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The Secret to a Good Twist Ending

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This article is part of Tropes Week, in which we’re exploring our favorite tropes from cinema history. Read more here.

The twist ending. We all know the moment: the film is almost over, and suddenly, everything turns on its head. We press rewind and wonder how we missed it. The answers were right in front of us the whole time, but the filmmaker didn’t want us to see them until the exact right moment. So we didn’t.

When asked to name the most satisfying twist of all time, a very common answer is the end of M. Night Shyamalan’s 1999 breakout horror film, The Sixth Sense. But why, after 21 of other narrative twists and turns, is this answer still so highly regarded? What makes the film’s final reveal so freaking awesome? And how do we tap into the science of what makes a good twist so good?

The Sixth Sense was Shyamalan’s third feature, but it was the first to reach critical acclaim and established him as a renowned auteur in the horror genre. This was due, in part, to the film’s iconic twist ending. The shocker occurs when child psychologist, Malcolm (Bruce Willis), who has been helping a troubled child, Cole (Haley Joel Osment), through his ability to see and communicate with dead people, discovers that he has been dead all along. The beauty of this reveal functions on many........

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