A plot swerve can be a risky tool to use in a movie. It is usually the first topic of conversation after seeing a movie and often an individual’s enjoyment of the film can be traced back to how they reacted to it. In The Sixth Sense the end reveal stands as one of the best swerves in cinematic history and it played a big role in the movie’s financial and critical success. However, in the movie Savages, the final scene reveals that the tragic ending was just a dream, which did not go over well with audiences.
The power of a plot twist sits with the audience’s reaction. Most directors want their twists to be undetectable to get the biggest reactions; although, if the audience feels cheated by the direction change they will not accept it. A great twist can hide in plain sight, surrounded by all the puzzle pieces you need to figure it out, but without the directions on how to fit them together. The success of a movie can hinge on one plot swerve, so they must be handled with care. There are now 20 films belonging to the MCU; it is no surprise that many of them have a few swerves in them. This is especially true with a number of the post-credit scenes, which are designed to dictate where the universe will go next and often are intended to surprise the audience. In this list we are counting down the MCU’s 20 biggest swerves that had us fooled.
20 LOKI TURNS HULK ON THE AVENGERS
Remember in the first Avengers movie when Loki was aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, trapped in a glass container and even though he was a prisoner, still had an air of arrogance to him? Since Loki always has a trick up his sleeve we knew something was coming, but could not figure out exactly what it was.
Loki’s unpredictable plan required all the Avengers to assembled on the Helicarrier, where his staff would then transform Bruce into the Hulk, who would tear the aircraft to pieces and destroying the Avengers from the inside. It is quite a convoluted plan the god of mischief cooked up, and we definitely didn't see coming.
19 ANT-MAN AND THE WASP POST-CREDITS SCENE
Scott Lang was noticeably missing from Avengers: Infinity War earlier in the year. At the beginning of viewing Ant-Man and the Wasp we were wondering if Thanos’ snap would be acknowledged. The movie had strong themes of family throughout and as it carried us through a humorous, yet emotional journey, our memory of the Infinity War events slowly faded away.
Once the movie ended and the credits were rolling, our spirits were high. Then came the mid-credit scene where Scott travels into the Quantum Realm with Hope, Hank and Janet watching. As Scott is trying to communicate with them from the Quantum Realm and getting no response we cut to the three watching, but instead of them, it’s just dust.
18 HAWKEYE HAS A SECRET FAMILY
In 2015, when Avengers: Age of Ultron hit the big screen, Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye comic was one of Marvel’s best. The comic was centered around what Clint Barton does when he isn’t being an Avenger. In these issues Clint is a disorganized mess; he oversleeps, he misses appointments, he gets beat up (a lot), but he also saves dogs and sticks up for the people in his apartment building.
Fans were eager to see this character adapted to the screen. However, in 2015 we saw that when Clint isn’t an Avenger he lives on a farm with a secret family. This swerve was not only surprising but also disappointing. Why can’t Clint just be the single, disorganized, animal-saviour he is in the comics?
By the time Marvel’s The Avengers made it to theaters, fans knew to stick around until the credits were finished to get a tease of the next movies. In the post-credits scene for this record-setting film, it was simply a head turn and a smile from Thanos that shocked and excited fans everywhere.
The Avengers did include the extraterrestrial shape shifting race, the Chitauri. However, it was Thanos’ post-credit appearance that solidified that the MCU was expanding to the cosmos. It is a swerve we never thought would have been so well received. Marvel has successfully pulled off a number of intergalactic movies, including an adaptation of the Infinity Gauntlet and it all started with this post-credit scene.
16 RED SKULL GUARDS THE SOUL STONE
There was much speculation leading up to Avengers: Infinity War about who could possess the Soul Stone. We knew where the other Stones were from previous MCU films, but the Soul Stone was still a mystery. It was quite a swerve when we saw Red Skull, a character who was presumed gone in the year 1942 at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger, was the one guarding the Soul Stone all this time.
The film explains the plot point well and keeps the details in line with the Red Skull’s disappearance scene in Captain America: The First Avenger. However, it was still a surprising twist that had us fooled.
15 MORDO DECLARES “TOO MANY SORCERERS”
Chiwetel Ejiofor does a fantastic job playing Mordo in Doctor Strange. In a movie that presents Stephen Strange as frustratingly arrogant, his training partner Mordo quickly becomes one of the more likeable characters. By the end of the film, Mordo is upset with the way Strange defied the laws of nature and leaves the sorcerers.
We thought this was the end of the arc for Mordo, but in the post-credits scene he finds Pangborn, a man who has channeled the mystical power into regaining the use of his legs. Mordo declares that Earth has too many sorcerers and sucks the energy out of Pangborn, which concludes he has made the villainous turn.
14 KILLMONGER IS T’CHALLA’S COUSIN
One of the reason’s Black Panther was such a huge box office success was its compelling villain Killmonger, played by Michael B. Jordan. The character is from Wakanda but was left, as a young child, in Oakland, California to cover up a lie about his father deserting the home country. As an adult, Killmonger returns to Wakanda to challenge T’Challa for the throne.
This information is withheld from the audience until midway through the movie. When it is eventually revealed that Killmonger is the son of N’Jobu and therefore T’Challa’s cousin it transforms Killmonger into a sympathetic character, which is a direction we did not expect the movie to take.
13 THOR BRINGS ON RAGNAROK
At the beginning of Thor: Ragnarok, Thor is being held captive by Surtur the fire demon, who reveals to Thor he will bring on Ragnarok by uniting his crown with the Eternal Flame in Odin’s vault. The prophecies say that Ragnarok will mean the destruction of Asgard. Knowing this, Thor defeats Surtur, thus preventing Ragnarok.
Later in the movie, Thor’s sister Hela has taken over Asgard and plans to conquer the Nine Realms. Realizing that the only way to defeat her is in fact to bring on Ragnarok, Thor directs Loki to take Surtur’s crown and place it in the Eternal Flame, destroying Asgard. After preventing Ragnarok early in the movie we didn’t expect Thor himself to bring it on at the film's conclusion.
12 HYDRA SURVIVED WWII
Captain America: The Winter Soldier plays like a paranoia thriller early on, when Nick Fury is shot while relaying the information to Cap that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. Cap then teams up with Black Widow and the two follow a lead to a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. base in New Jersey.
At the base, they uncover that Hydra not only survived World War II, but has had secret operatives planted deep within S.H.I.E.L.D. since its inception. This reveal brought even more paranoia and intensity to the film. It had the characters and audience questioning who they could trust. The swerve also had repercussions throughout the entire MCU and shaped Cap’s stubborn attitude in the next Captain America film.
11 STAR-LORD MESSES UP THANOS’ CAPTURE
Avengers: Infinity War takes the audience through a number of mixed emotions and keeps them guessing at every turn. After a well executed plan on Titan by Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and a number of the Guardians, it looked as though they would be able to separate the Gauntlet from Thanos.
However, after Nebula figured out that Thanos killed Gamora, Peter Quill begins to attack Thanos, which allows the Titan to break out of the hold the team has on him, and overpower them all. It is one of the movie’s many heartbreaking moments, and also one of the most frustrating. In a movie with such an overpowered villain, we did not except one of the heroes to be the cause of his escape.
10 ZEMO DESTROYED ALL THE SUPER SOLDIERS
At the end of Captain America: Civil War, a movie full of our favorite heroes duking it out with each other, we were ready for them to put their differences aside and defeat the Super Soldiers Helmut Zemo was about to activate. However, when Captain America, The Winter Soldier and Iron Man arrived at the facility where the Super Soldiers were being held, they discovered Zemo had destroyed all of them himself.
This swerve had us fooled about what Zemo’s ultimate goal might be in of luring the trio to a secluded location with him. As his motivation began to unfold (which will be revealed later in this list) we quickly forgot about the super soldiers who were once our biggest worry.
9 STAR-LORD’S DAD IS A CELESTIAL
Peter Quill obviously has some father issues. They were established in the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, as Peter explained that when other kids asked where his father was he would tell them his dad was David Hasselhoff and busy with his career. We were eager to get more information on Peter’s dad in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and it was exciting to hear that Kurt Russell was cast as his father.
In the comics, Peter’s dad is a Spartoi by the name of J’Son, but the movie went a different direction. Early in the film it is established that Peter’s father is actually a Celestial, specifically Ego the Living Planet. The swerve works well for the story and totally fooled us.
8 BUCKY WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR TONY LOSING HIS PARENTS
After an all-out brawl at the airport between former members of the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War, it appeared that would be the end of the bout between heroes, especially when Iron Man showed up to help Cap and Bucky defeat the Super Soldiers Zemo was supposedly awakening.
As stated in a previous entry, Zemo did not awaken those Super Soldiers, instead he showed Iron Man a video from the night he lost his parents in a car crash. The video showed Bucky running them off the road and ending them with a firearm. If this revelation wasn’t jarring enough, Cap then admits that he knew this information, which is followed by one of the most painful fights in the MCU.
7 LOKI LIVES
At the end of Thor: The Dark World, Thor declines Odin’s offer for him to take the throne and as he leaves, Odin transforms into Loki. This was surprising to us because Loki had passed away earlier in the film, very convincingly.
The movie leans into a common trope of bad-guy-turns-good just in time for Loki to meet his end. The scene of Thor holding a struggling Loki in his arms is very powerful. Thor tells his brother that their father will know of his sacrifice, which is an affecting moment as we know Loki lived his life feeling like the outcast of the family. It turns out that scene was a lie, like most things are when dealing with Loki.
6 THANOS TURNS BACK TIME
Minutes after Thanos acquires the Time Stone from Doctor Strange he turns his assault on Wakanda, where the last Stone resides in Vision’s head. Avengers: Infinity War devoted so much time to discussing the importance of destroying the Stone in Vision’s head, that when it came time for Wanda to do it, we truly thought the movie could go either way.
Wanda could destroy the stone and save the world, or she would be unable to destroy her love and Thanos would win. How about both? Wanda heartbreakingly destroyed Vision and the Stone, only to have Thanos use the Time Stone to reverse time and complete the Gauntlet. With all the focus on what Wanda would do, we did not see the time-reversal coming.
5 AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON'S POST-CREDITS SCENE
At the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier there was a strange post-credits scene that had audiences left with a number of questions. Baron Von Strucker explained that he used Loki’s staff to perform experiments on “volunteers” in an attempt to give them powers. When he said there were only two survivors, the camera panned over to two young adults exhibiting the powers of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch.
This scene was confusing to fans, because 20th Century Fox had the rights to the X-Men and Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are primarily known as mutants. However, because the characters do appear in both X-Men and Avengers comics, a deal was in place to allow each universe the right to use them.
4 ADRIAN TOOMES IS LIZ’S DAD
There are times when Peter Parker thinks his life would be better if he wasn’t Spider-Man. In order to successfully translate this theme to the screen, the film must yo-yo the audience’s feelings on the matter. The audience needs to want Peter to enjoy his adolescence, but they also must want to see him in the Spidey costume, webbing-up bad guys.
The theme is pulled off well in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is crucial to the effectiveness of the movie’s big twist. Peter has been living two lives -- one as a high school student, the other as a crime fighter. Late in the movie, Peter visits his girlfriend Liz’s house. When her dad answers the door and it is weapons dealer Adrian Toomes, we see his two worlds collide.
3 OBADIAH ORCHESTRATED THE ATTACK ON TONY
The MCU’s first twist was one of its best. Obadiah Stane, played by Jeff Bridges, is Tony Stark’s second-in-command and friend in Iron Man. It's not far fetched that the more mature Obadiah would grow tired and jealous of Tony’s arrogance and eventually do his own bidding on the side. What is really stunning is that the attack on Tony at the beginning of the film was orchestrated by Obadiah, who was hoping to eliminate Tony and take over Stark Industries.
Earlier in the film when Tony missed an award presentation, Obadiah covered for him explaining that Tony was likely working, when he knew Tony was probably drinking. It was this display of loyalty that blinded us from the villainous path Obadiah would take.
2 THE MANDARIN WAS TREVOR SLATTERY
The most divisive moment in Iron Man 3 came when audiences learned that the Mandarin was actually an English actor named Trevor Slattery. The Mandarin is a formidable foe of Iron Man, but in the movie he is an actor oblivious to the impact his propaganda films were having on the world.
The reveal is placed at the height of an action sequence. The film builds an atmosphere to prepare the audience for a mid-film confrontation between the hero and villain, but when the movie arrives at the climax it stops dead in its tracks, creating a tonal unease in the viewer. No one saw this swerve coming, which might be why it upset so many people.
1 NICK FURY'S AVENGERS INITIATIVE
The best and most surprising swerve the MCU took was in the post-credit scene of its first movie, Iron Man. Tony entered his living room and was met by Nick Fury; when Fury said the words “Avengers Initiative” the theater took in a collective gasp. The possibility of a movie with an Avengers team seemed impossible.
How were they going to pull it off? The discussions and questions about an Avengers film echoed throughout theaters around the globe. It was a swerve that changed the way comic movies would be made and was an exciting revelation for fans everywhere.