Fact: for every movie ending that leaves us feeling surprised, wowed, and satisfied in the most beautiful, Shawshank-ian of ways, there are literally dozens upon dozens of duds out there with denouements so confounding that they leave us feeling duped, confused, and even just plain angry. If you somehow don’t know what we’re talking about, read on—because we’ve compiled the ultimate movie-ending Hall of Shame. Avoid these movies, and thank us later. And for some top-notch film recs, consider brushing up on the 20 Iconic Films You Should Have Watched By Now.
The Devil Inside (2012)
We love a good possession movie, but 2012’s The Devil Inside took an abrupt turn for the lazy at the end.
This 2012 documentary-style horror had all the elements necessary to be a fun, if not entirely original, scary movie: a murder, an insane asylum, a demonic possession, and the requisite exorcism. However, while audiences are led to believe that one of the priests participating in the exorcism becomes the demon’s next host, the screen cuts to black shortly after the possession and subsequent car crash. A title card then appears on screen directing people to go to a website to read more about the as-of-yet solved case. The kicker for anyone who didn’t catch the movie in theaters is that the website is now down. And fore more fun culture coverage, check out why Everyone’s Going Shirtless Like Kylo Ren on Instagram.
War of the Worlds (2005)
After hours of fighting aliens and trying desperately not to get killed, it turns out that the aliens attacking Earth are actually allergic to it all along.
Just one second outside their nifty ships kills the aliens, who apparently aren’t immune to earthly bacteria. Better yet, despite all the chaos and death, Ray (Tom Cruise) and his daughter, Rachel (Dakota Fanning), discover that their family members are totally fine, despite the otherwise complete destruction of the city they’re in. And for more movie coverage, here are the 37 Movies Every Man Over 40 Should Be Able to Quote.
While there are plenty of things to take issue with in Splice, the ending is so off-the-charts bonkers it seems like a fever dream. After creating a human-animal hybrid using her own DNA, scientist Elsa (Sarah Polley) tries to raise the mutant with fellow scientist Clive (Adrien Brody). That plan goes haywire, with Clive sleeping with and being ultimately murdered by the mutant, who then switches sexes, and rapes Elsa before being killed. At the end of the movie, Elsa is pregnant by her own mutant offspring, but decides to keep the little science experiment anyway. Are you confused? We are, too.
The Mist (2007)
After trying to escape the titular mist, protagonist David Drayton (Thomas Jane) decides that he and the survivors, including his young son, are better off dead. He shoots everyone who has been taking refuge in a car with him, and plans to kill himself, too. Worse yet, the U.S. Army has swooped in just in the nick of time and the mist has retreated, making all that killing in vain. Oops! And for more terrible things to avoid, check out the 17 Worst Things a Man Can Say to a Woman.
After aliens attack earth, it seems like Graham Hess (Mel Gibson) and his family are pretty much screwed. Luckily, a series of accidents reveal that the one thing that kills the aliens almost instantly is plentiful here: water!
That’s right: spritz a little water—on a planet that’s mostly made of the stuff—on the face of one of these intergalactic cowboys and they’re down for the count. Of course, Signs isn’t Mel Gibson’s biggest claim to fame—he’s among the notorious stars who had one of the 20 Craziest Hollywood Meltdowns.
Law Abiding Citizen (2009)
The decent plot and acting in the early parts of Law Abiding Citizen make its ending all the more frustrating. After Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) character has laid waste to the criminals, lawyers, and clerks responsible for letting the murderer of his wife and daughter walk free, his plan goes awry. It turns out that the bomb he planted at City Hall has ended up in his own prison cell, courtesy of lawyer (and apparent bomb-moving expert) Nick Rice (Jamie Foxx). Even more frustrating is the fact that the movie was allegedly supposed to conclude in a more cathartic manner, although disputes among the cast prevented a better ending from being filmed.
Adrian Lyne’s 2002 Unfaithful is sexy, tense, and ultimately unsatisfying. After discovering his wife’s affair with a younger man, Edward Sumner (Richard Gere) murders her lover, Paul (Olivier Martinez) with a snow globe. After Edward and his wife, Connie (Diane Lane) discuss possibly moving out of the country to escape charges, a police station is shown in the background, indicating that Edward will turn himself in. That’s it! After all that build up, we’re left with an annoying “maybe he does, maybe he doesn’t” ending. If you think that’s an ambiguous note to end on, you may be interested in checking out the 15 Most Debated Movie Endings of All Time.
Source Code (2011)
Things you need to know: Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) can occupy other people’s bodies for eight minutes at a time, and does so to prevent a terrorist attack on a Chicago train. At the end of the film, it is revealed that he’s actually been on life support after an attack on his unit in Afghanistan, and he eventually dies.
The good news? He’s alive in some other timeline, anyway, and, being a polite guy, emails his co-worker to let her know that things are fine. He also tells her that she should inform his comatose body, which still exists somehow, that it will be fine, too.
Roland Emmerich’s 2009 disaster movie about a group of people surviving the end of the world after boarding various Africa-bound arks, has one of the worst ending lines of all time.
“Are you scared?” Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) asks his daughter, who just made it out of the apocalypse. “I’m not. No more Pull-Ups!,” she says, as the film fades to black. (Side note: the actress who plays the daughter is well beyond potty-training age.)
The Life of David Gale (2003)
After sitting on death row for the rape and murder of a friend, death-penalty abolitionist David Gale (Kevin Spacey) is executed. However, a videotape released to the media after his death reveals that his friend had actually committed suicide after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.
It turns out that Gale and his now-deceased pal were just trying to make everybody reconsider the use of the death penalty. Egg on the American criminal justice system’s face!
Secret Window (2004)
Writer Mort Rainey (Johnny Depp) retreats to his quiet cabin to get over a bad case of writer’s block, only to find himself plagued by John Shooter (John Turturro), who claims that Mort has plagiarized his work. In the end, it turns out that Mort’s a murderer with multiple personalities, John doesn’t exist, and Mort finally gets over his writer’s block after a killing spree.
The Number 23 (2007)
Mental illness is a hard topic to broach delicately in film, leading to so many disastrous movies about it, including The Number 23.
This film follows Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey), who becomes obsessed with a book that he believes holds the keys to a murder. As it turns out, Sparrow committed the murder himself, wrote an entire book as a means of confession, and tried to kill himself. Instead, he wound up with amnesia, eventually becoming obsessed with his own writing, making for one of the silliest and most narcissistic movie endings of all time.
Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a drug mule who is exposed to a drug that makes her telepathic and telekinetic. Lucy’s powers eventually grow so strong that she sees the Big Bang, is pursued by assassins, and narrowly manages to escape a bullet intended for her head. She ends up leaving her earthly body behind to enter the space-time continuum, warning those left behind via text message that she’s still all around them. You know a movie’s bad when its main character ghosts the audience.
The Forgotten (2004)
Telly Paretta (Julianne Moore) is convinced that she had a son who died in a plane crash. Everyone else is like, “You never had a son, crazy lady.” This, understandably, is difficult for Telly. Fortunately (kind of), it turns out that she’s not crazy after all. Aliens have just been trying to see if they can get parents to forget about their kids in some kind of bizarre experiment about human love. In the end, her memory is erased and her kid is back. Where are the aliens? Who cares!
Ben (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch) are rich pot farmers who spend their days hanging out on the beach and having sex with their mutual girlfriend, Ophelia (Blake Lively). After turning down an offer to partner with a Mexican cartel, a gunfight ensues, and the three lovers die in a murder-suicide. Just kidding! It was only Ophelia’s dream. The cartel members end up in jail and the happy throuple moves to an island somewhere.
Nicolas Cage sure can pick them. In Next, his character, magician-slash-clairvoyant Cris Johnson, can see two minutes into the future. Unfortunately, this impractical superpower doesn’t help him prevent a nuclear bomb from going off, killing everyone in the movie.
The good news? Somehow, having his girlfriend around for the bombing actually helped him prevent it after all, and he offers to help the police prevent the terrorist attack. So, nothing of note really happened at all. Two hours well spent!
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
While this Christopher Nolan-helmed superhero flick isn’t bad the whole way through, its ending leaves something to be desired, to say the least.
After we see Batman (Christian Bale) presumably killed in a bid to save Gotham from a bomb planted by Talia al Ghul (Marion Cotillard), the city mourns the hero, and Alfred (Michael Caine) mourns Bruce Wayne. Later, Alfred, finally taking a well-deserved vacation after a seemingly infinite number of years of service to the Wayne family, just so happens to spot Bruce and Selina Kyle (Anne Hathaway) having lunch together in Florence, like a bunch of normals who definitely don’t owe him an apology, or anything.
Couple Jarrod (Eric Balfour) and Elaine (Scottie Thompson) are expecting a baby. Then aliens arrive, hypnotize everyone, and take the couple aboard their ship.
Luckily, Jarrod’s brain is put into a cool new alien body, and he tells the other aliens to back off in a horribly unsatisfying resolution to a completely perplexing picture.
In 2009’s Knowing, MIT professor John Koestler (Nicolas Cage) discovers that the time capsule his young son’s class dug up is full of cryptic pages detailing when and where disasters will occur. John tries and fails to prevent subsequent disasters, eventually dying when solar flares wipe out the earth. Luckily, some benevolent aliens kidnap his son and his son’s friend just in time, transporting them to another planet. Sure, why not?
Knock Knock (2015)
Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves) is a happily married father at home alone for the weekend while his kids and wife take a trip to the beach. He makes the mistake of letting two young women into his house to use his phone, only to find himself in the middle of an unwanted threesome.
The girls, who have revealed themselves to be underage, then vandalize his home, sexually assault him and film it, steal his dog, bury him, and post the explicit video to his Facebook. No explanation is offered for their exploits, and no justice is offered for Evan, whose wife and kids return home to find everything in shambles.
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
While there was already plenty of trepidation among fans about Shia LaBeouf ruining a beloved franchise, he wasn’t even the worst part about this sequel. It turns out that the crystal skulls belong to crystal-bodied aliens, who, when put back together, open a portal to another dimension and take all of Indy’s Soviet enemies along for the ride. Then, the UFO they’ve been hiding on Earth returns from whence it came, and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) gets to go back to his comfortable life as an academic. And for a much more feel-good performance from Ford, check out the hilarious time he and Ryan Gosling cracked up on a British talk show.
Sex and murder have never ended so boringly as they do in 1993’s Sliver. Carly (Sharon Stone) starts a sexual relationship with her neighbor and gym buddy, Zeke (William Baldwin), only to find that it incenses their other neighbor, Jack (Tom Berenger).
In the meantime, residents of her building keep dying, having been murdered by Jack and videotaped by Zeke. However, after figuring this out, Carly doesn’t make a huge deal over all the murder and creeping. Instead, she just shoots up Zeke’s pervy surveillance system and tells him to “get a life.” Seriously, that’s it!
A group of strangers are stranded in a motel during a storm, only to be picked off one by one by an unidentified killer. Elsewhere, a man sits on death row awaiting an execution. As it turns out, everybody at the motel is part of the killer’s split personality, and he ends up in a mental institution instead of getting executed. What a lucky break!
Now You See Me (2013)
The whole plot of Now You See Me is about how a group of sleight-of-hand artists are so talented they make other people believe in magic. However, at the end of the movie, the four main characters, as well as FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), who has been investigating them, reveal a shocking secret: Rhodes is an illusionist, too! Then, the entire group steps onto a carousel and magically disappears.
At the end of 1978’s Superman, Superman (Christopher Reeve) is super-distraught over the death of Lois Lane (Margot Kidder). His solution? Spin the world backward to reverse time. You know, completely ignoring how planets, time, and human mortality work. For some more down-to-earth heroics, don’t miss the 11 Times A-List Celebrities Became Real Life Heroes.
While the movie’s plot about a crew trying to restart the sun is silly enough as it is, Sunshine’s ending is even worse. After a bunch of the astronaut/scientist/doctor characters die from what essentially amounts to incompetence, physicist Robert Capa (Cillian Murphy) does all living organisms a solid by bombing the sun, which, for whatever reason, gets it to work again and bring heat back to the earth.
The Village (2004)
That insular village tormented by monsters isn’t what it seems. While it seems as though the characters in this M. Night Shyamalan stinker are living hundreds of years ago, the villagers actually reside in present-day America. As it turns out, all the village elders are making everyone dress like monks and keeping up the lie about the monsters in the woods so that nobody gets to do fun stuff like drive cars or survive preventable diseases.
Remember Me (2010)
The first two hours of Remember Me are spent exploring the romance between protagonists Tyler (Robert Pattinson) and Ally (Emilie de Ravin) and reuniting the characters’ strained families. The final 10 minutes, however, are spent killing off Tyler, as the audience discovers he’s sitting in his father’s office at the World Trade Center’s North Tower on September 11, 2001.
Planet of the Apes (2011)
The ending of the 1968 Planet of the Apes was a logical twist: it was Earth all along! The 2001 remake, not so much. After a battle with power-hungry chimpanzee General Thade, Captain Leo Davidson (Mark Wahlberg), an astronaut-turned-ape-researcher, winds up back on Earth, only to discover that the police are all monkeys and the Lincoln Memorial is now the Thade Memorial!
But seriously, what does that mean? We just saw Thade overthrown! Did General Thade go back in time and issue the Emancipation Proclamation? Who was such a fan of Thade’s that they would make a statue of him? When did these monkeys take the police exam?
While there wasn’t much director James Cameron could have done to get around the whole sinking ship aspect of the plot, Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio)’s death in Titanic has been a thorn in the side of movie goers for two decades. No matter what anyone says, there was plenty of room on that door for both Jack and Rose (Kate Winslet) until help arrived.
Furthermore, odds are that Jack’s body wouldn’t have shot down to the bottom of the ocean like his pockets were full of lead just because Rose let go of his hand, which she had literally just promised not to do. Sure, it’s a metaphor, but it’s also ice cold, Rose. And to see this mistake rectified, see here to Watch Kate Winslet and Stephen Colbert Fix the Ending to Titanic.
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