"For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble."A Bolivian Army Ending is an Ending Trope that occurs when the main characters face seemingly insurmountable odds which, for once, the main characters seem unable to surmount. The trope is named for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which ends with the two heroes apparently surrounded by the entire Bolivian army. They could surrender, but instead they choose to come out all guns blazing. The film ends just as they do so, and we never see them die. note Thus, while previous circumstances and/or antagonists indicate their unseen yet inevitable destruction, the actual fate(s) of the hero(es) hide(s) behind the horizon evermore, unless the fiction continues this/these character(s) in an upcoming/additional body of work. A variation, the Bolivian Army Cliffhanger, can be used in TV shows and other serial media to raise the audience's tension over which characters survive to the next season or installment. See Uncertain Doom for scenarios in which a character's fate is left hanging in the middle of a work, season or installment rather than at the end. Can be considered a variation of a Downer Ending, although it's ambiguous enough to give the viewer/reader some hope. When the camera cuts to a different scene unrelated to the battle right before the work ends, this overlaps with Charge-into-Combat Cut. Arguably scarier is an Offscreen Inertia ending.
— Butch Cassidy's last words, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Ending Trope; Spoilers below will be unmarked.
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Anime and Manga
- Elfen Lied (well, sort of): after Lucy is shot by an entire squad of badass soldiers, one of her horns can be seen flying up into the air. Though after sitting through the ending theme, one comes across the real ending, which shows a shadow that looks like Lucy/Nyu, arriving at the inn gate some time after the shoot-out...so chances are it was just a Disney Death. The manga on the other hand quite clearly shows her melting.
- The anime Noir ends with Action Girl Mirelle and Emotionless Girl Kirika renouncing Noir and the Soldats and literally just walking away. They always survive whatever's thrown at them, but by this point they're badly beat up, sick of fighting, resigning...and then the screen goes blank and two shots are heard. What actually happened is highly debated in the fandom.
- The final episode of the second season (Futatsu no Kishi) of the anime The Familiar of Zero where Hiraga Saito is epic. This is also a Crowning Moment of Awesome. Ignore the last 5 minutes.
- The 1985 Area 88 OVA ends with Shin about to engage against the mercenary planes that have already annihilated the rest of the Area 88 pilots.
- Porco Rosso ends with Porco and Curtis going against the whole Italian Air Force. It's implied that they did it, though. Curtis is seen on a poster, and writes a letter to the narrating Fio, while Marco's plane is seen parked outside Gina's restaurant.
- Shaman King's original run ended in a manner similar to this. Hao earned the title of Shaman King, and was about to begin a ritual to earn the power of the Great Spirit. Yoh and co. are still far, far too weak to beat him. Before that, they have to fight seven more Patch Officiants in eleven hours. Everyone goes to sleep on the eve of the final battle, Hao says, "Goodbye"..And..That's where the series ends. Some might have considered this a Downer Ending before the series was Uncanceled.
- The first season of the anime High School Of The Dead ends with the protagonists, armed and confident, dramatically walking toward a zombie-infested highway, hoping to eliminate them all and escape on their vehicle. Of course, since season two follows, they live, and the plot thickens.
- This is the fate of Saya's parents. They're last seen telling the kids to escape while they defend their property against a massive horde. Not to worry, as her parents are shown to be pretty badass and could probably make it.
- Transformers: Operation Combination ends with a battle between the Autobots and Decepticons, but ends in the middle with no end resolution.
- Iczelion ends with the remaining Big Bad sending all his Robeasts after the heroines. A possible subversion, in that the tone of the scene is actually fairly upbeat. Supporting this is the fact that the OAV's trailer features a scene not found in the episodes themselves of what is apparently the heroines beating the ever loving crap out of the entire force.
- Watch through the credits, and you'll see them doing just that. Of course, since Chaos clearly isn't cutting his losses, the implication is that the fight for Earth is still just getting started ...
- Mahou Sensei Negima! has had some personal Bolivian Army endings for several chapters. Starting with the end of chapter 311. Mauve shirt Johnny and Kaede took on far more than they could handle in 312. 313 took Kotarou, Asakura, Yue, and Makie out in similar fashion. Makie and Yue's being very much like the trope namer in that the pair talk politely on getting together with friends back home before the next page and they have been defeated.
- Puella Magi Madoka Magica ends with Homura engaging a group of gigantic Grief Demons. Her Witch corruption has begun forming an incomplete barrier, trailing behind her in the shape of wings. She hears Madoka's voice, which is more of a sign that she's reached her end. The apocalyptic landscape suggests this may even be humanity as a whole's Bolivian army ending. Which is about as bittersweet as you can expect from the series.
- The interpretation that this is the end of humanity is contradicted by Puella Magi Madoka Magica the Movie: Rebellion. The manga, however, explicitly shows Homura reaching heaven and reuniting with Madoka.
- Dangaioh ends with Gil Berg being defeated but not killed, the war still going on, and Team Dangaioh unconscious and adrift in space inside their mecha compartments.
- Discussed in Full Metal Panic! when Sousuke, Kaname, and Kurz are cornered by the enemy, outnumbered and outgunned: Kaname recalls seeing a movie that ended this way, and she and Kurz briefly discuss what is obviously Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, resolving to go out the same way. Of course, it's only the sixth episode of a series with twenty-four. Kaname also expresses a dislike of this trope, preferring movies with a Happy Ending. Unfortunately she says the last bit too loud, and nearly brings about the trope when a firefight breaks out then and there.
- This is how Megazone23 Part II ends for B.D. He flies off with the last of the Humongous Mecha to engage the aliens in seemingly hopeless circumstances after A.D.A.M. begins to destroy the Megazone.
- One Piece This happens twice to Mr. 2/Bon Clay. First, at the end of the Alabasta arc, he distracts the Marines as a decoy ship, and is left facing a Marine captain and several ships, but he survives, ending up captured and sent to the high-security prison of Impel Down. Later, he faces Warden Magellan, a man made from poison, in hand-to-hand combat in an effort to buy Luffy enough time to reach Ace before Ace's execution. Bon Clay's final words as he faces down certain death are "I have no regrets" with his make-up smeared and a grin on his face, while a whole battleship of pirates weep for his sacrifice. However, he somehow survived that, too!
- The manga ending to Bamboo Blade has Tamaki finally having her first match with fated rival Ura Sakaki. The story ends right in the middle of the match, without revealing who won. It's more hopeful than most examples, because what matters isn't who won the match, but that Tamaki and Sakaki finally have proper rivals to test their skills against.
- Cowboy Bebop ends with Spike, being wounded, staggering down the stairs and reaching his hand out to the remaining Red Dragon members like a gun, says "Bang", and collapses. Whether Spike died or not is unknown to this day.
- At the end of Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, Bison comes out of nowhere driving a truck toward Ryu, and Ryu jumps toward the truck with a punch as the credits roll.
- In Captain Earth, it is unknown if Daichi and Hana escaped the destruction of the Blume or both died in it.
- In Aldnoah.Zero's Grand Finale, the last that is seen of Sir Harklight, Count Barouhcruz and the remainder of the Stygis Squadron is them flying their damaged Kataphrakts in a final assault against the Deucalion.
- The Warhammer comic Forge of War has the remnants of the defeated Empire army rally at a narrow mountain pass to hold off a massive Chaos army to buy time for the rest of the Empire to regroup and send reinforcements. The comic ends with barely a dozen men, a dwarf, and a mage on a gryphon mount charging thousands of Chaos warriors. The comic "Condemned by Fire" shows they won (reinforcements came)
- Watchmen ends with something similar, with a worker at the New Frontiersman trying to decide on an item from the "Crank Pile" to run as a back-up story, and uncovering Rorschach's journal. If he makes it into a story, and it's taken seriously, it will expose Ozymandias' crimes — although the consequence of this might be global nuclear war. If he chooses something else, or it's not taken seriously, Ozymandias gets away with everything. This is the very last panel of the comic, so we never actually see which of these outcomes happens. The subtext (including the ending of the Black Freighter story-within-a-story and Dr. Manhattan's prophetic warning) suggests quite clearly that no victory will ever be complete or eternal... which means that either Rorschach's story will undermine Ozymandias' plan, or a nuclear war will start within a few years anyway. The implied tragedy being that Ozymandias essentially sacrificed millions of lives to achieve a peace that won't even last a single decade.
- 300: played straight, with the Persian army standing in for the Bolivians. Followed by a short denouement of the one surviving messenger telling the story of Leonidas and the 300's BAE to the Greeks about to fight the Battle of Plataea. The sequel features Themistocles and Gorgo charging into battle aboard the decks of the ships at Salamis against their persian enemies. Once again, historically, the Greeks win that battle.
- Crossed: This is the fate of Thomas and Kelly in the finale, trapped between the Crossed and a cliff. It's implied they choose the cliff, but the conclusion is never seen.
- New X-Men has suffered from this twice during alternate timelines. In House of M everyone was killed fighting off Mutant oppressors for how they treat humanity. In the timeline where David's mental block is removed, giving him access to all the skills of everyone he's ever met and ever will meet he slowly turns evil and kills everyone in a BAE.
- In a Marvel What If? issue, Nova arrived on Earth to warn various superheroes about the impending Annihilation Wave, only to run smack-dab into the middle of the Superhero Civil War. The issue ends with Captain America and Iron Man putting aside their political differences and joining Nova in an attack on the forces of Annihilus, from which it's implied they didn't survive.
- The Three storyline of Fantastic Four, with the Human Torch trapping himself in the Negative Zone with an enormous army getting ready to attack. He was initially implied to be dead, but was later revealed to have survived because this is a comic book, after all.
- The final issue of X-Statix ends with Orpahn and Anarchist rushing out to fight the terrorists who have just killed their entire team, with implication that the two heroes are about to go out in one final blaze of glory. They were confirmed dead in a later mini-series that dealt with the spirits of the team trying to stop a group of dead Marvel villains. Humorously, Doop, who was among those killed in the finale, later turned up alive.
- The DC comic Hitman ends like this with Tommy, having escaped an overwhelming horde of badguys with the girl goes back to make a final last stand with his wounded and trapped friend Nat.
Tommy: I think it might be time for a Butch and Sundance
- In The Thanos Imperative, Nova and Star-Lord stayed behind in the collapsing Cancerverse to prevent Thanos from escaping. A memorial service for the two heroes was held, but their fates were never made explicit. Both Thanos and Star-Lord were revealed to have survived two years later, while the existence of a new Nova seems to suggest that his predecessor didn't make it.
- Halo: Blood Line ends with Spartan Team Black battling over a hundred Covenant in hopes of stealing one of their ships and flying home. Four years passed before the team was confirmed to have survived the battle... only to be abruptly killed off in Halo: Escalation a month later.
- In Savior Of Demons, Murai makes the brave decision to go down fighting, when Ratsura deserts him and leaves him to die at the hands of a mob of Saiyans.
- The short Fan Film Batman: Dead End would count (after defeating a Predator with much difficulty, Batman is faced with three more of them, plus a horde of xenomorphs emerging from the shadows behind him) if the Dark Knight wasn't so Crazy-Prepared for ANY fight.
- My Immortal ends with the Final Battle between Ebony and Voldemort (and possibly Snape, Draco and Vampire/Harry.) Enoby casts an "Abra Kedabra" spell, and the story ends there. The most common interpretation of this scene is that Ebony accidentally fired the spell at herself.
- A Cure for Love L bargains with Ryuk to spare Light for a little longer by challenging him to a game of tag and when he finds them he can kill them both. Just when it looks like they're in the free and clear and L and Light are just talking about maybe settling down in a nice cottage in the country somewhere they open the door to their hotel room to find Ryuk waiting for them.
- In-universe example: in Fallout: Equestria, Littlepip never finds out what happened to Rainbow Dash. Her last Memory Orb ends with a badly-wounded Dash being confronted by her old friend/rival Gilda. Nobody has heard from either of them since. Wordof God is that Gilda killed Dash.
Films — Animated
- The 1954 Animated Adaptation of Animal Farm does this to the villains. Whereas the book ends with the animals of Animal Farm watching helplessly through the window as the now-corrupt pigs and the evil farmers gloat over their new alliance, the film ends with Benjamin the donkey rallying his fellows in a second rebellion. Thus the film ends with the pigs cornered, trapped and cowering, their literal guard-dogs too drunk to lift a paw to come and help, as an army of other animals begins breaking through the windows and door and, it's heavily implied, trample and gore them all to death.
- At the end of the fourth Futurama movie, Into the Wild Green Yonder, the main characters are escaping with their spaceship, and see a wormhole. The Professor says that it could take them trillions of light years away and there's no knowing if they'll ever return. They all decide to go in, and the movie ends here. However, Futurama was later Un-Cancelled, and it turned out that they came out right next to Earth.
Films — Live-Action
- If one believes the stories that Cassidy made it back to the U.S. and lived quietly until the 1930s, then the ending of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was in a way appropriate.
- Akira Kurosawa's Ran has an archetypal Bolivian Army Ending as Jiro and his castle is stormed. It is up to viewer's imagination whether Jiro will make it, get killed in action or commit seppuku off-screen.
- In the penultimate scene of Cross of Iron, when Soviet troops overrun a German-held train station on the Kuban peninsula, Colonel Brandt rallies some soldiers around him to advance. The scene freezes as Brandt walks forward, similar to the ambiguous end to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, heavily implying it is a suicidal last stand.
- The original Dawn of the Dead (1978) has the surviving characters take off in a helicopter to an uncertain fate. The ending as it was originally planned would see all characters get killed; the last shot of the film, under the end credits, would've shown their helicopter sitting empty with the rotor turning — for a few minutes, at least, before the engine ran out of fuel and the rotor spun down to a halt.
- In the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) the movie ends with the survivors of the zombie plague escaping to an island, only to immediately learn it's infested with zombies. The video camera recording the scene gets dropped, and it's unknown if they make it back to their boat...which has run out of gas. Of course, you only get this ending if you stay through the credits. If you leave when the credits begin to roll, the film has a Bittersweet Ending; this was the director's original intention, until test-audiences complained.
- The Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury (also known as The Chinese Connection) very famously ends with Bruce Lee's character walking outside to be met with a line of Japanese policemen armed with rifles and pistols, trained on him. Realising he's going to die, he lets out a final cry and performs a running jump kick at them, the final frame catching him in mid-air as a crescendo of rifle fire sounds. Though being Bruce Lee, it's entirely possible that instead of him dying for the ending, it was instead he horribly slaughtered all of the policemen and the whole scene was cut out for being just too violent for television.
- Jimmy Hollywood has a good of this trope at the end - surrounded by cops after his vigilante spree and with things looking bleak, Jimmy - determined to make a big exit - decides to go out fighting; loading his guns with blanks, he aims to pull a Suicide by Cop. So he bursts out of the building, guns blazing...and nothing happens. Turns out his girlfriend told the cops his guns weren't loaded with real ammo.
- Subverted and parodied at the end of Shanghai Noon, where having defeated the main villains in a showdown inside a church, the heroes discover that Roy's old friends, a gang of bandits, are waiting just outside for them. With no apparent way out, and only a recently-established precedent for the grace of God to go on, they steel one another for the task, say their goodbyes, and charge out the front door... where they find that the bandits have surrendered without a fight to an Indian tribe from earlier in the movie.
- Subverted in the action-comedy Fifty. The two main characters (Peter Weller (Robocop) and Robert Hays (Airplane!)) are surrounded by the dictator's army and the two characters joke about what to do (a possible homage to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). They decide on a full frontal assault and after hurling some grenades they come out guns blazing (one of them in Guns Akimbo mode) and (with the help of the beloved ruler who was overthrown by said dictator and the CIA guy who hired them) win (they do get seriously wounded by the dictator though).
- One of the alternate endings (or rather, the 'original' ending) for 28 Days Later was intended to imply the survival of Hannah and Selena even after the death of Jim, by showing them walking away from it all, but came across as a rather bleak Bolivian Army Ending that didn't give a particular answer in favour of ambivalence.
- While Thelma & Louise aren't trying to mow down the state police who have finally cornered them, the movie ends with a freeze frame of their car flying into the Grand Canyon. The original cut featured the Vanishing Point ending, where the car goes flipping end-over-end as it descends into the canyon, and Slocumb walking back in disbelief - before cutting back to a static shot of the car driving towards another canyon - apparently meant to symbolize that the pair will continue traveling, even after death. At the Academy Awards, Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon joked about how to get their characters to survive for a sequel.
- Ardeth's fate in The Mummy (1999) subverts the trope. He goes to battle a horde of skeletal warriors in order to allow Rick and Evy to escape... and emerges unscathed! The director changed the character's fate so he could appear in the sequel.
- Waynes World 2 references the trope when Wayne suggests a "Thelma and Louise ending," which parodies the ending of that film.
- Cloverfield ends with the two surviving protagonists huddled under a bridge as the U.S. Army executes the HAMMER-DOWN Protocol-i.e. carpet bombing and possibly even nuking Manhattan. It is implied that neither the monster nor the protagonists survived, but the viewer is not allowed to know for certain. "It's still alive," can be heard after the credits. Word of God says it's dead. With a sequel now in development, this could easily go either way.
- Reservoir Dogs doesn't show Mr. Pink and Mr. White getting shot, but the shots heard in the credits imply it. Word of God (and a bit of buried audio that can be heard if you listen closely) have Mr. Pink living. In the background at one point you can barely hear him screaming that he was shot in the leg. This is actually brought up in the video game adaptation, with three possible endings, based on the Karma Meter. The neutral one is most likely canon. Mr. Pink either dies, gets arrested, or manages to get away with most of the diamonds.
- Braveheart ends with Robert the Bruce leading his ragtag Scottish army against the superior English army. The trope is then subverted when Wallace (narrating the epilogue), explains that the Scots manage to eventually win their freedom.
- The Italian Job (1969) (the original British classic, not the American remake) has a variation on this, with the thieves stuck in a bus balancing precariously over a cliff. Despite the famous "really good idea," their ultimate fate is left unresolved. The ending was supposed to be a Sequel Hook for a sequel that was never made: the gold goes over the cliff, the French Mafia pick it up, and Michael Caine's crew spend the rest of the film getting it back. Having been released only a year after the end of the Hays Code, which forbade criminal characters from profiting from their crimes, the ending is also a product of its time.
- Comical example: During the 1986 movie Tough Guys, Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster have shown a teamwork move that begins with one of them kicking the current foe in the groin. At the end of the movie, after they have plowed the hijacked train across the Mexican border, and are surrounded by the Mexican authorities, Kirk Douglas kicks one in the groin... and the credits roll.
- The German film Bandits , an entertaining prisoners-on-the-run story, ends with the three remaining band members about to board a ship when the police finally catch up with them. Cut to the sound of gunfire and a shot of their hands reaching for the hand of their friend who died earlier. Damn!
- In The Streetfighter, Shinichi Chiba's character emerges victorious but grievously wounded from his final battle. After staggering to his feet, he begins to lose his balance and the film ends in freeze-frame. Of course, the fact that the character appears in sequels makes his fate a tad less ambiguous.
- Alatriste ends with the main characters fighting in the Spanish side in the battle of Rocroi. They are given the choice of surrender, but the Spanish Tercio cannot accept it. The Other Wiki says Spanish defeat with 7,000 dead and wounded plus 8,000 captured of the original 27,000 Spanish soldiers. Final freeze frame, although Word of God says that the main character is killed with his squire escaping to tell the story; nothing is said of sidekick Copóns.
- Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys does this with the titular turtle missing an arm in the midst of a burning city on the verge of being descended upon by a swarm of Gyaos. Though there's also the implication this time he actually has an army also on his side with mankind finally joining forces against the Gyaos, and unusually for a Kaiju film, the Gyaos are not Immune to Bullets so they can actually be of assistance.
- Diary of the Dead ends with the survivors uploading the film onto the internet from a sealed video editing room (surrounded by zombies, naturally). It is unclear that they ever emerge.
- The Wrestler ends in a fade out before the audience finds out whether Randy died performing his signature move or survived another heart attack like he did earlier in the movie. Many interpreted the fade-out to literally be Randy's death.
- In Bruges ends with the main character losing consciousness on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance, after getting filled with bullets. He decides that he doesn't want to die and wonder if hell is like Bruges. We don't find out whether he survives.
- Played ambiguously in The Grey, where Liam Neeson's up till then Badass character confronts a Final Boss wolf armed with only a knife and broken bottle. Then, Smash to Black! And The Stinger is still uncertain.
- 300 ends in the same manner as the comic book on which it was based, showing the Greek army charging towards an inconclusive battle at Platea. Historically, the battle was a Greek victory, and this outcome is heavily implied by the narrator.
- Apart from the theatrical releases, Blade Runner had this.
- The Plague Dogs ends with the two dog protagonists swimming off into the ocean to escape from the humans who have been after them the entire film, toward a far-off island, battling exhaustion and weakness along the way. It ends with them drifting into the fog, their fates unknown; it is likely they will drown before ever reaching the island, but due to the depressing nature of the rest of the movie a part of the viewer wants to believe they make it all the way. Note that only the hallucinating dog can supposedly see the island, implying it might not even be real; we do not see it until after the credits start to roll.
- Played straight in The Friends of Eddie Coyle, where the titular Eddie gets his without even a struggle.
- The Devil's Rejects ends in a subversion of this: The protagonists are driving toward a police roadblock, guns blazing. It's subverted in that, while it cuts out before they actually die, we see them being pumped with so many bullets that their survival is anything but ambiguous and they were presumably killed before they made it through.
- The World According to Garp ends with Garp being shot and carried away in a helicopter. We don't actually find out for certain if he dies, or he's gotten to a hospital in time.
- The Disney film Davy Crockett King Of The Wild Frontier ends with the Alamo being overrun and the last shot is of Crockett swinging his rifle as a club. Of course, everyone knows that they all die.
- Subverted in Desperado. In the final showdown, El Mariachi confronts Bucho and his heavily armed gang. When Bucho threatens to kill Carolina, Marichi produces his pistols and opens fire on Bucho and his gang as the scene fades to white... cut to Mariachi and Carolina checking on a wounded kid in a local hospital as if nothing happened. Word of God says that the battle was actually filmed, but had to be taken out in order to keep the film from being rated NC 17 for violence—the kiss of death for a mainstream action movie.
- The King and the Clown ends with Gong-gil and Jaeng-sang having a conversation about reincarnation before jumping off of the tightrope as Jaeng-sang throws his fan. Simultaneously, troops invade the palace but neither the King or Nok-su are seen to be captured/killed before the film ends. The viewer would have to be pretty far into denial though to think any of them lived.
- The Fast and the Furious ended just as Dom was about to be rescued.
- The Sword of Doom uses a slight variation: during an epic battle in which the main character has killed dozens of other members of his assassins' guild in a burning geisha house (but with many more remaining), he is clearly starting to feel the effects of his wounds. The film ends with a freeze-frame as he lunges into yet another swordfight. Supposedly this movie was to be the first in a trilogy that was never made, and further installments would have resolved his fate more conclusively.
- La Haine ends with a standoff between a main character and a villain, each pointing a gun at someone's head. The camera pans away, there's a gunshot, and the film ends.
- The original ending to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) has the main character escape but leads us to believe that no one will believe his warnings about the aliens until it's too late. Executive Meddling changed this to a less fatalistic, though still decidedly ambiguous ending. The 70s remake ups the bar to an even more frightening and depressing twist ending, which dances along the line between Bolivian Army and just flatout The Bad Guy Wins.
- Beverly Hills Cop contains the Discussed Trope version of this, Played for Laughs during the final shootout at the Big Bad's mansion when the supporting cast detectives are pinned down by machinegun fire from some goons.
Rosewood: You know what I keep thinking about? You know the end of Butch Cassidy? Redford and Newman are almost out of ammunition, and the whole Bolivian army is out- out in front of this little hut?
Taggart: Billy, I'm gonna make you pay for this.
- The WWII movie Bataan had this ending. After the last member of his squad is killed, Sergeant Bill Dane (Robert Taylor) digs his own grave and continues firing his machine gun until the credits roll.
- War, Inc.. has a bizarre ending, in which the main characters escape on a private plane, but in a blink-and-you-miss-it final moment, a missile can be spotted flying toward them. The scene ends before we can see what becomes of them.
- Black Swan concludes on a scene that implies this...maybe.
- While the ending to Friends is not particularly violent, things look very bleak for the romance and common-law marriage of the happy young couple. Ever since Paul ran off with Michelle, his father has been out looking for him. Just before the end, we see that he's found his son's employer and is waiting for Paul to show up for work the next day. The end has Paul waving farewell to his wife and child and them waving back; then the frame freezes and the credits roll. The sequel Paul And Michelle indicates a Downtime Downgrade, though the Offscreen Breakup never goes onscreen. Also, the two are shown to be determined to get back together again.
- The ending of When Trumpets Fade: is Manning dead? Unconscious? Just resting to conserve his strength? If he is still alive, will Sanderson get him to an aid station in time?
- At the end of Boiler Room, Seth manages to get out from under criminal prosecution by cooperating with the Feds, but the movie ends just as Federal agents storm J.T. Marlin after Seth walks out, leaving it ambiguous exactly what happened to Chris and the rest of the company, or if any of them got away.
- At the end of Sorcerer, Jackie Scanlon (Roy Scheider) has delivered the explosives to the drilling site, and goes to drink at a bar, where he finally achieves a measure of peace for the first time. Unbeknownst to him, his former friend leads a group of mobsters (who he double-crossed early on in the film) to the bar in Ecuador where he is drinking. The mobsters surround the bar, and two of them walk inside, as the end credits begin, leaving it unclear if Scanlon will die or not.
- The Way of the Gun ends with the two Villain Protagonists lying in the middle of a courtyard somewhere in Mexico, bleeding, and quite likely dying.
- The Dark Knight:
- The movie has this, especially as far as The Joker is concerned due to Heath Ledger's premature death: Is The Joker doing time in a federal prison for his infamous crimes, or did that guy on the SWAT team that cornered him decide they'd had enough of his antics and put a bullet between his eyes? It'll remain unanswered.
- Averted with the novels; the novelization of The Dark Knight Rises includes a passing mention of The Joker and implies he's either serving a life sentence in a padded cell at Arkham or has broken out and slipped off the radar, though not even Selina Kyle knows where he really is.
- This is Maroni's fate after Harvey Dent shot his driver, causing the car to crash in the yards outside Chicago Union Station. Even the novelization doesn't mention anyone's death except for the driver's, meaning Maroni probably could've survived but was knocked into a coma.
- Exaggerated in The Cabin in the Woods. The movie ends with not just the main characters presumably killed by the Ancient Ones, but the entire world itself about to be destroyed.
- The famous car chase film Vanishing Point ends with the protagonist, Kowalski, crashing into the roadblock set up with two bulldozers. His fate is unknown.
- A direct homage to Butch and Sundance at the end of Stand Up Guys leaves us with a glaring plot hole. Maybe influenced by the ending of the similarly titled Tough Guys (see above).
- All of the Pusher films end this way. Amusingly, the films in the Danish series never reveal what became of the main characters from the previous films.
- In the first Danish film, Frank's spurned girlfriend steals the money that he needs to make a token payment to the druglord Milo, who is actually planning to kill him when Frank arrives to make the payment. Frank is left alone to face the many enemies he's made in the past week. The film ends with Frank catching his breath and grimly considering his options.
- In the English version of the first film, Frank chases after his girlfriend and manages to catch up to her cab. They hold each other's tearful gaze through the window of the car, and the film ends. We don't find out whether she forgives him and returns the money, and if so whether he survives the meeting with Milo.
- In the second Danish film, Tonny impulsively kills his crimelord father, steals his son, and boards the first bus out of town. He has no plan and has made quite a few enemies. We don't find out what happens to him.
- In the third Danish film, Milo has declared war with the much more powerful Albanian mob. He returns home and quietly smokes a cigarette beside his empty pool, seemingly resigned to his fate. We don't find out what happens next.
- A Serious Man: After enduring all kinds of torture at the hands of his family, his employers, his neighbours, and just about everyone and everything else in his life, Larry gets an ominous phone call from his doctor implying he's got something seriously wrong with him, while at the same time a tornado descends on his town.
- In Prisoners, Keller Dover is last seen Locked in the Dungeon underground by the Big Bad, and the final scene is Detective Loki faintly hearing the Chekhov's Gun whistle left by the previously missing girl Anna as Dover attempts to signal for help.
- The Civil War film Glory ends with nearly half of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry being wiped out and failure to take Battery Wagner. Nearly all the major characters are killed in the battle.
- Sabotage ends with Breacher, wounded after a shootout, sitting down and having a last drink and cigar as he presumably bleeds to death, but it cuts to the credits before he does so.
- At the end of Death Sentence, at least in the uncut version, Nick presumably bleeds to death while watching his home videos.
- Axeman ends with the titular Serial Killer bearing down on the sole survivors of his rampage.
- Deep Rising: The ending features the heroes now stranded on an island that seems to have more monstrous creatures they have to deal with. We cut to credits right before they come face to face with something that sounds like Godzilla.
- In the tenth book of The Wheel of Time Egwene tries to sabotage the Tar Valon port defenses when she's captured by someone channeling Saidar. Of course, this being only the tenth novel in a series of thirteen novels we find out later that she's actually okay, and her captors are not gonna kill her.
- The First Law ends almost exactly how it began, with Logen falling into a river from a huge height, his death implied but hardly confirmed.
- Animorphs ended with one of the Five-Man Band dead, and another pursuing a life of normality. The rest of the cast ended up on a ship out in space, and just learned that Ax had been assimilated by The One, a new Big Bad. The final book ends with Jake giving the command to ram The One's ship, and they all presumably died.
- Robert A. Heinlein's The Cat Who Walks Through Walls seems to end this way, although a careful reading reveals their survival even before the follow-up novels. The mission they're on is successful, and they rescue the damaged computer, but they get ambushed on the way back. The main character, his wife, and their kitten are all dead or very close to it. It's possible the good guys could arrive at any moment and rescue them, but it's equally possible the bad guys will do it first. The main character uses his last breaths to break the fourth wall and chastise the author for writing the sort of story where kittens die. The drama of the scene is tempered slightly by Gretchen's claim that another character impregnated her in her past/his future according to the jumbled timeline of the story.
- In a later novel in that 'multiverse' it is explained that both happened. It is the only extant known occurrence of a timeline splitting where the protagonists could see it. The actual split? Whether or not the kitten would make a noise.
- The book L.A. Confidential features a Bolivian Army beginning: the plots of the book and its prequel The Big Nowhere are bridged in a prologue where the one surviving protagonist of the earlier book goes out in a blaze of glory in a shootout akin to a one man Battle of the Alamo.
- The Dinotopia spinoff novel Dinotopia Lost. The three most ruthless pirates, cornered by the mother and father of the young Tyrannosaurus rex they had kidnapped.
- The last Montmorency book (Montmorency's Revenge) ends with a freaking' gun to the back of the titular character's head. But hopefully this slight problem will be resolved in the fifth book.
- Richard K. Morgan's Black Man (published as Thirteen in the United States) ends with the protagonist surrounded and outnumbered twelve to one. Given that he's a genetically engineered Bad Ass, his chances are pretty good.
- The Island of Doctor Moreau never reveals the final fate of its beast-men, after the protagonist's escape. Reverting back to normal animals is about the least Downer Ending one could expect for these pitiful creatures.
- For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway ends with the protagonist, Robert Jordan, severely wounded and lying in wait for the enemy.
- Simon Darcourt, the erudite terrorist villain/anti-hero of Christopher Brookmyre's novels A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away and A Snowball in Hell, has fates fitting this trope in both novels. In the first, he is sucked into a cataclysmic whirlpool in a power station, in the second he's shot in the spine, one of his eyes is gouged out and he's handed over to a gang of international criminals who've been after him throughout the book. One of the protagonists comments on how it's highly unlikely that he'll get out of this alive, although if anyone can, then it's probably Darcourt...
- The Princess Bride ends with the heroes nearly dead and on the run from the kingdom's army. The movie ends before that.
- Though the author did include the first chapter of the sequel in the appendix.
- Dying of the Light, for Dirk at least.
- George R.R. Martin uses this trope frequently in his A Song of Ice and Fire series of fantasy novels. For example, in the fourth novel, A Feast for Crows, Brienne of Tarth is sentenced to hang for refusing to kill Jaime Lannister. The last the reader knows of Brienne's fate, the noose was tightening around her neck. It would seem likely that Brienne is dead, but given GRRM's tendency to thwart expectations about who lives and who dies, that's far from a sure bet.
- Clive Egleton did a trilogy in the early '70s about the British Resistance after a Soviet invasion. In the final book, the Soviets pull their combat troops out, but Britain is still a Warsaw Pact satellite — and, thanks to a high-ranking traitor from the Resistance, the security forces at last manage to corner main character David Garnett. His lover Valerie Dane was wounded and evacuated aboard an American sub a while before, and the last words of the trilogy are "he had had a feeling for a long time that it would end this way, in a small back room, without Dane and alone."
- Villette: Lucy tells the reader that M. Paul's ship back to Villette was caught in a storm, and then basically tells the reader to pretend that their love had a happy ending. Word of God had it that Paul did indeed die. Charlotte Bronte reputedly considered it a kinder fate than life with Lucy Snowe
- The novel From Russia with Love ends with James Bond having just been poisoned and passing out from the toxin. The next book reveals that the friend he was talking with, French agent René Mathis, managed to keep him alive with artificial respiration until doctors could get something into Bond to counteract the poison.
- The Robin Cook book Coma ends with the villain in the operating room, with the police waiting for him outside (they cannot enter because of the sterile environment). He is already aware that his attempts to kill the heroine on the OR table have failed (she had discovered that he was poisoning his patients with carbon monoxide so as to sell their organs on the black market and so he had planned the same fate for her) and knows it's only a matter of time before he's arrested. But the book ends with him in the operating room and the reader is left to wonder if he'll surrender or go out in a blaze of glory.
- The short story "Roller Ball Murder", less well-known than the film (Rollerball) it inspired, ends with Jonathan E's team heading onto the playing field for the world championship, well aware that the latest rule revisions virtually guarantee that both teams will suffer a Total Party Kill.
- Dark Fire.
- At the end of Snow Crash, Enzo fights Raven to buy time for other characters. When last seen, Enzo has the upper hand, but the fight never concludes.
- The Adventures of Tom Rynosseros: The cycle ends on Rynosseros and the other six Coloured charvolants going into battle against a thousand tribal ships
- The Butter Battle Book, Dr. Seuss's Cold War parable, combines this with No Ending. The Yooks and the Zooks are at war over which side of the bread to put butter on, and the Yook agent and Zook agent keep getting sent to the border wall and trying to one-up each other with increasingly powerful (but still cartoonish and Seussian) weapons. At the end, the Yook agent is equipped with a "Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo" to annihilate the Zooks. With the Yook civilians sent into underground bomb shelters, the Yook agent marches with his grandson up to the wall...but surprise, surprise, the Zook agent has his own Bitsy Big-Boy Boomeroo! The book ends with the following exchange between the Yook agent and his grandson:
"Grandpa!" I shouted. "Be careful! Oh, gee!
Who's going to drop it!
Will you...? Or will he...?"
"Be patient," said Grandpa. "We'll see.
We will see..."
Live Action TV
- Angel ended its long run with the death or abandonment of several long-running characters. In the final scene, an entire army of demons is sent against the remaining characters who have reunited in an rainy alley. The series ends just as the eponymous character delivers the first blow of the final battle. It was later stated that was intended to symbolize one of the show's themes, that being that the fight never ends. The Angel: After the Fall comics continued the story and are Canon according to the Word of God. For the curious; all the alive characters at the end of the show are still moving. Then some died and came back.
- ALF had this ending, with him being surrounded by the Alien Detection Squad of the USA. Of course, this one actually had a planned sequel, which NBC screwed them out of. Ironic, though, since ALF mentioned the Trope Namer itself in an earlier episode when police trapped him inside the neighbors' house. It wasn't until the Project ALF movie came in 1996 when Alf was shown alive and well, though not without new problems.
- The Alias season 4 finale. Agent Vaughn is just about to tell Sydney his real name and secret past, when a car smashes into the side of their vehicle. Then we had to wait a year to find out what happened: neither of them die, and they go on to get married and have kids.
- In the series finale of Battle Creek the father of a boy who blames the boy's death on FBI agent Milt Chamberlain shoots Milt right in the heart. Milt falls to the ground, his partner presses down on his wound and says "you'll be OK, you'll be OK" as a large blood stain spreads on the shirt; Milt laughs and it's unclear if he laughs because he knows he's dying, or because he's relieved he'll be OK.
- Blake's 7 ends with Avon surrounded by Federation soldiers and everyone else on his side apparently dead (with Blake, at Gareth Thomas' specific request, killed off). The sound of a firefight is played over the closing credits. This was done deliberately with the intention that, if the series was renewed, they could easily kill off any character whose actor did not re-sign their contract while having the characters of returning actors survive the shoot-out. The fact that the series was not renewed for another season means that the fate of every character is intentionally ambiguous - and never resolved.
- This was a recurring theme in the Black Adder series: The first series end with everyone but Percy and Baldrick getting killed, the second series end with everyone, including the Queen, getting killed. The third series is the exception, as it ends with only one of the main characters the Prince Regent getting killed, and Blackadder himself presumably taking his place as the future King George IV. Finally, Blackadder Goes Forth, the fourth in the Blackadder series, ends with Captain Blackadder and the rest of the characters about to make the "final push" on the Germans, although the audience knows full well that the war still has a year left to run. The series ends with shellfire and a fade to a field of poppies, and an implication that they all died. However, some versions released on video show the characters dying bravely but uselessly, making a comment on the obsolescence of individual heroism in a new age of industrialized warfare. Many viewers found it one of the most touching endings to a comedy program ever written. It was first aired in the UK 10 days before Remembrance Sunday, without a single complaint.
- One of the episodes of The Comic Strip Presents ends this way It's the episode "Fistful of Traveller's Cheques" where the ending is a homage/parody of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". There is a wonderful pause before the ending where the viewer wonders whether it's really going to happen...
- Prior to the point when it was uncancelled, the final episode of Season One of Jericho ended with one of these - Jake ordered the men and women of Jericho to open fire on the invading New Bern soldiers, and the credits rolled over sounds of gunfire. The cliffhanger was one of the chief factors in spurring the save the show campaign that brought it back for an abridged second season. This trope was actively averted in the second season. The finale was originally going to end with Jake going on a suicide mission to rescue Hawkins, who had been captured during the escape from the Allied States of America, but at the behest of CBS, a second ending was also written and shot in the event the series was cancelled; it was, so the series ended with Jake and Hawkins both safely escaping into the Republic of Texas. However, both versions of the finale also ended with America entering into a civil war.
- "Episode Final", the alternative reality movie of the TV series Kamen Rider Ryuki, ends with Yui dead and Knight and Ryuki as the last remaining Riders facing down an army of Hydragoon dragonflies intent on wiping out all of humanity. The TV special 13 Riders (set in another timeline) finishes with Shinji as Knight Survive preparing to fight the remaining seven Riders at once. (As a footnote, the ending of the TV series proves that both of these go on to be Reset Button Endings.) As for the likely outcome, the Episode Final version is survivable, as mass-produced monsters tend to not be that tough, though this was the biggest crowd of them we'd seen. As for 13 Riders...all the Riders were setting up their "final vent" attacks, so even with Survive Mode, Shinji was pretty much screwed.
- Kamen Rider Decade "ends" with eight of the original Heisei Kamen Riders, plus the alternate Kuuga (brainwashed, crazy and in Ultimate Form) trying to kill Decade because his actions have apparently doomed the multiverse. In the middle of the fight, Diend, who had seemingly befriended Decade, runs in and sticks his gun right in Decade's face. Cut to Natsumi screaming out for him as a gunshot is heard. And then cut to a teaser for a second movie in December that will be the Grand Finale; Tsukasa's clearly shown as having survived the skirmish. Thus, a subversion with the true question being why everyone's out for his blood. This initial airing also showed a movie trailer that has nothing in common with the eventually released movie (to the point where it seems like a spoof trailer). In repeats the ending was (for reasons unknown) altered to become an inversion/subversion: the battle between all the riders and Decade plays out exactly as shown in the dreams Natsumi has been having since the first episode, with Decade being attacked by all the riders, not just the nine from the first version of the episode. Decade suddenly uses powers he had not so far shown (glowing with power and being able to float in the air) and destroys all the riders, fulfilling the evil destiny he spent the entire series trying to avoid. It's implied that by killing the riders he has also caused the realities they come from to be destroyed. So either way, Decade will not leave you on a happy note.
- In Kamen Rider Kiva, Wataru's Kid from the Future Masao interrupts Nago and Megumi's wedding to warn everyone of the Neo Fangire. The series ends with Wataru, Masao, Nago, Taiga and the Arms Monsters transforming and flying off to face the threat. Since this was the final episode, there was no apparent conclusion, but it was widely speculated that the Neo Fangire are members of Great Shocker, enemies of Kiva's successor Decade (see above).
- Invasion: Earth ends with a Fade to White as humanity decides to nuke itself in a last-ditch effort to deter the invading aliens.
- The final episode of Soap showed Jessica seemingly executed by a Central American firing squad and Burt walking into a drug dealer ambush. And Chester preparing to shoot Danny (Chester had a pistols duel with El Puerco the next morning that would probably see Chester in the ground as well).
- Law & Order: UK: The final episode "Repeat To Fade" ends with a cliffhanger. Will Ronnie accept the new position he's been offered, despite being fully aware of and offended by its Kicked Upstairs status? Or will he resign/retire outright? The episode ends with neither question answered, but with Bradley Walsh leaving the show, it would have had to be one or the other...except that the show has ended as well, meaning that we'll never know.
- Chased By Dinosaurs ended the three-parter Sea Monsters with a pack of Tylosauruses surrounding the ship while the crew was asleep, with effectively no chance of survival.
- The prematurely canceled Dead At 21 ends with the lead's time-bomb brain-chip seemingly killing him - at 20 - followed by his girlfriend facing a firing squad.
- Teen Wolf uses it in the Season 2 finale, with the already-weakened werewolves, Erica and Boyd surrounded by the Alpha pack, who appear to be itching for a fight.
- The famous ending of The Sopranos uses this somewhat. Fans have long debated whether the cut-to-black means somebody shot Tony, or if a deeper symbolism is in play.
- The Son of the Beach finale ended with the whole cast being blown up by a stray missile.
- The Mortal Kombat: Conquest series has such an ending. Throngs of extra-dimensional shadow priests march to conquer Earthrealm and kill all the heroes, Raiden is defeated by Shao Kahn, and Kung Lao's championship medallion is shown strewn on the floor. The plan for the 2nd season was a literal Deus ex Machina, with the Elder Gods pushing the Reset Button, as Shao broke rules by using the shadow priests.
- Lampshaded in Farscape: The Peacekeeper Wars.
Crichton: I hear Bolivia is nice for a honeymoon.
- Twin Peaks: Because Bob takes Cooper's body, and we never do see if Cooper escapes the Lodge
- The HBO series Carnivàle ended its last season with a climactic showdown in which protagonist Ben and Big Bad Brother Justin each stab the other in the chest. It's implied that Ben survives due to his Healing Factor, but Sofie makes a Face–Heel Turn once she finds out that she has avataric powers and heals Brother Justin after apparently killing Jonesy.
- The final episode of Cybill ends with Cybill and Maryanne being arrested for the apparent murder of Maryanne's husband, Doctor Dick.
- Are You Afraid of the Dark?: The Tale of the Dangerous Soup ends with our heroes Locked in a Freezer again with the demon / Eldritch Abomination / whatever.
- The French and Saunders series Let Them Eat Cake. It was about French aristocracy just before the French revolution. you can guess how it ends.
- Dinosaurs: Believe it or not, this ABC series pulls this ending in the final episode, implying that a self-inflicted ecological disaster wipes out the dinosaur civilization, including all of our main characters.
- The USA Network series Burn Notice uses this trope frequently as part of its season finales, as most recently evidenced by the season four summer finale that left Michael shot and bleeding out, with seemingly no one around to save him.
- The first season of BBC Sherlock ended with Sherlock, John and Moriarty at a swimming pool, surrounded by Moriarty's snipers, with Sherlock's gun aimed at a bomb. The cliffhanger was resolved in the subsequent season.
- Bottom habitually goes one step further — the punch is thrown, connects, freeze frame, roll credits. In the finale of the TV series, this is turned Up to Eleven by ...Go A Squad! - the pair are surrounded by an SAS squad, speak on the phone to the negotiators, repeat the line once quizzically, then again more confidently - and A Squad burst in, start firing, bullets connect...roll credits.
- In Stargate Universe:
- The film is referenced in the episode "Time", where an Apocalyptic Log from another timeline shows Rush flippantly uttering Butch's famous last words before jumping through a malfunctioning gate to his death, seeing it as a better alternative than being killed by the illness that the team is suffering from or the nocturnal bugs native to the planet. Later in the same episode, Rush utters this phrase once again, after they discover that the real cause of the illness is a parasite in the drinking water and that the nocturnal bugs might hold the cure, forcing them to go to the planet again. The episode finally ends with the team being wiped out again except for Scott, who decides to send a second Kino with their own Apocalyptic Log back in time, so both Kinos will provide enough clues to save themselves the next time around.
- The final episode after its cancellation. After being hounded repeatedly by a force of hostile robotic drones, the Destiny crew decides to go into a long term hyperspace jump and flee to another galaxy. However, to conserve power, they must put themselves into hibernation pods and shut down life support. Unfortunately, one of the pods malfunctions and Eli volunteers to try and fix it while the rest of the crew go into hibernation. The series closes leaving it uncertain whether Eli manages to fix his pod in time or not, much less whether the Destiny is able to escape the galaxy and its robotic pursuers.
- In the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "E", the last we see of the alternate timeline Enterprise is the vessel charging into a fleet of hostile alien ships while the "real" Enterprise escapes through a wormhole. Archer and T'Pol discuss this later, speculating on whether or not they could have survived or even if they were erased from history.
- In the classic British comedy Dad's Army, set during WWII, the final episode sees the Walmington-on-Sea platoon called up to stand watch over the local coastline during an alert. The main characters, at this point a band of old men and one soppy youth, watching and waiting in the cold night and facing the threat of imminent Nazi invasion across the English Channel, nevertheless stand together, resolute, and think of their comrades all over Britain doing the same. They then toast the Home Guard - who faced the same hardships and threats with the same reaction, in real life - and the credits roll.
- Golden Boy, enforced due to the series being cancelled at the end of its first season. The finale ends on a cliffhanger of a cut to credits at the sound of the fugitive ex-deputy mayor shooting either Walter, the protagonist, or his girlfriend (also the deputy mayor's ex-wife).
- Law & Order: UK ends with it up in the air as to whether DS Ronnie Brooks will accept his Kicked Upstairs position or resign/retire outright. Had the show returned for another series, the question would have been answered one way or another, as Brooks' portrayer had decided to leave the show—but this is no doubt why the decision to "rest" the show was made in the first place
- Doctor Who:
- Season 6 ends with the Time Lords capturing the Doctor, retrieving the TARDIS, sending the Doctor's companions back to the time and place he picked them up from with their memories of their adventures wiped (which, for Jamie, was an almost guaranteed death in battle) and then exiling the Doctor to Earth after asking him to pick a new face, which we don't see. The series was intended to be cancelled after this Season but was Un-Cancelled due to the BBC producers not having a better idea for anything that would go in the timeslot, although it led to a soft reboot.
- The Doctor Who Missing Adventures series ends with a sequence set between Season 17 and 18, where the Doctor has been caught up to by the Black Guardian who has given him the choice between remaining in his TARDIS all his life or leaving and suffering a Fate Worse Than Death. He finds the TARDIS emergency switch but from Romana's comment pulling it might make them 'fictional characters', a potential fate which (in addition to erasing the entire series after the point the writer stopped liking it) worries the Doctor enough that he finally goes in for that kiss. The book ends as he pulls the switch.
- The Wire episode "Bad Dreams" ends with Frank Sobotka walking to a meeting with the Greeks, not knowing that they plan to kill him.
- The Wrong Mans features the two main characters surrounded by several armed men, plus a few vehicles and helicopters. Since this is the fifth episode and there's one more to go, Sam and Phil manage to escape.
- Z Nation: The end of the first season was clearly written with this in mind in case the show was cancelled. Thankfully, it was renewed.
- Season 4 of Person of Interest ends with Samaritan taking complete control over the city with the Machine out of the picture, Control herself getting kidnapped, and Reese, Harold, and Root fighting their way through waves of Samaritan's followers while carrying the Machine in a storage.
- R. Dean Taylor's 1970 hit "Indiana Wants Me" ends with the narrator, who's on the run for a murder he committed, being surrounded by the police and then engaging in a shootout with them.
- The music video for the L'arc-en-Ciel song "Driver's High" ends with the band driving off a cliff while evading the police, Thelma & Louise style.
- The music video for "My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light 'Em Up)" by Fall Out Boy ends with the band being tied up in the back of a van and about to be set on fire.
- This Minecraft video ends with the hero surrounded by ghasts in a field of flames. Ironically, he actually ended up dying ten minutes after filming to a Zerg Rush by some Pigmen.
- With the exception of ties, Chess always ends with a Bolivian Army Ending. The game ends when one player moves a piece into a position that makes it impossible for the other player's king to escape, even though it would still take one more move by each player to actually capture the king.
- Mega Man Zero:
- The first game ends with Zero confronting a swarm of enemy soldiers. While his fate is not directly stated before or after the credits, he quickly slices one of the robots and a short variation of his theme plays indicating he still has the odds in his favor. Subverted by Zero 2, which reveals that he (obviously) survived as he has been wandering for an entire year afterwards.
- In Zero 4, Zero stays behind a falling space station while fighting the Big Bad. The last shot of the game (and therefore the series) is just of his helmet amidst the charred ruins of the station. Atypical of the trope, this was left completely ambiguous (especially since that's how most fans want to think). The Mega Man Zero official complete works, which is canon, mentions that his fate is unknown.
- Phantasy Star II, which pretty much ends with the heroes taking on all of mankind in mélee.
- Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core has you play through Zack's final stand, Retconned so he faces off against seemingly the entire Shinra army. It has all the hallmarks of a Bolivian Army Ending except that you get to see the inevitable conclusion.
- Dissidia: Final Fantasy 012 lets you play as several really cool new heroes. You get to see them fight a literally endless horde of Manikins. The game is a prequel.
- Mass Effect 2: The non-canon Bad Ending; Shepard brings down the Collectors, but loses the entire crew (except Joker) and dies. Joker gives his data on the Reapers to the Illusive Man, and the game ends with a shot of the Reapers bearing down on the galaxy.
- The original Mass Effect 3 ending had the Crucible's beam encroaching on the escaping Normandy and apparently destroying or disabling it, but the Extended Cut ending shows it escaping unscathed if you have a high enough EMS.
- FPS title Painkiller ends with protagonist Daniel Garner fighting off a massive swarm of demons. It isn't the true, more confusing ending, though. Expansion pack Battle Out Of Hell reveals that he survived... Obviously. Even more confusing is the "good" ending obtained through the replaying at the hardest setting where the True Big Bad is NOT faced because... well, he's already dead on the easier settings. The Bolivian Army Ending is averted as he doesn't go to hell and goes to heaven instead.
- Half-Life has two endings. The canon (and "good") one ends with the player accepting the G-man's offer of employment which eventually leads to the second game. His other choice is "a battle you have no chance of winning...rather an anticlimax after what you've just survived." If the player chooses not to accept the offer of employment, they suddenly appear in the middle of Xen with no weapons and many, many, many Alien Grunts. "No regrets, Mr. Freeman..." Fade to Black.
- At the end of Half-Life 2, the G-man implies in his speech that he only provided the illusion of free choice, and Freeman was put under the G-Man's employ regardless of his decision. Since the player remains in Freeman's perspective throughout the course of the game, it is quite possible that what the player sees during the "bad" ending of the game is exactly what Freeman sees, which would mean that the Fade to Black is Freeman being put into suspended animation, with the alien grunts never actually getting the chance attack. This would mean that both endings are canon, as the result is the same regardless of the player's decision.
- The ending of Half-Life 2 is this trope too, which we only get to see in the beginning of Episode One, though. After defeating Breen, Gordon and Alyx have to face the entire Citadel's compliment of Combine forces, plus off-world reinforcements. Whether they survive, of course, depends on the player's actions.
- The third ending of Drakengard sees Caim charging out to face a massive horde of dragons bent on destroying mankind while grinning like crazy and clearly looking forward to it. The second ending also ends before the looming disaster — this time, a horde of monstrous clones of his sister — ultimately strikes, but is less open-ended about it, as Caim seems devastated and simply waiting for death.
- MOTHER 3. The protagonist is forced to awaken a dragon that will certainly destroy the world, but who may or may not rebuild it as a utopia. The world is ripped to pieces, then the screen fades to black. Disembodied voices of all the characters you have met throughout the game congratulate you and remark that they're happy and doing just fine now. It's left up to the player to decide whether they're happily living in a new world or happily living in the afterlife.
- The ending of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance could be described as a Bolivian Army ending, although in the sequel it is revealed that the protagonists were just taken prisoner.
- StarCraft I: Brood War: the opening video ends with zerglings massing around entrenched infantry, freshly abandoned by a passing battlecruiser. At the end of the game the UED fleet are fleeing from the sector and the Zerg catches up to them before the scene fades.
- Devil May Cry
- Devil May Cry 2: The ending of Dante's disc sees Dante, having defeated the Despair Embodied, riding the motorcycle seen earlier in the game (supposedly deeper into the demon world) before uttering his last line of the game, "Yeah...Let's go all the way to Hell..." In one of the subsequent cutscenes, Lucia is shown inside Devil May Cry, flipping Dante's Two-Headed Coin. Her attention (and that of the player) is drawn by the sound of a motorcycle engine and she rushes outside. The camera cuts to the falling coin and the screen fades to black.
- Devil May Cry 3: Dante's Awakening's final cutscene ends with Dante and Lady being surrounded by demons...but then you get to lay waste to them during the credits and actually get a bonus cutscene if you kill 100 of them.
- Vergil gets this ending in Devil May Cry 3 as well. After falling into Hell he sees the three eyes of Mundus in the distance and declares that if his father could fight the demons then he can as well. Subverted by the nature of being a prequel.
- At the ending of Vexx, the titular character has defeated the Big Bad in his home dimension, and is preparing to retreat back to the portal leading out. However, the aftermath of the battle ends up destroying the path leading to said portal, leaving Vexx stranded. The final scene is of Vexx preparing to face off against ever increasing numbers of the dimension's lesser denizens as they surround him. This game was actually supposed to have a sequel, but the developing company broke apart before that could happen.
- A Halo 2 demo sort of invoked this, ending with Cortana and Chief treating the multiple Spec-Ops Elites opposing them at the end as a mere chance to make a bet. Though you already knew that he was going to be just fine.
- In Halo 3: ODST's Firefight, this is the only possible outcome, although Halo: Reach's Firefight subverts this by making it possible to survive to the end unless you select a certain setting.
- At the end of Reach's campaign, before the credits, Noble Six is left stranded on the titular planet as the Covenant finally completely overrun it. Then he/she bites it in "Lone Wolf".
- The single-player campaign in Unreal Tournament III ends this way, with the protagonist launching into battle against the horde of Necris assassins that just killed the rest of his squad. Of course, being set in the Unreal universe, Reaper is probably enough of a badass that a few dozen heavily armed, genetically engineered undead assassins in their own capital city are just a minor threat...
- Dream Web: At the end of the game Ryan walks out of a subway entrance, just to be greeted by about four cop cars and a bunch of police officers, all with their guns pointed at Ryan, telling Ryan to put down the gun. For whatever reason Ryan does not drop the gun, the police promptly shoot Ryan numerous times, blowing him into the subway entrance where his soul enters the Dreamweb for one last time.
- Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War has one just after the main character finally manages to fight his way back to his homeland, seemingly pardoned for the false accusations against him and his family. The whole army, meaning, in Fire Emblem terms, the 20-odd named characters with emotions, custom relationships and children are seemingly all captured and executed on the spot. Then the second half of the game picks up with the next generation. Some of the first generation characters are implied or stated to have survived, but the fate of most is ambiguous.
- Wild ARMs 3 ends like this, with Virginia's party being framed for Lamius' murder and fleeing. Watching past the credits reveals the final scene of the game, where they ultimately escaped safely to Little Twister and are intent on visiting their families, but their reward for saving the planet is having a bounty placed on their heads for a crime they didn't commit.
- Strike's ending from Bust a Groove. He walks out of a building and is confronted by police. He pulls out his guns and starts firing. Fade to black.
- Final Fantasy Tactics's ending comes close to this. After defeating the Big Bad, the last thing you see from the hero's perspective is the battlefield exploding. Delita survives a similar explosion at the end of the first chapter, it should be noted...and Olan sees Ramza and his sister, apparently alive, some time after the battle. However, they don't seem to see Olan, implying that they may be visions or ghosts. Olan is also a classic Unreliable Narrator, as the entire story is told from notes he made as interpreted by a descendant.
- The arcade light-gun version of Alien 3 features a Weyland-Yutani enforcer as the final boss, sent to kill the space marines (the players) after they destroyed all of their "samples". After his death, a group of Weyland-Yutani soldiers greet the players. With a final "Let's go!", the soldiers charge forward as the screen fades to white. The text epilogue states that the marines' names were stricken from the USCM's records, and that no one knows if they are alive or dead.
- This is basically Rand's Bad Ending in Super Robot Wars Z. If you made a bad choice earlier on, you aren't able to locate the true Big Bad in time and Space Time starts falling apart while your team is dueling the Disc One Final Boss. It ends with a good portion of your team erased from existance including all your leaders and captains, Kei and Orson (who were needed to personally correct the space time problem) and Rand's sidekick which depresses him and causes him to fully embrace his Blood Knight nature. It ends with infinite copies of bosses showing up and the world continuing to fall apart, and the only people you've got left that haven't poofed into nonexistence, are all warriors like the Mazinger brothers, Getter team, Kira and Shinn, and of course Rand, none of whom have the slightest clue of how to fix space time. They opt to go down fighting and the game fades to silent, CGI less credits.
- The in-game radio show "The Adventures of Herbert "Daring" Dashwood and his Stalwart Ghoul Manservant, Argyle" from Fallout 3 ends on a literal cliffhanger, with Dashwood dangling from a cliff edge, the citizens of Rockopolis trying to kill them, and the cave about to be overrun by slavers. Later on you meet Dashwood himself, but you don't find out what happens to Argyle unless you come upon a fairly hidden area that's not marked on the map. Turns out he never made it out of Rockopolis, he got killed in a cave-in.
- Modern Warfare 2:
- The level "Of Their Own Accord" ends with the player character, Private James Ramirez trapped in the wreckage of a crashed Blackhawk (Ramirez's squad was protecting a civilian evacuation, and got hit by a SAM). As Russian troops approach the crashed Blackhawk, Ramirez's M4 runs out of ammo, Corporal Dunn gets shot, and an enemy helicopter hovers over, shining its searchlight straight at the player as the screen fades to white. The next level putting you in the shoes of a solider half the world away. The level "Second Sun" returns to Ramirez, letting them replay everything mentioned above, but then revealing how the actions of Captain Price in the last level end up saving him and his squad.
- The end of "Down the Rabbit Hole". Price, Yuri, and the Russian President get into a helicopter as Team Metal stays behind to hold off the Ultranationalist army. While you could argue Team Metal is enough of a Badass Crew to survive that, the entire mine they're fighting in collapses on them (after the helicopter escapes- and is in fact why it needed to leave), making the chances of their survival slim.
- A similar event in the World At War mission "Eviction". As Reznov is trying to force open a door in a subway, a torrent of water floods the entire tunnel. The game then cuts away to a mission in the American campaign. In the next Russian mission, "Heart of the Reich", the player character is shown to be just fine.
- At the end of Killzone 2, you're sitting on the stairs of the Big Bad's Palace, as a huge Helghast Fleet comes flying in.
- Einhänder ends with the player flying off to destroy the fleet-and maybe the entire moon nation- of Selena, which has been revealed to be The Empire all along. And judging by those huge explosions and the things the player had to go through to get this far, you seem to be winning. And you actually do, as seen in a short cutscene of your intact ship after the end credits.
- XIII. It was supposed to be a Sequel Hook, but due to poor sales, the series was canceled.
- Unusually for such a lighthearted game, Nessiah's ending in Yggdra Unison. After conquering the continent, he gathers everyone together into one army, and they leave to make war on Asgard. All we learn about how that went is that no one ever returned.
- In Armored Core: Nexus, the last mission ends with the player in his Armored Core fighting off suicidal machines that are crashing into the planet. Any good pilot probably won't blow up, but the screen fades to black as you're fighting the machines.
- In the Soviet Assault expansion for World in Conflict, Malashenko succumbs to Revenge Before Reason and disobeys an order to retreat back to Russia. Instead, he goes off to Seattle in order to help defend the city against the inevitable American counterattack. Players who have completed the first game should know that the battle doesn't end well for the Soviets.
- At the end of Cyber Lip, after destroying the titular supercomputer, you find that your CO was using you to clear the way for an Alien Invasion. Cue credits.
- FEAR: Extraction Point (not canon) pretty much ends this way, with both of the Pointman's teammates dead, the Pointman himself possibly near death, his extraction chopper blown up, and The End of the World as We Know It apparently looming, according to Fettel: "A war is coming. I've seen it in my dreams. Fires sweeping the Earth, bodies in the streets, cities turned to dust. Retaliation."
- House of the Dead 4 Special, an Expansion Pack to HOTD 4 with multiple screens and a spinning seat and other assorted jazz, features this as its bad ending. If you fail to hit the Magician's box with a grenade, he clones himself multiple times, and the game ends with G and Kate probably about to go down fighting.
- Syphon Filter: Logan's Shadow. Word of God says the series is over.
- Yukimura Sanada in the Samurai Warriors series usually does this during the Osaka Campaign as he did according to popular legend. Of note is his ending in the third game where he rushes the Tokugawa forces between himself and Ieyasu despite being tired out from the battle and the pleading of Ina.
- Marvel vs. Capcom 3:
- Phoenix's ending has her Super-Powered Evil Side, Dark Phoenix, waking up as a side effect of defeating Galactus. This time, the heroes of both worlds have to band together to fight her.
- Frank West's ending, where Mr. Fantastic appears, asking him for help in exterminating certain zombies. They jump through a portal into the Marvel Zombies universe.
- Played for Laughs in one of the endings to Tekken 5. Paul Phoenix, inexplicably in some sort of space station, practices his technique on a crude alien drawing pasted to a brick wall, and believes he's ready when he demolished it, declaring "BRING IT ON, YA ALIENS!" just as a hundred UFOs surround the space station.
- Alex's fate at the end of Golden Sun: The Lost Age was this, stranded on a collapsing volcano after being beaten half-to-death by The Wise One, who outright states that he may or may not survive. Then the sequel came out... he did. He's now allied (maybe) with the new bad guys.
- Let Valvatorez curb-stomp the endgame too well in Disgaea 4: A Promise Unforgotten and you'll get the God ending. Why is it called the God ending? Because Valvatorez manages to piss God off so much that He destroys both Earth and the Netherworld, declares total war on Val and his party, and sends eight million lesser gods to kill them. The party's defeated a tenth of them so far.
- Team Fortress 2: in the Mann Vs Machine trailer, this trope happens to the Heavy, Scout, Engineer, Medic, Soldier, and Demoman as they face down an army of their robotic lookalikes. Subverted when they effortlessly crush the bots. Double Subverted when a giant Soldier shows up...
- The demo of Mafia II ends with Vito Scaletta and Joe Barbaro driving Henry Tomasino who got shot during a hit right in front of a police blockade on a bridge with the screen fading to black and saying you can find out in the full game. In the full game the bridge is free of cars and the blockade never happened. Even the full game ended in a cliffhanger - Joe's fate was left to the player's imagination, although references further supporting his death can be found in the game's asset files.
- At the end of Bionic Commando 2009, Spencer falls from an unknown height after headbutting Super Joe's Humongous Mecha cockpit, with no confirmation of his death. GRIN went out of business following its poor sales, making a sequel (not counting the midquel Rearmed 2) unlikely.
- Dead Space 3: Awakened concludes with the awakened Brethren Moons beginning to consume Earth, and Isaac and Carver apparently going insane, possibly crashing into one of the moons.
- Much like the Half-Life example above, at the end of the first chapter of DOOM, the protagonist winds up in a room filled with acid and surrounded by quite a number of demons. As his health quickly drains away, the game ends. (For the Shareware version, this was a cliffhanger of sorts.)
- Crysis 3 subverts this. In the ending, Prophet is flung into orbit by the Alpha Ceph's wormhole and is floating helplessly as he watches the Ceph warship coming through the portal while wondering if there was anything he could have done differently. The screen then goes black... but the loading screen tip indicates that the Nanosuit can maintain functionality in a low-oxygen environment for a while as long as it's on low power. Sure enough, immediately after, Prophet snaps out of his funk, sees the Archangel laser satellite, and uses it to destroy the warship.
- Wolfenstein: The New Order ends with Blazkowicz being wounded by Deathshead's grenade. As Blazkowicz tells the Resistance to drop the bomb on Deathshead's fortress, the game cuts to the credits.
- A possible ending in Spec Ops: The Line has the protagonist - having just had his Heel Realization - surrounded by a large group of elite soldiers. The soldiers are American soldiers sent to find and rescue anyone they can - and the protagonist is an American soldier. They initially try to talk the protagonist down. The player can choose to surrender and be taken back home, go out with guns blazing and die in the process, or succesfully kill all soldiers and have an even worse Downer Ending with Walker being alive and permanently insane.
- In one of the bad endings in Way Of The Samurai 4 you join the xenophobic Prajna movement in an attack against the British embassy, which the British treat as an act of war. Akagi, the leader of the Prajna's, is mortally wounded and gives the leadership of his movement to your character. The game ends with the much more modern British army invading Japan, while your character is seen leading the charge against them.
- Subverted in Kingdom Hearts 2 where after defeating Xemnas, Sora and Riku are stuck fighting an uncountable number of Nobodies. Subverted when a time lapse shows them coming out okay, aside from Riku's broken foot.
- The non-canon monster victory ending in Evolve features the hunters hopelessly outmatched by a horde of monsters that advances on them, picking off a few of them, before ending in a Gory Discretion Shot.
- Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: The "Coffin" ending ends with Junpei wondering about the code to the coffin.
- EP7 of Umineko: When They Cry ends this way, with Will and Lion facing an army of Bernkastel's demonic cats about to tear them apart.
- Sparks Liner High, a bad end of Fate/Stay Night's Heaven's Feel route, can give this impression in regards to Rin's battle, though it is coupled with an Exact Time to Failure. The Taiga's Dojo session afterwards can't bring itself to chastise Shirou too much because he did his best.
Taiga: This end is peaceful in a way.
- Fite! originally ended with the start of Lucco and Ricci's rematch, but the author eventually added one more comic showing that Lucco wins.
- Homestuck has one in the form of Nepeta vs. Gamzee, which switches the narrative as Nepeta is knocked to the ground by Gamzee. This means that the cat was neither alive nor dead. Ultimatley subverted, as Nepeta turns out to have been killed.
- The final story in the Global Guardians Nairobi campaign ended with the last three heroes standing back-to-back against a small army of oncoming supervillains. Their fate was left unknown for nearly two years until, in another campaign, it was revealed that the name of every member of the Nairobi team is inscribed on the Guardians' memorial wall.
- The final episode of Carmilla reveals that the eldritch abomination under the university was not slain but is apparently waking up, possibly from having eaten Carmilla's century old vampire mother. The episode ends with Carmilla, Laura and LaFontaine looking at the camera as the town meeting alarm sounds out ominously...
- The short film Hit It ends with John ordering Matt under the table and engaging in a giant Mexican Standoff with the "resources" sent to hunt him down.
- ReBoot: The series ends with Megabyte, who has been the main antagonist for the first four fifths of the show, suddenly reappearing and taking over Mainframe. This cliffhanger was resolved years later in an official webcomic. The good guys escape and flee to the supercomputer, and Megabyte ends up becoming The Dragon to a new villain.
- Star Wars: Clone Wars:
- The first season of ends with a handful of Jedi holding out against an army of Battle Droids and the newly introduced General Grievous.
- The second season actually picks up a couple minutes later. Four Jedi survived the initial ambush, and holed up where the Droid army couldn't touch them. General Grievous killed one more Jedi before Ki-Adi-Mundi single-handedly stalled long enough for reinforcements to arrive and save his surviving friends.
- The Xiaolin Showdown finale, where the entire Rogues Gallery appear at the outskirts of the Shaolin Temple, ready to begin a mass assault.
- Stroker and Hoop. However, the creators did have the courtesy to explain how the cliffhanger would have resolved itself in the planned, yet aborted, second season premiere.
- The short animated film Flight Of The Kiwi is basically just one long Bolivian Army Ending
- The Transformers: At the end of the season 3 episode Ghost in the Machine, Starscream, in his new body, is catapulted through space by the explosion that gets Unicron's head away from Cybertron, which Unicron wanted for his own new body. He passes by the Decepticons, and Galvatron immediately starts firing at him.
Galvatron: It's STARSCREAM! BLAST HIM!Cyclonus: But he's a ghost!Galvatron: DIE YOU WORTHLESS-! fires and lands at least one hit on StarscreamCyclonus: Wait a minute. Since when do ghosts tumble uncontrolled through space?
- TRON: Uprising - Despite some heavy losses and struggle, it's looking like Beck might just be getting a rebellion underway, but then Clu himself is seen leading an army of Recognizers, Light Jets, and tanks and closing in on Argon City. There has been no mention of Argon outside of this series and in January 2016 the third movie was canceled. Thus the Bolivian army ending to the storyline has a Bolivian army ending to the franchise.
- In The Legend of Korra, this is how the episode The Ultimatum ends for Tenzin. They've essentially sworn to fight to the death even while taking a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown, but whether the Red Lotus will grant that wish or merely beat them to unconsciousness because they're more valuable alive isn't made clear at the episode's end.
- At the climax of the Looney Tunes cartoon "Hare-Way to the Stars", Bugs escapes Mars after stealing one of Marvin's spaceships, but accidentally takes the container of dehydrated "instant Martians" with him, splash-landing into a sewer in a large city. The Martians begin to grow as Bugs climbs out of the sewer, frantically replaces cover and warns the audience to "Run for the hills folks, or you'll be up to your armpits in Martians!" before taking his own advice as the ground shakes with the aliens underneath.