10 Subtle Clues About The Twist Ending In The Sixth Sense


  • Shyamalan expertly plants hints throughout the movie about Malcolm’s true fate, leading to the unforgettable twist ending.
  • The film establishes rules that make the twist logical, like ghosts not knowing they’re dead and memories shaping their world.
  • Subtle details like Malcolm’s unchanged clothes and missing wedding ring clue viewers into his ghostly status from the start.

One of the most iconic movie twists comes in The Sixth Sense. M. Night Shyamalan’s ghost story is a tense thriller for much of the runtime, but it ends with the shocking surprise that Malcolm (Bruce Willis) has been dead the entire movie and is one of the ghosts young Cole (Haley Joel Osment) sees. The reveal is one of those brilliant twists that immediately makes the viewer want to watch the movie again from the beginning to see if they can spot all The Sixth Sense hidden meanings.

As it turns out, Shyamalan stacks the movie full of hints of the truth about Malcolm that, looking back on it, spells out the ending perfectly. While M. Night Shyamalan saw his career stall out thanks to his overreliance on twist endings, the one that started it all remains his best, and that is because he didn’t cheat when telling this story. Malcolm was dead all along, and Shyamalan ensured that nothing that happened in the movie could erase the brilliant twist’s effectiveness along the way.


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10 Malcolm Is Shot By His Patient

The Sixth Sense Jumps Ahead A Year Without Showing The Aftermath

The movie wastes no time establishing its creepy tone as the first scene finds a former patient of Malcolm’s, Vincent Grey (Donnie Wahlberg), breaking into his home and shooting Malcolm for failing to help him. It might not seem very subtle for the movie to include Malcolm’s death in the first minutes, but it is a testament to Shyamalan’s talents that he can still trick everyone.

In reality, it was the moment his life ended.

The film cuts to a year later, and it seems like Malcolm’s shooting was a life-changing moment that set him on his path to help Cole. In reality, it was the moment his life ended. The fact that the movie never showed any of the aftermath of the shooting or the tragedy and just immediately cut ahead to the future should have been a hint. However, just showing it and moving on seemed more like a prelude than a clue to the twist.

9 When Cole Shares His Secret

“I See Dead People”

The moment Cole decides to trust Malcolm and tell him his secret is an iconic scene. This scene features the unforgettable line, “I see dead people.” But right after Cole delivers the line, there is a tight closeup of Malcolm as he absorbs the information. While it could be that Malcolm was troubled to hear Cole suffered the same issues as his troubled former patient, viewers could also infer that Cole is trying to tell Malcolm he is dead, and Malcolm is fighting against accepting that.

In some trivia, producer Frank Marshall was against using the line. The producer told Shyamalan it would give away the twist, and everyone would know when Cole says Malcolm is dead. However, Shyamalan fought to keep it in, and the test screening audience never figured out the twist, even after hearing the line, showing how great Shyamalan hid the moment.

8 The Ghosts Don’t Know They’re Dead

Cole Seemingly Hints To Malcolm That He Doesn’t Know He Is Dead

The idea of a movie in which the main character is dead for the whole story only for him and the audience to learn the truth in the final moments seems impossible to pull off. However, Shyamalan was able to establish rules that made sense, covered the twist, and yet didn’t tip off the audience. When Cole explains to Malcolm that he sees dead people, he tells him that these ghosts don’t realize they are dead.

In retrospect, this should have been a big clue as it established the possibility of one of the characters being dead. The movie shows Malcolm getting shot when it starts, and the second that Cole says he sees dead people and they don’t know what happened to them might not have clued in Malcolm. However, it was a huge clue for the audience and likely wouldn’t work again once Shyamalan began using twists in all his movies.

7 Malcolm Can’t Open The Door

Malcolm Only Sees What His Memories Allow

Another rule that Cole establishes is that the dead people see that world as they want to see it. They specifically remember how things were when they were alive. This revelation answers one of the small mysteries presented in the movie. Throughout The Sixth Sense, Malcolm is seen attempting to open a locked door in his house but cannot find the key.

Malcom can’t see any of the changes made to the house in the year since his death.

However, when he realizes he is dead, Malcolm sees that the door is not locked but rather blocked off by a desk, which Malcolm didn’t notice because it wasn’t there when he was alive. Malcolm can’t see any of the changes made to the house in the year since his death. When it comes to the doors, the red door knob signifies the entrance to the “other side” that Malcolm is not ready to accept. The color red is used throughout the movie to hint at these “death” moments.


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6 Cole Helps Malcolm

Cole Is There To Help The Ghosts

Once Malcolm believes Cole’s claims that he can see dead people, Malcolm suggests that the ghosts might be drawn to Cole so that he can help them and thus be left alone. Given that Malcolm helps Cole throughout the movie, there is no reason for fans to be suspicious of this fact. However, just before the reveal at the movie’s end, Cole gives Malcolm some intelligent advice on how to connect with his wife again. It is Cole’s help that leads Malcolm to realize the truth.

Throughout the entire movie, the audience and Malcolm believe that he is there to help Cole. He knows Cole struggles with the dead people he has to help, and Malcolm wants to ease things for the young man. However, Malcolm never realizes that, among The Sixth Sense’s hidden meanings, he is one of the ghosts “tormenting” Cole, and the boy is there to help him.

5 No One Else Interacts With Malcolm

Only Cole Speaks To Malcolm In The Sixth Sense

Throughout The Sixth Sense, only one character after the original shooting scene ever speaks to Malcolm or even acknowledges his existence. This fact could seemingly cause viewers to suspect that Malcolm is a ghost. However, Shyamalan stages these scenes in a way that seems relatively normal. Malcolm is seen alone with Cole’s mother, Lynn (Toni Collette), and is with her when she speaks to a doctor. However, none of the characters except Cole talk to him or even acknowledge he is there.

Shyamalan hides this part of the clue by making it look like Malcolm is just observing, which is part of his role as a child psychologist. Malcolm listens to everything, allowing him to learn how to help Cole. He also has scenes with his wife, Anna (Olivia Williams), and he speaks to her in these scenes. Shyamalan shoots it to make it seem they are conversing, but seeing it back emphasizes that he is having a one-way conversation.

4 Malcolm’s Marriage Troubles

Malcolm Misconstrues His Marriage Problems

Whenever the movie doesn’t follow Malcolm and Cole’s relationship with each other, it examines their troubled relationships at home. Just as Cole struggles to connect with his mother, Malcolm’s wife has seemingly become cold to him. While the movie makes it seem that this is due to Malcolm’s obsession with work, she is acting distant from him because he is no longer alive.

From ignoring Malcolm to getting close to another man, it becomes clear that she is not an unloving wife; she is a mourning widow. This fact plays out at the restaurant when he joins her for dinner and tries to talk to her, but she is talking to herself in response. When he sees her at home and can’t comprehend why she has changed so much, he sees the pain in her eyes, and this moment is when The Sixth Sense twist finally hits Malcolm and the audience.

3 The Restaurant Scene

Anna Is Celebrating Their Anniversary Alone After His Death

One of the most brilliant Sixth Sense scenes to look back on is when Malcolm and his wife are at the restaurant. Once again, Shyamalan presents it in a natural way on the first viewing. However, it becomes extremely obvious once the truth has been revealed. Malcolm shows up late for dinner, but his wife refuses to talk to him and grabs the check before he can. As he tries to explain himself, she sadly whispers, “Happy anniversary” before leaving.

Upon realizing she is the only one at the table, the scene makes so much sense. Malcolm believes she is mad at him for putting work ahead of their marriage, specifically on their anniversary. Anna seems sad that their marriage is disintegrating. After the reveal that he is dead, it is clear that Anna is depressed because she is celebrating their anniversary alone — one year after he died and left her a widow.


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2 Malcolm Wears The Same Clothes He Died In

Malcolm Never Changes His Blue Dress Shirt

While some movie costume choices stand out, Malcolm’s clothes in The Sixth Sense are ordinary and unassuming, which Shyamalan clearly intends. After seeing Malcolm in a blue dress shirt on the night he was shot, he is never seen in anything but that shirt again. He wears coats and various other layers to make it less obvious, but that shirt is always part of his ensemble. On the first watch, viewers might think Malcolm is a bland dresser.

Malcolm never changes shirts because he is wearing the one he died in.

However, in the movie’s final moments, it is revealed that the shirt remains stained with blood from the gunshot wound. Malcolm never changes shirts because he is wearing the one he died in. Viewers would only notice this fact on repeat viewings, but when a character never changes clothes, it raises red flags, and Shyamalan added that to The Sixth Sense for that purpose.

1 Malcolm’s Wedding Ring

A Band Of Foreshadowing

The Sixth Sense twist arrives at the end. The climax begins with Malcolm’s wife dropping his wedding ring on the ground. This revelation is when he realizes he isn’t wearing the ring. Viewers understand what this means the second the ring hits the floor. While this moment spells it out, it was a clue Shyamalan sprinkled throughout the movie. In the film, Malcolm is not seen wearing his wedding ring, while Anna still wears hers. Despite this, Malcolm wants to “save his marriage,” and Anna ignores him.

Though they seem to be having marital trouble, and she appears to pull away from him, the fact that she wears her ring and he doesn’t wear his makes no sense. Of course, the reason he doesn’t have his is that she has held onto it since his death. The dropped ring finally reveals M. Night Shyamalan’s greatest twist ending in The Sixth Sense.

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