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 thanĀ 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.

  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.