An adaptation of a story ends before the story gets sad, turning a Downer Ending or Bittersweet Ending into Happily Ever After by ending at an earlier point and just leaving off the sad part. Usually used for epic stories with intriguing characters, an epic adventure, cool Fight Scenes, and great romance that just happen to end on a very sour note. So the writers just fade out on a calm Hope Spot. This may be seen as sacrificing what made the story "great" to appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator. Then again, if the story ended on a Diabolus ex Machina, the fans may appreciate ending on the Story Fauxnale.
Sometimes this trope is inverted to cut off the story before The Cavalry comes. This can come off as a cheap way to make things Darker and Edgier, or a way to remove an Ass Pull that came Just in Time to conclude the original.
When adding examples, please avoid general examples that are not specifically choosing a happier or darker point to end the story at instead of completing it. Anything besides that falls under other Media Adaptation Tropes.
Compare Adaptational Alternate Ending.
Please note: given this is an ending trope, spoilers are unavoidable. You have been warned.
Examples of happier endings:
- The ending of the Fruits Basket anime. It gets darker in the manga... which then ends on an extremely idealistic note, with The Power of Love prevailing, and most of the cast getting into a stable relationship. They just had to do a little more to earn it, first.
- The Naru Taru anime. The only thing the audience got there was a half-assed Left Hanging "ending" — which may still have been preferable to what the manga ended with.
- Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn ends with the Federation and Zeon finally resolving their conflicts and the implication that peace would finally be achieved in the Universal Century after so much bloodshed. That is if you didn't watch any of the Gundam series set after that. Chronologically, Unicorn takes place decades before the brutal Cosmo Babylonia Warnote and, much later, the even more gruesome Zanscare War, which may be even worse than the One Year War, the Gryps Conflict and the various Neo Zeon incursions. Nevertheless, by revealing the contents of Laplace's Box, Banagher and Mineva finally put a hopeful end to a century awash in blood and tears, even if for just twenty-odd years.
- The Suzuka anime ends with the Official Couple getting together. The manga ends with an unplanned pregnancy forcing the Official Couple to abandon the dreams that drove the Sports Story side of the plot.
- The manga version of Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch ends on a slightly more bittersweet note than the anime by explicitly stating that Hanon and Rina will eventually have to choose their kingdoms over their human boyfriends.
- The Wandering Son anime ends just when Nitori's voice is starting to break and before the puberty related drama really hit. The ending is comparatively much happier than the manga counterpart, as Nitori seems fine with her voice changing while in the manga she reacts with a blank expression.
- School-Live! ends on an The Adventure Continues ending where the girls are searching for a new place to stay after their school burns down. This is the end of the first arc of the manga. The second arc is where Cerebus Syndrome really hits and things go From Bad to Worse. The anime also removed some of the more negative parts of the first arcs ending, such as Kurumi and Miki being injured and Yuuri's Freak Out.
- Played with when Saikano was first translated by fansubbers; at the end of episode 10 (when Shuji and Chise reunite and run away to forget about the war and just live together) the fansubbers added a public service announcement that this was the end of any happiness in the series, and if viewers didn't want to be made incredibly sad by subsequent episodes they should just stop watching here and pretend this was the last episode.
- Bolívar, el Héroe: The real Bolivar's life becomes a hell after he became president: Spanish South America ends up divided, he becomes unpopular (he even had to escape from an assassination attempt) and dies sadly. Those events are not shown even if there is a Sequel Hook at the ending.
- Disney Animated Canon:
- The Jungle Book (1967) ends with Mowgli about to go to the human village. In the book, he goes to the village and is rejected there, too. It ends on a fairly depressing note, with Mowgli lamenting that there's nowhere he belongs. The sequel, however, does show Mowgli having trouble adjusting to village life.
- The Sword in the Stone cuts off right after Arthur finds the sword and gets declared king, sparing kids the saga of his doomed love life and the dissolution of everything he ever worked for. T. H. White's The Sword in the Stone ends there as well, but the rest of The Once and Future King covers Arthur's reign and final fall, which never got animated. Trying to fit together all of the different parts of the King Arthur mythos into one coherent line would be frustrating, to say the least.
- The Very Loosely Based on a True Story Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World has a happy ending with Pocahontas setting sail back to the Americas — in Real Life, Pocahontas died on that voyage.
- The Princess and the Frog does something similar, ending with the heroes as small business owners in mid-1920's USA. The Great Depression started in 1930.
- Robin Hood ends with the evil prince John in chains and Richard Lionheart back in power. But the real Prince John ended up succeeding Richard as the ruler of England.
- Many novelizations of Bambi stop right before Bambi's mother's infamous death scene.
- The Prince of Egypt ends just after the Hebrews cross the Red Sea and escape, with a Jump Cut to Moses bringing the Commandments down - skipping over that business with the calf, the wandering in the desert, and omitting the ending where Moses dies on the Promised Land's doorstep.
- As usual with Moses and the Ten Commandments' adaptations, this happens in A Tale of Egypt. It leaves out the Hebrew incidents and the punishment of Moses' generation not seeing the Promised Land.
- Actually used to brilliant effect in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: the last shot of the movie freeze-frames literally the instant before the two heroes are gunned down, leaving us with a final image of the two in which they are very much alive, and doing what they do best. Considering the rumors of the real Butch Cassidy surviving the shootout, this makes it rather interesting.
- The Northern Lights/The Golden Compass film famously dealt with the cruel twist at the end of the novel by ending ten minutes early. Yes, it was a Diabolus ex Machina, but it was also a little crucial to the rest of the story happening at all. It was intended instead to make that scene the opening of the second part of the trilogy that they didn't make. The stage adaptations of the trilogy also go with this, thought at least there you can find out how it ends. The really, really irritating part is that the entire Downer Ending was actually filmed, but it was cut at the last minute. That footage is sitting on some editor's hard drive somewhere, but we'll probably never get to see it. What little of it appeared in the tie-in game actually looked pretty good.
- The Princess Bride ends with the heroes riding off into the sunset, leaving off the book's more ambiguous ending in which they are slowed down by various mishaps and the villain is shown to be on their trail. Then again, so did the book, kinda. (See the Literature section for details.)
- Many a Biopic chooses to end the story at the height of the hero's success (or perhaps their comeback). They might briefly acknowledge sad events that happened afterward, up to and including death, but that's all.
- Martin Scorsese's The Aviator somewhat averts this. It ends on a moment of total public triumph for Howard Hughes, but in the last scene Hughes suffers an obsessive-compulsive fit and is reduced to hiding away, helplessly staring into a darkened bathroom mirror and repeating "the way of the future."
- Ed Wood is pretty bad about this, as it ends immediately after the premiere of Plan 9 from Outer Space. The alcoholism that destroyed Ed Wood's career and reduced him to filming pornography at the end isn't dramatized (brief text epilogues do reveal his and his colleagues' ultimate fates).
- Averted in Pollock. The last half of the film chronicles Pollock's wife leaving him, his subsequent depression and the ultimate consequences of his alcoholism throughout the film: the final scene depicts the car wreck that kills him.
- The Madness of King George ends with George III hale, hearty, and reunited with his wife. The film neglects to mention that the king would be permanently insane within just a few years, and would spend his final years ignored by his family.
- This almost happened with On Her Majesty's Secret Service, with the original ending being Bond and Tracy driving off happily. When George Lazenby announced he would quit, Blofeld and Bunt killing Tracy was put in, rather than being saved for the sequel.
- The film adaptation of The Grapes of Wrath. The book ends with the remaining Joads in a barn after a flood. The movie ends as the Joads are driving down the highway in a car and Ma offers some words of hope that were in the novel (right before things started to go downhill). Mind you, breast-feeding would've never been allowed under The Hays Code.
- The film version of The Getaway omits the final chapter of the book.
- The "Love Conquers All" ending of the American screening of Brazil is this, ending the movie right after a bizarre and trippy sequence that Sam discovers is All Just a Dream... but before the camera pulls away to show us that it was all just a dream because his mind had snapped due to his torture.
- The Man Who Laughs does this, ending with Gwynplaine and Dea declaring their love for each other and sailing off together into the sunset. In the book they both die shortly thereafter.
- Peter O'Toole's Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear cut the downer ending. Unsurprising, since a) the adaptation was written for children and b) there wasn't enough time provided to establish the ending as a legitimate downer. What is surprising is that all explicit reference to Moriarty was removed.
- The 2010 film Conviction tells the true story of a single mother's 18-year struggle to get her brother released from a wrongful life sentence, including going to law school to defend him herself (which causes her husband to divorce her and her children to move in with him). The movie has a Bittersweet Ending: the brother is released and the family receives a large settlement, but the Dirty Cop Sergeant who fabricated evidence and coerced the other witnesses into testifying against him walks away due to the status of limitations. In real life not only did the latter happen but the brother died from a head injury after falling off a wall only six months after being released from prison. His sister never practiced law again. This is mentioned in the DVD extras but not the film itself. An ending text explaining his fate was screened for test audiences, who were so depressed by it the filmmakers decided to remove this from the final film.
- The behind-the-scenes/rehearsal documentary Michael Jackson's This Is It never acknowledges that the actual This Is It concerts didn't take place because Jackson died of a prescription drug overdose before they were scheduled to begin; in fact, it doesn't even mention Jackson's death at all (not even an "in loving memory"). Drew McWeeny, in his negative review at Hitfix.com, pointed out that this made the film useless as a documentary, since it was all buildup and no payoff — for example, how did his death affect all those excited backup performers and musicians seen at the start of the film?
- The Fighter implies that Dickie Ecklund successfully kicked his crack addiction after leaving prison; in reality, Ecklund has relapsed on several occasions since the events of the film.
- Finding Neverland, which is about the relationship between J. M. Barrie and the Llewelyn-Davies family, ends on a bittersweet note. The Llewelyn-Davies boys' mother dies, but the silver lining to the tragedy is that Barrie is going to raise the boys from now on. The implication is that the future is bright for this family. In reality, the Barrie/Llewelyn-Davies' lives were blighted with tragedy. Two of the brothers died while still essentially boys: Michael — the real inspiration for Peter Pan — drowned aged 20 in what was either a tragic accident or a suicide pact. His brother George was killed in the Great War, aged 21. Peter lived into his 60s, when he committed suicide, but his relationship with Barrie was already rocky by the time of his mother's death, and the association with Barrie and Peter Pan plagued Peter throughout his life. Jack's relationship with Barrie was also troubled. Ironically, the only Llewelyn-Davies boy who had a long life and a consistently positive relationship with his adoptive father was the youngest, Nico — who isn't depicted in this film!
- Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers plays with this trope. Due to its non-linear narrative, we know and are shown—early in the film, in many cases—that many of the characters meet unhappy endings, but as the narrative loops around, the film actually ends on a sequence of the guys enjoying a bit of rest and relaxation down at the beach before they went back to the front lines.
- The Lion in Winter ends with Henry II escaping the plots against him, and preparing to face the future with renewed vitality. According to The Other Wiki, he died six years later. Phillip and Richard raised arms against him, and Henry was too sick to do anything other than make a complete surrender. John publicly sided against him, and learning that was the final shock that killed him.
- My Week with Marilyn ends on a happy note with a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue that mentions only Marilyn Monroe's highly successful next picture, Some Like It Hot, and not her death (and probable suicide) only three years later at an age of 36.
- Les Misérables (1998) ends with Javert committing suicide in front of Valjean. The last thing shown is Valjean running away, now free to return to a peaceful life with Cosette. This conveniently cuts off before either Valjean decides to leave to protect Cosette's good name (the theater adaptation) or is driven away by Marius (the book), and Cosette and Marius only find Valjean again on his deathbed (both). The 1935 version starring Fredric March also ends this way.
- The Great Warrior Skanderbeg concludes with the titular character having secured Albania's independence from the Ottoman Empire for decades and the movie closes with him giving him a triumphant speech about their freedom being guaranteed. In real life, Albania eventually fell to Ottoman occupation a decade after Skanderbeg's death.
- A number of adaptations of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, especially the comics or animated versions, tend to end with the battle of Chi Bi, where Wei's army is resoundingly defeated by the alliance of Wu and Shu. It's the last time that things go so well, as Wu and Shu turn against each other almost immediately after, culminating in the deaths of a number of major characters. And of course, the movies have a tendency to focus solely on that same battle.
- In the book Military Secret by A. Gaidar, a child, Al'ka, and his friends uncover a bandit conspiracy and help in getting the criminals arrested. But one of the criminals remains free, and kills Al'ka in the very end (before beng shot to death). The film adaptation, written by Gaidar himself, omits this.
- The Princess Bride does this in story, with author William Goldman's fictional father, who's been reading only "the good parts" of the story-within-a-story, leaving off the over-the-top No Ending paragraph which states that as the heroes ride into the sunset, Inigo's wound reopens, Fezzik takes a wrong turn, Buttercup's horse throws a shoe, and Humperdink is hot on their trail.
- In 1 Maccabees, The Hero died two chapters after the events related at the end of 2 Maccabees. The book then goes on to the leadership periods, and deaths, of the Hero's brothers. And there were only two, not six.
- The Book of Acts leaves Peter as an influential church leader and ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome. They were both executed soon after during Nero's persecutions.
- Parodied in A Series of Unfortunate Events. A few pages before the end of the first book, the Lemony Narrator addresses the reader, telling them to put the book down at that point if they want a happy ending. Doubles as a Snicket Warning Label.
- In Show Boat by Edna Ferber, the tenth chapter, in which Gaylord and Magnolia get married, ends with the line, "And so they lived h— and so they lived ... ever after." (The musical provides an act break at this point in the story, but, unlike the novel, it allows the couple to reunite for a Happy Ending.)
- The Dark Tower: After the scene of Roland entering the tower but before the narrative shifts inside, King suggests the reader pull this by putting down the book and considering it to have ended happily.
- The third episode of From the Earth to the Moon focuses on the upcoming Apollo 7 mission as NASA moves on from the tragedy of Apollo 1. The three astronauts—Wally Schirra, Don Eisele, and Walter Cunningham—are being filmed for a fictional documentary and are friendly and enthusiastic about their upcoming mission, and on the whole seems like things are going to go well. The episode ends with the mission launch... and does not go on to depict the flight itself, during which Schirra developed a head cold and infected the other two with his bad mood. They were so argumentative with Mission Control that they were pulled from all future flights; although Schirra was already set to retire, it was Eisele and Cunningham's first and last time in space.
- The Speculative Documentary The Future Is Wild, which is about what animals could eventually appear on our planet's surface in the distant future, apparently begins with the start of a new ice age, and ends with the formation of a new supercontinent. The last episode apparently ends with a closeup of the Sun in the sky, because it's going to play an important role after the series...
- Most recordings and performances of the Irish folk song "The Rising of the Moon" these days cut the last verse, which describes how the rebels of the rebel song all meet a bitter end in the 1798 rebellion, leaving the song more upbeat and universal.
- Igor Stravinsky's ballet Petrushka has a Concert Ending that ends the piece before Petrushka's death, though most orchestras ignore it and continue on.
- The Concert Ending of "Siegfried's Rhine Journey" from The Ring of the Nibelung gives the excerpt a happy E-flat major coda, where the opera instead modulates into a distant minor key by way of the ominous "Servitude" Leitmotif.
- Some cast albums of musicals end on a happier note than the show does, since older musicals tended not to fully score their more downbeat moments. An egregious case is Golden Boy, where the original cast recording's "Finale" ends with the crowd cheering at the conclusion of the big fight; the show's continuation, however, reveals that the loser died, the knowledge of which causes the winner to be Driven to Suicide.
- Shakespeare's Henry VIII ends shortly after the birth of Elizabeth, with Henry and Anne happily married - yeah, that went well.
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat ends happily, with Joseph's entire family reunited and settling in Egypt. Anyone who knows the Bible knows that within a generation or two, all their descendants will be enslaved by the Egyptians, eventually leading to the Exodus story. (Which also tends to be hit by this trope in adaptations. e.g. The Prince of Egypt.)
- The "junior" version of Into the Woods completely cuts out the Darker and Edgier second act, and instead ends with the Happily Ever After ending of the first act.
- Westeros: An American Musical: The play covering its source material only up to the end of A Storm of Swords interrupts the story at a relatively happy point:
- The audience is spared the deaths of at least two likable characters.
- The negative aftermath of the deaths of less likable, but quite influential characters isn't shown.
- The play ends right after one of the candidates for the throne provides much-needed help for a pressing issue neglected by his rivals and is welcomed by the people needing the help accordingly. The long-term consequences of providing that help turn out to not all be positive in canon.
- Call of Duty 2: The game portrays the battle for Hill 400 as ending in American victory. Historically the Rangers did manage to capture the peak and Hold the Line while under intense assault, but, on the last day of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest, Germany recaptured the hill and held it until February 1945.
- Dragon Age games always end with the Player Character resolving a world-threatening conflict and being exalted as a hero... only for a new civil conflict and Big Bad/Eldritch Abomination to threaten the world again next game. This is lampshaded by the third game's player character after a two-year time skip following the Happy Ending of the main game, who can angrily wonder, "Can one thing in this fucking world just stay fixed??"
- Empire Earth:
- The final scenario of the Greek campaign (which is also the final scenario of Alexander the Great's story arc) involves Alexander completing his conquest of Persia and thwarting an assassination attempt on his life, without going into his failed expedition to take India and eventual death. A similar thing happens in the final scenario of the Hundred Years' War arc of the British campaign, which ends with the battle of Agincourt, the last major English victory of the war before the French turned the tide.
- The German campaign glosses over the whole "lost WWI" thing after three missions with the Red Baron and segues into and unnamed Chancellor ordering a blitzkrieg on Poland, Norway and France, and the campaign ends with the success of Operation Sealion (the German invasion of England).
- In the Nuts Fujimori manga adaptation of Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, the story ends right before Sigurd marches to Phinora to meet Quan's reinforcements. Anyone who's played the game knows that Quan will never reach Phinora alive, and Sigurd himself is not long for this world.
- The Extra History miniseries on Emperor Justinian originally ended on the high note, with General Belisarius finally taking Rome back for the Roman Empire. However, the second miniseries set the historical record straight by revealing how all of Justinian's efforts to restore the Empire to its glory have gradually been undone later.
- This sort of ending tends to occur in most adaptations of the Exodus story. It was even parodied in The Simpsons episode "Simpsons Bible Stories"
- Milhouse/Moses: Well, Lisa, we're out of Egypt. So, what's next for the Israelites? Land of milk and honey?
Lisa: [consulting a scroll] Hmm, well, actually it looks like we're in for forty years of wandering the desert.
Milhouse/Moses: Forty years? But after that, it's clear sailing for the Jews, right?
Lisa: [nervously] Uh-huh-hum, more or less — hey, is that manna?
- The animated film of Planet Hulk ends with the Red King's overthrow, rather than going through with the horrible events that led up to World War Hulk in the comics.
- While the animated adaptation of Halo: The Fall of Reach doesn't end on the best of terms, with Samuel-034's Heroic Sacrifice and the still looming threat of the Covenant, the series avoids the titular battle that results in the destruction of Reach, one of humanity's last strongholds and the assumed deaths of all the other Spartan-IIs besides the Master Chief. Instead, the animated series ends with Blue Team and most of the other Spartans alive and together. This was likely done to avoid confusing players who had not seen most of the Expanded Universe when Blue Team is shown together in Halo 5: Guardians, because the series was included with the Limited editions of the game.
Examples of darker endings:
- The anime version of Berserk ended with Guts losing his hand and eye and Casca getting raped by Griffith as Femto and leaving out the two of them being saved by the Skull Knight in a Big Damn Heroes moment from the manga. This was mainly because, unlike the manga, the Skull Knight didn't appear at all in the anime as the anime's focus was the Golden Age arc and how Guts got from there to his circumstances in episode one, and having him and Casca saved like this would have been rightly viewed as a Deus ex Machina.
- Originally, the "Rite of Spring" segment of Fantasia was actually going to extend into the Cenozoic era after they show the dinosaurs going extinct, complete with appearances of different extinct mammals such as wooly mammoths and saber-toothed cats, before finally ending with the appearance of mankind and their discovery of fire. However, due to Executive Meddling, all of this was actually cut from the final version of the film, and as a result, all of this was replaced by a scene where the entire Earth gets lashed by earthquakes before finally being flooded by a massive tidal wave caused by a solar eclipse.
- The Plague Dogs, which ends with the title characters swimming off to their inevitable death. The book almost ends like this, but then they get rescued by a boat. Then again, the last scene is of the wooded island they've been seeking, so it's just possible they made it.
- Layer Cake: While the book ends with the protagonist recovered from being shot and living a tranquil life in the Caribbean, the movie ends with the shooting in a way that implies his death.
- A Clockwork Orange initially ended with Alex eventually straightening up and walking the straight and narrow on his own. However, publishers saw it as a Downer Ending, seeing as how they missed the entire point of the book and had fun with Alex's antics, and dropped the final chapter from the initial American publication. This extended to the film adaptation, which blatantly glorified Alex's anti-social behavior, something that famously annoyed author Anthony Burgess.
- The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers book ended with the Pods packing up and leaving after realizing that humanity will never stop fighting them, and the town slowly returning to normal. The 1956 film adaptation has a bleaker ending (even with the semi-hopeful Framing Sequence placed by Executive Meddling), and the first and second remakes are bleaker still.
- The classic noir, Kiss Me Deadly ends with a big explosion. The original release shows the protagonists escaping; later, that was removed, implying their deaths.