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Any cinephile can remember at least once when they found themselves absorbed in a great movie, riding the highs and lows alongside the characters they connected with as they navigate a gripping storyline. As everything seems to be building towards some epic climax, it just ends, fizzling out with an unfulfilling conclusion. Even worse, it may have been a cruel ending, robbing the heroes of the resolution they deserved.
Sometimes these bad endings can sour the rest of the film, making it impossible to watch again despite its quality because it’s always going to end the same way. Reddit was asked the question of which movies users loved that were ruined by poor conclusions, and the results ranged from crime thrillers, science-fiction epics and low-key character dramas, proving that no genre is safe from a bad ending.
It was always going to be tough for Jordan Peele to follow his Academy Award-winning debut Get Out, but Us cemented Peele’s place as a modern master of horror. When a family on vacation is attacked by a group of red-wearing killers, they soon discover the attackers are exact lookalikes of themselves.
Us loses its momentum as it tries to explain exactly what is going on with the clones, as the core mystery remains one of its biggest strengths. It makes for a confusing conclusion, as viewers most likely searched online for a clearer explanation. 123Fake_St echoes this by saying “it’s kinda interesting but ends up making no sense.”
‘Law Abiding Citizen’ (2009)
Available to stream on HBO Max.
After losing his wife and daughter in a home invasion, Clyde Shelton (Gerard Butler) is forced to watch as the killers receive a light sentence in Law Abiding Citizen. Ten years later Shelton returns with an elaborate plan to kill those responsible for his family’s lack of justice, including prosecutor Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx) who negotiated their plea deal.
Shelton is mostly framed as the villain, but his pursuit of justice is one that audiences identified with, cheering him on as he commits murder. The movie sets him up as a vigilante mastermind, so when he is ultimately defeated after the less likable Rice outsmarts him, uSeeSizeThatChicken says it “ruined the whole movie.”
’10 Cloverfield Lane’ (2016)
One of the most effective thrillers of the past decade, 10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she is the victim of a car accident. Knocked unconscious, she awakens in a bunker with the controlling Howard (John Goodman), who tells her she cannot leave because aliens have invaded the earth.
10 Cloverfield Lane works so well because both Michelle and the audience are never sure if Howard is telling the truth, as Goodman plays the creepy leader to perfection. Eventually, it is revealed that Howard is right, causing Michelle to escape his grasp and discover that Earth is overrun. The finale sees Michelle fighting an alien, a conclusion that many fans dislike. Many say it should have just ended with her leaving the bunker and discovering the carnage, with wisperingdeath saying “that was the twist revealed, and that’s all we need to know.”
‘No Country for Old Men’ (2007)
Available to stream on HBO Max.
No Country for Old Men is one of the best modern Westerns and follows Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) as he stumbles across $2 million in the remains of a failed drug deal. As he goes on the run with the money, intimidating hitman Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is sent in to hunt him down.
For such an effective game of cat and mouse featuring talented performers at the top of their game, it reaches an anti-climatic conclusion with Moss killed off-screen. It definitely subverts expectations, but urbanlifedecay6 concedes “incredible movie, but it always bothers me that Josh Brolin just shows up dead after the buildup.”
Featuring a killer cast that includes Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh and Chris Evans, Sunshine follows a crew of astronauts sent to fire a rocket into the sun and reignite it, thus preventing Earth from freezing over. Constant complications arise as it slowly dawns on the crew that this will be a one-way trip.
Sunshine presents itself as a hardcore science-fiction film, and it stays that way for most of its duration. That all changes during the third act, however, when an intruder boards the ship and begins killing the crew. MusingsOnLife wishes it would have stayed a thoughtful sci-fi movie “but instead it goes into horror mode, and it really ruins what the movie could have been about.”
‘I Am Legend’ (2007)
Pitched as a story about one man and his dog, I Am Legend follows Robert Neville (Will Smith), the last human on Earth after a viral outbreak. As the infected roam the streets at night in search of blood, Neville works tirelessly to create a cure, so he can finally end his eternal solitude.
I Am Legend works well as it follows Neville’s seemingly hopeless and lonely existence, but the third act falls apart as more survivors are introduced, and it all ends with Neville simply blowing himself up to kill the infected. An alternate ending exists that humanizes the infected, creating a much more imaginative conclusion as Raz-Al-Ghul says “the alternate ending is so much better it’s laughable.”
Available to stream on Hulu.
A subdued take on the superhero genre, Unbreakable stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn, a regular man who discovers he possesses superhuman abilities. Crossing paths with comic-book fan Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), the pair work together to explore the extent of Dunn’s powers.
When Price reveals himself to be the one responsible for the tragedy in Dunn’s life, it sets the stage for an epic showdown. Instead, a wall of text appears and explains that Price was arrested for his crimes, with a Redditor saying it was “completely ruined by screen captions that tell us what happened afterwards.” It makes for one of the most abrupt endings in cinema.
‘High Tension’ (2003)
Available to stream on Tubi.
A French slasher movie packed with over-the-top blood and gore, High Tension is a good time for horror fans. Marie travels with her best friend Alex to spend the weekend at her family’s house, where their holiday is ruined by a savage killer. The stranger takes Alex hostage, while Marie follows behind determined to free her friend.
High Tension has one of the most notorious twist endings in horror where it is revealed Marie has been the killer all along. Numerous scenes do not make sense with this new revelation, with HeatherBeam saying it “derailed the whole film for me. Especially since it left so many plot holes.”
Available to stream on Tubi.
Dr. Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) has devoted her life to trying to discover alien life, using radio waves from space to achieve her goal. Eventually making the breakthrough she desires, Arroway and a team of scientists receives a coded message from space and begin deciphering its message, using it as proof of extraterrestrial life.
Discovering the messages are for a machine to contact the aliens, Arroway uses it to meet with one of the lifeforms. She returns without proof, however, which creates an unsatisfying conclusion. As Fliparto says the “ending was kind of left too open” with Arroway finally making her breakthrough but without anything to show for it.
‘World War Z’ (2013)
Available to stream on Prime Video and Paramount+.
When a zombie outbreak occurs and swiftly engulfs the earth, former United Nations investigator Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) attempts to find a cure. Globetrotting to several hotspots around the world, the zombie horde is never far behind as Gerry finds himself in the middle of several high-octane action set-pieces.
World War Z excels when it is throwing never-ending zombies at the screen, the undead literally rolling on top of each other. So it comes as an anti-climax when the final act involves Gerry merely sneaking around zombies in a building. Deckman claims “you kept expecting something BIG to occur” but instead the film runs out of steam after a surprisingly enjoyable first two-thirds.
NEXT: Movies That Were Made Better By Changing the Ending