15 Controversial Horror Movie Endings That Fans STILL Argue About

Voting Rules
Vote up the movie endings you're still fighting with friends about.

Endings are hard. Ask just about any storyteller, and they'll tell you that few things are more challenging than sticking the landing. That goes double with horror movies, which often build to a crescendo that has to both one-up what came before and also tie up everything in an adequately satisfying knot - plus often set us up for a potential sequel. That might be why so many horror movies have controversial endings.

Sometimes, it's a case of the film maybe going too far - or not far enough. Other times, it might be that the setup for a sequel was handled inelegantly, it might be a twist that proved divisive, or it might just be that the ending was bad. Whatever the case, these are some of the horror movie endings we love to argue about, so vote up the ones you're still debating about with your horror-loving friends.

Photo: Paramount Pictures / Artisan Entertainment

  • 1
    433 VOTES

    It's not (remotely) unusual for a movie to change the ending when adapting a book to the big screen, but it's almost always controversial when it happens. Such is definitely the case with Frank Darabont's 2007 adaptation of Stephen King's 1980 novella The Mist. Both the film and story concern a group of people trapped in a grocery store by the eponymous mist and, more to the point, the creatures that dwell within it. However, while the novella ends with the survivors eventually fleeing into the mist and driving away into an uncertain future, the end of the movie is much more brutal - and significantly more depressing.

    While the survivors do still flee the grocery store, they eventually run out of gas. Rather than be taken by the creatures that live in the mist, one of the survivors shoots the other four - including his own son - with his last four bullets, before stepping out to perish in the mist himself. That would be devastating enough, but it is in that moment that the mist begins to part, revealing an armored convoy that has come to rescue them, showing that he has done what he did for nothing.

    Some people hated this absolutely brutal ending, while others saw it as the definitive apotheosis of the film's indictment of the fear-mongering rhetoric that had gripped America in the wake of 9/11.

    • Released: 2007
    • Directed by: Frank Darabont
    433 votes

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  • 2
    321 VOTES

    Most of the time, when people are still arguing about an ending years later, they're arguing about whether it's good or not, whether it works or not. Such is not the case with John Carpenter's 1982 classic. While The Thing wasn't always as beloved as it deserves to be, recent years have been kinder to it, delivering near-universal accolades to a film too long overlooked. Which means that these days, most people also like the ending. After spending the entire movie trying to figure out who among them is the shapeshifting alien of the title, the film ends with only two characters left, Kurt Russell's MacReady and Keith David's Childs. 

    With the shelter destroyed, the two will likely perish from exposure soon, and having been separated during the preceding action, they (and the audience) have no way of knowing which, if either of them, is the Thing. "If we've got any surprises for each other, I don't think either one of us is in much shape to do anything about it," MacReady says as they sit in the cold and wait, and that's where the movie ends. What has kept people talking, debating, arguing, and dissecting the ending for so long is the very ambiguity of it - because we don't know, we just keep re-litigating it over and over again.

    • Released: 1982
    • Directed by: John Carpenter
    321 votes

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  • 3
    223 VOTES

    Some movies spoil the ending by not explaining enough, while some wreck it by explaining too much. Such is the case, at least as far as some people are concerned, with Alfred Hitchcock's 1960 classic, Psycho. While it is widely regarded as one of the greatest horror films ever made, there is one part of Psycho that's not so popular: the ending. We're not talking about the shocking reveal, when we first see that Norman Bates's mother is not, in fact, still alive and committing atrocities, but rather that she's been mummified all this time, and that it's him committing the crimes, dressed as her.

    No, we're talking about what comes after that - when a psychiatrist painstakingly walks us through the specifics of Norman's psychosis. For some people, the shock ending was plenty, and the explain-y ending felt tacked on and took all the wind out of what was, otherwise, a basically perfect film.

    • Released: 1960
    • Directed by: Alfred Hitchcock
    223 votes

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  • 4
    301 VOTES

    Movies that make kids their villains have been plagued by dodgy endings since the earliest days. After all, slaying a child is a rarely broken screen taboo, so how do you handle having a pint-sized perpetrator? Plenty of movies have found their way around it - or simply embraced it - but few have ever done so quite as memorably as in this 2009 thriller.

    Starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Vera Farmiga, and Peter Sarsgaard, Orphan follows a family who adopts a young girl from an orphanage to join their other two children - only to find that Esther is much more sinister than she initially appears. Even before it was released, Orphan was generating controversy, with adoption advocacy groups unhappy that the film might make prospective adopters more hesitant. Once it hit screens, the film's ending probably didn't help.

    Not only is it revealed that Esther isn't the nice kid she appears to be - it's revealed she isn't a kid at all. She's a 33-year-old woman suffering from hypopituitarism, which causes her to still look like a child. She has also slain at least seven people, including the last family that adopted her.

    • Released: 2009
    • Directed by: Jaume Collet-Serra
    301 votes

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  • Love it or hate it, it's hard to argue that The Blair Witch Project wasn't responsible for a huge change in how horror films got made, ushering in more than a decade of popularity for found-footage flicks that sought to emulate its cinema verite style. That doesn't mean that the movie was universally beloved, though. Many people took exception to, well, lots of things about the picture, from the shaky camera work to the central performances. One thing that particularly divided audiences was the ending, which sees the remaining characters entering a house where children's handprints cover the walls. As the last of our remaining protagonists enters the room, she sees her friend standing in the corner, facing the wall. Then an unseen force seems to attack her, and the footage ends.

    For some, the ending was haunting and terrifying - for others, it was a big nothing. However you feel about it, the ending definitely proved divisive, even among fans of the film.

    • Released: 1999
    • Directed by: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sánchez
    296 votes

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  • 6
    205 VOTES

    Hoo boy. There are controversial endings, and then there's Sleepaway Camp, the infamous 1983 slasher whose twist ending is perhaps more notorious than the film itself. For most of its running time, Sleepaway Camp is a by-the-numbers slasher flick, complete with the summer camp setting made popular by precursors like Friday the 13th and The Burning. It's not until almost literally the film's final frame that the controversial twist occurs.

    For most of the movie, Angela has been our protagonist, with the film setting her up to be what we would now call the "final girl." In that last frame, she's revealed to be something else - the slasher. But that's not the controversy. The controversy comes when Angela stands up and is revealed to have male anatomy. It turns out that Angela is actually Peter, the survivor of a boating accident who was raised as a girl, in a reveal that has been widely (almost universally) criticized as "deeply transmisogynistic."

    • Released: 1983
    • Directed by: Robert Hiltzik
    205 votes

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