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10 Could-Be-Great Movies Ruined by Their Endings

17 August 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Erika Livingstone


You’re at the theatre, the lights are off, and before you screens an engrossing work of art. It’s fun, well-paced, and enjoyable. But something happens in the last half hour. The plot had been humming along like a well-oiled machine, but suddenly something inside of it seemed to catch fire.

Wait, no! … Seriously? You think, as the film jumps off its rails and careens into ruin. When the credits roll, you depart confused and annoyed that everything went so bad so fast.

Happened to you?

Films are a collaborative art subject to the creative impulses of many individuals. Even the brightest minds can miss something obvious or make a bad judgement call.

Or, as has been the case in cinema since ticket sales became a major concern, controlling interests feel that audiences would prefer a different ending. Scripts and edits can be heavily modified to suit a certain formula after the fact, creating an unnatural jump in the narrative that ultimately leaves every party involved feeling robbed.

Here are ten films ruined by their endings.


1. Minority Report (2002, dir. Steven Spielberg)

Minority Report (2002)

This film had everything, but devolved into lazy clichés at its conclusion.

In the film, John Anderton (Cruise) is the centre of a manhunt. Precogs, who see crimes before they are committed, have notified the federal government that Anderton will murder a man in 36 hours. If caught, prisoners are exiled and ultimately put into a coma, which keeps them in a perfect but false Utopia.

Anderton escapes PreCrime, and comes to know that one of the Precogs, Agatha (Samantha Morton), may have seen a different version of the future than the others, and her report has been covered up. Anderton kidnaps Agatha to try to use her to prove his innocence, but he is set up by PreCrime in order to keep their system intact.

In the end, the founder of PreCrime, Lamar Burgess (Max von Sydow), is confronted by Anderton. Trapped in the logical dilemma that a person can always change their future once they know it, Burgess kills himself, leaving Anderton’s hands implausibly blood-free and righteous. To completely self-destruct, the film closes with the most cliché ending: the hero reunites with his estranged wife, and they are expecting a child together.

The film had several plot deviations from the short story, so a slightly different ending might be expected. But Minority Report drew confusion from critics, some even suggesting that Spielberg was playing a joke on audiences. Whatever his motivations were, the film could have made use of the plot to create a more cerebral ending (as in the story), but it was abandoned for a cookie cutter finish.


2. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (1973, 1988, dir. Sam Peckinpah)

Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973)

Peckinpah’s film went over budget and was overdue by the time relations with his producers exploded. The original version was drastically recut by the studio and was panned by critics and audiences alike.

In 1988, a second version was released to VHS, and, at about twenty minutes longer than the original version, was well received. While the new release was hailed as a vast improvement, and is now being considered a misunderstood classic, the edit was not able to completely gloss over the parts of the film Peckinpah was too rushed to complete perfectly.

In the film, Billy the Kid (Kris Kristofferson) and Pat Garrett (James Coburn) are old friends. But when Garrett becomes the new Sheriff of the county, he has no choice but to run Billy and his gang off in a bloody shootout.

This isn’t enough for the local land dealers, and they offer Garrett a small fortune to arrest Billy and bring him to the gallows. Garrett agrees when he realizes he can sway the deal to help local farmers avoid a land dispute. Garrett arrests Billy, but Billy kills Garrett’s deputy and escapes. The two begin a vicious feud.

This film gives equal screen time to both Billy and Garrett, and while we understand Garrett’s motivations for the hunt, we can’t help but root for the scrappy, sarcastic Billy. Ultimately, because of their friendship, Garrett knows that Billy can’t be beaten in a straight duel. Instead he waits until Billy is unawares and having a romantic liaison before sneaking up on him and killing him.

If the annoyance of seeing the title character unfairly gunned down by his friend wasn’t enough of an injury, the epilogue of the film shows Garrett being killed by the men he worked for. Nothing increases dissatisfaction like knowing it was all for nothing.


3. Super 8 (2011, dir. J. J. Abrams)

Super 8

This film began as a comedic idea about a group of kids making a film together in the 1970s. A nostalgic bit of fun for a limited number of people, director J.J. Abrams decided to increase its commercial appeal by melding it with aliens.

Young Joe (Joel Courtney), whose mother is recently deceased, is roped into helping his friends film a zombie movie over the summer. During the course of this, he develops a crush on Alice (Elle Fanning), the daughter of his father’s enemy. While filming, the group of them witness their teacher (Glynn Turman) purposefully derailing a train and releasing an alien.

It kidnaps several people from the town, including Alice. The kids look for clues but are caught by the army. En route to the base, they are attacked by the alien. The kids escape and set off to rescue Alice. They discover the alien has started rebuilding its ship and has several people suspended inside of it to use for food.

In the end, they successfully release Alice, but the alien is awakened and attacks. Joe communicates with it, and, through the pain of his mother’s death, the boy shows the alien they have a shared pain, and manages to convince it to leave everyone alone. The kids leave the craft and Joe provides his mother’s locket as part of the spaceship. The alien then leaves.

The tragedy of Super 8 is that it manages to straddle both concepts surprisingly well for an hour and a half. But ultimately the film slowly loses itself. The alien becomes the selling feature, and also the deus ex machina for the plot. The ending is too easy and too clean.


4. Heaven’s Gate (1980, dir. Michael Cimino)

heaven's gate pic

This film combines the two mistakes of of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid with Super 8.

During filming, it was overdue and over budget, and when Cimino presented the studio with a film that was nearing six hours in length, the studio was aghast. They forced Cimino to cut back the film, and a shorter version was released to theatres for only one week before being withdrawn. It is considered to have tanked not only Cimino’s career, but destroyed the United Artist’s production house, and the western as a genre.

The film was recut and rereleased twenty-five years later at about three and a half hours in length. While versions of this film will vary, the plot is based in fact. It centres on two Harvard graduates (Kris Kristofferson and John Hurt) who are sucked into a growing conflict in Wyoming.

Poor European settlers are at odds with local cattle ranchers. Starving, the settlers steal cattle to last the winter, but the ranchers attack them repeatedly, and over time, without cause. The film escalates in bloodshed until the final showdown.

The ending of this film is in reference to the Johnson County War, in which cattle owners paid gunmen to kill the impoverished settlers accused of stealing beef. In this historical event, dozens of people were killed. The obvious abuse of wealth and influence made for a horrifying story about racism and class warfare in the United States, which could have made for an important film.

Unfortunately, Cimino traded emotional punch for the literal sort; the Europeans use their ingenuity to help defend themselves against the superior firepower by creating siege engines made out of spruce trees and sod. Explosions and wooden tanks take over the battlefield in a bizarre spectacle.

The failure of this potential masterpiece unfortunately came in the planning stages. It was imagined to be grander than history, and to compensate for its budget, it tried to draw interest by using an unnecessary amount of effects and explosions. The over the top ending makes the film impossible to take seriously— even though it probably should have been.


5. Kill Bill Vol 2 (2004, dir. Quentin Tarantino)


When films turn into serials, two things can happen. Either a sequel is expected and loose ends are explicitly written into the first film’s script, or the sequel is created to maximize profit and is merely tacked onto the end. Ideally, both films need to live in symbiosis with each other, but it is extremely complicated to create one standalone story that feeds a second full-length film.

In Vol 1, The Bride (Uma Thurman) awakens from a coma and vows to take down the assassin ring that tried to kill her, especially her former lover and their leader, Bill. In Vol 2, her remaining three targets are Bill’s brother Budd (Michael Madsen), Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah), and Bill (David Carradine).

However it isn’t The Bride that kills Budd, but Elle. Angered that he has turned into trailer trash and covetous of his money, Elle assassinates him using a venomous snake. The Bride attacks Elle, and the two of them fight. The Bride, oddly, doesn’t kill Elle but rips out her only remaining eye, and leaves her in the trailer with the snake.

The Bride then goes to Bill’s house, and is shocked to see that her own daughter is there. Bill injects The Bride with truth serum. The two of them come to an understanding before The Bride kills him with a secret technique that not even Bill was allowed to learn.

While some have criticized this ending for being too dialogue-heavy and maudlin by comparison to the rest of the film, the fact that it ended twelve years ago now makes this ending difficult to accept.

Nikki (Copperhead’s daughter), Elle, and Sofie (Oren’s aide) are all still alive, making The Bride’s justified revenge incomplete. Also, are we meant to accept that B.B. holds no ill will towards her mother for the murder of her father and the disruption of her life?

Tarantino has said that there is a good probability of another sequel to this story, but we have heard similar promises go unfulfilled before.

While realism in capturing an actor’s age is a laudable goal, perhaps it was better to strike with a hot iron, instead of letting the story, and our interest, cool off for a decade. With so many people left alive to want to kill The Bride and B.B., the ending to Vol 2 just doesn’t satisfy.



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  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Bold list.
    I don’t agree with most of it, but it is bold.

  • I completely disagree with the columnist’s take on “Kill Bill”. The earlier script setup the softer finale. It showed her character as one who had become wiser than Bill (as Pai Mei knew). She showed him mercy of sorts where he had shown her none. She had already become the “Mommy” character.

    • Relf

      Kill Bill is crap, just like most of Tarantino’s mindless action flicks

      • Valentin Genev

        Would you share any arguments in support of your view?

        • Relf

          Personally, I find Tarantino’s cinema to be completely shallow and nonsensical. I can’t attribute any depth or substance to it whatsoever, and I’ve tried, with a very open mind (I used to be a big Tarantino fanboy back in high school, and I tried hard for a long time to sustain that love, but wasn’t able to). I just can’t take his cinema seriously
          in any form or fashion any more. And attempts at attributing some level of profundity or thematic depth to Tarantino’s work just strike me as so
          incredibly strained, and often downright silly.

          Tarantino is a very, very superficial director. There is nothing to his movies, no depth beyond the plasticity, and all his movies are nothing more than collages of shots he stole from other directors.Tarantino steals everything. It’s not like Leone, Scorsese, etc. who take their influences and transform them into their own shit. QT movies are like scrapbooks. Because he also likes to steal plot
          points (which is the most unforgivable)

          • kitano0

            I agree with you, Relf. I loved his early stuff, but I hated Inglorious Basterds…well-made crap is still crap.
            And you are right an “homage” is different from outright stealing…although on occasion he steals really well.

          • Zach

            Agree 100% (except for Res Dogs and Pulp, I still love those two – enough creativity and eagerness in a young filmmaker to pour some substance into, after that it was all downhill). Glad to see a fanboy break free of the shackles.

          • Adrian

            Echoing my thoughts exacly. Actually, even though I was myself a Tarantino fanboy back in the day, per your description, his old work fits in more than one way to this as well.

            At least in those days, it had some sort of originality amongst most gray releases – and the dialogue (even though Tarantino always has preferred style over content) at least felt fresh and funny and witty.

            Nowadays he’s more like a parody of his old self, like a record that is scratched and stuck in repeating itself on the worst part of a song.

  • Allister Cooper

    Titanic, Titanic, and Titanic. I agree with Minority Report – what, crime will rise up again? And as for Interstellar, let’s just say that Nolan’s Dark Knight is still is Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

    • Rudi

      You mean the ice berg part? :p

      • Allister Cooper

        Greetings! The part where she tosses away the necklace. Why, woman, why! Oh, well… Cheers!

      • Allister Cooper

        Yeah, you could say that :).

  • Patrick Hill

    For Interstellar, physics as we know it brakes down in a black hole and I believe they were exploring the quantum side of it. No one knows what goes on in a black hole, but there are a few theories out there.

  • Reality

    Jurassic Park is still great. This is ridiculous.

    • Johnny Al Lenn

      And who the hell is Ned?

  • Stephus

    Kill bill 2 is great!! The ending is amazing and it works great it is what it was needed to happen to close the story

  • MarkCyst

    I completely agree with the synopsis of Kill Bill, Vol 2. Extremely disappointing ending. It just didn’t work for me at all, and the dialogue… Absolute shit. I mean, playing a pseudo Ennio Morricone track over Bill’s death, what a waste of good music for such a crappy scene. Should have saved that for a better movie.

    • kitano0

      There is a lot to love about Pt2, and I hate the ending, but not for the reasons stated. After 2 movies of kick-butt fighting and really good movie making in general, I felt like I got pulled into a soap-opera. Talk, talk, talk…which QT does quite well, actually, but in KB it just stopped the movie altogether, imho. Also, I liked that he left some open ended characters for the sequel…if it is ever made.

  • Vincent

    I always assumed that the everything that happened to Anderton after he was imprisoned at PreCrime, happened in his mind. Like the warden says: “All your dreams will come true”. A bit like Brazil but without the last shot.

  • jamerson afonso

    A great movie should not be judged by its ending. Oh, i forgot, that’s what Hollywood is all about isn’t it?

  • Allan Jose

    Kill Bill 2? Seriously?
    Atleast try to point out some valid points before you try and tarnish some good movies.

  • Brandon

    Interstellar? I mean, it’s science fiction. I actually loved the ending and the optimism it has. In the end, it’s a film about exploring the unknown, as pioneers we are (or we need to be), family and love.

    That being said, the original ending was way colder and cruel, but it would’ve worked as well as this one did.

  • IT (1990) was only good for its first 40-50 minutes, the rest of its 3 hour runtime is pure crap

  • jithindurden

    Is this really about bad endings or the frustration on something because most of the movies listed are classics , maybe they could hahad better endings but I thought this list is about movies ruined by their endings like The Game

  • Mike Potter

    The Last Laugh may have been “ruined” by the ending, but at least the director knew it. He put a caption up saying that the film should have ended here, but the studio wanted a happy ending. As mentioned IN THE ARTICLE. It doesn’t count, apart from the lackwits who say “It was on the screen”. See also Hitchcock, who wasn’t allowed to have his handsome leading man be the baddie, (e.g. Cary Grant in Suspicion, Laurence Olivier in Rebecca) so he would put in a last minute twist to say that he was a goodie all along, fooling no-one with any intelligence at all – which didn’t include the studio heads.

  • similarly

    Regarding Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, from a cinematic/storytelling standpoint I can see how the movie’s ending might be disappointing, but considering that Pat Garrett and Billy the kid were historical figures, and that historically, Pat Garrett allegedly did shoot Billy from within a darkened room, and Pat Garrett was subsequently shot down in a land dispute, you can’t argue too much with the ending.

  • Wizyrd

    They left out AI (Artificial Intelligence). It was a beautiful story with a somewhat tragic ending. Then the movie had a second “ending” somewhat in the future. And then a third in a far-removed future. The first ending would have been a fine place to end the film. By the third, it was “WTF?”….

  • arcadia72

    The worst of the worst was the ending of Godfather II and the entire plot of its sequel Godfather III. Could Michael have another son of Vito killed while he said his Hail Marys and then seek religious absolution to atone for his sin? And then in GF III, his sister forgets that Michael killed her husband as well as her brother? The entire GF Saga was great through 1 and 2 right up to the end, and then it simply degraded to pulp.

  • Dakkar

    Meet Joe Black tops my list of films ruined by their endings.

  • Sasha Kozak

    Kill Bill 2 is great, nothing “Could be great” about it 🙂

  • Johnny Al Lenn

    I’d say I Am Legend belongs on here but it was the original cut ending that made it a great film, fortunately an alternate version was made available on the DVD with the original ending intact.
    Also The Postman. It’s a little cheesy but extremely well made and the three hour build-up to the finale is completely undermined by one of the most ridiculously bad fight scenes I’ve ever seen a big budget film.




  • Adrian

    Thanks for including Interstellar, it’s one of the most overhyped movies from recent years.

  • Josh Wolf

    Are you OUT of your fucking mind?! Who’s the dipshit that approved this and the moron with the audacity to write it up? This page is a fucking joke. Hope someone got fired for this. Only a pretentious asshole or really someone who hasn’t seen these movies can shit on Spielberg and Tarantino and Nolan all in one close-minded article. If you can’t grasp the ending of Kill Bill or think the ending of interstellar sucks, then we just feel sorry for you.

  • Jesus McNutley

    totally agree about interstellar – it was a decent enough movie, but when he started banging around inside the bookcase, i just thought, “this is stupid”.

  • Bittermetimbers

    10 Cloverfield Lane, fantastic film…but the last 10 minutes, boy oh boy.
    And I may get flack for this but I really disliked the ending to Rear Window too.