A Bolivian Army Ending occurs when the main characters face seemingly insurmountable odds which, for once, they fail to surmount, although their ultimate doom is sometimes left to the audience's imagination. The trope is named for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, which ends with the two heroes surrounded by seemingly the entire Bolivian army (more likely just a company of riflemen) after escaping from the States. 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. (Interestingly, the original version of the film showed their death, but Robert Redford preferred a more ambiguous ending.) There is some historical evidence that the real Butch Cassidy may have survived the event, but none for the Sundance Kid.
Thanks to Conservation of Ninjutsu, there is a 99% chance that any character caught in a Bolivian Army Ending would survive if the incident took place earlier in the film. Despite the fact that it is arguably a Never Found the Body situation, this type of ending does not usually result in resurrection.
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.
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 1985 Area 88OVA 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.
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.
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.
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 when he distracts the marines as a decoy ship and is left to facing a marine captain and several ships. 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 the execution. His 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
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.
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.
In 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, Ozymandiasgets 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.
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 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.
My Immortal ends with the Final Battle between Enoby and Voldemort (and possibly Snape, Draco and Vampire/Harry.) Ebony 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.
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. Word of God is that Gilda killed Dash.
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.
Gallipoli ends with the protagonist Archy going over the top of a trench in WWI. The final frame is of Archy in mid stride, reeling back to a gun shot. The same picture was used for its promotional posters, which often made it the first image audiences had of the film and the last one they saw. It didn't really come as a spoiler or surprise to viewers, considering what happened to the ANZAC forces at Gallipoli being common knowledge in Australia and New Zealand.
The original Dawn of the Dead 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.
Wayne's 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.
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.
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.
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.
The Devils 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.
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 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.
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.
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 the 1977 Wages of Fear remake 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.
Averted with the novels; the novelization of TDKR 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.
Taken 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.
It isn't ambiguous though, at an early screening the director said that it was the end of the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
In A Dance With Dragons, she's alive.
Unfortunately, the book makes up for resolving that one with several others. The last we see of Jon Snow is when he gets stabbed by his own men, and Dany's final chapter ends with the Dothraki Khalasar under Khal Jhaqo baring down on her and Drogon.
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. She never actually says that he died.
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.
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.
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.
There was the Project ALF movie from 1996 though, which could be an even worse fate for our beloved furry hero.
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.
Blakes Seven 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.
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.
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. The first three are Played for Laughs, the fourth is the only one which was actually serious and sad.
One of the episodes of 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.
Speaking of, 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.
The above only applies to the first broadcast version of the final episode. 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).
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).
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 Amazons march to conquer Earthrealm, Raiden is seemingly defeated by Shao Kahn, and Kung Lao's championship medallion is shown strewn on the floor.
Considering anyone who knew the mythology of the setting was fully aware that King Lao was eventually going to die at the hands of Goro, and the forces of evil would rule for about 500 years (give or take) the ambiguity is somewhat lessened.
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 Amazons.
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.
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.
In the classic british comedy Dads 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.
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, which 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.
The retcon is done well though. The fight against the army goes on for a bit and then fades to black. When it comes back, it's just three guys, like in the original. If you look at the lighting in the scene several hours have gone by.
You can actually keep fighting all the way to those last 3 guys. They're invincible gameplay wise.
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 died on the easier settings. The Bolivian Army Ending is averted as he doesn't go to hell and goes to heaven instead.
At the end of Half-Life 2 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 cannon, 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.
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: 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.
Starcraft II: The mission "In Utter Darkness", Raynor is shown a vision of the final stand of the Protoss against the Zerg-Hybrids.
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 trick 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'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.
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 "LoneWolf".
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...
DreamWeb: 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.
Or does it? For all we know, Ryan could as well be a complete madman who imagined the whole thing about the Dreamweb's keeper ordering him to kill supposedly evil characters.
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.
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.
The level "Of Their Own Accord" in Modern Warfare 2 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 ending proper may play this straight, with the US and Russia about to go to war, as well as Soap and Price accused of terrorism and forced to go underground.
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.
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.
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."
The Last Story reveals that they not only survived, but seemingly won.
Sonic Chronicles have the heroes travel to another dimension to fight Emperor Ix, who wants to get to Earth and conquer the world. The heroes succeed, but when getting back to Earth, several years passed and Eggman, very well aware of Sonic and his friends' absence, used this time to conquer the world and build his robot dystopia, and as the heroes' ship arrive, Eggman greets them sending a entire fleet of airship drones to attack them. Then the game ends.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
EP7 of Umineko no Naku Koro ni ends this way, with Will and Lion facing an army of Bernkastel's demonic cats about to tear them apart.
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.
At the end of The Incredibles, the Underminer rises from the city and challenges the heroes. The movie ends with the protagonists about to fight him. Then comes the video game The Incredibles: Rise of the Underminer.
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.
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 has been Un-Cancelled, and it turned out that they came out right next to Earth.
The first season of Star Wars: Clone Wars ends with a handful of Jedi holding out against an army of Battle Droids and the newly introduced General Grievous.
This was more of a "will keep fighting the good fight" moment though, it wasn't meant to imply that they died.
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 Starscream
Cyclonus: Wait a minute. Since when do ghosts tumble uncontrolled through space?