Downer Ending: Film
WARNING: Nearly every example is a spoiler. Read at your own risk!
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Directors / Film in general
- Ridley Scott admits that his British penchant for darker themes lead to this or a Bittersweet Ending.
- The original ending of Ridley Scott's The Future Is Noir movie Blade Runner (1982) (restored in the later Director's Cut and the "Ultimate Director's Cut" aka 25th Anniversary Release) was apparently considered too dark by studio execs and test audiences, so for the version shown in theaters they slapped on a happy ending with the characters driving through the green fields of the countryside in bright sunlight. Considering the entire movie is set in a dark dismal Los Angeles in a dystopian cyberpunk world of 2019 where it always rains, that's a truly bizarre moment, more similar to a dream or a drug trip. What were they thinking? (Could have been a Take That to the execs for not allowing the intended ending.)
- Thelma & Louise ends with the title characters driving into the Grand Canyon to escape the police.
- Body of Lies has Ferris losing two fingers, learning most of the ending was faked or a set-up, and giving up his job to go home.
- It should also be recalled that Scott seriously considered the idea of ending Alien with the eponymous xenomorph killing Ripley, and then - "evolving" still further - piloting the Narcissus back towards Earth while requesting assistance in Ripley's voice.
- The Counselor features probably the most downer ending of his entire filmography, with Reiner and Westray are killed. Multiple people, civilian and criminal, are killed in the delivery of the drug shipment to Chicago. Laura is killed in a gruesome, Nothing Is Scarier manner off-screen. Her death is likely recorded as a snuff film. The tape is sent to the Counselor who has a Despair Event Horizon moment. He'll likely be killed soon after. Malkina, who set the whole plot in motion with the theft of the drug shipment, gets off scot-free with Westray's money.
- In general, the Chinese cinema are good at ending their most dramatic films in a downer note.
- The Chinese film The Warlords ends with Pang Qingyun (surprisingly well-acted by Jet Li) killing his sworn brother Zhao Erhu for personal gain, only to be killed by the third brother Wuyang in an My Name Is Inigo Montoya moment... after Wuyang killed Erhu's wife to protect the brotherhood, mistakenly believing that Qingyun had wanted her. And the downer part? The three corrupt generals who basically antagonized the brothers throughout the film and manipulated the entire course of events get off scot free, after Wuyang's execution.
- In retrospect, it may be compared to the Peach Garden Oath brothers of Romance of the Three Kingdoms: the death of the second brother ends up dragging down the other two to their own demises, and it's the older brother's fault.
- John Woo's The Killer ends with Ah Jong, the main character, dead and with his eyes ruined so they can't be used to have his love interest's eyes fixed, his love interest all but blind forever, and the hero's Cowboy Cop ally being arrested by his fellow cops after gunning down the villain in cold blood to avenge his friend and keep him from getting away with it all, preventing him from using the Killer's money to have her eyes fixed either. It is likely that the cop will lose his job on the force or face jail time for murder.
- Hero. Broken Sword betrays Snow and convinces Nameless not to go through with the assassination. Snow confronts him and at the last second he drops his sword and lets her kill him. Snow is devastated so she embraces him from behind and then drives her sword through both of their bodies. Nameless is executed. The final scene is of a wall peppered with arrows apart from a perfect, empty human silhouette.
- As the movie reveals towards the end, much of the story as told is a lie. The three Heroes sacrificed themselves knowingly and willingly in order to bolster the Nameless one's reputation, such that he would be allowed into the presence of the Emperor. He is then able to impress the importance of "Our Land" or China, altering the conquering warlord's focus towards one of making a unified country. While the warlord has the Nameless one killed afterwards, this is seen as necessary by both the warlord and the Nameless hero for the warlord to maintain his position and power in order to effect the very changes the four Hero's wanted. It is a happy ending by the standards of the world it takes place in.
- Both Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers, especially House have very down endings.
- As does Lust, Caution. La Résistance is caught and the heroine is executed while her target/lover signs her execution papers.
- Curse of the Golden Flower. Only the Emperor comes out alive, and the moral is "don't mess with The Man, especially in China."
- Every Egyptian movie ever made. No exceptions. If things are going too well towards the end the writers will come up with bizarre ways to ensure a downer ending.
- A French film with Alain Delon (can't recall the name) ends with the main character walking down the street with his Love Interest. She goes inside, and he's approached by a guy asking for a light. As he's lighting the cigarette, another guy approaches with a gun. As the protagonist opens his mouth to scream, the bad guy puts the gun in his mouth and pulls the trigger. The end.
- While 28 Days Later ends with a somewhat upbeat tune (the Finnish jet pilot requests evacuation for the survivors), the sequel 28 Weeks Later ends with a shot of the Infected exiting a subway in Paris, implying that the survivors got mainland Europe infected instead of just Great Britain.
- The French film 8 Women: A man is found murdered and the suspects (the titular eight women), trapped in the house by a snowstorm, go round and round in circles revealing secrets and trying to figure out who killed him. In the end, we find out the man and his younger daughter staged the murder to give comeuppance to all the other women, who used him and treated him horribly. Fair enough, not so bad. However, after the girl reveals that the murder was a hoax, that she was the only person who cared about her father and that she's going to take him far away from all of them, she opens the study door just in time to see her father blow his own head off.
- 13/13/13 establishes that there are two people not affected by the hate plague. One of them is dead by the end of the film.
- Ace in the Hole end with the victim and the villain dead.
- Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. David, the little robot boy, was programmed to love his human mother just as a real child would, and when she abandons him in the woods (to save his life, but he doesn't understand this) he spends the rest of the film trying to find the Blue Fairy, thinking she can turn him into a real boy that his mother will be able to love. In the end, he finds an underwater replica of the Blue Fairy, and stays there wishing to be human for so long that he gets frozen inside the developing glacier. Two thousand years later, he's discovered by advanced aliens, who use his mother's DNA to create an imperfect clone who will die once it falls asleep. David spends one idyllic day with her and then, as she dies, decides to die as well.
- Alatriste (the movie). In the last hour or so, the guy loses everything he cared about: The woman he loved and never married now is syphilitic; his friend Quevedo was sent to jail and his squire to galleys. Meanwhile, as a parallel, the Spanish Empire crumbles, and even the villain-ish mastermind Count-Duke Olivares is senile. The main character fights to the bitter end for a country that never loved him in a doomed battle.
- The books are quite different; maybe because the book dealing with that part has not been written yet.
- The Alphabet Killer: Detective Paige figures out the identity of the eponymous killer in the end, however she is unable to communicate it to her colleagues as she is in the midst of a violent psychotic break. She is put in isolation and on medication that makes her unable to speak, where it is implied she is left for years as the serial murderer claims more and more victims.
- Alien³. The second film ended with Ellen Ripley, her new "surrogate" daughter, a Space Marine, and a battered android finally getting a happy ending... until everyone but Ripley is arbitrarily killed off in an escape pod crash at the opening of the next movie. Making matters worse, she's stuck in a penal colony at the "ass-end of space", the prisoners have no weapons, every prisoner (save for one) is killed by the final scene, and Ripley ends up taking a swan dive into a leadworks to stop her employer from harnessing the Xenomorph species. The film ends with the hulk of her escape pod sitting in silence, until her final transmission from the original movie plays in the background.
- Many fans of the rousing and inventive Aliens prefer to assume the second movie is the end of the series and what comes after is to be ignored.
- Alien vs. Predator: Requiem. The Predator who comes to Earth (Wolf)? He's Dead. The town sheriff who valiantly tries to hold off the xenomorphs, along with most of Gunnison, Colorado's surviving police force? They get nuked. The hospital full of pregnant women and babies? Face-hugged/killed/vaporized. The pizza guy's love interest (who he spends most of the movie chasing)? Impaled on a wall. The surviving characters don't get any resolution, as army forces arrest them and take the Predator weapon the main character was holding onto when they escaped. As the final scene shows, the heroes have now unwittingly helped the newly-formed Weyland-Yutani Corporation get a headstart on backwards-engineering advanced technology for their own means.
- American Beauty was originally going to end with Jane and Ricky being arrested for the murder of Lester when they were innocent of the crime, thanks to an incriminating video tape they made.
- American History X ends with the protagonist's brother being shot by black students, just after he was starting to change his life and turned from his racist ways. (And, in fact, the original cut ends with the protagonist becoming a neo-Nazi skinhead all over again.)
- An American Werewolf in London has a downer ending that comes across as sort of a whack in the face, in spite of the fact that the main character David was pretty clearly doomed. He is shot (in werewolf form) right in front of his lover Alex, who begins to sob over his dead body (now human)... and it cuts straight to the credits, no resolution except that the werewolf's curse is implicitly broken. Neither Alex nor the audience has time to reconcile with what happened.
- Amistad ends with Cinque and his fellow captives going free back to Africa. In the final shot of Cinque on the ship looking hopefully (or wistfully) ahead, we read some text on a screen saying that, after getting back to Africa, Cinque finds that his whole tribe and everyone he knows has been captured by slavers. It's even more depressing since apparently it's based on a true story.
- The book doesn't mention that sad part, it merely ends with a sea captain bombing a Spanish slave-trade fortress and seeing clouds in the shape of a lion in the sky.
- In Angel Heart, Harold Angel is really Johnny Favorite, and had sold his soul to the devil. He'll likely be executed for the murders he committed under Satan's influence, and burn in hell for eternity, to which he is actually well on his way at the very end.
- Another Time, Another Place ends with Luigi in jail, Janie more miserable than ever and the unknown rapist apparently getting off scot-free.
- Arlington Road. Professor Michael Faraday dies in the bombing of the FBI Headquarters, and is labelled as the "lone nut" terrorist responsible for it. Grant, looking devastated, is driven off to live with relatives. The terrorist organization really responsible for the bombing (and for framing Faraday) has pulled off their plan without a hitch, and we see Oliver and Cheryl Lang contemplating their move to another city. The organization's plots have succeeded before, and there will be another one.
- Ashes and Diamonds ends with the main character dead and his country doomed to 44 years of Communist (mis)rule, the latter of course being a Foregone Conclusion and not considered a Downer Ending by the Communist authorities who approved the film despite its strong anti-Communist subtext.
- Atonement is incredibly bleak, even for a story about star-crossed lovers. At the end of the movie, it is revealed that Cecilia and Robbie both died in WWII. The final scenes of them together were entirely imagined by Cecilia's sister, who had years earlier given false evidence against Robbie that led directly to their separation and indirectly to their involvement in the war and subsequent deaths.
- At Play in the Fields of the Lord: When the helicopters arrive to begin bombing the Niaruna Indian Village.
- Bad Lieutenant ends with Harvey Keitel's character forgiving the rapists and finally redeeming himself. His reward? "Hey, cop!" (bang)
- The Akira Kurosawa movie The Bad Sleep Well is more or less a redux of Hamlet in corporate Tokyo, until the end wherein not only does the hero die but his revenge plan against the company responsible for his father's death fails completely and ends with the villain getting away with everything.
Other examples of his include Kagemusha and Ran (which is an adaptation of King Lear set in feudal Japan).
- Ballad of a Soldier, a Soviet film set during World War II (but is not really a war film) focuses on a young soldier, who asks his commander for leave in order to visit his mother and fix the roof on her house. The commander gives him 6 days (2 days for travel, 2 days to fix the roof, and 2 days to return). As the young man journeys through the wartorn countryside, meeting a young woman, he gets delayed by circumstances. He eventually reaches his mother... on the 4th day of his leave. He immediately tells her goodbye and leaves to return to his regiment. The film ends with an old woman, his mother, looking at the street every day, waiting for her son to come home. The narration reveals that he never will. Additionally, while he parts ways with the young woman, it's implied that she may have fallen for him, but his single-minded focus on returning home and obliviousness to everything else make it impossible for him to realize it until well after she leaves.
- Barton Fink has a very grim ending, with the titular protagonist having the script he struggled with for ages rejected, his boss hating his guts and telling him he'll conform or else, his home burned down by the only person he could really identify with, who turned out to be a serial killer who also murdered the woman he loved, one of his heroes and possibly his family. And all he has is said serial killer's package (not a euphemism), which he hasn't opened. And then he has an awkward conversation with a woman in a bikini. The end.
- This would be more of a downer ending if Fink was actually a sympathetic character. But he's not. He's a victim of his own foolishness. His script is rejected because he labours too long trying to make it into something needlessly artistic, instead of producing the simple formula script that the studio wanted. Additionally, it's the two anti-Semitic detectives, Mastrionatti and Deutsch, who represent the rise of Nazism, not Mundt (his comment of "Heil Hitler" before killing them was presumably intended to be sarcastic) and it's ambiguous as to whether or not the fire at the end is actually real, or a representation of Mundt's inner psyche (since the flames appear to actively follow him). Either way, the Hotel Earle was never Fink's home (as Mundt points out, he's "just a tourist with a typewriter"), and it's also worth noting that, as he leaves the burning hotel, Fink chooses to take the unopened package, but abandons the tool of his trade, his typewriter. The ending is certainly unsettling, but Fink is clearly complicit in his own downfall.
- Being John Malkovich: John Cusack goes through the portal a bit too late, and is forced to live in a little girl's brain, watching his now lesbian wife and lover living happily, unable to do anything.
- It is also sad to consider that in exactly the same fashion as John Cusack's character John Malkovich is controlled by other people and cannot do anything but watch (not even close his eyes). Malkovich himself did nothing to earn such a fate, so these people who control him practically pulled off a Karma Houdini. It is even more cruel if you consider the possibility that years later the people controlling Malkovich make him enter the magical portal to get into yet another person and so forth, which would possibly doom Malkovich for ages as they continue doing this.
- The next person is heavily implied to be Emily, Malkovich's daughter (and Craig's unwitting host). The movie ends with her swimming innocuously, completely unaware that a) there's another, entirely helpless person trapped inside her and b) she is Being Watched, until she is old enough to become the next vessel. Thus, it's also implied that Craig and Malkovich are both doomed to repeat this process for as long as the immortality-hungry Lester wants to keep on doing it. This isn't just a downer ending, it's a total Fridge Horror fest!
- Also a MASSIVE Mood Whiplash since most of the film is zany and whacky.
- The Italian film The Bicycle Thief tells the story of a man who has his bicycle stolen when he needs the bicycle for his job. He and his son look through Rome and when they finally find the thief, they can't prove anything. At the film's end, the man decides to steal a bike, but people catch him in the act. Even though the owner doesn't press charges, we are left with the protagonist who lost his dignity in the eyes of his son, about to lose his job, and have his family starve to death because he is unemployed.
- A rather mild example in The Big Lebowski. It turns out that there was no money in the first place, the Dude's car finally gets destroyed, the protagonists quits the team, Donny dies and the Dude doesn't even get his fucking rug back! But, life goes on, man. Probably one of the few examples where a Downer Ending gets Played for Laughs.
- Well, the dude abides...
- Black Death: Almost all of the protagonists die horribly, but that's just the beginning. The main character, a conflicted young monk, is led to believe that his girlfriend Came Back Wrong after being resurrected by a witch, leading him to put her out of her misery. While making her escape, this "witch" later taunts him with the revelation that the girl was never dead in the first place and was simply babbling incoherently as she was coming down from the drug that had kept her subdued. He is consumed with grief, but rather than blame himself this proves to be his Start of Darkness as he goes on to become a heartless Knight Templar, burning and torturing innocent women across the land in pursuit of the one that wronged him.
- The 1981 thriller Blow Out, about a sound man who accidentally records a presidential candidate's assassination, ends with the hero arriving too late to stop the bad guy from killing his love interest, the assassin has also just destroyed every existing copy of the recording and by killing the assassin the hero has ironically tied up every remaining loose end for the conspirators and as such the cover is ultimately a success.
- The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is an all-around Downer Ending, probably even worse then the source book. The movie ends with the protagonist and his Jewish friend both being gassed to death when they accidentally enter a chamber, trying to find the latter's father. The protagonists family figures out he's missing and have the appropriate reactions.
- As Boys Don't Cry is based off a real murder case, the protagonist dies at the end of the film.
- And by "murdered", we mean "brutally raped and beaten to death onscreen". Yeah, it's a cheerful flick.
- Boytown. Which, surprisingly enough, is not a black comedy.
- Brazil (1985) by Terry Gilliam. You know it's a Downer Ending when the fact that the protagonist goes insane in the torture chair (and will probably be executed soon thereafter) can be considered the most merciful thing to happen to him!
- He doesn't so much go insane as switch off from reality; in fact one may even take some hope from the fact that in his mind he's completely free, although it's a pathetic hope in an unsympathetic world.
- Brokeback Mountain ends with Jack dead (presumably killed by violent homophobes, although the true nature of his death is never confirmed) and Ennis is left sad, bitter, and alone. The final scene has him holding Jack's old shirt; the old memento he has of him, and with tears in his eyes, ends the movie with this line:
"Jack, I swear..."
- Buried features a fantastic downer ending. A truck driver in Iraq is buried alive in the desert. As he uses all his wits and resources to try to get help, help appears to arrive - and then hasn't, in a super sucker punch at the end of the film.
- The Butterfly Effect:
- In the director's cut, Ashton Kutcher's character realizes that everyone - and we mean everyone - would be better off without him. He goes back to the womb and asphyxiates himself with his umbilical cord, resulting in happy endings for all but our nonexistent protagonist. It actually gets slightly more downer if you pick up on the infrequently mentioned fact that the protagonist is said to be a 'miracle baby' on account of his mother's numerous miscarriages/stillbirths before he was born... which implies that the whole "go back and kill yourself in the womb because your very existence brings misery to your friends and family" thing has already been played out X number of times by his would-be siblings. And then more so when you pick up on the even less mentioned fact that his Dad had to keep going back so that the protagonist would NOT die in the womb.
- The theatrical ending's no picnic either. The hero discovers that everyone's problems stemmed from the fact that he "clicked" with his future girlfriend when they were little, so he averts this by being mean to her on the first day they meet. They never become friends, she has no reason to stick around when her parents divorce and leaves with her mom, her brother doesn't get molested by his father, no one gets blown up, no one becomes a hooker... fast forward to the "present", where both the hero and the girl are both beautiful, successful people but wouldn't she wouldn't even know him if they passed in the street (which they Anviliciously do).
- Cabin Fever ends with all the main characters being consumed by the flesh-eating virus and killed off in various ways. The water that contains the virus is made into bottled water and gets shipped off into another place in the country. The sequel doesn't fare much better as only one girl survives her school being quarantined and killed off by a SWAT team as the virus still continues to spread throughout the country. Enjoy your post-apocalyptic, virus-infected world, America.
- The Candy Snatchers is about the kidnapping of a Catholic schoolgirl, and it focuses quite heavily on her plight as well as the complications that arise. It doesn't end well. The girl is still bound, gagged, and blindfolded and locked in a box buried in the ground, while the only person who knows she's there, a mentally retarded child, runs off, having forgotten her. She screams through her gag all throughout the ending. And to make that worse, two of the three people who kidnapped Candy (that's her name) are killed when they fall out among themselves, and the third is shot dead by the retarded kid while he's trying to free the girl. Oh, and did we mention that the girl's father (who also buys it - in fact, just about everyone except the retarded child winds up dead or doomed) wanted her gone anyway? Even Michael Haneke would get out the Prozac after this one.
- Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yes, Project Insight is foiled, but only just; S.H.I.E.L.D. has been completely destroyed from the inside out, a major fascist regime has gone by the US government unnoticed, Nick Fury has to live in the shadows, Steve Rogers' future with the Avengers Initiative seems uncertain, Bucky will have to find out about the horrible experiments that made him the winter soldier, and everybody is going to think President Ellis is responsible for the terrorist attacks on America.
- Carrie (1976): After Carrie's efforts to try to fit in and emerge from the toxic influence of her mother seem to be successful, she suffers a horrible humiliation, is driven to near insanity, and takes revenge by massacring dozens of prom attendees. When she gets home, she seeks comfort from her mother, who stabs her. Carrie then kills her mother and herself, taking along their house as collateral damage.
- The Champ (1931, remade in 1979) has a notorious Downer Ending in which the boxer protagonist collapses and dies after winning his fight, while his small and impossibly cute son weeps at his side.
- The Children's Hour has a major Downer Ending. Martha and Karen's lives are forever ruined by a rumor a child started, neither can be teachers again, and they're a well-known case throughout America. Karen's fiancee dumps her, Martha has unrequited feelings toward Karen, and to top it all off she kills herself at the end; in the play though she kills herself before Mary's grandmother comes over, so it turns into an Esoteric Happy Ending there.
- Chinatown is among the most famous. It turns out Mrs. Mulwray was raped by Noah Cross and gave birth to his daughter/granddaughter. After Noah Cross killed Hollis, she tries to escape to Mexico. But when Noah Cross shows up to stop her, she shoots him and is then shot by the police. Jake is partially responsible for her being shot. Jake finds a pair of glasses in Evelyn's pond and assumes that they are Hollis's glasses, meaning she drowned him in her back garden. He calls the cops on her, only to learn that Cross was behind it all. If he hadn't called the cops, she might have gotten away. And when she was driving away, a cop tries to shoot out the tires. Jake jumps him to let her get away. His partner then steps in and goes for a headshot. Noah Cross then takes her daughter/sister, which was why Mulwray was trying to escape. All while the water conspiracy will never be revealed. The kicker? JJ can't do squat about it. As the quote goes: "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown." Robert Towne's original script had Mrs. Mulwray escape with her daughter but director Roman Polanski changed it to a more bleak ending.
- City of Angels: Seth the Angel is madly in love with Maggie (a human). He gives up his Angelhood so that he can pursue a full relationship with her. After spending their first night together, Maggie is out riding her bike and is hit by a truck. She dies in Seth's arms and he's stuck in life as a human. Even worse... he's a fallen angel. When he dies, he's going to Hell. Positively depressing.
- Dante in Clerks specifically references the Empire ending as a Downer Ending, adding that he likes it because "That's what life is: a series of down endings." This line had more meaning in the original cut of the film, which ended with a random guy robbing the store and shooting him.
- Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange controversially removed the some might say vital last chapter of Anthony Burgess' original novel, altering the message of the entire work substantially. In the novel, Alex voluntarily relinquishes his former life of ultraviolence and rape after having the effects of the brainwashing "Ludovico technique" reversed, and hence having his ability to act as an autonomous moral agent restored. In the film, he is implied to have simply returned to his previous vicious and amoral state, with the chilling final words "I was cured, alright".
This is because pre-1986 copies of the novel for the U.S. market, like the one that Kubrick bought, were missing the final chapter. Kubrick became aware of the omitted chapter in the middle of writing the screenplay, but he left it out because he preferred the book without it. Even in the film, however, it was clear that the reversal of the "Ludovico Technique" was not done to right some moral or ethical wrong or to show any true concern for Alex's state ... except as his value as poster boy for one government faction against the other, leaving him still no more than a pawn in the game of life.
- Cloverfield. Every character dies except one, and the monster responsible might have possibly lived, and New York (and the people living there) has been almost completely destroyed. Oh, yeah, and some people got motion sickness. Word of God does state that the monster died from the saturation bombing of the city.
- Colossus The Forbin Project ends with the titular AI conquering human civilization, bending the will of the great powers with the threat of nuclear annihilation. Colossus lends credibility to his threat by detonating a pair of nukes (one American, one Russian) that the characters believed they had secretly deactivated. Of course, Colossus only has the best intentions in mind and its final lines predict a rational utopia under its rule.
- Troma pick-up Combat Shock (original title: American Nightmare): In the last 3 minutes, our main character, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD, shoots his wife, cooks his deformed baby alive in his apartment's antiquated oven, and drinks some very sour milk (90% chunks) before finally blowing his own brains out onscreen. The previous 97 minutes are far from a picnic, as well.
- Come and See. A downer ending to a downer movie. After escaping death by the skin of his teeth, our protagonist manages to catch up with his partisan unit who have managed to capture some of the Nazi SS unit responsible for burning the population of an entire village inside a barn. Revenge is taken but the damage is done: Florya is irretrievably fucked up - prematurely aged; a joyless and hardened member of the resistance. The final shot of the film is his unit marching through the forest looking for more Nazis to kill.
- Coming Soon, a Thai horror film. The main character dies a horrible death by eye-gouging. His entire struggle was completely in vain, as he accomplished almost nothing. His ex-wife, who has just regained her feelings for him, is forced to watch him die on a theater screen. The cursed movie gets widespread recognition, and hordes of people watch it, all inevitably ending up doomed to death by angry ghost murder. Oh yeah, and now you're cursed too. Hahahaha... have a good evening. For that matter, same with the original Shutter. In fact, the Thai horror industry seems to be very fond of Downer Endings, "the audience is now cursed" Downer Endings in particular.
- The Count Yorga films loved doing this
- Count Yorga, Vampire: Nearly all the human characters or killed or turned. The last surviving one, Micheal, manages to confront Yorga and stake him (or rather Yorga stupidly ran into the stake while trying to choke him). He thinks he's saved his girlfriend Donna and manages to ward off Yorga's two remaining vampire brides (one of which was his friend Erica). However after he does so he drops his cross and thinks its over, only to turn around and see Donna, now bearing fangs, lunge for him. The final shot of the movie is his bloodied corpse with bite mark all over his face.
- The Return of Count Yorga: As with the first movie, nearly everyone is either dead or turned (considering there were more females in this movie, Yorga practically has an army of undead women at his disposal). The last remaining humans, Cynthia and Balwin, try to escape the manor but are eventually cornered. Yorga leaves his brides to deal with Balwin while he takes Cynthia for his own. Before he can bite her, Balwin somehow escapes and comes gunning for Yorga. Theres a brief chase to and fight on the top floor balcony of the house. Cynthia, whose been brainwashed for much of the movie, remembers it was Yorga who killed her family and manages to stake him allowing Balwin to throw him from the balcony. Cynthia then hugs Balwin...only for him to reveal that he's now a vampire. Cynthia can only get out a "No!" before he bites her. The final shot is especially chilling as Cynthia's adopted brother, Tommy, who wasn't turned but brainwashed by Yorga, is playing with his ball in front of Yorga's house implying that he continues to serve the vampires there, among which is no doubt Cynthia, who will continue to feed and add more unopposed.
- The Crazies features all of the main characters except for David getting killed off by the military. The only character to find the cure ends up dying in the very end. Not much better in the remake, either. The two protagonists escape, but their hometown, and everyone they knew is killed in a nuclear explosion. Oh, and the government is still hunting them. Not only that, but some crazies have also escaped the explosion, spreading the plague to a major city.
- Crimes and Misdemeanors: The murderer gets away with it. And since an earlier scene in the movie had a character saying "God sees all," Woody is implying that there is no God.
- Daft Punk's Electroma. The gold and silver robots are exiled from their town, and while hiking in the desert the silver robot asks the gold robot to kill it by activating a self-destruction timer on his back. Shortly afterwards, the gold robot attempts to do the same on himself but cannot reach the switch, so he smashes his helmet and uses a shard as a burning glass to light himself on fire. The film ends with it, completely ablaze, walking in slow-motion into the distance.
- In Dagon Paul loses everyone he knows and loves, finds out he's a monster, and is forced to live in the sea and marry his sister.
- Dancer in the Dark. An immigrant woman, going blind from a progressive genetic disease, works under exploitative conditions at her factory job, is saving up money doing some kind of terrible laborious piecemeal work at home to pay for an operation for her son so he won't go blind from the same disease she has, has a landlord who finds out about her son's operation money and steals it to pay for his wife's shopping debts, ends up killing the landlord by accident, goes to prison and gets hanged while singing tragically.
- Dark Skies: The eldest son is taken by the antagonists and the parents couldn't do anything to stop it.
- Das Boot. All the German submariners survive their dangerous mission (by a hair), only to get bombed by the Allies as they return to the shore. Most of the crew runs to shelter, some of them apparently wounded. The war correspondent runs back to the dock to find three of the most characterized of his fellow submariners dead, and the mortally wounded captain keeling over just after he watched the submarine we've been following the whole movie sink in its dock. The captain isn't mortally wounded though. Word of God says he survived. The real life counterpart, Captain Heinrich von Lehmann-Willebrock survived, and he survived the war. After the war he became a merchant marine captain.
- The Day After, being about a nuclear apocalypse, naturally had one hell of a downer ending, and similarly, near the end, had a woman dying in childbirth, the baby presumably dying as well.
- Devdas, the Bollywood analogue to Romeo and Juliet. The male lead goes through ordeal after ordeal to find his love, then dies in a drunken stupor right outside her gate. The gate shuts in her face, right before she would have seen him.
- The Divide ends with Eva escaping from the bunker with signs of radiation sickness and limited supplies only to find the surface uninhabitable.
- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story originally had a dark ending in which the team loses the game, with the film ending abruptly after the line, "Average Joe's has come here for nothing. Absolutely nothing!" But, due to higher forces, this ending was scrapped and the happy one shown in the film was included. This is arguably just a joke ending, as evidenced by all the story threads that are only wrapped up through the theatrical ending. The commentary reveals that the original ending was to be set up as Average Joes does lose the tournament, but Steve the Pirate returns with the money needed to save the day in a Deus ex Machina.
- Donnie Darko has the title character killing himself to save the life of his girlfriend and the mysterious Frank. Because he wasn't around to burn his house down, the pedophile remained undetected. According to the website, the pedophile committed suicide after the events of the film. The sequel S. Darko shows that Donnie's death broke the family, Samantha becomes distant and at the end of the sequel the mentally ill Iraq war veteran kills himself, the child in the mine starves to death and presumably nobody finds the body, the priest never got his comeuppance, the alien rash thing just got passed onto somebody else but hey, at least Sam is going home.
- Drag Me to Hell. Not uncommon in horror films, a curse is bestowed upon the heroine, which she spends the movie trying to get rid of. A creepy looking old woman takes a button from her coat, puts a curse on it and gives it back to her. Later she learns that if she gives away the button the curse is given to the new owner of the button, but she only has till the end of the night to do it, or she will be dragged to hell the next day. She gets her own back by going to the now deceased woman's tombstone and returning the button to her. Believing everything was behind her, she discovers the next morning that the button she thought she gave to the old woman was still with her. She gave the wrong item (it was sealed in an identical looking envelope to the button). She then gets dragged to hell.
- Dread: Quaid, after helping Stephen with his essay on people's deepest fears, begins torturing their subjects and their consequences are made evident by the end of the film: Abby poisons herself and is hospitalized, barely clinging on to life; Joshua is shot in the ears, is made deaf and eventually goes mad with vengeance; Cheryl, who was helping Quaid and Stephen, is locked in a room for several days until she overcomes her fear of meat and eats a now maggot-ridden pork chop in exchange for her freedom. Stephen confronts and corners Quaid and, just as Stephen is about to kill him, Joshua comes between them and kills Stephen, unaware that Quaid is behind him with a gun and is promptly shot in the head. Quaid then takes Stephen's corpse and dumps it in a small room, where Cheryl is handcuffed to a pipe and is forced to eat the body while Quaid presumably carries on his gruesome agenda.
- In Dresden the main character (a British pilot) manages to laboriously live through the bombing of Dresden with serious injuries and escapes back to England. After the war, he flies back to see his true love (and, OMG, their child)... when his plane crashes. So, he is killed... in the post-script... by a voice-over.
- Dr. Strangelove ends this way. Despite the attempts of both sides, a single nuclear warhead passes through, triggering a doomsday machine which fills the Earth with nuclear explosions and fallout. The final scene is a series of mushroom clouds, accompanied with the song "We'll Meet Again", making it happier than it should.
- Eden Lake is a perfect example. After Steve is burned and tortured to death by the boys and Jenny finally escapes the camp after being hunted down, she appears to have found help in a nearby house until it becomes apparent that she has fallen into the hands of the gang's parents in the last scene. She is then implied to be raped by several men after which they intend to kill her. The mobile phone videos containing footage of the gang torturing the couple get deleted.
- The 1926 silent comedy Exit Smiling is a fun, light-hearted film about a bad actress in a traveling theater troupe. After she brings to light a conspiracy that was going to send the man she loves to jail, she runs off to find him - only to see that another woman has told him the good news and he intends to leave the troupe and stay in town. He's so happy about going home that she can't bear to tell him how she feels. The last shot of the movie is him obliviously stepping off the train and tears rolling down her cheeks.
- In Ex Machina, Ava manages to escape. This means that the scientific breakthrough of artificial intelligence will never be discovered, and even if Ava reveals herself to the general population, the only person who has any clue how she was put together is now dead. Worse still, Caleb is left for dead by Ava, trapped inside of the facility. And the film makes it uncomfortably clear that he has no chance of getting out.
- In the Cold-War era film Fail Safe, the Pentagon accidentally sends a squad of bombers out to nuke Moscow, only to revoke the order due to a routine radar mishap. However, the bombers do not receive the order due to Russian communication jamming, and proceed to bomb the living daylights out of Russia's capital. The President of the United States then works out a deal that to repay the Russians, he will give an order... to nuke New York.
- Fallen. The main character sacrifices his life to kill an ancient demon, only to fail in the end, leaving himself dead and the demon alive. The upside is the demon no longer has any motivation to threaten his family.
- The Fearless Vampire Killers (and the musical it inspired), so lighthearted throughout, ends with Sharon Tate, following a long vampirization process, revealing long sharp teeth and biting Polanski's character. Ominous narration tells us vampires were finally able to spread around the world. Which due to a previous scene, might count as Inferred Holocaust.
- The Final: The outcasts die, but not before mutilating several of their classmates, leaving the whole town in mourning. Worse, it is revealed that everyone in the town more or less missed the point of the whole thing, painting the entire affair as being completely unprovoked and portraying the victims (whose jerkass behavior was responsible for everything) as saint-like.
- The Final Destination series has plenty of downer endings.
- Final Destination sees Alex, Clear and Carter cheating death and believing they have beaten the system when Carter is crushed by a falling theater sign six months later, and Alex and Clear are far from safe.
- Final Destination 2 has Kimberley believe she's found a loophole in death's design and that her and Officer Burke are saved. While enjoying their lives, they are invited to a barbecue dinner with the family whose farm they crashed into earlier in the film. Unfortunately, the son of the family had cheated death in said incident, and is killed in an explosion in front of everyone. To add insult to injury, a piece of his charred remains lands on his mother's plate.
- Final Destination 3 has Wendy, Kevin and Julie cheating death and walking away until they reunite, by chance, a few months later on a subway train. The train crashes and kills everyone except Wendy, who is then hit by a train coming from the opposite direction. This turns out to be another premonition of Wendy's in the theatrical release but the premonition comes several seconds too late, and Wendy is unable to prevent it from happening.
- The Final Destination sees Nick, Lori and Janet sat in a cafe after surviving not just the initial accident but also their own individual demises...and then a truck crashes into the cafe and into the table where they're sat, killing them instantly.
- Final Destination 5 is a direct prequel to the original movie, so you know what's going to happen when Sam and Molly board a plane in which seven people are kicked off moments before takeoff. Nathan, who accidentally killed someone and therefore took his victim's remaining years in place of his own is seen at the end of the film attending a wake, only to discover that the deceased had a medical condition that meant he could have died any day and is immediately crushed by debris from Flight 180.
- Foxcatcher, being based on a true story, ends like this regarding the relationship between John du Pont and the Schultz brothers. He eventually alienates Mark into retiring from Olympic wrestling (after previously selling himself Mark's only real friend) and murders Dave in cold blood.
- The Friends of Eddie Coyle In that Eddie Coyle, played by (by far) the film's biggest star (one Robert Mitchum), and also (by far) the film's most likable character, is killed at the end without any trouble, and the bad guy gets away with it absolutely scot free.
- Gallipoli. Archy is gunned down as he tries to run for the trench and the worst part is: he didn't have to.
- The Dan Aykroyd flick Getting Away With Murder ended with him getting away with murder out of a technicality. His character (an Ethics professor) is so disgusted that he quits teaching Ethics and start studying Law.
- Ginger Snaps. You know it's bad when the best you can say about it is "hey, at least not EVERYBODY dies".
- The sequel, Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed, sets up the claim that Brigitte changed her mind about becoming a werewolf, takes monkshood solution in an attempt to delay the onset of lycanthropy. But then after all she's been through, she ends up not only becoming a total beast but also locked in a basement by a delirious headcase supporting character (looking to live out her comic book fantasies, no less) who uses Brigitte to murder people For the Evulz.
- The 1988 movie Glory. First the main two characters die horribly. Then everyone else dies horribly. Then it turns out the fort wasn't taken in any case. Any movie that ends with your protagonists getting buried en masse is a bit of a bummer.
- The ending for the original 1954 Godzilla falls under this trope. Not only does one of the main characters sacrifice himself to stop Godzilla but It's also heavily implied that Godzilla isn't the only member of his species. In other words, Japan's efforts to stop Godzilla are in vain. More specifically, it was implied that if mankind continued testing nuclear weapons, another Godzilla would likely appear. It wasn't so much of a foregone conclusion but more of a thinly-veiled message about the evils of nuclear weaponry.
- Goke Body Snatcher From Hell ends with the flight attendants and the pilot making their way to civilization only to find everyone dead and the Gokemidoro aliens make the chilling declaration that it is too late for humanity to stop them, due to their propensity for starting wars. The film closes by zooming out into space, where an armada of Gokemidoro spaceships turn the earth into a barren wasteland.
- Gone Baby Gone doesn't end well for anyone, except the possibly least sympathetic character in the movie. Remy Bressant and Nick Poole are dead and Lionel McCready and Jack Doyle are in jail. Despite being revealed as being behind the plot to abduct Amanda, all four spent the movie as sympathetic characters and their motivations were at least understandable. Bea McCready is completely estranged from Helene and probably will never be able to see her niece. Angie Gennaro has left Patrick Kenzie because of the decision he makes at the end of the movie. And Patrick has to live with the death of Corwin Earle on his conscience and the realization that he made the wrong choice in returning Amanda to her mother. The only person who gets a happy ending is Helene McCready who is reunited with her daughter who she thought was dead. But instead of changing her ways as she promised and Patrick had hoped, she goes right back to being completely self centered and a terrible, irresponsible mother.
- Gone with the Wind is known for Scarlett O'Hara's optimistic closing line: "After all, tomorrow is another day!" What those who haven't seen the movie don't realize is how hollow that note of hope is. Scarlett ends the movie pathetic, a selfish woman alone with her misery. She's just driven away the only person who still loved her; her daughter, her parents, and the whole world she was raised in are dead. However, a lot of people think she gets exactly what she deserves, reserving all their sympathy for Rhett as he verbally lashes out at her for the last time and walks away heartbroken. And yet the screenplay and ending as originally shot put Scarlett in a green dress (her favorite, lucky color) walking triumphantly toward the restored Tara. The implication in this ending was that her "tomorrow is another day" motto is not only hopeful but accurate: just as Tara (and the South) could rise from the ashes, so could Scarlett's life. Even the shorter version of the "tag" scene strongly suggests a triumphant note: the luscious matte shot of restored Tara and the surging major-key restatement of the "Tara" theme.
- The Great Silence ending was so bleak that an alternate, upbeat ending had to be created. In the original ending the sheriff is dropped through the ice of a frozen-over lake, the hero is killed by Loco, and the hero's girlfriend is killed 5 seconds later while trying to avenge him. And all those villagers the hero was trying so hard to save? The bounty hunters gun them all down before riding off.
- The Green Mile, where affable Magical Negro Coffey is still executed even though he is 100% not guilty of his crime, but not before he accidentally gives Edgecombe possible everlasting life, cursing him to have to watch all his friends and loved ones die around him while he continues to survive.
- The Grudge, being classic J-horror, doesn't end happily for any of its characters. If you encounter the specter of Kayako Saeki or anyone she's turned into an extension of the curse, you will die. Period. Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome happens to Karen and Jake, the "survivors" of their respective films, fairly quickly.
- La Haine ends with two of the three protagonists dying in the last scene.
- In the oddball installment of the original series, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the protagonist discovers the plot of bewitching all the Silver Shamrock masks, killing those who wear it on cue from a TV commercial. He manages to get the TV station on the line, but is more than likely, unsuccessful in his attempt to get them to stop broadcasting. Killing millions.
- Depending on which cut you watched, Halloween II (2009) either ends with the death of all of Laurie's friends and her going crazy after stabbing her murderous brother to death with a Bowie knife, or with her being gunned down for making a threatening gesture towards Dr. Loomis, who had made a (frankly pitiful) attempt at heroism and gotten stabbed. Oh, and the sheriff has failed to keep his daughter and her best friend alive. Take your pick.
- The first half of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows has Dobby's Heroic Sacrifice, milked for all its tear-jerking worth, and then the Big Bad scoring a powerful doom device. Fun stuff.
- Every one of the teenagers die by the end of The Haunting Of Whaley House with Penny condemned to spend eternity as a ghost after all of the other ghosts have escaped.
- In the Twist Ending of Hellraiser: Inferno it's revealed that Joseph has condemned himself to Hell for eternity and is stuck in an endless loop where he hunts himself and watches people get butchered around him.
- Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, in addition to being one of the most horrifying horror movies ever, throws out a false hope (a fool's hope) that Henry might change at the end and live with the woman he rescued. Then he leaves her body chopped up in a suitcase by the side of the road.
- Hidden Agenda: The attempt to uncover a government conspiracy entirely fails, with the investigator blackmailed into silence and the informant who revealed it killed, leaving no way to authenticate the tape he provided as evidence. The conspirators get away with everything, in short.
- High Sierra: Roy Earle is shot by the police, the note he wrote exonerating Marie blows away, and she's take away by the police, to prison and/or a nervous breakdown.
- The Hole: Liz gets away with three manslaughters and a murder by framing the psychiatrist she confessed everything to for her own kidnapping, making sure that nothing she would say to anybody would be believed, because she also placed the only incriminating evidence on her murder victim. One of the nastiest Karma Houdinis of all time.
- Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses has this, multiple, multiple times. Just when you think the bad guys are going to get caught by the cops, they KILL the cops, mercilessly and brutally, and they get away with it scot free. You also find out they come from a long line of serial killers, and it runs in the family.
- The Devils Rejects averts this however, as all the bad guys are killed over the course of the film.
- The Hustler has an irony-laced downer ending — Eddie Felson eventually achieves his dream of beating Minnesota Fats, but only because his unfettered drive to play drove Sarah to suicide. After the game, he realizes that it's a meaningless victory.
- I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) ends with its protagonist clandestinely meeting one last time with the girl he'd hoped to marry during a period of (all too temporary) freedom and respectability; having escaped from the chain gang a second time, he's now a bitter, frightened, impoverished wreck of a man, and when the girl asks how he lives as he's running away into the shadows, he famously whispers, "I steal!"
- The Ice Harvest. The movie isn't so bad, but the alternate ending, including the canonical one from the books, pretty much defines downer. In the book, the main character kills his corrupt boss, kills the woman he's been fantasizing about because she has a razor to his throat, kills his partner who was going to kill him too, manages to get rid of the hitman, and survives to morning with the money and is in the middle of making his getaway, only to die via camper crushing his chest after stopping to help the owner because he was writing on the back of it with a marker.
Timmy York: Whores don't get a second chance.
- The Incredible Shrinking Man, which has a false ending part-way through, suggesting that he will just have to learn to live with being child-sized. Then it all goes wrong, he keeps shrinking, his wife thinks the cat ate him and he gets trapped in the basement. But it's okay, right? Because he's struggling to survive and climb the stairs so he can get his wife's attention when she comes in. No. His wife leaves with his best friend, never knowing he wasn't eaten, and he realizes he's going to shrink away to nothing. All his struggling has achieved nothing and it ends with him getting philosophical and accepting the coming end, staring at the stars. An equally valid interpretation (one which was endorsed by Richard Matheson, who after all wrote the source book) is not that the hero dies: rather, his continuing shrinking takes him to whole new possible levels of existence - the closing words of the film, let's not forget, are "I still exist". If anything, a pretty damn hopeful ending, in its own odd way. Both of those theories are less depressing than the other logical conclusion that he simply was left trapped in his vacant house as a microbe.
- In the Loop: Malcolm ends up doing the dirty work of that "boring f star star cunt" he swore he didn't work for; After repeatedly waffling, Simon's career is all but finished when he's sacked rather than being able to resign to make a statement; Clarke's resignation loses its power when Miller refuses to do so; Liza's working for a man concerned with which movies are on a soldier's approved roster; Toby's career is over before it even begins and he leaves quietly when the new aide arrives. And everyone has to live with the inevitable war that's going to happen, and one Miller knows no one is prepared for.
- The 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The protagonist is caught and his pod duplicate outs the one known remaining human.
- The film I Want to Live!! is based on the true story of Barbara Graham. It ends with her in the Gas Chamber. Can't always get what you want, Babs!
- Infernal Affairs. Yan is killed before he can expose Ming as the mole, and Ming is able to blame B for being the second mole and Yan's killer. Depending on how you interpret his character, either Ming is a Karma Houdini who was able to get away with his crimes scot-free, or he's a broken man who genuinely desired to become a "good guy" cop, and is now in a self-made hell, consumed with guilt and regret over how things ultimately turned out.
- Infernal Affairs III confirms that it's the latter - he eventually goes completely insane.
- Mexican movie El Infierno (literally: Hell) ends like this. After our Villain Protagonist Benjamín 'Benny' García finds out that his boss, Don José Reyes, had Benjamín's brother murdered because his wife cheated on him, he decides to take revenge. He goes to a police station to confess about his crimes, and those of his boss, but the cop he talks to is a Dirty Cop, so he is tortured a bit, before being taken to Don José to be killed. Benny tries to lure the cops taking him to Don José into a trap, by offering them money and cocaine he had stashed in the grave he built for his brother, but they shoot him, and leave him for dead. He doesn't die, so he goes to his home to look for his girlfriend and flee, but she had been murdered. Having passed the Despair Event Horizon, he goes to his mother's house, to say goodbye, before enacting a Roaring Rampage of Revenge at the Independence Ceremony that was being held at the town square, killing Don José, and then dying from his wounds and despair. Then, a short scene plays, in which he and his girlfriend's tombs are shown before a scene in which Benny's nephew kills the remnants of Don José's men, and falls into a life of crime, which is the destiny Benny tried to shield him from.
- James Bond films:
- 1973 teen romance Jeremy ends with Susan reluctantly leaving him at the airport when neither can figure out a way to escape the inevitable move of her family to Detroit. Jeremy leaves the airport crying as the uber-tragic theme song plays and Jeremy makes the long walk home as the credits roll.
- The obscure Polish film Jeszcze Tylko Ten Las (Just Beyond This Forest) tells the story of a young Jewish girl in WWII being hastily escorted out of the Warsaw ghetto to the countryside for safety, by an old Aryan washerwoman who is only doing it for the money. But just as the washerwoman warms up to her, things go rapidly downhill when they are stopped by German patrol. The washerwoman is willing to risk her life for the girl, but the girl has grown tired of the struggle and willingly turns herself in.
- In the end of the Japanese horror film Jigoku, everyone goes to hell after eating poisoned fish.
- In Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart, Méliès' Show Within a Show is about a romance between a diver and a two-headed mermaid. It ends with the diver drowning because of a severed air hose and falling into an underwater chasm.
- The 1995 film Kids ends with Telly, Casper, Jennie and Darcy getting AIDS. Telly's final narration states that without sex he has nothing implying he will further spread the disease. Or that he just will end his life when he finds out. He'll die anyway, so...
- The French film La Haine ends with one of the three main characters, Vinz, being killed accidentally by a police officer. The cop and Vinz's friend Hubert point their guns at each other, and a shot is heard right as the film cuts to black.
- The Last Samurai certainly qualifies. The good guys lose the final battle, virtually all the major characters (and the more memorable red shirts) are wiped out and although the main character does eventually help the emperor see the light, it is too late to save the Samurai and their way of life.
- Four Laurel and Hardy films have the most creepy downer endings where Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's bodies were tortured leaving Ollie telling Stan "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" And Stan would whine, "But I couldn't help it, you always picked me!" The four films were Going Bye-Bye (where they sat in a couch with their legs tied to their neck), The Live Ghost (where their heads were backwards), The Bohemian Girl (where Oliver was stretched as a giant and Stan was flatten as a dwarf from the tortured chamber), and The Bullfighters (where the boys were skinned alive as skeletons). These are know known as The Bad Guy Wins
- Another downer Bio Pic is The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, as the film is less concerned with his successes as an actor and friend than his failings as a sometimes abusive husband and father and his prickly relationships with directors, the result of a permanent Man Child nature induced by an indulgent mother. By the end, he's depicted as a man who's almost completely alone in life because he's alienated everybody else; although he does fulfill his dream of starring in Being There, it turns out to be his second-to-last film. The death isn't depicted on screen, but a text crawl reveals the following: he gets nominated for an Oscar for Being There but doesn't win, he left his kids token sums in his will (the fourth wife he was preparing to divorce got most of the rest), and he apparently was pining for his first wife until he died.
- Lifeforce: The vampires are stopped from harvesting even more people by the end, but at what cost? The entire population of London is doomed, and the infection may spread even further if the army can't contain it. Carlson has either somehow turned into one of the vampires, was consumed along with the other humans' life energy, or is now captive aboard the vampire's spaceship, and Caine's chances of survival don't look too good with the remaining vampire zombies roaming the ruins of London. And the ship itself regenerates and returns to Halley's Comet, so it can return in another 95 years to do it all over again.
- Little Odessa ends with the protagonist's brother being shot due to his brother's criminal activities and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Also, their mother dies of cancer.
- The original ending to the 1986 film Little Shop of Horrors, which is exactly the same as the stage play. Audrey II eats human Audrey, and then eats Seymour after he tries to attack it. Miniature Audrey plants are sold all over the city (if not the country), and the plants take over New York just before the end credits roll. The film ending was changed (using reshoots and edits) due to the disastrous reception it got at test screenings, though the final musical number "Don't Feed the Plants" did make it to the soundtrack album.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: The Fellowship breaks. Gandalf is apparently gone. Boromir is killed. Merry and Pippin are captured by the enemy. Frodo finally accepts his burden and makes for Mordor alone, Sam follows. Sam almost drowns. The two Hobbits have a real "we're never going to make it out alive" moment. Aragorn has to choose between following Frodo and Sam or trying to save the other two Hobbits.
- By the end of Lord of War, due to his career in weapons smuggling, Yuri's uncle and brother are killed, his parents have disowned him, his wife has divorced him and taken his only son with her, and the Interpol agent chasing him through the whole film has him dead to rights thanks to bullets in said dead brother's corpse. However, he manages to escape a trial because he acts as a proxy for the United States Government. The film then ends with Yuri continuing his trade, supplying weapons to various armed conflicts in the world. Yuri is also fully aware that he'll likely be taken out once he's no longer a net asset to the US Government.
- Leviathan2014: Lilia commits suicide. Afterwards, Kolya is arrested and charged with murdering her. This allows the mayor and his Church ally to proceed with their project, building a cathedral where Kolya's house was.
- "Manos" The Hands of Fate ends with the main character becoming a slave to the villain, the wife and five-year-old girl becoming the villain's concubines and the movie being seen by a few poor, tortured souls. And Tom Servo.
- The Man Who Fell to Earth's final third is one grim march to misery for Alien Among Us Thomas Jerome Newton: He is betrayed to the U.S. government (who already wanted to move in on his Mega Corp.) by a confidante who knows what he is, and captured just as he's about to return to his home planet and rescue his dying race — which includes his wife and children. For years, he is subjected to They Would Cut You Up experiments by scientists who even take advantage of his acquired weakness for alcohol to do them. While he is reunited with his human mistress for a time, they fall out of love; she ultimately marries his betrayer. He is eventually freed, but as he is unable to return home he can only attempt to send a goodbye message to his people, whom we already know are dead. (It gets worse in the source novel — Thomas's mission might have averted a nuclear war on Earth had it succeeded.) We Are as Mayflies to him, and he has no friend but the bottle. The End. Lightened by the fact that the entire film is a metaphor for becoming rich and famous. There's a reason David Bowie was cast in the role.
- The 1994 adaptation of Mario and the Magician ends with Mario being accidentally killed by his spouse, while the Magician (whom she tried to kill) doesn't get a scratch an will continue to use is Mind Control on other people. This is radically different form the novel, which has a Bittersweet Ending.
- Mean Creek. One character tries to futilely dodge the consequences by robbing a liquor store and going on the run, thus either living the rest of his life on the run or being caught and facing far more severe consequences. And then the revelation that the character killed by the actions of all of them was actually just a troubled young man and the characters have to deal with the death of another person on their hands for the rest of their lives. Just...ugh.
- Memento is actually very depressing. It's suggested in the film that Leonard killed his own wife accidentally, and that Leonard's already killed the man he's been looking for, and is basically going around killing innocent men (or at least, men innocent of the crime in question), just because Leonard needs some purpose to drive him in his life. Not only that, but he lies to himself (by manipulating the evidence before he can forget to do so) so that he'll have some meaning in his life when he finds out he's already found the "rapist."
- Played for Laughs in Monty Python's Life of Brian: Brian gets crucified, abandoned by everybody in his life. Then he and the other victims start singing "Always Look on the Bright Side of life."
- Miracle Mile: Just as it looks like Anthony Edwards, Mare Winningham, and Brian Thompson will escape Los Angeles before it gets hit by a nuclear bomb, the bomb hits. This causes the helicopter they were flying in to crash into the LaBrea Tar Pits. As they are slowly roasted/drowned in the hot tar, they actually make a feeble attempt to console themselves with the fact that "maybe someday" they'll be discovered as fossils. Yes, you read that right.
- Mirrors ends with the main character, Ben, seemingly becoming trapped in the realm of mirrors or somewhat similar. He just saved his wife and kids from the fate his sister met at the hands of an evil demon who lives in mirrors, and now they may never see him again. (Unless there's a sequel, the ending has way too many loose strings left untied)
- The Mist. The hero leads an escape voyage. As expected, not everything goes according to plan. Mere minutes after killing the religious zealot, Ollie is killed by a giant enemy crab. The main character and four others (two elderly people, a young lady, and his child son) escape in a car. Driving miles and miles through the mist, they find no survivors. The main character happens upon his house, where he sees his dead wife strung against the wall with the acid-web. They continue driving until they run out of gas. The main character has Ollie's gun, and while his son is asleep, silently agrees with the other three that death would release them. He holds the gun to his son's head, and shoots just as he's waking up. Then he kills the other three. Turns out there were only four bullets. None left for him. He falls out of the car on purpose, in his distress, screaming for the monsters in the mist to come claim him. He hears some noise behind him... When army folk in gas masks and flamethrowers come. He stares dumbfounded at them. He just killed his own son, and for no reason at all.
- Moulin Rouge! (the 1952 version): it plays out like the typical last-minute catch, with Toulouse-Lautrec racing to find and apologize to his love... and he doesn't make it. He goes into an absinthe-induced stupor and dies, while people misunderstand his art and motivations. Before he dies, the dancers from the first scene in the Moulin Rouge come back to dance for him one last time before fading out as he dies. The only thing that stops it from becoming a total Downer Ending is the hint that he will go to Heaven. The 2001 Moulin Rouge also ends sadly, but it's a Foregone Conclusion anyway. It's also implied that the act of writing their story has enabled Christian to deal with his grief and that he will now move on with his life as a successful writer.
- The end of Mutants is this. The protagonist is rescued but she had to sacrifice her husband, all the other characters are dead, and her baby may be a zombie.. Or dead, considering all the damage she's been through.
- Subverted in The Natural. In the original novel by Bernard Malamud, Roy Hobbs strikes out to end the game and the season for the New York Knights. However, in the 1984 film adaptation directed by Barry Levinson and starring Robert Redford, with the Knights down 2-0 in the ninth inning and with two outs and two men on base, Hobbs launches a monster home run to right field, hitting a light tower and causing it to explode as he rounds the bases, and the Knights win the game 3-2 and capture the pennant.
- Never Let Me Go ends with Both of Kathy's only friends "completing" (read: dying from having too many of their vital organs removed), leaving her alone as she prepares to also becoming a living donor.
- Night of Dark Shadows: Alex and Claire leave, thinking that Quentin and Tracy will be following right after. But then Quentin decides to step into Collinwood one more time to grab a couple of things; after waiting in the car for a while, Tracy goes in after him and finally locates him in the gallery. He's pulled out the stitches from his face (guaranteeing that he'll end up with the same scar his ancestor Charles had) and is walking with a pronounced limp (again, like Charles.) And then the ghost of Angelique appears. While we don't see Tracy's total fate, it's implied that Quentin, now fully possessed by Charles and under Angelique's power, kills her. A bit of pre-credits text in the form of a news service report also reveals that Alex and Claire were killed in an apparently supernaturally motivated car accident that same day.
- Romero's Of the Dead films:
- Night of the Living Dead (1968) had the main character get shot and killed in a zombie-cleanup mistake less than a minute from the ending. Both a downer and very disappointing. It adds salt into the wound by allowing for a very possible interpretation that it was racially motivated.
- The sequel Dawn of the Dead (1978) was originally going to have a downer ending too. The two surviving characters were each going to kill themselves. Instead, just as one of them is about to, he gets a sudden burst of adrenaline (or something) and runs out and takes off in a helicopter. Still a little downer since it has very little fuel left. The remake got full downer, though. The survivors go in a boat to an island...where there's more zombies. Although the deaths aren't shown, not much they can do by this point. Ironically, this is a direct inversion of the original's last-minute change. In the sequel's "pre-test-audience edition", the movie ended when the boat left the dock, allowing for at least a glimmer of hope.
- No Country for Old Men. The hero dies. Offscreen. His wife dies. The villain escapes with nothing more than a broken arm. Sheriff Ed Tom Bell visits his elderly friends. On top of that, Bell has a dream which could be interpreted as being about his father preparing for his arrival in heaven. His final line ("And then I woke up") can also be interpreted to mean he now has "woken up" from the delusion that there is an afterlife.
When you think about it, the sheriff's conversation with his uncle is the real downer; it's at this point that he reaches his ultimate epiphany that crime back in the "good old days" was every bit as violent and nihilistic as the horrific bloodbath he's just seen, and that it always will be. The sheriff's newfound awareness of his own Nostalgia Filter and the extent to which it's made it harder for him to do his job leaves him in an ambiguous, philosophical state at the film's end, questioning whether any of the work he or his father did made a difference, and wondering what's ahead of him except death. The implication is that Bell came face to face with the villain, but agreed that "he hadn't seen him". Some say the dream about his father giving him money is a metaphor for being trusted with a responsibility and letting the person down, the person outside the dream being the late protagonist.
- Carol Reed's 1948 film Odd Man Out follows a gang member, badly injured in a botched armed robbery, as he tries to board a ship to safety before low tide at 11 o'clock. The police shoot him and his girlfriend as the ship pulls away in the background. It verges on a Bittersweet Ending because you know his suffering's over and no-one can bother him any more.
- Ong Bak 2: The first movie had a Bittersweet Ending. In this prequel, the hero fails in his quest, and suffers Heroic BSOD just in time for the movie to conclude on the Big Bad ordering him to be tortured to death.
- The indy cult hit, Open Water: The husband dies of a combination of exhaustion and blood loss after a shark takes a chunk out of his leg. The wife, in despair, chucks her flotation gear and dips under the surface for good. Just to twist the knife, there's a brief Hope Spot where it looks like the Coast Guard might at least reach her in time. Not if you watched the DVD: the chapter in which their absence is realized and the distress call goes out is called "Too Little, Too Late." Oh, and for a further knife twist? This was based on an actual case. The real-life couple was never found, and despite some speculation they might have staged a disappearance, have been declared dead.
- Just when you think Pay It Forward is going to end with a happy hugfest, Haley Joel Osment's character dies.
- Planet of the Apes:
- Beneath the Planet of the Apes ends with Taylor, his girl, and the guy who came to rescue him dying - and while falling, Taylor triggers an Earth-Shattering Kaboom, rendering all of his struggles in this and the previous film (and, incidentally, the entirety of human and ape history) futile. The Insignificant Little Blue Planet speech that follows makes it even worse.
- Possibly averted by the events of the next three movies - we don't know if we're in an altered timeline or not, and at the end the mutants still have the bomb.
- In Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Caesar and his apes managed to escape into the California redwoods, and tells Will , by speaking, that he is home. However, Robert Franklin, the chimp handler, had died from exposure to the virus that made the apes smart, and he had passed it on to an airline pilot before dying. Also qualifies as a Diabolus Ex Machina.
- Tim Burton 's Planet of the Apes (2001) had Mark Wahlberg 's astronaut character leave the titular planet, to end up back through the portal bringing him to present day Earth. Which has been taken over by the Apes he left behind because the Big Bad traveled farther back in time and staged an ape rebellion.
- Primal Fear. Martin ends up helping a brutal killer play the legal system with success and get away with his crimes. Martin and everyone else attached to the case is disillusioned by the outcome, or don't care anymore. The film ends as he leaves the courtroom building through the side door, not wanting to face the press. He stops to contemplate, and My God, What Have I Done? is written all over his face.
- The Purple Rose of Cairo ends with Mia Farrow going back to her abusive husband. It's a terrible downer— but courageous on the director's part, since it's the only believable conclusion to the events of the story.
- Quills, a film based on the (highly fictionalized) last years of the Marquis de Sade, ends with an incredibly cynical Downer Ending. The innocent chambermaid Madeleine is raped and murdered, the Marquis has his tongue cut out without an anesthetic and later commits suicide by choking to death on a crucifix, the progressive and kindly Abbé du Coulmier goes mad and is locked away in his own asylum, and the wicked and hypocritical Dr. Royer-Collard lives happily ever after, using the asylum's inmates as slave labor to print the Marquis' books, from which he profits. The real Marquis de Sade would have approved.
- REC. Everybody Dies.
- REC 2. Everybody Dies or gets possessed.
- REC³. Everybody gets possessed and then dies
- The 2010 film Remember Me, starring Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame, ends with Pattinson's character getting killed on September 11.
- Requiem for a Dream. The main character gets his left arm amputated, his best friend is stuck in a southern prison apparently without a trial and suffering severe withdrawal symptoms, his girlfriend is condemned to a life of prostitution, and his mother is locked up in a loony bin after an ill conceived weight-loss treatment and electroshock therapy. Remember kids: Drugs are bad!
- Reservoir Dogs: All the principal characters are shot to death by police except for Mr. Pink, who is presumably arrested. The real downer is that Mr. Orange, the one heroic character, ultimately dies because he trusted a criminal too much.
- Revolutionary Road caps off a rather depressing plot with a downer ending. April dies trying to use a home abortion kit. Frank moves out of the house with the kids and continues the job that he hates. Living around the Wheelers has caused all their former neighbors to question their own lives, which leads them to be depressed about their idyllic suburban hopelessness.
- The Ring's ending is bad enough (the ex-husband dies, and the curse is never going to stop), but if you want real bleakness, try the Japanese sequel. In the book and movie Rasen, not only do the surviving characters of Ring die, but the curse turns out to be a hell of a lot worse than we thought. Everyone in the world is going to die — and some will give birth to copies of Sadako first. She will be all that's left of humanity. (The third book, Loop, confirms that this has happened, but also turns the whole series on its head in a way that renders the Downer Ending almost moot.)
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Riff Raff murders Frank, Rocky, and Columbia before forcing Brad, Janet, and Dr. Scott to evacuate the castle/spaceship. The spaceship takes off revealing Brad and Janet singing/lamenting (at least in the UK version of the film) about how they are broken/confused over what has happened to them. "And crawling on the planet's face. Some insects called the human race. Lost in time, and lost in space....and meaning."
- Rojo Amanecer. It starts as a normal day for a Mexican family, and then it gets worse. A shooting starts outside the apartment building and the mother and youngest child can do nothing but stay home while not knowing about the rest of their family (the daughter went with a friend to do her homework, the grandpa went to pick her up, the two other sons attended the rally and the father is unable to communicate because there was no light or phone service in the whole Housing Unit). By night the two sons arrive home with some students (one of whom is wounded) and eventually so does the daughter and grandpa while being escorted by soldiers. As the sublieutenant asks for documents, some rugged men (snipers) beat up some students and "take them with the others◊". Eventually the light and phone go back on and another shooting ensues. The father arrives and they watch some news that say that the shooting was "provoked by students. As they try o sleep, a woman searching for her son cries outside the apartment. As the sun comes out, th snipers bang on the door. The students hide in the bathroom and ask not to open the door. The father opens the door anyway and the snipers act harshly. They pistol-whip the eldest son and discover a Che Guevara poster and a blood-stained blanket (where the wounded guy laid). The snipers shoot down the lock on the bathroom and discover the students. After a skirmish they shoot the whole family and the students except for the eldest son and the daughter, who escape. The youngest son gets out from under his bed, where he was hiding, and sees the corpses on the floor. He gets out of the apartment and walks down the stairs as he sees his brother and sister's corpses: they were killed as they ran down the stairs. He gets to the bottom floor and keeps walking while a government janitor cleans the evidence of the shooting. It's even more a downer because, while not directly stated, the firemen cleansed the floor with the hoses while raining, and the garbage trucks took away the corpses of the people on the ground (which is what will likely happen to the family after someone discovers them).
- The Room. Johnny finds out about Lisa's infidelity with Mark at his surprise birthday party which she throws him (With said fiancee being as subtle as a brick). He then plays Lisa's recorded telephone conversation, which has Mark insisting that she leaves him,in front of her. Did we mention said conversation took place after the party? After Lisa leaves him, Johnny then destroys his apartment (including the dress he had given Lisa), declaring that everyone betrayed him and that he doesn't have a friend in the world, before eating his gun. When they discover his corpse, Lisa, Mark, and Denny don't take it well to say the least.
The effect of the downer ending is somewhat lightened as Lisa's actions are not without consequences. Her infidelity doesn't work out as Mark is disgusted of what Lisa's actions have caused and openly tells her he doesn't love her, wants nothing to do with her and to "get outta my life you bitch!" whilst physically striking her (all while failing to acknowledge that he had any part in it, of course.) Also it's been heavily implied that she is unemployed and Johnny has been paying for virtually everything and her mother even says she can't support herself. In essence, Lisa is very much doomed and all because of her own actions (Of course, so is Denny, who relied heavily on the funding as well. Tough luck, kid.)
- Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, although really, that's a Foregone Conclusion. They both die. The way the characters try to rail against fate and the way they finally give up makes it a definite Tear Jerker as well.
- Rue des Plaisirs tells its story (of a handyman who works at a whorehouse, the prostitute/singer who works there and who he loves, and the gangster who she falls in love with) through flashbacks as another prostitute tells two colleagues about how the girl made something of her life... it's the last scene, the three principals are happy in the countryside. Suddenly, the villains who they believe they left far behind catch up with them and gun the girl and her lover down, leaving the handyman (and the audience) alive and miserable. (Even director Patrice Leconte later regretted this.)
- Samurai Rebellion. Our hero's son dies. The son's wife dies. The hero is forced to kill his best friend. Then he himself is killed before he can complete his mission to Edo. A baby girl is left orphaned.
- Saw III. Now, before you say "Well, duh," just read. Throughout the film, the audience is subjected to the plight of a man who has lost his son and a woman whose marriage is falling apart. The man is sent through three traps in which he has to forgive the people who he feels are responsible for his son's death and the woman, a doctor, has to perform very delicate brain surgery on John (Jigsaw) and keep him alive, lest her head explode (they've put a collar on her that's rigged up to John's heart monitor. If his heart stops, the collar goes PLOOIE). At the end, we find out that the man and woman are husband and wife. Jigsaw's apprentice, Amanda (who has a hero-worship love for John) shoots the doctor just as her husband walks in. He shoots Amanda in the neck, and as she bleeds to death John tells her that he was testing her and she failed. The husband then cuts John's neck open with a power saw thus, effectively, killing his wife. As John dies, he drops a tape recorder. The man listens to the tape, which explains that Jigsaw is the only person who knows the whereabouts of the man's young daughter. The last shot of the movie is the girl, scared and alone in a dark room, clutching a stuffed bunny.
- And then the guy gets shot in Saw IV before he can even begin to try and find his daughter. Although it's eventually undone by the beginning of Saw V, where they reveal investigators going through John's warehouse and trying to piece together what happened find the little girl alive and well, as it's implied to take place not long after Saw III. Although as the little girl is carted off into an ambulance, she tragically pleads to know where her parents are. It gets worse when you find out why Amanda killed Lynn.
- Saw VI, with the nasty ending of the William storyline.
- Saw 3D and Saw II both had very dark endings too. In Saw II, Eric basically left the site in search if his son, bringing his son's own capturer with him, not knowing if he stayed at the site the whole time, he'd have gotten to have seen his son again. Amanda locks him in the bathroom, and it's revealed he broke his foot to escape in Saw III, only to get captured and imprisoned in Saw IV and eventually, killed off. In Saw 3D, the protagonist's wife burns alive in a brazen bull after he fails to pass the trap he lied about being in.
- Scarface (1932): The film ends with Tony Camonte himself shot dead in the end. Not only that, prior to his downfall, he killed Guino Rinaldo when he thought that the latter was harassing Cesca, his sister, which results in the police chasing after him. His sister was also shot by a stray bullet while she was at his hideout.
- Scream Four: Jill and Charlie are indeed defeated, but almost all of the new characters are dead, Sidney, Dewey and Gale have been severely injured, the media believes that Jill is the hero, and one day, Sidney will have to have to tell her own family that a member of them has been running around, killing people.
- A Serbian Film. Milos rapes his own son without even realizing. His wife is being raped by his brother next to him. After a badass moment where he kills everyone on set, he and the fam jam go home, only to not talk to each other for three days. Ruined from what has happened in the days of his signing up for the film, he brings his wife and son into the room and shoots them to death before shooting himself. The last scene of the film shows the gory corpses in bed, with a camera crew and an actor, as the actor takes his penis out and the director says "Start with the little one", implying the whole family will be raped. Hoo boy, what a charming, fluffy, happy ending.
- Se7en had the killer John Doe ultimately succeed by having Detective Mills succumb to the sin of Wrath and kill him. How did he do this? He killed Mills' pregnant wife and sent her head to him in a box. The film ends with a catatonic Mills arrested and taken to an uncertain future, and his partner Somerset admitting that the world is a crappy place to live in, but still worth fighting for.
- Shinjuku Incident: Jackie Chan's character Steelhead is mortally wounded by gunshot and ends up in the sewers. After giving the cop the incriminating evidence of the antagonists, he drifts away, letting the water carry him deeper into the sewers where he most likely dies. The very end scene showing him and his friends during happier times.
- The Korean film Shiri works itself up to this. A detective finds out that the North Korean sniper he's been tracking was his fiancee all along, but doesn't face her. He foils the North Korean plot to blow up a stadium, but then has to stop his girlfriend from assassinating the South Korean president, and is forced to shoot her dead. He finds out later that she actually loved him after all and sent him a message with the details of the bomb plot and how to arrest her. Oh yeah, and she was also pregnant.
- François Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player ends with main character Charlie's love interest Lena (the one person finally bringing Charlie out of his reclusive shell after his wife's suicide) being shot dead by gangsters. The movie ends with Charlie back at the bar he plays piano for, which he was going to quit from along with Lena earlier in the film, showing that he's once again unable to move on.
- Silent Hill: One of the main characters gets burned at the stake for being a witch, but the majority of bad guys are killed. The main character thinks she got her daughter back, safe and sound, but of course it's Silent Hill. She ends up driving to her house with her possessed child, still in the dimension that Silent Hill resides, where she will never leave. EVER.
- A Single Man is the story of George Falconer, a 52-year-old British college professor who is struggling to find meaning to his life after the death of his long time partner, Jim. George dwells on the past and cannot see his future as we follow him through a single day, where a series of events and encounters ultimately leads him to decide if there is a meaning to life after Jim. Ultimately, George decides against committing suicide. Then he has a heart attack and dies. Also counts as a Diabolus Ex Machina ending.
- Sleeping Dogs ends with the main character being shot dead just after it seems he escaped to safety with his mortally wounded companion. Roll to credits with the killers standing looking at them.
- Sonatine. Bad guys are dead, and the girl is waiting at the other side of the hill. All Murakawa has to do is drive across that tiny little hill to meet her. Instead he commits suicide. Bummer.
- Soylent Green, because Soylent Green is people, and Charlton Heston will probably die for discovering it. Not to mention the fact that Planet Earth is probably doomed.
- Stalingrad (1993), with everyone else either dead or on their way into Soviet captivity, Irina, von Witzland and Reiser try to escape form Stalingrad on foot. Irina dies from friendly fire by a Soviet patrol, who she hoped would rescue her, and von Witland and Reiser freeze to dead. Cue end titles explaining that Everyone Dies in this case was basically Truth in Television.
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Luke Skywalker has just replaced his hand because of a duel with a certain Dark Lord of the Sith who immediately afterwards claimed is actually his daddy, his friend and yet-to-be-revealed sister Leia had witnessed her love Han Solo become encased in carbonite by said Dark Lord, and good ol' Lando and Chewie fly off to rescue Han from Jabba the Hutt and Boba Fett. Luke, Leia and the droids just stare out into the galaxy while the depressingly beautiful theme "Han Solo and the Princess" woefully leads to the film's end and the eventual Return of the Jedi, literally.
- Star Wars seems to love this, though usually as a Bittersweet Ending. The best example is Revenge of the Sith: The Jedi are almost extinct, Anakin is Darth Vader, Palpatine is Emperor and being a Large Ham about it. Though the Call Forward in the last scene reminds us that things will get better.. in about 25 years.
- Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning ends with the P-Fleet wiped out and the three main characters again stranded on Earth... in the middle of an Ice Age. Info suggests shutting himself down to survive the thousands of years until human civilization arises in order to prevent the events of the film. However, the camera than pulls back to space, and we see the remains of Pirk's space station, meaning that they've somehow ended up in the future, where humanity has destroyed itself (likely using the technology Pirk gave them prematurely). This is the last Star Wreck film, implying it really is over.
- In Atom Egoyan's The Sweet Hereafter, a school bus accident has destroyed the lives of many families in a small Canadian town. A lawyer (played by Ian Holm) intends to get them a cash settlement for the loss of many of the town's children. The time spent by the lawyer building this case takes up much of the movie, and when it finally comes time for a deposition to find the true facts about the accident, it's unraveled by a young teenager (played by Sarah Polley) who lies about what happened that day. She does this to get back at her father (who is in an incestuous relationship with her), thereby robbing the families of any sense of closure. The lawyer's attempts to reconcile with his estranged daughter (see in the beginning of the film) are rebuked, and he is left depressed. The film ends with the lawyer witnessing a bus driver (who was behind the wheel of the school bus that crashed) motioning passengers onto a coach bus.
- Synecdoche, New York shows the main character spiraling slowly downward, losing his health and the people he loves, and ends with him sitting among the empty ruins of his life's work, given a final stage direction: "Die."
- The Korean movie Silence, which is based on a real life sexual abuse scandal in a school for deaf children, ends on this note. The men charged with the physical and sexual abuse get off with very lenient sentences. One of the two boys abused, whose grandparents settled an agreement with his rapist, decides to take revenge on the man. He ends up stabbing him and they end up fighting, getting into a brawl that makes them fall onto a train track and gets them run over. After a Tear Jerker protest scene, we learn they still haven't been able to get a retrial.
- The Korean War film, Tae-Guk-Gi (Tae-Guk-Gi: The Brotherhood of War in some places), definitely counts. The older brother has pulled a Face-Heel Turn and gone to the North side because he thought the South killed his brother who he tried to work his ass off to get sent home. Said brother is actually alive and sees the older brother in a battle. The older brother, now crazy, attacks him. He eventually comes to his senses after a talk with the younger brother. The younger brother pulls out a pen he had received at the beginning of the movie as a gift. The two make promises on the pen that they'll both come back home. The North Korean soldiers then attack, making the older brother send his sibling running away, promising they'll meet again. He picks up a machine gun and kills several soldiers before being killed himself. Fade out to the present, where the younger brother, now an old man, sees the remains of the older brother, and breaks down, crying as he more or less begs his sibling to come back and fulfill the promises he made.
- Tale of the Mummy: Most downer endings will settle for ruining a few characters' lives, maybe killing the main cast; this film, however, takes it to a new level. By the end, most of the cast is indeed dead. The hero is the last one to go, having just been forced to shoot his girlfriend, before learning too late that it didn't really solve anything. The villain's human servant is locked up as a woman mad, what's left of the cast is none the wiser, and all the character death kind of shrinks into insignificance when you realize that the mummy's got himself a new body, and now he's all set to wreak destruction and misery on the world as soon as the credits finish rolling...
- Taps: The main character dies when one of his subordinates opens fire on the Army positioned outside their school and he tries to stop him, getting caught in the return fire. And he failed to achieve his primary objective.
- Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines ends with The End of the World as We Know It. While it was always set to happen, some people didn't accept it.
- They Shoot Horses, Don't They? puts its Depression-era characters through a grueling marathon dance contest, during which one of the entrants suffers a heart attack and dies, another suffers a mental collapse, and pretty much everyone endures staggering physical, mental, and emotional torture. The kicker? The folks running the contest will be deducting the entrants' food, medical, and other expenses from the cash prize they're all killing themselves for, leaving the "winners" with little if anything for their trouble. When one of the characters hears of this it pretty much confirms all of her bleakest and most cynical thoughts about the world she's trapped in, and she begs another character to put her out of her misery by shooting her in the head. He complies, and is arrested and (presumably) given the death penalty (but not before uttering the title phrase when asked why he did it). Meanwhile, the agonizing contest continues, with the remaining dancers unaware of the futility of their effort. Yowza, yowza, yowza! In Horace McCoy's original novel, the marathon comes to a premature end when a fight breaks out and a stray bullet hits and kills an elderly woman in the audience, and the remaining dancers are given $50 each. We still get the "assisted suicide" at the end, though.
- The Thing (1982). The station is blown up, and MacReady and Childs are both left in Antarctica to freeze to death. It's made even more depressing when it's implied that one of them, or maybe both, are imitations. Mac cared more about stopping The Thing than getting home, and Childs doesn't seem afraid of death. These guys wouldn't want us to weep for them. It goes From Bad to Worse however if you've seen the TV version! Following the final scene, there's a shot of a dog running from the station, revealing that The Thing is still alive. The sequel video game reveals that MacReady survived, while Childs did indeed die before rescue came. A sequel comic shows both of them still alive, only to end up on a Submarine with the Thing, so Childs opens up the submarine, flooding everything on it. Macready ends up soaked, on a slab of ice, on the North Pole, falling asleep.
- The 1984 BBC telefilm Threads is a nonstop barrage of futility, as the effects of a nuclear strike in Britain are shown in graphic detail. The main characters are a woman named Ruth and man named Jimmy, who has found out Ruth is pregnant two months before the attack. In the background of early scenes with Ruth and Jimmy's family, we see tensions between the U.S. and Russia boil over. In the middle of May, a nuclear strike initiated by Russians hits near the character's home of Sheffield. Jimmy is never seen again, presumably vaporized in the strike, although according to some viewers he appears later in the movie with a badly scarred face. Government teams coordinating relief efforts in the basement of a command shelter are suffocated to death after falling debris blocks all the air vents into their bunker. Jimmy's family, a sweet father and mother, are afflicted with radiation sickness and slowly waste away. Ruth's family, last seen pleading with Ruth to come back as she goes out to search for Jimmy, would have been safe in the basement of their sturdily built, amply supplied house, but looters break in and murder them. Jimmy's teenaged sister may have survived, if the young blonde woman later seen in an internment camp is in fact her. Ruth gives birth to a baby girl, and dies ten years after the strike, having suffered from premature aging. Ruth's daughter, Jane (who knows very little English) is caught stealing food and runs away with another boy, who proceeds to rape her. In the end, Jane (visibly pregnant) wanders through a ruined city, and finds a makeshift hospital, where she gives birth to a stillborn child, who she holds in her arms in the final shot. God damn. Following the original telecastnote the screen faded to black for ten whole seconds.
- True Romance was originally going to end this way, with Clarence getting killed at the very end and a broken Alabama fleeing L.A., but Quentin Tarantino ultimately opted for a happier ending.
- 12 Monkeys: The Army of the Twelve Monkeys is a red herring; James Cole has basically wasted his time during the entire movie, and the plague that will devastate the earth is released anyway. To top it all off, Cole is shot dead by airport security guards, an event which Cole's child self witnesses, scarring him for life. Except for the fact that the scientists from the future were able to send one of their own back. It's left open-ended as to whether she succeeds or not. It's even left open-ended whether she was even TRYING to stop the plague or not. The way that she says she's in "insurance" could mean that she's actually trying to ensure that the virus does spread and that things happen the way they were supposed to, which is why they had to send Cole back to ensure that the virus would fall into the right hands. The short it was based upon, La Jetée, had the protagonist being shot, but mankind was saved.
- Unthinkable ends with the terrorist confessing the locations of the three nuclear bombs he has hidden in three different cities in the US. In the extended version, an FBI bomb squad finds one of the bombs and defuses it and are all celebrating. Then the camera pans to a fourth bomb hidden in the same room which count downs to zero, before the screen fades to black.
- The Vanishing: After obsessively searching for his wife, Saskia, for three years, Rex Hofman finally meets her kidnapper, Raymond Lemorne. As Rex has no evidence to expose him, Raymond tells him that the only way he will learn of Saskia's fate will be if he experiences it himself by drinking a cup of coffee with a sleeping pill in it. Rex at first refuses, but then Raymond reminds him of how he will be tormented with uncertainty of having never known what happened to Saskia and missing the opportunity to learn for all eternity. After much hesitation and confliction, Rex finally drinks the coffee. When he awakens, he discovers he has been buried alive.
- The American remake gives the story a happy ending, with Jeff (the remake's version of Rex) being rescued from his grave by his new girlfriend.
- The French film The Wages of Fear is about four men driving two trucks over mountain roads, carrying nitroglycerin, which is needed to extinguish a fire. During the journey, three of them are killed. The only survivor arrives, collects the money, and starts driving home happily. He takes one corner too fast, and falls to his death.
- Brilliantly parodied by The Goon Show as "The Fear of Wages". Of course, the Goons loved explosions.
- In the underrated American remake Sorcerer, Roy Scheider's character is a small-time crook in deep trouble with The Mafia. A friend gives him a plane ticket to Los Piedras; soon he takes the explosives-moving job described above in a desperate attempt to make enough money to pay off his enemies and go home. And as above, he emerges as the sole survivor, returns to civilization and gets his reward. The last scene shows him taking one last drink at the local dive he frequents; the camera then cuts to outside, where a local is pointing out the place to the friend who sold him the tickets...and two hitmen. Don't spend it all in one place, Roy.
- Water Horse. There can only be one water at a time, and when an egg is laid, the old one dies. At the end, a kid finds an egg, the cycle continues, but that means the one the main character spent the movie raising is now dead.It might be okay if not for the fact that the old man telling the story is the kid who raised the old water horse, and he says that he never got to see it again after letting it go free. It's implied that it came back looking for him more than once, too.
- Watchmen. Adrian Veidt detonates a nuclear deterrent that kills half of New York, forcing them into world peace. Dr. Manhattan had a stake in the construction of the bomb without knowing what it was being used for. The heroes are forced to keep their silence, or World War III will start. Rorschach disagrees, and Dr. Manhattan kills him before disappearing to another galaxy. Worse yet, since Rorschach knew about the project since day one, he has written all his knowledge in his diary and near the end of the film, drops his diary off at the newspaper's office in their filler pile. At the very end of the film, they find the diary and decide to publish it, meaning that WWIII will start anyway.
- Subverted in Wayne's World. It initially ends with the girlfriend not getting a record deal and going with the sleazy villain while Wayne's house explodes and Garth dies. Of course, that ending sucked, so they went with the Scooby Doo ending for a brief period before settling on the "Super Happy" ending. The sequel ends similarly, but with a "Thelma and Louise" ending instead of a Scooby Doo ending.
- When Trumpets Fade ends with Talbot and Chamberlain dead, and Manning either dead or about to die. To make matters worse, Captain Zenek will likely get all the credit for the successful attack on Schmidt. Oh, and the entire battle was a pointless waste of life anyway, since the Battle of the Bulge began shortly thereafter and made the Battle of the Hürtgen Forest irrelevant.
- The Wicker Man:
- Remake: The entire time you are watching this film you just feel bad for the protagonist.. Attacked by bees, everyone lies to him, he witnessed a little girl burn to death, his wife and an entire island of people are trying to kill him. And then they do. And he dies.
- It's got nothing on the original version. His own faith ends up guaranteeing he will be the sacrifice— and in the end, it probably won't do the islanders any good anyway. And the little girl was in on it. Worse than that, he was vindictive and swearing death on his killers, who'd picked him for the sacrifice because, as a martyr, he'd be accepted into heaven by his religion... except, by his dying words of rage, he's arguably condemned himself to Hell.
- The dark comedy Withnail & I ended on a sad note, with Marwood (I) and Withnail likely to never see each other again and only the wolves knowing what a good actor Withnail can really be. But even that's not as bad as what originally happened in the novel, where Withnail pours the wine down the barrel of Monty's gun, drinks it and pulls the trigger, blowing his brains out.
- In The Wolfman (2010), Lawrence dies, as does his entire family, and Aberline ends up infected with lycanthropy.
- At the end of Would You Rather, Iris wins the game, along with her brother's bone-marrow treatment and enough cash to get out of debt. But when she returns home, she finds that he has committed suicide rather than continue to be a burden on her. Also qualifies as a Pyrrhic Victory.
- X-Men: First Class in so many ways. Charles is crippled and weary, loses his love interest because he erases her memory in order to protect her (which also ruins her career at the CIA), and also loses his friend, Erik, as he becomes Magneto. And his adoptive sister has run off with Magneto become a supervillain. Hank is left mutated from his failed serum and has lost Mystique as well after he rejected her true mutant form. Also, despite all their heroic efforts, the government is now hunting all mutants.
- Zwartboek, by Paul Verhoeven, is one of the most brutal espionage/resistance dramas ever. The only part of the ending which isn't a downer is a last-ditch effort by the main female and an elderly resistance member who find the doctor that betrayed them trying to escape with his ill-gotten gains. He's hiding in a coffin in the back of a hearse. The pair knock out his driver and seal him inside by driving nails into it. He pleads with them to let him go, and he starts pushing out all the valuables he swiped while collaborating with the Nazis, but they push it back in. The woman even adds her father's necklace to the collection, admonishing the doctor to redeem himself by handing it to him in the afterlife. The pair lament that this is the first and only act of justice perpetrated during their lives in the war, as the doctor doomed all others to failure. His accomplice in the resistance does not get his karmic comeuppance either. In a movie involving the SS against a resistance group during World War II, it's mindblowing that the biggest monster is a greedy American doctor. The Nazi who defected to become the woman's lover dies at the hands of a bureaucratic pencil-pusher who wishes to uphold all of Germany's kangaroo court convictions in order to ease the transfer of power to the Allies. Realistically depressing and empty deaths are a hallmark of this film. The 'black book' is a list of the anti-resistance conspirators, who are all dead by the end, and handing it to Army Intelligence is largely an empty gesture as well, done only to give the two survivors a sense of finality and closure.