23% Of People We Polled Said This M. Night Shyamalan Movie Had The Worst Twist Ending

(Welcome to Survey Says, a feature where we conduct a movie-related survey for a random group of people and explain why they're completely right, completely wrong, or somewhere in-between.)

For better or worse, M. Night Shyamalan is a writer-director whose name has become synonymous with twist endings. They're one of the most readily identifiable features of his filmography, having been a hallmark of his work ever since "The Sixth Sense" first blew moviegoers' minds back in 1999. In some cases, the twists in Shyamalan's films work well; in other cases, they induce an eye roll and come across as gimmicky or contrived.

In the past, we've ranked Shyamalan's films and gone into great depth revisiting the twists, the triumphs, and the turkeys of his nearly three-decade career. Following the summer release of "Old," however, we thought it would be interesting to survey people and see which Shyamalan movie had the worst twist ending in their opinion. The goal here isn't to trash his films but to take a look at them as functional narratives and examine why some of them worked for people and others didn't.

From these results, we can also reverse-engineer an answer to the question of which Shyamalan movie has the best twist ending in people's minds. If you thought it would be "The Sixth Sense," you might be shocked by the numbers that came back to us in our survey.

For this one, we had 635 U.S. respondents. You can see the results below.

By the Numbers

In our survey, 23.15% of people said "The Village" has the worst twist ending of any Shyamalan movie, with "Unbreakable" coming in second at 15.43%. In third place is the killer plant thriller "The Happening" with 14.8%, closely followed by 2016's "Split" at 14.17%. Despite "The Sixth Sense" featuring one of the most iconic reveals in movie history, 11.97% of people polled said that it was Shyamalan's worst twist — a close tie with "Signs" at 11.5%. And the surprise winner of the "Least Worst Shyamalan Twist" award is the filmmaker's 2015 found footage horror "The Visit," with just 8.98% of the vote.

You'll notice that not every Shyamalan movie is included. That's because not every Shyamalan movie measures high on the Richter scale of twists. Films like "The Last Airbender" and "After Earth," which carry staggeringly low Tomatometer scores of 5% and 11%, respectively, are work-for-hire artifacts, where the usual Shyamalan twist rules don't necessarily apply.

Most people haven't seen Shyamalan's first two indie features, "Praying with Anger" and "Wide Awake." As of this writing, "Old" is still in theaters, and while some cinephiles may have ventured out to see it, there are just as many who probably stayed home and are waiting for the movie to hit VOD. The absence of "Glass" is somewhat curious; I'm pretty sure some people would rank that movie and its parking lot puddles low, but again, we may be getting into the semantics of what exactly qualifies as a twist ending.

The only other exclusion is "Lady in the Water," but that's a movie where the twist, such as it was, may not have lingered in people's minds simply because there was so much else going on in it (remember the Narfs and Scrunts?) or because they never saw the movie in the first place. It had the lowest box-office performance of any Shyamalan film since "The Sixth Sense" and no other movie of his has had a lower gross since then.

That covers all the exclusions. What's left is a survey whose results are, in this writer's humble opinion, pure madness.

It Takes a Village

Let's dig into the results now and see if we can make sense of what people were thinking. It goes without saying that we'll be delving into spoilers here, so if there's a Shyamalan movie you haven't seen, feel free to skip that section or paragraph ... starting now.

So, "The Village." Is it really the Shyamalan film with the worst twist ending? That's debatable, but the largest chunk of our respondents (23%) seem to think it is. What's clear is that "The Village" is the point where things started to go wrong for Shyamalan in his career. It's possible there may be some residual bad will for the film because people remember it as the beginning of his creative decline. It's also possible that people just found the movie's ending ridiculous and unearned in the context of the surface-level plot before it.

The monsters are humans in disguise! This 19th-century community exists in a modern-day no-fly zone! It's all a post-9/11 fear allegory! 

"The Village" was made after "The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan," his disastrous hoax and vanity project for The Sci-Fi Channel (now Syfy). It was also the last film he made for Disney before jumping ship to the untested waters of rival studios, with their nymphs and other assorted "ladies" not named Nina. (It was a Disney exec named Nina Jacobson whose entirely justified criticism of his "Lady in the Water" script caused Shyamalan to leave the Mouse House and sanction a tell-all book as revenge, according to The Guardian).

All of that is behind-the-scenes gravy, of course. What's onscreen in "The Village" is a movie where Shyamalan inserts himself (as is his wont) to explain his own twist to the audience at the end. Contrast this with Hitchcock, who limited himself to cameos and let other film actors handle the exposition — as in the case of "Psycho," where a new psychiatrist character suddenly materializes to explain everything at the end.

Breaking Down the Rest

Our own Chris Evangelista has defended "The Village," so if you're a fan of the movie, you can always disregard these results and go read his Unpopular Opinion piece about it. In the meantime, where things get really crazy with this survey are in the runner-up category.

As a superhero film, "Unbreakable" was way ahead of its time. It foresaw the coming comic book movie millennium, yet 15% of people apparently think it had the worst twist ending of any Shyamalan movie.

Admittedly, Shyamalan delivers the twist in an awkward fashion. We learn that Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) purposely caused accidents and untold numbers of deaths to ferret out the invincible, once-in-a-generation superhero living like a sleeper agent among normal humans. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is disturbed by this revelation, as we're meant to be, but then he just turns and walks out of the comic book shop and the movie freeze-frames and ends with explanatory text.

It's not the most elegant ending, but does it really deserve to be ranked Shyamalan's second worst? Personally, I don't think so.

Next in the results come "The Happening" and "Split." I won't defend "The Happening" and its murderous plants; it only works as meme fodder. What's crazy is seeing it ranked alongside "Split," with 14.8% and 14.17% of the vote, respectively. I would rank "Split" and David Dunn's return as Shyamalan's second best twist ever, but hey, that's just me.

People rate "The Sixth Sense" and "Signs" about evenly, which just goes to show that the infamous kill-the-aliens-with-water-glasses twist isn't as bad as some make it out to be. Yet it's mind-boggling to see "The Sixth Sense," one of the most famous (not to mention organic) twists in movie history, rank worse than "The Visit."

"The Visit" was also lower in terms of box-office returns, second only to "Lady in the Water," and I'm willing to bet there may have been some survey respondents who just hadn't seen it. What do you think? Keep the discussion going with your comments on social media.