girlfriend Daisy Lemon (Chloe Sevigny, Gallo's real-life ex-girlfriend).

In the film's most notorious, explicit and controversial scene of unsimulated fellatio at the finale, Bud and Daisy were in a starkly-white hotel room - both lonely and needy individuals who were attempting to connect and speak to each other. After kissing and fondling of her naked breasts, as he stood before her at the side of the bed, he undid his belt buckle, released his pant's fly, and she took his male member into her mouth to begin the infamous 'blow-job' scene - as he held himself. As she pleasured him in her mouth, they still engaged in a conversation about their love for each other.

When he was finished and satisfied, he stuffed himself back into his underwear and zipped up his fly. He laid on the bed, in a blurry shot and told her: "Thank you so much." Then, they talked about the last encounter of their tragic relationship, when Bud reacted jealously to Daisy's past indiscretion at a party, where she had smoked dope and acted provocatively with some other guys. She apologized ("I never meant to hurt you, Bud"). He moaned about her drug-addicted habit, especially when she was pregnant. She admitted that she was assaulted and raped by the guys after she passed out from getting high (which Bud witnessed passively through the partially-open door of the bedroom). Bud confessed that he didn't help her, but walked away.

The film's plot twist was revealed when their discussion came to a close. When he returned to the scene of the rape, an ambulance had already arrived at the scene, and he sadly kissed her corpse on a stretcher. The film's ending gave greater meaning to everything that came before, including the sex scene. It was revealed that Daisy had in fact died as a result of the incident (choking to death on her own vomit) - "I was dead" - and was later taken away in the ambulance.

It was revealed that the scene in the hotel room was only a fantasy masturbatory sequence that Bud experienced as he thought about Daisy, his lost love and the only woman he ever loved.

The controversy-provoking film ended with a shocking, melodramatic plot twist to explain Bud's complex personality and downer mood throughout the film. Bud's intense guilt about abandoning her and his continuing crisis of masculine insecurity were informed by the appearance of the deceased Daisy (in his mind only!) - as Bud had been masturbating alone to his memory of her. The film ended with him curled up in a fetal position on the hotel bed.

Fantasy Sex - Fellatio with Daisy

Daisy's Rape and Death

Burn After Reading (2008)

CIA Officers Were Baffled By the Tangled Series of Murders

The Coen Brothers' dark comedic spy-thriller (with the tagline: "Intelligence is Relative") followed the tangled, inexplicable repercussions of the loss of a CIA analyst job by a Balkan expert named Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich).

He was reportedly fired for a "drinking problem," after which he decided to write his memoirs. His cuckolding, cool bitch, pediatrician-wife Katie Cox (Tilda Swinton) determined the time was right to divorce him. At the same time, Katie was having an affair with a jogging buff and a sex-addicted philanderer, Treasury agent Harry Pfarrer (George Clooney). She was expecting him to leave his wife Sandy (Elizabeth Marvel), a children's book author.

With her lawyer's advice, Katie copied all of her husband Osbourne's financial records from his computer onto a CD and began to empty his accounts. When the lawyer's secretary accidentally left the disk on the floor of the locker room at a health club called Hardbodies, two idiotic employees cooked up a preposterous scheme to make some quick money:

  • Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt), a preening narcissist and personal trainer
  • Linda Litzke (Frances McDormand), a man-hungry assistant gym manager, and online dater (who was shacking up with Harry)

They decided that they could blackmail Osbourne and receive $50,000 extortion money for the return of the disk, so that Linda could pay for four elective cosmetic surgeries (to improve her dating life) not covered by her club's HMO.

In the end, betrayal, greed, and violent murders were the results of their misguided scheme. Harry was being followed throughout the entire film by a lawyer's agent hired by his wife Sandy - she was secretly planning to divorce Harry and was also having an affair.

While searching through Cox's house, Chad was shot in the forehead by a startled Harry who found him in a closet - his unidentified body was dumped in the Chesapeake Bay (and later fished out and burned by the CIA).

The only trustworthy individual in the entire film, Hardbodies' manager and ex-Greek Orthodox priest Ted Treffon (Richard Jenkins), Linda's boss, agreed to help her find missing employee Chad.

  • Ted broke into Osbourne's home, and was caught at Osbourne's computer by an enraged and drunken Cox, holding a gun on him and asking: "You are my wife's lover?" When Ted was identified as working at the gym and helping Linda ("that moronic woman"), Ted was first shot in the shoulder, and then was axed to death on the street as he fled from Cox to the outdoors.
  • A CIA agent shot Cox, who was left in a coma with no brain function
  • When paranoid Treasury agent Harry realized that he had killed Chad, believing him to be a spy, he tried to board a plane to Venezuela (a country that didn't allow extradition) but was arrested and held in a detention room at Washington-Dulles Airport.

In the epilogue set in a CIA office, two confused bureaucrats, CIA Superior (J.K. Simmons) and CIA Officer Palmer (David Rasche), both baffled by the contorted backstabbings (called a "clusterf--k"), attempted to "make sense" of the loose ends. They made some hasty decisions:

  • Harry was allowed to leave the country
  • Linda's cosmetic surgeries would be paid for, to keep her quiet

Then, the exasperated CIA Superior intoned:

Jesus f--king Christ. What do we learn, Palmer?...I don't f--kin' know, either. I guess we learned not to do it again...I'm f--ked if I know what we did...Jesus f--king Christ!

Chad Feldheimer (Brad Pitt)

Chad Shot in Forehead by Startled Harry (George Clooney) - in Cox's Closet

Harry with Linda (Frances McDormand)

Cox Confronting Ted Inside His House With a Gun, And Assaulting Him Outdoors

Two Baffled CIA Bureaucrats

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Multiple Trips Back Failed to Make Things Right - Evan Decided to Kill Himself During His Own Birth; A Montage Ended the Film Showing That With Evan Gone, His Friends All Were Living Productive and Happy Lives

The science-fiction psychological thriller was the debut film of writers/directors Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber. It used Chaos Theory as the premise of its ludicrous plot (similar to a negative reversal of It's A Wonderful Life (1946)), stated in the film's opening:

"It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly's wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world."

It began with a short scene in which a desperate man broke into an office and feverishly scrawled a note on a pad of paper:

"If anyone finds this, it means that my plan didn't work and I'm already dead. But if I could somehow go back to the beginning of all of this, I might be able to save her."

The film's tagline reinforced his plan to go back in time and make things right, with unpredictable consequences:

"Change one thing, Change everything."

The film then flashbacked to 13 years earlier, where young 7 year old Evan Treborn (Logan Lerman) [his name was a play on the theme: "Event Reborn"] was feared to be disturbed, due to a family history of mental illness and insanity beginning with his grandfather. His institutionalized father Jason (Callum Keith Rennie) became violent during Evan's first visit (Evan was nearly strangled to death) and a subduing blow to his head by guards killed him.

Living in upstate New York, Evan's single parent mother Andrea (Melora Walters) was concerned that 13 year-old Evan (John Patrick Amedori) was following the same pattern, after drawing a violent and bloody picture at school (a foreshadowing of future events), and found carrying a butcher knife. But Evan had no recollection of drawing the photo. He was encouraged to write down his thoughts in journal/composition books - and he often revisited her journal entries to learn more about his childhood.

As the film progressed to six years later, there were three scenarios that would be repeated, with varying details:

  1. a video-taping that occurred in the Miller basement by pedophile porn-making parent George Miller (Eric Stoltz)
  2. an incident in a junkyard that involved Evan's young friends and his pet dog
  3. a prank that involved blowing up a suburban neighbor's mailbox with a blockbuster stick of dynamite

All three incidents involved Evan (Ashton Kutcher as adult) with his three 7 year-old and 13 year-old childhood friends:

  • Kayleigh Miller (Sarah Widdows and Irene Gorovaia), Evan's child-abused young sweetheart
  • Tommy (Cameron Bright and Jesse James), Kayleigh's maliciously-sadistic brother
  • Lenny Kagan (Jake Kaese and Kevin G. Schmidt) a sad chubby friend

In periods of stress (occurring during all of these scenarios and at other times), Evan would blackout, experience nosebleeds, but then found himself unable to fully recall what happened.

It wasn't until seven years later in 2002, when Evan was a 20 year-old state college student, during a date with a coed in his room, that he realized that he could travel back to the past just by re-reading his journals. The page would vibrate and flutter and the physical world would shake, as he passed out, and then was transported back to the time of a traumatic blackout from his childhood. [Evan's time-travel episodes were the reason for his childhood blackouts - the blackouts occurred when the adult-Evan was occupying his younger consciousness.]

As he read more and more of his journal entries, he realized that he had the ability to fine-tune, change or 're-do' various details of each dream, by inhabiting his younger self. When Evan visited a psychic palm-reader with his mother, he was prophetically told and warned: "You have no lifeline. You don't belong here....He has no soul. You were never meant to be." And his goth, overweight roommate Thumper (Ethan Suplee) wisely advised Evan:

"I'd think twice about what you're doing. You could wake up a lot more f--ked up than you are now."

The remainder of the film demonstrated the repercussions of his intrusive changes that often brought unexpected side-effects or results. Evan became a number of different alternate individuals with varying futures, for example:

  • a prison inmate threatened by prison rape
  • a dynamite victim with two stumps for arms
  • an insane institutionalized patient (in the film's opening scene)

Evan was eventually diagnosed as diseased with irreparable brain damage, and the creation of "alternate universes with colleges and prisons and paraplegics."

In Kayleigh's (Amy Smart) case, as a struggling and bitter waitress at the local Hilltop Cafe after being abused by her father, she ended up suicidally dead, but in other scenarios with Evan:

  • she became frat boy Evan's loving girlfriend at school
  • she was a bitter, scar-faced, drugged-up prostitute
  • she was Lenny's (Elden Henson) girlfriend in college
  • she was the young victim of a dynamite explosion in her basement in 1995

Tommy (William Lee Scott), was an auto-body worker, but other scenarios also occurred:

  • he was a recently-released juvenile delinquent that Evan murdered in 2002
  • he was a murder victim when Lenny knifed him with a shard in the junkyard in 1995
  • he was a model, ultra-spiritual "Jesus freak" college student

In several instances, there were unforseen consequences, such as when Evan's mother became a terminal lung cancer patient due to chain-smoking after Evan blew off his arms, and Lenny was institutionalized after murdering Tommy (he angrily told Evan: "You should be where I am").

Evan decided to end the vicious cycle of going back in time and failing to fix the past, or causing more serious problems --

Director's Cut: Returning to the film's opening, Evan frantically returned one more time to his past (this time by watching a home movie of his mother's labor during his hospital birth, since his journals no longer existed), to the time when he was a fetus. [His mother had earlier told him that he was a "miracle baby," born after two stillbirths.] As a fetus of her third child, he choked himself with his own umbilical cord, to prevent his own birth. He heard his mother crying out as she miscarried: "Something's wrong. He's killing me. Make it stop! What's happening?...No, not again."

In his mother's voice-over, she gave an explanation that hinted she was speaking to her new and future child - a girl - and had broken the family's curse: "Before you were born, I was pregnant three times, but they were all stillbirths. I kinda thought of you as my miracle baby ever since."

As a result of his last sojourn, Evan's friends and family were happier without him, illustrated in a montage. Young Kayleigh and Tommy went to live with their mother, with more positive consequences. Evan's mother remarried and had a girl - her fourth child (her first living child). Lenny was a popular 13 year-old at his birthday party. Tommy delivered a high school graduation speech to his Class of 2000, and Kayleigh was happily married.

Theatrical Version: Evan went back to the first time he met Kayleigh as a child at a birthday party, deliberately offended her with a threat, and thereby ensured she would happily grow up with her mother, and not know him when she passed him on a Manhattan street eight years later.

Evan (Ashton Kutcher) Scrawling Note on Pad of Paper

13 Year-Old Evan's Violent Drawing

Waking Up From Time Travel - with Nosebleeds and No Recollection

Time Travel Notebooks

Evan - A Dynamite Victim With Two Stumped Arms

As Fetus, Evan Prevented His Own Birth

Miscarriage of Evan as Third Child

Ending Montage Images:

Young Kayleigh and Tommy Living With Mother

Evan's Mother Remarried, Breaking the Cursed Cycle - With A Fourth Child, A Girl, Was Born to Evan's Mother

Lenny's 13th Birthday Party - Now Very Popular

Tommy Delivering HS Graduation Speech to Class of 2000

Kayleigh's Happy Marriage

Greatest Movie Plot Twists, Spoilers and Surprise Endings

(alphabetical by film title)
Intro | A1 | A2 | B1 | B2 | B3 | B4 | B5 | C1 | C2 | C3 | D1 | D2 | D3 | E1 | E2 | F1 | F2 | G | H1 | H2 | H3 | I | J-K | L1 | L2
M1 | M2 | M3 | M4 | M5 | N | O | P1 | P2 | Q-R1 | R2 | S1 | S2 | S3 | S4 | S5 | S6 | T1 | T2 | T3 | U-V | W1 | W2 | W3 | X-Z

Previous Page Next Page