10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Published 8 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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  1. Am I the only that noticed the author credits Kubrick with A.I. but yet it was in fact a Spielberg film?

    • NO!!

      You are not the only one who has mentioned that and you are not the only one who has had to be educated in how to read.

      For what must be close to the 30th time in these comments section, A.I. was going to be directed by Stanley Kubrick and the majority of the pre-production had been done when he realised his time would be better spent elsewhere. Due to this, he handed the project to Spielberg, but the ideas, themes and general tone of Kubrick remained present.

  2. Superman ending “Changing the Mythology”?

    As an 8 year watching this movie I already knew that Superman could do this in the comics. He was different from the the DC heroes in that he rotated the EArth backwards it seemed to me instead of just messing with the laws of physics like the Flash could.

    • Ridiculous! If Supes ever really did that, he would kill millions of people. That’s not how time travel works

    • He didn’t turn the earth backwards, that would destroy the planet. He kept going faster and faster until the time it took him to go around the earth was a zero, then going faster than that he went he was actually going back in the time. I know how crazy it sounds, but less crazy than making the earth turn the other way without flooding every continent and toppling every skyscraper.

  3. My vote for worst movie ending goes to “The Sting.” Robert Redford’s character who was a not wealthy con-artist during the 1930′s great depression, walks away from a huge amount of money for no reason.
    Totally stupid. It ruined an otherwise very good movie.

    • It was never about money.
      Revenge!! The little guy outsmarts and hits the big guy where it hurts. It’s been a while but I think the money was a loan for the gig. How many times have you watched it? Just asking, it’s definitely a multi view movie to get it 100%. A favorite

  4. I love the movie “Easy Rider” but hate the ending.

  5. I have said this before but since “The Mist” wasn’t mentioned, although promoted for this article as one of the films to be mentioned, I thought I’d bring it up. This was a really good movie until the disgusting end. I have sworn off Frank Darabont because of the ending of the Mist. I threw my DVD in the trash after watching it. I’ve never done that with any other movie. It’s not a surprise to me that he was forced off of The Walking Dead.

    • Well at least you didn’t overreact like some people.

    • @ John Brune, the only reason I remember the Mist to this day is because of the ending. IMO it is one of the greatest endings ever; made a so so movie an unforgettable movie. It is even said Stephen King prefered the movie ending to his own… just saying

    • HAHAHA whats wrong cant take an ending thats creative and is outside the box? go watch some cartoons and stick to the mainstream kid. movie was decent but the ending was what made it.

    • Definitely The Mist had a bad ending. Also the Watchmen movie, particularly Rorschac’s character – could have been so much better

  6. Realistically speaking, many of those are all-over bad movies, not good movies with bad endings. 2001 is almost the only really good movie here, and only morons think the ending is bad or ruins the movie.

    • Well, I guess I’m a moron…because I hated most of 2001…half the movie is a bunch of nothing happening. Seriously, I cant see how someone who hasnt read the book or isnt high would think the ending was cool.

      • Well you are half right..you are a moron… no not really but you made it so easy I couldn’t resist. We all have different tastes. For me, the film is a masterpiece and the ending is classic (and brilliant).

      • I was high ;)
        A definite Kubrick film.
        Thought provoking but not a favorite

  7. What about “Savages”? It was never going to be a great film, but at least it had the courage to play out the no-win scenario it had established by having most of the main characters, whether protagonist or antagonist, die in the end.

    But wait, in one of the biggest “f*ck you, audience” moments since season 9 of “Dallas”, the narrator simply tells us that what we just invested ourselves in watching was not what happened, and we get a sanitized, Hollywood ending instead.

    It’s as though the Stone wanted to keep his artistic credibility giving the film a dark, realistic ending, but also wanted the piles of studio cash that come with a “the-good-guys-win” blockbuster.

  8. So, which one of these gets bumped to let “Interstellar” in?

    • Ah, no… as has been previously established, this is GOOD movies with BAD endings. Interstellar has a few good elements, but no way is it a good movie as a whole. Self-indulgent claptrap? Yes, absolutely. Good movie? Ehhhhhhh

  9. Totally disagree with you about Devil’s Advocate. I loved the ending and I think that was one of the most under-rated movies ever.

  10. whoever wrote the article on sighns is a clown and needs to rewatch it AND PAY ATTITION “the water cups” were from his daughter. the man lost HIS FAITH AND IT WAS REGAINED BY COINCIDENCE. I HOPE WHOEVER WROTE THE ARTICLE READS THIS IF YOURE GOING TO CRITICIZE SOMETHING UNDERSTAND IT FIRST YOU DOPE go ahead and ban me second and last time i comment this guys and idiot

    • You know, if you’re going to call anyone a clown, you should at least spell the name of the movie correctly and be able to write a statement properly.

  11. wrong bad ending for superman. Superman Returns was by far the worst. not a bad movie – not a great one either – but revealing lois child as supermans was beyond poor choice

  12. Well I will never trust this site again. Obviously thw reviewer didn’t actually watch the movies fully themselves. Aside from the other comments I’d like to point out that the majority of the glasses in Signs would have been water because through out the movie the girl’s weird problem with water keeps coming up.

  13. Didn’t read through all the pages of comments but the Superman movie uses a physics “theory”. Where it was suggested that if time slows down the closer you get to the speed of light, then if you go FASTER than the speed of light, time will go backwards. Superman clearly becomes a ray of light, testing this theory

  14. I do believe they left the worst movie off….No Country for Old Men, was a pretty good movie and it kept you engaged….. Then you get to the end onnnly your not quite sure at first, then your looking at the screen wondering what the heck? That’s IT!….where’s the rest! Truly horrible ending… Couldn’t believe that Tommy Lee Jones would be part of a film that would do that.

    • What about “Gone Girl?” That ending was awful.

      • I liked the ending for “Gone Girl” because it was true to the grim, cold, hopeless nature of the rest of the film. And that pivots directly from Tanner Bolt’s awesome final conversation with Nick Dunne where he accurately tells him that he and Amy are the two most f*****-up people he’s ever met (and that’s a very long list they’re heading up), letting us know that there will be no resolution and no happy ending and that there’s no hero here. It’s a cliche that this inventive films ends on, but man, there’s never been a stronger finish to invoke this line: those two really do deserve each other.

  15. 2001: A Space Odyssey does not belong on this list.

    Yes, the ending might have been confusing to some, but it was central to the movie, and I dare anyone to imagine a better ending that maintains the integrity of the story. This was, after all, the a story of mankind’s first encounters with alien intelligence, both artificial (HAL the computer) and extraterrestrial (the mysterious creators of the monoliths).

    One of the things that made this such a great film is that Kubrick did not try to wrap up the story with some type of simple minded plot device like so many other movies have done. Instead, the film appeals to the intelligence and imagination of the viewer to interpret the ending. If you don’t have intelligence and imagination, then perhaps this is really not the best movie for you to spend your time on.

  16. I see a lot of people mentioning The Mist…when i thought it was great. The fact that it wasnt a “likable” ending doesnt, mean it was bad. The one ending from Stephen King that deserved to be here was from IT (even though it comes from a book)….a giant spider…really?

  17. Castaway anyone??? I mean WTF was THAT ending?? She was the only thing keeping him going and he just goes away????

  18. 2001 was a perfect movie and the end was just fine. It has been my favorite film going on five decades. Likewise, A.I. had a great ending. Subtlety must lie outside this author’s grasp. I saw The Ninth Gate but don’t remember much about it or how it ended. Man of Steel, in my opinion, was a better rendition of Superman. That notwithstanding, I thought the whole time reversal gimmick was a bit silly. Signs, also, a great ending. You had to be paying attention for the last two or three seconds of the movie to see how it ended. I saw Sunshine but, again, don’t remember much about it. I’ll have to see it again.

  19. How about Hannibal for one of the top worst. They completely changed the ending so it wasn’t even remotely like the book. There’s no way in hell Hannibal Lector is gonna cut off his hand to save Clarice’s hand. Nope, that didn’t happen in the book and that whole ending was stupid. They were so worried that following the book ending would turn too many people off, so they chose to rewrite it. Ruined the entire point of the movie. Horrible.

  20. I’m pretty tired of people talking about the alleged plot hole in Signs. As a case on point, mankind is planning on trying to colonize Venus perhaps within the next century despite the face that venus’s atmosphere is poisonous to us. That must also be a plot hole.

    • Ah, but we’ll be taking precautionary steps to survive in that environment.

      The naked aliens in Signs didn’t even bring an umbrella ;)

  21. These all could have used better endings, I think:
    Alien 3
    No Country for Old Men
    Drag Me to Hell
    The Descent

  22. the Abyss had a very rapid script and tight action (if weird science), but the final scene is water pixies save everyone. Most frustrating ending ever for me.

    • completely agree about the Abyss… great actors, action… and then the ending was ust ridiculous!

  23. You realize Wolverine by the 1980s was arguably the most popular Marvel-created superhero ever created, right? His massive popularity predated the movies by a longshot.

  24. wait. 2001 has a bad ending? are You freaking NUTS?!