Top Ten Downer Movie Endings

I’m not sure if this trend is still around in full-force, but movies with depressing endings used to be as common as dirt.  The depressing ending probably originates from a rebellious attitude toward Big Hollywood, and sappy movies where everyone always comes out okay no matter what.  Some of the most common depressing endings have “twists” to shock the audience, but others are just depressing.  Many movies use a depressing tone to make a point about politics, war, crime, or some other social topic.  Other sad movies turn the story around and make you think.  How about these?

soylent710.  Soylent Green (1973) – This movie is genre defining as a twist ending.  The ending pretty much makes the movie, although the performances are okay, albeit way over-the-top at times.  For many years, the ending was so famous it was quoted almost everywhere, on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons.  Soylent Green is People.  People!

9.  Seven (1995) – This one has the most shocking crime movie endings on this list.  It builds and builds, and seems destined to end badly.  You can almost feel something horrible coming, especially in the last ten minutes.  The movie distances itself from the horror, given the camerawork at the end, which I think is not surprising, since I don’t think we need to see close-ups of Brad Pitt opening a box to see the head of his wife.

8.  Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead – Romero’s zombie films are pretty darn bleak.  Night of the Living Dead tops the duo by killing all its characters, while at least there is a hopeful ending in Dawn. I believe Romero changed the ending to Dawn because of outside pressure, but originally wanted to make it as sad and depressing as in Night.  I’m not sure what that would have been like, but the movie is still a big influence either way.  The Walking Dead tv show wouldn’t exist without Dawn of the Dead being depressing.

7.  Million Dollar Baby (2004) – Another tear-jerker, this movie is deceptive, because at first I thought it was about the perseverance of a female boxer, like Rocky. It does have elements of that, but she eventually becomes paralyzed and doesn’t want to go on living, so I’m not sure what the movie is really trying to say.   Clint Eastwood said the movie is about the “American Dream”, and I guess people agree, as it won Best Picture of the Year.

6.  The Descent (2005) – This is probably the definition of a depressing movie and it really has no redeeming qualities.  It isn’t happy, funny, or inspirating in any way whatsoever, unlike some other movies on this list.  The main characters have a lot of weaknesses, and Sarah betrays her friends and love ones.  The ending is different in the US version versus the overseas version, but it ends with Sarah hallucinating about escaping from the cave.  She doesn’t really, and probably dies as the movie ends.  Pretty depressing, but I think it’s well done.

5.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – This remake has a pretty shocking ending.  Veronica is running away from the pod-people and trying not to be noticed among them on the street.  They eye her suspiciously.  She encounters her old friend, played by Donald Sutherland.  She desperately calls out to him, but he points at her accusingly and lets out a shriek to alert the other pod-people. And that’s it.  She’s done for.  The end.

4.  The Fly (1986) – This David Cronenberg movie is gross.  Seth slowly becomes a genetic horror, a deformed fly-man.  His girlfriend is horrified and I think she really does try to help him.  She doesn’t abandon him.  He can’t save himself, even with all of his science and knowledge.  He ends up comitting suicide, and his girlfriend shoots him right between the eyes with a shotgun, ending his suffering as the most gross fly-man ever.

3.  The Mist (2007) – The Mist (2007) has no philosophical point, which is why this one is at number three, not number two, but it is still more shocking than Invasion or Soylent Green.  The family in the movie just goes in the wrong direction and gives up on life.  The father kills them out of anguish, but realizes his mistake when he is rescued a few minutes later.  Pretty stupid, but shocking.

2.  Life is Beautiful (1998) – Perhaps the most depressing ending in a war movie I’ve seen to date.  It is very effective because the romance of Guido and his wife is built up for over an hour.  The title of this movie is very deceptive, but not deceptive at all, considering the philosophy and beliefs of Guido.  He wanted to protect his son from the horrors of the world, but fell victim to it in the end.

1.  Sophie’s Choice (1982) – This is still the saddest movie I’ve ever seen.  Sophie is played so expertly by Meryl Streep that it wasn’t even a contest at the Academy Awards.  She won Best Actress for her role.  Sophie is haunted by her choice to send one of her children to death at a concentration camp, rather than let both of them die.  The choice haunts her for the rest of her life, and she can’t live with it.