10 Good Movies Ruined By Bad Endings

Published 4 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.

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

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  1. Your observation that Superman’s reversal of Earth’s orbit had the result of “forever changing the mythology” reflects a lack familiarity with Superman canon from the early comics. Despite the obviously unrealistic outcome of reversing events, the technique was used by the Man of Steel on more than one occasion, so it actually represented a continuation of the original mythology, rather than altering it.

    • As silly as it was, the “turning back the earth” isn’t nearly as mythology-scrambling as the “magic forget everything kiss” from Superman 2.

      That kiss is wrong on so many levels…

      • You can try to fight me off…but I-I’m the ma-an of steel!
        I will kiss you, baby, and you won’t remember a thing…

  2. So what film is the thumbnail for this article of a guy with alien tentacles wrapped around his neck from?

    • Its from Stephen King’s The Mist, which actually brought me here. Thought it was on this list and was like wtf. Ending was changed from the novella, but was much better, even King liked it better than his.

  3. 2001 ended with a whimper? Is this guy serious?

  4. actually, superman was only using the earth’s gravitational field to accelerate him past the speed of light, thus being able to turn back time (as Einstein’s theory of general relativity states).

  5. Wasn’t 2001:A Space Oddysey based on a novel? If that’s correct then shouldn’t you criticize the book instead of the movie?

    • No not really. It was loosely based upon a short story that later sprung into a series of books, of which the movie was also a catalyst. The detailed story behind the movie was as much a child of the author as it was of the director.

      Anyways, I do not think it is fair to push the s*** down to a book if the movie adaption doesn’t work. The moviemakers’ job is to tell a story for the movie medium, and in so there challenge is to translate the story from the written pages. If successful it is a good movie, if not it is a bad movie. It is that simple. A book may not be suited to be told via the silver screens, so this might be a reason why its movie adaptation did not work, but it is no excuse. The moviemakers did either not adapt the script enough, or failed to realize the impossibility of the project, and leave it at that. Either way, the moviemakers are to blame and not the original author.

      2001 though, is no such example. The movie and its ending are nothing short of brilliant.

  6. Hey , Where is Dead space ? The referring link had a picture from dead space 1991 on it. Now I feel cheated .

    • no, it is from “The Mist 2007″. However, still not on their list!?!?

      • The ending to The Mist was genius. No happy endings. Just a big, heart-wrenching kick to the stomach. This ain’t a Disney flick.

  7. High Tension is, by far, the most egregious example of a great movie with a bad ending. You know what drives me absolutely NUTS about High Tension? The movie, up until the twist, was SO DARN GOOD! I was absolutely loving it. Utterly compelling, edge of your seat slasher. SO well done. And then … the twist. I just shouted “WHY?!” at the screen. It was just so … unnecessary.

  8. Matchstick Men with Nicolas Cage is one of the worst endings I have ever seen. I stormed out of the theater furious that this amateur director would tack on such an absurd ending. I won’t detail it so as not to be a spoiler. But if you rent this movie, you are going to hate yourself in the morning.

    • Loved the ending of Matchstick Men. Very satisfying. One of Cage’s last really quality films.

  9. 2001 has “bad ending”? You obviously know nothing about cinema.

  10. You totally missed the mark on Superman. Supes, fueled by rage, grief, and the slingshot effect of earth’s gravity, flew so fast that he broke the time barrier. It is something he has been able to do, and has done so in the comics, on occasion. This allowed him to do what he needed to do to prevent the disaster. When we saw the damage repairing itself, it was actually what it would look like going backwards through time.

  11. > but the fact that the drinks scattered throughout the house could have been anything shows just how unnecessarily clumsy the conclusion really was.

    They actually go over that. The daughter keeps complaining about water the whole movie, and keeps leaving water glasses every where. They spend quite a bit of the story on that (“This water has amoebas” I believe was one of the lines)

    • The movie does endlessly, ham-handedly cover that… just like everything it covers. It’s all so hacky and obvious… because all that mattered was getting to that last scene. Nothing before that really had to make sense, as long as it all ended up at that stupid twist ending.

      Everything in the movie exists only to service a twist ending… which means everything is contrived and inorganic. It’s all just so cheesy and obvious and unlike real people doing real things for real reasons.

      Which showcases one of M. Knight’s biggest flaws… he works backwards from his (increasingly incompetent) twists, and it’s obvious that hurts every other aspect of the project. You have to make a whole movie, man… not just the last 4 minutes.

  12. in regards to muskratboy’s comment about m.night fitting his movies around a twist ending, i always thought it was the complete opposite…if you watch his films, it seems like he follows a thread till he he gets near the end, and then has no clue how to end it, so he slaps on a twist that is either so obvious (like ‘sixth sense’), or so lame (like ‘the village’), that you simply have to shake your head with every new film, not wondering if he will lose the thread again, but when…