Few things are quite as infuriating as a bad movie climax. After all, when you devote two hours or more of your life to a film, you at least want that film to have a satisfying finish. Well, the directors on this list must’ve missed the memo, as they’re responsible for ending their movies in some of the most nonsensical and illogical ways possible. Whether they employ cheap plot twists or shameless marketing ploys, these 19 flicks are all disappointing when it arguably matters most.
19. Knowing (2009)
Nicolas Cage had a pretty terrible run of movies in the mid-’00s thanks to turkeys like Ghost Rider, Next and the laughably bad remake of The Wicker Man. But perhaps his most nonsensical project came in 2009 with the release of the utterly baffling Knowing. After a long and arduous hunt to discover the truth behind a host of numbers, their meaning is revealed near the movie’s conclusion. And that meaning is strange: they are messages delivered by an alien race from the future in order to warn people of the Earth-destroying solar flare that’s about to hit. Confused? So are we.
18. A.I. (2001)
Stephen Spielberg’s 2001 futuristic mind-bender A.I. Artificial Intelligence is ambitious in scope and actually quite impressive in execution, too. Near the end of its 146 minutes, though, David’s desire to transcend his robotic existence and become a flesh-and-blood person hits a snag: after he’s transported into the future, the poor boy finds out that he can’t be made human after all. That would have in itself made a heartbreaking ending, but Spielberg tempers the sadness with a schmaltzy family scene that leaves the viewer confused as to what to take away from the movie.
17. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
The ending to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is actually two finishes in one. The first sees Harry try to sacrifice himself to save humanity, and the second depicts the characters 19 years after that final battle with Voldemort. But director David Yates should have decided to leave that flash-forward in the editing suite, as the stars’ unconvincing aging make-up is downright awful and only serves to take viewers out of the movie’s dramatic climax. It’s a shame that we can’t wave a magic wand and make the cringe-worthy finale to the 2011 film disappear.
16. Prometheus (2012)
When it was announced that there was going to be a prequel to the peerless Alien, sci-fi fans were cautiously optimistic. Sadly, the Ridley Scott-directed movie didn’t fare so well in the end. The cyborg David – played by Michael Fassbender – is interesting, but that’s about it. And what really makes the 2012 release a disappointment is the meme-worthy climax that witnesses the archaeologists run in line with a spaceship that’s about to crush them. Smart… Oh, and also the cheap inclusion of a xenomorph-like creature, which only serves to sadly remind everyone how much better the original Alien series is.
15. Savages (2012)
Plenty of us were probably told at school never to end stories with “and it was all a dream,” so it’s a shame that a legendary director like Oliver Stone was seemingly never taught that lesson. His 2012 thriller Savages is a candid insight into the inner workings of a Mexican drug cartel, complete with a suitably blood-soaked denouement. So far, so relatively believable – until it’s revealed that that climactic shootout was just imagined by Ophelia “O” Sage. Boo!
14. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
Thought Prometheus ended poorly? Well, 1997’s Alien: Resurrection gives it a run for its money. And while the whole movie is particularly bad, it’s the disgusting ending that really gets stomach-churning. This sees Ripley 8 confront her gross, fluid-spewing alien hybrid daughter before tearfully firing her into space. What’s more, it’s a scene that’s so vomit-worthy – both for the forced emotion and for the gruesomeness of the beast – that we’d take straight line-running archaeologists over it any day.
13. April Fool’s Day (1986)
Slasher movie April Fool’s Day is pretty hokey, but it’s entertaining nonetheless. However, the ending to the ’80s horror flick leaves a lot to be desired. Indeed, the big revelation that all of the grisly murders are in fact a hoax is so eye-roll-inducing that it pretty much ruins everything that leads up to it. As a result, the joke is, effectively, on the audience.
12. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The third instalment in the Lord of the Rings saga is a competent enough swansong, but it isn’t helped much by a convoluted ending. And while it may have seemed a good idea to director Peter Jackson to have all the loose ends tied up and see everyone living happily ever after, the amount of false conclusions that entails remains frustrating. It all leads to a long-winded climax that is as unenthralling as the rest of the trilogy is utterly engaging.
11. Signs (2002)
M. Night Shyamalan dazzled theatergoers with The Sixth Sense, but he struggled to capture the same magic with several of his follow-up projects. 2002’s Signs is one of those disappointing movies; it’s also a prime example of a film with a plot hole as big as the Grand Canyon. The narrative follows a family who are encountering signs of an alien presence and basically drops the ball at the end by having one of the scaly beings enter their house. So despite water being their biggest weakness, the aliens invade a planet enveloped by water? Okay…
10. Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
Compared to its first part, Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill: Vol. 2 is a pretty tepid affair, but it’s the ending that particularly cements it as a bit of a snoozefest. After the intense build-up of the first movie and the majority of the second, Uma Thurman’s character The Bride simply kills Bill with a glorified karate chop. No stylistic fight sequence here – just a boring conclusion that could have been so much more.
9. Sunshine (2007)
Danny Boyle-helmed stunner Sunshine impressed many when it was released in 2007 – despite a pretty shoddy climax. Indeed, a fascinating plot revolving around space travel gets railroaded towards the end thanks to a finale that’s more interested in butchering characters than intellectually fleshing them out. That unexpected slasher movie turn just doesn’t do justice to the intriguing existential and scientific musings that underpin the rest of the otherwise cerebral sci-fi flick.
8. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
Boy, oh boy is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull terrible. And since the 2008 movie as a whole is so utterly bad, its conclusion is an oddly fitting one – at least in terms of its sheer idiocy. It sees crystal skulls bring an alien to life, with the extraterrestrial proceeding to kill Cate Blanchett’s character before apparently taking off in a spaceship. And yes, it’s just as stupid as that sounds.
7. Superman (1978)
The first movie adaptation of Superman was a box-office hit after its release in 1978, but many have pointed to its ending as being a particular sore point for them. After Lois Lane meets her demise, an angry Superman speedily zips around the globe in an attempt to reverse time. Futile, right? Wrong. He inexplicably manages that very feat and, in the process, had audiences scratching their heads at its ridiculousness.
6. Rat Race (2001)
We can maybe see past poor movie-making decisions for film endings – but not any shameless promotion for a product or entity. And 2001’s Rat Race is definitely one of the worst offenders when it comes to the latter. It finishes with the cast singing and dancing to rock group Smash Mouth as they perform their hit song “All Star.” It feels like a devious ad for the band rather than a genuine ending to an otherwise entertaining comedy.
5. I Am Legend (2007)
Will Smith-fronted 2007 blockbuster I Am Legend is a very competent film adaptation of the novel of the same name. Well, that’s if you can look past a rushed ending that completely negates the plot that comes prior to it. That denouement sees Smith’s character Dr. Robert Neville kill the Darkseekers with a grenade – despite a previous story thread explaining that they are actually living, breathing humans like the ones for whom Neville has been trying to find a cure. The alternate ending where he also realizes the tragic ramifications of his actions would have been much more fitting.
4. The Village (2004)
Sorry, M. Night Shyamalan – you’re not off the hook just yet. Why? Because the denouement to 2004’s The Village more than matches that of predecessor Signs for stupidity. To wit, the movie’s story is completely turned on its head at its conclusion when it’s revealed that it doesn’t take place in the 19th century but rather in the present day. What’s more, there are no monsters either, as it turns out that the whole elaborate scheme has been concocted by the villagers. It’s a horrible ending to what initially seems like a promising premise.
3. Planet of the Apes (2001)
The original ’60s Planet of the Apes movie is iconic, which makes it all the more disappointing that its 2001 reboot – save for an absolutely showstopping performance from Tim Roth – is just a flat dud. And while its predecessor awed viewers with its last plot twist, the conclusion of the ill-fated rehash just confused audiences. Specifically, at the film’s climax Leo Davidson lands back on Earth only to find out that apes are now in control there, too. Perhaps it would be an effective reveal if it made even a lick of sense.
2. The Devil Inside (2012)
Sitting through a horror movie as bad as William Brent Bell’s The Devil Inside just makes you realize how good the likes of The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby really are. And the makers of this 2012 borefest managed to make it even worse than initially thought possible at the end by flashing up a link to their website. Self-serving and as shameless as it gets.
1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is largely considered one of the best films ever made. However, you shouldn’t have to read the book on which a movie is based in order to understand the story. And, alas, doing just that may be a good idea in the case of the Stanley Kubrick-helmed space epic – not least because its ending is pretty baffling. Yes, during the conclusion it gets very weird, as Dr. David Bowman is seen lying in a bed while transforming from an old man into a fetus without any explanation given. We’d expect such odd shenanigans from a terrible movie, but this isn’t how a cinema classic should end.