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Creator Examples

  • Paul Thomas Anderson:
    • Magnolia. The rather self-centered behavior displayed by many characters in the cast, made it hard for some viewers to sympathize with them. With the exception of hospice nurse Phil Parma and Officer Jim Kurring, who’s quite possibly the one genuinely good character in the film.
    • There Will Be Blood can fall into this for some given its lack of sympathetic characters (HW being the few exceptions). The main character, Daniel Plainview, is a vicious, amoral, stop-at-nothing sociopath. The main villain, Eli Sunday, is a smug, cowardly, hypocritical, religious zealot. Any background characters introduced, such as Henry, are shown to be no saints themselves. With so many unpleasant characters, it can be very difficult to find someone to root for.
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    • The Master: When you have a movie whose protagonists consist of a near-animalistic alcoholic pervert and a charismatic yet megalomaniac deluded cult leader, with the latter's cruel Lady Macbeth-esque wife thrown into the mix.
  • A majority of Darren Aronofsky's work easily falls into this category due to the overly-cynical levels. Their moods are oppressively dark and self-serious, his characters self-destructive wrecks that are so goal-driven that they alienate those around them, and more often than not, they end on pretty downer notes or at least very bittersweet. Even The Wrestler isn't completely safe from this, though it isn't quite as bleak as his other films. The only films of his that have genuinely happy endings are π and Noah (although the former can be considered an Esoteric Happy Ending) and even those come after much brutality and horror beforehand with questionable, disturbed protagonists.
  • Ari Aster: Since most of his films lean heavily into Black Comedy and The Bad Guy Wins filled with tons of Gorn, some of them fall under this trope.
    • Hereditary has this problem for the opposite reason as most horror films: not because the characters are poorly acted, boring, or just plain detestable so that you don't care or outright cheer on what happens to them, but because they're a realistic and fairly sympathetic ordinary suburban family - which makes what happens to them even less fun to watch. For a significant number of people, the movie had already over this line after a child gets decapitated in a horrible car accident 45 minutes in, the fact that things only proceed to get worse from that point onward. Aster stated that one of his intents with the film was to create a scenario in which the audience would feel real sympathy for the sort of characters that would be nameless, faceless Sacrificial Lambs in any other horror movie. Given the exceedingly polarized reaction to the film, the argument can definitely be made that he succeeded a bit too well.
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    • Midsommar has a cast full of either jerks or Affably Evil, with a notable exception from the protagonist whose apathetic afterlife and manipulations took their toll on her mental health. Add heavy doses of shock horror, and the movie has been quite the turn-off to a not-insignificant portion of the film's audience.
  • Tim Burton has directed a few movies that fall under this trope.
  • A lot of the works of The Coen Brothers (as an example, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001) or A Serious Man) are loaded with an absurd amount of Black Comedy... way too absurd and most importantly way too dark. Horrible people doing horrible things in an Idiot Plot that will most probably end with them dying horrible deaths... or worse yet, becoming an Idiot Houdini that will most probably carry on without having learnt anything. Or worse yet, good people will be driven through the wringer to the point that they come out the other side maddened into becoming The Anti-Nihilist... when they come out alive.
  • The works of David Cronenberg are often prone to this trope due to their morbid subject matter, grotesque imagery, and near-total lack of levity, not to mention the fact that the characters generally tend to be pretty unpleasant people. Even his most famous and "mainstream" production, The Fly, is not entirely immune as it does not shy away from the gore in the slightest. In fact, one scene had to be cut from the film precisely for inducing this reaction in the test audience.
  • Frank Miller:
    • Sin City. Hartigan is the only guy who's close to good, Nancy is a Neutral Female, and all the other characters alternate between "amoral bastards" (Marv, Dwight, The Girls of Old Town) to "amoral monsters" (the people they're up against). And by the time Sin City: A Dame to Kill For comes around, Nancy has taken an upgrade to another example of "amoral bastard" (one that is borderline insane, at that).
    • 300. The narrator described the Spartans as the ultimate good guys. Because of his unreliability, though, it turns out the Spartans were just as insane and bloodthirsty as their Persian enemies (the prologue spells out how the Spartans actually kill any infant that doesn't match their standards of health). Because of that, while the narrator described the battles between the Spartans and Persians as "good vs. evil" (or "order vs. chaos" if you prefer), to audience members, it seemed more like "bad guys vs. worse guys."
  • George A. Romero:
    • Day of the Dead. The characters from the previous two films had their flaws, but some of them were still nice. In this third movie, we have the military, who are horrible people who only know how to answer everything on the basis of violence. And then we have the scientists, who are debatably less then noble for making irrational decisions that don’t help anybody, and whose boss is a madman who is teaching zombies to be docile and smarter, and feeds them with bits and pieces of their dead friends. Not surprisingly, many viewers hope that the zombies will kill them all.
    • In its follow-up, Land of the Dead, Humans Are the Real Monsters is taken to an extreme; the protagonists are either very one-dimensional or are perfectly willing to let other living people die in order to achieve their goals, and the villains are a bunch of Upper-Class Twits who are also willing to let other living people die in order to achieve their goals. It really feels as if the best alternative is to root for the zombies, who are quite obviously still dangerous undead predators that nobody sane would want to see receive anything other than bullets in the brain. However, the entire series was building up to this kind of setting.
    • Survival of the Dead is the moment that this trope hit rock bottom in this series. Every single major character is a loathsome asshole, "Beware the Living" personified, and the Wacky Wayside Tribe that is most important to the plot is a pair of Feuding Families that can't stop trying to kill each other even when they are being literally gnawed on by the zombies. Not surprisingly, this was the biggest Box Office Bomb of the whole series.
  • Martin Scorsese:
    • The King of Comedy. This is likely why the parts where Jerry is killed by Rupert that was suggested by Jerry Lewis himself or Rupert being beaten up by the FBI that was in the original script were omitted, given how this film for a Black Comedy is bleak at these moments. Also, the film is a dark deconstruction of celebrity life and fandom with no characters to really root for, with Rita being the only 100% sympathetic character. This issue is also one of the factors behind the film's lackluster performance at its initial release.
    • Casino is basically Goodfellas without the humor or likeable characters, and with even more extreme violence and a whole lot of portentous symbolism. Consequently, it's much more divisive than its predecessor.
    • The Wolf of Wall Street's total absence of likable characters despite being a crazy comedy is often seen as the source for its controversy, and according to one Oscar voter who hated the fact that "there was no one to root for", this was the real reason why it was an Awards no-show.
      • They must've forgotten Denham, the FBI agent who serves as an antagonist to Jordan Belfort and ultimately takes him down. But then again, the film showcases that Denham doesn't get even a knee-jerk "thank you" for his efforts and Belfort (because he's rich and famous) gets a Luxury Prison Suite and a job that pays just as well as his old one once he gets out, completely unrepentant.
  • The films of Paul Verhoeven almost always tend to suffer from this trope. Virtually everyone is a complete and utter sleazebag, and the so-called "heroes" tend to be apathetic at best and borderline sociopathic at worst. The frequent Gorn and explicit sex don't help matters either. Specific examples:
  • Lars von Trier is the poster boy example of this trope due to the excessive cynicism from his works. The most egregious example including:
    • Melancholia. There's no point to the plot. Or the characterization. Or the dialogue. Or anything else. Everyone just dies, after living a sad life. But it's okay; the film assures you that they were all complete Jerkasses. We never see anything happy in the movie or anything that implies their world is anything other than apathetic and depressing. True Art Is Angsty taken to its logical extreme.
      • It’s possible to enjoy the film if you empathize with Justine instead of her sister. The film is at first shown from her perspective, documenting how she’s getting progressively more depressed and apathetic towards her surroundings. This eventually reaches a point where she is not even able to complete simple tasks (like taking a bath) or get any enjoyment out of anything (“It tastes like ashes!”). Her sister, in contrast, is trying to drag her out of her funk. Their roles reverse when it becomes apparent that Earth and Melancholia will crash — Justine’s mood becomes vigorous and lasts in anticipation until the point of impact.
  • Rob Zombie:

Specific Works

  • 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag: The "hero" is a vicious criminal and all-around meanie, and everyone else is either a smart-aleck or so cartoonish that it's hard to view them as anything but annoying.
  • Some entries in the Alien series can run headlong into this:
    • Many fans of the series have criticized Alien³ for being unrelentingly grim and nihilistic. The film starts by killing off the entire supporting cast of Aliens, rendering the time Ripley spent rescuing Newt from the atmosphere processor on LV-426 as a colossal waste of effort. In their place are a group of violent inmates on a backwater prison planet who sport shaved heads (making it difficult to tell them apart) and are almost all interchangeable. The few sympathetic supporting characters are killed off very early in the film or die en masse in the tunnel scene just before the ending. The audience has no reason to root for any of the inmates besides Dillon, despite the film's attempt to claim otherwise. It ends with the lead character (Ripley) sacrificing herself to stop Weyland-Yutani from getting their hands on the xenomorph, and the only people alive at the end are a group of W-Y commandos and a single prisoner. Even a few of the actors in the franchise has this view, including Ron Perlman (who played Johner in Alien: Resurrection) and Lance Henriksen, who played Bishop in Aliens and 3 and despite being in the film, he didn't sugarcoat his view on it, flat-out calling the film nihilistic in both the documentary and commentary.
    • Alien: Covenant: The hopeful tone at the end of Prometheus is rendered null and void in the first half-hour, as the Engineer home planet is completely wiped out and Elizabeth Shaw dies (off-screen, no less) via experimentation by David. The crew of the Covenant are killed off in increasingly-messy ways. Not to mention that David (the villain) always seems to have the upper hand on the protagonists. Some viewers have claimed that some of the plot points are Ass Pulls just to make sure that David wins.
    • A common complaint about Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem is that the film tries way too hard to be as disturbing and viscerally disgusting as possible. This manifests primarily in the form of uninteresting human characters (on top of them dropping dead like flies as collateral damage fodder in the extraterrestrials' conflict), the Xenomorphs being incredibly vile even by their standards (most notably with the Predalien turning pregnant women into Chestburster nests, having said bursters eating the child within). The end result is a film that many consider too sadistic to enjoy.
  • Some critics said America's Sweethearts had this problem. Among the main characters in the title, Eddie is a ticking time bomb (although it's understandable, given the headline-making breakup) and Gwen is an unapproachable, manipulative Rich Bitch who can't even put ankle boots on right. Among the side characters, the agent played by Billy Crystal is mining all the drama for his own benefit. The only likable character is Gwen's sister mainly because she has to put up with Gwen and is just beginning to grow a backbone after losing a bunch of weight but her goal is to get together with Eddie so it doesn't really matter.
  • A frequent criticism of Antebellum is that the first third largely consists of scene after scene of enslaved black people being abused, tortured and murdered by sadistic white supremacists (which continues into the final act to an extent). These scenes do little to develop the plot or characters, nor are they used to explore the subjects of racism and slavery in much depth beyond "it's terrible", so for some viewers it comes off as gratuitous. Most of the characters we sympathize with end up dead after being subjected to endless torment, with only Eden/Veronica gaining any sort of agency. By the time the movie starts getting into the actual plot, many viewers had already given up (not helping is that some viewers also found the main twist to be weakly written, so for them it wasn't even worth sitting through the gruelling first forty minutes).
  • Part of the reason the James Cameron/Guillermo del Toro film of At the Mountains of Madness was canceled (the other part was an out-of-control-budget)—it's an R-rated horror film about two races of fighting Eldritch Abominations who pay no mind to the doomed humans, and unlike Underworld there isn't even a romantic plotline to root for. It's also possible the execs thought it was just Alien vs. Predator with tentacles and penguins. Besides, with the mentioned war between two alien species, the black semiliquid polyvalent stuff that shoggoths are made of, and a group of human scientists exploring eldritch ancient ruins, Del Toro thought Prometheus did his idea already, anyways.
  • Bébé's Kids features the protagonist Robin Harris (based on the real-life comedian who passed away just two years before the film's release), who proves to be more often than not an irresponsible adult who would even go as far as to abandon the children in an attempt to escape the ruckus of an amusement park. The titular trio themselves also cause Lord knows how much money worth of destruction of said amusement park and are, in general, very misbehaved. Leon, the only sympathetic character, still takes a lot of crap from the titular trio. Really, there's hardly a single character in the whole film worth rooting for.
  • Being John Malkovich suffers from this; all the main characters are, at the very least, horrifically selfish human beings who don't really care who gets hurt in pursuit of their various wants. The only remotely sympathetic character in the movie is John Malkovich himself, and that's mostly because he's more of a plot device than an actual character. For the uninitiated, Charlie Sheen(!) has, by the end of the movie, very likely learned that John Malkovich is trapped in his own head while other people dominate him, and he is likely going to follow the puppetmasters who are possessing Malkovich into the next host, an adorable and harmless seven-year-old girl.
  • This goes back all the way to the beginning of feature-length cinema with The Birth of a Nation (1915)—especially for modern viewers. Admit it: you want absolutely no one to triumph, because the conflict is between white supremacists who want to keep blacks from voting and black supremacists who want to keep whites from voting.
  • Body of Evidence: As Ken Begg points out in his review "It finally just hit me that a major problem with this picture is that there isn’t a single vaguely likeable character in the whole deal. Frank is a colossal, adulterous jerk. Rebecca is at best a slutty weirdo, at worst a cold-blooded killer. Garrett is a doofus who prosecutes people under the most absurd rationales imaginable and does so poorly. Even the victim was an old pervert. Now, this isn't necessarily fatal, but for it not to be, the film must be extremely well made. Needless to say, this is not the case here."
  • Believe it or not, The Breakfast Club can have this effect on more cynical viewers. The crappiness of Shermer, Illinois, pretty much goes from being Played for Laughs (as in Sixteen Candles) to being Played for Drama. Every adult (barring the janitor Carl) is a viciously selfish scumbag of some sort, abusing the kids for their own benefit. The kids themselves, while morally better people, are so deeply dysfunctional that one can't help but feel a bit nihilistic. "When you grow old, your heart dies" sums it all up perfectly.
  • This was a common criticism leveled against The Butterfly Effect, with many reviewers claiming that it was so oppressively dark that it almost became hard to take seriously. The entire first half-hour of the movie is a nonstop Trauma Conga Line for the main character, where he's nearly strangled by his institutionalized father, gets molested by his neighbor, accidentally murders a woman and her baby with dynamite, watches his dog get tied up in a sack and burned to death, sees his best friend lose his mind, and receives news that the love of his life has committed suicide. The rest of the movie follows his attempts to make everything better with time-travel...which end up making it worse.
  • The Cabin in the Woods has an In-Universe example. At the end of the film, it is well in the ability of the surviving characters to prevent The End of the World as We Know It by way of Heroic Sacrifice. It's just that they've gone through so much trauma that they simply don't care anymore and let the Eldritch Abominations destroy everything by refusing to satisfy them with death.
  • The Candy Snatchers is an Exploitation Film centering on a young schoolgirl being kidnapped and held for ransom by the protagonists. If this sounds like a cheesy excuse for some sexy Bound and Gagged shenanigans, you'd be quite, quite wrong. It's actually a very bleak, cruel, and mean-spirited film where all of our viewpoint characters and nearly all secondary ones are varying shades of evil that the audience can only root against. The one character left to care about is the completely innocent victim, and the physical, psychological and sexual (because of course the movie would go there, too) abuse she constantly endures are portrayed as far too realistic and heart-wrenching to have any kind of amusing or titillating qualities; whatever the filmmaker's intention was, the only thing that her trauma and suffering can arouse in the viewer is pity. All told, it's an extremely poor choice for a "Bad Movie Night" with any friends you want to hear from again afterwards.
  • Cannibal Holocaust: On the one hand, you have a team of amoral documentarians led by a narcissistic psychopath who's willing to stage horrible atrocities in order to make his film more "interesting". On the other hand, the Yanomami tribesmen don't come off much better in spite of the film's attempts to portray them in a sympathetic light, being depicted as vicious cannibals and gang-rapists. Faye and Dr. Monroe are pretty much the only remotely decent characters in the entire film, and even so, the former still participates in the team's crimes - albeit reluctantly - and in the end suffers a brutal and protracted demise despite being the least guilty of the four. The relentlessly oppressive, nihilistic tone and graphic gore (including scenes of real-life animal slaughter) don't help, either. As Dr. Monroe so eloquently puts it: "I wonder who the real cannibals are."
  • The indie psychological drama Combat Shock is a particularly extreme example of this trope. Lacking the masterful cinematic technique and interesting characters of similar films such as Eraserhead, Taxi Driver, and The Deer Hunter, it instead presents the audience with a remorseless march into the dark as the protagonist, a Vietnam War veteran living in total poverty and in a broken household with a deformed child, slowly loses his grip on sanity. It all culminates in the protagonist murdering his entire family and then committing suicide. Many in the audience probably wished he'd done so earlier, thus sparing them the torment of watching him suffer.
  • The Con is On: It is hard to summon up much sympathy for Harry and Peter, the Villain Protagonists. Unlike most Con Man movies, they are not Lovable Rogues, but amoral thieves who dabble in drug dealing, and who are in their current predicament due to their own greed and stupidity. The people they rip off are horrible people, and the gangsters chasing them are worse, but they remain unsympathetic.
  • The war drama Conspiracy about the Wannsee Conference is a dramatization of a historical event that ended in the genocide of millions, which is clear from the start. Every major character in the film is a heinous war criminal so morally bankrupt that there's no one left to root for. The only one who somewhat maintains audience sympathy for feeling they're crossing a line is blackmailed into submission by much scarier men. It concludes with the revelation that the discussion was entirely pointless and Heydrich was going to carry out the Holocaust anyway. Finally, most of the Nazis never received any comeuppance and went on to live uneventful lives after the war.
  • One possible reason why The Counselor received many mediocre reviews; There aren't many people to root for. Most of the characters are bad guys/girls, and the titular character is somewhat naive and foolish.
  • The Day After and its British counterpart Threads both suffer heavily from this trope, which was arguably the point, as both films sought to demonstrate that in the event of a nuclear war, there will be no happy endings. As such, it could feel pointless to root for any of the characters since they're all fated to die horribly or (perhaps worse) live as wretched scavengers in an irradiated, ruined world. This is especially true in Threads, where a full-scale war breaks out as opposed to the limited exchange seen in The Day After, with society (and even human language) subsequently crumbling to the point that the post-war generation will never rebuild civilization. While it is certainly true that the message is important, in this case, some people definitely tuned out before the films could get their message across.
    • Although this did not hold true when The Day After initially came out: at the time, a happy ending (or something that resembled a happy ending if no one looked at it too closely) was so common that audiences genuinely expected one. The lack of one was both a surprising and sobering experience to audiences of the time.
  • The Descent. This one is of the "likeable character, hopeless story" flavor. The Audience Apathy doesn't originate from the characters being that unlikeable, as all of the characters, including the character written to be divisive, are sympathetic and relatable. This means that the horror the girls endure is that much worse, and that much more difficult to swallow. As the name implies, the movie only goes down.
  • Don't Breathe stars a trio of burglars who decide to break into the home of a blind war veteran and steal the $300,000 settlement he got when his daughter was killed in a car accident. Even with Rocky's admittedly sympathetic motive of moving herself and her sister away from their Abusive Parents, such a repulsively horrid act would have you completely on the side of the blind man, but he is so unsympathetically crazy to the point he's an outright kidnapper and rapist that it's impossible to root for him either. The Reveal about the Blind Man was meant to give the robbers the moral high ground but it doesn't change how predatory and heartless their intended crime was (they were counting on him being a harmless blind man and thus an easy victim), basically making it impossible to want anyone to succeed.
  • One of the many criticisms for Fantastic Four (2015) was that the film's tone was too serious and invoked Darker and Edgier for the sake of it without actually executing it properly (especially considering how the source material and previous film adaptations were much lighter and surreal in tone). Furthermore, the lack of any real bonds between the characters at the end of the movie - or the perception that the characters themselves are underdeveloped - have also been heavily criticized, as some critics argued that the grim tone would have worked if the characters were actually interesting or worth rooting for. As a result of said tone, the movie ended up being universally panned in terms of critical & audience reception as well as becoming a huge Box Office Bomb.
  • The Final Destination series has this problem involving the second variant of this trope. There's no point in getting emotionally attached to them or rooting for them to make it because the rules say death will not be cheated and they're all going to die. Even finding out the reason why the visions that allow the characters to cheat death happen can add to this trope. Hoping for some kind of Big Good to this series or something similar? Nope. It was Death doing it all along, and then killing them later because... I dunno, he's a dick.
  • The characters in Gamer are either sociopathic monsters, obnoxious jerkasses, or people who are so one-dimensional that it's very hard to care for them. Kable isn't safe either, as he too is a psychopath even outside of "Slayers", willing to kill random people, and snaps Rick Rape's spine just because he was hitting on his wife, even though Rick wasn't in control of his actions. The only real likable character is Ken Castle, mainly because of Michael C. Hall's gloriously silly performance. And he's the friggin' villain.
  • This is the ultimate fate of Gus Van Sant's Gerry. The movie really doesn't give the audience any motivation to care for the two, as what little dialogue is awashed by entire stretches of silence and the whole situation being caused by their incredible shortsightedness. In the end, the movie only serves as a test for patience until Damon!Gerry kills Affleck!Gerry and finds civilization just before the credits roll. Brad Jones described the movie as being nothing more than "sand and walking".
  • Halloween in general can stir up this feeling after a while. With each film, regardless of which timeline you're watching, it seems like Michael always wins in some way. Be that he traumatizes his victims severely, spreads his influence, or just simply won't stay dead. And that's not even getting into the fact that anyone who survives one film will very likely die in the next or so, making it difficult to grow attached to any of them.
  • One thing that can be said about The Hateful Eight is that it certainly lives up to its name: the characters are full of hate, contempt, and lies, and when the truth about most of them is revealed some viewers probably won't care what happens to them when the bullets start flying.
  • Lloyd Kaufman faced this problem when writing Health Club Horror. He wanted to have the monster only kill bad people (which was an idea left over from an unfilmed script he worked on the previous decade with Stan Lee), but the monster was also a bad guy. His solution was to make the monster a hero and make the movie a comedy. Thus, The Toxic Avenger was born.
  • John Singleton's Higher Learning, his follow-up to the Oscar-nominated Boyz n the Hood and to Poetic Justice, was not a great success because not only did it contain an embarrassing amount of Narm, but almost all the characters were hard to like. (Like The Birth of a Nation, to which it has occasionally been compared, this is a movie in which the black characters are bad and the white characters are worse.) In fact, the only two truly sympathetic characters were a college professor whose role is fairly minor and a female student-athlete who is killed by being shot in the stomach—extremely unfair, since she has not hurt or even acted rudely to a single person throughout the movie. Everyone else is at best a Jerkass, Innocently Insensitive, or just generally irresponsible. Then there's the girl's murderer, a Villain Protagonist of sorts, who is not heroic by any measure; however, we're led to understand how he became extremely frustrated and then enraged by his Crapsack World environment. Life at the college campus is so miserable, in fact, that in the end the nominal hero of the story just gives up and runs away, which is hardly a heroic thing to do.
  • An older example of this trope can be found in the Universal movie House of Frankenstein. The characters aren't very likeable (with the possible exception of Daniel), the story is rather cynical, and in the end, everybody dies. Not even Svengoolie's So Bad, It's Good sense of humor could save this one.
  • Hulk can be seen as this because it clearly resembles a Greek tragedy with little to no humor and shows a highly abusive father to the hero. Many put the blame on director Ang Lee, who for being best-known for character-driven dramas (aside from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), went too far with that approach.
  • The Ides of March sets itself up as a movie in which an idealistic US presidential political campaign manager has his idealism destroyed by the paranoid nature of politics and corruption. Which might be interesting, except the character in question does some morally questionable actions from the beginning of the story. This makes it hard for the audience to like him or view him as the Wide-Eyed Idealist the script insists he is. As a result, the entire plot just seems sort of pointless.
  • The Incredible Melting Man: The protagonist is a loser, the villain is a pathetic Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds, the violence and gore quotient is through the roof, and virtually everyone with a speaking part dies, including the hero. Then it ends with the villain melting and his remains scooped into a bucket. Certainly among the most unremittingly bleak movies to grace Mystery Science Theater 3000 (and yet is one of the funniest as a result.)
  • Iron Sky: Okay, so on one side of the conflict we have Moon Nazis who want to either conquer or perhaps destroy the Earth (the movie isn't quite clear which). On the other side you have the people of Earth, a collection of Jerkasses and Dumbasses so universally horrible they actually come close to making the Nazis look like good guys by comparison. The whole thing is so bad, the fact that the movie's ending with both the Nazis' moonbase and most life on Earth being destroyed can be considered a happy ending.
  • It Lives by Night: Between asshole John, whiny Cathy, and pervy Sheriff Ward, there's no one to identify with. That, and the actual darkness, as the lighting in the film is pretty awful, too.
  • Ken Park. We have a dead title character, a literal motherfucker, a Dumb Jock, an oversexed Asian-American girl, and a violent sociopath and sexual sadist who later kills his grandparents. The supporting cast isn't any better, leading critic Kyle Kallgren to ask "Is every single character in the film a loathsome cad?!" And the only remotely likable characters in the whole movie? They're the grandparents. And their grandson gets an erection from stabbing them to death. Yeah...
  • Kick-Ass got this treatment from some (though not as much as the comic, listed here), particularly once a child (albeit a heavily armed one who kills people without mercy) gets brutally beatennote .Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand, was straight-up described as "unpleasant" by many reviewers and viewers, for being Darker and Edgier, Bloodier and Gorier, and making characters both suffer after finishing the first movie well, and behave more as jerks as a result (culminating in Hit-Girl making a Girl Posse vomit and defecate profusely).
  • Killing Them Softly: Jackie is a sociopathic Straw Nihilist, Frankie and Russell are two dumbasses who aren't even vaguely likeable, and the rest of the cast are mainly a bunch of gangsters with no real depth. The movie almost seems to embrace being set in a world of degenerates, if the ending is anything to go by.
  • Law Abiding Citizen; at least for viewers who are not cheering Clyde on after he's started murdering attorneys, judges and lawyers indiscriminately. He's initially seen as sympathetic because Darby killed his wife, daughter and got away with it by paying off Clyde's attorney, but after the aforementioned slaughter during the movie's second half? Not so much. The members of the justice system come off no better, as they're unilaterally portrayed as horrible individuals who couldn't care less about enacting true justice than do stuff that only benefits them. Well, except for Cindy, though she dies too. No side looks any better than the other near the film's end. Nick, very conspicuously, has ethical issues with his job. He's suppressed most of them by the Time Skip, but Clyde brings them roaring back.
  • Avoiding this trope may have played a part in Mad Max creator George Miller making the third film Lighter and Softer, as the previous two films had been hit with this criticism due to some of their more violent scenes, which in combination with the post-apocalyptic setting and Max's Anti-Hero status gave the series an unpleasant Humans Are Bastards vibe in the eyes of many critics.
  • Those that don't like Woody Allen's Match Point often cite this as a reason: the murder victim is clingy and whiny, the murderer himself is an unrepentant scumbag, his wife and in-laws are Upper Class Twits and the police fail to solve the murder.
  • Like Conspiracy, Men Behind the Sun is a dramatization of a historical event that resulted in the deaths of many innocent people, where the main characters are all heinous war criminals who never receive any comeuppance for their actions. Unlike Conspiracy, however, Men Behind the Sun includes lots of Gorn (including a real cadaver) and gratuitous scenes of animal cruelty. This along with the fact that the film makes virtually no attempt to humanize either the victims or the perpetrators has led many to criticize the film for coming across as exploitative rather than informative.
  • Menace II Society. The film itself invokes this trope, showing that it's one of the few times where it can be executed correctly. There is no point in getting emotionally attached to any of the main cast of the film, as it is a dark representation of how dangerous the neighborhoods of Watts, California are. The main character (Caine) embraces the life of a criminal, his best friend O-Dog is a terrible person who has no justifiable motivation for his sadism and murder, the same applies to the other members of the gang. Given that, it is very difficult to truly sympathize with most of the main characters, especially when you consider that they are all practically at war with gangsters like them.
  • Nightcrawler: Lou Bloom, our sociopathic Villain Protagonist, is a freelance news cameraman who directly or indirectly causes several deaths to get good pictures and remove competitors. He also blackmails his main customer into sleeping with him. Nina Romina, meanwhile, is a firm believer in If It Bleeds, It Leads, and only cares about getting shocking stories to keep the ratings up.
  • This is one of the reasons why the 2006 3D reboot of Night Of The Living Dead isn't very well-liked. Apart from being drastically different from the original, the tone is pretty bleak and most of the characters aren't exactly likable. That, and they all pretty much die by the end of the film.
  • One of the biggest criticisms of the Paranormal Activity series is that it's difficult to grow attached to any of the characters, considering they all die, and the demonic force haunting them always wins because there doesn't seem to be any way to permanently stop it.
  • Pawn Sacrifice, though competently made as a film, is heavily marred by the fact that Bobby Fischer's pride and utter contempt for everybody and everything other than chess made him a completely unlikeable piece of crap protagonist. His only redeeming quality is his intelligence, but it isn't enough to cover his faults or make anybody like him. The movie seems to intentionally portray him as such, but when the audience has nobody to root for and no desire to see the conflict of the film through to its end then people start to leave the theater. You actually want to see the perfunctory Russian antagonist win just to make this asshole suffer. By the end of the film, the audience is just as exhausted as the poor schlubs in the movie that have to babysit Bobby through his life-long string of temper tantrums.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean series:
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End had this problem for some viewers, with everyone backstabbing each other and shifting alliances on a whim that it got hard to root for anyone by the end unless you cared about their motivations. Of course, such a thing should be expected, given that the protagonists are all pirates by this point, even Will and Elizabeth. Even so, the climax of the film had them cheer about how pirates represent freedom and such... when they pillage and murder. Hardly heroic.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides suffers even more from this, as without Will and Elizabeth every major character in the film is basically a self-serving criminal.
    • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales cranks this up even more, with the entire cast of self-serving criminals having taken a massive level in jerk ass (even Gibbs), making the movie honestly quite unpleasant to watch. The closest it gets to likeable characters are newcomers Henry and Carina, who are Base Breakers at best and essentially carbon-copies of Phillip and Syrena, who were essentially carbon-copies of Will and Elizabeth. Really, the only character keeping the movie afloat is the Creepy Awesome Salazar and his ship that eats other ships... and we're supposed to root against him.
  • The Prestige suffered from this. Nolan didn't really give the audience enough clues about who the real protagonist was (the one we actually wanted to see win), because both main characters acted rather heinously at times. It isn't until the end when one character triumphs that the audience goes "Oh, I guess he was the good guy all along", and by then, we're not sure if we should be happy or angry about the outcome. This one is particularly tricky because we don't know which twin was doing what throughout the movie. All we can really be sure of is that the brother that gets executed tried to save Angier from drowning. For all we know, the one that survives was responsible for all the worst things "Alfred" Borden did. About the only Hope Spot is that the surviving twin says he was the one who loved Sarah, which might indicate that he was Jess's real father and that he will work hard to give her a good life. It should be noted that the original which it was based on had two completely different protagonists who were the offspring of the magicians and were trying to reconcile why their families have been at odds for so long. The documents they find show that both men made a great deal of mistakes that led to being equally to blame. It also had a different ending.
  • Red Zone Cuba owes its largely negative reception to this. Griffin is an Unintentionally Unsympathetic Designated Hero whom the film portrays as a flawed but decent guy, but any heroic actions he did were for selfish reasons. The film intends him to cross the Moral Event Horizon when he rapes a blind girl and murders her father, but he was an unrepentant Jerkass from the start. Needless to say, few viewers felt sorry for him after he died.
  • One of the main problems with Resident Evil films is how bleak the setting is and how worse it constantly gets through every installment.
    • The first movie ends with the T-Virus escaping the Hive and causing a zombie apocalypse in Raccoon City, while all Alice's teammates are either dead or infected.
    • Then, as if that couldn't get any worse, Extinction takes place after the T-Virus escaped once again and this time spread across the whole planet, also bringing global drought (somehow).
    • Afterlife reveals that Arcadia, the supposed safe haven the heroes had been trying to reach, was a trap all along set up by Umbrella, with survivors being held in for experimentation.
    • Afterwards, Retribution opens with Alice's group losing the battle and getting captured by Umbrella.
    • But things got really bleak (if not hopeless) with The Final Chapter. First of all, Umbrella is revealed to have engineered the whole apocalypse in the first place. Then, the last stand last seen in Retribution turns out to be another Umbrella's trap, leaving everyone except Alice either dead or missing. Then Alice learns that her life was fake from the start and one of her newfound friends turns out to be in cahoots with Umbrella.
  • This is a significant factor in why the films that Molly Ringwald initially starred in after severing ties with John Hughes failed, consequently contributing to the decline of her career as a leading lady. In her attempt to progress into more serious, adult fare that would earn her respectability as a young actress, the three films The Pick-Up Artist, Fresh Horses and particularly For Keeps instead only alienated critics and audiences with what they saw as needlessly angsty and melodramatic storylines that centered on Ringwald's characters undergoing hardship after hardship without much in the way of relief, be it with family members or romantic relationships. By the time Betsy's Wedding flopped, people were so burned out that they likely flocked to the early films of Julia Roberts, especially Pretty Woman, to escape from the dismal dreariness and the perceived pretentiousness of Ringwald's fare.
  • The original version of Rollerball has the same problem as The Butterfly Effect - its attempts to be somber and "profound" (up to and including the use of classical music) are so overdone that is becomes impossible to take it seriously. Not only is the story set against the backdrop of a soulless capitalist dystopia, but Jonathan's victory at the end occurs at such a high price that it's practically meaningless. And given the general state of things, the situation is unlikely to ever improve. Instead, the film implies, the apathetic populace will remain compliant and continue to observe the titular Blood Sport like there's no tomorrow, which we are told there isn't. Not exactly a very pleasant look on life.
  • Two words: The Room. Johnny is a borderline incomprehensible Mary Sue who finds stories about domestic abuse funny, Lisa is incredibly stupid and/or callous, Mark is a douchebag and an idiot, and Denny has drug problems and a very creepy relationship with Johnny and Lisa. The writing and acting don't help, either. Some of the supporting cast aren't much better; Claudette is a more pragmatic version of Lisa, Chris-R is a violent drug dealer who holds Denny at gunpoint, Mike does absolutely nothing plot-relevant, Peter (the Only Sane Man) goes missing halfway through the film, and Steven just casually saunters into the plot in the last twenty minutes and acts as if we have any idea who he is. Michelle is the Only Sane Man who actually bothers to stick around for the duration of the film, and that isn't enough to prevent Johnny's suicide.
  • Arguably, part of what makes A Serbian Film so disturbing is how it seemingly goes out of its way to avert this trope at first. The opening scenes give the impression that it's going to be a sort of Black Comedy about a former porn star who's only looking to make ends meet for his family. It isn't until quite a ways in that things gradually get more disturbing until finally, Miloš is shown a film by Vukmir wherein an unseen man doing something unspeakable to a newly-born baby. This ultimately drives Miloš to try and walk away from the production in the hopes of regaining his sanity, only to wake up days later and learn through Flashbacks that he had been drugged and that the most gruesome events have already transpired. It thus isn't until the very end of the film wherein Miloš realizes what all has happened that the despair finally kicks in and his family dying together feels almost merciful. UNTIL another movie crew visits the house and begin to do something unspeakable to the dead bodies...
  • The notorious 2004 sex-comedy, Sex Lives of the Potato Men, suffers from this. The main characters are, at best, bland and unlikable, or worse, creepy and disgusting (one of them has a fetish for mixing vagina juice with jam sandwiches) and the whole story revolves around them having sex with incredibly ugly women, sitting in the pub drinking beer, and just doing nothing remotely interesting, resulting in the film being very boring to watch. The humor is also just as off-putting since the jokes are either boring and lazily written or gross and nauseating.
  • This is why the 4th movie in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man series got cancelled. The script had Peter and MJ divorced after he had an affair with Black Cat. He also was a deadbeat dad to their son. Raimi felt like Peter was such a Jerkass that the audience would be put off and refused to shoot it. Sony ultimately just decided to reboot the series for good.
  • Although it's not too overbearing in Stoker due to its dark sense of humor, the film's plot is ultimately about a Creepy Uncle seducing his niece and turning her into a sociopath and ultimately succeeding.
  • Strange Days presents a highly dystopian version of the year 1999, and includes a lengthy, gruesome rape and murder scene in the first act, all of which can easily turn some viewers away.
  • The Thing (1982) has much the same problem as The Terror (see Literature) - between the Gorn, the heavy-handed gloomy atmosphere, and the fact that the story follows a bunch of starving, freezing Antarctic researchers being stalked by a murderous Eldritch Abomination, it's a pretty depressing experience. The fact that it ends with all the protagonists dead or doomed and the base destroyed could thus be considered almost merciful. Director John Carpenter has even attributed the film's poor box-office performance to this trope.
  • This Is the End nicely deconstructs this problem. The main characters are selfish, irritating assholes to all and sundry... and then are forced to realize this when the Rapture occurs and no one at a Hollywood house party, themselves included, are considered good enough to make the cut. What follows is a set of characters coming to the conclusion that you can't be a complete dick to people, not if you want to actually enjoy your life, leading to each of them making a Heroic Sacrifice in turn for the others.
  • To End All Wars suffered this, apparently, before the film was recut to lighten it a bit. The director’s cut is even further lightened, cutting short the most violent moments as well as the strongest language.
  • Similar to the Zootopia example listed below, Toy Story nearly suffered from this. Jeffrey Katzenberg urged the employees at Pixar to make the film "more adult" and "edgier". The result was an early screening in which Woody and the other toys (aside from Buzz) were constantly-angry Jerkasses. In this version, Woody grabs Buzz and throws him out the window, then he and the other toys start yelling at each other, and the other toys attack him and throw him out the window too. Jeffery Katzenberg, Roy Disney, and Peter Schneider were appalled by it, and Pixar was given two weeks to rewrite the film as they saw fit and make Woody and the other toys more likable.
  • The Tracey Fragments, big time. Every single character is mentally disturbed, borderline-sociopathic, drug-addled, and/or completely selfish, so there's hardly any reason for an audience to put forth the effort to give a damn.
  • Tragedy Girls can get this from some people, which is probably part of the reason why it only got a limited release. Our two main characters are sadistic, fame-hungry serial killers, who pick off their classmates one-by-one. While there's a lot of Black Comedy and the film is a satire, it can be a bit much for people who don't like that sort of thing.
  • Between the enigmatic, sexually predatory alien and her hormone-bloodied victims, Under the Skin is very short on sympathetic characters or compelling conflict. The alien does seem to get better later on, but it's too little too late, and the story spills into full-on Evil vs. Evil at the end when she's attacked and killed by a would-be rapist. The deformed man is essentially the only sympathetic character who is explored in any real depth.
  • The horror film Unfriended, like most horror movies, suffers from this. Virtually all of the characters are thoroughly horrible people, even the ones who initially come off as comparatively sympathetic. The evil ghost Laura, who committed suicide due to being bullied, is said to have been a bully herself when she was alive. Ken, who otherwise seems fairly blameless, nevertheless says Laura deserved everything that happened to her. Blaire, the ostensible Final Girl and seemingly the most moral of our protagonists, turns out to be an Alpha Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, as she was responsible for the video that drove Laura to suicide. More than one critic said they found the film's depiction of the amorality of American millennial teenagers more frightening than the actual premise.
  • Very Bad Things is a Black Comedy that focuses almost entirely on the "black" part, and not enough on the "comedy" part. The characters are all either assholes, psychopaths, complete wimps, or some combination thereof. The whole film is a downward spiral from bad to much, much, worse (it has so much murder and grisly fates that Death as Comedy and Bloody Hilarious stop being appliable), with next to no Hope Spots. It's hard to feel sympathy for anyone and ends with the survivors literally ruined as human beings in one way or another.
  • The 1982 film version of Pink Floyd's album The Wall falls victim to this, to the point that neither lyricist/writer Roger Waters nor designer Gerald Scarfe are terribly fond of the finished result.
  • This was an issue that many critics, including Roger Ebert, had with the infamous Alien rip-off Xtro - the tone was so spiteful and nihilistic that many of them couldn't be bothered to care about the plot or characters. Not only is the film practically overflowing with mean-spirited jabs at other films portraying extraterrestrial life as benevolent, it almost seems to mock the audience for believing in such a notion. The extremely bleak tone is not helped in the slightest by the distinct lack of likable characters - while Sam does genuinely love his son, the acts he commits in his new formnote  are so horrifying that it's difficult to see him as anything but a monster, and everyone else is either a victim or slimy and/or apathetic.
  • An early draft (and by that, we mean "was worked on for about four years") of Zootopia was discarded for this reaction. It focused on the Con Man Nick Wilde as a primary protagonist and involved open anti-predator prejudice as exemplified by laws requiring all predators to wear shock collars. It was felt that doing this made Zootopia resemble a police state and combining that with an already cynical point-of-view character made the film so dark that viewers would rather want Nick to escape Zootopia than to fix it. The solution was to shift focus towards Wide-Eyed Idealist Judy Hopps, and the eventual story and setting became more viewer-friendly as whole.
  • The little-known dystopian flick Z.P.G. likely owes its obscurity to this trope. There’s really no point in caring about what happens since we know that the environment has been ruined to the point that the human race will soon be doomed to extinction even with the titular population control initiative in place. The Esoteric Happy Ending really doesn't help, nor does the intentionally claustrophobic, studio-bound production.


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