Movie fans watch a new flick with the expectation of being entertained from start to finish. If a movie is exceptionally good, it will end on a striking note, leaving viewers with something to remember, ponder or scratch their heads over. But sometimes, viewers faced with the crushing disappointment that is a hopeless, irredeemable movie ending.
Penning the perfect movie ending is probably the single biggest challenge for a team of script writers. It is the last note that is left with the audience, ultimately determining whether the movie is a hit or miss. What's even more painful is a potentially great movie that has been going well, but falls at the last crucial hurdle.
However, it's important to clarify that we're talking about movie endings that are, to all intents and purposes, genuine and objective failures - not just an ending that a few people weren't keen on. The factors that can lead to a flop ending can range from running out of time or funding, to downright bad script writing, to the desperation to have a 'twist' ending even if it makes no sense. Sometimes a bad ending has, counterintuitively, been the catalyst in making a movie iconic, setting it apart from the masses to achieve immortality in the form of a cult following.
The following are ten movies that will forever be remembered for boasting some of the worst endings in movie history. These endings resulted in facepalms heard around the world, and some seriously ticked off moviegoers who had invested time and money in a story that spectacularly failed to pay off.
You may well be grateful for the following *spoilers*; they'll save you the inevitable disappointment that would result from watching the full movies...
10 The Forgotten (2004)
"The Forgotten" follows a woman named Telly, played by Julianne Moore, who is desperately trying to find her son. The premise? No one believes her when she tells them she has a son, not even her own husband.
Viewers will wonder whether Telly is absolutely crazy? Perhaps there's a government cover up, or something even more sinister going on. But no one would be able to predict the ending that came about, and for all the wrong reasons.
Aliens. Yes, aliens abducted her son, and everyone around her is there to try to convince her that she was never a mother. The ending was criticized for being rushed, sloppy, and inconsistent, seemingly unrelated to the full story that had gone before it.
9 American Gangster (2007)
"American Gangster" is about real life gangster Richie Roberts, played by Denzel Washington. The story tells how he rose from being a driver for one of the most notorious crime bosses to taking over the business for himself, as detective Richie Roberts is tracking him down.
The movie was heavily criticized for a number of inaccuracies, and Roberts even spoke out against the film because he felt it portrayed him as "too noble."
It's a pretty bad sign when the people whose tale you wanted to tell criticise the movie's ending for being nearly entirely fiction. Many movies watchers were dissatisfied by the ending, too; the characters completely abandon the traits that they spent the movie developing and make 180 changes that are seemingly senseless and unfounded.
8 Planet of the Apes (2001)
When it was announced that Tim Burton would be directing a reboot of the classic "Planet of the Apes" movie, fans responded with a potent mixture of hope and dread. If the original movie was so perfect, why go back and try it again? Anyway, the movie starred Mark Wahlberg as the hero. At the end of the movie, after defeating his foe, things seem to be alright but when Wahlberg returns to his present day, he is horrified to see that the Lincoln Memorial has been replaced with a statue of the enemy he had just defeated.
This ending angered countless moviegoers, because of the many huge plot holes. One of the most significant being; if the hero defeated the enemy, why is the enemy memorialized as a statue in the end? It seems that Burton tried a little too hard to set up for a sequel, at the expense of the movie's overall coherence.
7 Superman (1978)
When Superman realizes that his love, Lois Lane, is dead, he gets a brilliant idea in the midst of his grief. Superman uses his incredible flying powers to make the world spin backwards in the effort of turning back time. This ending is certainly entertaining, but comic book characters demand consistency - even in the fictional universe - and this ending fails because it just doesn't make any sense.
How did he know that it would turn back time, and not kill everyone instead? If all he needed to do to fix his problems was to manipulate time, why didn't he just do this all along to combat his enemies, and even undo the wrongs that have occurred in this world? The movie was a hit overall, but the ending left a very bad taste in everyone's mouth and is remembered as one of the sloppiest finales of any superhero movie.
6 The Village (2004)
This now-infamous movie is, apparently, set in the 19th century. A village lives in fear of the creatures that roam around it. The movie is full of suspense and thrills, and there's nothing that really prepares the movie watcher for the twist ending that knocks them for six.
The village, it transpires in the movie's final moments, is actually in present day times, and the men who run the village started the community in an effort to protect their families from the corruptions of the world. Great, until your children find out your secret.
Essentially, this ending just heartlessly messed with viewers' heads, and violated the entire vibe and overarching themes of the film in a matter of seconds. Director M. Night Shyamalan was criticized for the self-indulgent twist ending, which has become iconic as one of the worst 'twists' in movie history.
5 I Am Legend (2007)
"I Am Legend" tells the story of what seems to be the last surviving man on Earth, played by Will Smith. While coming to terms with the aftermath of a horrific apocalypse, he's trying to combat endless herds of zombie-like creatures. He has a zombie test subject trapped inside his house, testing her to try to find a cure.
The ending that the producers go with sees the hero sending the antidote to be processed, with some fellow survivors he meets. He sacrifices himself to save the antidote, blowing himself up along with members of the zombie-vampire herd.
However, the film's source material's ending was much less Hollywood, and many viewers felt the ending producers went for didn't do the story justice. The original ending boasted a brilliant plotline twist that added depth to the story, but didn't make it to the final cut of the movie: the herd was trying to save a member of their own, the test subject trapped in the house. This showed that the herd was more than a bunch of violent monsters, and eliminating this twist from the movie's ending relegated the story to the realm of mindless zombie apocalypse flick.
4 The Devil Inside (2012)
This found-footage style movie is another mild addition to the paranormal-demon-possession genre of film. The plot itself was innocuous, telling the story of a young woman who worries whether her mother's possession and murderous rage will pass to her. The journey takes the film's lead to the Vatican and Rome, Italy with a film crew to document every moment that occurs.
In the film's climactic ending, the lead finds herself on the brink of possession with the crew in the car and rushing to find help when suddenly, there's a crazy car accident. After that, the film cuts to black with a website, with a confused audience sitting as the credits begin to roll. Genre fans were reported to be royally angry about the ending and took their frustration out online, viciously slating the film and crushing any hope it had of success. The movie ended with a pathetic 6% approval rating from critics, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
3 August Rush (2007)
August Rush is a modern day twist on "Oliver Twist" with a musical angle. The theme of the movie is having faith and allowing the music to guide you through your destiny. The movie received mixed to negative reviews due to a predictable plot, but it was a seriously bad ending that really put the nail in this movie's coffin.
Throughout the film, viewers are rooting for Evan, a young boy who wants to find his parents and uses music to make it happen. Movie goers are being shamelessly manipulated into rooting for the family reunion.
Well, the reunion happens... sort of.
Through a series of events, the parents and Evan find themselves at the concert he is conducting. One expects a tearful reunion, but gets nothing but glances and smiles exchanged between the musicians and the family members in the audience before the film cuts to black. No reunion, no big emotional pay off. This movie didn't play on subtlety, so the too-subtle ending was anticlimactic and, worse, downright boring.
2 Signs (2002)
M. Night Shyamalan is a repeat offender when it comes to horrid movie endings. It seems the director got lucky with The Sixth Sense, and has been trying to replicate that success for the rest of his career.
When it came to Signs, the suspense built up throughout the alien invasion movie was pretty spot on, leaving a lot to the imagination and creating a creeping, escalating fear of the aliens among audiences. The movie boasts intriguing themes like divine intervention and fatalism.
However, the ending of the movie just doesn't make sense, and has one huge plot hole: It's discovered that the aliens' only weakness is water. So, why in the world would this alien race try to inhabit a planet that is primarily composed of the one element that can kill them?
1 Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2005)
When it was announced that Indy would have one more adventure, reactions were mixed. Some celebrated the news with excitement while other diehard fans were exceptionally cautious.
With a franchise as iconic and formative to cinematic history as this one, why take the risk in spoiling it just to make some extra cash? But with Harrison Ford returning in his role, as well as Shia LaBeouf as his sidekick, the movie was set to be a hit...
...until the end. The crystal skull that Indy comes across ends up summoning a really ticked off alien, that flies off into another dimension. This broke with the whole theme of the franchise - it was based on history and myth, never on futuristic aliens - and most fans of the original movies felt that the integrity of the franchise had been seriously violated.
Then, one of the worst lines in cinema history is spoken by John Hurt when Indy asks where the alien went; “Space… or the space between spaces."