21 Movies With Unhappy Endings

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We watch movies for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, we watch inspiring films to give us a better outlook on life. A good horror film can frighten us, giving us a zest for life. However, sometimes you want a film that will ultimately leave you devastated. 

If that’s what you are in the mood for, look no further. We have cultivated a list of the bleakest, saddest movie endings we could find. We hope you have some tissues with you. Things are about to get dark. 

1. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Photo Credit: Artisan Entertainment.

This is possibly the bleakest film ever created. Requiem for a Dream is a harrowing tale about three young adults who develop a crippling drug addiction. The film doesn’t offer any lessons to be learned or insight into how to help the addicts. It simply showcases their pain and suffering.

This hauntingly beautiful film provides an equally devastating ending for each of our four characters. No one is saved or offered any redemption. As terrible as that sounds, Requiem for a Dream is a near-perfect film everyone should see. Just don’t expect to experience any happiness for a while after viewing it. 

2. The Mist (2007)

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company.

Stephen King usually offers his fans some sort of happy ending in his tales. However, he took a different approach when he decided to take on a Lovecraftian story. The Mist is centered in a small town attacked by alien creatures pouring out of an unknown fog.  Unable to escape these terrible creatures, a father decides it would be better for the group to commit suicide than die at the hands of the beasts. 

He kills his son and the rest of the group but doesn’t have enough bullets to end his own life. Collapsing on the floor and waiting for the release of death, the military shows up and tells him that the attack is over and that he is safe. Had he only waited a few more moments, his loved ones would still be alive. 

3. Se7en (1995)

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

This classic action film highlights the dangers of religious zealotry. Se7en follows two detectives trying to track down a reclusive killer known as John Doe. Investigating his killing spree, they discover that he is punishing people in a way that relates to one of the seven deadly sins. 

When they finally catch John Doe, they discover he has laid a trap for one of the detectives. Doe has killed Detective Mills’s pregnant wife and placed her head in a box for him to discover. Mills reacts exactly how Doe wants and murders him, thus becoming the embodiment of rage. 

4. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Photo Credit: Image Ten.

We can thank Night of the Living Dead for our modern understanding of the zombie genre. As the dead begin to rise from their graves, a group of survivors barricades themselves in a house to wait for relief efforts.

However, when the police arrive, they engage in a shoot first and ask questions later mentality. The fight against the undead proved pointless when faced with the uncaring wrath of their local law enforcement. 

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5. The Departed (2006)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Possibly Martin Scorsese’s most excellent film, The Departed is a bleak gangster story in which no one is safe. Although Scorsese hints at the end throughout the film by placing x’s in scenes where a character will die, Billy Costigan’s unceremonial death is still a tragic ending to this classic film.

6. Watchmen (2009)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

There are no real heroes in Watchmen. Instead, audiences are given morally gray characters who are ineffectual in creating real change. The Watchmen film ends with 3.5 million people dead at the hands of Ozymandias.

Although this tragedy could have been prevented, it was decided that it would be better to let them die than to start World War III. While this may be a good argument on paper, it is not a satisfying ending for people accustomed to superheroes saving the day.  

7. Titanic (1997)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

The tragedy of the Titanic killed around 1,500 people. Knowing this, moviegoers didn’t expect the film to be overly cheerful. However, watching Jack freeze to death in the middle of the ocean still came as a shock to those expecting a romantic drama. As beloved as the movie has become, there are still arguments that the two could have fit two people, thus making the movie slightly more hopeful in the end. 

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8. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Photo Credit: Focus Features.

Being gay is difficult regardless of where you are. However, Brokeback Mountain highlights the heightened danger of being gay in 1960s Wyoming. The film follows two male sheep herders who slowly fall into a forbidden love with one another. 

They are fully aware of the danger this places them in but cannot control their feelings for one another. In the end, Jack supposedly dies in a tire-changing accident, but Ennis believes that he was murdered for their forbidden love. 

9. The Fly (1986)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

One of David Cronenberg’s best body horror films, The Fly follows a scientist as he tries to create a matter transport. Dr. Seth Brundle is successful in his creation but accidentally infuses his DNA with that of a fly. 

At first, he enjoys these new effects and celebrates with his girlfriend, Ronnie Quaife. However, the fly DNA begins to take over his body, eventually changing him into a monstrous giant fly creature. Unable to finish the job himself, he places his head at Quaife’s gun and begs her to end his life. She complies and kills her lover and best friend in an act of mercy. 

10. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Photo Credit: William Castle Productions.

A masterclass of paranoia, Rosemary’s Baby follows a young housewife during her early pregnancy. She begins to have odd symptoms, but her husband dismisses her and insists she is okay. However, she soon learns that her paranoia doesn’t mean something isn’t wrong with her baby.

At the film’s end, Rosemary discovers that her husband made a deal with her satanic neighbors. In exchange for a successful career, he would allow them to impregnate her with the spawn of the devil. The film ends with Rosemary tending to her demon child, as her maternal instincts won’t let her destroy the abomination.  

11. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Photo Credit: Summit Entertainment.

Credited with bringing the found footage genre back into style, The Blair Witch Project follows three college students as they venture into the woods to investigate a local legend. However, they are never heard from again once they enter the cursed woods.

The Blair Witch’s success can largely be attributed to the genuine sense of fear portrayed by the cast. As each cast member is killed, the audience begins to understand that there is no escape from the Blair Witch’s curse. No one comes to save our helpless explorers. In the end, we are left with the sense that we have seen something not meant for human eyes. 

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12. Eden Lake (2008)

Photo Credit: Rollercoaster Films.

Some movies exist to highlight the dangers of the world. Eden Lake is one of these movies. While two young lovers are on a camping trip, they experience difficulties with some local ruffians. However, these kids are more violent than anyone could have expected. 

The children decide to kill the young couple and begin to hunt them down in the woods. Although Steve dies at the hands of the kids, Kelly escapes to a local town. However, the people she runs into are the parents of the ruffians. Refusing to believe her, the parents kill Kelly, bringing the violence full circle.

13. Pet Sematary (1989)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Any parent can attest to the heartbreaking nature of a child’s on-screen death. Pet Sematary asks audiences how far they would be willing to go to bring back their dead child. After the death of his son, Gage, Louis Creed decides to bury his child in the local pet cemetery, hoping it will bring him back to life.

Creed is successful, but Gage comes back wrong. He soon learns that the pet cemetery only brings back a person’s body while their soul is replaced by something wicked. Gage goes on to kill his mother and the family’s neighbor before his father can put him down.

Devastated by his loss, Creed decides to take his wife to the pet cemetery, hopeful that things will go differently this time around. The film ends as Creed’s wife walks into their home and prepares to kill him. 

14. Funny Games (2008)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

This film turns the camera on the audience. Funny Games is a brutal horror film that satirizes its own genre. Throughout the film, our villain turns to the audience and explains that these vile acts only happen because the audience enjoys watching them. 

Funny Games uses several devices to convey this depressing message. Suppose a scene depicts our victim gaining the upper hand and running to safety. In that case, the villain simply picks up a remote and rewinds the encounter. These actions demonstrate how victims in horror films are destined to die for our entertainment.  

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15. The Wrestler (2008)

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Possibly Mickey Rourke’s best role, The Wrestler is a tragic tale about loneliness, purpose, and toxic masculinity. Randy “The Ram” Robinson is a wrestler long past his prime who desperately wants one more victory in the ring.

However, years of abuse have left his body in bad shape, and one more fight will likely kill him. He tries to make a new life for himself outside of wrestling, but the allure of fame and purpose drives him back into wrestling. The film ends with Robinson back in the ring for what will likely be the last few moments of his life. 

16. Old Yeller (1957)

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Productions.

Many children’s first experience with devastation is Old Yeller, the 1950s classic about a boy and his dog. These two characters make quick friends and quickly become inseparable. However, the dog contracts rabies, and poor Travis must put Old Yeller down with his rifle. Watching this trusted companion become a mindless killing machine has haunted children for generations. 

17. Cast Away (2000)

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox.

This film highlights how life can go on without us. Cast Away is a brilliant film starring Tom Hanks, who depicts a man isolated on an island following a plane crash. Chuck Noland eventually escapes the island but leaves something of himself as he does.

When he returns to his former life, Noland discovers his fiancé has moved on and started a family with someone else. Cast Away shows that even if we do nothing wrong, our lives can be ripped away in ways we can’t imagine. 

18. Donnie Darko (2001)

Photo Credit: Pandora Cinema.

One of the stranger films of the 2000s, Donnie Darko is the surreal tale of a young man who receives prophetic visions from a giant rabbit. Stuck in a time vortex, Donnie discovers that the only way to save his town is to end his life. However, whether Donnie is a selfless hero or a mentally ill teen who daydreams about his righteousness is never straightforward. 

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19. The Wicker Man (1974)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

A tale about the power of religion, The Wicker Man follows a police detective sent to a small town searching for a lost girl. Sergeant Neil Howie is a conservative Christian who doesn’t care for the town’s pagan traditions. Nevertheless, he must work alongside them to find the girl.

Unfortunately for Howie, the missing girl was a ruse to get him to the island. He is sacrificed to their pagan god to ensure a productive crop the following year. As Howie dies, he realizes none of the forces he believes in will protect him. Neither God nor the government can save him from his fiery fate. 

20. American History X (1998)

Photo Credit: New Line Cinema.

White supremacy seems to be a never-ending issue. American History X follows a young man, Danny Vinyard, who experiences life in a white supremacist family. After being given a school assignment on the subject, Vinyard questions the moral system he was raised with.

Unfortunately, no amount of self-growth can protect Vinyard from the circle of race-based violence that infects the area where he lives. The film ends with him bleeding to death on the floor after being shot by someone he had harassed in the past. 

21. Invasion of The Bodysnatchers (1978)

Photo Credit: United Artists.

This classic horror film features one of the best twists in movie history. Invasion of The Bodysnatchers follows a group of survivors who discover that aliens are replacing the people in their town. Nancy Bellicec and Mathew Bennell find they can pass as aliens if they hide their emotions and try to save humanity. 

However, when Bellicec approaches Bennell at the film’s end, he screams terribly, indicating that the aliens have taken him. This devastating twist highlighted that no amount of heroism outweighs a superior threat.

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