In 1999, two films were released with some of the greatest cinematic twists in history. Whether you’re a fan of David Fincher or M. Night Shyamalan, 1999 was a great year for anyone who likes their movies to end with a sprinkle of the odd. But which film has the greatest twist? What ending not only improves the film but takes the story to the next level? Which was the hardest moment to see coming? It’s a twist-off, no cap!
Spoilers for both movies: I’m about the break the first rule; I guess that it isn’t “Unbreakable.” I had these films spoiled for me before I saw them, and have spent the rest of my cinematic life trying to recapture the magic of what it would have been like if I hadn’t. So please, if you haven’t seen both or either of these films, please go watch them and come back.
In one corner we have “Fight Club” and its insatiable need to punch capitalism in the face. The final twist reveals the main character, played by Edward Norton, and his friend Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt are the same person. This twist is in the service of the story by revealing the villain to be the hero. By the ending showing Tyler as just one side of the same man’s psyche, the film is able to comment on toxic masculinity as it exists within males rather than some outer force.
The film also seeds the twist well throughout. Tyler appears quickly in single frames before Norton’s character meets him. It’s almost as if the protagonist is slowly concocting this masculine “ideal” beforehand. Additionally, small touches like the narrator crawling out of the driver’s side seat during the car crash scene are great for the rewatch. And of course, the Narrator talks about his fight with Tyler when he’s punching himself in the face. These hints truly make the film’s ending make sense.
The Sixth Sense
On the other end of the twisting arena is “The Sixth Sense.” Dr. Crowe realizes at the very ending of the movie that he is a ghost. Like in “Fight Club,” Shyamalan plants small hints throughout that Crowe has died. For example, when he goes to dinner with his wife, he sits down without pulling out the chair for himself. He narrowly misses the bill before she pulls it away from him. Of course, the first scene of the movie is Crowe’s death, with a beautiful shot moving upward that hints at his soul leaving his body.
This all thematically ties the movie in a nice bow. “The Sixth Sense” has themes of miscommunication, like when the other ghosts can’t communicate with Cole (Haley Joel Osmont). Crowe’s death highlights his miscommunication with his wife by giving him no way to talk to her now. It also gives a perfect arc to Crowe. He learns to be there for her just as Cole learns how to talk to his mother. Cole’s gift helps both of them connect with other people when it seemed that they were both bound to be lonely forever.
I have to give the win to “Fight Club.” While “The Sixth Sense” definitely hints better at its twist, leave it to Fincher to use his twist better to say something. Without its twist, “The Sixth Sense” functions better on its own. The story doesn’t depend on its ending to function like “Fight Club” does. But that’s what makes the Tyler Durden reveal so good! By revealing what has happened, the film makes a stronger case for its points than I feel Crowe’s death does.