10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Published 3 months ago by , Updated August 7th, 2014 at 11:48 am,

Great Movies Ruined By Terrible Endings 10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Whether writing a movie, TV series, novel, or any other form of storytelling, one fact rises above all: endings are hard. The sentiment is proven on a yearly basis, as countless films deliver an intriguing premise, compelling action, or powerful messages, only to fumble with the closing act. Sometimes, the film’s final impact can be so poorly executed, it leaves audiences wondering whether the film that preceded it was even worth the trouble.

It’s rare that a film’s finale can be so poorly handled, it negates what the movie did right up to that point, but it’s just as unfortunate to realize that the characters, the conflict, and the plot in its entirety were all building to an ending that was doomed to fall short from the very start.

Our list of 10 Good Movies Ruined By Terrible Endings shows that strong films can still succeed despite a flawed climax, but in our opinion, they would be even more beloved if their conclusions were just as flawless. Needless to say, SPOILERS abound, so read at your own risk.

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10. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Great Movies Bad Endings AI Artificial Intelligence 10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

In hindsight, director Stanley Kubrick’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence was always going to be divisive. The futuristic retelling of the Pinocchio story – injected with elements of science fiction and the more unseemly sides of humanity – was put on hold with Kubrick’s death in 1999, eventually falling into the hands of Steven Spielberg.

For most of the film, the story of a robotic boy’s quest to be loved by his human family, cast out, pursued, tormented, and seeking a mystical ‘Blue Fairy’ to make him ‘a real boy’ fall in line with Kubrick’s style. But just when the film reaches its somber conclusion, a plot twist comes screaming in unannounced, leaping David (Haley Joel Osment) millenia into the future. The film’s ending can’t decide whether it wants to be sentimental or somber; a thought-provoking conclusion, but one far cleaner and straightforward than the preceding film (steeped in Kubrick imagery and meaning) seemed to promise.

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9. The Ninth Gate (1999)

Great Movies Bad Endings Ninth Gate 10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Director Roman Polanski’s The Ninth Gate was anticipated by many, both for its star and the director’s past work on Rosemary’s Baby. Following rare book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) as he works to verify a centuries-old book designed to conjure the powers of Satan, countless characters are murdered along the way before Corso must watch as his work is used to ‘enter the ninth gate’ – with the attempt resulting in nothing but another death.

Just as a missing page is revealed to be the culprit, said page literally flutters into the story, landing squarely in the main character’s lap. Finally revealing the true story that has been playing out, the film brings Corso to the threshold of immortality, book in hand – and the screen fades to white. Fans have crafted their own theories, but more than any other entry on our list, The Ninth Gate fails by simply lacking a real ending. So instead of the eery, moody thriller that preceded it, viewers are left scratching their heads as to the film’s real message.

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8. Signs (2002)

Great Movies Bad Endings Signs 10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

When discussing “bad endings,” it won’t take long for M. Night Shyamalan’s name to pop up. Although the stunning ending of The Sixth Sense cemented his name (and Unbreakable proved a twist was going to be something of a trademark), it wasn’t long before some flaws started to show. None of his films are more divisive than Signs, following a small family in rural Pennsylvania as they suspect and personally witness an alien invasion of Earth.

While a majority of the film has kept to the idea of a single family witnessing an alien invasion, the twist ending plants an alien attacker in their living room, revealing that each traumatic event, failure, and eccentricity of the family was fated to save them. Divine intervention is fine, but the twist is delivered more bluntly than anything prior. Aliens choosing to invade a planet that is covered in water (their only weakness) is enough of a plot hole, but the fact that the drinks scattered throughout the house could have been anything shows just how unnecessarily clumsy the conclusion really was.

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7. The Devil’s Advocate (1997)

Great Movies Bad Endings Devils Advocate 10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Lawyer jokes aside, The Devil’s Advocate managed to not only offer a demonic/supernatural drama that was actually grounded in real world New York, but one bolstered by a strong cast – Al Pacino as the aforementioned Devil at the top of the list. It also packs one heck of a twist: after Pacino’s ‘John Milton’ has welcomed young defense attorney Kevin Lomax (Keanu Reeves) to the top of his field – costing him his wife and soul in the process – he reveals that he is Lucifer himself, and Kevin is his son.

Asked to father the Antichrist with his half-sister, Kevin destroys his father’s plan in an act of free will: killing himself. Instead of the movie ending with the Devil once again thwarted, the story rewinds, returning Lomax to the film’s first scenes. No explanation is offered for exactly how (did Satan return him to try again? Was it all in his head? Does Satan have mastery over the universe?), but Kevin takes the chance to do the right thing. That would have been a slightly sappy ending itself, but the final shot of a laughing Pacino clearly still set on corrupting his son turns the movie into a confusing morality tale, instead of the dark, depressing descent into immorality that it had been to that point.

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6. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Great Movies Bad Endings 2001 Space Odyssey 10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

To call Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey a mystery would be an understatement, but it’s not the enigmatic and unresolved nature of the story itself that turned out to be the problem. The film’s core mystery – the strange black monoliths seemingly calling to mankind – looks to be solved, but the final contact instead sends the audience hurtling through space, before closing on a shot of the infamous ‘Starchild’; a colossal fetus floating in space next to Earth.

Understandably, many critics were just as confused as audiences, with the message hard to grasp beneath the shocking visuals. But the message isn’t entirely ambiguous: the monolith gave apes the wisdom to use weapons and tools, and this second leap (more clearly understand in the “2001″ novel) takes humans beyond their own life and death, emerging as a newborn into a brand new awareness of the larger universe. 2001 remains a classic for everything from its music to set design, but the willingness to leave even curious viewers confused meant that its message remains lost on many, if not most. After charting out the themes sci-fi would follow for decades, the film ends on more of a whimper than the (intellectual) bang it had earned.

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TAGS: 2001: a space odyssey, i am legend, signs, sunshine, superman, the wolverine

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  1. One movie I absolutely loved until the last 5 minutes is “Boxing Helena” (1993). The movie was rumored to have some troubles being made (Madonna and then Kim Basinger backed out of the title role), and it seemed to me to be purposely sabotaged at the end when we learn that the entire engrossing plot was all just a dream.

  2. I must protest about the comments regarding Signs. The problem too many people have regarding this film, is they do not really understand what it is about. It is NOT about alien invasion. The whole movie is about a deeply religious man losing, and the regaining his faith. Shyamalan’s true genius is the subtlety with which he tells his stories. And, he always explains what the film is about – if you pay attention. Sixth Sense was not about who sees ghosts – it was about a sensitive, caring man who could not move on after he is shot, until he atones for one mistake that has haunted him (subconsciously). The Lady in the Water is a child’s bedtime story – period; and, it works as such.

    • Ok, you can’t go around saying absolutely insane things like “Shyamalan’s true genius is the subtlety with which he tells his stories” and expect anyone to take you seriously.

      He’s about as heavy-handed a hack as there is. Subtlety and Shyamalan have never been in the same room together, except maybe at a party once, but they didn’t speak to each other.

    • I totally agree with you. Signs is actually my favorite movie. And it was not about the Aliens but about regaining faith as well as everything happens for a reason.

  3. I think Easy Rider had the worst ending of any movie ever made.

    • You must not have been around during the time period it occurred in. The ending was spot on. Brilliant ending. One of the best of all time. So glad it chose not to be hollywoodized.

    • Nope, he’s right… that ending sucks in any era. Absolute garbage on every level.

      But that whole movie is pretty much useless, so I’d never have it on the “good movies ruined” list. So empty, so boring… nothing happens at all, but at least Jack Nicolson shows up.

      • Again someone who knows not of what they speak. The movie is a recognized classic and if you were around in that era you would understand the significance (and reality) of the ending. The movie seems dated by being so relevant for the time it was released. You are entitled to your opinion of course but most film historians would not agree.

        • I’ll accept that if you saw that as a stupid kid in the 60s who didn’t know anything about anything, you could be fooled by the pretentious nonsense of ER into thinking it meant something.

          The facts are that movie has no plot, no characterization, no one changes, no one does anything at all. There is no substance to it, there is no meaning to it… it’s a hollow shell of surface “cool” that ultimately means nothing.

          It absolutely was a product of its time, I’ll give you that. And again, it’s a “recognized classic” by people who saw it back then and were unable to discern actual quality. The ending was a cheap, hollow trick… like the rest of the movie… which apparently worked on people back then.

          • I’ll accept the fact that you saw it as the child you still obviously are which explains why you fail to recognize the importance of this film in the history of cinematic art. Your lack of maturity probably also explains why you would make such an assine comment that “it’s a recognized classic by people who saw it back then and were unable to discern actual quality”. It is recognized today by film historians as a classic film. Check out a list of films from that era that are considered classics of the cinema before making a statement that only serves to make you look silly. The ending of the film was not a cheap hollow trick (another statement that exposes you as clueless) but a shocking but totally honest reflection of the great generational divide that existed in a very volatile time in our history. By the way, I saw the film as an adult (something you will be someday) and I realize that arguing with someone who truly believes calling themselves “muscratboy” is clever is an exercise in futility so feel free to have the last word. I have already wasted too much time defending a film that really doesn’t need anyone to defend it’s place in cinematic history. That place is an established fact (not my opinion) so nothing you say can change it.

            • Alright fella, easy now. Pump the brakes. No need to get all personal and weird about it.

              I’ll fully accept that you like it. I’ll fully accept it has a place in film history.

              But on no level can anyone consider it a “good” film on any objective measure. Objectively, there is no discernible plot. There is no characterization. There is no story. The protagonist is utterly inactive… he does nothing, says nothing, learns nothing, and makes no change of any kind. He is probably the most inactive protagonist in screen history.

              It was made on the fly by a couple completely wasted actors, hence the lack of plot or sense. There was no script, which is very, very obvious. It was accepted by the youth of that time for a variety of reasons, none of them being that it was a good film… as evidenced by your clear emotional attachment to it.

              It is a classic for existing, essentially… how it was made, who made it, and what it spurred in its wake. Again… not because of its quality as a narrative, but because people of that era responded to it on some very specific, very “of that time” level. It doubtless shook things up… while still being a really bad, pointless, empty film on a objective level.

              And as an adult, Robert, maybe you’d want to not make silly personal attacks based on user names. It demeans us both, and easily allows any thinking grownup to disregard your opinions as emotional histrionics. Grow up, man.

              I understand it was an important movie in its way. I understand that you have a strong personal attachment to it, for whatever reason. I also stand by the fact that it is absolute garbage on many levels, which is vastly obvious to anyone who understands what a good story is supposed to be.

              • The thing about “art” is that “good” is subjective. No need to act all pretentious and combative about movies, come on now. Respect each other’s opinions and move on.

              • Easy Rider is a classic because it was one of the first films in a new era of filmmaking that departed from the massive budget musical and westerns of the 60′s. However if you look at it with a critic’s eye, it really is quite lacking.

  4. It seems like every other day, someone pops into this comment section to say “Kubrick didn’t direct A.I.” like they’re allowing us into some amazing revelation.

    We know he didn’t direct it, the writer of the article didn’t say he directed it and every time those who chime in with “Kubrick didn’t direct A.I., do some research”, the irony is lost on the fact that if those very same people did their own g****** research, they’d see that A.I. was indeed a Kubrick film that was passed to Spielberg by the man himself to complete as Stanley had other things to do (like Scene 4 / Take 7,000 on his current project).

    Opinions are opinions and those who say 2001 is a masterpiece are not wrong and those who feel the ending is pretentious are not wrong either because that is how they have perceived that movie.

    • Very well expressed HHIII. And hopefully this will put it to rest.

  5. Good grief. 2001 is on this list? You guys are a joke. Go back to watching movies like Anchorman and Euro Trip.

    • What about the people like me who watched and enjoyed both 2001 and Eurotrip?

      The above comment is an example of the elitism that has pervaded the comments section of threads on this site for as long as I’ve been visiting it.

      This article (which must be close to holding the record for most comments – and also most repeated comments) is an opinion piece and it seems a lot of people are not understanding that. Do you have to agree with the writer? Of course you don’t, but that doesn’t mean you have to belittle the intelligence behind the article’s execution.

      It’s like the times people have said to me “You can’t be much of a film buff if you like Bad Boys” or movies of that ilk. Why not? I don’t go into a movie like Bad Boys to be wowed by dramatic moments of existential angst, I watch Bad Boys to see s*** blow up and get my fill of Martin Lawrence / Will Smith buddy-buddy dialogue. And there is and never will be anything wrong with that.

      If you cannot allow yourself to slip away from elitism in your viewing habits (and I will guarantee you at least two or three of the people who have decried the entry of 2001 won’t have actually seen it), then you’re missing out on good old-fashioned and plain fun.

      Once you learn to find the enjoyment in whatever movie it is, you’ll find that, one small level, the world is a better place for it.

      • The apocalypse must be near because I find myself agreeing with Henry Higgins III again. I agree with your post and believe that you described a true film fan. I love movies that advance the art of cinema (2001) or are challenging or dramatically rich and complex. I also love films that are mindless fun. I’ll laugh my ass off at 21 Jump Street and love the non-stop action of a Die Hard or be thrilled by the richly recreated worlds of my favorite childhood comic books. There is so much pleasure to be had in all types of films and they all serve multiple purposes the most important of which is to entertain us. What entertains me may not entertain you but that doesn’t mean my choices are wrong and your choices are right. My choices are right for me and yours are right for you and we should all learn to respect that. Well said, Henry Higgins III!

  6. I thought the ending to Sunshine was excellent. A movie about 7 people isolated in a spaceship Millions of Miles from Earth turning into a suspenseful slash-thriller doesn’t surprise me, and at least they did it well. The final few minutes with Cillian Murphy and Rose Byrne shooting into the sun was definitely memorable IMO.

  7. How about “The Name of the Rose.” It stayed close to the book, digging into some deep ethical and religious questions with imperfect characters. Then it went for a Hollywood blow-off ending to release the moral tension to send the audience home with no unresolved issues. I recommend reading the book by Umberto Eco and checking out the historical connections to splinter religious groups.

  8. No offense to anyone but people who didn’t understand the endings of “The Ninth Gate” or “2001: A Space Odyssey”, didn’t understand what the those movies were about.. I won’t reveal they’re meanings, but it took me several viewings of “The Ninth Gate ” before I grasped that it’s hidden plot narrative was all about..

  9. hey guys and gals…i love reading your comments in my emails, whether i agree with them or not, but a trend that does disturb me is the fact that people will comment on a film, but not mention what film it is they’re commenting on…like a recent comment by muskratboy, which was interesting and very well said, not to mention quite long and in depth, but never once did he mention what film he was talking about…i love all opinions…just would love to know what the opinion refers to…peace to all…

  10. If you didn’t like the ending of 2001, and Sunshine for that matter, than you missed out on the whole point of the film. I’m not sure you really followed… both those endings are very well thought out and executed. I also think that the ending of ninth gate was bad ass. What’s wrong with having to make your own answers? Things can be open ended and still good.

    • “2001: A Space Odyssey” is most overpriced movie in history.

  11. The alternate ending to “Butterfly Effect” was in my opinion the greatest “twist” to an ending ever.

  12. The Devil’s Advocate… worst ending? You jest?
    “Vanity, my favourite sin”. The Devil was going to try and corrupt his Son all over again, using the vanity of fame this time around. Did you miss that?

  13. Uh… what I gleaned from this article is that scifi is the genre to steer clear of when looking to see a good movie with a good ending… Just pointing this out.

  14. Easy Rider sucks

    • To each their own. I liked “Easy Rider”.

  15. I thought that the very flat ending to the theatrical/extended versions of Ben Affleck’s “The Town”, along with a number of other things, helped ruin a potentially good, or even a great film for me.

  16. The reason the ending to Superman is so bad is because it was not supposed to happen, it was forced by the studio executives. The original ending would have seen him stop both missiles (because he’s superman) and deflect them into space, where an after credits scene would show them hitting the phantom zone and release general Zod. The studio however were worried about committing to a second film and so forced the ending change (and also the stuff at the start of the second film that lead to Zod’s release).

    • True, that would for sure be a better ending. Although, the part of spinning back earth etc. was apparently Donners vision for the ending of the second one (and thusly fixing all the havoc the three kryptoinans caused, and in the process reversing them to the phantom zone). So ultimately, still sort of silly – although as a punctuation to the two movies (and in a sense one epic story), perhaps then this ending could be quite spectacular.

  17. Add Tarantino’s “Inglorious Basterds” to this list – actually a great movie, was enjoying it…right up to the point where he decided to re-write history and kill Hitler. As much as everyone on the planet likes the idea of killing Hitler, any history-based film that fundamentally changes history like that ultimately loses me.

  18. Common mistake with your comments on 2001.

    The monolith did not give anything to early man (and not apes, by the way, ya missed a big distinction there…). The monolith was a symbol and did not instill man with any wisdom. Strange conclusion people make about that.

    The whole point of the first 30 minutes of 2001 was to simply show those who created the monolith were on earth BEFORE man started using tools. That’s all. It’s simply there to set up the later discovery of the other monolith on the moon.

    30 minutes of guys in fur suits in Africa and on sound stages to show what today would be summed up in a few lines of dialog: “Oh hey, that thing we found on the moon today? It was buries there over 5 million years ago.” “No kidding? Wow, that’s rad!”

    And that’s why the rest of the film makes little sense unless you read Clarke’s book.

    • Andrew, 2001, the monolith did not give anything? It changed the ape-men who touched it. The one had a vision (the moon over the monolith, can’t remember?), and the next day they were able to kill for the first time, using a tool for the first time. That tool – a bone – transitions into a spaceship when the movie jumps forward; all our technology is a result of the alien meddling.

      • Hello
        Long time fan, first time caller. Very interesting comments and debate. Goes to show you the power cinema has to enthrall and entertain. Brilliant people performing thought provoking magic!

  19. I totally have to disagree with you about the ending to Superman- It was the ultimate gesture paid by the protector of humanity to his one favorite human (who he ultimately cannot have.)

    One movie that should’ve been on this list was The Mist. Awesome adaptation of the Stephen King novel, with an utterly stupid left-turn of an ending. After spending the entire movie insisting that everyone around him not give up, to hope, to go on and be strong and so on, etc and on and on… they all shoot each other and he shoots his son, and then the mist clears and he is saved. The book ending didn’t have any of that; it instead ended on the cautiously hopeful note that while driving away into the mist after escaping the supermarket, one of the characters was scanning through the FM band on the car’s stereo, and just for a brief moment, the word “Connecticut” emerged from the static. It ended that way, with them driving into the mist, presumably to safety- we hope. (Hopefully, the car’s suspension was in good shape… I’ve driven on some of CT’s Interstates… not pretty! :P )

    • (Sorry… the word that emerged from the static was “Hartford,” as in Hartford Connecticut, but not the word “Connecticut” itself.)