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Bittersweet Ending: Live-Action Films
  • Korean gangster movie A Bittersweet Life. Protagonist Kim Sun-Woo manages to kill the people threatening his secret love and exact revenge, only to succumb to the wounds he gained in the shoot-out before he can tell her how he really felt. Lampshaded in his ending monologue:
    "One late autumn night, the disciple awoke crying. So the master asked the disciple, "Did you have a nightmare?" "No." "Did you have a sad dream?" "No," said the disciple. "I had a sweet dream." "Then why are you crying so sadly?" The disciple wiped his tears away and quietly answered, "Because the dream I had can't come true."
  • Korean romantic film A Moment to Remember. Protagonists Su-Jin and Chul-Soo fall in love and marry despite differences in social standing (she is the daughter of a wealthy construction company owner, while he is a carpenter working for the same company) and objections from family. It is revealed that Su-Jin has a rare disease akin to Alzheimer's which will eventually take away all of her memories of those she loves most, including her beloved husband, Chul-Soo. The latter half of the film show the struggles of the couple in dealing with the disease and Su-Jin, in a moment of clarity after recalling all her memories, leaves the couple's home and is eventually placed in an assisted living facility. The film ends with Chul-Soo visiting Su-Jin and finally saying, "I love you."
  • Akira Kurosawa's Ikiru ends on a bittersweet note, which is a relief, considering how insanely, relentlessly downbeat and depressing the rest of the film was. Watanabe, before dying of cancer as he was doomed to do, has managed to redeem himself from his meaningless life by making a dump into a children's park, but his coworkers go back to the routine, and his adult children are left crying for having misunderstood him.
  • Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump. Jenny dies, but left her son in Forrest's care, and Lieutenant Dan found the strength to live and love again.
  • John Carpenter's The Thing (1982). The title thing (a space alien) is probably dead, and any threat it posed to the human race with it. The downside? All but two of the men in the base have died, and it's fairly likely that MacReady and Childs, the last two survivors, are going to die as well out in the Antarctic. Plus, it's implied that one of them just may be The Thing after all, which would just go dormant due to the cold temperature once again... at least until someone else stumbles upon the wreckage of the base. All they've likely accomplished is preventing The Thing from leaving for a little while longer.
  • Gladiator: Maniacal emperor Commodus is slain in battle, but Maximus dies as well, but it's shown that in his death he is finally being reunited with his beloved family. Just before his death Maximus also ensures that Quintus will free Commodus' political prisoners, so that Marcus Aurelius' dream of a renewed Roman Republic before Commodus stole the throne might yet be realized.
  • Fluke: Fluke leaves Carol and Brian after he realizes he's only been getting in the way of their happiness. He does ensure he'll always be with them as he uncovers his grave. Oh,and Rumbo has reincarnated again. As a squirrel.
  • Glory ends with the death of Col. Shaw and his brave regiment. But a title card at the end tells us what the movie has always been saying; the sacrifice and bravery of the Union Army's first Black soldiers has inspired the whole country. Furthermore, the tens of thousands of new Black recruits inspired by the 54th's efforts helped ensure Union victory and the final destruction of slavery in America. In a larger sense, the regiment help spur America to take huge strides in Blacks reaching equality in the military and beyond.
  • All versions of King Kong. The city is saved from the rampaging monster, but we weep for the monster anyway.
  • Transformers (2007 movie). Sure, Earth is safe, but Cybertron is doomed.
    • In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, while the Autobots have defeated the Decepticons once and for all, Chicago AND Cybertron are either heavily demolished or completely erased from existence, Optimus has lost one of his arms and the fact that Sentinal Prime betrayed them still linger.
  • Adam. The titular character gets a job as a tour guide at a space center, allowing him to put all his knowledge of Astronomy to work. On the other hand, he ends up alone while she becomes famous because of a book based on him.
  • The 2007 remake of 3:10 to Yuma ends with Dan Evans dead and Ben Wade voluntarily boarding the prison train. But, because Dan got Ben to the train, the head of the company Ben's gang was robbing has agreed to lavish Dan's family with a small fortune, perpetual deed to their land, and anything else they might need. Ben killed his own gang for their murder of Dan, of whom he'd become quite fond , and is quite likely to escape from the train.
  • By the end of The Proposition, Charlie is forced to shoot his own brother, and — although there is no denying Arthur deserved worse — it's still kind of sad. Also, Mikey dies painfully, the Stanleys' Christmas has been ruined, and Fletcher pulled a Karma Houdini.
  • The Wind That Shakes the Barley. Okay, Ireland is free now, but it's more than dogs that have been shot.
  • Somewhere In Time. Richard won the heart of the beautiful Elise. As they cuddle up in bed, making future plans, he looks at a present day coin, which immediately drags him back to the present. He is unable to get back to her, and, deeply depressed stops eating and eventually dies. The sweet part is they meet in the afterlife.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ends with Spock making a Heroic Sacrifice that costs him his life (although he returns in the following film).
    • In the following movie, Spock does come back. All it took was the death of Kirk's only son and the destruction of the beloved Enterprise. Oh, yeah, and when the heroes head home, it is virtually guaranteed that at worst, they'll do time in prison, at best, they'll simply be dishonorably kicked out of Starfleet, which they've served all their lives. Come to think of it, Wrath of Khan was downright cheery compared to this.
    • Repeated with Data, in Star Trek: Nemesis.
    • Star Trek: the threat of Nero is banned, but Vulcan, Spock's mom, Kirk's father, and the crew of several starships are still dead, along with most of the Vulcan race.
      • Word of God is that many more Vulcans than the stated 10,000 have survived. Spock likely didn't mention the colonies in his log. After all, Vulcans have been in space for centuries.
    • Star Trek Into Darkness: Many people die after the Vengeance crash-lands in San Francisco (think 9/11 taken Up to Eleven) and a commemoration is needed for all the people who died in Harrison's and Marcus' carnage. Also, Pike, the closest thing to a father figure that Kirk ever had in this universe, died. But, Harrison is sealed away until someone manages to unleash his wrath, and the Enterprise is sent on a five-year mission to explore the cosmos!
  • Cruel Intentions: Redemption Equals Death for the Villain Protagonist; Cry for the Devil for his stepsister antagonist, and all other characters are corrupted for life.
  • The Film of the Book Prince Caspian manages to make the ending — in which Caspian claims his throne and Narnia is liberated, but the Pevensies must return home, and Peter and Susan learn they can't come back to Narnia again — rather more bittersweet than that of the book.
    • But this might also be because they added in the Susan/Caspian kiss. This adds a whole other note to the movie, and ultimately the end of the series as well, since Susan's never coming back period.
  • Edward Scissorhands: Retreating to the mansion on the hill, Edward kills Jim to save himself and Kim — and all he can say to her after this is "Goodbye," knowing he has sealed his fate in the neighborhood below. Her response is a kiss and "I love you" before she leaves. Kim convinces the others Edward was also killed. She moves on with her life, eventually becoming a grandmother, while he peacefully, agelessly lives in the castle once more. The sweet part here is that he somehow still manages to create ice sculptures, and as a result brings snow to the neighborhood (the little flakes of ice that fly about as he carves). Only she knows the significance of this — it was when he carved the ice angel that she realized she loved him, in a sequence forever referred to as the "ice dance" — and she always cherishes it.
  • Donnie Darko. The success of Donnie's mission comes at a great cost. Donnie fails to realize he has to stop the stable time loop until his girlfriend dies and he kills Frank and after going back to the past where the movie begins he decides to not get out of bed that morning and in a fit of laughter gets crushed by the plane engine from the future and effectively stopping the time loop but forcing his family to go through his death, inspiring his little sister to run away and go through similar events in S. Darko which has its own bittersweet ending, his girlfriend who was probably the only person to understand him never knowing him, and the guy with the child porn will get away with it and no one even realizes he saved the world. At least his English teacher doesn't get fired.
  • Seven Samurai. Sure the movie ends with a celebration, but from the view of the surviving members of the original seven it's rather melancholy, considering four of their companions have died their efforts have gone largely unappreciated, and the main romantic storyline ends as quickly as it started with almost no resolution.
    Kambei: Again we are defeated. The winners are the villagers, not us.
  • The remake, The Magnificent Seven, also ends with the villagers rejoicing while the warriors mourn their dead, although the romantic storyline ends much more happily than the original.
    Chris: Only the farmers won. We lost. We always lose.
  • In the Chinese film Wait 'til You're Older, the protagonist Kwong is able to finally accept his stepmother and mend the rifts in his family. However, because of the aging potion he takes early in the film, he only does all of this on his last day of life after he realizes he has no time left. Also, his romantic storyline ends on a similar note. An elderly Kwong checks on his girlfriend who is waiting for him for a date. She doesn't recognize him and he asks if she will be mad if her boyfriend never shows up. She happily states that she won't, and if he never shows up, she still has plenty of time in her life to move on.
  • Deep Impact: Despite the fact that the human race is ultimately saved from mass extinction, it comes at the cost of the crew of the ship sent to blow it up, having to sacrifice themselves to destroy it. In addition, tens of millions of people, including several major characters, do die because a large fragment of the comet does still hit the Earth.
  • The Ultimate Gift. Sure, Jason finishes all the challenges, becomes a billionaire, and gets together with Alexia, but Emily dies.
  • The Dark Knight: While Joker and Two-Face may have been defeated, Harvey Dent is killed after becoming a raging lunatic, and Batman, after having had to break his Thou Shalt Not Kill rule to save an innocent life from the insane Harvey, decides to take the fall for all the people he killed as Two-Face in order to prevent the criminals he put away from being released, meaning he's now wanted by the police. Oh, and the love of his life is dead, too, without him knowing that she was planning on marrying another man because she couldn't deal with his double life.
  • The end of The Dark Knight Rises seems to head this way, with Gotham saved by Batman but those who knew his true identity mourning the Heroic Sacrifice that saved them all. This is ultimately subverted however, as they learn (or are at least given enough information to infer) that Bruce Wayne faked his death and retired, putting his demons to rest at last.
  • Batman Returns: Lampshaded:
    Catwoman: Bruce... I would love to live with you in your castle... forever just like in a fairy tale... (scratches Batman's face) But I just couldn't live with myself, so don't pretend this is a happy ending!
  • Schindlers List. Oskar Schindler and the Schindlerjuden make it through the war, but...he could have saved more.
  • Cast Away: Chuck Noland returned to society, but he lost his beloved woman. He is now standing in the middle of crossing, wondering what to do with his "recovered" life.
  • Braveheart ends with the Scottish eventually gaining their freedom from England, as well as Wallace's unborn son set to eventually become the King of England. However, this comes at the cost of Wallace being captured and executed by the English. This is hardly historical.
  • Serenity ends on a bittersweet note. The Operative has been defeated, the secret of Miranda has been broadcast to the verse, Simon and Kaylee have gotten together, Simon and River may have been taken off the Alliance's wanted list, and River may be showing signs of recovering from her madness. On the other hand, all of the crew's allies are dead, Wash and Book are dead, pregnant Zoe is now a single mother, the Parliament is in uproar, the question of how the verse is going to take the Miranda broadwave is up in the air,
  • Dragonheart ends with victory over the evil man and the knight reclaiming his honor and virtue, but the Draco has to be killed by the main character in order to kill the villain, in a massive Tear Jerker.
    • Plus, since the knight was, prior to meeting the dragon protagonist, a dragon-slayer — hoping to run into and kill the dragon who gave half its heart to the villain, which he blames for the villain being a Jerkass (when in fact, the guy would've been a Jerkass anyways) — killing this dragon means that he's killed the last of them. The dragon even explicitly states that he's the very last dragon still alive, due to the knight's efforts. Although the direct to video sequel reveals that Draco being the last dragon is not entirely true.
      • As far as Draco knew, he was the last. Griffin came from China.
  • The Orphanage has much the same sort of ending: when the protagonist finds her son, he is dead; however she wishes to be with him again, and is shown very contentedly reading stories to him and the rest of the ghost children, but only because she became a ghost herself. Her leaving her husband alone is the bitter to this (somewhat macabre but still) sweet.
    • He smiles (sadly) when he sort of realizes what happened.
  • The whole of the Star Wars prequels:
    • The Phantom Menace: Qui-Gon has just been killed, and the Sith have been revealed to exist in the galaxy again after a thousand years in hiding. But peace is restored in Naboo, and Anakin found a master.
    • Attack of the Clones: Anakin and Padme got together, but he's lost an arm, his mother's dead (prompting the beginning of his fall to the Dark Side), Dooku got away, they don't even know who the Big Bad is yet, and the Clone Wars have begun. Plus, they'll have to keep the marriage hidden at all costs.
    • A somewhat meta-example with Revenge of the Sith. The bulk of the Jedi Order is wiped out, and the Republic has been replaced by the Empire. Seems like a Downer Ending — but Revenge of the Sith purposely ends with Obi-Wan delivering Luke to his stepfamily, and the Shout-Out \ Call Forward is extended by having "Binary Sunset" playing, so the audience is reminded that the Jedi's new hope with Luke and Leia will be fulfilled and the Skywalker children would put the galaxy right.
    • Meta-example indeed. A downer subverted by finishing I-III and moving to IV-VI. It doesn't hurt that III is probably the best episode of the prequel trilogy in terms of story development, pacing, and the Star Wars feel.
  • The US ending to The Descent has the main character make it out of the cave, but only after going insane, and murdering one of her best friends in a crazy-fueled vengence killing. Everyone else died.
  • The vast majority of horror movies featuring a Final Girl are either this or a Downer Ending automatically. If it's a bittersweet ending, then only most of the characters die, and the Final Girl lives.
  • The Third Man has the hero shooting his best friend and losing the girl in the process. It helps that his best friend was a complete sociopath who ran an underground penicillin racket that poisoned countless men, women and children. Suffice it to say the good guy won, but probably wished he'd never wandered into Vienna in the first place.
    • Initially the films screenwriter; the author Graham Greene wanted the hero to get the girl.
      • Which, if you've ever so much as read the blurb for a Graham Greene book seems out of character.
  • Mirrors has Ben Carson's family saved and the demon tormenting them apparently dead, judging by how its final attempt on their lives was foiled, but Ben himself is trapped in the mirror world, unable to go back to his family.
  • The hero of Gone Baby Gone saves the girl, exposes Jack Doyle's crimes, and gets a little public notoreity for it. But he loses his own girlfriend (who wanted him to leave the girl with Doyle), and ends the movie babysitting the girl while her sucktastic mother goes out on another date without caring for her.
    • Considering that little Amanda was probably better off with Doyle and that the hero based his decision to return the girl on Helene's promise to change her ways, that she promptly went back on, this is more of a downer ending.
      • The final scene of the movie confirms this when Patrick realizes that Helene didn't even know the name of her daughter's favorite doll.
      • But she still has Patrick there to look out for her.
  • Candyman has Helen managing to save the black baby from the fire and defeat Candyman only to die from the burns.
  • Life Is Beautiful ends with the liberation of the concentration camp by the U.S. Army. Guido's wife and child are saved, but he wasn't so lucky. When the Nazis decided to abandon the camp, they made a final effort to kill all the Jews they could find before they were forced to retreat — and Guido was one of them, shot offscreen by a nameless guard while leading them away from his family.
  • Streets of Fire: Tom Cody saves his ex, Ellen Aim, from the Bombers, they admit their feelings after Cody admits that a reward was involved for the rescue and get back together, The Bombers' leader Raven challenges Cody to a fight, and Cody wins, but for some reason, Cody lets Ellen go as she performs "Tonight is What It Means to be Young". To be fair, Cody admits at one point that he sucks at romance.
  • Dawn of the Dead. Only two of the four main characters make it out of the mall alive, and as they fly off in their helicopter, they notice that they're pretty low on fuel. Nonetheless, there is hope, one of them is pregnant, and holing up in the mall turns out to have been, ultimately, a good idea.
    • In the 2004 remake, the ending is somewhat upbeat (for a Zombie Apocalypse), only getting a couple of survivors killed in the escape and leaving an infected one behind... until the credits start to roll.
  • Moulin Rouge!!: Yes, Christian finally gets the girl, but then she dies of tuberculosis in his arms onstage during their triumphal performance.
  • John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. The Sealed Evil in a Can has been driven back and the world has been saved, but in order to do so, the protagonist's love interest had to sacrifice herself and ends up trapped in a parallel universe. In addition, nearly everyone the protagonist knew is dead by the end of the movie.
    • And depending on your interpretation of the ending, the love interest becomes the new Satan or Anti-God, and the protagonist is going to accidentally release her from the other side of the mirror.
  • Sukiyaki Western Django. The two rival clans are defeated, but nearly every single one of the hero's allies (including his potential love interest) is killed by the end.
  • The Terminator. Sarah Connor has survived, and the terminator robot has been destroyed. This means that her messiah-son John Connor will be born, and (as this appears to be a deterministic time loop) the eventual victory of humanity over the machines is guaranteed. But Kyle Reese, whom Sarah had loved (albeit briefly) is dead, and both Sarah and John will still have to face the ordeal of living through the coming nuclear holocaust and fighting a bitter war against the machines. Sarah has victory, but she will likely have no peace in her lifetime.
  • The movie Lorenzo's Oil ends with the title character's parents' efforts directly leading to a successful treatment for their son's terminal disease. However, while the movie ends with a montage of all the little boys who now can have full lives (instead of being trapped in their bodies and dead by age 8), Lorenzo himself and many of the other boys in the movie are too far gone for the treatment to fix the damage (Lorenzo Odone did, however, live far longer than doctors expected - he survived until 2008).
  • Wilde ends with Oscar and Bosie finally reuniting after Oscar's stint in prison, during which he "knew" that they could never see each other again. Still, his wife is dead, he is quite convinced that no one will ever again read or perform his work because of his disgrace, and he can never see his sons again. If you add the note before the credits that tells us what happened to them next, saying that Oscar and Bosie parted ways again just four months later, you could call it a Downer Ending. But then you consider the fact that we do still read and perform Oscar Wilde's work to this day...
  • The original ending (preserved in the director's cut) of The Butterfly Effect ended with Evan successfully using his mom's home movies to jump back to when he was born, and strangling himself as a fetus. It then shows the results of his actions — Kaylee doesn't fall in love with Evan; thus, she and Tommy go to their mom's house after the divorce, so Kaylee is never abused and Tommy never becomes psychopathic; the blockbuster event never happens, so Lenny grows up normal and marries Kaylee, and everyone lives happily ever after. And all the side effects of previous meddling, like Kaylee's prostitution, Evan's mother's lung cancer, and Tommy's death never happen. It's implied that this may be the reason the prior babies were stillbirths.
  • Dirty Harry. Theoretically we should be feeling triumphant that Callahan has finally blown away Scorpio. Instead we get a muted, melancholic soundtrack and Callahan disgustedly tossing his badge into the river. Although given that he remains a cop in all four sequels, there may be something to Clint Eastwood's theory that there was a long rubber band attached to the badge.
  • Summer of '42 has Hermie going back to Dorothy's house the day after they spent the night together, only to find a note informing him that she's left for good. In voiceover narration, the adult Hermie mentions that he never saw her again or learned what became of her, and notes that his experiences of that summer spelled the end of his childhood innocence. Still, he did get laid.
  • The Others: On the one hand, everyone's a ghost because Grace killed her children & then herself in a fit of madness. On the other hand, at least the kids can walk in the sun now and there's no more reason for fear.
  • District 9. Wikus, it's implied, is completely transformed into a Prawn, and is stuck in the filthy, crime-ridden slums with the other aliens, unable to communicate with the outside world beyond leaving little hand-crafted tokens for his wife. However, Christopher and his son escaped to the mothership and are going back to their home planet, where they will return in three years time to transform Wikus back and free their people...
  • Dead Poets Society: Todd and the other boys supported Keating and all that, but Neil is still dead, Charlie/Nuwanda is still expelled, and Keating still has to leave. It makes it seem kind of pointless, if touching. Was a Tear Jerker as well.
  • In the first Spider-Man film, Peter manages to save MJ and all the children, but Norman Osborn is dead, Harry blames Spider-Man for it, and Peter realizes that he cannot be with MJ because of the risk his lifestyle poses to her. In the third film, Peter reconciles with MJ and puts his vengeance to rest, but Harry dies, albeit while the two acknowledge their friendship. The second film has a happier ending, although Doctor Octopus got Redemption Equals Death.
  • At the end of The Matrix trilogy, the human race is saved to continue their (albeit bleak) existence, at the cost of Neo and Trinity's lives.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean:
    • At the end of the third film the battle is won and the lovers are finally wed, but at what cost? Lives are lost, the Golden Age of Piracy is over, Elizabeth is widowed and, depending on whether or not you take into account the after-the-credits clip, doomed to single motherhood and Jack loses his ship to Barbossa and may now be permanently off his rocker. Again. Verbinski really did do his best to kill the franchise...
    • The fourth film ends with Jack and Gibbs finding the Pearl trapped in a bottle by a voodoo spell and knows how to "extract" it. On the other hand, Barbossa is now in command of a voodoo-powered ship, and Angelica finds the voodoo doll of Jack (whom she blames for her father's death).
  • The ending of Sunshine shows that the Icarus II succeeded in its mission. Unfortuately, the whole crew died in the process.
  • The Chocolate War: The key reason why fans of the book tend to dislike the film adaptation. The film differs from the book by finally giving Archie his comeuppance (Archie having to participate in the boxing match instead of Janza). While Jerry wins, he learns shortly afterwards that his actions were not of his own free will, but he ultimately gave into the school's expectations.
  • The Blues Brothers complete their Mission from God and save the St Helen of the Blessed Shroud orphanage, seconds before being arrested and sent to prison for trashing half of Illinois. The worst part is that the band gets incarcerated too, despite having almost nothing to do with the property destruction. It's all Played for Laughs, but still.
  • Inglourious Basterds. Hitler and the rest of the Nazi high command are dead, the war is likely over, and Brad Pitt gets a true Crowning Momentof Awesome preventing a Karma Houdini. However that's with almost all the Basterds dead, and perhaps worst of all, not only is the true heroine Shoshanna and her lover dead, but they will never be remembered in history as the ones who gave their lives to bring down the Third Reich.
  • Deepa Mehta's Water. Kalyani drowns herself in the Ganges and who knows if Chuyia's going to be okay...but at least the little girl has the possibility of a life outside the ashram, and India is on its way to independence.
  • Stand by Me. Gordie manages to escape his father's toxic influence and become a writer, but drifts away from his childhood friends Teddy and Verne. Chris works hard and gets through the advanced classes at school with Gordie, but is stabbed to death trying to stop a fight.
    • That's a third of the Bittersweet Ending in the novella "The Body", on which the movie's based. Not only does Chris get stabbed in the throat as an adult, Vern dies in a house fire six years after the events of the novella, and Teddy is the drunk driver who gets himself and a few others killed in an accident. Granted, Chris's death is the most tragic given his family background and the struggle he gave to overcome his seemingly set-in-stone fate.
  • The Silence of the Lambs. The monster is slain and his victim saved, but in the process an arguably bigger monster has been unleashed and now bides his time in the darkness, stalking the heroine he has developed an unhealthy fixation for.
  • Milk ends with the senseless assassination of Harvey Milk, which would make for a Downer Ending if not for the candlelight vigil and his voiceover of his inspiring words. Realizing how many people he touched and inspired and changed things for keeps it from being depressing.
  • In Finding Neverland, Sylvia dies from her illness, but Peter Pan is a success, Peter starts writing again, and Emma finally accepts James' presence in the lives of her grandchildren.
  • In Von Ryan's Express, where the escapees successfully escape to Switzerland after a big gun fight, although at the cost of the main character's life.
  • The Professional. Stansfield is dead and Mathilda finally avenges her family after going through hell to do it, but Leon is also dead.
  • The ending of the 1998 film Merlin fulfills every single one of the above criteria, except for the villain escaping bit, with such highlights as Merlin losing everyone he loved, passing into obscurity and eventually becoming a beggar who tells stories for money, the true king and wielder of Excalibur dead, and his love interest being trapped forever. Even the destruction of Mab and the Old Ways isn't much of a victory, given that it results in the death of Magic and all the magical peoples that Mab was trying to save with the exception of Frik and the Rock of Ages. However, the time of darkness comes to an end at last in the epilogue. It is made somewhat less bittersweet in the last few scenes, where it is revealed that Nimue is still alive and was released from Mab's spells, and Merlin uses the last of his magic to restore their youth so that they can finally live out their lives together.
    • The direct-to-video sequel brings back Merlin... only to kill him.
  • Monty Pythons Life Of Brian has a very different one, which could be considered an inversion. Going by what actually happens, there's no question that it's a Downer Ending—but it really doesn't feel like one.
  • Richard Lester's Robin and Marian ends by a Romeo-and-Juliet-like death: Marian drinks poison and gives some to Robin, who had been just badly injured by the Sherif he killed.
  • The Wild Geese: The villainous Matheson is killed, but Limabni and most of the mercenaries who fought alongside Faulkner are dead, including his friends.
  • "My name is Clément Mathieu, failed musician, unemployed supervisor." The only thing stopping this from being a complete downer is the audience's knowledge of Morhange's glittering future career and the final scene, in which Pépinot meets Mathieu where the bus stops, and leaves the orphanage with him.
  • The Graduate ends with such a subtle one of these that it was actually misinterpreted as being too idyllic abroad. With two characters silently adopting So What Do We Do Now? expressions as they presumably ride off into the sunset, it's easy to miss the fact they're both coming to the realization they have no means of supporting themselves, no plan, no future, and will inevitably have to go back in shame.
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The abductees are freed, including little Barry, who is reunited safely with his mother Jillian, and the government officials accept the aliens as peaceful visitors. On the other hand, Roy leaves his wife and kids behind to join the aliens on their travels, and a good number of the abductees will soon come to the realization that everyone they ever knew or loved are dead.
  • I Am Legend: The main character sacrifices his life by taking a grenade to take down the creatures to save the two other survivors of the plague, who venture out and find a safe sancturary of survivors.
    • Only in the theatrical cut. In the original DVD cut of the film, the protagonist realises that the creatures are sentient, and that in his goal to find a cure, he's become their boogeyman, a figure who creeps into their lairs while they sleep, abducts people, performs experiments on them and kills them. He and the kids leave Manhattan to the creatures and the audience feels a bit icky about having liked this guy for two hours. This is based on the book, and so considered the "real" ending by those who know. It's what the title means, that the hero is definitely a legend - a legendary murderous monster from the past world who commits horrifying atrocities while you sleep. Humans Are Cthulhu at its best.
  • Blade Runner, in the Director's Cut and the Final Cut: "It's too bad she won't live! But then again, who does?"
  • The Social Network. Facebook is ultimately a wildly successful company. Mark settles his lawsuits and is still the world's youngest billionaire. But he ends up alone, having driven away one friend and been duped by another. He faces the realization that his problems are largely his fault.
  • Philadelphia. Andrew Beckett wins his case against his former employers. Unfortunately, his illness intensifies and he collapses towards the end of the trial-meaning he is unable to be present when the jury rules in his favor-and he dies shortly after its conclusion.
  • In Love Actually, Karen and her husband Harry decide to continue on with their marriage, even after she discovered he was emotionally cheating on her and she may not fully trust him again. Despite harbouring feelings for Juliet (and making them known to her), Mark pulls a I Want My Beloved to Be Happy and may never be truly over her. Sarah and Karl realize that their relationship can't work with Sarah's mentally ill brother always taking priority. But the rest of the couples and families fought for their happiness and got it.
  • Red Dawn (1984): At the end, we find that the war came to an end, but almost all the Wolverines are dead, and almost nobody remembers their sacrifices.
    • Red Dawn (2012): Jed and the Wolverines succeed in defeating Captain Cho and recovering the suitcase, but Jed is unexpectedly killed, and Daryl is left behind due to a tracking device implanted in his body. However, the Wolverines continue their mission and are getting more public support.
  • The Fugitive: Richard Kimble has cleared his name and caught those responsible for his wife's murder, but when all is said and done, he can never bring her back. And can ever really rebuild his life and career after everything he's been through?
  • Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind provides an excellent example of this, as Joel and Clementine break up but then have their memories of each other erased, only to meet again, discover that they'd already been in a relationship and then choose to begin the relationship again even though it's implied that they're doomed to eventually break up a second time. The ending also serves as a perfect example of So What Do We Do Now?.
  • 50 First Dates. Henry does get the girl, and the two sail off to Alaska, married and soon to be parents, but Lucy never does regain her short-term memory, and has to make do with receiving a video recap of everything that has happened since the accident when she wakes up each morning.
  • True Grit (2010): Mattie ultimately gets her revenge on Chaney, and Rooster and LaBoeuf manages to kill the elusive Ned Pepper and his posse, but Mattie loses her arm to a rattlesnake bite. Fast foward 25 years, and Mattie has turned into a caustic old woman, Rooster died before they could meet again, and she hasn't heard from LaBeuf since the shootout with Pepper's gang. Can be seen as a Downer Ending depending on how content you think Mattie is, or how badly thinks ultimately turned out.
  • Lord of the Rings: The Ring is destroyed, the Hobbits are honoured, and return to the Shire. But Frodo is changed forever for his burden of the ring. Bilbo never realizes what the ring was, it was just his old ring, lost. So many lives were lost, cities destroyed and emotions scarred. The music as the ships leave, the song for the ending credits, all contributes to a powerful bittersweet ending to the trilogy.
  • Winter's Bone: Ree saves the family home and gets a fat chunk of cash in the process. However, her father is dead, she's left to raise her siblings alone, and her uncle will probably get himself killed while taking revenge.
  • Arguably, Dagon has one of these as everyone Paul loves is dead, but at last Paul knows his true heritage and can go live in beauty under the sea as a Deep One forever.
    • Though as always with works inspired by the Cthulhu Mythos, it's safe to say that the rest of the planet is screwed.
  • TRON: Legacy has Kevin making a Heroic Sacrifice, but Clu has been defeated and Quorra got to see a sunset and is able to bring what Flynn originally wanted into the real world, as well as Sam making peace with his father.
    • Quorra's safe, but she's the last of her kind and Flynn was a little sparse with the details on how she was going to change the world. The Grid's a mess. Tron broke his Rinzler programming, but made a Heroic Sacrifice and plunged to his apparent de-rez. Sam may be stepping up to the plate to take over Encom, but he and Alan will have their work cut out for them if the boardroom scene is any indication. Oh, and judging by the Sequel Hook, it looks like Dillinger Jr. is going to be up to "daddy's" old tricks.
  • The Shawshank Redemption, anyone? Brooks and Tommy are dead. Andy wasn't exonerated, and Blatch still got away with his crimes. Red is violating his parole by going to Mexico to meet Andy outside of jail, and they are probably both on the run from the law and in no position to turn to it should anything happen. However, Norton did get exposed as a crook, and ended up shooting himself; Hadley got arrested for his role in the murder of Tommy; and at the very end of the movie, Andy and Red finally get to enjoy their friendship outside of jail, which surely must be refreshing for them. It is for the audience.
  • Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. On the one hand, Destoroyah has been killed by the JSDF and Junior has mutated into a full-grown Godzilla. On the other, Godzilla's dead and there's a good chance the radiation he emitted from his meltdown has wiped out a good percentage of Japan's population.
  • In Bodyguards and Assassins, the Bodyguards succeed in drawing attention from Sun Yat-sen long enough for him to detail the coming revolution against the Qing Dynasty, but at the cost of almost everyone's lives. At least most of them get to go down fighting.
  • Mystery Team. Yes, they'll always be together... but at the expense of a man's testicles.
  • The Children's Hour has a very Bittersweet Ending, which can easily come off as a Downer Ending to a lot of people. The lie has been exposed and Mary is punished. However Martha's and Karen's lives are forever ruined, they can probably never be teachers again, their reputations are tarnished, Karen's fiancée dumped her, Martha has a case of Incompatible Orientation towards Karen, and to top it all off Martha commits suicide.
  • Stahlnetz, a German series of Made-for-TV crime films, consists entirely of those. Here some:
    • The Witness: the innocent man is proven innocent, but his marriage is still ruined. The murder is solved: the culprit is a 12-years-old girl, who will now go to psychiatric ward for years and then "return to the life she hated so much she became a murderer". Not really enlighting.
    • The Peeper: The rapist is caught and receives BIG prison time, but his victim is likely broken forever, and the detective's family is in shambles.
    • Glas Paradise: most criminals are caught and two boys are rescued, but the third one is killed, and the Big Bad escaped (though he is out of business and lost most of his fortune)
    • even the most happy episode, PSI, is not completely happy. Sure: the girl is rescued, her kidnappers are captured, and she seems to be not THAT traumatised by what happened. However, the latter is partially because she is an outcast in her family (so that she bonds with the second kidnapper much more than with her family, and the police was seriously asking whether she actually ran away), and this is unlikely to change in the long run. And the aforementioned second kidnapper (who is actually a caring father, and was only doing this on behest of his brother) got an (almost literal) Heel Face Door Slam, and will now go to jail. Still, this is the most happy film of all.
  • In The Warriors, most of the gang, along with Mercy, manage to make it back to Coney Island, bruised and injured but alive, and their names cleared as the Riffs learn the truth and exact their revenge on the Rogues. However, Swan is shown to be disillusioned as he gazes at their neighborhood when they manage to return, Ajax has been arrested, and Cleon and Fox are dead.
  • In Real Life and the movie, the Apollo 13 mission was called a "successful failure" by NASA, in that astronauts Jim Lovell, Fred Haise and Jack Swigert returned to Earth safely, but did not land on the moon as originally intended.
  • Mad Max 2: The people from the refinery escape from the marauders, and make it to the coast where they live in peace. However, Max finds out that he was just a decoy - the tanker that he thought was full of fuel, and that he risked his life to drive, was full of sand. The fuel was stored in the refinery peoples' vehicles. When we last see Max, he is alone in the desert.
    • The third film is much the same. Children Max has saved establish a full-blown Cargo Cult based on the belief that they can make lights bright enough for him to see them from the wasteland and find his way to the home they have made for him. It is unlikely he ever will.
  • Airheads: Chazz and his band serve 3 months in prison, but they get a record contract.
  • Marc Webb's Comedy Drama film "(500) days of summer" could be perceived of as incorporating this as protagonist Tom (Joseph Gordon Levitt) begins to develop a positive relationship with a girl named Autumn who it is implied he may become romantically involved with. There are bleak aspects to this, however as the fact that the motif used to chronicle Tom's relationship with Summer reappears before the beginning of the credits may be an implicit warning that Tom may suffer similar trouble with Autumn as he did in his relationship with Summer, resulting in him once again becoming heart broken.
  • Ghost: With a little help from Oda Mae, Sam saves his girlfriend Molly from his colleague Carl, also bringing an end to the money laundering he was behind, and he finally gets to tell Molly he loves her. But after all is said and done, he's dead and can never come back. Though they know she will eventually join him, as their last words to each other confirm:
    Sam: It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you. See ya.
    Molly: See ya. Bye.
  • In Alien Cargo, Chris and Theta manage to safe most of their crewmates by transporting them over to the Dolphin, but they can’t be rescued themselves due to the severity of the contamination threat. They mark the ship as a biohazard threat, and drift off to die.
  • Armageddon stands as one of the more popular "hero dies to save the world" examples in recent years (if you consider 1998 recent, anyway). One could consider the real "bitter" part of the ending to be Bruce Willis being the one who gets killed off instead of Ben Affleck.
  • Planet Terror. The zombie plague destroys most of the world but Cherry leads the few survivors to the Mexican coast which is humanity's last stronghold.
  • Rory O Shea Was Here has one of the main characters gain his independence and open his eyes to a new empowered life. The other one, however, dies of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
  • The Soviet war film Only Old Men Are Going To Battle focuses on the lives of Soviet fighter pilots during World War II and ends with many key characters killed during one dogfight or another. The protagonist, the base commander (played by the director), actually survives. Also, the film ends on a hopeful note, as the Germans have been nearly pushed out of Soviet territory. The protagonist's best friend (who has been melancholic for a long time) regains his youthful vigor... only to get shot down during the next battle. The film ends with a character nicknamed Romeo (for his relationship with a female bomber navigator named Masha), who was a rookie at the start of the film but is now one of the "Old Men" (i.e. veterans), landing his damaged fighter but dying from injuries. As the protagonist is preparing to deliver the news to his Love Interest, he receives news that Masha's bomber was shot down as well.
  • In Mouth to Mouth, supporting character Nancy dies because of the actions of cult leader Harry. However, this convinces the main character and two other members of the cult to leave for good.
  • The classic Bob Hope movie The Princess and the Pirate ends with the line "Great, I do all the work for 3 reels and some extra from Paramount gets the girl." This is also a fourth wall break and a running gag based around Bob Hope and Bing Crosby's friendship.
  • Iron Sky seemingly ends with the Nazi threat destroyed by the combined space forces of Earth's nations (except Finland). Then they find the Nazis' stores of Helium-3, and all the spaceships promptly destroy each other over them. Then Earth is engulfed in a nuclear war. However, some of the Nazis survive on the Moon and are looking to Renate (who has recently realized that the swastika is not the symbol of peace she was taught) for leadership. Then there's The Stinger revealing possible humans on Mars.
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon ends with Li Mu Bai killing Jade Fox and avenging his master's death, but dies of poisoning in Shu Lien's arms, finally confessing his feelings to her as they share a Last Kiss. Jen is finally free from her family and is reunited with Lo but the guilt for indirectly causing Mu Bai's death causes her to leap off of Wudan Mountain to make her and Lo's "wishes" come true. It's strongly implied that this is the only way they'll be happy together.
  • Liar Liar has this via Fridge Horror. Fletcher has learned to be a good person, a good lawyer, and a good parent, and his family is whole once again...but Samantha Cole completely gets away with her adultery, destroying the life of her faithful husband. Truth in Television in that ethical and moral responsibilities to tell the truth don't always overlap.
  • Pandorum Earth mysteriously disappeared over 900 years ago. The spaceship Elysium has been destroyed, leaving the 1,213 people left to rebuild society essentially from scratch on the planet Tanis. Earth's population had reached 25 billion people by the time it was destroyed and so who's to say that the same thing won't happen on Tanis? Also, an alternate ending scene on the DVD does show Payton/Gallo surviving and draining all the ocean water out of the ship.
  • The Girl And The Echo: the girl stands up to bullies, quickly recovers from her plight and seems stronger than before. But this doesn't change the fact that she is much less innocent now. And the boy is now left alone, abandoned by her and the other boys and morally devastated.
  • Skyfall ends with James Bond successfully defeating Raoul Silva and his men at the titular location of the same name, but M dies in Bond's arms and Bond breaks down in tears upon seeing her death. However, Mallory takes over as the new M by the end of the movie and the old gang is all in place for Bond to take on any threat to the world.
  • The end of Miami Vice. Most of the bad guys are killed but the real drug lord escapes before the overseas DEA can arrest him. Crockett also has to let Isabella go into hiding, where he'll never see her again. But Rico's wife Trudy appears to be coming out of her coma (much to Rico's relief) just as Crockett arrives at the hospital to check up on them.
    • Also a No Ending, as the suddenness of the it feels like the camera ran out of film.
  • In Defence of the Realm the bad guys blow up Mullen (the reporter investigating the coverup concerning MP Markham) and Markham's secretary Nina, but by that time they've gotten the story out and the film ends with a montage of the consequences.
  • At the end of Tiger Bay, Sympathetic Murderer Bronislav redeems himself by rescuing Gillie from drowning, but is consequently apprehended by the police to face charged of a then capital crime.
  • Lincoln: As history dictates, the war ends, the Union is saved, and slavery is abolished, but at the cost of thousands of lives, including Lincoln himself.
  • Oblivion (2013) : The Earth is finally saved from the Tet after 60 years of a war that humanity lost, and that which remains of humanity finally will have a chance to rebuild. All that it cost were the lives of the Drone Tech 49 clone of Jack Harper and Malcolm Beech. Julia has a daughter and the 52nd Drone Tech clone of Harper has finally found her after some time looking.
  • In the Camp Rock sequel, Camp Star wins the Battle of the Bands competition, most likely by cheating, but several Camp Star campers find it more fun at Camp Rock and sign up, giving Camp Rock enough campers to stay open next year.
  • In Man of Steel, after undergoing emotional/psychological hardship for most of his life and extreme physical struggles in the last few days, Clark has found a measure of peace at the end of the movie since he's become Superman and has secured a stable job as a reporter. Yet thousands upon thousands have died, parts of the city of Metropolis has been destroyed, and Clark has been forced to take the life of General Zod, the last of his species, to save others from a problem that wouldn't have happened if not for his existence.
  • The Fall ends this way both in the fantasy story and in reality. The story ends with every character except the Black Bandit and his daughter dying. Alexandria eventually recovers from her injuries and goes home with her family but she will never see Roy again and Roy is most certainly permanently crippled. And Alexandria believes he is the stuntman in every film she sees.
  • The World's End: The Network has left Earth, but in the process the planet is knocked back to the Dark Ages. Peter and Oliver are both dead, and are replaced by Blanks, and Gary resorts to Walking the Earth, and Andy never sees him again.
  • In Pacific Rim, the war against the Kaiju has ended with Raleigh, Mako and Herc surviving to see it but Pentecost, Chuck, the Wei triplets and the Kaidanovskys have died in the effort and all the Jaegers are destroyed.
  • Pitch Black: Carolyn not only redeems herself by refusing to leave Jack and Imam, but then risks and loses her life saving the injured Riddick.
  • Elysium: Max dies so he can use the information in his head to reboot Elysium, turning everyone on Earth into a citizen of Elysium. The ending shows Elysian ships coming down on Earth, full of medical pods and mechs ready to help the new citizens of Elysium.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe loves using this trope.
    • The Incredible Hulk ends with Bruce having defeated the Abomination, but once more on the run as a fugitive, and unable to be with Betty, though it's implied that Bruce has gained a bit more control over the Hulk.
    • Thor ends with Thor putting a stop to Loki's plans, making amends with his father and regaining his powers. However the Bifrost Bridge has been destroyed and Thor is now separated from Jane and Earth indefinitely until she manages to open a bridge to Asgard. Also, Loki is alive and well on Earth and making a grab for the Cosmic Cube. But the ending credits tells the audience that Thor will be joining the Avengers.
    • In Captain America: The First Avenger, the world is saved from the Red Skull and World War 2 was won by the Allies, but Steve Rogers wakes up seventy years into the future with the people and the life that he knew gone, and he says with disappointment, "I had a date...".
    • Iron Man 3 ends with Tony Stark emerging victorious against the true Mandarin, Aldrich Killian, and saves Pepper (who saved Tony from Killian), but Tony destroys all his armored suits, has the arc reactor removed, and is Iron Man... no more. And his Malibu home is destroyed, too.
    • In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, HYDRA's plan is foiled, but S.H.I.E.L.D. is forced into dismantlement, Cap redeemed his best friend turned villain but Bucky still remains amnesiac, and The Stinger reveals a new villain who took the events that happened as an excuse to unveil his own evil plot in the second Avengers movie.
  • Bad Reputation: Michelle manages to kill all three of her rapists, the Alpha Bitch and most of the Girl Posse, but the last one fakes sympathy and kills her too.
  • At the end of Impostor, the hero and his wife are dead and one of their roboclones explodes. Hundreds of acres of forest are destroyed, killing thousands of people and Major Hathaway, who had been trying to prevent exactly that from happening the entire film. The assassination of the Chancellor has been prevented however and Cale gets his sister the medicines that Spencer provided him with.
  • Surprisingly, for a film as dark as Prisoners, the film ends somewhat happily, both girls are found alive, and the killer ends up dead, but if Keller survived the film, he's going to prison for a very long time, possibly for life. Hey, it's the least we can expect with a film this depressing and brutal.
  • In Full Metal Jacket, while Joker has survived the battle, the war is far from over, and Joker has a lot more hell in store for him. He's in a world of shit, but he's happy to be alive, and he is no longer afraid.
  • In a World...: Lake Bell gets a coveted voice-over role, but is told that it was due to Positive Discrimination and not because she gave the best audition.
  • Into The Storm: The war is won, the world is safe But Churchill lost the election and political career, his family life is even more troubled, the British Empire lies in shambles, the looming threat of the Cold War lies in the horizon, England's fate is uncertain, and the age of Imperial power is over for England.
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past:
    • While everything is well for their counterparts in the new timeline, with the exception of Wolverine, all of the characters that we have followed for the last 14 years die horrible deaths before being erased from history.
    • Though this is probably the happiest ending in the entire series. Not only is the Bad Future undone, but Cyclops and Jean are Back from the Dead. Also, Logan's a history teacher now. Make of that what you will, but his future could've turned out a lot worse.
    • One other small downer: it's implied that Charles and Erik never reconcile their differences, as their Bad Future selves do.
  • Vera Drake: Vera goes to prison, but at only two and a half years, it's clear that she's getting off easy.
  • My Way: Jun-shik dies, leaving Tatsuo only his name to live by. Tatsuo last scenes is him as Jun-Shik running and winning the 1948 London Marathon, fulfilling his friend's dreams.

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