A mediocre movie ending can occur for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, the filmmaker is trying to condense a novel or other source material into the limited time constraints of a film. Other times, a director has somewhat inadvertently spooled up a movie’s action to the point where any climax comes across as underwhelming. But usually, bad movie finales come from a technique called “the plot twist.” When it works, this kind of story hack can be exciting, as it’s a compelling way to subvert all of the viewer’s expectations. But… it rarely works.
So with that, please enjoy 13 Movie Endings That Angered Audiences.
Before partaking in this list where you will come to appreciate some of the finer moments of bad movie endings, please note that there will be many spoilers. If there is a movie on this list that you intend to see and don’t want to know what happens, please just skip past it.
Now You See Me (2013)
Now You See Me looked like it would be a pretty fun action movie, or accessible entertainment for the entire family. It starred Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco as The Four Horsemen, skilled magicians whose anti-authoritian slant turns them into celebrities, performing Fawksian feats like robbing a bank in the middle of their magic show. Lightweight character development and iffy writing keep it from greatness, but that’s easy to look past as it’s still a sleek popcorn flick.
At least, until the absurd ending. Mark Ruffalo is Dylan Rhodes, the skeptical FBI Agent assigned to chasing the Horsemen. Throughout the film, he is always just one step behind them.
“Look closely,” the film’s tagline teases, “because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see.” It turns out that Rhodes is the anonymous mastermind behind the Horseman. The twist is implausible and ridiculous, taking an otherwise fun (albeit forgettable) film and magically transmogrifying it into a groan-inducing debacle.
The Cobbler (2015)
Adam Sandler stars as Max Simkin, a cobbler in New York City who has been in the family business his whole life. One day he comes upon a magical sewing machine that allows him to put on mended shoes and inhabit the body of the wearer. Discovering his new ability, Simkin begins by just walking around as other people to see what it’s like, but he is soon embroiled in the problems of their lives.
Max uses his unique perspective and moral compass to resolve dangerous situations — cloaked as a gang leader, he saves a man’s life — and to help save his neighborhood, he cons a local slum lord into allowing residents to stay in their homes.
This is where the movie should have ended. And it wouldn’t have been a bad concept for a film. It’s fun, imaginative, and if played right, could use its fantasy elements as its strong suit.
But The Cobbler ends with Simkin discovering that his long-time neighbor, Jimmy (Steve Buscemi), is actually his father, Abraham Simkin (Dustin Hoffman), who has been wearing magic shoes for decades to protect his identity. Finally reunited, Max and his father drive off in a limo, where Abraham explains that there has been a war going on for generations between cobblers and dry cleaners. Between the reveal of Jimmy as Max’s dad and the inane background story, The Cobbler completely loses its audience just as it is ending.
The movie starts with a pretty neat premise: Hancock (Will Smith) is a superhero in decline, an alcoholic with amazing abilities like flight, speed, and super-strength. He spends his time saving lives, but inadvertently creates a great deal of property damage along with it, which makes him an object of ridicule for cops and the media.
One day, he saves the life of an advertising executive Ray (Jason Bateman), who promises to help Hancock clean up his public image. In the course of working with him, Hancock meets Ray’s wife, Mary (Charlize Theron). This is where the movie starts going off the rails.
It turns out that Mary, too, is an immortal superhuman, and that they were once romantically involved. What was a fun action flick quickly becomes a schlocky romantic comedy. There’s never any real chemistry between Mary and Hancock, and the audience is left wishing for it all to end.
Man of Steel (2013)
In the wake of the extremely successful (and dark) Dark Knight trilogy from Christopher Nolan, director Zack Snyder decided that the best thing to do with Superman was to add realism and grit. Gone would be the days of kittens being saved out of trees. This new Superman (Henry Cavill) would be a chiseled, brooding fighter of evil.
The story arc is familiar: A baby is launched from its home planet of Krypton just as that planet is being torn apart by the despot Zod. The child lands on Earth and is raised by adoptive parents in the midwest, who name him Clark. As a teen, Clark discovers that he has incredible powers, but he must keep them a secret lest he is ostracized from society. As he becomes a young man, Clark finds a Kryptonian spaceship and receives a message about his true origins from an on-board hologram of his father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe). Zod finds Earth and proclaims that he will convert it into a new Krypton, using a doomsday device to terraform over the world’s cities.
Superman stops Zod, but not before fighting him through Metropolis. As the viewer watches this final destructive sequence, one cannot help but imagine all of the countless lives and homes being decimated in the process of what is essentially just two guys duking it out. After killing Zod by snapping his neck, Superman lets the army know in no uncertain terms that he won’t work with them on their terms.
Throughout the history of the comic, Superman was always the good guy. His place in the DC universe is as the ultimate moral leader, someone with seemingly limitless powers who chooses to use them for good. To see him bashing through buildings, destroying thousands of innocent lives, remorselessly murdering his enemy, and demanding that Earth’s militaries must play by his rules is startling, to say the least.
In 1959, a schoolgirl named Lucinda added a page of seemingly random numbers to her class’s time capsule. Fifty years later, the capsule is opened and the number sequence is given to Caleb Koestler (Chandler Canterbury). With the help of his father John (Nicolas Cage), the two decipher the string of numbers, learning that it represents the dates of global disasters, both past and future.
A date in the near-future refers to an Extinction Level Event, a massive solar flare that will hit Earth and destroy all life on it. During the course of this discovery, they meet up with Diana and Abby, Lucinda’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively. Caleb and Abby are kidnapped by strangers and brought to a dry riverbed, where they are taken up by an extraterrestrial ship.
After many of these ships visit Earth and scoop up a precious few, the majority of people are still left on the planet to be vaporized by the solar flare. It is a very bleak ending to a film already muddled in plot and full of clichés.
Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010)
As with many of the movies on this list, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps suffers not only from a terrible ending but a derivative plot. The sequel to the 1987 original takes the major story beats and just recycles them.
Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas), the powerful stock trader, takes on an ambitious but wet-behind-the-ears protégé, schooling him in the trade and exposing him to a life of incredible wealth and seemingly unlimited privilege. The power fantasy for the kid (and the audience) soon comes to a crashing end, as justice is doled out on Gekko.
That last part held true in the original Wall Street. In his blind lust for ever more and more, Gekko was sent to jail. But unfortunately, after rehashing many of the ideas of the original film, director Oliver Stone did not give his sequel such a satisfying or logical conclusion.
Under the auspices of investing in young Jake’s fledgling technology fund, Gordon Gekko instead steals back a $100 million trust that he had originally set up for his daughter and Jake’s girlfriend, Winnie (Carey Mulligan). This kind of ultimate sliminess was the perfect next logical step for the cutthroat con man. But at the end of the film, Gekko finds his morals, gives the money back, and plays grandpa to Jake and Winnie’s kid.
The Golden Compass (2007)
The Golden Compass is a film based on a popular fantasy novel by Philip Pullman. Books are notoriously difficult to turn into movies, and this was no exception. It is the story of young Lyra Belacqua, who goes on an epic quest with a posse that includes her daemon Pan, an armored polar bear, a witch, and others, to save the life of her best friend Roger and other children who’ve been kidnapped by evil forces known as Gobblers.
Yet unlike every other movie on this list, The Golden Compass faltered in the end not because of what it had in its final act, but rather what was missing from it.
From the outset, screenwriter/ director Chris Weitz introduces new characters and concepts at a rapid pace. Unless one has already read the series it is difficult to grasp the themes, because the complex and anti-religious concepts of the book have been compressed to under two hours of any diluted of any controversial content. And with the possibility of sequels in mind, the movie ends with an important final story section left out.
The Mist (2007)
Artist Dave Drayton (Thomas Jane) and his son Billy live a quiet life in Maine. One day, a violent lightning storm hits and they go to the supermarket with a neighbor to gather some supplies. En route to the market, a thick mist envelopes the area, and Dave sees military and police heading in to it. Once at the supermarket, a scared local runs in and tells everyone that there are deadly creatures in the mist. By now, the mist has completely enveloped the outside of the building. The storeowner locks the doors and everyone prepares to defend themselves and stay alive together.
It is a good set up for a sci-fi horror film, and using Stephen King’s book for inspiration, director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) does quite a good job with The Mist. Until the end, that is. In an incredibly divisive turn of events, The Mist ends with Dave, his son, and three others escaping the store and getting to his truck. They drive a while through the mist, until they realize it is hopeless. Whereas in King’s book the ending is more vague, Darabont’s version has Dave using his handgun to kill everyone in the car with his handgun to save them from the ravages of the mist. Dave turns the gun on himself but there are no bullets left. He gets out of the car half-crazed, begging the mist to kill him. Just then, military tanks and vehicles roll out of the fog, having killed off the creatures.
Scarlett Johansson stars as Lucy, a student in her twenties living with her drug dealer boyfriend in Taiwan. She is asked to deliver a briefcase on behalf of his boss, Mr. Jang. Inside the briefcase is an incredibly powerful drug called CPH4. Her boyfriend is killed in an ensuing fight and she is taken hostage.
Her captors surgically open her midsection and sew in a packet of the drug. While healing from her wound before being sent out as a drug mule, Lucy is kicked in the stomach, which released the drug into her body. The high dose of CPH4 elevates Lucy’s brainpower, giving her telepathy, telekinesis, and other gifts. She fights off her captors and escapes.
The movie loses its audience by taking the cool idea of unlocking the brain’s potential and going way too far with it. By the end, Lucy’s intellectual faculties make it so that she has unlimited knowledge capacity and can transform from a physical being into pure energy. By the time the film ends, it has changed from relative realism to fantasy. It becomes too tacky to take seriously.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)
Similar to Knowing and its straight-forward cataclysmic ending, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World starts with promise. Steve Carell stars as Dodge, an insurance agent who one day learns of the end of the world while driving down the road with his wife. The news is that Earth’s mission to try to stop an enormous asteroid has failed, and that doom is imminent. His wife decides to abandon him and look for her own answers as the end-times approach. Dodge is left with nothing, yet he goes back to work the next day as if nothing’s changed. His coworkers are indulging in sex and drugs, using their time to take care of hedonistic wants, but Dodge decides not to give up the office until his friend commits suicide.
Dodge meets Penny, his neighbor who has been spurned by her egotistical boyfriend. The two decide to join forces, Dodge telling Penny he can help her visit her parents in England, in trade for Penny helping him to find his high school sweetheart. He ends up living up to the promise, helping her to secure a plane to take her overseas.
But Penny returns to Dodge soon after, mad that he didn’t go with her. The film ends with the two laying in bed together and talking about their love for each other. As they whisper sweet nothings to each other, the asteroid hits nearby and the screen fades to white. It is a bleak and tone-deaf ending for a comedy, and no Steve Carell movie should have had such a conclusion.
The Devil Inside (2012)
The Devil Inside is no worse than any of the approximately zillion other found-footage films out there. It is cheesy and low-rent, with middling actors and an iffy script, but it doesn’t matter. People seem to love the genre. The movie didn’t take much to make, yet it scored over $100 million at the box office. So, what’s the big deal?
It is a standard exorcism flick. Isabella is in Italy making a documentary about demonic possession and in the course of that locates two priests, both of whom agree that she can tag along on their next exorcism. The attempted expulsion goes south, with the possessed hurling expletives at them and becoming violent. They get control of the woman and leave.
Isabella then visits her mother, Maria, who has been in an asylum for twenty years since she murdered three in the midst of her own exorcism. The priests and Isabella pour over her documentary footage, but soon each starts exhibiting strange behaviors. It seems that they too are fighting possession.
One of the priests shoots himself. And then in the film’s finale, Isabella and the remaining priest are riding in a car when, he inexplicably unbuckles his seatbelt and turns the car into oncoming traffic. As their car crashes and rolls over many times before coming to a stop, the camera cuts to black. This found-footage trope would have been okay, if it weren’t for the final title card that comes up before the credits, which directs viewers to a website to learn more about the ongoing investigation. It is a cheap marketing trick, usually circulated before a film’s release to stoke peoples’ interest. But in this case it felt for many like the ultimate anti-climax.
In a post-apocalyptic world set in the not too distant future, large-scale environmental disasters have led to dwindling food and a grim outlook. Astronaut-turned-farmer Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) is recruited by his old mentor at NASA to pilot the planet’s last hope for survival, a spacecraft that will carry scientists through a wormhole to discover potentially inhabitable planets.
Cooper leaves his family, including his young daughter Murphy, to take on the mission. The team discovers a few different planets, but most are too dangerous for survival. As the team trip through spacetime, their proximity to a black hole means that what is only hours for them is equal to decades on Earth. At home, Cooper’s colleagues and now-adult daughter work on solving the gravitational equation that will unlock the ability for the rest of the human race to escape en masse.
But the astronauts get picked off one-by-one in space and Cooper sacrifices himself to help complete the mission. In doing so, he is thrown through a black hole and comes out the other side in a tesseract, a multi-dimensional labyrinth that just so happens to peer out onto different points in time on his daughter’s bedroom, and may or may not be powered by love. Cooper discovers that he can communicate with his daughter via Morse code, giving her the solution to the equation that she would later work on as an adult.
The Village (2004)
The Village has one of the worst plot twists ever, Even by Shyamalan standards, the end of The Village is ludicrous. If you saw this in a movie theater in 2006, you could feel the rest of the audience roll their eyes right along with you. Which is too bad, because right up until the end it’s actually not so bad a film.
A group of settlers in the 1800s live with their families in a small village in the depths of the Pennsylvania forest. Their lives are led by ritual, religious devotion. In the woods surrounding the village are mysterious creatures that the villagers have a pact with; they agree to not enter the woods and the creatures will leave them be. That is until the agreement is broken, and the creatures start leaving animal carcasses around the village’s vicinity, and eventually they start invading, terrorizing all.
One of the townspeople falls ill, and young, blind Ivy Walker (Bryce Dallas Howard) heads out into the wilderness to get medical supplies from another town. In the end, she goes into the woods and confronts her fears. It is discovered that it had been Lucius Hunt (Joaquin Phoenix) dressing as a monster the whole time, helping the town’s elders to keep everyone from leaving. Ivy learns why when she escapes the woods completely. On the other side of a tall wall is a road; a paved highway, replete with cars and electricity. She is in the modern-day. A guard helps get her medicine, and she returns home.
This ending can’t hold it’s own weight, opening up too many unanswered questions. It’s a cheap surprise.
Did we miss a movie ending that had you tempted to ask for a refund? Let us know.
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