Not every film is going to be a home run at the box office, with critics, or heck, even both. But that doesn’t mean they still can’t smack us upside the head with a bona fide “Oh my God, I can’t believe they had the guts to do that!” ending. Here are a few examples from recent years.
WARNING: this is a one-way ticket to Spoilerville, amigo.
Naturally, you knew an M. Night Shaymalan flick would end up on this list. The Village isn’t Night’s worst outing (The Happening or The Last Airbender, anyone?), but it ain’t exactly Signs or The Sixth Sense either.
The gist: Residents of a 19th century-looking village live in constant fear of nameless, murderous monsters that scour its walled perimeter, preventing them from ever leaving.
The twist: Turns out there were no monsters. In a plot device that would make the Scooby Doo gang proud, the village elders actually staged all the creepiness in an attempt to keep the younger folk from skipping town. Why? Well, here’s the kicker: the ending reveals that outside the town’s walls is modern civilization. That’s right, present day, y’all! Oh, Night — you and your kwazy twists!
From The Shawshank Redemption to The Green Mile, Frank Darabont’s created his share of top-notch cinema. The Mist? Ehh, not so much. Sure, the film’s got a handful of thrills and spills, but don’t expect it to be making one of those American Film Institute ‘Top 100’ lists anytime soon. That said, the ending packs a definite wallop.
The Mist gist: After a freak storm hits a small American town, several residents hole up in a supermarket to ward off a barrage of bloodthirsty creatures.
The Mist twist: Assuming these nasty monsters have taken over the world, our good guy (played by Thomas Jane) shoots his group’s four remaining survivors — including his son! You know, as an act of mercy. About a minute later, the mist clears and the military shows up to rescue them. Uh, rescue him, I should say. Awkwarrrrrrd.
As if prophesied by its own title, The Forgotten was quickly forgotten after hitting theatres in 2004. Which is somewhat surprising since its ending is grade-A Monday morning water cooler fodder.
The gist: Set up nicely as a psychological thriller, The Forgotten stars Julianne Moore as a woman grieving the death of her son, only to one day be told he never existed. Is she going crazy, or is there something far deeper and more sinister at play here?
The twist: Hey guess what? Aliens! Aliens did it! You know how sometimes aliens steal your kids and then erase your memories about them and replace those memories with other memories to throw you off the scent and then you’re never the wiser until eventually you figure it all out? Yeah, that’s totally what happens here.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
Of all the films in this franchise (four and counting), T3 generally gets the least buzz. With no Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, or even Christian Bale, it’s easy to figure out why. Ah, but unlike the other Terminator entries, this one has a final few minutes that’ll make your inner nihilist proud.
The gist: Still not having mastered that whole ‘kill John Connor’ thing, those dasdardly robots from the future send the latest terminator model — a sexy gal, natch — back in time to do the job.
The twist: Hey, remember how the second film in this franchise was called Terminator 2: Judgment Day? Well, that whole ‘Judgment Day’ thing was a big load of hooey. Everybody lives, blah blah blah. So although T3 ain’t a terrific film, it gets full points for finally pulling the trigger. The movie ends with John Connor and his gal-pal Kate trapped in a fallout shelter. Which is good news for them, since a truckload of cities ends up getting levelled by nuclear attacks. How’s that for a payoff, baby?
We all know what to expect with a mediocre Nicolas Cage action flick. A lot of running around, some eccentric tics, the occasional ‘splosion. It’s the time-tested formula we’ve grown to know and reluctantly accept. But sometimes the folks in Hollywood like to kick it up a notch. Not by writing a better script, mind you. But by slapping us with the mother of all crazy endings.
The gist: An astrophysics professor (yep, Nicolas Cage) realizes documents from a newly-unearthed time capsule successfully predicted a number of catastrophes over the past fifty years. And yikes, it seems the last prediction on the list may be about to come true.
The twist: Aliens! Aliens did it! You know how sometimes aliens steal your kids and then — okay, you get the idea. Point being, the end of the film sees a whole bunch of children taken from their homes, sent up into spacecrafts, and subsequently dropped off at an Eden-like planet across the galaxy. Why’d the little green men do it? Niceness, actually. You know, on account of the giant solar flare that ends up incinerating all life on Earth. Including Nicholas Cage, in case you’re wondering. Uh, thanks?