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What happens when a work of fiction so old or so well-known that knowing its ending doesn't even count as spoiler is adapted into a new installment? Mostly the adapters choose to keep the main plot points, so the twist ending will stay, and thus there will be no twist at all. But that's not the only option!
Sometimes the production team do want the viewers to be surprised, and so they will change the twist at the end. This is, of course, especially prone to leaving plot holes if the producers do not change the rest of the plot that leads to the original ending accordingly, leaving the new twist hanging over the plot as if suspended by wires. When well done, though, it can lead to genuine surprise, a satisfying new resolution, and an excellent application of Death of the Author, in other words, awesomeness.
Due to this trope's nature, it's never too much warning that HERE BE SPOILERS. In fact, these spoilers are even more dangerous than the usual variety, since it's impossible to not spoil the twist ending from the moment the name of the work is stated. Proceed with caution.
Contrast with It Was His Sled, the trope that leads to this.
Anime and Manga
- The Comic Book Adaptation of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha The Movie First appeared to be an All There in the Manual affair for the first season (For those who don't know, The Movie First is a remake of that season), much like the A's and StrikerS comics that came before it. Indeed, this seemed to be the case until it reached the series proper in Chapter 5, where it gave a summary of the first Season, except that in place of Nanoha successfully befriending Fate and the two of them joining forces to stop Precia like everyone was expecting, Bardiche is destroyed, Fate never comes out of her comatose state for the final battle, Precia dies without giving Fate any sense of closure, and our last shot is of Nanoha crying about how she wasn't able to save Fate in the end, quickly revealing how this manga was actually another alternate retelling of the first season.
- Nanoha ultimately succeeds in befriending Fate after a sparring battle.
- While not particularly well-known, people who have read the Yu-Gi-Oh! manga will be surprised when watching the Toei anime, where many filler stories were given twists. For example, during the Burger World episode, the villain wasn't the robber, but rather the manager of the store. Or maybe more notable in the Tamagotchi episode, where the villain wasn't Kujirada, but rather an inconspicuous classmate who liked to keep people as pets, complete with whipping as a punishment and questionable rewards.
- Rei Ayanami NOT dying in Rebuild of Evangelion.
- It could still happen later on, of course. A better example is that Toji is not piloting Unit-03.
- Or, you know, that instead of unit 01 absorbing Shinji into itself and killing Zeruel monkey-style before shutting down, Shinji takes control of Unit 01 at its full berserk power, forcibly yanks Rei's soul out of Zeruel, and proceeds to ascend to godhood and nearly kickstart Third Impact before Kaworu stops him. Needless to say, some people were a bit surprised at these developments.
- In The Amazing Spider-Man, Spider-Man's archnemesis, the Green Goblin, tossed Spidey's first love off a bridge in one of comics' most iconic moments. It was a huge twist when the comic was published (never before had a superhero let someone die, except in an origin story) and shocked many readers. Since then, however, whenever Gwen Stacy is present, it's become more shocking not have the Green Goblin kill Gwen Stacy.
- The most straight example of this is in the mini-series Powerless, which re-imagines, among others, Peter Parker becoming a cripple due to the spider-bite, rather than getting superpowers. When Norman Osborn kidnaps Gwen Stacy, they both fall off a balcony, but Peter manages to catch Gwen Stacy, saving her.
- In Spider-Man: TAS, the writers didn't want to include a character explicitly so they could die, and so Gwen Stacy was only present in the show as part of an Alternate Universe.
- It also really splits the difference when recreating the scene with Mary Jane: she's saved by a portal opening under her, but this just leaves her trapped in limbo. She later inexplicably appears again, but it turns out this is just a clone. Then the show was cancelled before we could see any closure to the storyline, though the final episode does feature the promise that rescuing Mary Jane is Spider-Man's next stop.
- There were explicitly no plans to have Gwen die in The Spectacular Spider-Man.
- In Ultimate Spider-Man, instead of throwing Gwen Stacy off a bridge, the Green Goblin throws Mary Jane, and she ends up surviving.
- In the same continuity, Gwen Stacy is killed by Carnage instead of being killed by the Green Goblin.
- Played straight or averted in Marvel1602, depending whether or not you consider the spin-off, Spider-Man: 1602, canon. Virginia Dare is said to fill the role of Gwen Stacy, and she survives in the original mini-series, and it's heavily implied she and Peter end up together. In the spin-off, however, not only is she killed by Osborne, but Peter very quickly gets over her to get together with Marian Jane Watsonne, effectively restoring the status quo that the original mini-series worked to avoid.
- Also played straight with Marvel Adventures, in which Gwen Stacy is present, but her death is never explored.
- The villain in Pokemon Detective Pikachu isn't Roger Clifford (who was the villain in the Detective Pikachu game), but his father, Howard. Also, despite Howard being the main villain, his evil scheme involving taking control of Mewtwo's body, and his Psycho Serum being called the R Virus, Howard isn't affiliated with Team Rocket in any way.
- In the 2019 version of Pet Semetary, as Gage is standing in the middle of the street, a tanker truck races towards him...and hits the breaks, managing to avoid running him over. However, the tanker flies off and crushes Ellie. Thus, it's Ellie who dies and then comes back and a monstrous undead being.
- At the end of the first House of the Dead movie, Rudy gives his last name as Curien, making many people think he was supposed to be the movieverse's version of Roy Curien. However, House of the Dead 2: Dead Aim reveals that Roy Curien exists as a separate character. Rudy is Roy's son and the one responsable for Roy's Start of Darkness, making Rudy the movieverse's equivalent of Daniel Curien.
- Inglourious Basterds changes the ending of World War II itself, having all of the top Nazi officials, including Hitler, assassinated by Shoshanna and the Basterds.
- The Live Action Adaptation of Death Note loosely follows the structure of the first arc of the manga, though many important plot details are changed and some are combined with the second arc. The arc's climactic scene, in which Light manipulates Rem into killing L with her Death Note, first diverges when Light writes his father's name to make him hand over the task force's Death Note and then changes completely when L re-emerges alive and well, Light and Misa are arrested by the task force, Light's Note is revealed to be a fake, and Ryuk writes Light's name in his Note after he decides there is no more fun to be had. After this clears up, L dies peacefully three weeks later, as he had written in the Death Note; since his name was already written, he could not be killed by any other notebook. It's interesting to note that this exploits a Death Note rule mentioned in the manga and the anime's Eye Catches but never again referenced, which qualifies as a cross-media Chekhov's Gun.
- That rule does actually come into play in the manga and anime with the death of Takada.
- Subversion of this in the Live Action Adaptation of Speed Racer. Near the end of the movie, Speed suspects that Racer X is his long-lost brother, and asks him to take off his mask. Not His Sled because it turns out he looks completely different from the Rex Racer we saw earlier in the film. Subverted at the end when we find out it really is Rex after all, he's simply undergone extensive reconstructive surgery and won't tell his family to protect them.
- The remake of Miracle on 34th Street changed the post-office ending.
- The remake of My Bloody Valentine changes the final revelation of the killer's identity.
- The remake of Planet of the Apes changed the original movie's twist into a more subtle variant of the same premise (the ending is closer to the book).
- Amazingly enough, the original Planet of the Apes movie also did this to the source book, turning it into a less subtle variant.
- Screamers, which was based on "Second Variety" by Dick, retains the original surprise ending that the woman the hero met and bonded with is one of the robot decoys, but changes it so she has broken her programming and isn't out to kill humans. It further departs from the original ending by having her "dying" and putting the hero safely on the shuttle to Earth in a happy Hollywood ending...until it reveals that the teddy bear the hero kept as a souvenir is another deadly robot decoy.
- The film adaptation of The Turkish Gambit changes the Secret Identity of Anwar, the Turkish spy in the Russian camp.
- Seen in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, with the reason for Klaatu's visit changed from stopping humanity from being a space-born nuclear power to stopping humanity from killing the environment.
- Causing a complete, 100% inversion from the original, which turned a great Aesop from being "humans are being jerks" to Alien Greenpeace wants to kill us all
- The false end of the Tim Burton adaptation of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory uses this to great effect. When Charlie asks if his parents can come with him to live in the factory, Wonka responds:
"My dear boy, of course you can't! ... You can't run a chocolate factory with a family hanging over you like an old, dead goose!"
- And then they never end up flying out in the elevator. This is justified because Dahl's will prohibited anyone making Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator into a movie, so there was no point in a Sequel Hook.
- In the original Land of the Lost, Enick is a good, monk-like person, helping the heroes as much as he can. In the movie version, he's a Villain with Good Publicity Big Bad who plans on using the portal to Earth to overrun it with Sleestaks.
- In the Savini remake of Night of the Living Dead, Barbra survives and turns into an Action Girl. Not only that, but the black hero who steps out of the farmhouse at the end does so as a zombie, which she and the rednecks kill. Then the film's Jerkass emerges, having survived by locking everyone else out of the cellar, to greet Barbra with relief that he's alive ... and she shoots him dead, then calls to the rednecks that there's "another one for the fire".
- Used brilliantly in A Series of Unfortunate Events. In the first book of A Series of Unfortunate Events Violet avoids marriage by signing the marriage contract with the wrong hand. The movie resolves the plot differently than in the book, and when that moment comes up Olaf insists on her using the correct hand to sign.
- Not to mention that the movie consisted of the first three books squashed together, so the ending of each individual story was changed. The segment taken from The Bad Beginning ends with the children taken from Olaf's care after he tries to leave them trapped in a car about to be hit by a train, and Mr. Poe chastises him for letting Sunny sit in the driver's seat. The rest of the plot of the first book is stuck at the end, after the plots of the second and third book are gone through. The segment that was taken from The Reptile Room did not end with Klaus proving that the death of Uncle Monty did not match up with what Olaf claimed (that a snake bit him), and Sunny biting off the Hook-handed Man's fake hands, revealing his identity. Instead, Uncle Monty's death is blamed on the Incredibly Dangerous Viper, and Sunny proves the story false by going over and showing that the viper is perfectly harmless towards her. The segment taken from The Wide Window ends with Count Olaf saving the children without his Captain Sham disguise, leading Mr. Poe to mistakenly believe he has their best interests at heart and put them back in his care.
- A Streetcar Named Desire: The 1951 film version still ends with Blanche being committed, but Stella decides to leave Stanley and take the baby with her. This change was done less to surprise the audience with a new ending and more to conform to the Hays Code, which dictated all immoral acts (Stanley's rape of Blanche) must be somehow punished.
- From the moment John Goodman's "cyclops" appears on screen in the Odyssey-inspired O Brother, Where Art Thou?, one expects him to get a skewer in the eye. He doesn't, stopping a Confederate flag from impaling him inches from his face. But then, the twist is immediately untwisted when Everett cuts the wire holding up the Klan's burning cross and it falls directly onto Big Dan's face, no doubt taking his other eye.
- Not to mention that it's expected that after Ulysses Everett McGill made it home to chase off the suitor and be reunited with his wife and children, his adventuring days would be over and he would face no more trials. The movie ends with his wife demanding that he go back to their old home to find their engagement rings, with their old home in a valley that had just been flooded into a lake.
- The Fly: The 1958 film has the scientist and the fly switching heads in the matter transporter. The David Cronenberg film features the scientist stepping out of the transporter completely unharmed. However, it turns out the fly's DNA merged with his own, and as his cells divide over the next few weeks, his body gradually mutates into a grotesque hybrid.
- Disney does this to a number of their movies to make 'em more family friendly. The Little Mermaid has the mermaid survive and marry the prince, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame has Esmeralda, Phoebus, and Quasimodo all live Happily Ever After.
- The Legend of the Titanic ends with every single damned person on the ship surviving, thanks to the efforts of a large, talking octopus. There aren't enough drugs in the world to help a person predict that one.
- Titanic: The Legend Goes On has a less surreal, but still inaccurate descision that everyone survives, except for the singer, who most likely drowned since she stayed on the boat to sing.
- Tromeo and Juliet: Not only do the titular characters not die, they discover they're actually siblings, but then decide to get married anyway, and raise a family of mutant children.(Of course, the original ending has them run off and get married, then kill themselves in a motel room.)
- Roxanne is an updated version of Cyrano De Bergerac, with Steve Martin in the Cyrano role. He gets the girl.
- The Recursive Adaptation of Hairspray (the film of the musical) has, among other changes, Tracy hidden in the giant hairspray can, Velma losing her job, and Little Inez winning the paegant. Of course, much of the stage version's Act 2 was modified and swapped around to facilitate some of the changes, but the third one is a true example.
- Fantastic Mr. Fox plays with this trope: the Fox's Feast which the original book ended on happens around the 2/3 mark, and is rudely interrupted when Bean floods the tunnels with apple cider. However, the actual ending is much the same: the animals toast to their survival while Boggis, Bunce and Bean are left standing around a hole waiting for Mr. Fox to come out (which he never will, since he's so thoroughly outsmarted the farmers that the animals are now all living quite happily off of food stolen from them).
- All of the film adaptions of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (with the notable exception of the Russian version) use a different ending from the book; the killer's identity is usually left unchanged, but their Perfect Crime doesn't go as perfectly as it does in the book.
- In the remake of The Wolf Man, Lawrence is not killed by his father, nor does it turn out that Malevra's son is the one who bit him. Instead, his father is the werewolf that killed Lawrence's brother and bit him. The film ends with Lawrence, as a werewolf, killing his transformed father and in turn being shot by Gwen. This leads to a Sequel Hook where we see that the police officer investigating the entire situation had also been bitten. And it is all awesome.
- Roger Ebert joked about this trope in his review of the last Harry Potter film: "I dare not reveal a single crucial detail about the story itself, lest I offend the Spoiler Police, who have been on my case lately. Besides, you never know. Maybe they've completely rewritten J. K. Rowling's final book in the series. Maybe Harry dies, Voldemort is triumphant, and evil reigns."
- Except when they did. This was played with in, of all places, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. In the book, Voldemort tries to kill Neville via flaming Sorting Hat; then the Cavalry arrives and Neville pulls the Sword of Gryffindor out of the Hat and kills Voldemort's snake with it. In the movie, he pulls the Sword, swings at the snake - and gets promptly thrown aside and knocked out. Then follows a lengthy sequence of Ron and Hermione chasing the snake around with the audience sitting at the edge of their seats ready to froth at the mouth if Steve Kloves didn't let Neville kill Nagini. He did.
- The ending of the first film toys with this trope. In the book, Harry spends the whole scene adamantly refusing to give Voldemort the Stone. In the movie, Voldemort tempts Harry with the possibility of bringing his parents back to life and, for a moment, it looks like Harry might actually hand over the Stone, but then he doesn't.
- There's another subversion in the same film. At first, it seems the way Devil's Snare is thwarted has been changed so that you have to relax to get pulled through to the other side. However, Ron is unable to relax, so Hermione ends up thwarting it the same way she did in the book, by targeting light at it.
- In the musical Annie (and in the 1999 film version), Annie's supposed real parents are exposed as con artists before they can leave with her. In the 1982 film, they actually do leave with Annie without getting exposed. Warbucks finds out they were fakes afterwards, leading to a Chase Scene, a Climbing Climax, and ultimately Miss Hannigan's Heel Face Turn.
- Watchmen: Yes, Ozymandias is still the Big Bad. Yes, he still kills millions and thus succeeds at uniting mankind against a fictitious common enemy. The twist is that, in the film, he frames Dr. Manhattan for the destruction instead of teleporting a squid-thing into NYC.
- In Angels & Demons, just when you think Langdon won't be able to save the drowning bishop who's been weighted down in the fountain and dies in the book, a group of passers-by jump in and help lift him out of the water. Of course, the villain is still the same character, and he still gets caught. But the Red Herring doesn't win the popal election as he does in the book - this honor goes to the bishop who was saved from the fountain and who was originally a frontrunner in the election, anyway.
- "The Tortoise and the Hare" by James Thurber tells the story of a Genre Savvy tortoise who knows from reading books that in a race between a tortoise and a hare, the hare always loses. The tortoise finds a hare, challenges him to a 50-yard dash, and has proceeded less than a foot when the hare crosses the finish line.
Moral: A new broom may sweep clean, but never trust an old saw.
Live Action TV
- In the first season finale of Dexter, Dexter tracks the Ice Truck Killer down to a shipping container, which was the location of the final showdown between Dexter and his brother in the first novel. In the series, the shipping container is full of bananas Also, in the novel Dexter's brother escapes alive and Deborah finds out about Dexter being a killer. LaGuerta dies.. The first season ends with Brian's death and Deb remains in the dark about Dexter, while LaGuerta lives to continue to annoy Deb.
- The American Life On Mars.
- The 2009 remake of The Prisoner.
- The most recent TV adaptation of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple books.
- One stage performance of Monty Python's Parrot Sketch ends about 30 seconds into the sketch with Palin agreeing that the parrot is dead and giving Cleese a refund. This was also to reflect the improvement in returns stores would make.
- Palin also wrote about an ill-advised ad-lib in the sketch where he plays a man who goes up to a policeman played by Cleese to say his wallet's been stolen. The policeman apologetically tells him there's not much he can do, and after an uncomfortable pause the man asks, "Do you want to come back to my place?" and the policeman is supposed to say, "Yeah, all right." One night Cleese just said "no!" instead, which left them with nothing to do except slink offstage in a way that was no longer a punchline.
- One clip from The Young Ones appears to be setting up a rendition of the Pythons' "Cheese Shop" sketch. When asked if it's a cheese shop, however, the proprietor says "No", so the customer quips that they can't do the sketch after all.
- Being Human Remake plays around with this. Some of the plots taken from the original play out the same way as they did in the British version while others use this trope.
- In the season one finale the final confrontation with Bishop averts the big twist from the British season one as Aiden figures out what Jeff is trying to do and does not let him fight in his place.
- One episode of Midsomer Murders was pretty much a direct retelling of Hamlet... Except this time the Claudius-Expy gets wise to the Hamlet-Expy's plan and kills him.
- Agatha Christie adapted some of her novels into plays and often changed features. In her adaptation of Appointment With Death, she changed the identity of the murderer, while the stage adaptation of And Then There Were None kept the identity of the murderer the same (since he was the only one smart enough to have pulled it off), but replaced the original book's Downer Ending with a more hopeful conclusion.
- Several Greek tragedies, seeing as almost all of them were based on older myths that the audience was already familiar with. A good example is Euripides' Medea - in the original story, Medea's sons were killed by a mob of women in revenge. Having her kill them herself was a shocking twist at the time. Ironically, it's since become the most famous part of the story.
- West Side Story is based on Romeo and Juliet, but...Maria doesn't die, and Tony is murdered. And of course you have the Bowdlerised kiddie version of Romeo and Juliet where nobody dies.
- Shakespeare himself actually did that. In the story that King Lear is based on (which the audience would have been familiar with), Cordelia survives. Shakespeare killing her off changes the ending from bittersweet to bleak. Futhermore, in the original Danish legend of Amleth, the title character kills his wicked uncle and has a glorious reign as king.
- One production of Rent changed the ending so that Mimi actually does die, as in La Boheme.
- The musical adaption of Wicked has one that subverts the expectations of those who have read the book, or are even even slightly familiar with The Wizard of Oz by giving the Wicked Witch of the West a Disney Death instead of her famous melting death. Elphaba never displaying an aversion to water in the play could have been subtle foreshadowing to this, as well as the idea of water as a weakness being mocked: "'Water will melt her'? People are so empty-headed, they'll believe anything!"
- The German stage version of Disney's The Hunchback of Notre Dame has Esmerelda die, nixing the Happily Ever After ending from the movie.
- That's what happened in the original Hugo novel. BIG Downer Ending!
- The haunted house adaptation of the 2010 Wolfman film at Universal Orlando's Halloween Horror Nights event in 2009 was the first hint anyone got of the ending of the film: the werewolf gets shot. In the house, however, the fatal shot is performed by a nameless hunter.
- The video game of Peter Jackson's King Kong ends with the titular ape falling from the Empire State Building to his death. However, this then unlocks the final level where you can blast the US Army planes to bits and take Kong back to Skull Island.
- The ending of Afro Samurai was changed greatly from the anime. Might have just been Rule of Fun, though. Ninja Ninja even says that just because you watched the TV show doesn't mean you know what's going to happen here.
- To be fair it's more in tune with the Manga Ending which came before the anime after all But The only reason you fight Justice is to avoid The Anticlimax ending that the manga had.
- In The Matrix: Path of Neo, after the final battle between Neo and a lone Smith, instead of Neo willingly sacrificing himself to nullify Smith, all of the Smiths combine into one giant Smith to serve as the final, final boss. At this point, the Wachowskis literally stop the game to explain that while a sacrificial ending works for a movie, it wouldn't be very satisfying in a game.
- In Jeanne D Arc, it's pretty much a Foregone Conclusion that the Maid d'Orleans will be burned at the stake. How did Level-5 Studios handle a game where the main protagonist and primary player character is meant to die halfway through? By temporarily replacing her via an El Cid Ploy, so that the impersonator is the one killed instead, freeing Jeanne to continue through the rest of the campaign incognito.
- How Silent Hill 1 ends (or perhaps more accurately, which of the Multiple Endings is canon) is made pretty clear by its direct sequel, Silent Hill 3: Harry survives the crash (and all the subsequent weirdness) and succeeds in getting Cheryl back (more or less). The remake, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, plays on the players' (assumed) knowledge of this by having the big twist be that Harry died in the car crash after all and the whole game has taken place in the grown-up Cheryl's mind.
- In yet another Agatha Christie example, the video game adaptation of And Then There Were None begins to diverge radically from the book at Emily Brent's death by actual bee sting, as opposed to lethal injection. When Wargrave turns up most unambiguously dead, all hope for the original book's ending is lost. The real killer turns out to have been Emily Brent all along, a.k.a. Gabrielle Steele, an actress who took her method acting too far and was possessed by Madame Borgia while playing the role in a movie; the events on Shipwreck Island are all her plan for revenge against Wargrave, the man who sentenced her lover Edward Seton to the gallows. Thankfully, finishing the game gives you a chance to see the original book's epilogue, which reveals Wargrave as the murderer and explains his methods and motivations in a much more satisfying fashion.
- The NES Rambo game based on First Blood Part II has an alternate ending where Rambo saves his Vienamese love interest Co, and then he turns Murdock into a frog.
- Two distinctly different versions of how Kalecgos becomes the Aspect of Magic for the Warcraft universe exist. In World of Warcraft, a player on the Dragonwrath questline, with help from Tarecgosa, uncovers Arygos plotting with Deathwing. Tarecgosa sacrifices herself, but Kalecgos becomes Aspect and makes you the Dragonwrath staff, forcing Arygos to flee. In Thrall Twilight of the Aspects, Thrall is Kalecgos' ally, and after Kalecgos becomes Aspect, Arygos is killed by Blackmoore.
- In Dead Rising 2, it is revealed that Sullivan was the mole that framed Chuck. In the re-make, Dead Rising 2: Off The Record, they change this to Stacy, who was your Mission Control in the original.
- The newest installment of the Spider-Man series, The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Green Goblin's secret identity was changed in a way that older fans could believe no change was made, until The Reveal.
- And after The Reveal, it turns out his identity wasn't changed. It was Norman Osborn all along, framing his own son.
- In the comics, a reporter at the Bugle, Frederick Foswell, was also the Diabolical Mastermind the Big Man in his first appearance. In this series, The Big Man is L. Thompson Lincoln, a Composite Character of Kingpin and Tombstone and Foswell is just an Intrepid Reporter.
- Also, Word of God says that they would not have killed off Gwen Stacy if the series had gone on. (Though there were vague plans for a possible direct-to-video movie where they might have.)
- The DCAU uses this to good effect sometimes. For instance, in his debut in Batman: The Animated Series, Bane attempts to break Batman's back in the same manner as in the comics, but Batman manages to disable him first.
- Think Hawkgirl will be exactly what she says she is, and is known to be in the comics: a police officer from another world? Guess again.
- Likewise, the first time Doomsday (the creature that "killed" Superman in the comics) shows up in The DCAU, he faces an alternate-universe Superman who has few scruples, and wastes no time whatsoever lobotomizing Doomsday with his heat vision.
- In the first Scooby Doo animated film, not only are the zombie pirate monsters real, but they're the good guys.
- ↑ They didn't do this, of course.