The Most Upsetting Horror Movie Endings Of All Time

Over 1.6K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Most Upsetting Horror Movie Endings Of All Time
Voting Rules
Vote up the most upsetting endings that were the definition of horror.

The whole reason we watch horror movies is to be, you know, horrified. Even if it's just a little bit, like with a Tim Burton stop-motion musical or something. But while some scare flicks reward us for watching with endings that are cathartic and satisfying - with the baddies getting their comeuppance - others present us with finales that are so bleak and dismal that it's an emotional - almost physical - blow to the gut that’s too much to bear.

Vote up the disturbing horror movie endings that are so upsetting, you had to spend the following day watching nothing but cartoons and funny cat videos.

  • The Girl Next Door (not the 2004 rom-com about teens dating former adult entertainers) was based on a killing that actually happened, so you know going in that the conclusion isn’t going to be all bunnies and lollipops. Actually, it’s based on a novel (by Jack Ketchum) that’s based on a real-life case, so theoretically, you could hope for some fictional twist that provides some relief from the unsettling 1950s weirdness on the screen. The gist of the story is that a girl named Meg and her sister Susan, orphaned after a car wreck, are forced to go live with their bughouse-bonkers aunt (played by Blanche Baker), whose horrific behaviors (along with her three sons) would make a Disney stepmother cringe. 

    Aunt Ruth’s emotional torment gives way to the physical kind as her progeny treat Meg like a speedbag and finish things up with a little FGM (look it up if you must) for good measure. Meg’s trials seem like they might finally end in a late-night escape with the help of a sympathetic neighbor boy, but Meg succumbs to her accumulated suffering with her final words being, “It's what you do last that counts.” 

    672 votes
  • 2
    448 VOTES
    Photo: Wild Bunch

    "Controversial" and "polarizing" are but two words that are good for explaining Martyrs (others are "cruel," "sad," and “barf-tastic”), the extreme 2008 French film about how one might achieve physical transcendence through torment. The “martyrs” in this circumstance are people who are systematically subjected to horrendous acts, from garden-variety beatings to being skinned alive as if they got on the wrong side of Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones, all in the name of putting them into a state by which their tormentors may gain insights into the afterlife.

    The lead characters, Lucie and Anna, are two such martyrs who are under the control of “Mademoiselle,” the ringleader of the operation. After Lucie offs herself as a result of all the unceasing torment, one might hold out hope that Anna might make it through. You’d be totally wrong, though, as she gets the flaying treatment, goes catatonic, and starts whispering some “secrets” to her masters. Not even “Mademoiselle” gets satisfaction, as after she hears what Anna has to say, she promptly ends her own life. 

    448 votes

    Available On:


  • 3
    1,107 VOTES

    In the final act of the 2007 film adaptation of the Stephen King novella The Mist, our hero David Drayton manages to escape the supermarket he and members of his town barricaded themselves in after overcoming monsters both human and extradimensional. He and a few compatriots make their way through the parking lot to David’s trusty Land Cruiser, where assistant manager Ollie (the real superstar of the film) meets his end at the claws of one of the larger abominations.

    The crew creeps their way to the Drayton homestead, where David tragically finds his wife deceased and webbed-up on the front porch like a gruesome Halloween display. Mustering up the courage to carry on, he keeps driving his four passengers (somehow surviving an encounter with a Godzilla-sized Lovecraftian behemoth) but runs out of gas before finding the end of the mist. After making a nonverbal agreement with the three remaining adults while his son is sleeping, David uses his four remaining bullets to deliver what he thinks is mercy to everyone aside from himself.

    After an obligatory freakout, he exits the vehicle to offer himself up to the nearest unspeakable eldritch beast to end his suffering. But the approaching noise he hears isn’t a creature from the beyond, but a military convoy, armed to the teeth and delivering a fiery end to anything remotely unearthly, taking survivors to a safe zone as the mist begins to clear.

    While it may have been tempting, that particular moment may not have been best to subject David to a stern “never give up” lecture.

    1,107 votes

    Available On:


  • 4
    487 VOTES

    Before he was the wisecracking Merc with a Mouth in the Deadpool franchise (but slightly after bringing shame upon himself playing a farce of the character in X-Men Origins: Wolverine), Ryan Reynolds starred in a critically well-received psychological thriller about one of everyone’s most primal fears: being trapped underground.

    Appropriately titled Buried, the film is about the unfortunate plight of a military contractor in Iraq named Paul Conroy, who finds himself interred in a wooden coffin by terrorists who are looking for ransom money. He does have a lighter and flashlight down there with him (it would be a pretty boring movie if it was just 95 minutes of a black screen), along with a cell phone, knife, and some other sundry items. Sure, the State Department has a “we don’t negotiate with terrorists” policy, but surely an exception could be made for the future star of, um, R.I.P.D.?

    Tragically, nope. After various negotiations and desperate attempts, his rescue team winds up going to the wrong interment site, and Conroy must stoically accept his final, sandy destination as his air runs out. If it’s all too depressing, just watch him play a caveman in The Croods, and you’ll perk right up.

    487 votes

    Available On:

  • 5
    355 VOTES

    In 1997, Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke wrote and directed the psychological thriller Funny Games. Ten years later, he decided it wasn’t quite up to snuff, so he filmed it again, shot-for-shot, this time with more well-known actors like Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Kind of insulting if you were a part of the first one, but whatever.

    The plot revolves around a couple of affluent, white-glove-wearing young men named Peter and Paul, who have apparently decided to go on a pointless spree of torment with the aforementioned Roth and Watts as their current targets (along with their young son). After stopping by for the seemingly innocent request to borrow some eggs, the young men’s intentions become clear as they slay the family dog, take the family captive, and force them to engage in sadistic contests (now do you get the title?).

    It seems like the perfect setup to watch the smarmy, mealy-mouthed dillweeds get their comeuppance. But alas, the filmmakers seem to enjoy being just as sadistic to the audience as they are to their onscreen targets as Peter and Paul dispatch of Watts by casually chucking her off a boat to drown in order to win one of the “games.” Before the credits roll, the movie shows us why it got a review calling it “art-house [torment]” when the men visit a neighbor's house, ask for some eggs, then look at the camera with a sneer.

    355 votes

    Available On:


  • 6
    341 VOTES
    Goodnight Mommy
    Photo: RADiUS-TWC

    Unless you’re the type who enjoys Austrian horror movies with subtitles, you may have missed the 2012 exercise in psychological torment (for both the protagonist and the audience) called Goodnight Mommy. “Mommy,” in this story, is a woman who returns home to her nine-year-old twin boys covered in bandages after getting a facelift, and she starts acting weird.

    How weird? Not that much, really. But it’s enough to make the boys suspect she’s an imposter, and they tie her to her bed until she admits the truth. To keep her quiet, they seal her mouth shut with glue, then realize she can’t eat. So, they open her mouth back up with scissors in a scene that’s harder to watch than an educational series featuring Mark Wahlberg reading the collected works of Shakespeare.

    Sadly, there is no moment of clarity after which the family unit comes together in an “it was all a big, wacky mixup” moment. Instead, things get bizarre as “Mommy,” after getting glued again (this time, to the floor), reveals that only one of the twins is actually alive, that the other perished earlier in a mishap and is only a grief-created hallucination of the other, who is now mentally unstable from a condition called Capgras syndrome. In return for this information, the surviving twin, Elias, sets “Mommy” on fire and wanders away, into the loving embrace of his “real” mother. Who is apparently another hallucination. As a lesson on Capgras syndrome, the film is certainly effective. As a Mother’s Day gift, not so much.

    341 votes

    Available On: