Follow TV Tropes


The Bad Guy Wins / Live-Action Films

Go To

  • ABCs of Death 2: In the "W for Wish" segment, boys featured in a Masters of the Universe-styled 80s toy commercial are magically transported into the world of their heroes. However, not only are the bad guys brutally winning this war, they are also massacring both the good guys and civilians quite gruesomely.
  • The Abominable Dr. Phibes: At the end of Dr. Phibes Rises Again, Phibes (Vincent Price) achieves immortality and brings his dead wife Back from the Dead, while singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from The Wizard of Oz. However, there's a hint that now that he has what he wants, he probably won't have reason to kill anyone anymore.
    Biederbeck: What kind of fiend are you?
    Phibes: The kind that wins.
  • Advertisement:
  • Angel Heart: The bad guy Johnny Favourite is running around killing off everybody Harry Angel interviews, and each one gets him in further trouble with the police. Harry Angel is desperately trying to clear his name and get the heck out of this madness. Unfortunately that's complicated when it turns out he is Johnny Favourite, the man he's been searching for the whole time. To make things worse, it turns out there was an even bigger bad guy- the Devil- who orchestrated the entire movie. Literally, after Johnny Favourite tried to cheat the Devil of the soul he owed him, he suffered an injury in World War II that gave him amnesia, allowing him to take over the memories of the man he tried to steal his soul from. Then the Devil let him fall into a false sense of security, only for it all to come crashing down around him twelve years later when he literally hired Favourite to find out who he really was, commit a series of sins that included rape and the murder of all the people who helped him in his efforts to get out of his deal- and in the process condemn himself to Hell, thus fulfilling his debt. There's a reason why the tagline was "Harry Angel is searching for the truth. Pray he doesn't find it".
  • Advertisement:
  • Arlington Road. Not only does the bad guy succeed in his plans without anyone save the good guy suspecting him, the good guy takes the fall after his death, and his now-orphaned son has no idea that his father was really framed.
  • Ator III The Iron Warrior (one of the sequel movies to MST3K's Cave Dwellers): The climactic end battle features the hero battling a shape-shifting sorceress by the edge of a cliff while his girlfriend is tied up waiting to be sacrificed. After burning the witch and tossing her off of a cliff, the hero rescues and embraces his girlfriend, only for her to open her eyes and reveal that they are the same color as the witches'...
  • Bad Teacher: Elizabeth got away with several things she's done and even got Amy's wealthy boyfriend. And she didn't even want him anymore in the end.
  • Advertisement:
  • Basic Instinct: Catherine succeeds in falsely leading the police and Nick, the anti-hero, into believing Beth was the killer - and Nick killed her, too. Catherine? She successfully escapes the law and proceeds to have sex with Nick. The last shot reveals that she intended to kill him too, but calls it off because she likes having sex with him.
  • Blast of Silence: The mafia members who hire Frankie to kill the mobster Troinano manage to pull this off. Not only do they get Frankie to kill Troinano, but also kill Frankie after he's done the job. There is no possibility of the two crimes being linked to them, so they will never be punished for their crimes and will continue their criminal enterprises.
  • Bicycle Thieves: The thief who stole the bicycle is never actually caught
  • Blood Bags: Vittorio, his brother, and Bruno succeed in getting Tracy so they can harvest her blood to treat Vittorio's brother's Gunther disease, and kill her when she tries escaping.
  • Blow Out: At the end of the film, Jack has survived; however Sally has been killed and the villains have recovered the original tape which proved that the accident Jack taped at the beginning of the film was, in fact, an assassination. He's left with only the dark Brick Joke of finally getting the scream his producer wanted for the movie.
    • Doubled down onwhen Jack kills Burke at the film's climax, only to find out Sally has herself already been killed. This is taken as her killing the serial killer Burke has been making his killings appear to have been done by throughout the movie, meaning that a bad guy who wasn't even in the movie has also gotten away, at least for now.
  • Body Heat: The Femme Fatale has effortlessly manipulated the dumb lawyer throughout the film and convinced him to murder her rich husband. She fakes her own death and leaves the country with her late husband's money, while the lawyer is left to take the rap for two homicides.
  • In Brazil, the protagonist wins by going insane and becoming untouchable by torture. The bad guys win through the more normal method of not losing and crushing all their enemies until they no longer present a threat.
  • A Bridge Too Far ends with the Germans containing the American and British advance towards the Rhine and all but wiping out an elite division of paratroopers and the Dutch Resistence. To make it even more of a Downer Ending, the Allies lose their last chance of ending World War II before the end of 1944, millions will die in the following months and the Red Army will have the time to reach Central Europe, imposing Soviet rule in its wake.
  • Burnt Offerings: Marian becomes the new Mrs. Allardyce, and her family all die trying to escape. The house gets a new lease on life and the opportunity for more victims.
  • Cabin by the Lake: In-story, Stanley's script initially ends with the killer murdering the final girl and getting away with it. When his own victim escapes the death he initially planned for her, he tries to invoke it himself.
    Stanley: Third act. This boy drowns girl... again. Can you say it hadn't?
  • Chinatown: Noah Cross gets away with everything. He kills his own daughter Mrs. Mulwray, and succeeds in taking away his daughter by her, most likely to do the same thing to her as he did to Mrs. Mulwray herself. And protagonist Jake Gittes can do absolutely nothing to stop him. "Forget it,'s Chinatown."
  • The Collector: Freddie is stalking his next victim at a nursing school.
  • Conspiracy (2001): The group of Nazi protagonists are all bad guys, mind you. It's just that the lesser bad guys are overruled by the more evil ones by the end. Heydrich gradually squashes any dissenting opinion and forces all the other ministries that opposed the genocide in some way to fall into line with the SS, and the Holocaust goes ahead as planned. Some of the attendees were punished for their crimes after the war, but a distressing amount became Karma Houdinis.
  • The Counselor has an entire cast full of Villain Protagonists, so the fact that one of them comes out ahead of the others in the end is more or less a Foregone Conclusion. It still pulls off an amazingly depressing Downer Ending by killing off or ruining the more sympathetic characters while giving the Big Bad everything they wanted. More specifically, Reiner and Westray are killed. Multiple people, civilian and criminal, are killed in the delivery of the drug shipment to Chicago. Laura is killed in a gruesome, Nothing Is Scarier manner off-screen. Her death is likely recorded as a snuff film. The tape is sent to the Counselor who has a Despair Event Horizon moment. He'll likely be killed soon after. Her body is thrown in a garbage dump. Malkina, who set the whole plot in motion with the theft of the drug shipment, gets off scot-free with Westray's money.
  • Count Yorga: Both of the films did this in their endings despite the title character dying, achieving victory posthumously.
    • In the first film Micheal stakes Yorga and saves his girlfriend, Donna. But by then he is the only one of the hunters left alive. What's more Yorga's death doesn't remove the curse from those he's turned. Erica, a friend of theirs, remains a vampire and comes after Micheal with the other surviving vampire bride. Micheal manages to chase them off with his cross and locks them in a room. He takes a breather thinking it's over, dropping his cross in the process. But when he turns to Donna, she hisses and lunges at him fangs barred. Revealing that Yorga long since turned her.
    • In the second film, Hayes manages to find Cynthia but as before, he's the last hunter left. Cynthia and he try to flee the manor but are blocked at every turn by Yorga's brides. The managed to duck into a room but when Hayes goes to turn on the lights, he finds himself in a narrow hallway in front of all of Yorga's brides who all kinda off-screen teleported into the room (hey they are vampires). With Yorga behind them, mind controlling Cynthia to come to him and takes her away to bite her while leaving the brides (among them Cynthia's younger sister, Ellen, and a friend, Mitzi) to finish Hayes off who finds the hallway has a dead end. Surprisingly Hayes manages to escape them and continues to pursue Yorga who flees to the roof of the manor with Cynthia. After a struggle, Cynthia, having regained her memories of the brides killing her family, kills Yorga with an axe and Hayes throws his body off the balcony. All seems well and Cynthia hugs Hayes...but notices something wrong. When she pulls back to look at Hayes, his skin is pale and there are bite marks on face indicating he didn't get past the brides unscathed and the curse has now taken effect. Cynthia tries to run but Hayes pulls her back and promptly bites her.
  • The Cube film series:
    • In Cube 2: Hypercube, the overseers of the Hypercube kill everyone they set out to get rid of by throwing them into the highly dangerous environment, and retrieve Alex Trusk's device. And they kill Kate, their own employee, probably because she knew too much or because it was a suicide mission from the start.
    • In Cube Zero, Jax and the other villains win. Wynn is lobotomized and thrown back in the cube, and Rains is on the run until she'll be recaptured. Everybody else dies.
  • Curse of Chucky: After almost 30 years of attempting to murder all of his enemies and transfer his soul into a human vessel, serial killer doll Chucky finally succeeds in tying up his last loose ends from his death by murdering the entire Pierce family save for youngest daughter Nica, whom he frames for his crimes.
    • In the sequel Cult of Chucky, he transfers his soul into Nica's body, tricks his arch-nemesis Andy Barclay into admitting himself into a mental health facility and discovers a voodoo spell that allows him to split his soul among as many host bodies as he wants. The film literally ends with Chucky/Nica and Tiffany/Jennifer Tilly riding off into the night with a cackling Tiffany doll.
  • Curse of the Golden Flower: The mad Emperor, played by Chow Yun Fat, defeats the usurpation attempts by his sons, who all die, and continues to have his wife slowly poisoned. However, it's arguable that the Emperor doesn't really "win." However, the Emperor isn't quite the Magnificent Bastard he at first appears to be: judging by his reactions, he didn't want all of his sons to die.
  • The mysterious sexton in Cursed (1990) manages to kill the main character when he tries to confront him, and recruit him to spread deadly alchemical gargoyle goop to hapless church-goers in the name of Satan.
  • Damnatus: A double subversion, where the daemon G'guor kills the heroes, but then realises that the delay caused by an Eldar farseer acting as Nira's Amplifier Artifact has allowed the Inquisition to arrive and initiate Exterminatus. And THEN he just smiles and reflects that although the farseer is taking him with him, "defeat is not factored into the plans of the Ever-Changing."
  • The Dark Knight: Even though the people failed The Joker's test, he still managed to turn Harvey Dent into a monster. This forced Batman to sacrifice his reputation and live with it for 8 years. The Joker may have lost his battle for Gotham's soul but his schemes continuously tormented Bruce.
  • The Day Mars Invaded the Earth: The 1963 Cold War paranoia film shows us a scene where the brother of the main character (a scientist who has stumbled upon the Martian invasion plot) is disintegrated by the aliens and replaced by a doppelganger. Said doppelganger then cheerfully rounds up the hero and his entire family on the pretense of escorting them to a safe hiding place. We then abruptly segue into a shot showing all of their disintegrated outlines (kids included) on the ground, which are swiftly washed away. Roll credits!
  • The Dictator: General Aladeen defeats his uncle for betraying him, but the ending falls under this trope on account of Aladeen being a Villain Protagonist who never undergoes a complete Heel–Face Turn, and instead continues oppressing his country afterwards. It's notable that his main opponent was also evil though, as he was simply trying to sell the country to the highest bidders for its oil resources. The real sufferers in this case are the Wadiyan people.
  • DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story: The "original" ending (included in the special features as a practical joke on DVD watchers) shows Goodman narrowly defeating LaFleur, then enthusiastically celebrating his victory as the movie comes to an abrupt end.
  • Dread: Played straight in the film adaptation of Clive Barker's novel. The bad guy corrupts the hero so much that he goes completely Ax-Crazy. The hero attacks the villain, and gets killed for his trouble. Then we see that the villain still has the hero's love interest (thought to be dead) and plans on slowly starving and torturing her until she dies. Oh, and he sticks the hero's corpse in the small room he has her locked in. Then tells her to eat, and locks the door indefinitely.
  • Drag Me to Hell: The protagonist fails to stop the Gypsy Curse and the demon it summoned and is, you guessed it, dragged to Hell.
  • Subverted a bit in Eli since it's one of those films where we are led to believe for most of the narrative (as is the character) that the protagonist is the good guy, only for him to realize he is the Devil's child at the film's climax as he horrifically kills everyone trying to destroy him, including his adoptive father.
  • The last shot of Evilspeak suggests that Stanley may not be insane but patiently biding his time to inflict more evil on the world ...
  • Fallen: The righteous man fails to destroy the fallen angel. I wanna tell you about the time I almost died...
  • Final Destination: Death is never seen as a physical entity, but it is implied to be a force with intelligence or sentience, or perhaps even God. It spends the movie trying to kill the protagonists who try to evade their death, and in the end, it succeeds. It is even seemingly implied at the end of the fourth film that it was the Death/Fate/Whatever/Force/Spirit-Thing itself giving the protagonists in all of the films their premonitions, just to toy with them in a little game it was playing, which they never had any way of winning from the start.
  • Freddy vs. Jason: The original ending of the film was supposed to be this. Two months after surviving, Lori and Will decide to finally have sex. However, Will starts to get rough with her and then Freddy's claws come out of his fingers and cuts to the end credits as he starts slashing Lori while Freddy's laugh can be heard. Thus Freddy got his revenge by raping Lori and killing her as he originally planned to. Test audiences didn't enjoy it because they found it confusing, so the film instead went with a Bittersweet Ending.
  • Funny Games: To put it shortly, Paul and Tubby ultimately won their bet.
  • Funny Man: The Funny Man kills every single character before torturing the last survivor into insanity. Then he quietly sits back, awaiting more victims.
  • The Gallows: Charlie's ghost kills the son of the actor he replaced in the play that led to his death.
  • Gamera 3: Awakening of Irys: An interesting variation. It's implied by one of the characters that Gamera is actually the bad guy and that humanity might end up with a worse future than being hunted to extinction by the Gyaos. Unusual, considering Gamera is supposed to be the protector of humanity against the Gyaos within the films. It's never really made clear whether or not this is the case.
  • G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Though more of a Sequel Hook, it ends with Zartan taking over as the President of the United States, while the real president is taken prisoner (as revealed in a trailer of its sequel), and the good guys don't know it, setting up for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, in which Zartan has eliminated most of the Joes.
  • Ginger Snaps 2: Unleashed: It ends with Brigitte successfully killing the male werewolf that has stalked her throughout the film. But she is then betrayed by the true villain of the film, Ghost, and locked in a basement to await her transformation, and it's strongly implied Ghost intends to use her to kill other people.
  • Glory: Subverted. In this movie, the Confederates were the villains, and they held the fort while the 54th got half slaughtered. But the epilogue notes that their sacrifice inspired other African Americans to join the army, and kept the Fort cut off from the Confederates (who ultimately lost the war).
  • Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack!: Double subverted. Godzilla (the villain) ultimately defeats and kills the three guardian monsters (IE: Baragon, Mothra, and Ghidorah). Sure he, explodes at the end due to one of the main human characters drilling a hole in his chest but his heart is still intact and beating at the bottom of the ocean indicating he will rise again.
  • The Great Escape: Also the true story it was based on. A few of the escapees do manage not to get captured again but most of them are re-apprehended and the majority of the re-apprehended ones are killed. The Worthy Opponent Luftwaffe Kommandant Von Luger is arrested for failing to prevent the break out, leaving the camp in control of the SS.
  • The Great Silence: In a rare twist for a western, the hero gunslinger is outgunned by the bad guys, who kill him, the girl, and all the townsfolk they were trying to protect. The filmmaker was strong-armed into creating an alternate Happy Ending for areas that refused to show the film otherwise, but he made it a Gainax Ending to discourage them.
  • Halloween:
    • In Halloween III: Season of the Witch: Dr. Challis apparently fails to a large degree to stop the Silver Shamrock cult from succeeding at their scheme to kill who knows how many children. The novelization of the film even implies Conal Cochran didn't actually die.
    • In Halloween: Resurrection: Michael finally succeeds in killing Laurie at the very beginning, and after the massive amount of damage he takes over the course of the film, is still alive in the end.
  • Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II: The villain is a bitchy prom queen who was accidentally killed by her boyfriend after being caught cheating on him. 30 years later she comes back and ultimately gets subdued by the same boyfriend by putting her prom crown on her head, which presumably satisfies the conditions of her revenge. He also decides to steal a kiss from her as a form of trying to make right what happened 30 years ago. Cue romantic flash back to the original prom. What is actually happening is that the prom queen is using the opportunity to Body Surf into the guy, who then goes on to kill his children off-camera. Then she comes back in a sequel and kills even more people. Oops.
  • Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer: The eponymous Villain Protagonist gets away with murdering every other major character in the film, and almost all of the minor ones as well. Granted, there are only two other major characters, but still...
  • Hereditary: The father is killed, the mother ends up possessed and cuts her own head off, and ultimately, Peter is possessed by the summoned demon King Paimon.
  • Holocaust 2000: In the theatrical ending there's nothing left stopping Angel Caine from unleashing the apocalypse upon mankind.
  • House of Games: Subverted. After Margaret kills Mike at the climax, she herself is shown to have been corrupted into unrepentant petty thievery.note 
  • How to Get Ahead in Advertising: The boil version of Denis—ruthless and profit-driven—grows to head size before it can be lanced and replaces the more conscientious one from the film's beginning as his dominant personality (though not without the old Dennis persuading his wife to leave him).
  • The Human Centipede III (2015): Bill Boss - the film's sadistic, racist, misogynistic, murderous, manipulative, rapist lead - ends the movie happily celebrating his 500-strong human prison centipede after convincing the governor it's a good idea, securing his job and gaining the status as somebody who revolutionized the US prison system after killing his right hand man who came up with the idea in the first place.
  • Husk: Scott, the last survivor of the friends trapped in the cornfield, is fleeing from theScaryScarecrow; trying to find his way back to the road. Badly wounded and having lost a lot of blood, he collapse at the edge of the field, in sight of the wrecked car. A pair of good Samaritans who have stopped to investigate spot him and come to help. Scott then sees the scary hiding in the corn. It raises a finger to its lips and lies in wait. Scott, his throat slashed, is unable to shout a warning to his rescuers as the advance towards the ambush...
  • The Ides of March: In this political thriller, Stephen is able to get his job back, after being fired. However, instead of exposing Governer Mike Morris for sleeping with one of his interns and driving her to suicide, Stephen accepts that politics is dirty and decides to become dirty himself and continue to help Mike Morris become President. Both a case of Corrupt the Cutie and He Who Fights Monsters.
  • Ils (aka Them): The ending has both Clémentine and Lucas dying at the hands of the killers who have terrorised them throughout the night. The killers do get arrested after the events of the film, however.
  • In the Company of Men: The Villain Protagonist Chad succeeded in ruining the lives of Christine and Howard, before getting away scot free, all because it's for for him.
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): At the end we know three of the main characters have been replaced by pod people (one of whom was killed by the other two before they were replaced). The ending reveals that the other one did, in fact, survive, but not for much longer because she blows her cover.note 
  • Invasion U.S.A. (1952): It ends with "The Enemy" gaining complete control of America, and all the main characters getting killed off. It was all just an illusion created by a world famous hypnotist.
  • James Bond:
    • On Her Majesty's Secret Service: Subverted. While Blofeld's main plan is an utter failure, he takes perhaps the most horrific revenge on Bond possible. He makes a run-and-gun on Bond's newly-wed bride.
    • Skyfall: Silva succeeds in everything he sets out to do, beginning with humiliating M and eventually killing her. Even though Bond kills him in the end, it's clear that Silva would likely have offed himself afterwards anyway, and all Bond truly accomplishes is that Bond himself survives, and that Silva dies before M.
  • Jeepers Creepers: At the end, Trish and Darry are unable to escape the Creeper, who corners them and snatches Darry away, later devouring his eyes and killing him in the process. Trish survives, but with considerable emotional trauma at the loss of her brother.
  • Josie: "Josie" murders Hank for his part in executing her father, frames Marcus to cover her tracks, and is back on the road again to continute her Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
  • Jug Face: The Pit gets the sacrifice of asked for and maintains its grip over the town.
  • Jupiter Ascending: A downplayed example. The three Abrasax siblings all have competing schemes, and none of them are particularly good. By the end of the movie Kalique's scheme has gone off exactly as planned...Jupiter claimed her inheritance at the expense of one of Balem's most important holdings. What's more, depending on how inheritance laws work she may even get a share of what Balem had left when he died. Ultimately, the brothers had far worse designs, so Kalique is definitely the lesser of three evils here.
  • At the end of Killer Workout, Rhonda/Valerie has killed Jimmy and framed him for the murders; killed Lt. Morgan who was the only person who suspected her; and shows every sign of being about to start up her killings again.
  • Last Action Hero: The Big Bad openly crows about this trope being far more possible in the real world than in the world of film, although it's ultimately averted in his case; despite believing This Is Reality, he's still inside a film where The Good Guys Always Win!
  • The Last Heist: After a Gambit Pileup during the bank robbery results in almost all the robbers ending up dead, the Serial Killer who has been stalking the entire cast throughout (and who seemed to have been disposed of previously) suddenly jumps out of nowhere to kill the last survivor and take off with the money.
  • The Last Seduction: Bridget walks away unscathed after stealing the $700,000 her husband made by selling stolen pharmaceutical cocaine, framing Mike for raping her and murdering said husband.
  • The Lawnmower Man: Jobe wants to enter cyberspace where he can control all governments and people in the world. Because Dr Angelo is distracted saving Peter he succeeds. In the end he announces his victory by making every telephone in the world ring at once.
  • Laurel and Hardy: There were endings of Laurel and Hardy Films where the bad guy gets their serious revenge by torturing Stan and Ollie's bodies. Like in Going Bye-Bye (where their legs were broken off and tied to their neck), The Live Ghost (where their heads are twisted backwards), The Bohemian Girl (where Oliver goes big as giant and Stan as a dwarf) and The Bullfighters (where they are turned into talking skeletons). It ends with Oliver telling Stan "Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!" and Stan would whine "But I couldn't help it! You've always picked on me!" Others not involving body horror include the ending of Saps at Seas (where they are sent to jail), Robinson Cruesoeland (AKA Utopia/Atoll K) (where the bad guy had the troops take all of their belongings), and so on...
  • Leprechaun In The Hood is the only entry in the series where the leprechaun clearly survives and gets everything he wants.
  • Little Shop of Horrors was originally going to end the same way as the stage show: Audrey II would have eaten Audrey and Seymour and his plans to conquer Earth continue, eventually leading to The End of the World as We Know It. However, focus groups found the ending disturbing, so a happier ending was written. The ending was eventually included in the anniversary DVD and Blu-ray. The entire ending was restored in color and complete sound for 2012 as the Director's Cut since Frank Oz supported the release.
  • Little Sweetheart. The main character, a nine year old girl, has successfully made $100, manipulated her uncle right into her pocket (her father's dead, and it's hinted that the mom is screwing the uncle), gotten her former best friend out of her hair at least temporarily (via two bullets and the ocean), though the friend is secretly still alive, and murdered the man she had been blackmailing via getting him shot by police after accusing him of murdering her friend. The best part? It's 1980s Texas. The police aren't going to want to do a bunch of work for a summer-only person when they can simply cover it up instead of having to explain that the only crime the dead man committed was running from police and robbing a bank via taking bonds while he worked there.
  • Man of Tai Chi: Donaka was wholly successful in getting Tiger to kill. He doesn't even seem to mind that he was the one that Tiger killed, his last line sounding fairly pleased with himself. Though he may have failed in the end as Tiger is remarkably okay with what he had to do.
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate: The Master gets the protagonists Michael and Debbie—and their little dog too. There is a question mark after the title "The End" but there never was a sequel. In fact, the film was entirely forgotten about (for good reason) until Mystery Science Theater 3000 revived it.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Thor: The Dark World: Downplayed. Loki, who's more of a Wild Card than a straight villain, fakes his death takes Odin's throne in the end, with Thor being none the wiser.
    • Captain America: Civil War: Zemo is successfully apprehended and imprisoned for his crimes and terrorist activities, but succeeded in his actual goal of tearing apart the Avengers.
    • Thor: Ragnarok: Downplayed. Surtur ultimately destroys Asgard during Ragnarok as was prophesied. But only because Thor and his allies willingly bring it about in order to stop Hela, making it more of a Pyrrhic Victory for the heroes than a real win for the villain.
    • Avengers: Infinity War ends with Thanos getting all the Infinity Stones, and killing half the universe with a single fingersnap, including many of the superheroes like Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Spider-Man, and every Guardian of the Galaxy except for Rocket and Nebula. In a rare villanous example of Earn Your Happy Ending, the final scene is Thanos sitting on a lush planet, watching the sunset and sporting a melancholic smile. Granted he does get ambushed and killed by the surviving Avengers three weeks later but not before destroying the stones to prevent them from undoing his life-long work.
    • Spider-Man: Far From Home: In the mid-credits scene, Mysterio appears to have faked his death and escape as a Villain with Good Publicity. What's worse, he frames Spider-Man for mass murder using Stark Industries tech, and now he's seen as a Hero with Bad Publicity courtesy of J. Jonah Jameson. What's even worse, he publically reveals Peter's secret identity to the whole world. In one grand move, Mysterio managed to completely destroy everything Spider-Man has been fighting for!
  • Mary, Mary, Bloody Mary: It plays out this way, though the vampiric Villain Protagonist's being rather sympathetic makes it more of a Tear Jerker than a horror movie. Her father, who's also a vampire, ends up taking the rap for every one of her crimes after he dies. In a way, the real villain of the story is Mary's hunger for blood, which wins out over her genuine compassion and even love for her victims.
  • Memento: It turns out Leonard has been killing crooks named John G. or James G. for at least a year. He keeps killing John G.s because it gives his life meaning, as every time he does kill John G. he feels that he avenged his wife's death. He intentionally disassembles his wife's police report because it continues to give him something to solve.
  • In The Midnight Meat Train, although Leon overcomes and kills the Butcher, he is also overcome, muted by having his tongue ripped out, and turned into the new Butcher. Maya is killed. The monsters continue to feed and the villains continue to feed them. Tony Curran keeps being Tony Curran.
  • Midsommar: Of the variant where the survivor in the group of heroes decides at the end that if they can't beat the bad guys, they might as well join them. At the cost of her ex-boyfriend's life.
  • The Minus Man: Vann - the serial killer, is able to skip town unnoticed, after the husband of the couple he's staying with, killed his wife, causing a town uproar.
  • Murder on the Orient Express (1974): Inverted. Poirot allows the murderer to go free because the murder victim really deserved it. In this case, the murderous "bad guy" is arguably an avenging "good guy." See the entry on the Zig-Zagging Trope page.
  • The film Needful Things ends with Louis Cyher in the form of an old man named Gaunt, successfully turning a peaceful quiet town into a war zone. And while the protagonist, Sheriff Pangborn, is able to reach most of the remaining towns people and get to them realize how they've been manipulated, the damage is already done. Rubbing salt on the wound, Gaunt makes clear to Pangborn that while he was able to resist him, his future grandson won't and names the exact time and date when he will sell his soul for wealth. One top of this, he seduced and had sex with his future wife behind his back. He leaves town without facing any punishment.
  • Nightcrawler: Lou not only manages to avoid jail time for withholding vital information from the police, but his Video News business seems to be in bloom, using Joe Loder's plan of using multiple vans to film different sections of LA at the same time.
  • The Night Flier: Played with. Dwight Renfield escapes in his airplane after slaughtering dozens of people, with all his crimes being pinned on Richard Dees. However, he did not want Dees to die in the process, and Dwight actually hates his own existence as a bloodsucking fiend.
  • No Country for Old Men: Anton Chigurh not only kills the hero's wife, but also escapes town through a massive shootout and only gets a broken arm for his trouble. Plus, a bad guy kills the hero unseen, and on top of it all the cop fails to find Chigurh and retires.
  • No Way Out: Kevin Costner plays the Russian spy Yuri. As the movie ends, he has gotten away with his lifetime of spying and has a chance to return to the Soviet Union a hero but walks away. However, his cover IS blown at the Pentagon at least in terms of him being Sean Young's lover whom the CIA feels is the spy. So it is unlikely he can defect completely and return to his assumed life as Tom Farrell.
  • Now You See Me: The Four Horsemen get away scott free with all their robberies and Dylan succeeds in his plan to ruin everyone he blames for his father's death. Luckily this was followed by a sequel...where they win yet again, though their targets are more unambiguously evil this time, and one of the original movie's victims is revealed to be a Stealth Mentor.
  • Oculus sees that the protagonists were not prepared enough as the Magic Mirror tricks Tim into murdering Kaylie, leaving him to be arrested once the police arrive.
  • Oldboy (2003): Played with. At the end, every event in the movie is revealed to have gone entirely according to Lee Woo-jin's plan; but he's struck by the realization that getting his revenge on Oh Dae-su will not bring his sister back from the dead and that he no longer has anything left to live for. So he shoots himself in the head soon after achieving his victory.
  • The Omen (1976): Damien Thorn escapes his adoptive father's attempts to kill him; indeed, it is the father who ends up dead instead (as well as everyone else over the course of the film who has gotten a clue that he's the Antichrist). Damien: Omen II ends similarly. The made for television sequel Omen IV: The Awakening, also has this ending.
  • The Parallax View deals with a reporter investigating a past assassination, who believes it was actually connected to the shady Parallax Corporation (not the patsy officially blamed for it at the time ), who ends up being framed and killed by said corporation before he is able to expose them.
  • Paranormal Activity:
    • In the end of the first film, the demon possesses Katie and, using her body, kills and mutilates Micah, and then disappears. According to Wikipedia, there were two alternate endings, both of them also involving the demonic apparition winning. The original cut of the film, which was sent to potential distributors and has since been circulating on the internet, "featured Katie returning to the bedroom after the struggle heard downstairs, wielding a knife with blood on her tank top. She then sits next to the bed and rocks back and forth in a catatonic state throughout the remainder of the following day. Her friend Amber calls the house, and later arrives, discovering Micah's body downstairs. When police officers arrive, Katie comes out of her catatonic state and approaches them. The officers instruct her to drop the knife, but shoot her after being startled by a door suddenly slamming behind them. The movie ends with audio of the police discovering the camera as the credits roll." The Wikipedia entry also mentions "a third version of the film" which was "shown at only one public viewing", which "featured Katie returning to the bedroom with the knife and slitting her own throat in view of the camera."
    • The second film shows a brief but questionable victory in which Dan expels the demon from Kristi to Katie... before Demon-Katie returns to their home (after the events of the first film) and murders Dan and Kristi, leaving with baby Hunter.
    • Paranormal Activity 3 continues the trend with Dennis being murdered by a coven of witches, who take in Kristi and Katie in what sparks the hauntings of the first two films. Being prequels, the second and third installments are somewhat forced to abide by this trope.
    • In Paranormal Activity 4 demon-possessed Katie kills the entire family Hunter had been adopted by. Since Hunter staying with the family was probably her idea, whatever killing them accomplished is unknown.
    • Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, ends with Jessie being fully possessed by Toby and becoming a tool for the witches coven, and his friends and a street gang's attempt to save him failing, resulting in their deaths.
    • Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension, ends with Toby successfully being summoned into the physical world and claiming his bride, which was the master plan all along, and him killing everyone who got in his way, making the whole film series a complete victory for the evil spirit and the witches coven whom worshiped him.
  • Perfect Stranger: Rowena (Halle Berry) plays a reporter desperate to prove a popular business man (Bruce Willis) was responsible for her best friends death. Only to reveal that she killed he best friend, because she knew too much about her dark past.
  • Perfume: The Villain Protagonist kills enough nubile girls to make his perfect perfume, which is powerful enough to allow him to rule the world. He decides against it, however, and kills himself instead.
  • Primal Fear: Marty successfully proves that Aaron can't be prosecuted for killing the Archbishop because his split personality Roy did it, even though it ruins the prosecutor's career in the process. Then Roy tells him that there was no Aaron, and that it was all an act of innocence on his part. After being proved not guilty.
  • The Princess Bride: Subversion. This is discussed in the Framing Story:
    Grandson: Who kills Prince Humperdinck? At the end. Somebody's got to do it. Is it Inigo, who?
    Grandfather: Nobody. Nobody kills him. He lives.
    Grandson: You mean he wins? Jesus, Grandpa, what did you read me this thing for?
    • Naturally, though, Grandpa didn't say that Humperdinck won, just that he doesn't die. He just allows his grandson to think that The Bad Guy Wins.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera: It manages to be slightly bittersweet, as Shilo gets her long-awaited freedom, but Rotti murders Mag and Nathan and then dies, leaving Rich Bitch Amber Sweet to take over Geneco with the support of her two psychotic brothers, meaning that its stranglehold on the planet will continue for the foreseeable future.
  • The Rich Man's Wife: Josie (Halle Berry) is made to seem like a victim, only to reveal that she was the one responsible for her husband's death; And she also gets rid of the man she hired to kill her husband. She gets away with it, because the police have no evidence to arrest her.
  • Rosemary's Baby: The future success or failure of the young antichrist isn't established, since the film ends while the tyke is still a baby, but in the events that we see the bad guys succeed at their scheme of spawning him and they apparently take Rosemary somewhat into their ranks as well.
    • The made-for-TV sequel Look What's Happened to Rosemary's Baby ends with the now-adult antichrist choosing not to be evil and escaping the cult - but thanks to the cult's machinations, he's fathered the devil's GRANDSON, and the cult is ready to try again with the new baby.
  • Saw: Most of the franchise. If you think you have won, think again! The lone exception is arguably Saw 3D, where Hoffman is eventually done in by Dr. Gordon. (Granted, Gordon is also a bad guy, but he comes off as way more sympathetic than Hoffman.)
  • Scary Movie: At the end of the first film it turns out that Doofy is the real Ghostface killer, and murders all of Cindy's friends and the two idiots copying him. He's then revealed to have been working together with the female reporter covering the story, and they both drive off before they can be caught.
  • Scream 4: The film nearly had this with Jill effortlessly carrying out of plan of being the sole survivor after revealing herself as the killer. She kills the one who she intends to frame, kills her accomplice, and wounds herself to make it look legit. It would've work...if not for 1) letting slip to Dewey information she shouldn't have known and 2) Sidney just barely coming out of her attack alive. Jill goes to finish the job but the heroes manage to kill her at the last second.
  • Secret Window: In stark contrast to the Stephen King novel it is based on, the movie ends with the evil personality not only taking over the protagonist near the end, but succesfully murdering his ex-wife and her new husband. He buries them in his backyard and grows a corn field over it. The police can't prove anything without any bodies and Mort consequently remains a free man. The movie chillingly ends the way Mort's own story does, with the murderous main character savouring some cooked corn cobs fertilized by his victims' corpses.
  • Serial Mom: Beverly Sutphin is able to con her way out of a serial murder trial, even though everybody in town knows she's guilty. It doesn't help that she goes right back to killing, after she noticed one of the women jury members wearing white after Labor Day. What's sadder, is that the woman was one of the jury members whom acquitted her.
  • Se7en: Technically a Pyrrhic Villainy for the villain considering that he ends up dead at the hero's hands, but still a true victory nonetheless, since that was *exactly* what the villain wanted, and that the hero, as a result, is ruined and corrupted.
  • Shinobi: The protagonist is forced to kill her boyfriend, gouges out her own eyes to keep from being used as a weapon by the Shogun, and the Shogun's men exterminate all of the ninja by stationing Gatling guns outside of their mountain lair and firing continuously until they were all dead.
  • A Shock to the System: After Graham, the film's Villain Protagonist, gets away with the accidental killing of a hobo at the beginning of the film, he realizes this is easier than he thought and kills both his wife and his boss, seducing the latter's secretary in order to get the one piece of evidence that would implicate him, then sending her away. At the film's end we learn that he has arranged for an accidental plane crash to kill a member of the company's board and take his position. One suspicious police officer can't prove anything, and at the end of the film he's as free as he was when it began.
  • Shuttle: Though his partner in crime (who he didn't even like) dies in the process, the main villain succeeds at selling the kidnapped protagonist into sex slavery.
  • Sinister: Mr. Bogey gets Ashley to kill her family and he brings her over to his world.
  • The Skeleton Key: Cecile and Justify end up possessing Caroline and Luke respectively, leaving them both stuck in the bodies of elderly stroke victims, with no means of communicating what happened. It is also strongly implied that their friend is next.
  • Skyline: With the exception of one character with resistance to their mind controlnote , the aliens seem well on their way to harvesting humanity's brains for their war machines without any opposition.
  • Sleep Tight: The villain gets away with rape and murder, and rubs salt in the wound at the end of the movie just to turn the grimness up to 11.
  • Soylent Green: Roth commits suicide, Thorn is badly injured and may well die, but manages to tell some people the secret of Soylent Green. Whether the secret will actually take root as public knowledge, and more importantly, what the public and United Nations will actually do with that knowledge (if anything) is left ambiguous. But it's irrelevant, given the sad state of the environment. With the oceans dead, the bulk of the world's oxygen supply is gone. Almost all of the world's natural resources are used up, too, and humanity appears to be headed for its final collapse. No revolution is in sight.
  • Spellbinder: In this 80s occult horror film, an attorney saves and begins a relationship with a Femme Fatale, only for that woman to set him up as a human sacrifice to the devil. The attorney's best friend was also in on the set up, and the film ends with both the woman and the best friend setting up another clueless male victim.
  • Star Wars:
    • The prequel trilogy is one of these for Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine. Anakin, not so much. (Not that the fans didn't see it coming anyway.) However, by the end of the mainline trilogy, the good guys win, so this is one of the Doomed by Canon examples explained above.
    • Ditto goes for The Empire Strikes Back. The good guys are successfully trapped and barely escape with their lives; Darth Vader wins the lightsaber duel with Luke, mangling, psychologically wrecking, and almost killing him in the process; and Han Solo is captured and taken by Boba Fett to Jabba the Hutt. A Sequel Hook for the victory in Return of the Jedi.
      • Zig-zagged with the Battle of Hoth. The Empire wins a tactical victory, but fails to complete their objectives (destroying the Rebel army and capturing or killing Luke). The Rebels retreat, but do so in good order, and manage to evacuate all critical personnel and the bulk of their equipment and supplies.
    • The Last Jedi: Thanks to a lot of miscommunication between the Rebels, nearly half their forces are decimated by the New Order and only a handful escape on the Millennium Falcon. Kylo Ren, having killed Snoke, is now the leader of the New Order as well and Luke Skywalker dies using his power to project himself so that the remaining Rebels could escape. The only good that comes out of it is that the Rebellion, while crippled, is still alive to keep fighting another day and force users are beginning to awaken to their powers, indicating a new age of Jedi is incoming.
  • The Stepford Wives: All the women, including Joanna, have been murdered and replaced by robots.note 
  • Stitches (2001): Mrs. Albright claims every soul in the house.
  • The Strangers: The villains get away with murdering the family without much difficulty and are about to do the same routine to another one.
  • Swordfish: Gabriel Shear (John Travolta) and Ginger Knowles (Halle Berry) fake their own deaths and get away rich, evading justice. They use the money to fund a worldwide anti-terrorism campaign. Although in the alternate ending on the DVD it becomes Pyrrhic Villainy. After the bad guys fake their deaths, Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) is shown in a cafe with his daughter and using a laptop to steal all their money and donate it to charity, so the bad guys end up having to leave the country completely broke. Yet the ending manages to escape Downer territory: firstly, the protagonist earned his personal happy ending; secondly, the villains themselves are not entirely unsympathetic.
  • Tell Me How I Die: A precognitive serial killer stalks a remote facility where the drug that gave him his powers is being tested on a new group of patients. The protagonists never manage to surprise him since he can always anticipate their next step, being a much stronger precog than they are. He kills off all but one character (a second is technically alive as well, but fatally injured), gets his revenge on the doctor responsible for his condition, and disappears into a snowstorm after sharing a final look with the female lead.
  • Terminator 3: Skynet wins. Judgement Day happens. The only minor victory for the good guys is that John Connor manages to live.
  • The cheesy 1986 horror/comedy TerrorVision has this too, in that by the end of the movie, Medusa goes to the Putterman home to participate in the party they were supposed to be having. What she doesn't know is by that time the Hungry Beast had already eaten most of the cast and Pluthar had come to apprehend the monster and save the day. She sees Sherman and Suzy seeming to 'surrender' to Pluthar and she runs in and cracks his air-tight helmet, killing him. After Suzy insults her for killing their only hope, the Hungry Beast breaks down a wall and with an air vacuum menaces the few remaining cast members for the last time. While Sherman and Suzy's fates are not known, they are presumed to be eaten as a slimy, deformed representation of Medusa tells her chauffeur to drive to the TV studio, where the Hungry Beast will (ultimately) continue its insatiable hunger until Earth is rendered lifeless.
  • Tian Di: The sacrifices made by Cheung and his crew are useless. Paul Tai, a drug dealing baron and mass murderer who is posing as a philanthropist, is ultimately acquired of whatever charges and will continue to rule over Shanghai as a drug lord while pretending to be a charity leader.
  • Touch of Satan: The hero sells his soul to Satan to save his new girlfriend (who had already sold her soul) begging him not to.
    Servo: "So in the end, Satan wins."
    Mike Nelson: "Yep - pretty much a complete shut-out for Satan."
  • Tragedy Girls ends with Sadie and McKayla completely getting away with their killing spree, and getting the fame and recognition they always wanted.
  • Two Thousand Maniacs!: At the original film's end all the tourists diverted into the town have been killed and two of the inhabitants talk eagerly about what it might be like when they return to the world a hundred years hence.
  • Played with in Unbreakable. Yeah, it ends with Mr. Glass behind bars, but he got exactly what he wanted, molding David into his arch-nemesis and proving his own existence as a man who is truly unbreakable.
    • And Played straight with the sequel, Split. The Horde is successful in creating the superhuman 24th split personality, The Beast. Casey does manage to survive, but only because the Beast himself allowed it, and he does kill and devour her two friends. Also, while the authorities and media now know of them, the dialogue between the evil split personalities make it clear that they don't particulary care.
  • The Usual Suspects: Agent Dave Kujan realizes all too late who the Big Bad is, and when he goes to get him, the guy's already gone, like he was never there to begin with.
    And like that, he's gone.
  • Valentine: Jeremy Melton/Adam Carr successfully murders four young women who framed him for Attempted Rape in middle school, pinning his crimes on the one who made the initial accusation. On the other hand his revenge can be seen as justified considering what happened to him was both extreme (framed for rape, beaten in front of a crowd that laughed at him, then shipped off to a reform school and later a mental institution) and out of his control.
  • The Vanishing: The original Dutch version uses this to chilling effect. At the end of the movie, the protagonist is buried alive by the villain, who gets away scot free.
  • The Villain: Unsurprisingly, it ends with the titular individual getting the girl (of her own free will.).
  • Despite all of protagonist Jong-goo's efforts, The Wailing ends with the stranger subverting Good All Along and successfully corrupting the hero's daughter into killing her family, then revealing his true demonic form to the priest (most likely killing him), while shaman Il-gwang turns out to be Evil All Along and continues the stranger's work.
  • Wayne's World: Played with, featuring two fake endings as part of its climax. The first fake ending has Wayne's house burning down and Garth dying in the fire while the villain gets the girl and smirks to the camera "you didn't really think she'd end up with Wayne, did you?" Wayne and Garth suddenly jump into the scene Breaking the Fourth Wall and complain that the movie can't seriously end that way, and they move onto a Scooby-Doo ending before finally settling on the real Happy Ending.
  • Welp: Not only does the killer manage to kill (almost) everyone who came into his woods without dying himself, he also gains a new assistant from one of the Scouts he terrorized (and who conveniently replaces the assistant he lost in the carnage). The ending implies that he and the boy will continue to terrorize the woods.
  • Word of God hints at the end of Whiplash being this; Fletcher is fired from his teaching job, sure enough, but he gets the ace student he always wanted and Andrew's attempts at impressing Fletcher have left him a shell of his former self.
  • Who Can Kill A Child?: In this Spanish film, the real winner is whatever Eldritch Abomination is heavily implied to be driving the children to slaughter the adults, even at the cost of their own lives.
  • The Wicker Man (1973): Summerisle, although Howie predicts that the crops will fail again, and Summerisle will be the next sacrifice, making this victory entirely pointless. The infamous Nicolas Cage remake also has the villains winning in end. This time the lead protagonist (Nicolas Cage) is setup by his ex-girlfriend and her daughter on a island, dominated by women, whom sacrifices foreign men as part of their religion that deals with worshiping bees. The ending from the directors cut version, shows two women from the island at a local bar, looking for their next sacrifices.
  • The VVitch: The Witch kills everyone except Thomasin, who then becomes a witch herself at Black Phillip's behest.
  • Wonderland: being a True Crime film based on the infamous Wonderland Murders, a crime for which nobody has ever been convicted, unsurprisingly ends with the suspected mastermind living happily ever after as a free man.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: