Mysteries in movies are some of the most difficult narrative devices to pull off. With just one bad or clumsy scene, even the best-written, directed, acted, and edited movie mysteries can fall apart. At best, the mystery in question just leads up to a disappointing answer. At worst, the mystery is rendered pointless by one poorly thought-out scene.
Although they’re still good on a technical level and can still be enjoyed on a rewatch, these movies’ central mysteries didn’t age well thanks to one questionable scene. If not for a needless exposition drop or an early spoiler, these movie mysteries would’ve been immortalized as some of the best in history.
10 Elliot Moore Apologizing To A Plastic Plant Was The Last Straw
In The Happening’s defense, sentient plants exacting vengeance on mankind wasn’t an inherently bad twist. The problem was how it was revealed and executed. After showing a series of unsettling deaths across the globe, The Happening revealed the plants’ intent through an eccentric greenhouse keeper and Elliot’s odd acting.
The unnamed greenhouse keeper’s quirks made it seem like his theory was a joke, but it actually wasn’t. Shortly after, Elliot tried to negotiate peace with a plastic plant. These scenes broke whatever tension The Happening had up to that point. Audiences found it difficult to take the movie seriously again.
9 David Dunn’s Cameo Simplified The Horde’s Mystery
Split’s biggest twist wasn’t that Kevin was telling the truth about The Beast, but that Split took place in the same universe as Unbreakable. This was established with David’s cameo in the mid-credits tease. This, in turn, meant that The Horde was basically a supervillain, not an anomaly who defied all logic and reason.
While the revelation explained The Horde’s existence and set up Glass’ crossover, it robbed him of a more unique purpose. Thanks to Split’s connection to Unbreakable, its mystery was watered down. Its story was also limited to the superhero formula’s confines. The Horde would’ve been more terrifying without a conventional origin story.
8 The Praetomorph’s Birth Turned The Xenomorph Into A Generic Monster
The Xenomorphs lived up to the Alien franchise’s title in every sense of the word. Thanks to their lack of a concrete origin and purpose, the Xenomorphs were truly “alien.” They also embodied space’s endless abyss and its terror. The prequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant spoiled this mystery, with Covenant being the worst offender.
Near Covenant’s climax, David used Chris Oram as the Praetomorph’s host. The camera lingered on the Praetomorph’s bloody birth. This unsubtly emphasized that it and its successors (the Xenomorphs) were just lab monsters created by a scientist. Covenant ended the Xenomorph’s mystery and whatever relevance they had left.
7 Prof. Jonas’s Exposition Dump Made The Mystery More Generic Than Necessary
After moving his family to the site of a grisly murder, Ellison Oswalt discovered a box of home videos. These were snuff films that filmed different families’ brutal murders. There was also a possible demonic connection between them all. Before audiences could appreciate this eerie mystery, Sinister explained everything.
Halfway through Sinister, Ellison has an online conversation with Prof. Jonas. The occult expert laid out everything about Bughuul, from his goal of tempting children to the necessary sacrifices. The exposition-heavy scene was so jarring and clichéd that it robbed Sinister of all tension and reduced Bughuul to a meme.
6 Everything Taking Place In Malcolm Rivers’ Mind Was Hackneyed Even In 2003
Following Fight Club’s cult success and influence, many movies copied its big twist. In the early 2000s, almost every thriller ended with the protagonist and killer being the same person. The once-groundbreaking twist became an insufferable cliché that invalidated the entire movie. Its most egregious example was seen in Identity.
Identity spent most of its run time in a dingy motel where 10 strangers tried to expose the killer in their ranks. As it turns out, everything from the motel to the characters’ names was just imagined by the serial killer, Malcolm Rivers. The scene where Malcolm realizes the truth made a straightforward but decent mystery feel pointless in hindsight.
5 Danny Ocean And Rusty’s Meeting With LeMarc Was A Cop Out
Ocean’s Twelve’s central mystery focused on how Danny’s gang would outsmart The Night Fox and Terry Benedict. The movie seemed to be the gang’s darkest hour, as they faced their first real challenge with high stakes. However, in the third act, Danny revealed to The Night Fox that he, Rusty, and The Night Fox’s mentor LeMarc planned everything.
Everything from the botched robberies to the arrests were all part of Danny’s long con. Worse, the flashback nullified the preceding tension. To most viewers, this felt more like a cheat than a clever victory. As well-made and acted as Ocean’s Twelve is, it’s hard to get invested in its mystery and thrills knowing that the stakes were fake.
The Thing (1982)
The Thing opened by showing a flying saucer entering Earth’s orbit before crashing. After that, the movie’s real story began with the dog-Thing being chased by a hunter. However, The Thing seemed like it was setting up the discovery of the UFO as a big surprise. This was ruined by the prologue.
If the prologue was cut, The Thing would’ve been a perfect escalation of increasingly bizarre revelations. Instead, it turned the first act from an unpredictable mystery into a countdown to the saucer’s return. The prologue didn’t ruin The Thing’s legacy as a horror classic, but it’s hard to deny that it was too eager to answer its own questions.
3 The Moonlight Man’s Reveal Removed All Ambiguity And Mystery
The longer Jessie Burlingame was handcuffed to the bed, the more she hallucinated. Besides having difficulty differentiating dreams from reality, Jessie was visited by “The Moonlight Man:” a gaunt giant who watched her from the darkness. Most viewers were sure that The Moonlight Man was just a creepy metaphor, but he was real.
After Jessie escaped and conquered her demons, Gerald’s Game dragged on with a somewhat indulgent epilogue. The Moonlight Man was a wanted hedonistic serial killer, and Jessie confronted him during his trial. As cathartic as this was, it needlessly reduced Jessie’s ordeal and Gerald’s Game’s surreal nightmares into something tangible.
2 Rick Deckard’s Internal Monologue Spelled Out His Moral Dilemma
Before Blade Runner became a celebrated classic, it was one of the most notorious examples of studio interference. Fearing that audiences wouldn’t understand it, producers demanded that Harrison Ford provide a narration that stated the obvious. This voiceover was at its most egregious when Deckard wondered aloud why Roy Batty saved him.
Blade Runner searched for the line between Replicants and humans, if there was even one. Deckard silently contemplating his prejudices and Roy’s mysterious reasons for saving him was the best way to end his arc. Deckard’s monologue spelled out his internal strife and ruined the quiet tragedy. This is thankfully absent in Blade Runner: The Final Cut.
1 Dr. Fred Richman Spelled Out Norman Bates’ Mindset And Motive
After Marion Crane’s brutal murder, Psycho changed its focal mystery. Instead of Marion’s fate, Psycho focused on finding her killer. As it turns out, “Mother” and Norman were both the culprits because they were actually the same person. Just before audiences could leave the movie content, Psycho literally psychoanalyzed Norman.
In its closing minutes, Psycho introduced the never-before-seen Dr. Richman, who explained his theories about Norman’s mental state. While Dr. Richman’s monologue was somewhat necessary, it was a clunky scene that ruined Norman’s mystery. Norman was at his scariest when he seemed unfathomable, not when he was deconstructed.
NEXT: 10 Black & White Movies That Aged Surprisingly Well
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