With the release of Glass, popular filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has combined the worlds of his acclaimed films Unbreakable and Split. The writer-director-producer has built a reputation over the course of his career for his films revolving around a central plot twist, usually playing out at each movie's climax and upending the stakes and characters involved.
Below is a comprehensive ranking of Shyamalan's various major twists throughout his films. While this should be a given, spoiler warnings for The Sixth Sense filmmaker's extensive filmography.
9. The Happening
Perhaps the most maligned film in Shyamalan's filmography also contains the most head-scratchingly nonsensical plot twist the director has conceived yet. The 2008 film saw the world gripped in a mysterious epidemic that had individuals suddenly commit suicide with no clear indication of the cause. The characters, led by high school science teacher Mark Wahlberg, discover that the plants have released an invisible, odorless substance into the atmosphere as a defense mechanism against humanity.
While certainly a timely twist given climate concerns, the twist is so bewilderingly out of left field that audiences were left puzzled by it. A sort of cross between the classic Hitchcock film The Birds and an angry botanist's revenge fantasy, Wahlberg's delivery as he announces what's behind the epidemic does not do the already far-fetched twist any favors.
8. The Village
There are actually two twists, of a sort, in Shyamalan's 2004 film The Village, and neither of them are any good or surprising. The seemingly period piece movie follows a blind young woman (Bryce Dallas Howard in one of her first major roles) in a late 19th century town, which is beset by a red-cloaked beast that menaces inhabitants after dark, as well as those that stay too far away from the village itself. Forced to leave her home for the first time for medical assistance, the beast is revealed to be a mentally challenged man portrayed by Adrien Brody, while the village itself is revealed to be an isolated community in modern day America.
The twist about The Village not actually being a true period piece was one audiences saw coming a mile away in an already lackluster film, in a sort of pre-Victorian version of The Truman Show. And the twist regarding the beast's identity is borderline offensive, with the film's overall depiction of the mentally challenged and its insinuation that they're more susceptible to murderous acts.
7. Lady in the Water
Shyamalan's 2006 fantasy film remains his most sentimental movie to date and was initially marketed as not having a major plot twist. It does. Though the film's reveal isn't as earth-shattering as the ones that came before (or the ones that came after). Following the tenants of an apartment complex that discover a mysterious mermaid-like lady in the water, as the title suggests, the characters realize they are part of a modern fairy tale, each with a role to play in protecting the eponymous fantasy figure. To expand on the twist, the characters discover the roles they had initially assumed were incorrect, leading them to swap assignments to complete the story properly.
If Unbreakable was Shyamalan's attempt at telling a revisionist, metatextual superhero story, Lady in the Water was the filmmaker's attempt to tell a postmodern, self-aware fairy tale. The twist itself is interesting in its deconstruction of the nature of storytelling, but ends up relatively clumsy in its actual delivery.