Ever since the beginning of movies with works like the 1902 Lumière Brothers’ A Trip to the Moon, science fiction is a genre that has been the most ambitious and inventive throughout movie history.
While other genres tend to be rigid and conventional, sci-fi movies are constantly pushing the boundaries of plot structures and visual storytelling.
Some of the most memorable movies ever made are sci-fi films. One reason for this is that sci-fi movies are never afraid to throw in wild plot twists over the course of their storylines. Fresh, original plot twists have the capability to completely transform an otherwise plain, run-of-the-mill sci-fi into something special.
Sometimes, these risky twists work out in the best way possible, making their movies instant classics to be remembered for years.
However, other times, taking the chance with plot twists comes back to bite filmmakers. With every unexpected and shocking plot turn, there’s another sci-fi movie with a twist that is so absurd, it ruins the whole movie and even its entire reputation.
In fact, many sci-fi movies are remembered not because of their daring originality, but because of how ridiculous their plot twists are.
This list will round up the best plot twists that saved their sci-fi movies and made them among the most memorable films of the genre. However, we’ll also take a look at the complete opposite, running down the worst of the worst in sci-fi plot twists that were so bad, they destroyed their own movies.
Here are 11 Plot Twists That Hurt Sci-Fi Movies (And 14 That Saved Them).
The 2017 movie Life follows a pretty standard sci-fi plotline where a Martian lifeform known as Calvin grows out of control on a space station and begins to eat the astronauts who must rush to find a solution before reaching Earth.
The movie attempts to throw a twist at its audience when the film first seems to end with the last astronaut making it home safely.
However, as it turns out, the alien tricked the last surviving astronauts (and viewers) and managed to be the sole escape capsule to make it to Earth.
This twist tries to be shocking, but it only comes across as a cheap, last minute trick that is more irritating than mind-blowing.
One of the most iconic plot twists in the sci-fi genre comes with the 1968 movie Planet of the Apes.
After his space mission goes awry, astronaut George Taylor discovers that he has crash landed thousands of years in the future on a mysterious planet ruled by a race of speaking apes who enslave humans.
Taylor eventually fights his way to a successful escape with his companion Nova.
The two come across a shocking scene of the destroyed Statue of Liberty, unveiling the shocking truth. Taylor didn’t land on a strange planet, by merely a future version of Earth.
The plot twist blew audiences’ minds back in the ’60s and continues to do so today.
Many would agree that Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a sci-fi movie unlike any other.
When aliens land spaceships on Earth, the US government hires linguistic expert Louise Banks to decipher the aliens’ language and try to communicate with them.
Throughout the movie, Louise is haunted by flashbacks of her daughter who passed away years before.
However, the alien life forms provide the ultimate twist when they reveal that Louise’s flashbacks are actually images of the future.
She was able to them see thanks to her work with the aliens, who taught her that time wasn’t linear.
The explosive twist packed a heavy emotional punch and made Arrival one of the best movies of 2016.
The first half of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is a unique, atmospheric movie that, on its own, is a very moving sci-fi work.
Unfortunately, the second half of the movie ruins everything that makes Sunshine special.
The movie follows a group of astronauts going on a dangerous mission to the sun. The mission goes wrong fast when Captain Pinbacker turns into a monstrous creature that hunts down his crew.
Instead of taking the movie in an interesting direction, the second half of Sunshine goes straight to conventional horror and hurts the film in a major way.
Alex Garland only has two feature films under his belt, but he’s one of Hollywood’s strongest sci-fi filmmakers.
His feature debut, Ex Machina, was the movie that put him on the map.
The movie follows a young programmer named Caleb who is invited by inventor Nathan to conduct tests on a robot named Ava.
Over the course of the movie, the question looms whether Caleb’s relationship with Ava is genuine or if she’s tricking him into doing her bidding.
The movie ends when Ava locks Caleb in Nathan’s house to perish and escapes into the world with nobody to stop her.
It’s a haunting twist that stays with viewers for a long time after.
Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 was one of the most talked-about movies of 2009.
The film tells the story of “Prawns” – aliens that landed and now live on Earth – and the government’s efforts to deal with them.
One government worker, Wikus, comes into contact with a mysterious liquid that seems to be turning him into a Prawn.
District 9 becomes a race against time as Wikus must find a cure.
The movie easily could have ended in a safe and conventional way, but District 9 refuses its viewers a happy ending by having Wikus turn completely into a prawn, never to be cured.
It’s a bitter and memorable end that makes the movie memorable.
I Am Legend’s concept is a terrifying one. Dr. Robert Neville, the last person on Earth, must work to find a cure to the cancer vaccine that he invented and transformed the population into cannibalistic monsters.
However, it quickly goes from horrifying to Hollywood when Neville comes across a woman, Anna, and her child.
The second twist is even worse. During the climactic face-off against the creatures, Neville realizes that his blood contains the cure and gives Anna a vial to take to a safe camp while he stays behind and sacrifices himself.
The movie could have been something special and unique, but instead its twist took it down a boring and tired path.
When Christopher Nolan took his filmmaking skills to the sci-fi genre, it resulted in the epic Interstellar, one of his best movies.
Interstellar follows a group of astronauts led by Matthew McConaughey’s Cooper as they try to save the Earth. One of the subplots involves Cooper’s daughter being contacted by some mysterious force telling Cooper to stay home.
A big twist is thrown the audience’s way when it is revealed that it is Cooper himself, trapped in a wormhole during his mission, who is reaching into the past and contacting his daughter from another dimension.
It was an unexpected and tragic twist that heightened the emotional impact of the entire movie.
Moon is an emotionally moving and mind-bending viewing experience that few forget.
The movie follows astronaut Sam returning to Earth from a mission in space, eager to be reunited with his family.
Moon becomes disturbing when Sam finds a clone of himself on ship, turning his reality upside down.
However, the ultimate plot twist comes when it is revealed over the course of the movie that both Sams are clones of the original Sam, who passed away years before and is being cloned by the space company to prevent other “real” human lives from being lost.
The twist transforms Moon into a movie that completely challenges genre conventions in the best way possible.
When it was announced that Christian Bale would be starring as John Connor in a new Terminator movie, fans of the franchise grew extremely excited.
However, they were seriously let down by Terminator Salvation.
Instead of just following John Connor, the movie spends more time on a bizarre subplot following the cyborg Marcus, who joins Connor’s resistance but has secrets of his own.
The worst part of Terminator Salvation comes with its big twist.
When John Connor becomes seriously injured, Marcus decides to offer his heart as a transplant and saves Connor’s life.
It’s a ridiculous twist that only highlights the worst of the film’s flaws.
In a movie about two dueling magicians in 19th century England, audiences might not be expecting a big sci-fi twist.
However, that’s exactly what Christopher Nolan throws at his viewers with The Prestige.
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale play the two magicians, Angier and Borden.
As the movie ends, it seems as though Angier has won, trapping Borden to perish in prison.
However, an enormous twist comes when it’s revealed that Borden is actually two men: a set of twins who worked together. Angier is destroyed, and one of the Borden twins walk away victorious.
It’s a fresh and exciting twist that demands you rewatch The Prestige all over again.
Terry Gillam is the king of world-building, and he outdoes himself with the outlandish time travel movie, 12 Monkeys.
Bruce Willis plays James Cole, a prisoner during the 2030s who is sent back in time to collect information on a plague that will wipe out most of the world’s population.
Throughout the movie, Cole has bizarre images of some mysterious shooting flash through his head.
The wild conclusion of 12 Monkeys reveals the true nature of Cole’s visions: he was actually seeing his very own end the entire time.
The twist turns the movie into a true puzzle that will keep viewers thinking about 12 Monkeys long after the film is finished.
M. Night Shyamalan took on aliens with his 2002 movie Signs.
Aliens visit Earth and begin leaving crop signs in farmer Graham Hess’ corn. The climax of the movie comes when the aliens finally make their way inside his house.
One of Graham’s sons ends up attacking the alien with a bat, sending it crashing into a glass of water that burns the alien’s skin.
Instead of ending with its characters coming up with a cool and innovative solution, Signs ends by having water as the key to defeating the aliens.
While most of Signs is an enjoyable sci-fi trip, the final water-based twist takes the wind completely out of its sails.
In 1980, few sci-fi fans thought that George Lucas’ A New Hope could be surpassed, but The Empire Strikes Back did the trick with a more grounded, darker tone than the first movie.
However, its darkest point came with one of the biggest plot reveals of all time during Luke and Darth Vader’s face off towards the end of the film.
Vader reveals that he is Luke’s father, a tragic and poignant surprise that transformed the nature of the entire series.
The twist in Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back was so huge that it’s since become a cultural landmark that is still referenced to this day.
The Matrix is a movie that brought a refreshing take to the sci-fi genre in 1999.
Unlike many other films, The Matrix’s biggest twist comes during the movie’s first half as opposed to the second.
It’s revealed to main character Neo that what he knows as reality is just a simulation used to trick him into slavery by robots in the future.
The sequence where Morpheus reveals this twist to Neo remains dark and breath-taking to this day, proving The Matrix as one of the most enduring sci-fi hits to come out of the 20th century that transformed the nature of the genre.
Duncan Jones is renowned for his unique sci-fi concepts. However, his movie Source Code didn’t really measure up.
The film follows Colter Stevens as he works to solve a crime using “source code” technology that allows him to relive a moment in time in alternate timelines.
While the concept is interesting at first, the movie starts to become lackluster when it’s revealed that Colter is in a coma and kept alive just for the mission.
Another twist comes when Colter permanently inhabits the life he takes on in the source code, which makes the movie contrived and tired.
Source Code tries to be daring and complex, but its multiple twists only weaken the film.
The master of twists M. Night Shyamalan changed the nature of what superhero movies can be when he made Unbreakable in 2002.
Unbreakable is about Bruce Willis’ David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price as they work together to strengthen Dunn’s super strength capabilities and build him up as a modern day hero.
However, a chilling twist comes at the movie’s end when Price reveals himself as Mr. Glass, a self-made villain to match up with Dunn’s role as a superhero. It destroys the friendship between the two men and completely transforms the entire movie.
It’s an expert and emotional twist that makes an already great sci-fi movie even better.
Coherence first appears to be just another small-budget indie movie during its first act when a group of friends gather one night for a dinner party.
However, the film quickly reveals itself to be something more when strange and bizarre things begin to happen.
It turns out that a huge comet is going over Earth, and its close proximity is bringing multiple planes of existence together.
The main characters begin to encounter alternate versions of themselves from different universes.
Coherence’s big, reality-altering twist proves that a movie does not need a huge budget or flashy CGI to become one of the most ambitious and unique sci-fi movies made in recent memory.
The 2013 movie Oblivion built an immersive sci-fi experience with outstanding visuals, and atmospheric soundtrack.
Unfortunately, Oblivion is remembered as just another average sci-fi because of its plot twist.
Tom Cruise’s Jack Harper is a tech repairman on an abandoned Earth in 2077. Just weeks before he is due to return home in space, Jack encounters a strange woman who turns his whole world upside down.
The woman later reveals to him that he is actually a clone of the true Jack, who passed many years before.
Other movies have pulled off this type of twist more successfully, and in Oblivion, the supposedly big reveal is empty and superficial.
The movie adaptation of Stephen King’s story The Mist centers on a group of people stuck in a supermarket when a cloud of mist rolls through town that full of creatures that eat people.
The group eventually works out an escape. However, the movie makes a major change to King’s story when their car runs out of gas. The main character is forced to save his companions and young son by ending their lives.
Soon after, a military tank comes to save everybody. If the main character had waited, his son would have lived.
The twist makes the movie super dark to the point of being unnecessary, making the end more ridiculous than emotional.
Fans of Ridley Scott’s original groundbreaking Blade Runner were nervous about Denis Villeneuve’s sequel.
However, the filmmaker proved that the sequel was in the right hands when many argued that Blade Runner 2049 might even be better than Scott’s original.
One of Blade Runner 2049’s saving graces is its major twist. Though the movie has many surprises throughout, perhaps its most important is the reveal that Ryan Gosling’s K is not Deckard’s son like the movie wanted viewers to think.
Instead, Deckard has a daughter – the memory maker who K visits earlier in the movie.
It’s an unconventional surprise that expands the scope of the film and makes the entire movie experience more impactful.
There are many ridiculous aspects to the 2018 summer blockbuster Jurassic World – Fallen Kindgom, but the biggest of all lies in its plot twist with the young character Maisie, the granddaughter of one of the dinosaur park creators, Lockwood.
Maisie is first painted as your typical little girl, but Jurassic World – Fallen Kingdom transformed her character in the worst way with its supposedly clever twist.
The young Maisie is actually revealed to be not Lockwood’s granddaughter, but a clone of his daughter.
Fallen Kingdom tries to be a serious sci-fi with this twist, but it only makes the movie more convoluted and absurd.
The year 2008’s Hancock brought a fun twist to the sci-fi/superhero genre by making its lead “hero” a belligerent drunk with superpowers.
The concept was a promising one, but the movie ruined itself when it tried to deliver an emotional plot twist.
Hancock starts to work with a public relations professional to help brush up his image. However, the PR worker’s wife is revealed to be Hancock’s ex.
Even more dramatic is the reveal that she is the same type of superpowered being that Hancock is.
The twist ruins Hancock from being a light, edgy comedy to a conventional action movie with a disappointing Hollywood ending, ruining what could have been a great sci-fi.
The Thing’s groundbreaking special effects and haunting storyline made the movie one of the best sci-fis ever made. However, it’s surprise ending is the most impactful of all.
When scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a monstrous, shape-shifting alien, they must work together to destroy the creature.
Kurt Russell’s MacReady at first seems to successfully blow the alien up and save the day.
However, Childs, the camp’s only other survivor who mysteriously disappeared earlier in the movie, makes a surprise return in the movie’s final moments.
The twist of Child’s return results in one of the most mysterious, tense endings ever, and made John Carpenter’s movie a sci-fi classic.
One thing fans were looking forward to the most with The Last Jedi was the return of Luke Skywalker to the big screen. Viewers couldn’t wait to see the Jedi wield his lightsaber once again.
The moment did come – but not in the way fans wanted. Luke faced off against villain Kylo Ren, but right before the big duel, it’s revealed that Luke is only force projecting himself in front of Kylo.
Even worse, Luke passes away soon after his fake duel by letting himself fade away into the Force.
The twist and the outrage it inspired made The Last Jedi one of the most controversial sci-fi films made in recent memory.
Are there any other plot twists that hurt or saved sci-fi movies? Let us know in the comments!
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