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  • 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 kiling 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.
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    • 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).
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  • Some critics said America's Sweethearts had this problem. Among the main characters in the title, Eddie is a ticking time bomb (although it's understandable, given the headline-making breakup) and Gwen is an unapproachable, manipulative Rich Bitch who can't even put ankle boots on right. Among the side characters, the agent played by Billy Crystal is mining all the drama for his own benefit. The only likable character is Gwen's sister mainly because she has to put up with Gwen and is just beginning to grow a backbone after losing a bunch of weight but her goal is to get together with Eddie so it doesn't really matter.
  • 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.
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  • 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. Predator with 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.
  • This goes back all the way to the beginning of feature-length cinema—for modern viewers, anyway—with The Birth of a Nation (1915). Admit it: you don't want anyone to triumph, because the conflict is between white supremacists who want to keep blacks from voting and black supremacists who want to keep whites from voting.
  • Body of Evidence: As Ken Begg points out in his review "It finally just hit me that a major problem with this picture is that there isn’t a single vaguely likeable character in the whole deal. Frank is a colossal, adulterous jerk. Rebecca is at best a slutty weirdo, at worst a cold blooded killer. Garrett is a doofus who prosecutes people under the most retarded rationales imaginable, and does so poorly. Even the victim was an old pervert. Now, this isn't necessarily fatal, but for it not to be, the film must be extremely well made. Needless to say, this is not the case here."
  • 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 morally better 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.
  • Tim Burton directed a few.
  • 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 it worse.
  • The Cabin in the Woods has an In-Universe example. At the end of the film, it is well in the ability of the surviving characters to prevent The End of the World as We Know It by way of Heroic Sacrifice. It's just that they've gone through so much trauma that they simply don't care anymore and let the Eldritch Abominations destroy everything by refusing to satisfy them with death.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • A lot of the works of The Coen Brothers (as an example, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) or A Serious Man) are loaded with an absurd amount of Black Comedy... way too absurd and most importantly way too dark. Horrible people doing horrible things in an Idiot Plot that will most probably end with them dying horrible deaths... or worse yet, becoming an Idiot Houdini that will most probably carry on without having learnt anything. Or worse yet, good people will be driven through the wringer to the point that they come out the other side maddened into becoming The Anti-Nihilist... when they come out alive.
  • 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 war drama Conspiracy about the Wannsee Conference is a dramatization of a historical event that ended in the genocide of millions, which is clear from the start. Every major character in the film is a heinous war criminal so morally bankrupt that there's no one left to root for. The only one who somewhat maintains audience sympathy for feeling they're crossing a line is blackmailed into submission by much scarier men. It concludes with the revelation that the discussion was entirely pointless and Heydrich was going to carry out the Holocaust anyway. Finally, most of the Nazis never received any comeuppance and went on to live uneventful lives after the war.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 Day After and its British counterpart Threads both suffer heavily from this trope. The whole point of both films is to demonstrate that in the event of a nuclear war, there will be no happy ending in the aftermath. As such, there's absolutely no reason whatsoever to root for any of the characters since they're all fated to die horribly. And even if that weren't the case, there's barely any world left for them to inhabit. 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 subsequently crumbling to the point that the post-war generation is mentally incapable of ever rebuilding civilization. While it is certainly true that Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped, it's generally not a good idea to drop them that hard if you want to get your 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.
  • 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag: The "hero" is a vicious criminal and all-around meanie, and everyone else is either a smart-aleck or so cartoonish that it's hard to view them as anything but annoying.
  • 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.
  • The characters in Gamer are either sociopathic monsters, obnoxious jerkasses, or people who are so one-dimensional that it's very hard to care for them. Kable isn't safe either, as he too is a psychopath even outside of "Slayers", willing to kill random people, and snaps Rick Rape's spine just because he was hitting on his wife, even though Rick wasn't in control of his actions. The only real likable character is Ken Castle, mainly because of Michael C. Hall's gloriously silly performance. And he's the friggin' villain.
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • Rob Zombie's Halloween remake and its sequel suffer from making almost every character an unlikeable Jerkass, even more so than the average slasher film. The few characters who aren't Jerkasses at the start either become one by the end of the second film or disappear from the plot as quickly as possible.
  • 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.
  • John Singleton's Higher Learning, his follow-up to the Oscar-winning Boyz n the Hood and to Poetic Justice, was not a great success because not only did it contain an embarrassing amount of Narm, but almost all the characters were hard to like. (Like The Birth of a Nation, to which it has occasionally been compared, this is a movie in which the black characters are bad and the white characters are worse.) In fact, the only two truly sympathetic characters were a college professor whose role is fairly minor and a female student-athlete who is killed by being shot in the stomach—extremely unfair, since she has not hurt or even acted rudely to a single person throughout the movie. Everyone else is at best a Jerkass, Innocently Insensitive, or just generally irresponsible. Then there's the girl's murderer, a Villain Protagonist of sorts, who is not heroic by any measure; however, we're led to understand how he became extremely frustrated and then enraged by his Crapsack World environment. Life at the college campus is so miserable, in fact, that in the end the nominal hero of the story just gives up and runs away, which is hardly a heroic thing to do.
  • 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. It might be the reason why the Ang Lee got some hate.
  • 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.
  • The Incredible Melting Man: The protagonist is a loser, the villain is a pathetic Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, the violence and gore quotient is through the roof, and virtually everyone with a speaking part dies, including the hero. Then it ends with the villain melting and his remains scooped into a bucket. Certainly among the most unremittingly bleak movies to grace Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and yet is one of the funniest as a result.)
  • 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 movies 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.
  • Ken Park. We have a dead title character, a literal motherfucker, a Dumb Jock, an oversexed Asian-American girl, and a violent sociopath and sexual sadist who later kills his grandparents. The supporting cast isn't any better, leading critic Kyle Kallgren to ask "Is every single character in the film a loathsome cad?!" And the only remotely likable characters in the whole movie? They're the grandparents. And their grandson gets an erection from stabbing them to death. Yeah...
  • Kick-Ass got this treatment from some (though not as much as the comic, listed here), particularly once a child (albeit a heavily armed one who kills people without mercy) gets brutally beatennote .Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand, was straight-up described as "unpleasant" by many reviewers and viewers, for being Darker and Edgier, Bloodier and Gorier, and making characters both suffer after finishing the first movie well, and behave more as jerks as a result (culminating in Hit-Girl making a Girl Posse vomit and defecate profusely).
  • The Killer. By the time the movie ends, both Ah Jong and Wong Hoi die, with the former being shot in the eyes, Li Ying is arrested by the police after executing Wong Hoi, and to top it all off, Jennie is blinded for quite possibly the rest of her life. Needless to say, this movie is not for the faint of heart.
  • Land of the Dead. Humans Are the Real Monsters is taken to an extreme, and the alternative is to root for 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.
  • Law Abiding Citizen; at least for viewers who are not cheering Clyde on after he's started murdering attorneys, judges and lawyers indiscriminately. He's initially seen as sympathetic, because Darby killed his wife, daughter and got away with it by paying off Clyde's attorney, but after the aforementioned slaughter during the movie's second half? Not so much. The members of the justice system come off no better, as they're unilaterally portrayed as horrible individuals who couldn't care less about enacting true justice than do stuff that only benefits them. Well, except for Cindy, though she dies too. No side looks any better than the other near the film's end. Nick, very conspicuously, has ethical issues with his job. He's suppressed most of them by the Time Skip, but Clyde brings them roaring back.
  • 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 his 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.
  • Avoiding this trope may have played a part in Mad Max creator George Miller making the third film Lighter and Softer, as the previous two films had been hit with this criticism due to some of their more violent scenes, which in combination with the post-apocalyptic setting and Max's Anti-Hero status gave the series an unpleasant Humans Are Bastards vibe in the eyes of many critics.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • It’s 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 she’s 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 — Justine’s mood becomes vigorous and lasts in anticipation until the point of impact.
    • Actually, not only Melancholia, but almost any film by Lars von Trier can easily result in Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy due to the excessive cynicism on them, which quickly overcome the plots and the characters.
  • 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.
  • Muppets Most Wanted, despite being a comedy and fairly well-received, can fall into this for some due to the villains, Constantine and Dominic, having the lion's share of screentime, the Muppets (aside from Kermit, Walter and Animal) being derailed into incredibly unsympathetic selfish morons incapable of doing anything right without Kermit vetoing their suggestions, and the happy ending of The Muppets being thrown out the window in favor of keeping up the "nobody still cares about the Muppets" plotline.
  • 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.
  • This is one of the reasons why the 2006 3D reboot of Night of the Living Dead isn't very well liked. Apart from being drastically different from the original, the tone is pretty bleak and most of the characters aren't exactly likable. That, and they all pretty much die by the end of the film.
  • One of the biggest criticisms of the Paranormal Activity series is that it's difficult to grow attached to any of the characters, considering they all die, and the demonic force haunting them always wins because there doesn't seem to be any way to permanently stop it.
  • 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: 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: On Stranger Tides suffers even more from this, as without Will and Elizabeth every major character in the film is basically a self-serving criminal.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • 300 (like Sin City, based on Frank Miller). 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."
  • To End All Wars suffered this, apparently, before the film was recut to lighten it a bit. The director’s cut is even further lightened, cutting short the most violent moments as well as the strongest language.
  • 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."
  • 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.
  • 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 Bitch in 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.
  • 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:
  • 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 other films 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  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 Man Nick 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.

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