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.

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. A list that says 2001 has a bad ending, can’t be taken seriously.

    • I could not agree more.

      At a purely sci-fi level, 2001: A Space Odyssey suggests that the evolution of our species was actually manipulated by an ancient extraterrestrial race. At a more philosophical level, the film is Stanley Kubrick’s meditation about what the age of space flight could mean for the evolution of humankind. The glowing “Star Child” at the end of the film represents that future and transcendence.

      • Thank you!

    • 100% agree. Though many movies mentioned here had indeed a dumb ending, in the case of 2001: A Space Odissey it is exactly the opposite, the movie´s ending (as in the book) was brilliant and exciting, anyone who failed to understand that is the real dumb end of the problem. Perhaps the inclusion of this masterpiece here reflects much more the dumbing down of audiences and critics in general…there used to be a differentiation between adult and children stuff, deep or superficial movies, but that is fading fast…how can anyone who takes “Avengers” as anything more than childish entertainment (and as such it is very good) aspire to understand the depth of vision of a mental giant like Arthur Clarke?

      • Ending? In 12 tries, I’ve never made it to the end of the movie, I’ll still keep trying though!

        • LOL. I have the same problem as Carl. I have yet to remain awake long enough to see the end. I try at least once a year, but to no avail.

  2. 11)…..the last bond flick’s ending was a major ”let-down” too,….I thought it was a sub-plot towards the end when they were in the wet marsh, expecting another hour or so for a spectacular ending……NOT…..?!

  3. Waterworld, had the worst ending imo.

  4. The fact that this list includes 2001: A Space Odyssey says to me that the title of the list should be changed to : “10 Movies Andrew Dyce had difficulty understanding, could somebody please explain them to him.”

  5. 2001 has a bad ending? Time to chalk this site (click bait) up as another one I’ll avoid, not that I’ve spent much time here. And I can’t say it was 10 minutes well spent.

    Hilariously bad.

  6. Okay…
    So 2001 was “ruined” by the ending? Whoo boy. And you put that on a list with Wolverine? Uh, dude, they could have cut to a cow pie at any point in Wolverine and it wouldn’t have made a lick of difference, because it could have never been a great film. What a waste of bandwidth…

  7. The idea that ’2001′ had a bad ending is ludicrous in the extreme.

    Haven’t seen the others because the trailers seemed lame and insulted my intelligence.

    • Glad to see you have such a high opinion of yourself. Your intelligence wasn’t enough to guide you away from this article, though.

    • Your comment could not exemplify the type of person who waxes poetic about the profundity of the 2001 giant space baby any better. Bravo, and thank you.

  8. The Village was the worst ending ever. I saw it in a packed theatre and the audience gave out an audible groan.

  9. The statement that “I Am Legend keeps surprisingly close to the novel for much of the story” makes me question whether the writer of this article has ever read the book, or whether, like the makers of the Will Smith film, they just watched The Omega Man and read the blurb on the back of Richard Matheson’s brilliant novel, which is not about guns and explosions and fast cars and is certainly not about a military equipped virologist but is simply about a man living in the remains of suburbia in utter isolation, trying to cope with all he has lost.

    And Superman did not reverse time by rotating the Earth backwards, he flew faster than the speed of light to travel backwards through time himself, allowing him to be in two places at once, thus saving California and Lois.

    • I could not agree with you more on I Am Legend not being accurate. I found it VERY odd that this review said it was.
      By the way… if you want an accurate film of I Am Legend, watch The Last Man On Earth (1964). It isn’t as exciting as Will Smith stars in I Am Legend. But, it is very accurate.

    • Also, if you just want a visual adaption, get the I Am Legend Graphic Novel. Believe it or not, it is near word for word to the novel. Mostly except that the action descriptions are shown. But all of the thought and speech is all there (or nearly all, at the least).

    • Finally, the audio book by Blackstone Audio of the book is magnificently read.
      Definitely worth a listen.
      I love I Am Legend.
      : )

  10. The Devil’s Advocate had an AMAZING ending. It’s just brilliant. You can see that even if people can learn from their mistakes, they’re just ready to make another one.

    • I agree, Devils Advocate had the best ending ever, he thought he’d won by killing himself, though, really, that being the big no-no of the religion, except in the case of saving everyone else, perhaps!

      The whole point, I think, was pointing out the impossibility of being perfect, doing the right thing in the end, but then basking in the glory of doing so!

      It’s a tough religion to win in.

      I’d assume, however, that the Devil, either has the power to exist outside of time, as God does, given his rank as the “Bad Guy”, or can play out scenarios in dreams or Daydreams until he finds one that works for him.

      All I know, is that it was a movie, and at the end, I couldn’t stop smiling.

  11. i concur with all but one…Superman was EXCELLENT!!! The fact that he CAN turn back time but DOESNT usually shows how moral he is….And the fact that he does it one time to save his beloved shows he isnt perfect…It was a great film and I will never forgive them for not using Lois Lane in Superman 3….

  12. I thought Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was a good movie; it’s just the aliens that ruined it. I think that should be on this list. I thought everything else pretty much fit an Indiana Jones movie.

    Nuking the fridge? What about trying to use a lifeboat as a parachute or taking down a plane by scaring seagulls?

    • Planes have been taken down by birds. Remember a few years ago when a plane landed in the river by new york? Yep, a bird flew in to the engine.

  13. The hubris is strong with this comment section.

  14. I stopped reading at 2001… You obviously have exceedingly poor taste!

  15. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew.

    Just because you cannot UNDERSTAND the ending of 2001, doesn’t mean it’s a bad ending.

    This is a very, VERY silly list for the most part.

    It’s hard to take articles like this seriously, as they seem put together only to antagonize people with completely silly notions.

    Maybe you just don’t have any taste or comprehension.

  16. The worst ending in recent memory was The Mist. I still say King asked Darabont to change his stories ending to that idiotic crap so that the studio would be unable to make sequels that he himself did not write. Of course, I for one would NOT want to see 6 sequels (see: Children of the Corn).

    • I agree 100%. Thank you. I sort of took the liberty of expanding on your letter, although I hadn’t seen or read your letter before I did so.

      It’s nice to find someone else who agrees with me on this.

      I also concur about the whole multiple-mostly-unnecessary sequels. But, those transgressions are on Hollywood, not the writers. Usually.

      Hollywood loves nothing better than beating a dead horse, and brazenly milking a cash cow until there’s nothing left of it. Time changes nothing most of the time, especially there.

  17. I would add “Castaway” to the list. I wanted to see Tom Hanks get together with that rancher girl whose FedEx package he had protected for 5 years on that island. It seemed that the director had started in that direction, then abruptly changed his mind and just left us hanging up there at a dismal intersection somewhere in the Texas Panhandle where the protagonist seemed just as emotionally marooned as he had been on that unchartered island.

    • I liked Cast Away even more with the open ending. It was so refreshing to have a Hollywood movie without a neat Hollywood movie type ending. He may still end up with the rancher-girl.

    • Ummm, I think you need to rewatch that ending…

  18. I saw the “I Am Legend” alt ending as a DVD extra and I could not believe they did not use it.

    There was also DVD extras for the 1998 “Lost in Space” that showed deleted parts of the movie that were edited out that if the left them in would have made the bad movie a good movie. Guess this happens all the time.

  19. I would have definitely placed “Promised Land” on here somewhere. I was watching it thinking wow, this got mediocre reviews and this is a really great film, slow-paced, but charming, and then the third act was just completely off-putting. They should have made Krasinski’s character legit and not a member of the oil industry (spoiler). It was smart in theory but cheap in actual execution.

  20. Steven Spielberg directed “Artificial Intelligence: AI”.

  21. I’m surprised that the movie version of the Stephen King novella The Mist did not make this list. I hated the ending of that movie, possibly more than almost any movie I’ve seen in a long time.

    Mostly because, I disagree with the way Frank Darabont chose to end it. It was just wrong on several levels. And mostly because it completely veered from King’s novella’s ending, which was left somewhat ambiguous.

    The survivors drove off and that was the end of the story. At first I found that a little frustrating in the reading of the story, but then I realized it was actually nice because I could believe they all survived and lived happily ever after if I wanted.

    The story left that to my imagination, and in my version of the ending, they all survived. Maybe it wasn’t entirely happily ever after either; how could it have been with all that transpired beforehand?

    But it also left it open for a follow-up story possibly, down the road.

    But Darabont’s ending to the movie version took that away. And I hated that. It was just too dark.

    I know, it was supposed to be a blessing or whatever. However he meant it, the fact that moments later we discover that it wasn’t even necessary? What a waste.

    I’ve loved Frank’s other King adaptations. The Green Mile is wonderful, and so is The Shawshank Redemption. The ending of The Mist, however, was a huge misstep, and an even bigger mistake.

  22. If you want to be credible, don’t make capital mistakes in first sentence. A.I. wasn’t directed by Kubrick. After that, you may be right, but I lost interest. Or maybe you know something that is not common knowledge. Kubrick died 2 years before A.I. was filmed. And that movie doesn’t have bad ending. I fell asleep 2 times during, and I love sci-fi :). I never even got to half of it. Best of luck in the future anyway.

    • No, he just knows the normal common knowledge, that AI was a Kubrick film. That he spent years developing it and passed it on to Spielberg when he didn’t have time to get to it.

      Which is all pretty easy to understand, since the article states “eventually falling into the hands of Steven Spielberg” and never states anywhere that Kubrick directed it.

      It says “director Stanley Kubrick’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence” … which is all 100% correct. Kubrick was a director. AI was his film.

      What it doesn’t say is that Kubrick directed AI. Because he didn’t, and everyone knows that, even though it was his film. You could say it’s common knowledge.

  23. When he said M. Night Shamalan I believed we would be seeing eye to eye. That guy should be on this list more than once (someone did mention The Village, yes it was lame).

    Also could have been included:

    Eagle Eye – Could have been #1
    Contact – loved that movie, hated the end
    The Matrix (as a trilogy, terrible ending to the best story)

  24. This article starts with a headline about “Ten Great” movies, then switches to “Ten Good Movies,” and then we discover there are about two great movies and a bunch of endings this writer does not like. It’s interesting that nearly all of these movies belong to one genre, which also limits this writer’s film appreciation. I will add this article to a list of ten awful movie reviews.