The 13 worst movie endings of all time

Updated July 11, 2018

Ending stories isn’t easy. That’s why classic movie ending always stick with you. When a film builds up the tension gradually, the characters putting together all the pieces of the story before confronting the final villain for an epic showdown – the entire thing passionately portrayed, beautifully written and masterfully directed – it sticks with you. However, if the writers hit a brick wall with the plot, you can see what started out as an excellent film turn into something god-awful, and watch an already disappointing one get even worse by throwing in a pointless twist or desperately trying to cram aliens into the script to clog the gaping plot holes. Here are some of the latter type, the endings that are truly diabolical. If you hadn’t realised, there will be spoilers. In fact, this is an article full of spoilers, but really, the filmmakers spoiled it when they came up with the conclusions to...

\#13 - Identity (2003)

The various characters stranded at a motel and being preyed on by the mysterious killer in this film all turn out to be split personalities of the murderer. You basically spend the entire film watching something that’s going on in the imagination of a dissociative killer, in a reveal that pretty much renders what you’ve just watched meaningless. Multiple identity endings are the mental illness equivalent of “it was all a dream.”

\#12 - Knowing (2009)

This film falls spectacularly into one of the major tropes of dismal endings: the late introduction of aliens. A young girl starts noticing a code, which eventually leads to the discovery that the world is going to end. It turns out the aliens sent the numbers, out of some baffling desire to save a select few children in order to continue our species. But apparently, they didn’t want to save them enough to actually clearly communicate the message and save all of that messing around and deciphering.

\#11 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2005)

After Hollywood gave up on new ideas, somebody decided that Indiana Jones was in need of a pointless sequel, and one of the worst movie endings ever was committed to film. You’re not expecting much after you’ve witnessed Indy survive a nuclear blast by hiding in a fridge, but everyone wanted something better than aliens arbitrarily showing up in an Indiana Jones film. And even that was poorly executed, since the aliens pretty much just opened a portal to their dimension and then left without conflict. It managed to be both incomprehensible and boring at the same time.

\#10 - Alien: Resurrection (1997)

Alien: Resurrection was the disappointing final instalment of the Alien quadrilogy, the second vain attempt to recapture the appeal of the first two. There wasn’t too much about the film to get excited about anyway, but the ending is particularly atrocious, featuring an alien-human hybrid, which ends up thinking Ripley is its mother. After Ripley accepts the hybrid baby for no justifiable reason, it attacks two characters and has to be killed in a fairly silly fashion. Perhaps it would have been better to not bring the crazy alien-human freak-child with you, since you’ve just spent an entire series of films being continuously terrorised by the aliens.

\#9 - Superman (1978)

If you’re Superman, you have pretty much every power a bunch of comic book writers could think of at your fingertips. You know what you don’t have? The power to turn back time by flying around the Earth backwards and reversing its rotation! That’s largely because that idea is bafflingly stupid, and even if they’d come up with a more plausible mechanism, ending a movie with “and-then-he-went-back-in-time-and-fixed-everything” is pretty weak anyway.

\#8 - The Number 23 (2007)

In a film about a character finding a book – in which the author obsesses about a number – that eerily parallels his life and leads him into his own obsession, you want some pretty unique explanation as to why the book seems to fit with his life so well. The mystery is all trumped at the end of the film when you find out that he wrote it himself, and is actually a killer. He got hit in the head and just forgot all about it, you see. The name he penned the book under was Topsy Kretts (top-se-crets), a moment of realisation sure to earn a collective groan from the audience.

\#7 - High Tension (2003)

After having spent an entire film under the impression her and her girlfriend were being stalked by a psychotic trucker-turned-murderer, the protagonist, Marie, finds out that it was actually her all along. This clearly comes from the “plot twists are king” school of screenwriting, because it opens up so many plot-holes it’s impressive that the writers didn’t actually fall in. The split-personality ending is a terrible cop-out, and raises puzzling questions about all of the large, strong men this small woman managed to overpower over the course of the film.

\#6 - Basic (2003)

Basic undermines its own work by invalidating the entire series of events at the end, revealing that the whole film was some incredibly detailed con, and everybody who you thought was dead is actually still alive and doing quite well. When you go into a film, you’re expecting to get swept up in some made-up story, but a made-up story within a made-up story is almost impossible to care about. It’s the biggest form of abuse of the twist-style ending, sacrificing all plausibility for the sake of a cheap shock at the end.

\#5 - The Village (2004)

M. Night Shyamalan’s makes this list due to his penchant for risky twist endings and the rapid decline of his ability to make good films after releasing the Sixth Sense. The Village was about a village dogged by strange monsters, where they spoke of the “the ones we do not speak of” in virtually every single scene in the movie. The twist this time? They’re just in the normal world, being sheltered from it by the town elders who invented myths and monsters to keep them from discovering the truth. The entire film pretty much revolves around you getting invested in the lurking monsters, and when you find out they’re just a fantasy it invalidates everything you’ve just watched.

\#4 - The Devil Inside (2012)

Although it wasn’t much of a great film anyway, the Devil Inside makes this list for the sheer gall of the final moments. It’s a “found footage,” Blair Witch Project style film, coming right up the climax before the screen goes black, reading “The facts surrounding the Rossi case remain unresolved. For more information about the ongoing investigation visit” In other words, “we won’t tell you the ending: go Google it!” Or, more accurately, “we don’t care you’ve paid to see a whole story and don’t want to have to do research to find out the ending. We have your money already.”

\#3 - Signs (2002)

Signs is an alien invasion film from M. Night Shyamalan, which saw him trying his hand at a crazy plot twist again. Only this time, the looming aliens that had been terrifying the family throughout the film were actually killed with ordinary water. Clearly, this is a species technologically advanced and intelligent enough to travel across interstellar space, so it seems like a pretty humongous lapse in judgement to come to a planet that’s primarily covered in something that could kill you almost instantly. Perhaps whichever alien overlord sent them there in the first place was just coming up with a unique new method to execute its subjects.

\#2 - IT (1990)

The evil being in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s IT spends much of the film terrorising the protagonists in the guise of a clown, first when they were younger and then cropping up again when they’re all grown up. It’s a good film almost the whole way through, and you get used to Pennywise as the grinning face of ancient evil. And then at the end of the film he is arbitrarily reincarnated as a giant spider. They kill it with a melted earring and a slingshot, of course, because if you’re ever confronted by something as mind-bogglingly stupid as a giant spider you can just make up any old solution and it’ll probably work. Reality has clearly given up caring.

\#1 - Planet of the Apes (2001)

The original Planet of the Apes had one of the most legendary plot twists in cinematic history, so when Tim Burton remade the classic, he wanted to cap it off with something similarly mind blowing. He succeeded a little too well, because what he put together made absolutely no sense and left everybody who saw it thoroughly baffled. Mark Wahlberg’s character returns to Earth after escaping from the planet, only to find a monument to one of the militaristic apes from the planet of the apes. He’s clearly confused too, especially when police officers, journalists and firemen show up and they’re all apes too. There is no explanation for this whatsoever, leaving the audience to try to invent the thread tying the whole thing together that nobody who worked on the film managed to devise themselves.

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About the Author

Lee Johnson has written for various publications and websites since 2005, covering science, music and a wide range of topics. He studies physics at the Open University, with a particular interest in quantum physics and cosmology. He's based in the UK and drinks too much tea.