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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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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