The Usual Suspects (1995) has been a standard for thrillers with plot twists for years. Released in 1995, this story about how five criminals meet in a police lineup and somehow end up doing a job together will surely go down in history as one of the most interesting American movies of all time (minus the Kevin Spacey debacle).

This satisfaction one gets from watching this story unfold and get the expected, unexpected is one of the many reasons why it wouldn’t age a day even if you watch it in 2022 for the first time. Keep in check the suddenness with which everything pans out in the third act of the movie, one needs to analyze it more thoroughly.

DISCLAIMER: This article is going to be full of spoilers, so please read it only after you have seen the 1995 film The Usual Suspects.

The Usual Suspects (1995) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

The film opens with a night scene on the harbor with an eerie background score that exudes mystery and suspense. We can see a guy lighting a cigarette beside a dead body and then trying to light everything on fire, only to be interrupted by a shadowy figure. This unidentified figure then shoots him after a quick unheard exchange. He then sets everything on fire which eventually leads to an explosion. The camera then pans to a space filled with boats where we can feel someone witnessing everything.

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Cut to scene 2 we see a man testifying in front of the court who says it all started 6 weeks ago when a truck loaded with guns got hijacked in New York. Again cut to 6 weeks ago, we can see 5 people being taken by police in different scenarios and, followed by their introduction as McManus, Todd Hockney, Fenster, with a specific focus on Dean Keaton, who gets picked up by US Customs agent David Kujan along with few officers of NYPD, and lastly Verbal – the guy who was giving the testimony continues his story of how he was not in league with other guys, yet still, he was there which made him feel good about himself.

They are all put in a lineup where they are asked to speak a phrase they are given, which makes them laugh and make fun of each other. It slightly gives you an idea of what kind of people they are. Cue the narrator Verbal who says, “it was all bullshit. It was all cop’s fault, whatever happened. You do not put these kinds of people in the same room; who knows what could have happened.”

After the lineup sequence, each of them is grilled individually, hoping someone will slip up. And with this, Verbal describes each of them. McManus – top-notch entry guy, good but crazy; Fenster – worked a long time with McManus, real tight ass but always right on his jobs; Hockney – good with explosives – only one who didn’t give an F about anybody; Keaton – was the real prize for them, and it is revealed that the Police department had thought Keaton is dead but here he was.

The sequence cuts to the lockup, and everyone is having arguments about how they ended up there when Hockney reveals that Keaton has gone straight now – leaving his past life behind, and is dating a lawyer named Edie. With all the talks and arguments, McManus and Fenester tell everyone about this job lined up with good pay, and they are perfect for it. Everyone agrees except for Keaton, and they try to convince him.

Cut to present-day California, where police find multiple bodies on the harbor, and there are two survivors, 1 Hungarian in a coma and another cripple taken by the DA. At one of the Police stations, agent Kujan tries to convince another officer to let him meet the cripple, Verbal, but instead, he is informed that Verbal cut some deal and is now looking for posting bail. The whole thing has turned political and powerful people protect him. Agent Kujan finally gets permission to talk to him in the office itself.

Another agent, Baer, goes to visit the Hungarian survivor, who mentions the name Keyser Soze and with each mention of this name, everyone goes pale.

It cuts back to Agent Kujan, and his conversation with Verbal starts when he tells his version of the story of what happened. Six weeks ago, they all met for the first time for that lineup. Finally, they are released due to Edie, and they all leave eyeing Keaton if he agrees. Later Verbal goes to Keaton’s place and convinces him to take the job.

And then their adventure together. The first thing they hit is a taxi service, not a normal one but a racket where corrupt police officers help drug dealers and criminals enter a town and move around in police vehicles for a few thousand dollars. Everyone on our perpetrator’s team put up something for the hit to work, and everything goes on perfectly.

Then they go to meet Redfoot for payment and are somehow pulled into this other job with better pay but more danger. They end up killing a few people, which turns out to be a setup by someone named Kobayashi, who wants to meet them.

They meet Kobayashi, a lawyer for Keyser Soze, who wants to hire them for the Boat job, which is more dangerous. They all deny it, but Soze has files on them, and Kobayashi threatens their lives. The boat job entails stealing 90 million dollars worth of coke from the boat to stop a deal from happening, which would then help Soze run his cartel.

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Back to the present day, Verbal tells Agent Kujan what he knows about Keyser Soze, – a German Turkish guy who killed his whole family along with the ones who hurt them. He killed everyone related to his enemies and their next of kin. According to Verbal, all the pressure coming from the top is all because of Soze, and he will pick him up the moment he steps out of the station, and they will never hear from him again.

Back in the hospital, the Hungarian helps make a sketch of Keyser Soze.

Verbal then continues his story, the next day after the Kobayashi incident, Fenester leaves, then takes a chunk of their money, and they get a call from Kobayashi telling them they could find him or whatever remains of him. They bury him and decide to do the job as a precaution. They try to kill Kobayashi, but he has some tricks up his sleeve; he has Edie and someone important from everyone’s life, making them leave.

The Usual Suspects (1995) Movie Ending Explained

Finally, the big day comes, and things start to come to play. With everyone in position, Keaton tells Verbal to take the money and go to Edie and tell her that he tried not everything go southways. They start the job with a bang – killing anyone who comes their way. They then start looking for coke. But someone starts hunting them, too, starting with Hockney. After a while, they realize that there’s no coke. On the side, we can see this man inside a safe room on the boat, saying Soze is here to kill him, and then someone shoots him too.

Keaton goes to the deck to find McManus killed, and then the mystery guy comes and kills Keaton, too, all witnessed by Verbal, who hides, as we saw in the opening scene.

Back to the present day, Agent Kujan says he believes Keaton is Keyser Soze, and he planned everything from the lineup in NY to the boat job to kill that one man who knew what he looked like, and then like last time, he faked his death to which Verbal just denies. He believed Keaton was his friend and couldn’t have betrayed him. With this, Verbal leaves the station sad about the betrayal, and Kujan is happy that he finally got things right.

The Usual Suspects (1995) Movie Ending, Explained:

With Verbal leaving the station, we can see the agents from the hospital send the sketch by Hungarian to the Police station, and Kujan is happy that even if Keaton is Keyser Soze, he’ll now know how close they got to him and if he’s alive he’ll one day find him.

Discussing all this with the other officer, he notices the board on the wall with all the random clips of paper stuck on it. He slowly realizes the board and the room had all the details Verbal mentioned in his entire interview – from his coffee in Guatemala to a salon to Redfoot to Kobayashi.

The sketch from the hospital also arrives, which turns out to be that of  Verbal.

The ending of The Usual Suspects leads Kujan to realize that all he heard from Verbal just a few moments ago was all just good storytelling without an ounce of truth. He runs after Verbal but loses him in the crowd, and we see Verbal go from a cripple to walking straight and entering a car driven by who he earlier claimed to be Kobayashi.

With this masterstroke of an ending, the end credits roll in, and the audience remains dumbfounded about what they witnessed. The Usual Suspects is a prime example of good storytelling – both verbal and by the director who makes you believe in lies as the ultimate truth before pulling the rug under your feet.

There are many lingering questions as one finishes The Usual Suspects, but the most pressing ones are:

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If it was all a lie, what really happened that night?

In the end, as it is revealed how Verbal Aka Keyser Soze fabricated the whole story, one question that can keep you awake at night is, what happened at the boat that night? How many people died, and with such an explosion, did anyone survive? But all we can do now is to speculate. And that is the beauty of the storytelling in this film. The way it first makes you believe Verbal’s version, then when you align with Kujan’s theory of Keaton being Soze, it hits you that everything was a lie and the truth is completely different from what we supposed it to be.

Is Keaton Actually Dead?

With the credibility of Verbal’s story being out of the window, one can’t help but wonder if Keaton is actually alive. The possibility of Keaton actually working with Soze/ Verbal keeps one entertained.

Who was Kobayashi?

With Redfoot and Kobayashi being some random names off the board, we can now only wonder who was the man claiming to be Kobayashi; the only thing clear about him is that he was with Soze, but still, we know nothing about his identity.


The intensity with which Verbal told the story of Soze makes one want to believe in it but who knows where he got the inspiration in that mess of an office.

Read More: 10 Movies to Watch If You Like Pulp Fiction

The Usual Suspects Trailer

The Usual Suspects (1995) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
The Usual Suspects (1995) Movie Cast – Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne, Chazz Palminteri, Stephen Baldwin, Benicio Del Toro, Kevin Pollak
Where to watch The Usual Suspects

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