Twist endings have been around for decades in movies, but it has been M. Night Shyamalan who has made a career out of such surprises. The director burst onto the scene in 1999 with The Sixth Sense, a thriller starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment. It was here that he introduced the first twist of his career and one of the most iconic ones in all of cinema, as it is revealed that Willis’ character has been dead since the opening scene.
In the two decades since “I see dead people” became one of the most recognizable movie quotes, Shyamalan has only become more fascinated with the twist ending. The years of his films surprising audiences has now built in an expectation that Shyamalan will pull the rug out from under audiences at some point in his films. The results of these twists may vary, but how exactly did he revolutionize twist?
In the latest edition of Screen Rant Docs, we take a look at Shyamalan’s career so far and examine how his concentration on twists impacted it, both positively and negatively. After The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan would go on to infuse Unbreakable, Signs, and The Village with twist endings. While Unbreakable was able to use it to great effect, audiences were split on what he decided to do for the other two films. As the reception to his films continued to spiral, the disinterest and dissatisfaction with The Happening sent his career on a new trajectory.
With his twist endings no longer landing with audiences, Shyamalan moved away from his original ideas and instead was hired to adapt Avatar: The Last Airbender on the big screen. The film quickly found itself in the midst of controversy due to white-washing several major characters. The movie was a critical and financial disaster, which then saw Shyamalan team up with Will Smith for an epic sci-fi film After Earth. Unfortunately, even this film was not received positively.
After being burned by the studio system, Shyamalan has recently found success going back to small budgets. His horror-thriller The Visit brought him back into favor with critics and audiences, but then it was Split in 2017 that truly announced he had returned. The movie was thrilling and featured a great performance by James McAvoy and audiences left the film stunned when it was revealed that it was part of the Unbreakable universe. Shyamalan closed out this trilogy earlier this year with Glass, which split critics but made nearly $250 million at the box office (on a $20M budget). There has yet to be any announcements on what Shyamalan’s next project will be, but hopefully he can continue to deliver exciting and surprising films in the future.