10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Published 2 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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.

NEXT PAGE: The Wolverine, I Am Legend and More…

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


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  1. Seeing all these makes me think of Stephen Kings, The Langoliers. To me that was a great movie as you sit there wondering as they try to figure out why they are the only ones alive etc. I was stuck the entire movie.. or well atleast til the end because as usual Stephen King puts his twist on it and f*cks up the end.

    • I loved The Langoliers, but it was a TV mini-series, not a movie, so wouldn’t count here.

  2. I think people keep getting what actually happens at the end of Superman wrong. To me, he’s not using a new power to turn back time, it’s really a visualization of him flying so fast that he breaks the time barrier and actually goes back in time. In the comics, this was done by showing him flying through “layers” of time with the year clearly written in them.

    This still doesn’t explain him removing his S emblem and attacking Zod with it in Superman II though. That was just silly.

    • Yeah, we’re seeing time travel from the relativistic point of view of the time traveler. The earth would appear (if he could see) to rotate in revers. He’s not reversing the rotation of the earth, he is going faster than light and moving backward through time. It’s still ridiculous, of course, but it’s just part of the awesome power of Superman, I guess. I mean, if we were to stay from the relativistic point of view of “normal time” he’d just accelerate and vanish and then pop back into existence in the past.

      Of course, a fun question would have been “Why aren’t there two Supermans in the new timeline?” That could have made a better second movie. Or, hell, he could have teamed up with himself!

    • Superman should himself back in time-unless the Lois Lane is not the same Lois Lane.Whick means,his Lois Lane is still dead and this Lois Lane has her own Superman.So Second Superman shows up and First Superman to get lost -go back his timeline and bury dead Lois.Get over it and listen to Jor El next time,his girlfreind drops dead way too quickly.Somewhere,there is a murder.Lois just dies to fast for me.Did a rock crush her skull?She looks dead for hours not minutes.
      Then again we could had a whole platoon of Supermen fighting over Second Lois Lane,in their timeline,their Lois Lanes all dropped dead during earthquake at various points in time.Maybe 12 or 13 Doctor Who’s show up with Marty and Emit in the DeLorean and ohh.See Jor=El was right,Kal-El,don’t interfere.Its gets nutty.
      Marty-you 12 or 13 Doctors,plus other Dr.Who,that looks Peter Cushing,we have to stop Superman from shattering the space time continuem.

  3. Can’t disagree more with High Tension. The ending was the thing that made movie good. What came before was a somewhat generic, if well directed and acted, home-invasion-turned-revenge flick that gradually made less and less sense, until it was revealed that the main character was tying together the narrative in her head as it went along to rationalize away what she was really doing.

    Her never being found by the killer, the killer looking in the exact places she was considering hiding and in the exact same order, the unrealistic car-chase, the resurrection. None of that make sense without the ending.

    With the ending it all fall into place. Their actions mimic each-other because he is just something she invented to project her actions unto, the car-chase didn’t happen and was just her way to explain to herself how both she and the killer got there, the resurrection was because she “killed” the killer, but suddenly needed him again due to unforeseen events. Etc. Etc.

  4. How was Preminition( sorry if I’m spelling Preminition incorrect) not on here? That ending was horrible. Someone I knew tried explaining her mission was to get pregnant and not save her husband’s live. So now the baby has no father? Sandra Bullock’s nice and deserved her Oscar for the blind side, but knowing she made that crap makes it hard to ever want to pay $5 for any of her films again. That ending was so bad, I didn’t think anyone could make it any worse and they found a way.

  5. High Tension, aka Dean Koontz’s Intensity

    • It really is one of the most astonishingly brazen acts of plagiarism I’ve ever seen on the big screen. Pretty much the only part that wasn’t lifted directly from Koontz’s much superior book (and the miniseries, featuring a delightfully creepy performance by John C. McGinley) was that terrible ending.

  6. Funny that you comment on how The Wolverine goes too far in comic book territory, when it’s based on a comic book. Silver Samurai is quite well-known, and though they changed it from the actual comic appearances (see, for example, Wolverine #2), in fitting with the more “realistic” approach, there was little they could have done with it and Wolverine’s trip to Japan was really the best story arc to pick. And why are you surprised the character became so popular after the X-Men films? Same thing happened in the world of comics.

  7. I loved the ending of the Ninth Gate. What was confusing about it? Corso was always on path towards the Devil. We just find out that Lucifer is female and tricky. After all, if you are going to give the “prize” of immortality to someone you have the right to pick the right person for the job — at least according to you.

    I even loved the way that Frank Langella played his character with a sort of goofy better-than-thou sort of haughtiness. Clearly you don’t want to give super powers to someone as self important as his character.

    Corso, on the other hand, is reasonable, thoughtful, careful, attends to details, and perseveres. Just the right kind of guy to work for a superbeing.


  8. A.I. is Steven Spielberg’s, not Kubricks. That would be impossible once Kubrick died in 1999 and A.I. is from 2001.
    I’m surprised nobody said anything.

    • It’s been mentioned a number of times that A.I. was a Kubrick concept that Spielberg picked up after the former passed away.

      A number of elements, including the ending, come from Kubrick’s ideas.

  9. Rules: No profanity or personal attacks.

    Fine, taking my ball and going home.
    I wasnt going to be profane, or attack anyone.
    But I prefer to have the option :D

  10. Twister has the stupidest, most ludicrous ending of all time.

  11. the only reason why half these movies had endings that disappointed audiences is that the audiences weren’t smart enough to understand them, for those of us who are the endings were just fine. i.e. 2001, A.I, Sunshine

    • yeah but the ending to signs was horrible. That movie built great suspense in my opinion until the ridiculous ending was the best alien invasion movie of all time. I remember watching that in the theater and being thoroughly freaked out, & I don’t get freaked out and movies.seriously though, attacking the planet with 79 water and water is your mortal enemy? Retarded

      • commenting via voice text on phone is a bad idea. Sorry for misspellings, errors and omissions. That was supposed to say 79% among other errors…

  12. What about the Matrix series? What a HORRIBLE ending!

  13. Spotted this on zergnet, what movie is the pic on zergnet from? Not from any of the 10 movies listed, at least I don’t think it is.

    • that was Norm, the bag boy from the Mist being dragged away by tentacled thing.

      • I see it now! I thought it was Benedict Cumberbatch in a fur coat in the snow or something. I’ve been looking for this answer for almost a year now! Thank you!

      • Thanks asd. That was driving me nuts!

  14. The worst by far is “Gravity”–When the Clooney character’s return turns out to be a dream–click-click-boom—magic gone! Let them fall in love and make it back together?–Oscars all around-when he really was gone–no sugar–no buzz–blah

  15. The Last Legion!!

  16. With maybe one or two exceptions none of these are particularly good movies so if the ending collapses in Hollywood hackery well that’s just the way it goes.

  17. When Clark creates the fortress of solitude, and does the 8 year teaching experience with his father it is hinted at that time that Superman indeed had the power to manipulate time/space. His father even tells him it is “Forbidden”.

    I think the ending of Superman: The Movie is the main reason people to this day think Christopher Reeve when they think Superman. The emotion he shows in the closing moments of that scene were incredible.

  18. No, “I Am Legend” was not actually ANYTHING like the book for any portion of the film.

  19. I was shocked to see the brilliant final shot of 2001 on this list. Instead, replace it with The Game. I was riveted through this movie until the final scene. The Michael Douglas character’s reaction to the mystery’s explanation is simply beyond belief.

  20. NOPE.
    The all time worst ending to a movie was “No Country For Old Men.”

  21. Leave Sunshine alone. That movie is a masterpiece.

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