All Bad Guys Must Die

What makes an ending emotionally satisfying is seeing all the bad guys get what they deserve. In action movies, this usually means all the villains die or get maimed such as in “Kill Bill.” In other types of movies, the villain gets humiliated along with getting their power reduced in the eyes of others such as in “Legally Blonde” where the ex-boyfriend doesn’t get a job (while the hero does) and the professor doesn’t get to sexually harass the hero because the hero’s victorious in the court room so the law professor no longer has any power over her.

What makes an ending disappointing is when one or more villains does something horrible and yet nothing happens to them in the end. Essentially, they get away with their crimes. In “Catching Fire,” the sequel to “The Hunger Games,” there’s a cruel commander who takes over the town where the hero lives and brutally whips the hero’s friend. Yet nothing happens to this commander.

Compare this to the original movie,  “The Hunger Games,” where every bad guy gets defeated somehow. The games master is locked in a room and encouraged to commit suicide for letting the hero live. The main villain, President Snow, also gets partially defeated when people side with the hero so the president’s power gets weakened. The other tributes in the Hunger Games, who are evil, get killed one by one. In the end, all the bad guys get punished somehow in “The Hunger Games” but the commander in “Catching Fire” does not, which makes “Catching Fire” a less emotionally satisfying movie.

“Blade Runner 2049” makes this same mistake. A blind man is the head of the corporation that makes androids and he threatens one of the characters (played by Harrison Ford) with massive pain if he doesn’t help him. Yet by the end of the movie, nothing happens to this blind man who’s selfish and cruel.

In “Big,” one bad guy opposes the hero but loses face when the hero questions his toy design in front of everyone. In “Die Hard,” all the bad guys get killed. In “Little Miss Sunshine,” there’s a mean pageant organizer who refuses to let the hero into the pageant because she’s a few minutes late. Later, this pageant organizer loses face when the hero and her family embarrass the whole pageant, and then she gets further embarrassed when the family van drives past her and breaks a parking gate as they drive past.

Think of every good movie and the bad guys all suffer. Make sure the bad guys in your screenplay get what they deserve whether it’s outright death or simply a reduction in their power. If you do this simple step, you’ll avoid creating a disappointing movie like “Blade Runner 2049″ or any other movie that ends with an emotionally unsatisfying ending.

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