M. Night Shyamalan's Films Ranked From Worst To Best

·9 min read

With the release of his new film, Old, it seemed like a good time to revisit and rank all of M. Night Shyamalan's movies. Read on for all the twists and turns...and more twists, but be warned: SPOILERS AHEAD!

Buena Vista Pictures / Via giphy.com

14.After Earth (2013)

Jayden Smith and Will Smith wear oxygen masks on a space ship

A concept with potential that goes nowhere fast. Take one of Hollywood’s most charismatic leading men (Will Smith) and sideline him so his uncharismatic kid (Jaden Smith) can take the lead in a video game–like scenario through postapocalyptic Earth. And unfortunately, it's not even a cool version of Earth; this lackluster planet has overgrown plants, angry monkeys, and big birds to contend with. Yawn.

The twist: The twist is, this movie has no twist.

Concept: 3/10 | Execution: 2/10 | Twist: 0/10

Average score: 1.6/10

Sony Pictures Releasing

13.The Happening (2008)

Mark Wahlberg looks scared

Hands down, Shyamalan’s best comedy…wait, it was supposed to be serious?! In that case, it was a miss. A laughable concept and weak performances by Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel almost make this mess enjoyable to watch in an it’s-so-bad-it’s-good way…almost. The over-the-top death scenes are creative but mired by the grade B CGI effects. And that terrible twist ending that was actually revealed at the beginning of the movie…

The twist: The plants did it. The ecosystem is getting its revenge on humanity for being treated poorly.

Concept: 3/10 | Execution: 2/10 | Twist: 1/10

Average score: 2/10

20th Century Fox

12.The Last Airbender (2010)

Ang's eyes glow blue as he summons water from the sky

This Shyamalan flick disappoints its audience on two levels: 1) It does not do the anime source material justice, and 2) it is so far from anything we have come to expect from a Shyamalan movie, viewers feel like they have been duped. This may have been his attempt to break free from the twist-ending tropes that he is known for and to try to extend his palette. But with a clunky script, bad pacing, and questionable directorial decisions, no matter how cool the concept may have started out, this movie ends up misfiring on so many levels.

The twist: The twist is, you bought a ticket for a Shyamalan movie, but that's not what you got.

Concept: 5/10 | Execution: 2/10 | Twist: 0/10

Average score: 2.3/10

Paramount Pictures

11.Lady in the Water (2006)

Bryce Dallas Howard is sad

Shyamalan’s version of a children’s story is filled with so much garbled mumbo jumbo, it’s hard to tell what it even wants to be. A superintendent finds a water nymph named Story in his apartment pool, and the tenants have to band together in order to save her from a creature and send her home. Everyone in the community has a specific role to play in order to make the rescue plan work — a film critic, chainsmokers, a man with a huge Popeye arm; the usual.

The twist: The roles that everyone has to play in order to get Story back home are all wrong.

Concept: 3/10 | Execution: 4/10 | Twist: 2/10

Average score: 3/10

Warner Bros. Pictures

10.Praying With Anger (1992)

Shyamalan acts alongside Mike Muthu

Though most people have never heard of it, this early film is technically the start of Shyamalan's filmography. Although it was never officially released outside of film festivals, you can still find it floating around on the internet, so it is fair game for this list. Shyamalan himself stars in the lead role of a young man who travels back to India on a soul-searching sabbatical. Even with its film school quality, novice acting, and Hallmark Channel–style melodrama, this movie has more going for it than some of Shyamalan's big-budget flops.

The twist: It's not the worst film Shyamalan has ever made.

Concept: 4/10 | Execution: 4/10 | Twist: 2/10

Average score: 3.3/10

Cinevistaas / Via youtube.com

9.Wide Awake (1998)

Three kids sit cross-legged on the floor, meditating at a party

Before Shyamalan made waves with The Sixth Sense, he wrote and directed this coming-of-age dramedy. After his grandfather’s death, 10-year-old Josh searches for God to get some answers about life and death. Definitely on the preachy side, and so saccharine you may get a cavity, but it is charming at times and has a positive message. You can tell the story is from Shyamalan’s heart, and it is interesting to see that the director can do something that isn’t supernatural.

The twist: A mini twist reveals that one of Josh’s classmates is actually a guardian angel and not a real person.

Concept: 5/10 | Execution: 5/10 | Twist: 5/10

Average score: 5/10

Miramax Films

8.Glass (2019)

Mr. Glass, Kevin Crumb, and David Dunn all sit in a sanatorium

Fans of Shyamalan's work rejoiced when he finally made a sequel to his beloved Unbreakable...but the party was short-lived when we received the conclusion to his comic book trilogy. It was great to see Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis reprise their superhuman characters alongside James McAvoy, but the plot and conclusion just did not live up to the 20-year buildup.

The twist: Technically, the movie has three twists, all of them pretty unremarkable.

One: Mr. Glass inadvertently created the Beast by causing the infamous train crash 20 years prior.

Two: A secret organization has existed for years in order to cover up the existence of superhumans.

Three: Mr. Glass had a contingency plan and posthumously exposes the world to video footage proving the existence of superheroes and villains. The world will never be the same.

Concept: 8/10 | Execution: 5/10 | Twist: 5/10

Average score: 6/10

Universal Pictures

7.The Visit (2015)

Grandpa, Grandma, and their grandson stand together at the train station

Siblings Becca and Tyler pay a visit to their grandparents' house, where strange things are afoot. After the creepy found footage–style film fills our eyes with naked Grandma and Pop Pop’s poopy diapers, we are treated to young Tyler’s terrible rap, which sums up the movie. Though by 2015 the found footage genre resurgence was already dying out, the movie has merit and some genuine jump scares.

The twist: The old folks watching the children are actually escaped mental patients who killed the real grandparents.

Concept: 5/10 | Execution: 7/10 | Twist: 7/10

Average score: 6.3/10

Universal Pictures

6.Signs (2002)

Joaquin Phoenix, Mel Gibson, and family look contemplatively at the camera

An alien invasion movie is anything but original, but the promise of what a director like Shyamalan could bring to the table is really what brought people to the theater. There are great moments in the film that stand out as full of suspense, heart, and smarts. Then there are decisions that totally knock down the house of cards that Shyamalan is building: Putting himself in a dialogue-heavy scene alongside Mel freakin' Gibson...ballsy. The home video freeze-frame shot of the alien in the backyard, which totally destroys any mystery that has been created. And of course, the meh ending. Thankfully, on repeat viewings, the good stuff seems to outweigh the bad, and Signs is still a fun watch.

The twist: Water. Aliens don't like water. Swing away, Merrill!

Concept: 7/10 | Execution: 7/10 | Twist: 7/10

Average score: 7/10

Buena Vista Pictures

5.Split (2016)

James McAvoy plays multiple personalities

James McAvoy’s performance as multiple personalities is top-notch. The entire movie is creepy and grounded until he turns into a superhuman, wall-climbing beast. Unexplainable until the movie redeems itself when Shyamalan reveals that the last two hours have actually been a backdoor sequel to the great Unbreakable — mind blown!

The twist: Unbeknownst to us, we have been watching a sequel all along.

Concept: 7/10 | Execution: 6/10 | Twist: 9/10

Average score: 7.3/10

Universal Pictures

4.Old (2021)

A mother holds her teenage daughter, who looks very scared

Shyamalan is back to his old tricks, returning to form for the first time in years. This movie delivers on everything you expect from the premise — people stuck on a supernatural beach quickly age before our eyes. We know exactly what is going to happen, but the way it unfolds, along with the suspense and humor that the director creates, is what makes the experience so fun.

The twist: The unwitting beachgoers are actually test subjects being studied by an R&D firm trying to better humanity by creating pharmaceuticals.

Concept: 9/10 | Execution: 8/10 | Twist: 6/10

Average score: 7.6/10

Universal Pictures

3.The Village (2004)

Bryce Dallas Howard hides behind a tree from a creature in a red cloak

Many people will be outraged that this movie lands so high on the list, but it is a great addition to Shyamalan’s oeuvre. The film is beautiful to look at, with excellent performances all around, a great score, and one of the best twist endings, for my money. Perhaps audiences felt that the marketing sold them a movie they didn’t get, but marketing aside, what we did get is Shyamalan at the height of his powers.

The twist: It is actually present day. The old village, creatures, and strange beliefs have all been put in place to create a safe society for a group of families.

Concept: 7/10 | Execution: 8/10 | Twist: 9/10

Average score: 8/10

Buena Vista Pictures

2.Unbreakable (2000)

Bruce Willis in a hood and Samuel L. Jackson in a flared collar look stoic

With a breakout as strong as The Sixth Sense, it is hard to live up to the pressure of outdoing yourself — but we all know Shyamalan has spent the last 20 years trying. His follow-up, Unbreakable, almost surpasses its predecessor, not by being bigger and flashier, but by being slower and methodical. Every frame is meticulously captured, and the evolution and reveal of the big-picture plot and eventual twist is truly one of a kind. Shyamalan’s most daring and well-executed film; just as enjoyable on repeat viewings, even more so once you know the secret.

The twist: This slow character drama has actually been a comic book superhero movie the entire time. Mr. Glass has been pulling the strings behind the scenes, creating catastrophic events in order to reveal other extraordinary beings like himself.

Concept: 10/10 | Execution: 10/10 | Twist: 9/10

Average score: 9.6/10

Buena Vista Pictures

1.The Sixth Sense (1999)

Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment look down at something with concern

Though many consider this to be Shyamalan’s first, it is actually his third feature film. But there is no denying that this was his breakout, making him an overnight success. Although the movie relies heavily on its twist ending (what Shyamalan film doesn’t?!), it still plays well as a creepy supernatural thriller on its own. Repeat viewings allow you to see how well Shyamalan can manipulate his audience through crafty editing and cinematic sleight of hand. It has an airtight script and some amazing acting from all, especially Haley Joel Osment in his career-defining role. It may seem cliché to call Shyamalan's breakout film his best film, but it holds up as well today as it did upon release. It really is a perfect movie, and Shyamalan has been trying to outdo himself ever since.

The twist: Bruce Willis has been dead the whole time.

Concept: 10/10 | Execution: 10/10 | Twist: 10/10

Average score: 10/10

Buena Vista Pictures

What do you think? Did it end the way you thought it would, or did we leave you twisting?

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting