Published on March 2nd, 2014 | by Noah Dimitrie1
10 (Mostly Good) Films With Bad Endings
Sometimes bad endings happen to good movies. You’ve seen them, and you may have even tried to convince yourself otherwise. You may not even notice when they happen. Of course, all endings are subjective and one guy’s trash may be another guy’s treasure. But this guy sees some serious trash that needs pointing out. Don’t get me wrong, though — that doesn’t mean the whole park’s dirty.
On that note, I give you 10 films that have bogus endings but are still very much worth seeing. Some picks have an already infamous reputation; others will feature some serious nitpicking. You’re welcome to agree or disagree; frankly I don’t give a damn (now that’s a good ending).
OBVIOUS SPOILER ALERT.
10. Return of the King
We’ll start with the obvious. This final installment in the trilogy that made Peter Jackson a household name features one of the overwrought movie endings of all time. You all know what I’m talking about. No need to explain further. Any more explanation would be unnecessary droning on my part. I’ll just leave it at that. Not much more needs to be said. It’s pretty obvious. I’ll just end here. Riiiiiight now.
9. Pretty in Pink
One of two endings on this list that you can chalk up to bonehead executives being boneheads, this seminal 80s teen flick ends with Molly Ringwald going to prom with her sweet, charming best-guy-friend who’s always been there for her. Then she just kisses up to her ex, pretty boy Andrew McCarthy. Test audiences hated the original, supreme ending that featured Ringwald and Duckie actually staying together, shattering the barriers of the Friendzone and giving hope to millions. They must’ve just filled the crowd with rich, bitter douchebags who wanted revenge via a brat-pack movie. Nevertheless, the film has got memorable characters, that signature John Hughes dialogue, and a compelling portrait of Reagan-era wealth inequality, which brings us right back to rich douchebags.
8. Fallen Idol
Carol Reed’s 1948 mystery thriller about a child who may or may not have witnessed a murder, features two opening acts of pure genius. The tension builds, the concept is fully realized and paced out perfectly, all leading up what should’ve been a fascinating conclusion. Not the case. The third act fizzles out in an unimaginably droll fashion, featuring cops asking stupid questions, characters wandering aimlessly around the house, and an abrupt ending that basically defines ‘anticlimax.’ This one really hurts, as I was about as invested in a movie as you can be, only to be completely abandoned by terrible screenwriting. A pitiful shame.
7. Saving Private Ryan
No list of bad endings can be complete without mention of the blatantly nationalistic final moments of Spielberg’s sprawling war epic. So many eye-rolling moments, including, the U.S. kicking ass after the film suggests that war is futile, an old Private Ryan saluting his comrade’s grave, and most embarrassingly of all, the final shot of an American flag, flapping proudly in the wind. I guess Steven just couldn’t help himself. Once a sentimental schlock junkie, always a sentimental schlock junkie. But did you have to scar a great film about the human condition with your ‘Merican propaganda? Which reminds me, I wonder how well this one played in Hiroshima?
6. Die Hard
One of the greatest action films of all time takes one twist too many with the reappearance of one of Hans’ minions (did those guys even have names?) at the bottom of Nakatomi Plaza for one last shot at McClane. A nonsensical move only thrown in there to give the audience a final startle and Reggie VelJohnson a character arc, the whole gimmick is just too stupid and cheap for this relatively intelligent film. And what was that dude’s end game exactly? We know that they’re thieves, not terrorists, so it’s not like he just wanted to get in as many kills in as possible. Did he honestly think he could escape the entire L.A. police force and the F.B.I. by just pointing his gun and yelling? He should’ve just laid low. It’s likely that no one would’ve even figured out he was a bad guy if he just calmed down. And doesn’t anyone find it a little ridiculous that a cop who accidentally shot someone would find closure in just shooting someone else? I toss and turn over this one because it’s the only thing that keeps the film from being a masterpiece. Why did you have to be so stupid, anonymous villain? Why?
5. Blow Up
Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 pseudo-mystery film is an intriguing deconstruction of the genre that ends with one of the most heavy-handed pieces of symbolism ever filmed. This is kind of one you need to see to really understand the full extent of its stupidity. The hero, tired and desperate for answers, happens upon some mimes playing a game of tennis without any rackets or balls. Okay, we get it — there are no answers. The major folly that plenty of art films make is getting too obvious with their symbolism, practically spoon-feeding the meaning to the audience. Blow Up just ditches the spoon and shoves it right down our throats.
4. Django Unchained
Quentin Tarantino just can’t say no to himself. His massively entertaining, blaxploitation epic ends in head-spinning fashion with the titular hero making an overly-elaborate comeback to take vengeance on the sadistic Calvin Candy. A film that seems to get more and more serious as it goes along suddenly shifts from gripping and suspenseful to hilariously campy. Tarantino just couldn’t go out without an unconvincing cameo and a hyper-violent shoot-em-up resolution that takes his shtick to a whole new, unbearable level. I mean, it’s almost as if Tarantino thinks he can do whatever he wants…
3. The Sixth Sense
How in the absolute fuck was the ‘twist’ surprising to anyone? When watching, I legitimately thought that Bruce being dead was just a known fact about his character, not meant to be a surprise at the end. I mean do we really need it spelled out for us any further? The first scene in the movie is him getting shot for Christ sake. He goes to dinner with his wife and she doesn’t act like he’s there. I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that the film thinks that it’s not obvious or the fact that Bruce, a goddamn psychologist, hasn’t figured it out for himself either. This movie would’ve worked so much better as a film about a ghost trying to help a scared kid embrace his destiny of being a medium while trying to come to terms with his own ghastliness. That’s what I thought it WAS about until Bruce finds out he’s ghost. Listen, I’m not saying you’re dumb if you were surprised by the twist. I’m just saying I saw one more dead person than you.
2. The Magnificent Ambersons
A stunning, and provocative tale of greed and self-righteousness, this film is truly a masterpiece — save for the final two scenes that completely flip this film on its head. This Orson Welles follow-up to some movie called Citizen Kane was reconfigured by the studio after test screenings declared it too dark. So they just shot two extra, more optimistic scenes that completely defeat the point, then just stuck them onto the ending. The result is quite jarring. It’s really quite ironic that Orson Welles, one of the most revered filmmakers of all time, was never given a chance by Hollywood. Meanwhile, the executives have yet to receive their comeuppance.
1. Wages of Fear
It may not be the most popular film on the list, but this 1953 French thriller has the worse ending I’ve ever seen in a good movie or a bad one. After almost two and half hours of gut-wrenching suspense and brutal social commentary, after seeing a man survive against all odds, overcoming a virtual suicide mission and witnessing his friends die off in the process, he is finally able to go home. His friends rejoice at the news of his arrival. He drives home, free as a bird. Then he drives off a cliff.
There’s nothing more to say, really. No studio execs to blame, no lazy screenwriting to call out. It’s just sad, like that feeling you get when you’re cat dies or you get left at the altar or when your best friend drives off a fucking cliff.