Twist endings are a big risk. If you do it right, you end up with Fight Club or Memento, and you go down in history as a screenwriting genius. If you do it wrong, you turn a halfway-decent movie into a running joke. Or, a third and even worse option: You ruin a really wonderful movie, and what should have been a happy audience turns into a bitter, sour mob.
The entries on this list fall into both categories, but they all have one thing in common: The last moments of these movies were a messy mistake that ultimately threatens to overshadow any other merits they may have accrued over the previous hour or two. Some might make you mad, some might make you agree with the outrage, and all of them are chock full of spoilers — so beware.
Before we begin, let's reiterate: SPOILER ALERT.
Alright, now don't get mad. Not to be too harsh on old Christopher Nolan, but this movie — which had potential at times but wound up just getting way, way too caught up in its own pretense — was trying a little bit too hard with the ending. It just incepted all over its own inceptions, and though it has been the primary topic of discussion at many a frat-house dinner over the years, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Then there's the fact that even before the final scene, the whole thing devolves into a snowmobile shoot-out even Daniel Craig would sniff at.
Poor M. Night Shyamalan — his works are destined to appear on any list about ridiculous twists (though, let the record show that this writer shamelessly loves Signs, The Happening, Unbreakable, and The Village, but was forced by her coworkers to put at least one Shyamalan movie on here). Apart from The Sixth Sense, the director's twists are much-maligned for being both silly and illogical. One does have to wonder: Why would aliens intelligent enough to develop interstellar travel land on a planet covered with the one thing that kills them?
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence
Because this movie originally came to being under the sage direction of Stanley Kubrick, it has the imprint of his awesomeness regardless of the saccharine ending. But, Spielberg took it a step too far with the final scene, which distorts an extremely ambitious and generally successful film into a Lifetime movie.
The DVD-edition of this Leonardo DiCaprio throwback came with an alternate ending, which you can watch above. The final scene of the theatrical release, though — in which our hero leaves the island, stops at an Internet café, and checks his email — was beyond anticlimactic. Though, to be fair, the painfully late-'90s nature of the original ending does jibe with the cast's collection of Hawaiian shirts pretty nicely.
This movie wasn't ruined, not by a long shot, but there was something slightly cheap and half-hearted about the inclusion of his assassination at the end. While the rest of the film was a testament to the true drama of Lincoln's life and the monumental changes he made to the U.S. (both in terms of policy and the country's own self-perception), ending with his death felt like an all-too-obvious and overly theatrical hat-tip to a cartoon version of this nuanced, imperfect, powerful, and moving character.
World War Z
The trailer for this movie, based on a very awesome book, was so exciting. The resulting film was, unfortunately, a complete disaster in many ways. But, it might have been a ridiculous-but-still-enjoyable disaster if it hadn't been for the reshot, completely half-baked montage ending. That was the moment when we went from a laugh-a-minute good time to genuine disappointment.
500 Days of Summer
You want to like it. You really do. Everyone is so good looking, and their hair is so brown, and their outfits are so quirky, and their mannerisms so neurotic. But, there are so many moments where you just can't help but groan. The ultimate eye-roll, though, comes at the end when we meet Autumn. Unfortunately, this movie just wasn't self-aware enough to pull that off.
This movie is really fun — albeit stressful — to watch. We don't mind that the whole thing turns out to be an elaborate birthday stunt by crazy brother Sean Penn. It's the fact that after all that, Michael Douglas just laughs it off. He literally just tried to commit suicide because he was so miserable, and now we're supposed to believe that he's ready to forgive, forget, and go back to his life?
Far and Away
If you're going to die, Tom Cruise, just go through with it. You're lucky Nicole Kidman didn't just slap you back into death right then and there.
The Edge of Tomorrow
Clearly, Far and Away set a dangerous precedent for Tom Cruise. Fellow R29 editor Everdeen Mason saw his latest, and was perturbed by its ending, as well: "It's almost as if he has a line in his contract that says he's not allowed to die. The critics were right to a point: Edge of Tomorrow was fun...until the last five minutes. The ending completely ignored the rules of time travel painstakingly set up throughout the two-hour movie in a haphazard attempt to make sure Tom Cruise doesn't die, and everyone can live happily ever after. Never mind that it doesn't make any sense."
The Dark Knight Rises
This particular iteration of the Batman series is over, so there was no need to keep Batman alive. The dark, gritty vibes they insisted on throughout the trilogy would have more-than-justified an ending that involved an actual death instead of a corny twist where Bruce Wayne runs away with a less-than-thrilling Selina Kyle. Though, we will fully support any plot point that eventually leads to Joseph Gordon-Levitt wearing a tight bodysuit.
Another R29er, Kelsey Miller, was even more disappointed by this already not-that-great movie when the twist came around: "To be clear: No one is arguing this movie is Citizen Kane. But, having read the source material, I thought it was a pretty interesting story and had some solid, pulpy elements. The whole thing seemed to be leading to a semi-reasonable conclusion when — BAM! Shit got bonkers. It was as if the whole audience was dosed with whatever they give you after having your wisdom teeth removed, because we were all equal parts disoriented and hysterical with laughter. Not an ideal reaction to the story of an actual woman who was killed and dismembered."