Spoiler Alert! The 50 Best Movie Twists

7. Aaron Stampler is actually Roy, who's guilty of murder and not crazy.

Movie: Primal Fear (1996)
Writer: William Diehl (novel); Steve Shagan and Ann Biderman (screenplay)

Defense lawyers, by nature, need to check their morality at the door before starting new cases—that's the way it goes for people whose career thrives upon clearing the names of potential criminals, murderers, and other baddies. But for Chicago defender Martin Vail (Richard Gere), no amount of prior soul-searching could've prepared him for the whopper of a realization that caps off 1996's slept-on Primal Fear.

The case that Vail is assigned to is a dark one: His client, stuttering altar server Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton), is behind bars for the killing of the local archbishop. Complicating matters is Aaron's multiple personality disorder, which pairs the “normal” Aaron with the more dangerous “Roy.”

Well, it's actually the other way around: Roy is Norton's character's true identity, not “Aaron,” and, even shitter for Vail, Roy isn't even crazy. The whole “Aaron” routine was just a clever ruse designed to mask the fact that he slaughtered the priest in cold blood, knowingly and happily. Norton's performance in Primal Fear is so damn excellent that we're right there with Gere's Vail in feeling duped.

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