23 Great Movie Endings That Are Dark AF
If you thought "La La Land's" ending was too sad, then best skip these darker-than-dark movie endings that leave you in tears -- or gasping for breath from that gut punch. MAJOR SPOILERS for these shattering film finales.
"What's in the box?!" has become a bit of a joke. But no one's laughing in David Fincher's oh-so-twisted serial killer drama, which is brazen enough to behead a main character (but, mercifully, not show us.) To add insult to permanent emotional injury, the bad guy -- John Doe -- wins when Det. Mills "becomes Wrath" and shoots him.
In Nolan's backwards-told tale, Leonard, a man with no short-term memory, is hunting for "John G." -- the guy he thinks killed his wife. In the final seconds, Leonard learns he's already killed that man -- and countless others. And he's going to let himself forget that cold fact and kill again. (Because that's easier than accepting that it was Leonard who accidentally killed his wife.)
'The Descent' (2005)
Survived a terrible tragedy? Go on a spelunking trip with your best friends. Except that these women chose the wrong cave. When the sole survivor gets to the surface, we can finally breathe. Just enough to draw in a lungful for a last, horrified scream.
'Planet of the Apes' (1968)
"You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!" One of the most famous film endings of all time has Charlton Heston's crash-landed astronaut realizing that the Planet of the Apes was Earth all along! #HelpMeDrZaius
'The Plague Dogs' (1982)
From the author and director of "Watership Down," this bleak tale of dogs who escape a brutal lab experiment ends with the pups deciding they're better off drowning themselves. BRB, we're just going to drown ourselves, too.
'The Mist' (2007)
Stephen King's novella ended on a somewhat hopeful note, but the film ends with (SPOILER) main character David (Thomas Jane) and his fellow survivors deciding the only answer to a monster-spawning dimensional rift is a bullet. David pulls the trigger on everyone but himself -- including his own son -- and then the Army shows up. Too late!
'Requiem for a Dream' (2000)
Forget those "this is your brain on drugs" PSAs. Darren Aronofksy's supreme bummer indie ends with horrible fates for all its characters. Jared Leto's junkie awakes to find his infected arm has been amputated -- and that's arguably not the worst scenario.
'The Deer Hunter' (1978)
Christopher Walken rightly won an Oscar for playing a Vietnam vet and former POW who is so traumatized by his captivity, he keeps playing Russian Roulette. The scene where Robert De Niro tries to save him -- and fails -- will haunt you forever.
'Donnie Darko' (2001)
Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) seemingly escapes death from a freak airplane crash. But in the grim ending, Donnie chooses to return to the reality where he (and no one else) dies. Seeing Jena Malone -- who, in this timeline, never got to know him -- pass his house as just a curious onlooker is devastating.
'The Prestige' (2006)
Christopher Nolan's bleakest film has Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as dueling magicians who take their years-long feud to vicious depths. The finale, where we realize that Jackman's character has found a way to clone himself -- and must keep killing off those clones -- is bitter as hell.
'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' (1975)
Man, the '70s were dark -- and this movie came out before Watergate. Jack Nicholson's anarchic character, McMurphy, ends up in a mental institution on a fluke and turns the place upside down. But the establishment has the last word. Try not to sob as Chief (Will Sampson) smothers a lobotomized McMurphy, then makes his own escape.
'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' (1978)
While the '50s original was about Cold War paranoia, this stellar '70s remake ups the sci-fi and the gore -- and gives us an even more terrifying ending. Who can forget Donald Sutherland's terrifying screech that signals he's become one of them?
'Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines' (2003)
Skynet was defeated in the first two "Terminator" films, but in this uneven third entry, John Connor (Nick Stahl) realizes the terrible truth: As nuclear bombs fall all over the world, he says grimly, "We should have realized our destiny was never to stop Judgment Day; it was merely to survive it."
Robert Towne's Oscar-winning screenplay originally had a much happier ending. But in the final film, the line "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown," is all the more bitter because Jake's (Jack Nicholson) just seen Evelyn (Faye Dunaway) gunned down. And there's nothing he can do about it.
'Midnight Cowboy' (1969)
It's not like this Oscar-winning movie, about a would-be gigolo (Jon Voight) and a con artist (Dustin Hoffman) in New York City, was ever cheery. But the ending, where Hoffman's character dies -- just before they get to Miami? Geez, that's a tough one.
'Taxi Driver' (1976)
Did you think that Travis Bickle's post-bloodbath hero status was all a dream as he lay dying? That's not what screenwriter Paul Schrader intended. The real kicker: Not that a gun-crazy psycho could go on a rampage, but that he'd be rewarded for it.
'The Birds' (1963)
Not only do the birds -- all birds -- start mysteriously attacking people in Hitchcock's famed thriller. But the ending promises no hope as the battle-weary humans encounter a landscape with nothing but eeriely-quiet birds as far as the eye can see.
'Rosemary's Baby' (1968)
You've just learned you've given birth to the Antichrist. Are you going to kill the infant and his Satanic followers? Or are you going to give in to your maternal instincts and ... Oh god, Rosemary, what are you doing?
'We Need To Talk About Kevin' (2011)
In this devastating indie, after sociopathic teen Kevin (Ezra Miller) massacres students at his school, his mother (Tilda Swinton) visits him in prison. He confesses he can't even remember why he did it, which is beyond chilling.
'The Invitation' (2016)
A man (Logan Marshall-Green) suspects something is off at a dinner party at his ex-wife's house -- but even he couldn't guess mass murder was on the menu! Or that it's just one of dozens of houses where the same scenario is playing out as we learn in the last scene.
In one of the twists to end all twists, the main character learns he's been kept prisoner for 20 years so he can (WTF?!) be tricked into sleeping with his own daughter. Hypnosis undoes that terrible knowledge -- or does it? No real happy endings here.
'Arlington Road' (1999)
In a paranoid thriller that borrows heavily from such '70s classics as "The Parallax View," Jeff Bridges desperately tries to stop his neighborhood terrorists. And then he realizes that his panic to get his son back has played right into their hands. Who's the crazed bomber now?
'A Nightmare on Elm Street' (1984)
Ahh, that moment in a horror film when it seems a select few have survived the carnage. Until the "gotcha" scene where the main character's mom is mercilessly snatched and yanked through the front door's window. So. Good.