We love our movie endings to be happy ones. That’s why we cheer when someone kills off the aliens or rescues their long-lost child – or when Johnny pulls Baby out of the corner. The good guys win, all is well, and we leave the theater with the warm and fuzzies.
But if we really sat down and analyzed the endings to some seemingly feel-good flicks, we might discover that they aren’t so happy after all. In fact, several movies have downright tragic conclusions – like the following 20 films, all of which finish on notes that aren’t as cheerful as you may have once assumed…
20. Kill Bill Vol. 2 (2004)
In Quentin Tarantino’s two Kill Bill movies, Uma Thurman’s character The Bride proves herself to be the ultimate badass while on her quest for revenge. And in Vol. 2, she succeeds in both locating her daughter and killing off the eponymous Bill – the man who had taken her child. Which sounds great – until you think about the fact that the kid doesn’t know her mom at all. And now she’s lost her father figure into the bargain, too.
19. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Michel Gondry’s quirky Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind sees Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet’s characters both erase any recollections of their painful relationship, only for the pair to meet and start seeing each other again. And although at the end of the film the couple have realized what has previously happened between them, they nevertheless decide to stay together. Sweet? Maybe, but considering how things turned out last time, this new romance seems doomed to fail.
18. Independence Day (1996)
It may seem inconceivable that Independence Day ends on anything else than a high note. Earth has just been saved from a vengeful bunch of aliens, after all. But, oh wait, that’s right: millions of people have been completely wiped out. Yikes. And how can any kind of order ever be restored after such mass devastation? Well, that’s a question for another day, it appears…
17. Superman Returns (2006)
Don’t be fooled by Superman Returns’ conclusion, either. Just think of what happens right before the credits roll: the titular superhero zooms off and abandons his son once more. Yep, Superman’s a deadbeat dad. And we suspect that Lois Lane will have a heck of a time getting alimony out of the Man of Steel, too.
16. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
It turns out that Silver Linings Playbook’s Tiffany Maxwell is something of a good luck charm for Robert De Niro’s character Pat Solitano Sr. That certainly seems to be the case at the end of the dramedy, when both of Solitano Sr.’s bets come good. And love prevails, too, when Maxwell and Pat Solitano Jr. begin dating. But bipolar disorder and gambling addictions don’t just go away. Let’s hope, then, that at least some of the proceeds from the new restaurant are used to pay for family therapy…
15. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind certainly seems to end happily for Richard Dreyfuss’ character Roy Neary. Indeed, when Neary enters the mothership, he’s realizing his ultimate dream of interacting with aliens. But, uh, what about the wife and kids he just deserts to mingle with the extraterrestrials? Also, remember the people the UFO kicked out back onto Earth? They’ve been missing for decades! Are their loved ones even still alive?
14. The Sound of Music (1965)
The hills are alive! With the sound of… starvation and hypothermia? Because while The Sound of Music’s von Trapps may have escaped the Nazis at the end of the classic film, the reality is that they now have a huge distance to cover on foot to get to civilization. Plus, they have no food, and they’re on a freaking freezing cold mountaintop. And the Germans aren’t likely to look too kindly on the nuns who assisted the family, either.
13. The Village (2004)
At the end of The Village, it’s revealed that the inhabitants of Covington are – gasp – living in modern times! Of course, the majority of the villagers don’t know this, and the Elders don’t want to give the game away, either. Think about it, though: while most of Covington’s citizens may be happier living in ignorance, we bet they’d be even more appreciative of proper medicine that could treat diseases they may very well die of.
12. Forrest Gump (1994)
Forrest Gump’s conclusion should melt even the hardest of hearts: after all, what’s not to love about the relationship between the title character and his son? And a child’s first day of school is usually a happy occasion, too. Then you realize that the kid’s father has a serious developmental disability that may warrant some investigation from Child Protective Services. Oh, and it’s also possible that Forrest Jr. is HIV positive, as the movie seems to suggest that his mother passed away from AIDS.
11. Gravity (2013)
At the climax of Alfonso Cuarón’s spectacular space film Gravity, we see protagonist Dr. Ryan Stone land safely back on Earth. Yes! Except… where is she? And what will she do for food? And how far away is the nearest human who might be able to help her? Still, if she manages to survive, at least she can cash in on her story – and that’s something, right?
10. Baby Driver (2017)
Viewers hungry for a happy ending to Baby Driver may have been more than satisfied by Baby’s apparent release from prison and reunion with Debora. But what are the young couple going to do next for money? Well, crime is all Baby knows, so he might very well end up behind bars again.
9. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
Given that Kramer vs. Kramer’s Ted Kramer clearly loves his son, the ending to the classic ’70s drama pretty much feels right. But while we may be overjoyed to find out that Billy gets to stay with his dad, we can’t ignore the fact that the child’s mom has basically left him all over again. And that’s a rather rough thing to take if you’re a little kid.
8. Jack (1996)
The Francis Ford Coppola-directed Jack stars Robin Williams as a child with a disease that rapidly speeds up the aging process. And the film concludes, rather schmaltzily, with the eponymous lead finally graduating from high school and being accepted by his peers. Sweet – even if Jack is probably going to die many, many years before his buddies.
7. Love and Other Drugs (2010)
Like most rom-coms, Love and Other Drugs ends on a high, as Jamie and Maggie embark on what could be a very happy journey together. Unless you’ve been asleep for most of the film, though, you’ll know that Maggie has Parkinson’s disease. And as that condition is a degenerative one, both her and Jamie’s futures could in fact be rather bleak indeed…
6. Return of the Jedi (1983)
Famously, Return of the Jedi’s climactic conclusion sees Darth Vader, the Emperor and the Death Star all either dead or destroyed. And what’s not to like about good triumphing over evil? Well, maybe the fact that the Empire’s still pretty much intact, and it’s bound to retaliate with force.
5. The Little Mermaid (1989)
Big and small kids alike have been enthralled by The Little Mermaid ever since its release in 1989. And the movie’s glorious ending, which sees Ariel finally get hitched to her prince, is likely key to the Disney flick’s enduring popularity. That’s despite the fact, however, that the mermaid-turned-human will probably never see her family or friends from under the sea ever again. She might as well have joined a cult…
4. Dirty Dancing (1987)
Some might consider Dirty Dancing to have one of the most satisfying endings ever committed to celluloid. Let’s face it, though: what’s going to happen when the music stops? After all, remember, Johnny has been fired – and is Baby going to give up her education just to shack up with this much older, unemployed man? Unlikely. But never mind that; let’s just enjoy that magnificent lift!
3. Back to the Future Part III (1990)
After Marty McFly waves goodbye to the Wild West in Back to the Future Part III, he finally returns to his family. Yay! Except… it isn’t actually a family he knows. Also, his best buddy Doc has disappeared for good. In fact, we almost wish Back to the Future Part IV had been made so that we could have had an actual happy ending to the series.
2. The Matrix Revolutions (2003)
While you may root for the end of the Matrix in The Matrix Revolutions, spare a thought for the humans trapped inside the simulation. They’ll soon find out that everything they’ve ever known was simply cooked up by machines. Oh, and if that weren’t already enough to bring on PTSD, they’ll also realize that any suffering they’ve experienced could have been prevented and was wholly unnecessary. Great.
1. Toy Story 2 (1999)
At the end of Toy Story 2, the plucky toys are finally reunited with their young owner Andy. What could possibly be sad about that? Well, Andy is still going to outgrow his playthings at some point. And even if he does hold on to them in some weird man-boy fashion, he’ll still eventually die. Not even Buzz Lightyear can come to the rescue on that one.