Magnolia. The rather self centered behavior displayed by many characters in the cast, made it hard for some viewers to sympathize with them. With the exception of hospice nurse Phil Parma and Officer Jim Kurring, whos quite possibly the one genuinely good character in the film.
There Will Be Blood can fall into this for some given its lack of sympathetic characters (HW being the few exceptions). The main character, Daniel Plainview, is a vicious, amoral, stop-at-nothing sociopath. The main villain, Eli Sunday, is a smug, cowardly, hypocritical, religious zealot. Any background characters introduced, such as Henry, are shown to be no saints themselves. With so many unpleasant characters, it can be very difficult to find someone to root for.
A majority of Darren Aronofsky's work easily falls into this category due to the overly-cynical levels. Their moods are oppressively dark and self serious, his characters self destructive wrecks that are so goal driven that they alienate those around them and more often then not, they end on pretty downer notes or at least very bittersweet. Even The Wrestler isn't completely safe from this, though it isn't quite as bleak as his other films. The only films of his that have genuinely happy endings are π and Noah (although the former can be considered a Esoteric Happy Ending) and even those come after much brutality and horror beforehand with questionable, disturbed protagonists.
Hereditary has this problem for the opposite reason as most horror films: not because the characters are poorly acted and boring so that you don't care what happens to them, but because they're a realistic and fairly sympathetic ordinary suburban family - which makes what happens to them even less fun to watch. For a significant number of people, the movie had already over this line after a child gets decapitated in a horrible car accident 45 minutes in, the fact that things only proceed to get worse from that point onward, culminating in a complete Kill 'Em AllDowner Ending can make it a hard film to enjoy. Aster stated that one of his intents with the film was to create a scenario in which the audience would feel real sympathy for the sort of characters that would be nameless, faceless Sacrificial Lambs in any other horror movie. Given the exceedingly polarized reaction to the film, the argument can definitely be made that he succeeded a bit too well.
Midsommar has a cast full of either jerks or Affably Evil, with a notable exception from the protagonist who is very apathetic after life and manipulations took their toll on her mental health. Add heavy doses of shock horror, and the movie has been quite the turn off to a not-insignificant portion of the film's audience.
Batman Returns, the sequel to Batman (1989) (also directed by Burton), is considered by many to be one of the strangest and most depressing Batman films for many years, bordering on nihilistic, from the grotesque villains to the Downer Ending. While this is a big part of the appeal to some fans, for others it makes it difficult to enjoy. There's also the fact that for all its bleakness it is also rather campy in some aspects (especially the more fantastical elements related to Penguin's plan), which some argue leads to the film's tone feeling muddled. It was also the darkest Tim Burton movie at the time, and the backlash pushed him back to his comedic roots with Ed Wood.
The works of David Cronenberg are often prone to this trope due to their morbid subject matter, grotesque imagery, and near-total lack of levity, not to mention the fact that the characters generally tend to be pretty unpleasant people. Even his most famous and "mainstream" production, The Fly, is not entirely immune as it does not shy away from the gore in the slightest. In fact, one scene had to be cut from the film precisely for inducing this reaction in the test audience.
Killer Joe. Save for Dottie, pretty much every character in the film is either a Jerkass, Too Dumb to Live or a monstrous sociopath like Joe is.
Ask a person who was around in The '80s about this trope, odds are their answer will be To Live and Die in L.A.Richard Chance is really not that different on the morality scale from his quarry, Rick Masters, and many of the characters are slimy or apathetic. John Vukovich is seemingly the only guy with some normal standards of goodness, but by the time the film's Downer Ending comes around, he's become just as bad, if not worse, than Chance himself. Moreover, the violent amorality clashes rather awkwardly with the glossy, Miami Vice-esque visual aesthetic, to the point of one reviewer describing the film as "a fetid movie hybrid: Miami Vile."
Sin City. Hartigan is the only guy who's close to good, Nancy is a Neutral Female, and all the other characters alternate between "amoral bastards" (Marv, Dwight, The Girls of Old Town) to "amoral monsters" (the people they're up against).
300. The narrator described the Spartans as the ultimate good guys. Because of his unreliability, though, it turns out the Spartans were just as insane and bloodthirsty as their Persian enemies (the prologue spells out how the Spartans actually kill any infant that don't match their standards of health). Because of that, while the narrator described the battles between the Spartans and Persians as "good vs. evil" (or "order vs. chaos" if you prefer), to audience members, it seemed more like "bad guys vs.worse guys."
In its follow-up, Land of the Dead, Humans Are the Real Monsters is taken to an extreme, and the alternative is to root for the one-dimensional good guys and the zombies, who are quite obviously still dangerous undead predators that nobody sane would want to see receive anything other than bullets in the brain. However, the entire series was building up to this kind of setting.
Survival of the Dead is the moment that this trope hit rock bottom in this series. Every single major character is a loathsome asshole, "Beware the Living" personified, and the Wacky Wayside Tribe that is most important to the plot is a pair of Feuding Families that can't stop trying to kill each other even when they are being literally gnawed on by the zombies. Not surprisingly, this was the biggest Box Office Bomb of the whole series.
The King of Comedy. This is likely why the parts where Jerry is killed by Rupert that was suggested by Jerry Lewis himself or Rupert being beaten up by the FBI that was in the original script were omitted, given how this film for a Black Comedy is bleak as these moments. Also, the film is dark deconstruction of celebrity life and fandom with no characters to really root for, with Rita being the only 100% sympathetic character. This issue is also one of the factors behind the the film's lackluster performance at its initial release.
Casino is basically Goodfellas without the humor or likeable characters, and with even more extreme violence and a whole lot of portentous symbolism. Consequently, it's much more divisive than its predecessor.
The Wolf of Wall Street's total absence of likable characters despite being a crazy comedy is often seen as the source for its controversy, and according to one Oscar voter who hated the fact that "there was no one to root for", this was the real reason why it was an Awards no-show.
They must've forgotten Denham, the FBI agent who serves as an antagonist to Jordan Belfort and ultimately takes him down. But then again, the film showcases that Denham doesn't gets even a knee-jerk "thank you" for his efforts and Belfort (because he's rich and famous) gets a Luxury Prison Suite and a job that pays just as well as his old one once he gets out, completely unrepentant.
This could be the reason why the films of Todd Solondz, most notably Welcome to the Dollhouse, have never gotten much mainstream attention. Everyone, seemingly without exception, is profoundly miserable, solipsistic, or sociopathic. Sometimes, they are all three.
The films of Paul Verhoeven almost always tend to suffer from this trope. Virtually everyone is a complete and utter sleazebag, and the so-called "heroes" tend to be apathetic at best and borderline sociopathic at worst. The frequent Gorn and explicit sex don't help matters either. Specific examples:
Showgirls: Las Vegas may not be all glitz and glamor, but it's really hard to root for the main character when she and everybody else act like terrible people, swear constantly, and have an overall cynical view. The only character that makes a positive effort is Molly and even she can't escape the bleak underbelly of Vegas since she gets raped.
Lars von Trier is the poster boy example of this trope due to the excessive cynicism from his works. The most egregious example including:
Melancholia. There's no point to the plot. Or the characterization. Or the dialogue. Or anything else. Everyone just dies, after living a sad life. But it's okay; the film assures you that they were all complete Jerkasses. We never see anything happy in the movie or anything that implies their world is anything other than apathetic and depressing. True Art Is Angsty taken to its logical extreme.
Its possible to enjoy the film if you emphasize with Justine instead of her sister. The film is at first shown from her perspective, documenting how shes getting progressively more depressed and apathetic towards her surroundings. This eventually reaches a point where she is not even able to complete simple tasks (like taking a bath) or get any enjoyment out of anything (It tastes like ashes!). Her sister, in contrast, is trying to drag her out of her funk. Their roles reverse when it becomes apparent that Earth and Melancholia will crash Justines mood becomes vigorous and lasts in anticipation until the point of impact.
Some entries in the Alien series can run headlong into this:
Many fans of the series have criticized Alien³ for being unrelentingly grim and nihilistic. The film starts by killing off the entire supporting cast of Aliens, rendering the time Ripley spent rescuing Newt from the atmosphere processor on LV-426 as a colossal waste of effort. In their place are a group of violent inmates on a backwater prison planet who sport shaved heads (making it difficult to tell them apart) and are almost all interchangeable. The few sympathetic supporting characters are killed off very early in the film or die en masse in the tunnel scene just before the ending. The audience has no reason to root for any of the inmates besides Dillon, despite the film's attempt to claim otherwise. It ends with the lead character (Ripley) sacrificing herself to stop Weyland-Yutani from getting their hands on the xenomorph, and the only people alive at the end are a group of W-Y commandos and a single prisoner. However, it is noteworthy that the film's ending is actually a Bittersweet Ending, not a Downer Ending- Ripley dies, but she takes the last Xenomorph with her. The fight is over, and humanity won, at the cost of a relative few lives.
Alien: Covenant: The hopeful tone at the end of Prometheus is rendered null and void in the first half-hour, as the Engineer home planet is completely wiped out and Elizabeth Shaw dies (off-screen, no less) via experimentation by David. The crew of the Covenant are killed off in increasingly-messy ways, and the film ends with the only overt "bad guy wins" ending in the series — David has taken Walter's place aboard the Covenant, has Daniels and Tennessee at his mercy, and plans to infect some/all of the colonists in cryosleep with facehugger embryos he's smuggled onboard. Not to mention that David (the villain) always seems to have the upper hand on the protagonists. Some viewers have claimed that some of the plot points are Ass Pulls just to make sure that David wins.
A common complaint about Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is that the film tries way too hard to be as disturbing and viscerally disgusting as possible. This manifests primarily in the form of uninteresting human characters (on top of them dropping dead like flies as collateral damage fodder in the extraterrestrials' conflict), the Xenomorphs being incredibly vile even by their standards (most notably with the Predalien turning pregnant women into Chestburster nests, having said bursters eating the child within), and a heavy-handed Downer Ending with the government nuking the city - a perfect example of the typical villainous "we do what we want and everybody else is expendable" mentality that is typical of the franchise (but is more unsettling than usual because it's happening on modern-day Earth). Additionally, the trope name becomes incredibly literal with a lighting direction so poor that it is almost impossible to see anything on the screen (especially the much-important titular conflict).
Part of the reason the James Cameron/Guillermo del Toro film of At the Mountains of Madness was canceled (the other part was an out-of-control-budget)—it's an R-rated horror film about two races of fighting Eldritch Abominations who pay no mind to the doomed humans, and, unlike, Underworld there isn't even a romantic plotline to root for. It's also possible the execs thought it was just Alien vs. Predatorwith tentacles and penguins. Besides, with the mentioned war between two alien species, the black semiliquid polyvalent stuff that shoggoths are made of, and a group of human scientists exploring eldritch ancient ruins, Del Toro thought Prometheus did his idea already, anyways.
Bébé's Kids features the protagonist, Robin Harris (based on the real life comedian who passed away just two years before the film's release), who proves to be more often than not an irresponsible adult who would even go as far to abandon the children in an attempt to escape the ruckus of an amusement park. The titular trio themselves also cause lord knows how much money worth of destruction of said amusement park and are, in general, very misbehaved. Leon, the only sympathetic character, still takes a lot of crap from the titular trio. Really, there's hardly a single character in the whole film worth rooting for.
Being John Malkovich suffers from this; all the main characters are, at the very least, horrifically selfish human beings who don't really care who gets hurt in pursuit of their various wants. The only remotely sympathetic character in the movie is John Malkovich himself, and that's mostly because he's more of a plot device than an actual character. For the uninitiated, Charlie Sheen(!) has, by the end of the movie, very likely learned that John Malkovich is trapped in his own head while other people dominate him, and he is likely going to follow the puppetmasters who are possessing Malkovich into the next host, an adorable and harmless seven year old girl.
Believe it or not, The Breakfast Club can have this effect on more cynical viewers. The crappiness of Shermer, Illinois, pretty much goes from being Played for Laughs (as in Sixteen Candles) to being Played for Drama. Every adult (barring the janitor Carl) is a viciously selfish scumbag of some sort, abusing the kids for their own benefit. The kids themselves, while morallybetter people, are so deeply dysfunctional that one can't help but feel a bit nihilistic. "When you grow old, your heart dies" sums it all up perfectly.
This was a common criticism leveled against The Butterfly Effect, with many reviewers claiming that it was so oppressively dark that it almost became hard to take seriously. The entire first half-hour of the movie is a nonstop Trauma Conga Line for the main character, where he's nearly strangled by his institutionalized father, gets molested by his neighbor, accidentally murders a woman and her baby with dynamite, watches his dog get tied up in a sack and burned to death, sees his best friend lose his mind, and receives news that the love of his life has committed suicide. The rest of the movie follows his attempts to make everything better with time-travel...which end up making itworse.
Cannibal Holocaust: On the one hand, you have a team of psychopathic, narcissistic documentarians who are willing to stage horrible atrocities in order to make their film more "interesting". On the other hand, the Yanomami tribesmen don't come off much better in spite of the film's attempts to portray them in a sympathetic light, being depicted as vicious cannibals and gang-rapists. Faye and Dr. Monroe are pretty much the only remotely decent characters in the entire film, and even so, the former still participates in the team's crimes - albeit reluctantly - and in the end suffers a brutal and protracted demise despite being the least guilty of the four. The relentlessly oppressive, nihilistic tone and graphic gore (including scenes of real-life animal slaughter) don't help, either. As Dr. Monroe so eloquently puts it: "I wonder who the real cannibals are."
You can tell Chicken Little was trying (and failed, considering the company the film was released by) to emulate Dreamworks' then-huge brand of snarky, in-your-face "edgy" humor by just how cynical it is, from how the main character is bullied by his entire town, his father being openly ashamed of him and passively having one character be mind raped. It doesn't help that the film was conceived out of Michael Eisner's hatred of DreamWorks founder/Disney Renaissance alumnus Jeffrey Katzenberg, and this was his attempt to beat at his own game. However, these factors make the film too mean-spirited in tone for most people to really enjoy.
The indie war drama Combat Shock is a particularly extreme example of this trope. Lacking the masterful cinematic technique and interesting characters of similar Vietnam War films such as Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon, it instead presents the audience with a remorseless march into the dark as the protagonist, a veteran living in total poverty and in a broken household with a deformed child, slowly loses his grip on sanity. It all culminates in the protagonist murdering his entire family and then committing suicide. Many in the audience probably wished he'd done so earlier, thus sparing them the torment of watching him suffer.
The Con is On: It is hard to summon up much sympathy for Harry and Peter, the Villain Protagonists. Unlike most Con Man movies, they are not Lovable Rogues, but amoral thieves who dabble in drug dealing, and who are in their current predicament due to their own greed and stupidity. They people they rip off are horrible people, and the gangsters chasing them are worse, but they remain unsympathetic.
One possible reason why The Counselor received many mediocre reviews; There aren't many people to root for. Most of the characters are bad guys/girls, and the titular character is somewhat naive and foolish.
The Day After and its British counterpartThreads both suffer heavily from this trope, which was arguably the point, as both films sought to demonstrate that in the event of a nuclear war, there will be no happy endings. As such, it could feel pointless to root for any of the characters since they're all fated to die horribly or (perhaps worse) live as wretched scavengers in an irradiated, ruined world. This is especially true in Threads, where a full-scale war breaks out as opposed to the limited exchange seen in The Day After, with society (and even human language) subsequently crumbling to the point that the post-war generation will never rebuild civilization. While it is certainly true that Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, in this case some people definitely tuned out before the films could get their message across.
Although this did not hold true when The Day After initially came out: at the time, a happy ending (or something that resembled a happy ending if no one looked at it too closely) was so common that audiences genuinely expected one. The lack of one was both a surprising and sobering experience to audiences of the time.
One of the many criticisms for Fantastic Four (2015) was that the film's tone was too serious and invoked Darker and Edgier for the sake of it without actually executing it properly (especially considering how the source material and previous film adaptations were much lighter and surreal in tone). Furthermore, the lack of any real bonds between the characters at the end of the movie - or the perception that the characters themselves are underdeveloped - have also been heavily criticized, as some critics argued that the grim tone would have worked if the characters were actually interesting or worth rooting for.
The Final Destination series has this problem involving the second variant of this trope. There's no point in getting emotionally attached to them or rooting for them to make it, because the rules say death will not be cheated and they're all going to die. Even finding out the reason why the visions that allow the characters to cheat death happen can add to this trope. Hoping for some kind of Big Good to this series or something similar? Nope. It was Death doing it all along, and then killing them later because... I dunno, he's a dick.
This is the ultimate fate of Gus Van Sant's Gerry. The movie really doesn't give the audience any motivation to care for the two, as what little dialogue is awashed by entire stretches of silence and the whole situation being caused by their incredible shortsightedness. In the end, the movie only serves as a test for patience until Damon!Gerry kills Affleck!Gerry and finds civilization just before the credits roll. Brad Jones described the movie as being nothing more than "sand and walking".
Halloween in general can stir up this feeling after a while. With each film, regardless of which timeline you're watching, it seems like Michael always wins in some way. Be that he traumatizes his victims severely, spreads his influence, or just simply won't stay dead. And that's not even getting into the fact that anyone who survives one film will very likely die in the next or so, making it difficult to grow attached to any of them.
One thing that can be said about The Hateful 8 is that it certainly lives up to its name: the characters are full of hate, contempt and lies, and when the truth about most of them is revealed some viewers probably won't care what happens to them when the bullets start flying.
Lloyd Kaufman faced this problem when writing Health Club Horror. He wanted to have the monster only kill bad people (which was an idea left over from an unfilmed script he worked on the previous decade with Stan Lee), but the monster was also a bad guy. His solution was to make the monster a hero, and make the movie a comedy. Thus, The Toxic Avenger was born.
An older example of this trope can be found in the Universal movie House of Frankenstein. The characters aren't very likeable (with the possible exception of Daniel), the story is rather cynical, and in the end, everybody dies. Not even Svengoolie's So Bad, It's Good sense of humor could save this one.
Hulk can be seen as this because it clearly resembles a Greek tragedy with little to no humor and shows a highly abusive father to the hero. Many put the blame on director Ang Lee, who for being best-known for character-driven dramas (aside from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), went too far with that approach.
The Ides of March sets itself up as a movie in which an idealistic US presidential political campaign manager has his idealism destroyed by the paranoid nature of politics and corruption. Which might be interesting, except the character in question does some morally questionable actions from the beginning of the story. This makes it hard for the audience to like him or view him as the Wide-Eyed Idealist the script insists he is. As a result, the entire plot just seems sort of pointless.
Iron Sky: Okay, so on one side of the conflict we have Moon Nazis who want to either conquer or perhaps destroy the Earth (the movie isn't quite clear which). On the other side you have the people of Earth, a collection of Jerkasses and Dumbasses so universally horrible they actually come close to making the Nazis look like good guys by comparison. The whole thing is so bad, the fact that the movie's ending with both the Nazis' moonbase and most life on Earth being destroyed can be considered a happy ending.
It Lives by Night: Between asshole John, whiny Cathy and pervy Sheriff Ward, there's no one to identify with. That, and the actual darkness, as the lighting in the film is pretty awful, too.
Justice League Dark: Apokolips War , the finale for the DC Animated Movie Universe , really falls into this. These films have always had trouble with making the heroes likable, and now we have those same heroes dying horribly in downright disturbing ways all throughout the film in addition to a lot of civilian death and general mayhem, not unlike Marvel's Ultimatum event. The darkness is so oppressive that it becomes difficult to care after a while. Many reviewsmake a very clear warning that this film is very violent and people should steer clear if they can't stomach it. As if that wasn't enough, the entire Animated Universe ends with a Pyrrhic Victory as most of the heroes are dead, insane or crippled and the Earth left near-inhospitable. This leads to Constantine to order Flash to go back in time and prevent the tragedy from happening, which will change the entire timeline. Many fans feel that this makes the entire DCAMU not worth watching or getting invested in.
Killing Them Softly: Jackie is a sociopathic Straw Nihilist, Frankie and Russell are two dumbasses who aren't even vaguely likeable, and the rest of the cast are mainly a bunch of gangsters with no real depth. The movie almost seems to embrace being set in a world of degenerates, if the ending is anything to go by.
Logan is already a bleak and harsh movie on its own, but taken as part of the X-Men Film Series, it basically turns the whole series as a "Shaggy Dog" Story with moments of Yank the Dog's Chain, as despite fighting for a better future for mutants in X-Men: Days of Future Past, Logan opens with mutants dying out thanks to modified crops. Additionally, both the title character and Professor Xavier are miserable with Xavier going senile, which has caused him to lost control of his powers and accidentally kill most of the X-Men as a result and Wolverine's Healing Factor giving out and as a result the adamantium on his bones is starting to kill him—and both die over the course of the movie. The only bright spot is the X-23 children escaping to Canada for safe haven.
Those that don't like Woody Allen's Match Point often cite this as a reason: the murder victim is clingy and whiny, the murderer himself is an unrepentant scumbag, and the other characters are, for the most part, Upper-Class Twits.
Like Conspiracy, Men Behind the Sun is a dramatization of a historical event that resulted in the deaths of many innocent people, where the main characters are all heinous war criminals who never receive any comeuppance for their actions. Unlike Conspiracy, however, Men Behind the Sun includes lots of Gorn (including a real cadaver) and gratuitous scenes of animal cruelty. This along with the fact that the film makes virtually no attempt to humanize either the victims or the perpetrators has led many to criticize the film for coming across as exploitative rather than informative.
Menace II Society. The film itself invokes this trope. There is no point getting emotionally attached to any of the main cast of the film, as it is a dark representation of how dangerous the neighborhoods of Watts, California are. The main character (Caine) embraces the life of a criminal, his best friend O-Dog is a terrible person who has no justifiable motivation for his sadism and murder, the same applies to the other members of the gang. Given that, it is very difficult to truly sympathize with most of the main characters, especially when you consider that they are all practically at war with gangsters like them.
Legendary Picture's Monsterverse:
Discussed in this article on Business Insider about Godzilla (2014) and other monster and disaster movies. Anne Billson notes that the reason Godzilla is a more interesting character than most of the humans is because we don't really want to get emotionally attached to people who are going to be killed later in the midst of catastrophe. We're willing to accept uninteresting characters who are either Born Lucky when it comes to surviving the violent events or who don't get much development before their demises because we prefer that to being genuinely heartbroken by all the misery, tragedy and death.
Nightcrawler: Our sociopathic Villain Protagonist, who is in every scene, is a freelance news cameraman who directly or indirectly causes several deaths to get good pictures and remove competitors. He also blackmails his main customer into sleeping with him. She, meanwhile, is a firm believer in If It Bleeds, It Leads, and only cares about getting shocking stories to keep the ratings up.
Pawn Sacrifice, though competently made as a film, is heavily marred by the fact that the Bobby Fischer's pride and utter contempt for everybody and everything other than chess made him a completely unlikeable piece of crap protagonist. His only redeeming quality is his intelligence, but it isn't enough to cover his faults or make anybody like him. The movie seems to intentionally portray him as such, but when the audience has nobody to root for and no desire to see the conflict of the film through to its end then people start to leave the theater. You actually want to see the perfunctory Russian antagonist win just to make this asshole suffer. By the end of the film the audience is just as exhausted as the poor schlubs in the movie that have to babysit Bobby through his life-long string of temper tantrums.
Pirates Of the Caribbean series:
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had this problem for some viewers, with everyone backstabbing each other and shifting alliances on a whim that it got hard to root for anyone by the end, unless you cared about their motivations. Of course, such a thing should be expected, given that the protagonists are all pirates by this point, even Will and Elizabeth. Even so, the climax of the film had them cheer about how pirates represent freedom and such... when they pillage and murder. Hardly heroic.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales cranks this up even more, with the entire cast of self-serving criminals having taken a massivelevel in jerk ass (even Gibbs), making the movie honestly quite unpleasant to watch. The closest it gets to likeable characters are newcomers Henry and Carina, who are Base Breakers at best and essentially carbon-copies of Phillip and Syrena, who were essentially carbon-copies of Will and Elizabeth. Really, the only character keeping the movie afloat is the Creepy Awesome Salazar and his ship that eats other ships... and we're supposed to root against him.
Planet of the Apes:
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, as opposed to the previous movie, has practically no respite from the grim and gritty tone. The movie opens with the human race being wiped out by a pandemic and things only go downhill from there. Every barest hint of a Hope Spot in the movie is swiftly ruined, and the finale implies that everything is about to get much worse.
The Prestige suffered from this. Nolan didn't really give the audience enough clues about who the real protagonist was (the one we actually wanted to see win), because both main characters acted rather heinously at times. It isn't until the end when one character triumphs that the audience goes "Oh, I guess he was the good guy all along", and by then, we're not sure if we should be happy or angry about the outcome. This one is particularly tricky because we don't know which twin was doing what throughout the movie. All we can really be sure of is that the brother that gets executed tried to save Angier from drowning. For all we know, the one that survives was responsible for all the worst things "Alfred" Borden did. About the only Hope Spot is that the surviving twin says he was the one who loved Sarah, which might indicate that he was Jess's real father and that he will work hard to give her a good life. It should be noted that the original which it was based on had two completely different protagonists who were the offspring of the magicians and were trying to reconcile why their families have been at odds for so long. The documents they find show that both men made a great deal of mistakes that led to being equally to blame. It also had a different ending.
The Prince of Egypt is a rare animated example. It shows a faithful depiction of the book of Exodus but it's intense imagery and tragic stories of Moses and Rameses can be too much for moviegoers to handle. It also shows graphic depictions of the ten plagues and slavery as shown in two of it's most famous and intense songs "Deliver Us" and "The Plagues".
This is a significant factor in why the films that Molly Ringwald initially starred in after severing ties with John Hughes failed, consequently contributing to the decline of her career as a leading lady. In her attempt to progress into more serious, adult fare that would earn her respectability as a young actress, the three films The Pick-Up Artist, Fresh Horses and particularly For Keeps instead only alienated critics and audiences with what they saw as needlessly angsty and melodramatic storylines that centered on Ringwald's characters undergoing hardship after hardship without much in the way of relief, be it with family members or romantic relationships. By the time Betsy's Wedding flopped, people were so burned out that they likely flocked to the early films of Julia Roberts, especially Pretty Woman, to escape from the dismal dreariness and the perceived pretentiousness of Ringwald's fare.
The original version of Rollerball has the same problem as The Butterfly Effect - its attempts to be somber and "profound" (up to and including the use of classical music) are so overdone that is becomes impossible to take it seriously. Not only is the story set against the backdrop of a soulless capitalist dystopia, but Jonathan's victory at the end occurs at such a high price that it's practically meaningless. And given the general state of things, the situation is unlikely to ever improve. Instead, the film implies, the apathetic populace will remain compliant and continue to observe the titular Blood Sport like there's no tomorrow, which we are told there isn't. Not exactly a very pleasant look on life.
Two words: The Room. Johnny is a borderline incomprehensible Mary Sue who finds stories about domestic abuse funny, Lisa is incredibly stupid and/or callous, Mark is a douchebag and an idiot, and Denny has drug problems and a very creepy relationship with Johnny and Lisa. The writing and acting don't help, either. Some of the supporting cast aren't much better; Claudette is a more pragmatic version of Lisa, Chris-R is a violent drug dealer who holds Denny at gunpoint, Mike does absolutely nothing plot relevant, Peter (the Only Sane Man) goes missing halfway through the film, and Steven just casually saunters into the plot in the last twenty minutes and acts as if we have any idea who he is. Michelle is the Only Sane Man who actually bothers to stick around for the duration of the film, and that isn't enough to prevent Johnny's suicide.
Although it's not too overbearing in Stoker due to it's dark sense of humor, the film's plot is ultimately about a Creepy Uncle seducing his niece and turning her into a sociopath and ultimately succeeding.
The Thing (1982) has much the same problem as The Terror (see Literature) - between the Gorn, the heavy-handed gloomy atmosphere, and the fact that the story follows a bunch of starving, freezing Antarctic researchers being stalked by a murderous Eldritch Abomination, it's a pretty depressing experience. The fact that it ends with all the protagonists dead and the base destroyed could thus be considered almost merciful. Director John Carpenter has even attributed the film's poor box-office performance to this trope.
This Is the End nicely deconstructs this problem. The main characters are selfish, irritating assholes to all and sundry... and then are forced to realize this when the Rapture occurs and no one at a Hollywood house party, themselves included, are considered good enough to make the cut. What follows is a set of characters coming to the conclusion that you can't be a complete dick to people, not if you want to actually enjoy your life, leading to each of them making a Heroic Sacrifice in turn for the others.
Similar to the Zootopia example listed below, Toy Story nearly suffered from this. Jeffery Katzenberg urged the employees at PIXAR to make the film "more adult" and "edgier". The result was an early screening in which Woody and the other toys (aside from Buzz) were constantly-angry Jerkasses. In this version, Woody grabs Buzz and throws him out the window, then he and the other toys start yelling at each other, and the other toys attack him and throw him out the window too. Jeffery Katzenberg, Roy Disney, and Peter Schneider were appalled by it, and PIXAR was given two weeks to rewrite the film as they saw fit and make Woody and the other toys more likable.
The Tracey Fragments, big time. Every single character is mentally disturbed, borderline-sociopathic, drug-addled, and/or completely selfish, so there's hardly any reason for an audience to put forth the effort to give a damn.
Tragedy Girls can get this from some people, which is probably part of the reason why it only got a limited release. Our two main characters are sadistic, fame-hungry serial killers, who pick off their classmates one-by-one. While there's a lot of Black Comedy and the film is a satire, it can be a bit much for people who don't like that sort of thing.
Between the enigmatic, sexually predatory alien and her hormone-bloodied victims, Under the Skin is very short on sympathetic characters or compelling conflict. The alien does seem to get better later on, but it's too little too late, and the story spills into full-on Evil vs. Evil at the end when she's attacked and killed by a would-be rapist. The deformed man is essentially the only sympathetic character who is explored in any real depth.
The horror film Unfriended, like most horror movies, suffers from this. Virtually all of the characters are thoroughly horrible people, even the ones who initially come off as comparatively sympathetic. The evil ghost Laura, who committed suicide due to being bullied, is said to have been a bully herself when she was alive. Ken, who otherwise seems fairly blameless, nevertheless says Laura deserved everything that happened to her. Blaire, the ostensible Final Girl and seemingly the most moral of our protagonists, turns out to be an Alpha Bitchin Sheep's Clothing, as she was responsible for the video that drove Laura to suicide. More than one critic said they found the film's depiction of the amorality of American millennial teenagers more frightening than the actual premise.
Very Bad Things is a Black Comedy that focuses almost entirely on the "black" part, and not enough on the "comedy" part. The characters are all either assholes, psychopaths, complete wimps, or some combination thereof. The whole film is a downward spiral from bad to much, much, worse (it has so much murder and grisly fates that Death as Comedy and Bloody Hilarious stop being appliable), with next to no Hope Spots. It's hard to feel sympathy for anyone, and ends with the survivors literally ruined as human beings in one way or another.
The 1982 film version of Pink Floyd's album The Wall falls victim to this, to the point that neither lyricist/writer Roger Waters nor designer Gerald Scarfe are terribly fond of the finished result.
This was an issue that many critics, including Roger Ebert, had with the infamous Alien rip-off Xtro - the tone was so spiteful and nihilistic that many of them couldn't be bothered to care about the plot or characters. Not only is the film practically overflowing with mean-spirited jabs at otherfilms portraying extraterrestrial life as benevolent, it almost seems to mock the audience for believing in such a notion. The extremely bleak tone is not helped in the slightest by the distinct lack of likable characters - while Sam does genuinely love his son, the acts he commits in his new formnote which include killing the son's pet snake and eating its eggs as well as impregnating a woman and giving birth to himself fully grown are so horrifying that it's difficult to see him as anything but a monster, and everyone else is either a victim or slimy and/or apathetic.
An early draft (and by that, we mean "was worked on for about four years") of Zootopia was discarded for this reaction. It focused on the Con ManNick Wilde as a primary protagonist and involved open anti-predator prejudice as exemplified by laws requiring all predators to wear shock collars. It was felt that doing this made Zootopia resemble a police state and combining that with an already cynical point-of-view character made the film so dark that viewers would rather want Nick to escape Zootopia than to fix it. The solution was to shift focus towards Wide-Eyed Idealist Judy Hopps, and the eventual story and setting became more viewer-friendly as whole.