Movies With Bad Endings

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  • Stardust Memories (1980) - I just saw this movie today; in fact, the ending of the movie gave me the idea for this list. The ending of this movie is completely nonsensical and random.
  • A Fish Called Wanda (1988) - I mostly enjoyed the rest of the movie, but the ending was corny and stupid. Ken's revenge wasn't nearly good enough for the cruelty inflicted upon him throughout the rest of the movie.
  • Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) - Throughout the whole movie, the movie builds and builds towards the obvious conclusion; and just when you think it's going to go that way, it jerks back and goes in a different direction. Well, the ending at least surprised me, but I didn't buy it.
  • Murder by Death (1976) - A hilarious movie it is, a great mystery it ain't. The solution to this mystery is stupid and nonsensical. I'd still highly recommend this movie, though, as it's very funny.
  • The Big Lebowski (1998) - This movie has a "twist" in the end that has nothing to do with the rest of the plot and completely comes out of nowhere. It does nothing to answer any questions or move the plot or help the characters grow - it seems like it was just added at random last-minute. "Big Lebowski" is still recommended for lovers of the bizarre, though. I thought the movie was pretty funny.
  • The Heartbreak Kid (1972) - I didn't really like the rest of this movie, but the ending was unquestionably the worst part.
  • 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002) - For most of this movie, I thought the writing was actually quite witty. Then the ending came. The ending of this movie is so obscenely bad that I figured the writers of the movie must've just gotten lucky for the rest. This is probably the worst ending to a movie I've ever seen (compared to the other material, at least), although I haven't seen "Planet of the Apes" (2001) (see below).
  • L.A. Story (1991) - This is probably the movie on this list I liked the most (with the possible exception of "Murder by Death"), but I gotta admit the ending is very anticlimactic. The ending wasn't as bad as some of the others here, and the rest of the movie is great. I'd still recommend it.
  • Red River (1948) - I agree with jgandcag on this one. Even such an acclaimed classic is not free of a corny studio ending. Oh, well.
  • Clueless (1995) - It comes out of nowhere, and... well, it's just plain icky.
  • Pushing Tin (1999) - The more I think about it, the more this ending is like that of "Red River." Spoilers for both movies: It starts off with two rivals, and then all of a sudden, with some cheesy studio ending, they're friends. Gimme a break.
  • The Natural (1984) - The book's ending was better, and the book's ending made more sense. Well, I haven't actually read the book, but I know the ending in the book. Why does Hollywood feel they always have to give us a happy ending?
  • Army of Darkness (1993) - I didn't mind the ending, but the original ending was much better.
  • 12 Angry Men (1957) - This is one of my favorite movies, but the very last scene annoys me. I'll tell you what happens, since it doesn't give away any of the plot: after the trial, two of the jurors introduce themselves to each other. But the beauty of the movie was the anonymity of the jurors! Why is this last scene there, anyway? It doesn't add anything to the movie, and I think it wasn't in the original play.
  • Minority Report (2002) (thanks to JohnnyW) - see below
  • L.A. Confidential (1997) (thanks to jgandcag)
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) (thanks to lukeprog)
  • Easy Rider (1969) (thanks to jukejoint)
  • The Abyss (1989) - "An abysmal ending" (thanks to jim)
  • Planet of the Apes (2001) - "The ending of Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes is even worse - perhaps the worst ending I've seen." (thanks to jim)
  • Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977) - "It effected the dating scene like 'Psycho' did with taking showers." (thanks to temporary)
  • Vanilla Sky (2001) - "Sometimes, a confusing ending can just be downright pretentious" (thanks to pivvclam)
  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001) - "would have been better if the final third had been left out" (thanks to hot_wasabi)
  • Apocalypse Now (1979) (thanks to jgandcag)
  • The Game (1997) (thanks to lbangs)
  • The Contender (thanks to JohnnyW) - see below
  • Contact (thanks to openstacks)
Author Comments: 

Note that I could include virtually all of the movies on my "Some of My Least Favorite Movies" list, but this list is reserved for movies where the ending is worse than the beginning or middle of the movie.

I'd gladly accept contributions to this list, but if I haven't seen the movie, then you'll have to write the comments. Also, feel free to defend any endings of movies on this list, if you wish.

Note that I haven't seen the last 9 movies on this list.

The Abyss has an abysmal ending. The ending of Tim Burton's remake of Planet of the Apes is even worse - perhaps the worst ending I've seen.

Good or not, I think the brothers meant the ending of The Big Lebowski to have "nothing to do with the rest of the plot" and to "completely come out of nowhere." That's part of the film's game.

Now whether that's any good or not is another question entirely...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I guess you're right, but I just think an ending to a film should be a resolution of something or other, instead of introducing a new problem. I know that the whole movie is just supposed to be bizarre, but at least it formed a somewhat coherent plot instead of being totally random.
Are we supposed to care that Buscemi died? It's not like we care about the character all that much; he has few lines, and when he speaks he's pretty annoying. They didn't spend any time building up the character. I also didn't even think that Bridges or Goodman liked him that much.

Pushing Tin - An interesting film pretty much ruined by that godawful ending. Good call!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

AJ I think you might make a shorter list if you did one on movies with great endings. The list of bad endings could go on for a long, long time including some very, very good movies.

Bad Endings for me include Chinatown LA Confidential and Apoclypse Now.

Great endings include The Conversation, Casblanca and Citizen Kane

jgandcag, I just saw the movie "Chinatown" and I have to disagree with you about the ending. No, I wouldn't put it on my "Movies With Great Endings" list, but I didn't see what was so bad about it. Did you just dislike it because it was dark and disturbing (then again, the whole movie is pretty dark and disturbing)? If not, why did you dislike it?

AJ, what did you think of Chinatown?

Oh, by the way, why does Chinatown have a bad ending? I always thought it was great.

I loved "Chinatown", though probably not as much as you did. As for the ending, jgandcag suggested it before I had seen the movie.

Wrong listing, Sorry. Chinatown should have been in the great endings side. I really should read what I type before posting.

Haha, OK. I'll take it off and add it to my Great Endings list.

I was wondering where that came from...good to see you enjoyed it.

RE: Army of Darkness

How does an ending that you "didn't mind" end up on the list of Movies With Bad Endings? Does the fact that a better ending existed make the ending that was used bad? What was the other ending for Army of Darkness?

I too am curious about what the other ending of Army of Darkness was. I actually thought the entire final third was a bit weak compared to the rest.

It is on the DVD release It has to do with him drinking some potion that will allow him to sleep until present day. He takes too much and sleeps past the end of time I like the original ending better.

RE: Blade Runner

Not unless you take into account the possibility that Harrison Ford's character was himself a replicant who didn't have the 7 year self-destruct gene and by not killing Harrison Ford he was saving the replicants as species.

Whoa, I guess I never really got it before. I knew that Harrison Ford was really a replicant, but it had never really clicked for me. I guess I'll take it off; but what I still don't get is why that other replicant had been trying to kill Harrison Ford all this time, and then all of a sudden he stops. Did he just at that moment realize that Harrison Ford was a replicant? If so, what made him realize it?

Actually, I was sort of asking the question rhetorically. I don't think the movie makes a strong case one way or the other that Deckard is or is not a replicant. They leave it vague. In fact, I've read the original book and I don't even think it's clear there.

I was just floating an idea out there that I've heard about in Blade Runner discussion circles. Of course, I think if it takes you twenty years after the movie is released to figure it out then the filmmaker didn't do a very good job. :-)

I guess you could argue the importance of the last scene in "Easy Rider" to the rest of the film, but I still hate it. It was like a hatchet to the head.

I am so with you on 40 Days and 40 Nights (though I thought the rest of the film sucked too). What was up with that? His ex-girlfriend basically rapes him and he just shrugs it off, and nothing's said about it. It was the stupidest most improbable thing I've seen in almost any movies - and I watch horror movies all the time!

The worst part is that his girlfriend gets mad at him for being raped! I actually read this from an IMDB comment, but I thought it was a good point: What if the genders were reversed? A girl on a 40-day abstinence gets raped by her ex-boyfriend, and her real boyfriend is pissed off at her for that! It was so ridiculous.

This list looks kinda dead but I'll post to it anyway. Another movie with a BAD ending was "Looking For Mr. Goodbar" from 1977. It effected the dating scene like "Psycho" did with taking showers.

My lists may go into extended hiatuses, but they are never dead. Unless they're archived. I haven't seen that movie, but I'll add it. Thanks, temporary.

AJ, I'm not sure if "bad" refers to a unsatifactory conclusion to a movie, or if it refers to unfortunate cicumstances for the characters of a movie. If it's the former, put me down for "Vanilla Sky" Sometimes, a confusing ending can just be downright pretentious. If, it is the latter, then "Requiem for a Dream"(which is on your to-see list)ends as badly as any movie in my recent memory.

It's the former. I'll add your suggestion.

My vote for the king of bad endings: The overhyped Speilberg flop "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" would have been better if the final third had been left out.

I totally agree. Speilberg's "happy ending" did not mesh with the otherwise Kubrickian tone of the film. In the immortal words of the Public Service Announcement, "Know when to say when"

There are a couple of films that truly disappointed me when the ending came around:

The Contender. This movie raised some provocative questions, especially at a time when the internet and tabloid journalism can bring to light any event, no matter how minor or ancient, from a politician's life. Joan Allen's VP candidate (I don't remember her name) steadfatly refuses to comment on accusations about sexual escapades way back from her college days, saying that even if it costs her the position, her past has nothing to do with her ability to perform her duties in the present. A gutsy position to take. But then at the very end, we have her confess to Jeff Bridges, the President, that all the accusations are a lie! Whew! Now we can admire her attitude and be assured of her stainless character! A completely gutless move. You can't have it both ways...

Minority Report. An intense, thrill ride of a movie. A bittersweet twinge runs through the movie, appropriately, because of Cruise's loss. But wait. His ex-wife, who divorced him because looking at him reminded her of their dead son, is now at the end suddenly remarried to him, smiling, and big with child! I guess all of a sudden Tom Cruise doesn't remind her of her son. And the Samantha Morton character: she has no emotional readjustments to face? She can simply curl up in a farmhouse with a pile of books and catch up on the, oh, two decades or so she has missed? Sigh...

What bothers me so much is that both of these were really good films that seemed to have the courage of their convictions, and then decided to give the audience bland, false, sachrine, happy endings. OK, I'm off my high horse.

Johnny Waco

I haven't seen "The Contender", but I do agree with you on "Minority Report." However, I've come to expect that kinda thing from Spielberg, and I must say, it could've been a lot worse. The movie does remain appropriately dark for 99% of its running time.

I'll add both above.

I nominate The Game.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'd add Monty Python and the Holy Grail to the list if it were mine.

Hmm, that's a good idea. I find the ending a bit disappointing too.

I'd vote for Contact, a movie I thought was really great until the last hour.