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Esoteric Happy Ending

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"All yet seems well..."
The King of France, at the end of All's Well That Ends Well
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When the majority of the viewers don't believe that an ending that the creator intended to be happy is happy. Whether through personal taste, changing social norms, or just consequences that never even occurred to the creator, all the satisfaction leaches out of the characters' triumph, leaving behind a feeling of unease that anyone could make a film with that ending, let alone call it a happy ending.

Compare Inferred Holocaust and Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending. The afterlife version of the trope would be a Hell of a Heaven or an Infernal Paradise. When the ending is not only uncomfortable in hindsight but supports some kind of half-considered moral, see Glurge.

Not to be confused with Bittersweet Ending (where the elements that keep it from being a truly happy ending are deliberate and acknowledged), "Ray of Hope" Ending (where the ending is mainly bleak but suggests that happier times are coming in the future) or Angst Aversion (where the ending is disliked for being deliberately unhappy as opposed to unintentionally unhappy). Tends to cause an Audience-Alienating Ending.

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As an Ending Trope there will be unmarked spoilers!


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    Advertising 
  • A few Segata Sanshiro ads involve the title character beating up innocent people just for not playing a Sega Saturn. Luckily, these were a case of Early Installment Weirdness, and Segata would become a much more awesome person in his later commercials.
  • "Finale", the last short in the first season of Hungry Days, is about two lovebirds confessing to each other while completely unaware of the world going to hell around them. The short ends with the pair reciprocating their love as an extremely large chunk of asteroid is about to make impact.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Guardian Fairy Michel, the Black Hammers lost all the fairies they captured and the Tree of Life is saved but Michel dies in order to rejuvenate the tree, and Kim leaves the island. It's played as more happy than bitter, as Michel will be reborn later, Biam is with the fairies again, Kim reflects on her experience fondly and feels that Michel will remember her when he does return... but in the meantime the bad guys still have the floating castle, and without Michel or Kim around to protect them, the fairies could easily get captured again and start it all over.
  • Chinese animation Legend of Condor Hero (which is bizarrely named since this is actually the story from Return of Condor Heroes) in the full story this trope is largely subverted, but it ends for the Japanese translation of the series at around the first season or so. The female lead is poisoned and will eventually die, they defeat the villain of the first act by feeding him blood, and so they are relaxing on a rowboat and the Japanese version just ends there. Someone watching this without knowing about the other seasons would find the "ending" extremely strange.

    Comic Books 
  • Happens very often with Jack Chick tracts. There are too many examples to list specific ones, but they tend to fall into a few distinct categories.
    1. The main character converts to Christianity, dies an untimely (and usually also cruel or painful) death and goes to heaven. For example, in "The Little Princess," while Heidi gets herself and her family saved before dying, one has to wonder what it's like for her parents and brother to lose her.
    2. The main characters, following the death of someone close to them, convert to Christianity. The unsaved loved ones are promptly forgotten about, and the saved people will never see them again. This is especially jarring in "Happy Halloween," in which the boy killed in the traffic accident is forgotten about.
    3. The main characters convert to Christianity after suffering terrible traumas with no indication of any long-term problems, and with those responsible being Easily Forgiven or becoming outright Karma Houdinis. For example, in "Lisa", the girl may have gotten saved and may no longer be suffering abuse, but she also has herpes now and no shortage of trauma associated with this.
    4. Truly despicable people do terrible things all their lives, convert after one minute of Easy Evangelism, and go to Heaven, facing no consequences for their actions ever, while people who did nothing wrong except not instantly choose to devote their lives to God, needing more than simply having John 3:16 read to them once in order to believe, have freak accidents kill them the next day and go to Hell. In Chick's theology (which is not shared by the vast majority of Christians, to say the least), this is because all humans are equally evil, and therefore all repentances are equally good.
    5. The ultimate fate of Earth. God will triumph over the Devil, but not before ages of suffering for the people of Earth followed by the majority of humankind being sent to Hell.
  • JLA: Act of God attempts to tell us that a new generation of heroes is about, the problems with this are that there were likely millions of innocents killed due to people losing their powers, few superheroes getting over their problems, and Kyle Rayner, ultimately, ends up killed due to psychotic obsession. This isn't getting into the fact that many tech-based supervillains keep their powers and abilities, and one new, superpowered being doesn't make the world better. As tough as the tech-based heroes are, they simply do not and indeed cannot compare to the combined force of Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, The Flash and the Martian Manhunter. The next time Darkseid (or indeed, any one of a multitude of cosmic and/or Physical God-level heavy hitters) invades, he is going to steamroll the Earth with trivial ease.
  • Joe Quesada has stated that when looking back at One More Day, he sees Aunt May saved through the Parkers' Heroic Sacrifice of their marriage. Most fans see the Official Couple being forced apart and the villain getting what he wants. Many fans also have a problem that the solution to the arc was the HERO making a Deal with the Devil without ever being held accountable, thus making deals with the devil without consequences a valid mean to happy endings. It’s even worse than that. At one point, an apparition of a little girl confronts Peter with a withering "The Reason You Suck" Speech explaining why his desperation to save May at all costs is actually selfish. This apparition later turns out to be Peter and MJ’s future daughter, who will never exist thanks to their deal with Mephisto. So not only did Peter make a deal with the devil, but he also allowed the devil to trick him into aborting and then forgetting about his own child, after it had been clearly explained to him why it was the wrong thing to do. A lot of fans were quite puzzled about how that could be called a happy ending in any sense.
  • Asterix has some in the Uderzo era.
    • Asterix and Son ends with Brutus getting punished, the Gaulish village he destroyed getting rebuilt, Caesar hosting a banquet for the Gauls and he and Cleopatra reunited with their adorable baby son, Caesarion. The narration notes that Caesarion will become the last pharaoh. Those who know anything about classics (most of the readership...) will realise that all of this will end up in a horrible, murderous disaster. Caesarion certainly would have had a happier and longer life if he'd continued with Asterix and Obelix as his guardians, terrible parents as they are.
    • Asterix and the Secret Weapon ends with both the village's men and women compromising in a way that could be read as a call for a focus on understanding and collaboration to solve social injustice, or just being outrageously sexist, depending on interpretation. Either way, it's very difficult to side with the story after it specifies that women are allowed at the final feast (as they do not attend feasts usually), but they remain absent from all feasts afterwards.
  • The ending of Night of the Living Deadpool is a likely intentional example. Every character in the story dies except Deadpool, and humanity is likely wiped out, but Deadpool gets a happy ending through a bizarre twist ending. Deadpool takes a massive dose of the regeneration serum that caused the zombie outbreak and is eaten by the zombies, causing his consciousness to evolve into a sapient zombie virus that spreads to all of the zombies and brings them all under his control as a massive Deadpool hive mind. Deadpool's last words in the comic are "Omnipotence won't be all that bad."
    • The sequel comic confirms that this wasn't a happy ending. The plot is about a single Deadpool breaking himself free from the hive mind and trying to save what remains of the world from himself, which he eventually accomplishes by getting infected with a new virus that is lethal to him and spreading it to all the other Deadpools.
  • The Avengers issue 200 was intended to be the last-ever Ms. Marvel story, and features Carol Danvers walking off to live Happily Ever After... with her rapist. It didn't take, and the next time Carol is seen she lets the rest of the team have it for letting her leave with that creep. There's a reason both professionals and fans often consider this issue the single worst done-in-one story ever published by Marvel.
  • Flashpoint (a 1999 Elseworlds storyline) ends with The Flash Barry Allen, consumed by the energy created by the Martian Artifact of Doom in a Heroic Sacrifice, appearing in front of the Justice League. It's unknown what this is supposed to mean, as the comic's world seems to be one without superheroes aside from the Flash and Martian Manhunter. It might be a Dying Dream, or some sort of Valhalla, or he might have ended up crossing over into another universe. Given that Barry had been having frequent visions of another, "righter" world where he fought alongside other colorful heroes, perhaps it's simply to indicate that Barry's life had been thrown askew, its direction altered by his paralysis at the hands of Vandal Savage, and in sacrificing himself to save the world destiny has finally corrected itself.
  • Flashpoint ends with Barry Allen Setting Right What Once Went Wrong by undoing the altered timeline and reuniting the DC Universe with the fractured Vertigo and WildStorm timelines. What isn't addressed is that by rebooting the DCU into the New 52 continuity, Barry also erased a number of characters from history (mostly Legacy Characters or offspring of superheroes), such as Green Arrow's son Connor Hawke, Roy Harper's daughter Lian and Barry's own surrogate son Wally West and the latter's twins Jai and Iris. This was egregious enough that years later, Doomsday Clock would retcon the ending of Flashpoint by revealing that Barry had been manipulated into creating the New 52 timeline by Dr. Manhattan.
  • The Boom! Studios Rocko's Modern Life Comic-Book Adaptation ends its run with an arc where Rocko discovers that Conglom-O is using its newest smartphone to fleece the inhabitants of O-Town out of money until they're penniless. After the hapless wallaby tricks the CEO of Conglom-O into openly calling his company's customers easily manipulated morons, the denizens of O-Town are incited to riot and retaliate to Conglom-O's underhanded business strategies by tearing the corporation down. Rocko basks in the fact that he can now be seen as an equal...completely disregarding that his actions have resulted in the town descending into anarchy and that the destruction of the town's most prominent company has most likely left countless people out of work.
  • Uncanny X-Men: The story "End of Grays" ends with Rachel Summers sitting down to have a nice coffee with her friends, talking about how she's honoring her mother's legacy...after a bunch of aliens violently massacred what's left of her family, children included, for insane reasons, with her grandmother dying cursing Rachel's name, then tried repeatedly to murder Rachel herself, before getting away entirely scot-free, without even a slap on the wrist.
  • Heroes in Crisis: After a massacre at the superhero therapy facility known as Sanctuary, the murderer, Wally West, tries to commit suicide after releasing the patients/murder victims' confessionals in order to raise awareness about mental health. He's talked out of suicide and is instead imprisoned, but the final message is that there's still hope for him, and that he's taken his first step towards bettering himself, while Sanctuary reopens so it can help more people. Most readers did not see this as the happy ending it's meant to be. The release of confessionals was portrayed in-universe as bad when it first happened and readers see it as a massive breach of privacy that Wally had no right to leak to Lois Lane, and she had no right to publish. All the dead characters are still dead, despite the heroes using a time machine to place a cloned Wally body at the time of the incident note  which could have been applied to everyone. Wally is locked up with supervillains and the thing that mattered most to him — getting his Ret-Gone'd family back — is apparently completely out of reach (because the writer ignored his own plot device with the time machine). Sanctuary's "therapy" was so terrible that it was seemingly actively goading the patients on — such as repeatedly asking Wally why he wants his family back and allowing repeated self-harm and reliving of death in Lagoon Boy — that no reader saw it as a healthy mental health facility, so the implication that it has reopened with zero change to how it's run...the series can't even qualify for a bittersweet, it's just misery.
  • At the end of Superman story arc The Great Phantom Peril, villain Faora Hu-Ul is sent back into the Phantom Zone. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson Porter, a widower whom Faora had telepathically deceived into believing she was his wife's ghost in order to manipulate him, still believes Faora is his late spouse. To the point that he requests to be sent into the Zone together with her. And instead of discouraging him and getting him help, Superman, Batman and Supergirl grant his petition. The latter even says maybe it is the best for him, since Mr. Porter is so lonely.
  • American Born Chinese: Jin and Wei-Chen end up reconciling after Jin apologizes, but there's always going to be an awkward wedge in their relationship, and Wei-Chen's lifestyle might have tragic consequences down the road when he has to account himself before Tze-Yo-Tzuh.
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    Fairy Tales 
  • Perrault's tale "The Fairies" also known as "Diamonds and Toads". A Fairy tests the politeness of two sisters. She rewards the polite youngest sister with having either a jewel, a diamond or a pretty flower fall from her mouth whenever she spoke and curses the rude eldest sister with having either a toad or a snake fall from her mouth whenever she spoke. The mother then drives both out of the house. The good sister meets and marries a prince while the bad sister is rejected by everyone and starves in the woods. One may argue that maybe the eldest sister may not deserve such horrible fate or point out that the mother gets away with the mistreatment of both her daughters. Not that clear with the youngest sister - some will say that the only reason the prince loves her is the gems, but the story only says that the prince fell in love with her after she told him her story, so optimists can believe that he loves her for herself, and merely views the gems as a way to avoid Parental Marriage Veto. The problems with constant gemstone production, however, are indisputable.
    • A number of later versions have a further chapter in which both the mother and the older sister return for revenge with a Bride and Switch scheme that the new king discovers and then foils by sentencing them to death, taking care of the questions of justice for them. Of course, this still leaves the question of what they're going to do about all the inflation from the gemstones: they might be able to avert an economic collapse for the kingdom by dumping all the spare gems in the treasury and forgetting about them (or just let inflation take its course and continue using silver and gold coins for the kingdom's currency), but having objects valuable or otherwise falling from her mouth all the time is likely to get awfully inconvenient awfully fast. She might have to learn how to use her words sparingly or even go mute just to maintain her sanity.
  • In the end of The Lord of the Winds, a Nenets fairy tale, the main heroine marries Kotura, the titular lord of the winds, and is welcomed by his family, which all sounds pretty nice. Except that Kotura sent a terrible snowstorm that threatened to destroy the entirety of humanity (or at least everyone who lives in tundra, the narration isn’t very clear on the subject), just to blackmail people into sending him a proper bride. Then he froze the heroine's two sisters to death (they were Asshole Victims but hardly deserving of such a fate). The heroine's feelings on marrying him after all that are never stated (one might argue that the girl's sisters at least deserved what they got, but Kotura never even shows any hint of remorse about the snowstorm, which was basically a global-scale Scarpia Ultimatum).

    Fan Works 
  • This is common in the darker side of fanfiction (especially in fetish fics). A good example of this can be found in The Plushtopia Chronicles Lugia II. For those who don't want to read that, here's the cliff notes version: Guy picks up a plushie that is alive. Turns out the plushie is a Yandere. It asks him nicely if he wants to turn into a plushie too. He refuses; it violently and painfully kills him and then rebirths him as a plushie. Now they'll be together forever - and it's treated as a good thing.
  • The Rose Potter series is an interesting example. Because the author slavishly copies as much of the Harry Potter canon as he can, each story ends on a happy note if and when the canon books do. Because the author tries to make things Darker and Edgier however, it just opens up a whole mess of Fridge Logic, plot holes, and generally makes the Ministry's arguments that Rose is psychotic look rational. One fine example would be Rose discovering the "Golden Patronus", which essentially lets her destroy the hundreds of Dementors in the third story. This is treated as a beautiful thing, with the "released souls" thanking her as they return to their bodies. Thing is, Dementors were used to carry out the wizarding equivalent of the death sentence, which means that Rose also released the souls of a number of dangerous criminals.
  • In addition to the (definitely Not Safe for Work) The Little Mermaid (1989) Fanfic Ariel's Wedding Night's dealing with the psychological version of the Mermaid Problem, the text also brings up the interesting point that Ariel's father Triton and her husband Eric are going to have some diplomatic issues concerning the economy of Eric's kingdom: presumably, a lot of the people were living on seafood, which isn't likely to go over well with Ariel or Triton or any of the other merfolk. How, then, is Eric going to keep his subjects fed? A later revision of the story resolves Ariel and Eric's romantic difficulties, but it says nothing more about how to resolve their kingdom's economic problems.
  • One particular Pirates of the Caribbean fanfiction had a protagonist determined to save the seas and bring back freedom to the pirates. She accomplishes this by killing Calypso. Who, in the movie, was one of the few mystical beings remaining in the sea, especially after the Kraken was destroyed by Beckett, and one of the few things left keeping the world from "getting smaller". Oops... Everyone treats her as a hero for this. Also, you know, making the world a better place for pirates is making it a worse place for everyone who likes to keep their belongings and not get raped.
  • Features in the "Torso Murderer" storyline of Taaroko's Season 8, where the Scooby Gang discover that past Slayer Morgan Stronberg, who everyone believed was killed by her Watcher Richard Aubery in the 1930s, was actually killed in battle with a demon (the titular Torso Murderer) and it just looked like Richard did it. In reality, Morgan and her young Watcher were in love, and Richard spent decades trapped in the demon’s hell dimension before Buffy released him by killing the demon in the present while briefly possessed by Morgan's spirit. Willow considers it uplifting that Richard and Morgan are together now, but Xander can’t get past the fact that people are dead and a good man spent the better part of seven decades in Hell.
  • The My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic The Conversion Bureau. The premise: Things aren't going well for humanity or Earth, so the ponies offer to let some of the humans into Equestria. Awesome, right? But then the Fantastic Racism kicks in: anybody going in has to first be transformed irreversibly into a pony. This might not be so terrible if it wasn't repeatedly and explicitly stated that someone who's transformed into a pony has their personality fundamentally altered. In other words, when faced with a troubled species, the ponies' solution is, well... While it's a Dead Fic and thus never properly ended, the author implies this is meant to be a Just Before the End scenario.
    • It gets worse in the Recursive Fanfiction. All of humanity being forcibly converted into ponies with no resemblance to who they once were, or if they refuse, murdered outright? Authors other than the original love to present this as being the best thing that could possibly happen to the world. There's a reason this setting has a massive Hatedom.
  • Aftermath of the Games was in part a Fix Fic to season 5 finale of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, giving Starlight Glimmer karma by having Twilight Sparkle adopt the child Starlight, causing the original to be Ret-Gone. But the finale had shown that such alterations to the timeline could have dire consequence. This necessitated its own fix in the sequel Integration; showing Starlight refusing her canon redemption left no other choice, and that Twilight's all too aware of the implications and is doing what she can to fix them.
  • Happens within the titular game of the Katawa Shoujo fanfic Broken Dolls, where the "best end" still involves the Ill Girl dying.
  • In The Stalking Zuko Series, the author and Zuko see the ending to the tale of Oma and Shu as this. Oma ends a war and establishes a city, but loses her lover in the process, which is why those in the Fire Nation see it as a tragedy. Zuko, in particular, having seen his cousin Lu Ten's girlfriend take his death quite badly, understands how painful it can be to lose a lover.
  • Certain The Loud House fanfics based on the very unpopular episode "No Such Luck", which culminates in Lincoln's entire family (parents included) locking him out of the house because they believe him to be bad luck, end with Lincoln calling the police on his family, usually with Lynn Sr. and Rita Loud being the ones who are arrested. It's painted as a happy ending for Lincoln, but the ramifications of Lynn Sr. and Rita being arrested and Lincoln and his sisters having their parents being taken away from them is rarely touched upon; that said, there are other fics, such as What is a Person Worth? and No Such Luck, No Such Love, that have Lincoln outright say he won't be telling the police or any other adults because it would throw him and his siblings into foster care, which is not something he wants.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series features an in-universe example. The 2008 Christmas special involves Yami telling Yugi the story of Slavemas, a Christmas-like holiday he invented during his reign as Pharaoh, where he would force his Egyptian follows to turn over one of their family members to be his slave. The story ends with the Pharaoh making his followers "celebrate" Slavemas everyday in retaliation for the Thief King stealing all his Millennium items.
    Yugi: Huh... I was expecting a happy ending.
    Yami: What are you talking about? That was a happy ending.
    Yugi: Yeah, but only for the Pharaoh. Everybody else was miserable!
    Yami: ... What's your point?
  • Infamous early eighties Star Trek: The Original Series fanzine fic "Sounds Of Silence" features Kirk being consistently raped brutally by a Klingon, saved by Spock, who then decides he's going to dominate Kirk from now on no matter what Kirk wants, and it's deemed a cute happy ending.
  • Chapter 27 of The NEW 151 Pokeshipping Stories ends with Ash deciding to stay a ghost to be with Misty forever. Keep in mind that this is an AU based on the Pokémon: I Choose You! movie where Misty died of cancer, Ash agreed to play with her for a day before going back, only to back off at the last second to stay with her, and even thanks her for killing him. A reviewer also points out how Ash doesn't seem to care for his mother potentially being upset for his death (or worse, not finding out and fretting over whether he's alive or not).

    Films — Animation 
  • Anastasia by Golden Films has one. When Anastasia begins recovering her memories about her family, there is a happy atmosphere and a quick jump to the credits song, which is the same song Anastasia sung in her birthday, and is a happy song. However, all her family were shot, ergo she will never see them again. Meanwhile, Rasputin has successfully taken over Russia.
  • Animals United is an Anvilicious, if not untrue film about the dangers of pollution and human interference in nature. However, the end involves the cast taking over New York, with one human bystander being outright joyous in declaring "This is how it should be!".
  • Foxy Loxy's fate at the end of Chicken Little. A Teleporter Accident causes her personality to be overwritten from a tomboy into a feminine girl. The aliens offer to turn her back to normal, but Runt of the Litter decides he likes her new personality better. She may have been a bully, but she certainly did not deserve this fate at all and the fact that the other characters treat it like a good thing is very uncomfortable.
  • The Devil and Daniel Mouse: Jan's soul is saved and she's reunited with Dan...but B.L. has openly threatened to stop playing by the rules in the future (making him harder to beat) and has a particular reason for developing a hate-on for the pair of them. Also, the newly-reformed jurors and Weez are probably suffering unspeakable torments for their little Heel–Face Turn.
  • The Emoji Movie ends with Alex having learned absolutely nothing throughout the whole movie, and so the Cosmic Horror Story at the heart of the setting is still very much in effect. Given Alex's already established penchant for rash decisions, the denizens of Textopolis are still in far more danger than emojis on other phones. The only reason they didn't all get wiped from existence at the end is that Addie was so Easily Impressed. Not to mention, the phone's probably getting replaced in a year or two anyway.
  • Fire and Ice: When Fire Keep unleashes lava to combat the glacier, it destroys a good deal of vegetation and wildlife and there's a lot of water from the melted glacier which causes a good deal of flooding. Fire Keep won the war but it's going to take a lot of time for the land to recover and for life to adapt.
  • Dingo Pictures' take on The Hunchback of Notre Dame ends with Quasimodo being locked up for life after murdering Frollo, while Esmeralda flees. While this is arguably better than the original story, it's still very odd to hear this music while the narration insists this is a happy ending just because he has proof that Esmeralda is still alive.
  • In Golden Films' version of The Little Mermaid, Lena gets to marry Prince Stefan and avoids dissolving into seafoam, but unlike the Disney version, she apparently doesn't get her voice back.
  • The climax of Mulan II has Mushu ensure that neither Mulan nor the three princesses she was escorting to another kingdom have to submit to an Arranged Marriage to its prince(s), and thus they can Marry for Love their respective sweethearts. The problem is that the arranged marriages were explicitly explained to be necessary to secure a political alliance between the kingdoms so that they will band together to defend China from the Mongols. As the denouement does not resolve that issue (though the audience was probably meant to assume that Mushu's "Golden Dragon of Unity" act convinced the Qigong Emperor to finalize the alliance anyway off-screen), the most straightforward assumption is that Mulan and her lady friends have selfishly doomed their homeland.
  • Pocahontas ends with a "happy ending" in which the British and Powhatan come to terms with each other. Anyone with the vaguest knowledge of history knows this will last about three seconds before relations go south for about 300 years.
  • The Prince of Egypt ends with Moses returning to the children of Israel with the Ten Commandments in hand. Anyone familiar with the story of Moses (or at the very least, the Charlton Heston version) knows what happens next. He smashes the tablets in anger at seeing the Israelites having built the golden calf to worship, and sends the Levites to kill 3000 people. Unless you believe it was the second time around, which is happier (and suggested in the storybook/coloring book which posits the scene as taking place "Years later") but still pretty bitter. This isn't even the half of it. The group of Hebrews being led out of slavery toward the hope of the Promised Land? Apart from Joshua, none of them will be allowed entry into it. Their pride, stubbornness, and lack of faith results in them being sentenced to wander in the desert for forty years until that generation dies out. Even Moses will never get to enter it while he's alive, although his bones are eventually buried there. One can only hope that this movie's version of the story, with its liberties taken, would have things go better overall... On the historical side of things, Rameses' thirteenth son and successor Merneptah will wipe out the tribe of Israel decades after.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet: Vanellope is happy, but she effectively "went Turbo" to do so, abandoning her game and its people. Meanwhile, Ralph himself is left with one less friend to confide in even if he's happy that she's happy, and she was better off than him when she decided to hang out in someone else's game. Also, the insecurity virus was forgotten about and still out there free to wreck more havoc in the future.
  • Ratatouille ends with Linguini, Remy and Colette opening their own private restaurant with the reformed Anton Ego being their top customer. However, while the tone is undeniably happy, consider the facts. The whole reason Linguini and Colette have to open a new restaurant is that Gusteau's ancestral restaurant was closed down after its "rat infestation" was exposed, meaning that the legacy of Gusteau is over and the once-world-famous chef has been reduced to a disgraced joke. Skinner is still obsessed with capturing Remy for his own use, and there's nothing stopping him from pursuing new schemes (however ineffectual they may be). Finally, there's an entire former restaurant staff out there that could, if they wanted to, come forward with believable evidence that Linguini is mentally unwell due to believing in talking, cooking rats, and considering that Linguini's "madness" ruined their careers, they'll likely have a grudge against him and his new restaurant.
  • Romeo & Juliet: Sealed with a Kiss: In the end, the Prince meets and marries another elephant seal. But considering he’s been established as a jealous, violent tyrant with no redeeming qualities who threatens to eat other characters for minor snubs, things don’t look too good for her.
  • At the end of Sausage Party even though the food won their fight against the humans, it was only because they were lucky enough to have bath salts on them to use on said humans. Once the friends and families of those humans come, the foods won't have any more bath salts left to defend themselves with. Even if no one came to the store sooner or later most of the foods would expire. Only a few of the items are nonperishables, which makes the ending more like a Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending.
    • Also, they find out they're in a movie. So they decide to do something about it by inventing a trans-dimensional teleporter to kick the asses of the film writers. They go through the portal, and... that's it. And then you realize they're still foot-tall convenience items who are now entering a world that isn't comically slanted in their favor. Deleted scenes reveal the last we see of them is their panic over the writers calmly eating their avatars in a diner, oblivious to the screaming deli meats outside the restaurant.
  • At the end of Snoopy, Come Home, the Peanuts gang is initially overjoyed to see Snoopy returning and sing his praises. Then, Snoopy types letters to Linus demanding the return of his croquet set and chess set, and to Schroeder for the return of his record collection. Lucy then tells Charlie Brown, "That does it, Charlie Brown! He's your dog, and you're welcome to him!" Yeah, it seems everyone's really happy to have Snoopy back.
  • One of the reasons A Troll in Central Park is considered Don Bluth's worst-ever film is its infamous ending, which features the title character using his Green Thumb powers to make the vegetation of Central Park overrun New York City, a scene eerily similar to the original Downer Ending of Little Shop of Horrors. The film portrays this as the ultimate triumph of nature over technology, but one gets the distinct impression that many of New York's eight million residents would likely disagree. Especially in hindsight, given the shot of the Twin Towers covered in flowery vines.
  • The elaborate end-title sequence in WALL•E, showing the humans and the robots successfully rebuilding Earth over many generations, was added with the intent of averting this trope, after the initial test audiences thought that all the humans would die in a hopeless attempt to do so.

    Music 
  • The last movement of Dmitri Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 ends in a forced triumphant cry of the high strings and the brass, suggesting one such trope. Not only that but as conductor Michael Tilson Thomas notes, he slips in a few zingers into the final "rejoicing" flourishes. When the music reaches major chords played by the brass, Shostakovich signals a conventional ending — but, we find out a moment later that, instead of keeping put in that resting chord, Shostakovich keeps pushing the brass section higher and higher into minor registers, before lurching heavily into a tacked-on ending.
  • "Judy's Turn to Cry" — the sequel to "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore has the singer pull off Operation: Jealousy to get Johnny's attention back (after he came to her party with another girl). It works: Johnny decks the poor sap and ditches Judy to come back to our heroine, who now... gets the guy who abandoned her for nothing and hits people for little provocation. Great?
  • The Christmas Shoes is about a man who learns the meaning of Christmas through an act of charity. However, the act of charity is a result of God making the man bump into a child whose mom is dying, and helping him out. The implication being that God felt it was more important to teach a grumpy guy a lesson than to miraculously heal this kid's dying mother. Patton Oswalt does not neglect to note this in his take on the song:
    Patton Oswalt: ''Let's review: There's a guy in line. He's a little cranky on Christmas. God looks down and sees this. "Somebody in a bad mood on my son's birthday? BULLSHIT! Give that kid's mom cancer, make sure he's front of them in line, make him seven cents short for the shoes, this guy will buy them and then he'll be in a good mood." I almost feel like Jesus is behind God going, "I don't think we need to give a kid's mom-""Kid, you shut the FUCK up! This is gonna be the best birthday you ever had!"
  • Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" ends with a moment of triumph for the jilted (she assumes) girlfriend who assumes her boyfriend will "think before he cheats". A far more likely ending would involve him turning her in for vandalism, especially since she so conveniently carved her name into the seats. (Underwood herself has stated she does not recommend such retribution.)
  • Rupert Holmes' "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" ends with the man responding to a personals ad and discovering the woman who had placed the ad was none other than his own wife/girlfriend. Pretty romantic, except for the part where, along with all the other nice stuff they realized they have in common, they also both learned their respective partner was not only willing to cheat on them but even actively seeking to.
  • The Gerry Goffin/Carole King classic "Oh No, Not My Baby", first recorded by Maxine Brown, has the narrator spend the first two verses talking about how they ignored their friends and even their own mother warning them that their lover was cheating on them, in a seeming tone of "how dumb could I be?", only to spend the last verse claiming that they were right all along because the pair is going to get married. Except, in that verse the narrator also admits that the lover had a "last-minute fling", meaning that everyone else was right, and the distinct possibility that the lover might cheat again after the wedding is still on the table.

    Mythology and Religion 
  • Egyptian Mythology: During the Old Kingdom, only kings got the privilege of an afterlife. But by the time of the New Kingdom, anyone could enter the afterlife as follows: If an Egyptian peasant dies, he has to take a very long walk across the desert (and hope the people who buried him gave him The Book of the Dead, a book of spells designed to defeat the monsters). At the end of this arduous journey, his heart gets weighed. If it outweighs a magical feather representing Truth, it gets thrown to the Devourer (a beast with a crocodile's head, a lion's mane, and a hippo's hindquarters), who eats it and condemns the unfortunate soul to Cessation of Existence. However, if the man's heart weighs the same as the feather (if not lighter), he gets to go to Egyptian heaven, which means... he must work in Osiris' fields for all eternity. Congratulations, man. You get to do what you did for your entire mortal life. (Then again, to a farmer, that might be a pleasurable afterlife.)
  • The Book of Revelation in The Bible. The saints all get to reign in a New Heaven and a New Earth, there is no more sin or death to trouble humanity, and God seals the devil and his servants away in The Lake of Fire forever. Huzzah! But then that means untold numbers of people are burning in Hell forever. The concept of Hell is one that even many devout Christians are troubled by.

    Radio Play 
  • Doctor Who: The Next Life ends seemingly happily: The Doctor, Charley and C'rizz are back in the main universe (or in it for the first time in C'rizz's case), acting like friends again and ready to go on adventures. Rassilon and Kro'ka got their comeuppance, and it seems everything worked out for the best. Except for the fact that the Divergent Universe is doomed to reset over and over again. All of the stories set within the Divergent Universe will repeat again and again, but without the Doctor, many of them will have a much less happy ending for those involved, to say nothing of what will happen to the Eutermesans without C'rizz around. And even beyond that, Zagreus and Keep have decided to team up to terrorise this universe, so who knows what havoc and misery they will sow. The TARDIS team may have achieved their happy ending, but for the residents of the Divergent Universe, the horror is only just beginning...

    Tabletop Games 
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse: In the Time of Judgment scenario in which the Wyrm is released from confinement in the Weaver's web, the Weaver and Wyrm become sane again, and the cosmos is restored to balance. However, virtually all the changing breeds have been killed and the human race has been hurled back into the stone age.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade features an in-universe case in the Followers of Set clanbook: during the history chapter, the narrator briefly focuses on the disastrous events of the Children's Crusade, and true to history, it ended with the majority of the children either dead or sold at the slave markets of Alexandria. Of course, the Followers of Set admit to buying several consignments of enslaved crusaders, many of whom ended up as temple servants - or blood sacrifices. However, the narrator assures the reader that this is actually a happy ending - because out the thousands of children enslaved and murdered by the cult, eleven of them were Embraced into the clan... and four live on as respected elders of a vampire clan dedicated to furthering corruption and decay throughout the world.

    Theatre 
  • The end of Grease, in which Sandy remakes herself as less of a Sandra Dee innocent in order to win the attraction of Danny, has both its defenders and detractors. Depending on how well each individual show portrays it, either an uptight girl learns to loosen up a little in order to get the guy she's attracted to, who himself has been attempting to do the same, or else a perfectly fine woman changes herself for the worse in order to conform with people who have acted like jerks for the past two acts. It's worth noting that in the film adaptation's Movie Bonus Song "You're the One That I Want", the major theme of the song is "You better shape up" - in short, whether or not Sandy has changed for the worse, she's not going to put up with Danny's douchebaggery, and she makes it clear from the word go. So this trope may not apply to the film.
  • Shakespeare's got several of these. They're sometimes classed as "the problem plays," because it's hard to figure out what to do with them.
    • The ending of The Taming of the Shrew can be interpreted in many ways, which fall into three basic categories: A. Based on the values of the time, it's a happy ending in which an unpleasant shrew gets what's coming to her and learns a valuable lesson. B. Interpreted subversively, Katarina either learns to manipulate her husband or they come to an understanding. C. Katarina's rudeness was just a test and Petruchio has passed: especially if Katarina's other suitors are played as particularly foppish. D. Taken literally, it's a comedy that becomes a tragedy, in which a strong-willed woman has her spirit broken by the kind of physical and psychological abuse favored by domestic abusers, interrogation experts, and members of any political party you don't like, and everyone thinks that's a good thing.
      • It's even worse if you consider the epilogue by Ben Johnson, which often is not included due to being a later addition. You see, there's a framing device in the play where a drunk is taken off of the street, dressed up like royalty, and shown the production of the play, all for the amusement of a nobleman. The epilogue shows that the drunk passes out, is put back in his own clothes, and left on the streets again. When he wakes up, he decides that it was all a dream and decides to use the tale of Kate and Petruchio as a lesson on how to deal with his own shrewish wife. Yeah...
    • The Merchant of Venice. Okay, this one might just be Values Dissonance, since a Jew being forcibly converted to Christianity was considered a good thing at the time. All the same...the play is very dark for a Shakespearean comedy, prejudice seems to be a theme running through the whole story, and Shylock does get that "if you prick us, do we not bleed" speech. And, frankly, while Shylock's a terrible person, all the Christian characters in the play are greedy, unlikeable bastards. Are we really supposed to be glad they won? This tends to be the reason most productions take Shylock's side, and treat the ending as a downer.
    • All's Well That Ends Well ends with the sweet, lovely and clever Helena having succeeded in forcing the young nobleman Bertram — a snobby, childish Jerkass who hated her guts for no good reason — to marry her. And this is clearly not just Values Dissonance, because other characters point out that Bertram is clearly not good enough for her. But the play seems like a comedy, so...yay?
    • Measure for Measure has the just, lawful Duke put back in power, the wicked chancellor Angelo punished and made to marry his forgotten sweetheart, and the virtuous Isabella marrying the Duke. Great! Except... the Duke is kind of an amoral fellow who sits back and watches his own city fall apart, any woman getting married to Angelo should not consider that a happy ending, and Isabella is a nun-in-training who Does Not Like Men, loathes the thought of sex, and she and the Duke have practically no interaction before he says they'll get married. Although the last part is more ambiguous than "happy", as there is no scripted response from Isabella to the Duke's marriage proposal.
  • Love Never Dies tries for a Bittersweet Ending: Meg accidentally kills Christine, but she dies in the Phantom's arms, affirming her love for him, and their son Gustave is willing to accept him as his father. But nothing suggests that the Phantom is fit to be a father to the boy — after all, he's a mentally deranged murderer. Meanwhile, Raoul (who, alcoholic and gambler though he may be, did raise the boy for ten years) is presumably returning to France alone without even the money he needs to pay his debts, and while Meg's fate is never revealed, it's likely that at best she'll be sent to prison for what she did. And according to the original prologue of the London version, the beautiful Phantasma amusement park subsequently burns down and its freaks, shunned by the "ordinary" world, live in its remains! Where did the owner and his son go?
    • It doesn't help that the Phantom pulls a bit of a Karma Houdini in all this; he manipulates and destroys everyone around him and gets the woman he loves killed, and in return he gets...a loving hug from his son. Yay?
    • It's even worse in the novel The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, which was based on early ideas for a stage sequel and has some concepts that persisted into Love Never Dies. In that version, the Phantom's son, here named Pierre, is explicitly a Child by Rape (the show changes this to a consensual one-night stand) and Raoul is a perfectly decent man who just happens to have been rendered infertile in a tragic Contrived Coincidence and genuinely loved Pierre. But we're still supposed to cheer when Pierre chooses Erik, based solely on the fact that he's the biological father — a decision treated by another character as a God-given miracle!
  • Practically a Running Gag in opera:
    • The opera Turandot. Essentially, deposed Prince Charming hooks up with the evil queen (well, evil princess), immediately after she tortures his loyal slave girl to death. Yes, this is supposed to trigger the Defrosting of the Ice Queen, but seriously, they get a happily-ever-after wedding hours after she tortured the best person in the whole opera to death - and nice job sending their life - and the hope of your people - into ruins, O Mighty Prince Calaf!
      • In real stage time, it takes place minutes after.
    • Apparently, Leoš Janáček thought the ending of his opera The Cunning Little Vixen was soothing and happy enough to be played at his funeral, while it would otherwise generally be considered a (heavy on the bitter) Bittersweet Ending. To recap: the title character has been shot dead, leaving her cubs to fend for themselves, and her skin made into a wedding gift so her killer, a poacher, can marry the human protagonist's sweetheart instead of him. But, hey, he gets to reflect on the cycle of life and death, so all's well! (It's worth noting that this dark turn wasn't present in the source material, and this is still lighter than most of Janáček's operas.)
    • The ending to Jenufa, another of Janaček's operas, is either that or Bittersweet Ending. Depends on the production, on the tenor who sings Laca, and on your interpretation. To put it short, the heroine, after all sorts of suffering, finds true love – with the man who has previously scarred her for life in a fit of jealous rage, effectively frightening off all suitors except himself. He says he has repented and admits that by disfiguring the girl he caused many of the subsequent tragic events of the opera. If his remorse (and Jenufa's forgiveness) are convincing, then it's classic bittersweet. If not, it's this trope.
    • And the there's George Frederic Handel's Ariodante, in which the title character commits suicide (he gets better) after finding out that his betrothed, Princess Ginevra, has been unfaithful (actually a scam by a competitor, who wants him out of the way to get Ginevra for himself). She is disowned by her father, who ignores her grief and protestations of innocence, regards her as a harlot, and condemns her to death. When Ariodante is revealed to be alive and the plot is unmasked, Ginevra is reunited with him and all is forgiven...including her father's disowning her and death sentence? Small wonder that a 2014 production made Ginevra considerably less forgiving.
  • RENT: Mimi recovers from her illness, the bonds of friendship between the main cast are renewed, and the musical ends on a high note, but it doesn't change the fact that half the main cast are HIV-positive (and it's very possible Benny and his wife got infected thanks to Benny's affair with Mimi), and this being the nineties, they're running on borrowed time. (In fact, it had already run out for Angel and Word of God says Mimi will die soon after.) Notably, one Dutch production flat out rejected this ending on these grounds and had Mimi die at the end.

    Visual Novels 
  • Amnesia: Memories: Played with. The good ending for Diamond World has the heroine and Toma starting a romantic relationship, after having cleared up a misunderstanding and revealing that they've been in love with each other for a long time. Many (Western) players didn't find this a happy ending, at all, because it meant Toma's actions of drugging and imprisoning the heroine out of some twisted sense of protection and jealousy were completely ignored. But Amnesia: Later reveals that the good ending isn't done, and that Toma hesitates to actually have a relationship with her because he hasn't atoned for his actions. Unfortunately, the other Amnesia games haven't received a localization yet, meaning many (Western) players don't know this.
  • In Silver Chaos, Adonis and Might have to die in order to be together, then reincarnate and lose the memory of each other. A small déja vu will be left, though.
  • Danganronpa:
    • Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc:
      • It ends with the protagonists refusing to give in to despair and surviving, but the world outside is post-apocalyptic, making it unlikely they'd even survive for long. Furthermore, 15 friends (considered humanity's brightest hopes) killed each other until only 6 remained, showing the rest of the world how far the world's best had fallen. And although the Big Bad was executed, Junko ENJOYED it, dodged all responsibility, and managed to start another Killing Game.
      • The hidden alternate ending has all of the characters surviving and escaping the school. However, Junko manages to escape and continue her schemes to bring despair to the world.
      • The second game at least addresses the issue, showing at least three (likely four) of the survivors are still alive and working to rebuild the world. Not only that, the Gaiden Game Danganronpa Another Episode: Ultra Despair Girls outright confirms that they all survived.
    • The ending of Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair can fall into this based on your interpretation. At the end, the survivors wake up with their memories but, for whatever reason, they remain sane and stay behind on Jabberwock Island to restore their comatose friends. If you think that they succeed, as Makoto said they would this is pretty decent. If you think the opposite, then the survivors are doomed to waste the rest of their lives tending to their braindead loved ones. Even then, there's the problematic fact that the students are known to the world as world-destroying terrorists and have most likely no surviving loved ones and that Makoto and his allies are likely going to end up in hot water with the Future Foundation over what happened.
      • Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School addresses this and confirms that the whole cast (save Nanami) is restored, but their reputation as world-destroying terrorists that must remain ostracized on Jabberwock Island is solidified when they pull a Zero-Approval Gambit and take the blame for a scheme perpetrated by the Future Foundation's (former) upper management.
    • To add to the pile, Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony has an ending that also split the fanbase. The killing game has ended, and the mastermind is dead, but only three people survived this time around, their entire lives and backstories were revealed to be lies and Fake Memories implanted for an Immoral Reality Show, the company responsible (Team Danganronpa) is still out there and presumably angry, the entire world has been brainwashed to love the killing games, and the entire Hope’s Peak Saga was just in-universe fiction. Then again, the mastermind is most definitely an Unreliable Narrator, so it's hard to say for certain what exactly is true or not.
  • The most positive thing about the ending of Super Danganronpa Another 2 is that Mikado's plan to obtain Divine Luck was stopped. However, doing so required Sora to give up everything so the others could escape, including her own body so that Yuki (who had been reduced to a Brain in a Jar) could have a second chance at life. The Killing Game still claimed a lot of innocent people, most of whom were considered the Next Generation of Hope for the Tragedy world, and including Teruya, a member of the Kisaragi Foundation and survivor of the previous game. He was willingly sacrificed by his friend and ally Tsurugi, whose actions proved so divisive that the Foundation is now in the midst of a civil war between his supporters and the opposition. As for the survivors, one of them gets only a passing mention, two of them were arrested for their compliance in the killing game and broke out in a hostage situation, and Yuki- the new holder of Divine Luck- intervenes and allows them to escape before disappearing. One can only imagine how much trauma he now struggles with.
  • The True End of Kara no Shoujo seems to have been shooting for the bittersweet feeling that most True Ends have, but fridge logic kind of shoots it down. First of all, about half the cast is dead. Second, Reiji's sort-of girlfriend Toko is among them. Third, he's still alone. All he has that he didn't have before is closure over his dead fiancee.
  • Joseph's "good" ending in Dream Daddy. On the third date, Joseph tells the player character that things are over between him and his wife, Mary. He and the player character then have sex on Joseph's yacht, with a full-blown romantic relationship on the horizon. Then, at Amanda's graduation party, Joseph reveals to the player character that he and Mary reconciled, and are staying together. Joseph promises they can still be friends, but he loves his family and can't find it in himself to abandon them. The player is left heart-broken. Keep in mind, this is the good ending. Justified in that the developers never really had a happy ending planned for Joseph, as they didn't want to send the message that it's okay to break up people's marriages.
  • In the true endings in Dream Savior Gakuen, it's revealed that the player character has been Dead All Along and reliving their memories of high school. The guy who the PC has met on a bus several times prior to this reveal turns out to be an angel and he explains that the PC's reward in the afterlife for having been a good person is getting to relive the memories of being with the person they loved the most in life over and over again. Sounds romantic... until you realize that this "reward" means that the PC will be forever trapped in a "Groundhog Day" Loop with no ability to change events or do anything new — and judging from the PC's negative reactions when they began realizing that they were stuck repeating the same events endlessly, becoming aware at all of this "Groundhog Day" Loop again will only cause them torment.

    Webcomics 
  • Endtown sees fan-favourite Holly Hollister Put on a Bus by way of electing to stay in a Matrix-esque illusion. It's implied she's going to have a loooong life... living in a literal bubble of denial with a faulty computer pretending (badly) to be her dead husband along with an imaginary child, all this after being the character defined by such things as detesting the way some people live in their own make-believe worlds and forcing herself out of her clock tower home and back into reality prior to the start of the story for the sake of finding happiness. Yay? More than anything, it comes across as the author's half-hearted attempt to be rid of her while also leaving her "happy" enough not to completely disappoint the fans who were hoping for a happy ending for her. Said fans will probably still wait forever for the bus to come back...
  • The ending of Inverloch drew criticism for inadvertently undercutting its own anti-prejudice themes with The Reveal that Acheron was Kayn'dar all along. Although the da'kor were depicted as sympathetic, Acheron was the only one the other characters ever actually met—so him teaching them that his people weren't all bad and didn't deserve the denigration they received became a lesson in how da'kor were okay if they were a Soul Jar for the elves' The Chosen One. Additionally, the original Where Are They Now epilogue (now gone) revealed that the main characters "solved" the da'kor's Dying Race problem not by confronting prejudice or making the elves fulfill the deal they broke, but by having the da'kor leave their home and live on an island, fully segregated from the other races.
  • Pastel Defender Heliotrope: All the main characters eventually live on as post-singularity uploaded minds.
  • Red String ends with Makoto and Miharu getting engaged. The author would have you believe that this is the best outcome for all parties, but a more critical examination can point out the problems with this. Makoto has just thrown away his very good and stable job to be with her, which he totally didn't need to do because he is marrying into the family anyway. He has savings, but those things aren't limitless and he will eventually run out, which has led many fans to believe that he will sponge off of his very wealthy parents and avoid getting a job so he can be with Miharu all the time. Miharu, meanwhile, has no stable goal in life (besides shopping, eating, and dating) and no job skills besides a waitress, which is a mediocre pay at best. Neither of them shows any real chemistry with one another besides heavy petting and sexting, and they avoid actual, meaningful communication like the plague. They are co-dependent to a fault and almost consciously refuse to see the consequences of their actions towards one another and others. It tallies up to two selfish, petty and immature individuals who won't make it past the honeymoon stage and will eventually become broke and destitute due to their own stupidity.
  • The ending of Sly Cooper: Thief of Virtue is weirdly upbeat like Thieves in Time was despite Lady Venom and Colonel Zahn are freed despite their crimes and the latter has clear intentions of settling the score with Sly one day, along with the fact that Vick ends up taking over Drake's Criminal empire which is portrayed sympathetically for whatever reason. To top it off, the progressive-minded Torus is arbitrarily removed from power and is replaced by Eddard "Ned" Grey; an officer that lacks his experience and did very little to actually warrant his promotion to Director, who will probably approach the position with Jack's mindset and in a way that meets Bubo's approval (which "The New Director" confirms all that and more). Apparently all that matters is that Carmelita and Sly are together again and the Cooper gang is reunited...
  • Most issues of Sonichu (at least from Issue #5 and onwards) end with the author's Self-Insert character pummeling anyone he feels has wronged him, even if they didn't or had good intentions, and calls it a job well done. However, the entirety of "Director Amenities" consists of him engaging in a bloody massacre of his perceived enemies (and brainwashing a few into complete loyalty), ending with him as a dictator with godlike powers. This is also considered a happy ending, and the story to come after this one is a Christmas Episode.

    Web Original 
  • Invoked in The Demented Cartoon Movie, which shows the caption "HAPPY END!" over an Earth-Shattering Kaboom.
  • The ending of Starship features Bug accepting his bug form and getting his true love February, Tootsie and Mega-Girl getting married and everyone saving the bug world from the G.L.E.E. Happy right? Well, what happens when the G.L.E.E. comes back and investigates? How is Dr. Space Claw going to react when he finds out about his son's death? Where do the Rangers go from here, are they stuck on the planet? Mega-Girl is still a robot. So what happens when Tootsie ages and dies while she stays the same? And Bug is still a bug, so if you take the "Six long days of life" joke at face value the same could apply to them.
  • Cracked has writtennumerous articles that point out that several films has protagonists that believed they had done the right thing, but actually screwed up badly if you think about it.
  • Funny Business ends with the main character Jeanette brought down to normal and erasing any memory of what she could do before. Perhaps her way of avoiding potentially Jumping Off the Slippery Slope rather than simply resetting it just enough to erase the world's memories of finding out what she could do. She could have gone back to the playground after either way. As it is, she took away her inner conflict by effectively crippling herself within her little world.
  • It would probably be easier to list the GoAnimate Grounded videos that don't end this way, as many of them invariably end with the main character grounded for long periods of time at best, have their lives completely ruined or even beaten up or killed at worst. Rarely does the video present this as anything but a happy ending for those beside the main character(s). The worst cases of this trope as it pertains to grounded videos are the "X Gets Executed" videos, which are centered around a troublesome character being killed for their past misdemeanors with their death being celebrated (by their families, friends, and even the entire town) both before, during, and after the execution. (Often with the characters quite literally dancing on their grave.) Despite having such a demented premise and having everyone involved clearly crossing the Moral Event Horizon, this is presented as a good ending for everyone involved. (Except the character being executed, of course.)
  • This short film, which was written by an AI, ends with a fairly heartwarming conversation between the three students who went to a distant planet as part of "Spaceship Day." Unfortunately, the ship ran out of fuel, so the three are presumably trapped on "a cold and lonely planet" until they die.
  • A now withdrawn episode of MinuteVideos had a preteen girl talk about how her father killed her soon-to-be stepmother and then himself while she was home and as she and other family members tried to stop him. As bad as that was, even worse is how they left behind a toddler daughter, the narrator's half-sister, and that the girl was put up for adoption. The story attempts to end on a high note with the girl determined to get her sister back and reunite her family, but she's still left an orphan, she still has to live with her father's selfish actions and even his reasoning behind it all remains a mystery. There isa mention of a suicide note, but the cops are withholding it from her due to some vaguely hinted-upon "sensitive material".

    Western Animation 
  • The ending for the Adventure Time episode "Tree Trunks" has the eponymous character of the episode, an elderly, grandmotherly elephant, finally eating the crystal apple she traveled alongside Finn and Jake, who kept putting their lives on the line to prevent any of the many monsters in the Evil Forest from harming her. As soon as Finn asks her how it tastes, she suddenly explodes. However, after a few seconds of Finn and Jake staring blankly, it soon cuts to Tree Trunks merrily dancing along inside the crystal. Interestingly enough, this scene following Finn and Jake's reaction was an executive demand to soften the blow of the otherwise grim ending, which also gave the writers the ability to bring back the character in the season two episode "Crystals Have Power", when we learn what really happened to Tree Trunks.
  • Parodied in The Amazing World of Gumball in "The Others", where Gumball and Darwin become aware of the other students at the school, outside their class and Anais. They focus on someone named Clare, who is leaving the school and the city because of her dad losing his job. As Clare constantly tries to narrate her thoughts in a Teen Drama-esque fashion, Gumball and Darwin constantly butt in just to remain in focus of the episode. This culminates with Gumball forcing a happy ending on Clare by fixing everything wrong with her life. Loudly.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender has an in-universe example in the episode "The Ember Island Players." The ending of the play The Boy in the Iceberg is happy if you're from the Fire Nation, but since the heroes are the Fire Nation's biggest foes, they find it highly uncomfortable to see themselves dying while the audience applauds.
  • Ben 10
    • Ben 10: Alien Force: The episode "Simple" had a girl call Ben to her planet to stop two factions fighting a Forever War. Ben managed to settle the war by accidentally destroying one of their most valued statues, pitting them against him, and ending the war for good. The episode ends with the girl comically telling Ben that she and the rest of the planet hates him, and that her life is even worse now as her work hours are longer. However, she finds a pile of treasure that Kevin and Argit left behind as part of their war profits and the episode closes with her celebrating. While the war has stopped, it doesn't solve anything. Ben's discussions with the military leaders showed them to be incessantly corrupt Generals who refused to see reason, and even admitted to using the war as a convenient excuse to blame their social and economic problems on. The girl and other civilians had to work long hours producing weapons and had a hard time finding homes. While she gets to keep the money from Kevin and Argit's war-mongering, there are still countless other civilians who're still suffering from poverty because of the pointless draining war.
    • Ben 10: Omniverse: the Incursion invasion Story Arc is concluded in "Frogs of War", where it turns out all that happened was a Batman Gambit by Princess Attea all along to overthrow her father Emperor Milleus. By the end of the episode, she agrees to leave Earth with the Incursion Empire in exchange for the Plumbers keeping her daddy in custody, which is presented as an acceptable, if not entirely happy, ending. The thing is, in previous episodes, it had been clearly established that Attea was much worse than her father, being an Ax-Crazy Psychopathic Manchild motivated by Rape, Pillage, and Burn whereas her father was a more pragmatic Galactic Conqueror. In fact, she almost blew up Earth For the Evulz in her introduction episode. Now, granted, she is sort of in a Dating Catwoman situation with Ben, so she will most likely avoid attacking Earth again, but that's little consolation to the rest of the galaxy.
  • The infamous Casper the Friendly Ghost cartoon "There's Good Boos Tonight" has Casper befriending a cute little fox, only for said fox to be killed by hunters...but it's okay; the fox comes back as a ghost so they can be together forever. To some, this makes it suck because it effectively renders the pathos over the fox's death meaningless. To others, this makes it suck because he's still dead (in the way "The Little Match Girl" is far from a happy ending). But Casper's technically "dead" too, so it's anyone's call.
  • Chaotic: In the first episode of the third season, The four tribes hold a race to celebrate their victory over the M'arrillians and peace between the tribes. A riot erupts due to all of the tribes cheating in the race and disagreeing about who won, wrecking the peace treaty. The humans characters, who are partially to blame for this due to getting involved in the race, act like this is a good thing because the world of Perim will always be chaotic.
  • Most episodes of The Dreamstone end with the Land of Dreams having successfully fended off the Urpneys, pitiful unwilling Mooks to Zordrak, and managing to save the titular stone. The Urpneys usually end each episode beaten and miserable (inflicted by both the heroes and their Bad Boss) for orders they didn't even want to be part of, while the genuinely evil Zordrak himself is rarely punished for his misdeeds, but, hey, at least the Noops get good dreams that night. Used most egregiously in the season one finale "Megattack", which ends with the heroes using Heel–Face Brainwashing on almost the entire Urpney army.
  • Home Movies has an in-show example in Kafka: The Musical: "Hello Franz Kafka! My name is God! I think you are going to like it here!"
  • Kid Cosmic: Fantos is defeated, Erodius is healed, Earth is saved and the Heroes are able to successfully reach out to their alien friends but Papa G no longer has the healing stone and is now feeling his true age of 112. How much time does he have before old age claims him and where will Kid be when that happens?
  • In the finale of season 3 of Miraculous Ladybug, apart from the fact that the villains have ran away, everything is supposed to be right and good. Chloe have lost her superhero status definitively, but she seemingly deserved it. Master Fu lost his guardian status and his memories, but is then reunited to his girlfriend. And the two heroes have renounced to each other, their goal from the very beginning, but should not mind because they already have rebound boy and girl. Actually, all of this sounded traumatizing for most of the spectators, due to the feeling of terryfing waste, and all the predictable unpleasant consequences of this show up in the very first episodes of the next season. Chloe went back from being an ally to an enemy, and pointed out in a Dream Sequence that her eviction made no sense. Marinette soon realized that being the new guardian has put her in a serious risk of total amnesia too. And the alternate pairings do not make it past one episode, as Marinette and Adrien just can't get over each other.
  • An In-Universe example happens in an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Piglet reads a fractured version of Jack and the Beanstalk to a group of bunnies that ends with the giant eating everybody and living happily ever after, (which Piglet very strangely reads as though he agrees it's a happy ending). The bunnies all start crying.
  • The Proud Family: "The Legend of Johnny Lovely". An actual boy named Johnny Lovely is suspended from school after dancing with Penny. She then leads a wild goose chase in search of him that ends at the intersection of Johnny Avenue and Lovely Lane. Penny then concludes that Johnny is just a legend and that he may be out there somewhere.
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show has a lot of them:
  • Robot Chicken paints the ending to 101 Dalmatians as one of these with a friendly little dose of Fridge Logic. Twice. The first has 50 of the puppies pregnant, meaning the family's going to be drowning in puppies and forcing them to ultimately give them to Cruella de Vil. The second fast-forwards two weeks ahead where the puppies have overrun the house, smashed everything, and pooped everywhere. Anita is leaving Roger who, now an alcoholic, is singing a depressing song about how much he hates dogs.
  • Sagwa, the Chinese Siamese Cat:
    • "Tea for Two" ends with Dongwa and the sleeve dogs having made a monkey trainer and his monkeys hated by the entire province. But the sight of a tree supposedly means they'll be wanted at the palace again.
    • In one episode, Sagwa befriends a group of cats whom she's envious of for their lavish lifestyle, only to find out they are constantly menaced by their cruel owner who treats them strictly as ornaments rather than true cats. Sagwa gives them the freedom to act like normal cats for an entire afternoon and helps renew their spirits; however, the episode still ends with the four of them returning to their owner where they are almost certain to resume the strict lifestyle forced upon them.
  • Samurai Jack belatedly concludes with the title character finally managing to go back to the past and slay Aku, preventing the Aku-ruled Bad Future from happening, a victory that is soured by losing the love of his life - Aku's daughter, Ashi - when she ceases to exist right in the middle of their wedding, a dark turn of events that the ending scenes and their general mood amply address. What is not addressed is the possibility that everyone else seen in the future setting where nearly the entire series has taken place may also have been erased, considering Aku's massive long-term influence on the world and even others beyond itnote .
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Due to the lack of a Dénouement, and its rather sudden ending amounting to Horde Prime being defeated and every couple uniting, the series never deals with any of the consequences of its conflicts. This is despite the fact that Prime's conquest would have created massive damage across Etheria on a societal level, the Horde and Rebellion now have to find peace despite their massive and destructive conflict, including some members still clearly having distaste for one another, and, perhaps most importantly, the Galactic Horde, comprised of countless clone cultists, just lost their leader, their technology, and will have to find a way to settle on Etheria. While all of these things could definitely play out just fine, it's not quite the straightforward happy ending the show tries to present it as.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Lampshaded at the end of the episode "Rosebud".
      Homer: Well, we didn't get any money, but Mr. Burns got what he wanted... Marge, I'm confused. Is this a happy ending or a sad ending?
      Marge: It's an ending. That's enough.
    • Also parodied in-universe in "Treehouse of Horror XII" story "Hex and the City":
      Homer: Yep, everything worked out for the best.
      Marge: What? Bart is dead!
      Homer: Well, saying I'm sorry won't bring him back.
      Marge: The fortune-teller said it would.
      Homer: She's not the boss of me!
    • In the episode "The Principal and the Pauper", Principal Seymour Skinner of Springfield Elementary School is revealed to be an impostor named Armin Tamzarian. Armin then goes back to his old life as a street punk in Capital City while the real Skinner takes his place as principal. Springfield eventually realizes how much they miss the Skinner that they are used to, so they convince Armin to come back. The only one opposed to this is the real Skinner, who is ejected from Springfield for that reason only, while Armin legally changes his name to "Seymour Skinner." There's a reason this episode is considered the beginning of the show's Seasonal Rot by at least half of the show's fanbase.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil has its Grand Finale, "Cleaved". Star manages to accomplish her goal of destroying magic and stopping Mina, while also saving Tom and still getting together with Marco thanks to Mewni and Earth being merged into one amalgam world. Happy ending, right? Not quite. Many fans view Star as having committed genocide on all the inhabitants of the Magic Realm, as well as any beings dependent on magic to survive: we're explicitly shown some of these deaths during the fact, while others have their lifeless bodies shown after the events, and some that perish offscreen (such as Glossaryck and Hekapoo) directly tell Star that they'd die if she succeeds. All this is treated as the perfect solution. While she never intended for it, the union of two dimensions is clearly causing a large amount of culture shock for everyone, with the humans of Echo Creek and the various creatures of Mewni adapting poorly to elements of each others' worlds. Even if everyone can eventually adapt to this, Mina is still around, declaring that she'll never lose so long as there are people with similar ideas. Combine that with supplementary material stating there's a contingent of villains still out there that are undefeatable without magic, and you have some very troubling implications for the future. The only ones who really get a good ending are Star and Marco.
  • Such is often the case with each season finale of Total Drama, but the final episode of its fifth season "The Final Wreck-ening" is easily the most infamous example of this. It follows Mike and Zoey in their final run for the million-dollar prize, with Mike finally overcoming his evil alter-ego Mal by means of a reset button pressed inside his head, erasing Mal and his other personalities. Mike and Zoey are happily reunited with their first kiss before finally winning the million which they intend to split between each other. However, prior to the challenge no less than eight eliminated contestants are sent floating away in fart-filled balloons carelessly left to drift away by Chris, with their fates remaining unexplained as they are last seen blowing into the sky. Mike and Zoey are then sent drifting with their friends Gwen and Cameron as the entire island sinks due to Chris and Chef's land drill, while Heather and Alejandro are chased by sharks. The episode ends with Owen water skiing and proclaiming it to have been the greatest finale ever; the fandom disagreed.
  • The VeggieTales episode entitled "Madame Blueberry" is surprisingly shocking and rather brutal, considering how light-hearted the series was at this point. The episode details how the titular character goes around buying things in hoping that it won't make her feel sad anymore. However by the time she learns that she just needs to be thankful for what she has already, her own house gets destroyed, all of her possessions become worthless, and she herself becomes homeless. Though the trope may be downplayed if you take the book "Madame Blueberry Learns to Be Thankful", wherein Bob and Larry help rebuild the treehouse after the events of said episode, to be a canon follow-up to the episode.

 
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Destroy All Humans!

Destroy All Humans! ends with Crypto eliminating everything getting in the way of his mission to harvest the brain-stems of American citizens for the propagation of the Furon race.

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