15 Movies Where Everybody Loses In The End

List Rules
Vote up the movies that don't have a happy ending for anyone.

Everyone wants to see their favorite movie character come out on top, even if it’s an antihero, but some films deny their audience this satisfaction by dealing every character a losing hand. That doesn’t mean that everyone dies. In fact, in some movies, like Atonement and The Irishman, living into old age is more of a punishment for the main characters than an early death would be. 

Movies where everyone loses can be pretty bleak, but they are often fairer and more satisfying than movies with unearned happy endings. All of these films leave their characters in a worse place than where they started, but it’s up to you to decide which one is the most ruthless. Vote up the movies that don't have a happy ending for anyone.

Photo:

  • 1
    208 VOTES

    Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s breakout horror novel has an ending more chilling than the bloodbath that made it famous. Bullied teen Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) is mocked by her peers when she gets her first period at school, and her pent-up rage causes a lightbulb to shatter, hinting at telekinetic powers. At home, her religiously zealous mother (Piper Laurie) tells her that menstruation is a mark of sin and warns her not to go to prom, fearing sexual advances from her male peers. The prom turns disastrous for a different reason, however. When Carrie’s bullies dump pig’s blood on her, she loses control and destroys the building with her telekinetic powers, killing everyone inside. When she returns home, she and her mother have a violent confrontation that ends when Carrie crucifies her mother with flying knives and starts a fire that burns them alive. 

    Carrie is a gruesome movie, but at its heart, it’s a tragedy about an alienated teenage girl who is a victim of abuse at home and at school. Instead of empowering her, her supernatural abilities destroy her. She is both the victim and antagonist of the story. Like her changing body, she has no control over her powers except to cause devastation, and eventually chooses to self-destruct. But even in death, Carrie cannot rest. The final, terrifying shot shows a classmate visiting her grave. As the classmate stoops to lay flowers on the ground, a bloody hand reaches through the dirt and grips her arm. It’s a shocking twist suggesting that even Carrie’s attempt to end her suffering has not been entirely successful.

    Available On:

    subscription

  • 2
    116 VOTES

    The discovery of a bag containing over $4 million in cash is not the lucky break that it seems for Hank (Bill Paxton), his brother Jacob (Billy Bob Thornton), and their friend Lou (Brent Briscoe). They think the money is untraceable, but when an innocent bystander notices something suspicious, Hank kills him, setting off a chain of deadly efforts to keep their windfall a secret. The three men clash. Hank is a college graduate in a town where most people only make it through high school, and, under the guidance of his pregnant wife (Bridget Fonda), comes up with a meticulous plan to ensure they avoid suspicion. Jacob is uncomplicated and kind, but prone to reacting violently under pressure. Lou is the local drunk with a chip on his shoulder about Hank’s condescension and wants to split the money as quickly as possible. 

    The title of the movie is ironic. There is nothing simple about their plan. As Hank chooses to kill people to avoid detection, Lou is quickly taken out of the picture and Jacob’s conscience destroys him. When Hank is finally in the clear, he learns that the money was tagged and he’ll never be able to use it - and thus he has no choice but to burn it. Having killed innocent people for a bag of worthless paper, he's left with nothing but a tortured conscience and a wife who he now knows may have an even darker side than he does.

    Available On:

    subscription

  • Darren Aronofsky’s harrowing 2000 movie, Requiem for a Dream, is one of those films that most people would prefer never to see again. Following the deteriorating lives of four drug addicts, it hauntingly portrays the heady thrills and shattering consequences of addiction. Sara (Ellen Burstyn) is a middle-aged widow who begins taking amphetamines to lose weight for a television game show she hopes to appear in. Her son, Harry (Jared Leto), and his girlfriend Marion (Jennifer Connelly) are heroin addicts who hope to open a clothing store showcasing Marion’s designs. Harry’s friend, Tyrone (Marlon Wayans) is also an addict, and the two men sell drugs to break free from their desperate lives. The plot follows the four characters as they enable each other while also finding comfort and recognition. Though they all imagine better lives and try to drag themselves out of darkness, none of them escape. 

    Marion and Harry’s relationship breaks down when he pushes her into prostitution to fund their next score, and she begins working for a pimp who forces her into dehumanizing sexual acts. Harry and Tyrone are arrested when they go to the hospital to treat Harry’s arm which is decaying from heroin injections. The arm is amputated in prison. Sara is committed to a mental institution where she refuses food and medication. The final sequence of the movie is infamously devastating. Alone, all four characters curl into the fetal position. Marion lies surrounded by crumpled drawings of her clothing designs, clinging to a bag of heroin. Harry sobs in his hospital bed. Tyrone lies in his prison cell after suffering painful withdrawal symptoms and racial abuse from the guards. And Sara lies catatonic in the mental institution, hallucinating an alternate world in which she is a contestant on the TV show with Harry and Marion, engaged and healthy, in the audience. Few movie endings reach this level of emotional trauma, for the characters or the audience. 

    Available On:

    subscription

    free

  • 4
    97 VOTES

    Christopher Nolan’s 2009 mystery follows the rivalry between two magicians in 1890s London who spend years bitterly sabotaging each other’s performances. Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) and Robert Angier (Hugh Jackman) devise increasingly daring tricks to outdo each other, and when Borden presents a new performance in which he appears to invisibly transport from one side of the stage to the other, Angier is determined to create his own version, whatever the cost. The machine he uses is a cloning device, and he must kill every double he creates. But even this extreme dedication to his craft pales in comparison to his rival’s. Borden, it turns out, was never a single man, but a pair of identical twins whose obsession drove them to lead a single, tortured life in pursuit of their craft.

    Despite their success, neither Angier nor the Bordens can survive the rivalry. The darkness they embrace to compete with one another destroys them all. One of the twins is framed and executed for the murder of Angier’s first clone, and Angier is eventually killed in retaliation by the surviving Borden brother, Alfred. Even though he physically survives, Alfred is a broken man. Of the two brothers, he had been a dedicated family man, but deceived his wife to ensure the success of his double act. Not knowing that her husband was two separate people, his wife was so tormented by the inconsistency of the man she loved that she eventually committed suicide. Alfred remains alive, but can never bring back his beloved wife or the brother who was the key to his professional success.

    Available On:

    subscription