18 Films That Almost Nailed It Until the Final Scene

Movies are like air travel; if you mess up the landing, nobody is going to care about the smooth journey. And cinema is filled with films that draw audiences in for two hours, before dropping the baton in the final moment. From underwhelming twists to pointless scenes, here are 18 movies that would have been far better if they were five minutes shorter.

Hunger Games: Catching Fire Part II

Photo Credit: Lionsgate.

While it may have been somewhat cathartic to see Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) living the utopian life they always dreamed of, the film’s epilogue sequence fell flat. The scene before the epilogue, when Katniss and Peeta were embracing was a much more fitting ending for the franchise, depicting the pair’s raw vulnerabilities from the events of the series, while offering a glimpse of hope as Katniss finally confesses her love for Peeta.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

10 Cloverfield Lane worked for many reasons, one being that we’re never quite sure if Howard (John Goodman) is telling the truth about the alien invasion. Eventually, it’s revealed that he was telling the truth as Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) escapes his grasp and finds the world overrun by mysterious creatures. The film should have ended there, fitting with the mysterious themes of the film and the uncertainty that it brought for its characters from the offset. But, unfortunately, it went one step further with a fight scene between Michelle and one of the aliens, which felt forced and overshadowed the shocking twist just moments before.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

The strange outro that introduced grown-up versions of Harry, Ron, Hermoine, and Malfoy was both needless and unintentionally humorous, and its inclusion only detracted from an otherwise excellent franchise. Ending the film after the Battle’s successful conclusion strengthens the series’ ending.

Psycho

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Psycho’s twisted ending remains one of the most infamous scenes in cinema history. The intensity of the scene is top-notch, with a twist that is as effective today as it was in 1960. It was the perfect ending. But unfortunately, Hitchcock made one of the strangest creative decisions of his career and concluded the film with a psychology lesson that dragged on for way too long. The twist itself was enough for audiences to understand what was wrong with Norman, no other explanation was needed. Let alone a five-minute lecture that broke down every point of Norman’s, or his mother’s, character.   

Lincoln

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

This Spielberg biopic was perfect in every sense of the word, depicting Lincoln’s presidency and his mission to abolish slavery. But the film failed at the last moment by over-dramatically portraying Lincoln’s assassination. While historically accurate, the ending weakened the tone and message of the film.   

Law Abiding Citizen

Photo Credit: Overture Films.

For most of the film Shelton (Gerard Butler) manages to outsmart his family’s murderers’ attorney Nice Rice (Jamie Foxx), only to be killed by Rice in the end. Watching Shelton, the film’s antihero, die at the hands of Rice undermined the film’s revenge narrative, and left a sour taste in our mouths when the film’s true villain is just let off the hook.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

In retrospect, filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence was always going to be controversial. The futuristic version of the Pinocchio story, infused with elements of science fiction and the more sinister parts of humanity, was placed on hold following Kubrick’s death in 1999, finally coming into the hands of Steven Spielberg. But just as the film’s gloomy conclusion approaches, an unexpected narrative twist occurs, propelling David (Haley Joel Osment) into the future. The film’s ending is torn between being emotional and sombre. And while it’s a thought-provoking finish, it deprives the story of its sorrow. 

The Dark Knight Rises

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Sometimes a happy ending fits perfectly within the tone of a film. But that isn’t the case with The Dark Knight Rises, with a light-hearted ending for a rather dark trilogy. We’re just going to say it, Bruce Wayne shouldn’t have survived the explosion. It’s difficult to argue that Bruce Wayne surviving a nuclear blast after supposedly sacrificing himself was a little over the top and contradicts the moralizing of Nolan’s trilogy.

The Descent

Photo Credit: Pathé Distribution.

If you’ve only watched the U.S. version, then you’ll know that The Descent is a heart-racing survival story that sees a lone final girl making it out of the cave alive. But in the original UK version, her survival is botched by a twisted cut-back scene that finds her back in the cave. While it’s sometimes refreshing to see an unhappy ending in the horror genre, this trick only made audiences angry. The film should have ended with her escape, making it a far more compelling survival story.

Promising Young Woman

Photo Credit: Focus Features.

For a film that was unremittingly dark, it ended on a rather lighter note that contradicted its main theme. A different take on the rape-revenge subgenre, the film follows Cassie (Carey Mulligan), a troubled young woman avenging her friend’s death by targeting the people who failed her. The problem? The film ended with the villains getting their comeuppance. While it was satisfying, it also went against the whole point of the film: that justice is rarely served.   

Split

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

This psychological horror is easily one of M. Night Shyamalan’s best. A grueling survival story that sees three girls fighting their mentally ill kidnapper, Split fell short in its last moments by introducing supernatural themes that failed to connect with the rest of the story. Instead, Split should have focused solely on its psychological elements, ending the film before its reveal that it was a sequel to Unbreakable. Surprising? Sure. But it also killed the tension of the film.  

Savages

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Savages presents a gritty and intense narrative, revolving around a drug trade and the moral ambiguity of its characters. This gritty drama ends with a fatal shootout, prompting the remaining survivor to overdose himself and his friends so they can die together. Only this bleak ending is ruined when it’s revealed that it was only a dream. Ending the film on the overdose scene would have been more fitting for the film’s already bleak and gritty undertones.  

Tusk

Photo Credit: A24.

For body-horror, Tusk was surprisingly amusing thanks to its humor and bizarre narrative. But the ending was too laughable to actually enjoy. Wallace’s (Justin Long) fate of being turned into a walrus was disturbing and somewhat bleak enough, and the film shouldn’t have ended with inspector LaPointe (Johnny Depp) wanting to put Wallace out of his misery. Instead, we finish on a much lighter and stranger note, with Wallace in a zoo, living out the remainder of his days as a walrus. A laughable conclusion to an otherwise disturbing film.

Inception

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

This mind-bending thriller from Christopher Nolan is as complex as it is enjoyable. And it could have been perfect if it wasn’t for its unambiguous ending. Instead, the film should have ended before the spinning top wobbled, maintaining its sense of ambiguity regarding Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) reality.

The Matrix

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Cliffhangers don’t always work, but it definitely would have in The Matrix. The film itself focused on choice and free will, but the ending contradicts this with Neo’s sacrifice. Instead, it should have ended on Neo’s phone call. Neo’s decision to confront the machines and negotiate for peace would have served as a powerful conclusion to his character arc, emphasizing the importance of individual agency and the possibility of redemption.

Legally Blonde

Photo Credit: MGM Distribution Co.

While the graduation scene serves as a celebratory and empowering conclusion to Elle’s journey, it didn’t add much depth to the film. Instead, ending the film when Elle wins her case and proves her legal wisdom in court, would have been a far more climactic conclusion emphasizing Elle’s personal growth.

Whiplash

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

The film’s ending sees Andrew (Miles Teller), a young and determined musician, performing a drum solo at a prestigious jazz competition. The film should have ended there, an electrifying scene that demonstrates Andrew’s dedication and talent. But instead, the film concludes with Andrew confronting his abusive mentor Terence (J.K. Simmons). Andrew’s final drum solo represents the culmination of his journey and would have been a far more satisfying ending to the film.  

Titanic

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

There’s no denying this biopic is a masterpiece, with the cleverly intertwined love story depicting the ship’s class systems. But the film falls short at the last moment when Rose not only reunites with her true love Jack, but also other fallen passengers of the RMS Titanic. While it is lovely to see the two star-crossed lovers back together, the scene was unnecessary. Instead, it should have ended with Rose’s death, a far more emotional scene as we see Rose’s promises to Jack lived out through the pictures next to her deathbed.

 

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Amy Watkins

Writer & Blogger

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