Charlie: What happened?
Willy Wonka: He lived happily ever after.
So, we've had a whole love story. The main couple have passed through all the possible obstacles separating them: physical distance, a Love Triangle, a properly jealous villain, maybe even the Big Bad. Now, they are kissing each other Against the Setting Sun as the very well-known words are narrated:
"And they lived happily ever after..."
Normally, that's the end.note
Despite being one of The Oldest Ones in the Book, this trope is still used more frequently than you'd think. Many audiences simply want a Happy Ending because it makes them feel good. True art may be angsty, but Angst Aversion is also a fact of life. Everyone has their own favorite spot on the Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism, and the Happily Ever After ending is meant to appeal to those who prefer the more idealistic side of things.
The original source of the Happily Ever After endings, the Fairy Tale, often dealt with the end of the evil characters, with great finality and with more details than the hero and heroine's happiness. The Wicked Stepmother arrives at Snow White's wedding, whereupon she is forced to put on red-hot iron shoes and dance until she dies, and this is an utterly typical fairy tale ending.
This ending technique is considered a classic and time honored trope, a Discredited Trope, and an Undead Horse Trope. It is often a subject to parody, and discarded for a Twist Ending. Interestingly enough, it is truly something of a Dead Unicorn Trope, as many of the older fairy tales had endings that provided An Aesop, however unfriendly.
See also True Love's Kiss, Died Happily Ever After, Babies Ever After, Dance Party Ending, The Good Guys Always Win. Contrast Downer Ending and Bittersweet Ending, the cruellest examples of which make us think they're going to be a case of this trope before yanking the rug out from under the audience. Compare Maybe Ever After, which leaves open the possibility of a happily ever after ending, but doesn't make it a certain conclusion, and Earn Your Happy Ending, in which the characters only live Happily Ever After if they're prepared to put some effort into it. In more modern works, even a straight Happily Ever After can have the rug pulled out from under it in the sequel, in which we catch up with Prince Charming and his princess and find that they're getting on each other's nerves and have to fall in love all over again.
As this is an ending trope, unmarked spoilers abound.
- Cardcaptor Sakura: In spite of the intentional Cliffhanger as Sakura jumps across the wide gap between her and Syaoran, it is already clear that the couple (and possibly the other characters, too) get to live happily after the story. The Power of Friendship and the Power of Love prevail!
- The eventual end of Higurashi: When They Cry had everyone (including the main villain) survive. Shame it took a thousand years to accomplish.
- InuYasha ends with Miroku and Sango Happily Married with Babies Ever After, and Kagome and Inuyasha reunited after 3 years of separation, this time more permanently.
- In Maoyuu Maou Yuusha The Hero, the Demon Queen and Lady Knight decide to retire at the end of the Light Novel series. Seeing that the many people they came in contact with has absorbed and taken after their ideals, the trio leave together to travel to some faraway and quiet place.
- Naruto: Most of the surviving heroes marry and have children. Naruto, in particular, marries Hinata after they finally became a couple in The Last: Naruto the Movie, has two children with her (one of whom headlines a sequel series), and finally achieves his dream of becoming Hokage.
- One of the most surreal versions of this trope happens in an episode of Pokémon. James trades his overly-affectionate Victreebell to the Magikarp Salesman for a supposedly more-obedient Weepinbell, and gives it to Jessie. It spontaneously evolves into another Victreebell, and becomes just as affectionate. They ditch the new one entirely. At the same time, the Magikarp Salesman abandons James's Victreebell. The two Victreebell run into each other, and fall madly in love, bouncing off into the sunset together.
- Pretty much everything Disney does, except for Pocahontas and The Fox and the Hound. And the ending of the original novel of the latter was even worse!
- Every Don Bluth movie too. In fact, Bluth has gone on record to say that as long as the story ends Happily Ever After, then kids can handle whatever dark and depressing stuff happens beforehand (and in Bluth's earlier movies, happen it does).
- WALLE: Played straight as the love-struck robots kiss at the end while the humans rediscover their humanity. The epilogue shows human civilization advancing back to full glory.
- Rio, as per tradition of most of the known western animated films.
- Subverted in The Last Unicorn.
- Quest for Camelot ends with this implication. King Arthur has Excalibur once again, the evil Ruber has been defeated, and both Kayley and Garrett have been formally invested to the Round Table. Kayley's dress heavily resembles a wedding gown, and the final shot shows the lovebirds riding off together on a horse... with a sign that reads "JUST KNIGHTED."
- Shrek 2 puts somewhat of a spin on this. Shrek willingly drinks a potion so that he and Fiona can live their happily ever after in beautiful human forms. To make it permanent, the pair must kiss at midnight. Fiona's decision?
Fiona: I want what every princess wants, to live happily ever after... (Shrek moves in to kiss her, but Fiona stops him) ...with the ogre I married.
- Happily Never After obviously revolves around this trope with the main villain changing all the Fairy Tale happy endings to bad ones.
- The story in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen ends with the Baron narrating that "everyone — who had a talent for it — lived happily ever after." Subverted, however, as this is not the end of the movie, just the end of Munchausen's story within the movie. However, when the townspeople open the gates of their besieged city they find that the Baron's story has seemingly come true, and the Turkish armies besieging the town have seemingly been defeated in the exact way they were defeated in the Baron's story, meaning that everything after "the end" of his story can be considered a part of the "happily ever after" his story spoke about.
- Our Miss Brooks, the cinematic grand finale of the series of the same name, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton finally marry.
- Just about every Adam Sandler movie has this. Even if the film doesn't end with him "getting the girl," it will at least end with some kind of happily-ever-after epilogue (case in point: Big Daddy).
- Back to the Future both subverts and plays this straight. We can assume Marty's parents lived "happily ever after" once Marty altered their meetup in 1955... if only Doc's time machine would quit getting in the way.
- The film adaptation of Stardust seemed to be headed to a "happily ever after" ending, but the ending turned out to be even happier, as the lead couple get transformed into stars when they reach old age, enabling them to truly live "happily ever after" (or at least for several billion more years).
- This is actually a Double Subversion: the narrator notes that "no man can live forever... except he who possesses the heart of a star. And Yvaine had given hers to Tristan completely."
- Enchanted: naturally, the Power of Love prevails over the modern world.
- The High School Musical trilogy: Most of the gang get into the colleges they wanted to go to, Troy escapes from the pressure he's under in Albuquerque, and he and Gabriella go to schools near each other so they can stay together.
- Inverted in The Palm Beach Story by opening the film with a wedding. Reconstructed by showing how the marriage goes awry but the couple finding back together by the end.
- The Discworld novels often deconstruct this rather fiercely.
- Especially Witches Abroad. While many end happily, it's the "ever after" part that doesn't hold up past the start of the next book.
- The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents in particular points out the exact point where another story would declare that everyone lived happily ever after, before abandoning it and showing the effort that is needed to make something like that work. In some ways, this ending is actually more satisfying.
- Subverted in The Princess Bride: the narrator's father said that the characters "lived happily ever after," but when the narrator gets around to reading the book himself as an adult, he finds out that it's actually an open ending with the success of the escape left in doubt. The movie adaptation, however, plays this trope straight.
- Happens in the epilogue of the final Animorphs book: while three of the surviving Animorphs go off into space to save Sixth Ranger Ax and ultimately face down a Bolivian Army Ending, Cassie gets to stay behind on Earth and enjoy the peaceful new life she's made for herself.
- Subverted in Atonement, in which the narrator Briony, who pulled an I Should Write a Book About This, says she wanted to give her sister and her lover a happy ending, but in reality both are dead.
- Subverted in Candide. The title character has reunited with his love and Pangloss goes on another diatribe about how this is the best of all possible worlds. Only the girl is sunburned, leathery, and peevish from outdoor labor and, with all the tragedy Candide gamely suffers throughout the story, he politely tells Pangloss to shove it. On the other hand, the point of the book is that "If this is not the best of all possible worlds, it is at least not the worst", and Candide manages to find some satisfaction in his new life. "We must all tend our garden."
- Most Xanth books end like this, at least for the major protagonists, though even people who've had their happy endings sometimes get into an adventure again, usually because of an unrelated problem.
- Exaggerated in Tom Holt's Flying Dutch. Happily Ever After really means something when the elixir of life is a major plot point.
- The Dark Tower plays with the phrase: when Susannah enters the door in front of the Dark Tower and finds herself in another alternate version of New York City, she meets alternate versions of Eddie and Jake, and in this universe they apparently are brothers and they already know her. It's stated that "Will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live."
- At the ending of The Eyes of the Dragon there is a similar statement; while nobody lives happily ever after, the heroes of the story "lived as well as they could, each and every one of them; some lived longer than others, but all lived well, and bravely."
- Twilight: the last line of the last book is ""And then we continued blissfully into this small but perfect piece of our forever." 'nuff said.
- Breaking Dawn ends with all of vampire Bella's problems solved as she heads home to have sex with her eternally young and attractive husband. And despite several "battles" throughout the four books, all of the main characters survived.
- The final chapter is actually titled "The Happily Ever After".
- Parodied in Kim Harrison's "The Hollows" series, in which the saying is revealed to be a translation error. It was apparently meant to say, "and they lived happily in the ever-after."
- Daddy-Long-Legs and its sequel give the impression that the heroine of each book will be thus rewarded; indeed, the sequel verifies that the original heroine has as close to a purely happy ending as a girl can possibly get in 1910s New York.
- The Hobbit notes, shortly before the end, that Bilbo "remained very happy to the end of his days, and those were extraordinarily long." In a Continuity Nod in The Lord of the Rings, Bilbo mentions that he'd decided on using a similar phrase ("he lived happily ever afterwards to the end of his days") as the ending of his book. "But where will they live," Sam wonders under his breath in his case and Bilbo and Frodo's Eressëa - at least for a while.
- When Tolkien rolled up his sleeves to begin the "Hobbit sequel" his publishers had asked for, he invented Frodo because he realized, after a few false starts, it couldn't be a story about Bilbo because he'd said that.
- The Last Battle:
- "'The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.' And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all stories, and we can most truly say they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."
- An Exercise in Futility: Emperor Kathelm doubles the size of the empire and gets over his insecurities.
- In Tanith Lee's The Dragon Hoard, the end states in as many words that everybody lived happily ever after. Well, almost everybody...
- In Norton Juster's The Dot and the Line, after the Line learns to be more dynamic and wins the heart of the Dot, the two are said to live "happily ever after, or at least reasonably so."
- In Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn, Schmendrick tells Molly that "There are no happy endings, because nothing ends."
- Trapped on Draconica: Everyone on Team Good gets one, including Gothon.
- Ben reconciles with his mother, reconnects with his father (who is out of jail and turning over a new leaf) and meets cute a reincarnated Erowin.
- Daniar and Kalak are married with a kid on the way.
- Rana marries Taruok and they set about rebuilding the Baalarian Empire
- Gothon is escorted to the afterlife by his beloved wife.
- A Brother's Price ends with Jerin's point of view and this slightly ambiguous sentence.
- Totally word-for-word in the last ever Sharpe novel. Usually, Bernard Cornwwell's afterword explaining the historical context of the plot and pointing out any deviatios from historical fact would sign off with "...some day, Sharpe will march again". In the final volume, he signed off with, "Sharpe and Sergeant Harper returned home and, so far as I know, lived happily ever after." And goodness knows they'd earned it by then.
- In Dragon In Distress, the end has a Happily Ever After; immediately followed up with:
Narration Qoute:...Or at least until Sir George fell off and broke his leg. He was riding a flying dragon at the time.
- Jane Austen is a consistent provider of happy endings. Expect happy marriages for all, except the people you've grown to dislike, financial security, and a brief epilogue providing details of the happy couple's happy lives.
- This Immortal:
- Conrad and Cassandra are not only reunited in the end but also build themselves a new home, complete with a dog and their own private beach on which they end the story, watching the sunset.
- This is also implied with Dos Santos and Diane, whom Conrad suspects to be a couple from the very beginning, but who give up on Returnism and move together to Taler, never to be heard of again.
- After enduring avalanches of angst and complications from life-changing injuries to divorces to deaths in the family to Unrequited Love throughout the show's eleven-year run, Frasier ends with Martin remarrying, a still-Happily Married Niles and Daphne having their first child, and Frasier finally, finally finding a great woman whom he loves and who loves him back. It took years of catastrophes and hijinks, but it's gratifying to see the Crane men finally hit the jackpot.
- Good Times: Keith gets another shot at pro football when the Bears give him a contract, enabling him and Thelma to move to a swanky condo. Thelma is pregnant and she and Keith invite Florida to live with them. Michael moves to a dorm on campus. Willona is promoted to head buyer at the boutique and she and Penny also move to the same condo but on a different floor. JJ creates a comic book character called DynoWoman and she is modeled after Thelma. He is given a huge advance, enabling him to move out of the projects as well.
- The happy ending of How I Met Your Mother has been a Foregone Conclusion since the first minute of the pilot episode. Yet the writers somehow — beyond all realms of reason and imagination - managed to brutal subvert this in the finale. At best it managed a Bitter Sweet Ending. Played straight with the alternate ending through.
- Roswell has an epilogue tacked on to the series finale, revealing that Liz and Max get married and the gang is doing well even though they are permanently on the run from the government. The last line is "All I know is that I'm Liz Parker, and I'm happy."
- Friends combines this and a Bitter Sweet Ending. All the characters are clearly happy with their careers, spouses and families but its also the end of an era and they're, to a certain extent, parting ways.
- Skins: The S4 finale very strongly implies that Naomi and Emily will be this, having finally realised they're each other's One True Love.
- There's even a sign hanging in Naomi's room in S4 that says "... and they lived happily ever after."
- And then Skins: Fire happened.
- The Steve Harvey Show: Steve follows Regina to her new job in California, Ced and Lovita win the lottery just as Lovita goes into labor, and Romeo, Lydia, and Bullethead graduate from high school and are accepted at college.
- In The Twilight Zone (1959) episode The Hunt, this is implied for Hyder and Rachel— They will be together forever in Heaven.
- In Doctor Who, it's already a Foregone Conclusion that thanks to the Timey-Wimey Ball which is their relationship, the Doctor and River cannot have a Happily Ever After. But at the end of the Husbands of River Song, the Doctor takes her to the Singing Towers of Darillium, where they spend 24 years together. As River tells him, "happy ever after" isn't about forever, it's just about spending the rest of the time you have with the one you love. The closing shot shows the words:
"They lived happily ever after.""They lived happily""happily"
- A core element in many religions (such as Christianity and Islam) is the promise of an infinitely perfect afterlife for believers. This element is not found in Judaism, which predates both of the aforementioned religions in the development of Abrahamic monotheism.
- A classic subversion is found in the play The Fantasticks. Act One concludes with a classic Happy Ending, with the fathers ending their "feud" and approving their children's romance after the boy rescues the girl from a (staged) abduction. Act Two starts as reality begins to set in.
- Into the Woods has a similar setup to The Fantasticks: Act One concludes with a classic Happy Ending, but then there's Act Two...
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum plays this as a Foregone Conclusion.
"No royal curse, no Trojan Horse,
And there's a happy ending, of course!
- Well it's a happy ending for everyone except poor Senex, who's still stuck with his shrewish wife Domina.
- Parodied in The Stoned Guest by P.D.Q. Bach. This "half-act opera" would end with a Kill Em All, except then the entire cast inexplicably rises again to sing a final chorus. It even ends on the words, "Happy ending!"
- William Shakespeare's comedies generally end this way, particularly A Midsummer Night's Dream, Much Ado About Nothing, and As You Like It, which each end with two to four couples Happily Married. Often as not, though, there's character or two left out in the cold and excluded from the world of love and marriage—see Antonio in The Merchant of Venice and Antonio and Feste in Twelfth Night.
- Love's Labour's Lost also subverts the trope: everything is shaping up perfectly toward a happy ending, the four young swains have successfully wooed the four young maidens—but in the final scene the female lead gets word that her father has died, causing a palpable Mood Whiplash, and she and her friends decide to return to her kingdom,leaving their loves. It's substantially depressing, and it seems cruel that the sequel that was apparently written, Love's Labour's Found , is one of Shakespeare's works to have been lost.
- Anastasia ends with Anya reunited with her grandmother but choosing to lead an incognito life with Dmitry, and the ghosts of her family surrounding her and Dmitry as they head off to start a new life.
- In Tales of Symphonia: Dawn of the New World (also known as Tales of Symphonia: Knight of Ratatosk), there are three possible endings. In one, the "good ending" (dubbed "the mega-happy ending" by the author of this statement) Emil and Marta end up together, through a complicated series of circumstances. Emil's personality is separated from that of Ratatosk, and that personality is allowed to live his life as a human.
- The same applies to Cave Story. Aside from the "good" ending, there is also a Guide Dang It! "best" ending, which saves two NPC's who otherwise die, stops the island from falling, and offers redemption to the Quirky Miniboss Squad. The final cutscene shows Curly, Quote, and Balrog flying off into the sunset, resolved to find someplace with a beautiful view to live the rest of their days.
- Played straight in one ending of The Bard's Tale. It's the evil ending. The good ending requires sacrificing wealth, power, and the hottest body in the world to save the world, with no reward or even recognition for doing so.
- You get to joke about the possibility with Liara in Mass Effect 2 at the end of Lair of the Shadow Broker if you romanced her in the first game.
Liara: If this all ends tomorrow Shepard, what happens with us.Shepard: I don't know. Marriage, old age, and a lot of little blue children.
- A possible ending of Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer, in which you can end up going back home after a few more adventures and settling down with Safiya/Gann.
- At the conclusion of the Baldur's Gate series, your character can earn a truly happy ending by renouncing godhood and marrying his/her Love Interest. Unless the Love Interest happens to be Viconia — that relationship ends on a more bittersweet note.
- It is not confirmed, but it is heavily implied in Super Paper Mario that there was a happy ending for Lord Blumiere (Count Bleck) and Lady Timpani. At the end of the game (after the staff credits) there is a scene showing what appears to be a man and a woman on a peaceful, green hill in a bright meadow, the man wearing a hat that looks much like the one worn by Bleck. Most players assume that it's them, and that they are now living happily in a an undisclosed place.
- Subverted in the Dark Parables, which are all based on classic fairy tales - but Happily Ever After is what's missing from them. It's up to the detective to help the assorted characters straighten out their magically messed up lives.
- Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame subverts this trope during the intro.
Narrator: And so the young lovers were wed and lived happily... well, for eleven days.
- Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai! invokes this in a couple of different ways. In their respective routes Wanko is Happily Married, Miyako gets Babies Ever After, and Mayucchi Grow Old with Me, to name a few examples. At the end of the Ryuuzetsuran route, the ryuuzetsuran is transplanted to the Kawakami School of Martial Arts, the family has gotten a new member and is still going strong, and even the villains are getting a shot at redemption.
- Bob and George ends when all the characters who were supposed to die in the Cataclysm, plus Bob and George who were supposed to go home and be miserable and die young respectively, fake their deaths, move to Acapulco, and live happily ever after.
- Axe Cop once married Girl Abraham Lincoln and lived Happily Ever After... until he got really bored.
- Mike Nelson has inverted this trope a couple of times in his RiffTrax of movies. One example is his Riff of Road House where he goes into detail during the closing credits about how all the characters' lives go horribly wrong after the movie's ending.
- This happened earlier in Mystery Science Theater 3000's sporking of Soul Taker, where Crow and Servo refuse to accept the movie's Happily Ever After and instead offer a Downer Ending where the protagonist ends up in jail. Mike asks if they aren't being a little doom-and-gloom, and they sarcastically suggest a Sugar Bowl ending that is literally rainbows and unicorns. Mike asks if there can't be a middle ground and they say nope, it's either prison or unicorns.
- One ending of Three Worlds Collide makes living happily ever after horrifying. Happiness is overrated.
- RD Reynolds writes in his No Holds Barred induction "And thus everyone lives happily ever after... Well, except for Brell and Zeus, since they're dead."
- A Loaf Story from The Wanderer's Library ends with this. You'll still cry.
- Parody artist Jon Cozart, aka Paint, deconstructs the happy endings of Disney films in his "After Ever After" series by imagining what might happen if they were set in the real world.
- The SCP Foundation tale When We Came Home is meant to be a final end to the entire universe, and, despite being based on a Crapsack World, manages to end on the line
The End of the World went like this: Everyone lived happily ever after
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: After some of the darker undertones of the series, the ending is downright saccharine. Every single main character survived to the end, the entire world is free from tyranny, our heroes are well-respected and lauded for ending the Hundred-Year War, and the male and female lead become an Official Couple after three seasons of handwringing and denial.
- Subverted in two South Park episodes, dropping a bridge on a character each time:
- "And they all lived Happily Ever After, except for Pocket who died of hepatitis B."
- "And they all lived Happily Ever After, except for Kyle who died of AIDS two weeks later."
- Kim and Ron in Kim Possible. The two Sealed with a Kiss series finales and the Word of God make this such.
- The Ren & Stimpy Show episode "Insomiac Ren" had Stimpy reading a story to Ren.
Stimpy: And the last word he spoke as his head rolled across the floor was...AAAAAAAAAUUUUGGGGGGHHHH!!!!! And they all lived happily ever after.
Narrator: So they were forced to marry the princesses, lived happily ever after and then starved to death.
- The ending of "Magical Golden Singing Cheeses" has the titular cheeses transform into milk cur princesses and the narrator narrates:
- Subverted (and parodied) by the snarky Narrator of the Teen Titans episode "Transformation":
Narrator: So the happy, young girl returned home with her friends, and they all lived happily ever after. That is until Beast Boy got the chicken pox.
- The ending of the Wander over Yonder episode, "The Hero" parodies this notion as Princess Demurra and King Draykor get married:
Wander: And they lived happily ever after!Princess Demurra: Well, that's the plan, but real relationships take a lot of work.King Draykor: However, if we listen, communicate, and are sensitive to each other's needs —Wander: Happily ever after!!
...And good endings remained in style happily ever after.