The Power of the Dog and 9 Other Movies With Shocking Endings
Warning: Contains spoilers for The power of the dog
by Jane Campion The power of the dog, now streaming exclusively on Netflix, received critical acclaim upon release, and with 12 Oscar nominations, that enthusiastic response hasn’t gone away. It’s a movie with layered characters, especially the four that make up most of the narrative.
The complexity of their dynamics is what really gives The power of the dog the second word of its own title. The film’s ending functions as both a surprise and a successful conclusion. Luckily for fans who want more, there are other movies with endings that strive to cause a shock.
The Power of the Dog (2021)
The power of the dog follows rancher brothers Phil and George Burbank as they settle in a new town after a cattle drive. Phil has a temper, which is raised to the max once George begins bringing Rose Gordon (Kirsten Dunst), the owner of the inn to town.
Much of the tension in the film is between Phil and Rose or Phil and his son, Peter. A quiet child, Peter is bullied mercilessly by Phil, which leads to Rose’s alcoholism. However, the two begin to bond near the end of the film, initially due to Phil’s meanness towards Rose. But Phil, ever cautious, dies of anthrax. In what was apparently a courteous gesture, Peter had given Phil some strips of cowhide for an open wound in his hand. However, the skin had not been treated. One of the film’s final shots shows Peter wearing gloves, discouraging the audience from any notion that Phil’s death was accidental.
The Mist (2007)
Mist was Frank Darabont’s well-reviewed adaptation of Stephen King’s short story. Set in Maine, the plot follows David Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son as a thick, mysterious mist engulfs the town. Unfortunately, there is more to the mist than reduced visibility.
The fact that there are monsters in the mist is far from a twist in a King adaptation. However, the end of Darabont’s film, which was not in the author’s work, is a punch. The five remaining survivors run out of gas, still in the thick fog, and a huge six-legged monster passes. They hope to be lost and decide to end their lives. Drayton uses their single gun to kill all four, including his own son. But then the fog clears and the US military arrives, revealing that Drayon and his friends – and his son – might have survived.
The Prestige (2006)
Christopher Nolan’s period crime thriller Prestige follows two magicians, Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale). Furiously competitive, Angier and Borden continually try to outdo each other in the desperate hope of finding the next big trick.
One went with science while the other went with its own genetics. The end of Prestige reveals that not only has Angier legitimately cloned himself and is alive—in duplicate—but he also has Borden’s daughter, Jess. Fortunately, Borden has a bit of a clone himself. His silent assistant, Fallon, is actually his twin brother Freddy in heavy prosthetics. Freddy shoots Lord Caldlow, Angier’s last surviving clone, and takes the girl to safety. Nolan’s film takes a lot of turns throughout its runtime. While the cloning twist is interesting and a bit surprising, Fallon’s identity comes as a big shock.
American Psycho (2000)
Christian Bale brought a powerful and legitimately scary performance to the table with American psycho. He plays Patrick Bateman, a young guy from Wall Street with a penchant for murder. The dark comedy film’s narrative also ends on an intriguing note.
Bateman commits several murders throughout the film, but the death of his peer Paul Allen (Jared Leto) is the most telling. Bateman ends up frantically calling his lawyer and confesses to killing Allen. However, when Bateman then sees the lawyer in person the next day, he claims to have just seen Allen. It was all in his imagination.
From its opening shot – one of the most memorable films of the 2000s – to its end, Christopher Nolan’s non-linear film Memento is constructed in a complex way. The plot follows Leonard (Guy Pearce), a former insurance investigator with anterograde amnesia, which prevents him from making new long-term memories. It’s all the more unfortunate that he’s trying to find out who murdered his wife.
The film’s third act reveals that Leonard himself is responsible for his wife’s death. Because his memory resets every fifteen minutes, his wife received an accidental and fatal overdose of insulin. There are plenty of other twists sprinkled throughout the third act, but Leonard’s repressed memory is heartbreaking.
Fight Club (1999)
by David Fincher fight club follows a complacent and repressed automotive recall coordinator. When he meets the unhinged Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), his normally organized life quickly turns to chaos, domestic terrorism and soap.
There are twist cues inside fight club which basically function as winks to the audience. As if to say you can’t trust everything they watch, because somehow the narrator can’t be trusted. This is because the narrator is unaware of his own identity, seeing his radical new best friend, Durden, as just a fabrication of his own mind.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
M.Night Shyamalan’s The sixth sense follows Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), a young boy who claims to see ghosts. Not even his own mother (Toni Collette) believes him, but Dr. Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) does. The two form a bond that impacts their lives in ways neither could have expected.
The sixth senseThe twist ending is arguably the most famous plot twist in any film. If not the most popular, it is certainly the most satirized and referenced. Sear does indeed see ghosts, and one of them is Dr. Crowe.
by David Fincher Se7fr is a dark thriller set in a town with no name. Detective Lieutenant William Somerset is about to retire. With just seven days left in his often terrifying career, two things happen. First, he has a new partner in detective David Mills (Brad Pitt), second is the emergence of a vicious serial killer with an obsession with the seven deadly sins.
“What’s in the box?!” is a line that’s probably known to more people than those who’ve actually seen Fincher’s movie. It’s a question shouted in desperation by Mills, and the answer is even more devastating than he or the audience could imagine.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
The plot of The usual suspects, narrated by con artist Verbal Kint, is a labyrinthine puzzle. A multi-million dollar heist has gone wrong and his partners are all dead. But Kint tells Agent Dave Kujan by flashback the name of the man responsible: Keyser Söze.
The twist ending in The usual suspects has not lost its power despite its notoriety. Writer Christopher McQuarrie’s elaborate screenplay moves things along so quickly that the viewer finds themselves immersed in the intricacies of Verbal Kint’s story, even knowing it’s all a lie. Keyser Söze is a front, and the seemingly shy Kint is actually a criminal mastermind.
Chinese district follows Jake Gittes, a Los Angeles private detective hired for the seemingly routine job of tracking an unfaithful husband. But the cheat husband is a chief engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power who died while Gettes’ employer ends up being an impostor.
Gittes is hired by a woman claiming to be Evelyn Mulwray. When the real Mulwray threatens to sue Gittes, he investigates the death of Hollis Mulwray. Turns out it was Evelyn’s father. Even more shocking is the revelation that Evelyn’s sister is also her daughter.
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