10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Published 2 weeks ago by , Updated April 23rd, 2015 at 6:53 am,

[Updated with video]

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 climax can be so poorly executed, it leaves audiences wondering whether the events that preceded it were even worth the trouble.

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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  1. I just saw ” The Best of me ” It was great until the end. Have people forgotten how to end books and movies altogether? Talk about taking the easy way out. dummys I did not just say this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! why are you censoring an opinion that makes no attacks on anyone and no vulgarity WAKE UP OUT THERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. I think a good movie with a bad ending was the Robocop remake,it was an awesome movie,but the ending was poorly done with Murphy shooting Sellars on the roof of the building.It should have had way more action and anticipating climax than the movie gave audiences.The original Robocop’s ending was terrific with Murphy being penned down but still finishing off Clarence and saving Lewis.That’s why the original Robocop was a better movie.

  3. “The preceding film”??

    As to suggest a film that preceded the one being discussed??

    Just more nails in the coffin of journalism.

    • … and the English language.

      • Calm down grammar diva, it’s a typo. Easily fixed.

        You do realize we write more, faster, with deeper analysis than most “journalists,” right? Mistakes happen; we fix.

        Try not to get too worked up about it. It’s not the end of Journalism or English…

        • I find it odd that some posters come on here just to nitpick about your (or Screenrants) writing but then they keep coming back. They must be masochists or something.

          • It’s called figure of speech. Look it up.

  4. Actually, with The Devil’s Advocate, I thought the entire idea of that ending was to show that the Devil was always there to provide temptations, but in every iteration of his plan he did something different after his son managed to do something right. Otherwise he could have gone back when his son was a teenager and make him a friend of Sam Kinison and Corey Feldman.

  5. Why has this zombie thread been resurrected after the first comment that was made 9 months ago?

    • It hasn’t been resurrected. It never went away. Comments have continually posted throughout the nine months.

  6. I definitely would have loved to have seen a devil’s Advocate 2,that was a great movie.

  7. I wouldn’t say Superman was ‘ruined’ by it’s sending. Agreed on it’s ridiculousness but it does kind of work when taken into context and of course the fact it’s Superman and the film’s tone means you can suspend disbelief enough.

    Unbreakable should’ve been on this list for sure, perhaps Children of Men as well.

    • Unbreakable and Children of Men….two great movies with outstanding endings.

  8. I like Supe I and The Wolverine from head to toe. I think some other unlisted films deserved those spots.

  9. ain’t this a re-post?

    • No. It is an article from 9 or so months ago that has continually has new comments since. It as updated a couple of days ago with a video.

      • Having issues with my keyboard. What the old man meant to say is has continually had new comments since & It was updated a couple of days ago with a video.

  10. 1200 plus comments. I guess you guys found a way to run up the bait hits. Please don’t be like Newsarama.

    • It’s a polarising article (and it’s 9mths old), so it’s the people who read the site that has kept it going.

  11. Random selection of films. Really this list could be 100 movies long. Nonetheless I love your vids!

  12. 2001 is perfect, you’re article is a turd.

  13. Guess the writer never read any 1960s Superman comics. Superman was constantly time travelling. Heck, Superboy used to go into the far future regularly to hang out with Mon-El and the Legion of Superheroes. So having him go back into time is not inexplicable, it’s part of the original mythology. (See: The Flash – if you have super speed in the DC universe, you can time travel).
    So, given the conclusion he’s made about the ending of the Superman 1978 flick, I’d have to give this piece a FAIL.

    • Yeah, but the Flash had to use that Cosmic Treadmill thing to time-travel… and for awhile, so did Superman. I remember at one point they both had to run on it at the same time to time-travel.

      But yeah, Superboy would just fly off and end up in the future, with all those goofy future super-teens. Man those were silly.