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10 Plot Shifts That Came Out of Nowhere

From Dusk Till Dawn

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We all know From Dusk till Dawn is a vampire movie. It had vampires in the trailer, bats on the poster, and the title itself plainly describes a bloodsucker’s daily schedule. But those who’ve seen the movie know the undead don’t make their presence known until the one-hour mark — long after an unrelated bank heist and kidnapping leads the protagonists into the seedy bar south of the border. Put simply, From Dusk till Dawn isn’t a vampire movie for longer than it is one, and yet it’s the mid-movie plot shift that helps make it such a fun cult classic.

But Robert Rodriguez’s grindhouse carnival ride isn’t the only time audiences were blindsided by a total shift in story and tone. Here are 10 other movies with plot shifts that came outta nowhere. Heads up: It’s about to get spoiler-rific below!

10. Stripes

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

Although Full Metal Jacket is usually cited as a war film that completely changes midway through, there’s another military-themed movie that takes an even sharper turn from comedy romp to rescue mission behind enemy lines. Stripes appears to be your typical “rehabilitated schlub” comedy with future Ghostbusters Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as the leads. But after basic training, when Stripes seems like it’s wrapping up, the film suddenly jaunts to Russia where Murray and Ramis’ troop — and a motorhome with a flamethrower — have to be rescued. Not even Kubrick is capable of pulling off that tonal shift.


9. Sunshine

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Fox Searchlight Pictures

28 Days Later director Danny Boyle returns to his “the hunted becomes the hunter” roots with 2007’s Sunshine — but not until the third act. Gleefully spitting in the face of hard science, a group of astronauts embark on a mission to deliver a massive nuclear payload to the surface of the sun, thereby reigniting the dying star. But just as the audience’s disbelief is able to be suspended, the movie changes from Interstellar-lite to slasher flick when the severely burned captain of a previous mission stalks the main characters like a voracious stowaway, à la Alien.


8. Miracle Mile

Hemdale Film

Hemdale Film

Where will you be when nuclear annihilation strikes? If you’re Anthony Edwards in the largely forgotten 1988 movie Miracle Mile, it’s in the middle of a romantic comedy. From the top, Edwards plays his affable Goose-y self trying to court a woman he met at the La Brea Tar Pits. But as we brace ourselves for a whimsical, Katherine Heigl-level assault on our senses, a misdialed phone call alerts Edwards to an imminent nuclear holocaust and completely shifts the story to an apocalyptic thriller. Hey, whatever saves us from a bridal gown montage is fine by us.

7. Million Dollar Baby

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.

In 1994, a scrappy Hilary Swank showed the world that she could handle herself in a fight, truly earning the title of The Next Karate Kid. 10 years later, she proved she still had the muscle and heart…to treat us to a dissertation on the morals of euthanasia. Trained by an old leather wallet (Clint Eastwood), Swank rises through the boxing circuit ranks to become a beloved underdog on par with Rocky. But everything changes halfway through the film with a simple post-round sucker punch, a broken neck, quadriplegia, and ethical dilemmas over killing your surrogate daughter. That definitely wasn’t in Mr. Miyagi’s purview.


6. Death Proof

Dimension Films

Dimension Films

Debates are still being waged over which half of Grindhouse is superior — mostly by the few dozen who saw the double feature in theaters. But nobody could admit that they saw what was coming during Tarantino’s section, Death Proof. Continuing the tradition of another film further down this list, Quentin invests us in the lives and minutia of a group of women — leading us down texting subplots and hanging lapdance threads — only to violently kill them off midway through the film via head-on collision. And like a bad case of whiplash, we are then introduced to another group of women as if Quentin’s starting another movie. And this group of ladies is far more deadly.

5. The World’s End

Focus Features

Focus Features

Writer-director Edgar Wright is known for his habit for subverting genre tropes while simultaneously celebrating them, and that also applies to how he tells a story. Shaun of the Dead begins like a romantic comedy but turns into a zombie film, Hot Fuzz spends most of its time mocking action cliches but then revels in them, and nothing in the first half of The World’s End would make it seem like it’s a modern retelling of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. But as we get to know an estranged group of pals as they re-attempt an impossible bar crawl, out of nowhere, blue-goo androids attack and threaten the entire mission.


4. Click

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

No one expects to cry at an Adam Sandler movie. (Well, for intended reasons, anyway.) But audiences thinking they were about to spend an hour and a half laughing at Sandler ogle slow-motion bosoms were in for a tear-jerking surprise. Click begins like your boilerplate Sandler movie with the man-child acquiring a magical remote control that can control time, i.e. rewind to life’s cherished moments or fast-forward through dull ones. It isn’t until after a few wacky hijinks that the movie introduces themes far heavier than Sandler’s usual fare when he fast-forwards too far and is greeted by cancer, chemotherapy, heart attacks, absentee parenthood, and death. Then again, it might’ve been a riot with Kevin James.


3. Adaptation

Columbia Pictures

Columbia Pictures

Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman is anything but predictable, doubly so when he — and his twin alter ego — are basically writing a movie in real-time from within. In one of his few unironically great performances, Nicolas Cage plays Kaufman and his imaginary twin brother as they try to adapt an unadaptable novel into a screenplay. As Kaufman #1 struggles to deliver a unique script that rejects all the banal and formulaic plot points, he hands the reins over to his hack (yet successful) brother, which switches the movie over to all the expected tropes — including deus ex machinas, tearful goodbyes, and personal redemption. It’s like a dozen levels of meta intersecting with themselves.


2. Audition

Vitagraph Films

Vitagraph Films

Going into a Takashi Miike movie, you have to prepare to leave as bloody and scarred as one of the characters. But midway through Audition, even the savviest viewers might’ve expected that maybe the purveyor of unspeakable cinematic torture turned over a new leaf. After all, it’s just a quirky tale about a lonely widower auditioning young woman to be his new wife. That is, until the woman of his dreams drugs him, sticks needles in his eyes, and severs his foot with a sharpened garrotte in a startling and painfully extended scene. The lesson is, stick with eHarmony.


1. Psycho

Paramount Pictures

Paramount Pictures

The granddaddy of plot shifts, Psycho‘s shower scene is unfortunately one of the most spoiled moments in cinema history. But even knowing the sequence beforehand, viewers can’t help but marvel at what a misdirect the entire first section of the movie is. What begins as an embezzling scheme, carried out by a lovely real estate secretary, is wholly abandoned when she’s brutally murdered, as if to say, “Nope, it ain’t about her,” in the bluntest way possible. The film, as we all know now, then focuses on motel manager Norman Bates and his kindly, devoted mother. Over half a century later, it remains the greatest plot shift of all time.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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