Question: Is The Usual Suspects credited with ushering in an era of shocking last-second movie twists, or is that considered to have been a long-standing plot device? It seems like ever since that movie, suspense thrillers just aren't complete without a big shocker ending.
Answer: My gut is that Psycho (1960), which predates The Usual Suspects (1995) by 35 years, was among the first mainstream movies in which a last-minute twist changes the entire tenor of what precedes it. The revelation that Mrs. Bates is dead and her son, Norman (Anthony Perkins), has committed a series of murders dressed in her clothes was such a world-class shocker that keeping it secret became part of the movie's publicity campaign, which director Alfred Hitchcock helped design. The trailer included the warning, "See it uncut! Intact! No one will be admitted to see it except from the very beginning!" Posters and newspaper ads declared "No one... But no one… will be admitted to the theater after the start of each performance of Psycho," and theater owners and managers were expected to act as the first line of defense; Paramount press books suggested that they hire Pinkerton guards. Lines reportedly stretched around the block.