Nobody Saw These ’80s Movie Plot Twists Coming

Movie twists have been around since the inception of the film industry. A plot twist is a storytelling technique that keeps people coming back for more. The 1980s gave birth to a series of new film styles, including the slasher genre. Out of this decade also came some of the most memorable film twists to date, which set the bar for future filmmakers. See which ones have gone down as some of the greatest and what made them so special.

The Shining Made Everyone’s Skin Crawl

Jack in the picture
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name, The Shining tells the story of a family acting as caretakers of the remote Overlook Hotel in the dead of winter. Slowly but surely, father Jack Torrance slowly begins to descend into madness. Decades after its release, the film is still considered to be a horror classic that keeps the audience on their toes until the last frame.

After he freezes to death in the hotel’s maze, the final shot of the film shows a black-and-white photograph of a New Years party in 1921 with Jack as one of the guests. This left audiences speechless and has sparked discussion over its meaning ever since.

Back To The Future Made It Very Clear There Was Going To Be A Sequel

Flying car
Universal Studios
Universal Studios

After Marty McFly and Doc travel back in time to the 1950s and successfully reunite his parents, it seems that their adventures in the DeLorean have come to an end. Marty’s life has been improved and he’s had the experience of a lifetime.

Yet, just as the film ends, Doc encourages Marty and his girlfriend to climb into the time machine for yet another adventure. Neither the couple nor the audience know that where they’re going, they “don’t need roads” as they head off into the future.

Pet Sematary Left It To The Viewer’s Imagination

End scene of Pet Semetary
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

Pet Sematary is a horror adaptation of Stephen King’s novel which follows the tragedies that befall a family shortly after their move from Chicago to Maine. After their son Gage dies, his father Louis buries him in the pet cemetery, only for him to come back from the dead as a violent and bloodthirsty version of himself.

Louis is forced to terminate his son after Gage takes his mother Rachel’s life. However, much like their son, Rachel too comes back to life, mutilated, and the screen cuts to black as she picks up a knife to seemingly go after Louis.

The Empire Strikes Back

Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back
20h Century Fox
20h Century Fox

One of the most iconic twists in film history takes place in Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back. After Luke and Vader have a lightsaber battle throughout Lando’s Cloud City complex, Luke eventually loses his arm and is forced out onto a platform with nowhere to go but down.

It is during this scene when Vader delivers his timeless line, “No, Luke, I am your father.” Clearly, it had quite an impact on audiences since people haven’t stopped talking about it since.

Blade Runner (Final Cut) Has A Totally Different Ending

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

While Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner may not have received the attention that it deserved until after it left theaters, today, it’s considered to be one of science fiction’s most groundbreaking films.

In the theatrical cut, former Blade Runner Rick Deckard escapes 2019 Los Angeles with his love interest, replicant Rachael. However, in the final cut of the film, it’s strongly hinted that Deckard is a replicant himself as he and Rachael board an elevator together.

Christine Wasn’t Done Just Yet

Car getting crushed
Columbia Pictures
Columbia Pictures

Directed by John Carpenter, Christine is an adaptation of a Stephen King novel of the same name, about a murderous car with a mind of its own. After the car, named Christine, goes on a deadly rampage, its owner Dennis lures the vehicle into a garage where he can bulldoze it.

Of course, Christine has the ability to regenerate herself, so Dennis crushes her until it seems there’s no possible way she can put herself back together. But in the end, after Christine is compacted into a cube at the junkyard, the front grill slowly begins to unbend itself.

The Return Of The Living Dead Has Quite The Cliffhanger

People in a car
Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures

In The Return of the Living Dead, a supply warehouse stocked full of military drums of a “failed experiment” leads to a toxic gas leak that begins to resurrect the dead. Now, it’s a small town versus a horde of zombies hungry for the taste of human flesh.

As a solution to the problem, Colonel Glover drops a nuclear missile on the area, wiping out the surviving citizens and zombies. However, what he and the audience don’t anticipate is that the fallout of the acid rain causes the dead to come back to life.

Maximum Overdrive Was Pure Chaos

Goblin truck
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Stephen King’s first and last time directing a film was Maximum Overdrive, an adaptation of his own short story titled “Trucks.” The film features Emilio Estevez leading a group of survivors against inanimate objects that come to life and begin killing humans.

At the end of the film, the title card informs the audience that two days later a UFO was destroyed by a Soviet Union “weather satellite.” Six days later, the Earth passes out of the comet’s tail and the survivors are still alive.

Not Everyone Loved The Twist In April Fool’s Day

Teens in a doorway
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

With the rise of slasher films in the 1980s, April Fool’s Day gave audiences all the blood and gore that they could have asked for. The film follows a group of college friends that are terrorized by a killer stalking them during their weekend getaway on a secluded mansion island.

While it seems like a girl named “Muffy” is the killer, it turns out that she didn’t harm anybody. She had hired a Hollywood friend in special effects to make it seem like she had killed them. The reason was that the weekend had been a dress rehearsal as Muffy plans to turn the estate into a staged horror show.

An American Werewolf In London Had A Heartbreaking Ending

Woman crying
Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures

American tourist David is bitten by a werewolf while backpacking with his friend on a trip through England. After making his iconic transformation into a werewolf, David spends the majority of the film prowling the streets of London, slaying and eating its citizens.

When David’s lover, Alex, finds herself face-to-face with David in his werewolf form, the London police show up. Although Alex tries to calm David down, the police gun him down, and David returns to his human form dead in Alex’s arms.

Friday The 13th Took Everybody By Surprise

End of Friday the 13th
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures

When most people think about the Friday the 13th, they picture Jason Voorhees sporting a hockey mask and hacking his victims to death with a machete. But the first installment in the franchise is much different than this.

After the killer is revealed to be Jason’s vengeful mother, the final surviving girl Alice finally defeats Mrs. Voorhees and escapes onto the lake in a canoe. Then, as she’s falling asleep, she’s suddenly attacked by a decomposed Jason leaping from the water. This is a jump scare for the ages.

Evil Dead

Bruce Campbell in The Evil Dead
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead became an instant cult classic, with audiences falling in love with the low-budget supernatural horror film and its lead character, Ash Williams, played by Bruce Campbell. The film is a bloody 85 minutes with a heart-wrenching ending.

Throughout the film, Ash is fighting for his life against the Deadites, even forcing him to kill his girlfriend and sister. As the sun rises the next day, Ash makes a run for his car. Just as it seems he might make it out, he’s confronted by an invisible entity that drags him back into the woods. Tough break.

A Nightmare On Elm Street Had An Unsuspecting Jump Scare At The Last Second

Woman being dragged into the house
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street follows a group of teens that are haunted in their dreams by the murderous Freddy Krueger. And if he kills them in their dreams, they die in real life. Quite a horrifying concept.

Just when it seems that Krueger has been defeated and the teens can finally get a peaceful night’s rest, the unthinkable happens. As the teens drive off happily together, the protagonist’s mother is suddenly yanked inside the house by no other than Freddy Krueger. Nobody saw that one coming.

Dead & Buried Was Like The Twilight Zone

Sheriff walking down the street
AVCO Embassy Pictures
AVCO Embassy Pictures

Considered an underrated 80’s horror flick, Gary Sherman’s Dead & Buried tells the story of a small town that experiences a series of tourist murders. However, once they’re buried, they come back to life, and the town must fight for survival.

Luckily, the town has Sheriff Dan Gillis, who discovers that the local coroner, Dobbs, is reanimating the bodies. It turns out that the whole town is undead and under Dobbs’ control. An even more shocking revelation is that Gillis was a zombie the whole time!

Sleepaway Camp

Character with
United Film Distribution Company
United Film Distribution Company

Sleepaway Camp follows two teenage cousins, Angela and Rocky, who are sent off to an overnight camp where the campers begin to turn up dead in horrific ways.

However, things truly take a turn in the last 30 seconds of the film when it’s revealed that “Angela” is actually Peter, the boy from the opening sequence who supposedly died in a boating accident. The final scene is shocking, with Peter standing over a body and making strange animal noises with a twisted face.

The Alternate Ending To Little Shop Of Horrors Is Open-Ended

Giant plant
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.

Although the cult musical Little Shop of Horrors was once a Broadway musical, director Frank Oz brought it to the big screen. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a major success at first, until it eventually came out on video.

However, the DVD release provides a workprint of a far more controversial ending than the original. In the workprint, after defeating Audrey II, florist Seymour retires with Audrey and the two go on to live a seemingly perfect life. However, the camera pans to show a flower bed with a small Audrey II beginning to grow.

No Way Out Has A Mind-Bending Twist

Kevin Costner in No Way Out
Orion Pictures
Orion Pictures

One of Kevin Costner’s breakout films was the political thriller No Way Out. Costner plays a U.S. Naval officer in the middle of a death investigation that turns into a hunt for a Russian spy among his ranks.

After many deaths, Costner’s Lt. Tom Farrell ends his investigation and visits the grave of one of the victims that turns out to be his former lover. There, he is taken by two men who place him in an interrogation room. It is then revealed that Tom isn’t actually Tom, but Yuri, the Russian spy.

Angel Heart Had Hidden Clues

Robert De Niro in Angel Heart
TriStar Pictures
TriStar Pictures

In Angel Heart, Mickey Rourke plays a private detective in the underbelly of New Orleans. The detective searches for clues to solve a case, which all lead to one person, who turns out to be the Devil in human form, played by Robert De Niro.

The man’s name is “Louis Cyphre,” which is a homophone for the name Lucifer, fact that some viewers might have caught on to. During the end credits of the film, the detective can be seen standing in an iron elevator that is descending, alluding that he is being taken down to Hell. It looks like the Devil wins this time.

The Vanishing

Couple in a car
Argos Films
Argos Films

In The Vanishing, a Dutch couple by the name of Rex and Saskia take a road trip and have to make a pit stop at a gas station. Yet, when Rex returns from buying drinks, he comes to the horrifying realization that Saskia has vanished. For the next three years, Rex searches for his lost partner.

Eventually, he finds the kidnapper, a man named Raymond, and the two strike a deal. Raymond will tell Rex where Saskia is but slips something into his coffee. Rex wakes up buried alive while Raymond relaxes with his family at their country home.

Dressed To Kill Makes Everyone Wish They Were Dreaming

Photo of Nancy Allen
Filmways Pictures
Filmways Pictures

Directed by Brian De Palma, Dressed to Kill follows the story of a high-end call girl named Liz, who witnesses a death and manages to catch a glimpse of the person responsible. Unfortunately for Liz, the information that she has puts her at the top of the killer’s list. Soon, she finds herself involved in the orbit of a deceased psychiatrist named Dr. Bobby Elliott.

Liz eventually learns that Dr. Elliott is also “Bobbi,” the murdered woman’s cross-dressing killer. But that’s not all. The film ends with Liz waking up and realizing that it was all a nightmare.