Yahoo! has a short video that lists one critic’s top ten worst movie endings of all time. Even if you haven’t seen all of these movies, you can detect the common thread. Basically, a bad movie ending comes out of nowhere that has nothing to do with the rest of the story, or the story sets up one ending, but the movie inexplicably changes into another direction.
In the Will Smith remake of “I Am Legend,” Will Smith plays a sole survivor searching for a cure while mutated creatures roam New York City. The movie, like the book, spends most of its time setting up the idea that the hero, as a human, is now considered the monster and the mutated creatures (because they’re in the majority) are now considered normal. Thus the title of the movie refers to the hero becoming a legend among the mutated creatures for being a freakish monster.
Although “I Am Legend” sets up the whole story for this revelation at the end, it inexplicably dumps this entire set up for a seemingly happy ending where Will Smith is still the hero and the mutated creatures are the monsters. That ending isn’t so bad, except when you realize the whole movie sets up the ending that Will Smith is actually the monster, so the ending doesn’t fit with the rest of the movie.
The remake “The War of the Worlds” suffers a different problem where the aliens conquer Earth, only to be killed by common germs. In good movies, the villain gets defeated by the hero’s actions, but in “War of the Worlds,” the hero does nothing to defeat the aliens. As a result, the story feels kind of pointless and empty.
By studying this list of bad movie endings, you can see what not to do, which is to end your movie with a conclusion that isn’t set up from the beginning. Imagine if Darth Vader suddenly died of a heart attack in “Star Wars,” allowing Luke to blow up the Death Star. Or what if the Death Star suddenly experienced a computer virus that caused the Death Star to crash into a planet with no action from Luke. That ending would be disappointing just like the top ten bad movie endings that Yahoo! points out.
By studying bad movie endings, you can see what not to do, so click here and see the bad movie endings so you can learn how to avoid making such a colossal mistake in your own screenplay.