We watched The Sixth Sense again the other night as part of our "scary movie October" series and I was surprised to discover I enjoyed it a great deal more than I did when I first saw it. That sounds a little counter-intuitive, doesn't it? The Sixth Sense is one of great twist-ending films of its time, so you'd think that knowing what was coming would render the whole thing ineffective.
Instead, I found myself admiring the clever ways in which the twist ending was set up, the trail of breadcrumbs left for the viewer if only they'd know to follow them. Shyamalan did an admirable job, almost completely avoiding easy cheats in setting up the story. The fact that I could relax and enjoy the story instead of spending the entire time trying to puzzle out what was going on only made it better.
I had a similar experience watching The Crying Game a second time. It's a completely different experience when you know what's going to happen and, for me, a superior experience. You can appreciate how much fun Neil Jordan is having, playing with the viewers and almost daring them not to figure it out the first time through. Even the soundtrack gives the movie away, but only if you've already seen it.
My only caveat is that it doesn't apply as reliably when the movie is poorly made. If you watch a poorly-constructed surprise-ending film a second time, you're likely to be hung up on how clumsily the director cheats and hides his secret behind unlikely coincidences or unbelievable contrivances.
It turns out that there's actual, real-life research on this subject which backs up my experience. There's a little comfort in knowing I'm not the only one. I feel ever-so-slightly less alien this way.