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Cheap Movie Endings That Upset Audiences

Have you ever watched a film that totally had you hooked from the very first scene, only to lose you in the final moments? As the plot wraps up, you catch yourself wondering where that weird twist came from, or why the entire storyline seems to be unraveling without any hint of real closure. Maybe the movie ends on a cheesy line of dialogue that makes you groan out loud, or maybe the final scenes offer up little more than a totally implausible explanation for the events of the rest the film. Sometimes, a franchise-minded movie raises important questions that are never answered by the sequels. Then there are final installments with lackluster endings — the ultimate disappointment for long time fans.

A mediocre film can occasionally be redeemed by an exceptionally strong conclusion, but on the other hand, an otherwise fantastic film can easily be ruined by a weak ending. We've all wasted a few hours of our lives on movies where it seems like the cast and crew just gave up on the finale. Some may have begun with interesting premises, but unfortunately, their cheap endings left audiences underwhelmed.

The Devil Inside

In the post-Paranormal Activity era, it seemed like every horror director was trying to capitalize on the renewed popularity of the found footage genre. But as it tends to happen when studios begin churning out similar films just to keep up with a trend, there were bound to be more than a few duds in this category. One of the most poorly executed found footage movies was director William Brent Bell's 2012 film The Devil Inside, which followed documentary filmmaker Michael Schaefer and his partner, Isabella, as they team with Father Ben Rawlings to try to determine why her mother murdered three people during an exorcism decades ago.

A captivating marketing campaign and genuinely chilling trailer meant that there was strong initial interest in the film, and it topped the box office on its opening weekend. But once word spread about the unsatisfying ending, potential viewers clearly lost motivation to actually see it, and it quickly plummeted down the ranks.

What was it about the ending that turned off audiences? The film could have simply ended on a cliffhanger after the car accident that kills Michael and Ben, with Isabella mysteriously disappearing from the same car after becoming possessed. Instead of allowing audiences to simply imagine the possibilities, viewers were directed to a now-defunct website to look up more information about Isabella's case. Look, nobody goes to the movies expecting a homework assignment.

Knowing

Directors have imagined the end of the world a thousand times over, but audiences keep coming back for more apocalyptic thrillers. A doomsday film done right is always thought-provoking, encouraging viewers to wonder what these visions of the future reveal about the state of humanity today, how we could avoid the same fate as the characters, and how we might spend our own final moments. These stories are bound to prompt deep conversations and intriguing analysis. But an apocalyptic movie that ends on a sour note just feels like a shoddy attempt at indulging in spectacle without offering anything of substance. That's exactly where director Alex Proyas' 2008 film Knowing falls flat.

A young boy named Caleb discovers a page full of numbers predicting a major extinction event, and his astrophysicist father, Josh, determines that an intense solar flare will reach the Earth in mere days, rendering the planet uninhabitable. But just before life on our planet is decimated, a mysterious spaceship descends from the heavens, with two strangers beckoning Caleb and his new friend, Abby, to come with them. The children are whisked away to an Earth-like planet, and the film ends abruptly.

The conclusion raises far more questions than it answers. Did the aliens orchestrate the Earth's destruction? What was so special about Caleb and Abby? Was it a statement about the innocence of childhood? There was never any sequel to provide clarity.

Signs

Ever since The Sixth Sense, it seems like most of director M. Night Shyamalan's signature twist endings have been misses rather than hits. Although Signs is generally regarded as a standout entry in his filmography, accepting the ending requires some serious suspension of disbelief for a scientific explanation that just doesn't add up. To be fair, it is a film about an alien invasion, so it's not like every plot point could be 100% plausible, but there's a glaring hole in the reason behind the aliens' demise.

After aliens begin terrorizing the planet and target his family, former minister Graham Hess discovers that simply splashing the aliens with water will cause them to react as though they've been burned, and eventually, it kills them. Radio reports begin coming through to confirm that the aliens are now quickly fleeing the planet as they have realized it is inhospitable for them.

Here's the problem: the Earth is 70% water, and there is plenty of moisture in the air. The aliens would have been exposed to water the moment they exited their ships without suits. In short, they should not have been able to survive at all. Perhaps the idea is that it's only toxic to them in concentrated, liquid form, but that seems like an inadequate justification for a sloppy conclusion.

Savages

Based on Dan Winslow's novel of the same name, Oliver Stone's 2012 thriller Savages basically devolved into little more than worn-out tropes in the final scenes. Wealthy marijuana growers Chon and Ben, who are both in a polyamorous relationship with their girlfriend Ophelia, get caught up with a violent Mexican drug cartel. Ophelia is kidnapped and held against her will to prevent Chon and Ben from backing out of the partnership. As the conflicts escalate, all of the high-stakes drama culminates in a gunfight. Ben is fatally wounded, and Chon administers a lethal injection to Ben, Ophelia, and himself so that they can all die together.

But moments later, the film takes a very different turn. Ophelia wakes up, very much alive, revealing that the previous scene was nothing but a nightmare, and DEA agents end up capturing some of the high-ranking members of the cartel. Chon, Ben, and Ophelia escape to an undisclosed tropical island, where they live in a hut on the beach. Ophelia muses that the three of them might be living like savages.

So, it turns out that the stakes were pretty low for the protagonists all along. "It was all a dream" is universally recognized as a lazy way to end a film and explain away any plot holes, and Savages falls into this trap. What fun is a thriller if all the protagonists make it out unscathed?

War of the Worlds

H.G. Wells' science fiction novel War of the Worlds has spawned several adaptations. Most famously, it was the basis for a 1938 radio broadcast narrated by Orson Welles, which was so convincing that it caused a panic and left people gazing up at the sky, wondering if aliens had really touched down on Earth.

The 2005 film adaptation of War of the Worlds follows Ray Ferrier, a dockworker in New York who is estranged from his daughter Rachel and son Robbie. He ends up watching them while his ex-wife goes out of town to visit her parents in Boston. After a series of lightning strikes disrupt the power grid, Ray goes outside to see what's going on. To the horror of the gathered crowd, some sort of war machine rises from the ground and begins vaporizing people, causing mass destruction. It becomes clear that an alien species is behind the attack, sending Ray on a mission to protect his children and reunite them with their mother.

In the end, the entire family miraculously survives and they find each other in Boston, while the aliens are killed off by the microbes that cover every surface on Earth. It wraps up a little too neatly in comparison to the chaos of the rest of the film — if microbes brought down the aliens, shouldn't the effects have set in much earlier?

10 Cloverfield Lane

Despite an ending that feels disjointed and incomplete, 10 Cloverfield Lane is worth a watch — the pacing never lets you take a breath as director Dan Trachtenberg maintains an unrelenting, uncomfortably tense atmosphere all the way through.

After Michelle is knocked out in a car accident, she wakes up in a strange underground bunker with two men she's never met. Howard, the owner of the bunker, tells her that an event has occurred on the surface that has poisoned the air, but she'll be safe in this place. As time goes on, Michelle realizes that Howard is dangerous, and if she wants a chance of surviving, she'll have to take her chances above ground. She manages to escape by killing Howard, and when she finally emerges from the bunker, she has to fight off an alien life form. She drives away from Howard's farm and heads towards Houston upon hearing on the radio that volunteers with combat or medical experience (both things she's accrued over the course of the story) are needed there to fight the invasion.

It's an interesting plot structure, echoing the film's tagline, "Monsters come in many forms." But we barely see the extraterrestrial monsters. The ending is almost completely disconnected from the rest of the plot, and the follow up, The Cloverfield Paradox, doesn't touch on Michelle's story at all, so we never find out her fate.

Safe Haven

Movies based on Nicholas Sparks' romance novels tend to follow a fairly similar formula, and that's exactly what fans are looking for. They don't want unpredictable twists, unconventional endings, or anything that deviates from the typical tropes of the genre. And there's nothing wrong with that — Sparks has successfully carved out a specific niche, and his fans know exactly what to expect from his work.

But Safe Haven throws all of that out the window at the last minute. Erin Feldman flees Boston to escape her abusive husband and runs away to North Carolina, where she changes her name to Katie and falls in love with widower Alex Wheatley. When Katie's husband Kevin comes after her, her friendly new neighbor, Jo, appears in a dream and warns her. Katie shoots Kevin in self defense, but not before he pours gasoline around her friend Lexie's convenience store, which is ignited by a stray spark from a firework.

After the fire, Alex gives Katie a sweet letter from his late wife Carly, who had hoped that he would find love again. The letter includes a photo of Carly, who looks identical to Jo. It turns out that "Jo" was the ghost of Carly watching over Katie all along. Since when does Sparks get supernatural? Was that little detail even necessary to the plot? Sometimes, it's best not to mess with a structure that works.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Indiana Jones franchise has captivated audiences for decades. It began in 1981 with Raiders of the Lost Ark, with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade completing the trilogy before the decade was over. Nearly twenty years passed without another sequel, until Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull premiered in 2008... with an ending so nonsensical that it seemed like a disservice to the franchise.

The film basically wraps up by waving away the entire plot with a simple, overdone explanation: aliens. In fact, it feels like the last few scenes were inspired by episodes of Ancient Aliens. And to top it all off, the final moments essentially just show Indy returning to normal life — after seeing a spaceship rise from underneath an ancient city and then watching some of his colleagues get sucked into a vortex, never to return. Indy witnessed some pretty wild supernatural happenings in his first three adventures, but somehow this sci-fi twist feels like something else entirely. As Crystal Skull concludes, he is rehired at Marshall College and promoted to associate dean, finally marrying his old love interest, Marion Ravenwood.

A fifth installment of the franchise is due for release in 2021. Hopefully, this one will do the original films justice and turn the series around.

Lucy

Just like the 2010 film Limitless, the plot of the science fiction movie Lucy relies on the premise that human beings only use 10% of our brains. This oft-repeated "fact" is actually just a myth, but even if you accept it as truth solely for the runtime of the film, it still doesn't lead to a solid conclusion. The film's protagonist, Lucy, is kidnapped by drug mules and ends up ingesting an illicit substance that gives her the ability to use more and more of her brain as time goes on. This gives her superhuman powers, like telepathy, telekinesis, and the inability to feel pain.

In the final moments of the film, she finally uses her cognitive power to full capacity, and she journeys back in time through the cosmos to the moment of the Big Bang. Her physical body disappears, yet she is able to send a text to a police captain she had been working with that simply states, "I am everywhere." Her disembodied voice is then heard saying, "Life was given to us a billion years ago. Now you know what to do with it."

Talk about vague — it's unclear as to why anyone thought that this film would be best wrapped up with an ambiguous, bite-sized nugget of philosophy from Lucy.

Now You See Me

Have you ever seen a magician in action who was so skilled at sleight of hand that for just a moment, you were convinced that magic was real? That's basically the idea behind Now You See Me, kicked up a few notches. The film follows a group of four highly talented illusionists called the Horsemen, who perform a signature, mind-blowing trick: they extract money from wealthy people's bank accounts and give it to the audience members. Naturally, the authorities become suspicious of their activities, and FBI agent Dylan Rhodes begins investigating them.

By the end of the film, it's revealed that Rhodes himself is actually an illusionist, too, and he's been working behind the scenes as the fifth Horseman the whole time. He was avenging his father's death by stealing from the people responsible. But is it a just a heist film? Nope — turns out that magic is real, too, and the Horsemen are all invited to join a secret society called the Eye. But with so little clarity over what's real and what's, well, merely an illusion, it's no wonder that audiences left theaters feeling confused.

Spider-Man 3

There was really no way to neatly tie up all of the storylines in Spider-Man 3. The third installment of Sam Raimi's trilogy was all over the place, and it's remembered primarily for its cringe worthy scenes — like that infamous emo dance club sequence. Tobey Maguire might still regret that one.

During the film's climactic battle scene, Harry Osborne is mortally wounded. Peter Parker is able to defeat Venom, but Harry succumbs to his injuries. When all of the chaos has settled, Peter, Mary Jane, and Aunt May all attend Harry's funeral. The film probably could have ended with another somber scene to follow this up, but instead, it goes in a completely different direction. Shoehorned in at the very end of the film is a random scene of Peter and Mary Jane making up and dancing in a jazz club. It's a touching moment for fans of their relationship, who were probably happy to see them back together, but it seems odd that either of them would be in the mood for romance again so soon after their serious conflicts and that traumatizing battle.

I Am Legend

Based on the novel of the same name by Richard Matheson, the post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend follows U.S. Army virologist Robert Neville as he struggles to survive each day in the aftermath of a global pandemic in an eerily empty New York City. The majority of the remaining "survivors" of the lethal viral outbreak have mutated into zombie-like creatures, known as the Darkseekers due to their high sensitivity to sunlight. He spends the majority of his time trying to find a cure for the virus, eventually capturing a female Darkseeker to experiment on. After three years with only his German Shephard for company, Neville finally meets two fellow survivors: a woman named Anna and her son, Ethan. Shortly after, the results of his experiment on the captive Darkseeker lead him to a cure.

When the Darkseekers come after Neville for revenge, he is forced to sacrifice himself to save Anna and Ethan, who protect the cure and escape to a survivor's camp. But the ending of the director's cut follows the theme of the novel more closely, and it completely flips the perspective of the film. In that version, Neville actually interacts with the alpha male of the Darkseekers, and returns the women he captured without finding a cure. They share a moment of mutual respect, and Neville realizes that to the Darkseekers, he has actually been the monster all along.