Can you enjoy a movie which has been spoiled?

As you’d imagine, an article about spoilers will contain some spoilers but only for films that have been released for a long time and spoiled for many if they haven’t already seen it.

The statute of limitations on spoilers for some films has passed a long time ago. The Usual Suspects, The Sixth Sense or Fight Club, all the movies have “twists” or reveals at the end (or at least final act) and many are now so part of popular culture that they are almost impossible to watch without already being “spoiled.”

Spoiled is a strange word to use. A spoiler seems like a fairly recent phenomena and gives the impression that a movie can not be enjoyed and has been ruined if these particular plot points have already been revealed. I’m not entirely sure that is true though.

Knowing the ending to The Sixth Sense doesn’t necessarily “spoil” it.

I knew the ending of The Sixth Sense before I watched it. It was also revealed back when revealing it could be considered a “spoiler.” I still really enjoyed The Sixth Sense and appreciated the trickery. Knowing that Bruce Willis’ character had been dead all along meant that I could watch knowing the truth and see how well M Night Shyamalan had hidden the truth. The question is, would I have enjoyed it as much knowing the first time I’d watched it? Regardless of how much I appreciated the cleverness of the directing, I still would have liked to have had that reveal first time around.

Of course, knowing the spoiler can’t ruin the movie because these films have excellent re-watch value too. Sometimes the spoiler makes the movie more watchable. Fight Club is such an example because once you know “the twist,”  you want to go back and see how it is done. In fact, knowing the reveal makes Fight Club a better film because of it. It is a cleverer and more entertaining watch as you see Edward Norton’s character become Brad Pitt.

The Wicker Man is ruined by knowing the ending though

There are some films that have been so heavily spoiled that it ruins their enjoyment when you do watch them for the first time. Fight Club and Sixth Sense work because they’re cleverly created. Watching The Wicker Man for the first time was the opposite experience. The ending of that movie is so well-known that I found myself waiting for the finale rather than enjoying the journey. When you know what is coming, the tricks to try and throw you off the scent, or in the case of The Wicker Man, the fake “mystery,” are not effective and make for a boring watch, waiting for the finale.

Spoilers are also ruining recent movies too. I have written before about how bad spoilers are getting in trailers and also suggested my own strategies to combat it too, but it is still a problem to deal with. The most recent example of this Terminator Genisys, which had one of the major plot reveals ruined by the trailer. It definitely hampered the enjoyment of the movie, as the audience knew more than the characters but unintentionally, making what is supposed to be a shocking scene and a hook for the story quite pedestrian and drawn-out.

Films with clever stories can survive a “spoiler.”

It seems that the answer is a clear one. If the reveal or twist is clever, well orchestrated and worked fluidly into the movie, then it becomes something you can watch multiple times, even getting more enjoyment with every new watch. If it is just a plot device or a story point, then it can be ruined, taking away the key surprise of the movie or shock which only works if the impact is felt fresh.

Overall, you can still enjoy movies that have been spoiled but only the very best made ones. Films that are now famously “spoiled” can stand the test of time because re-watching it makes it all the more clever. It can destroy films like The Wicker Man though, where the ending is so well known that the rest of the movie is to it’s detriment by knowing the conclusion.

We’re still trying to avoid marketing spoiling movies though
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11 comments

  1. I generally can’t as I stay away from trailers etc. as much as possible. I remember when the last Matrix movie came out a radio show talked to some people who had just seen it and one of them just told the ending. It took so much away from me enjoying the film (I probably still wouldn’t have liked it much more though ;)). I like to be surprised!

    • I think I do too. I understand staying away from trailers but we are getting to the point where you almost have to stay away from the internet altogether until you’ve seen the movie.

  2. I avoid trailers almost all the time, I also like to be surprised 😀 interesting article though, makes me wanna go watch The Wicker Man before the ending is spoiled for me – somehow I haven’t seen it or have heard about the ending!

    • It will be interesting to see what you think of the movie. Knowing the ending really ruined the film.

      You aren’t the only one avoiding trailers. It seems like a common but necessary practice these days.

  3. I do enjoy trailers, I probably wouldn’t go see any movie without seeing the trailer first. It has to get my interest because there are so many choices of films to watch and most have the same basic story and plot that something has to stand out as a reason for me to see it. Most trailers don’t show too much and even if you see something before hand you don’t necessarily know where it will fit into the story. However, back to the main question…I am quite happy that I saw The Sixth Sense and Identity before knowing the twist. On the other hand I’m glad I found out that Batman vs Superman wasn’t all about their battle and that the battle between the 2 Superheroes only lasted 10 minutes. The films title is misleading and not knowing that could have led to disappointment.

    • That is what annoyed me about Batman V Superman. I would have preferred slightly more of a match-up rather than lots of conjecture and build.

      I’m with you about trailers. I couldn’t not watch them, it is my main form of info gathering and marketing for a movie.

  4. Well, I´m an old nerd, so my favourite stories have often many different outlets. Movies, book novelizations and videogames often offer extra content and alternate endings for a story…

    … so the so called “spoilers” are really just the cherry on the cake, maybe you´re watching the movie just to see Angelina Jolie lips, or to be inspired by whatever speech Patrick Stewart is babling, maybe you´re there just to listen to Hans Zimmer score.

    and very often the “spoiler” spoiler is just told badly by a bad storyteller, and you can compare to the actual scene and notice how bad was the way the spoiler was told.

    So no, “plot twists” are overrated.

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