Everyone loves a happy ending. In certain movies, however, a happy ending means so much more than it does normally. If the main character, or one of the main characters, goes through an especially horrific ordeal, seeing them achieve happiness in the end can be outright cathartic.
This list will look at movie characters who are brutally tormented by their circumstances. All of them face physical hardship, psychological terror, and/or overwhelming odds. These are individuals who suffer mentally and emotionally. The odds are against them and the decks are not stacked in their favor. In spite of that, each of them perseveres and gets rewarded in the end with some long overdue happiness. If they feel relieved after surviving their misfortunes, so do audience members. It's virtually impossible not to breathe a sigh of relief when they finally get the good things they richly deserve.
Which of the following tormented characters gets the most well-deserved happy ending? Your votes will decide.
- Photo: Columbia Pictures
In The Shawshank Redemption, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) is wrongly sent to a notoriously brutal prison for two slayings he didn't commit. One victim was his wife, the other her lover. He starts the movie already dealing with the tragedy of losing a spouse and knowing that she was unfaithful. Things get worse from there.
Andy experiences some of the typical jail-related troubles, like being put in solitary confinement and living under the rule of a tyrannical warden. Other perils are more frightening, including repeated sexual assault by a group of especially nasty fellow prisoners known as "the Sisters." When a new inmate arrives with information that could acquit Andy, the warden refuses to do anything about it. It's no wonder Andy has been secretly digging an escape tunnel, hidden behind a poster of actor Rita Hayworth. That tunnel eventually leads Andy to freedom. We last see him on a beach in Mexico, where he's reunited with prison pal Red (Morgan Freeman), who's just been paroled.
The Shawshank Redemption is all about holding on to hope when everything seems hopeless. Andy never lets go of his hope, and it proves to be the very thing that gets him liberated from Shawshank Prison.Well-earned happy ending?
- Photo: 20th Century Fox
As played by Cary Elwes in The Princess Bride, Westley is a farmhand in love with Buttercup (Robin Wright), on whose farm he works, humbly. They run off together, only to be attacked by pirates. Westley is left for dead in the process. He miraculously returns, though, taking his true love on a wild adventure. They make their way through the perilous Fire Swamp, where he gets attacked and bitten by a rodent of unusual size.
After that, he's captured by Prince Humperdinck, who wants Buttercup for himself and consequently sends Westley to the dreaded Pit of Despair, where he is tortured until he's "mostly dead." Once revived by two folk healers who live deep in the woods, Westley makes his way to Humperdinck's castle to rescue his beloved. They escape together and the film ends with a triumphant kiss. Westley has survived a series of hazards and can now enjoy a happily ever after with the love of his life.
The Princess Bride strikes a chord because it's a story about how far one man will go to be with the woman who completes him. Westley could have said, "Forget it, I'm outta here," yet he never does. He perseveres through one hellish situation after another, and that determination pays off in the end.Well-earned happy ending?
- Photo: Miramax Films
Beatrix Kiddo, also known as "The Bride," endures one of the most horrific experiences imaginable in Kill Bill. It could practically only have come from the mind of Quentin Tarantino. On her wedding day, she's attacked by her former team, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (DVAS). They shoot the place up, leaving her for dead. It takes a few years for her to awaken from her coma. When she does, revenge is on her mind. She especially wants to know what happened to the child she was pregnant with on what was supposed to be the happiest day of her life.
Vengeance doesn't come easily, as the DVAS and their leader, Bill, are fierce warriors. The Bride gets in a knife fight with one of them and a sword fight with another, as well as single-handedly takes on 88 highly skilled fighters after that. That's just in Volume 1! In Volume 2, she gets shoved in a coffin and buried alive, and later discovers her daughter is living under Bill's roof.
The Kill Bill saga begins by taking everything away from the Bride, then allowing her to work her way back to a point of happiness. In the film's conclusion, she defeats Bill, taking custody of her little girl and setting off to begin a life with her. After everything she's been through, seeing the Bride reunited with her child brings an emotional catharsis.Well-earned happy ending?
- Photo: The Weinstein Company
Quentin Tarantino has a well-known tendency to exaggerate violence to the extreme, bordering on absurd levels. He kept that impulse in check for most of Django Unchained, making sure scenes depicting the atrocities of slavery were in no way glamorized. Kerry Washington plays Broomhilda von Shaft, the bride of hero Django (Jamie Foxx). After attempting to run away from her slave owner, she is painfully branded with the letter R. She also receives a whipping so severe that you can practically feel it as you watch.
Her troubles are just beginning. After being put up as the stakes in a card game, she gets whipped again by Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). He then puts her into a hot box, where she's subjected to unbearable heat and dehydration.
If there's anything even worse than her physical punishment, it's the emotional punishment of being separated from her husband. For that reason, it's gratifying to see her reunited with Django after enduring so much misery. He saves her, and they ride off together as free people.Well-earned happy ending?