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20 Bleak Movie Endings That Have Dark Messages

21 September 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

dark movie endings

Dark endings are not as common as contrived happy endings. That’s not to say dark endings aren’t contrived either, but either way test audiences, movie goers seems to prefer happy ending regardless of how contrived it is. This is a list of some of the most depressing, and shockingly dark endings in movies. The bleak implications hidden in them are the reasons why they will impress you and stay in your mind.


20. Donnie Darko


The Unhappy Ending: After finally deciphering the nature of the time-loop within which he is trapped, Donnie opts to sacrifice himself in order to smooth out a kink in the space-time continuum.

Bleak Implications: Not only does poor Donnie meet an untimely end, but Patrick Swayze’s paedophile presumably remains under the radar!

Reasons To Be Cheerful: The universe is saved from collapsing in on itself. And Mad World is rather beautiful, isn’t it?


19. No Country For Old Men


The Unhappy Ending: Having already chased Josh Brolin to a bloody death off-screen, Javier Bardem proceeds to kill his wife, who has just returned from her mother’s funeral. Bemused and frightened by the trail of violence he has witnessed, poor Tommy Lee Jones is left a broken man, his worldview shattered alongside his faith in humanity.

Bleak Implications: The world has always been a violent, nihilistic place and what’s more, it always will be.

Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least Bardem refrains from killing the two young boys who assist him after his car crash.


18. Atonement


The Unhappy Ending: As the film comes to its jarring close, it is revealed that both Robbie and Cecilia died during WW2, their reunion never coming to pass. The narrative is revealed to be the contents of a book written by a guilt-stricken Briony, who finally realises the consequences of her earlier lie.

Bleak Implications: Not only did Robbie and Cecilia both die before their romance could be fully realised, but Briony has spent a miserable life beating herself up about it. Bleak doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least Briony realises the gravity of her error. Not that its much use to Robbie or Cecilia.


17. The Vanishing


The Unhappy Ending: Consumed by a desire to know what happened to his missing wife, Rex takes the drugged coffee offered by the man who has revealed himself to be her kidnapper. When he wakes, he finds he has been buried alive. D’oh!

Bleak Implications: Not only will Rex suffer one of the most horrific deaths conceivable, he will do so in the knowledge that his wife went the same way. Truly horrific.

Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least he has closure.

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  • Renard N. Bansale


    “The Unhappy Ending: … All alone in the world, Seito carries his sister’s ashes with him until his own death a few years later.”

    Actually, Seito dies on 21 September, 1945, just several weeks later. Whatever he did with the money he withdrew never helped him.

  • mrsatyre
  • Iam_Spartacus

    The Deer Hunter:

    Unhappy ending: Three close friends of Russian heritage working as Pennsylvania steelworkers end up in Vietnam, one survives unscathed, another ends up confined to a wheelchair and the third loses his mind to PTSS and ends his life in a game of Russian Roulette.

    Bleak Implications: Nothing good about war. Their lives will never be the same.

    Reasons to be cheerful: Despite the traumatic experiences endured by this tight-knit community, they maintain their sense of patriotism and love of their country (God Bless America).

    • MrGJG

      Unless the singing of GBA is done in jest? We’ll never really know.

  • JTorrenceful

    Pan’s Labyrinth?

  • Joshua Thirteen

    you should specify you refer to the 1988 dutch Vanishing, as the 1993 US version tacks on a bit more story and the ending is happier.

  • michael1968

    Star Trek V. The bad ending is that the movie was even made.

  • Heywood_Jablome

    Kind of shocked that Mystic River didn’t make your list. For obvious reasons.