Tuesday, February 22, 2005


Some Of My Favorite Downer Endings In Film.

Continuing my earlier post, and relying on some great feedback, here are a few of my favorite "downer" endings-- endings that make the movie that preceded it significantly better in hindsight.

-- Fail Safe. One poster mentioned The Day After, but for me, the ending to Fail Safe is the quintissential nuclear downer ending (Threads and Testament ain't too cheerful, either).

BTW, my, uh, "favorite" nuclear war film is actually the made-for-HBO film By Dawn's Early Light. You can usually rent it; check it out sometime.

-- No Way Out. I *hated* this ending when I first saw the film; as a patriotic teenager, I couldn't fathom that I spent the entire movie rooting for a Russian spy. Today, it's one of my favorite thrillers.

-- The Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978 version). My impersonation of Donald Sutherland's scream at the end of the film never fails to get a laugh at parties.

-- Presumed Innocent. Like No Way Out, the ending to this movie only works once. Upon repeat viewing the film doesn't hold up, but I admit, I got suckered into it when I first saw it.

-- In The Bedrooom. I wanted to bleed out after watching this movie, but it ends the way it has to end. I felt that Sissy Spacek's "comeback" was overrated, but Tom Wilkinson is absolutely perfect in the film.

-- Reservoir Dogs. What a wonderful feel-good movie THAT was, huh?

-- The Ring. I agree with Sobek, I thought The Ring's ending was a perfect fit.

-- The Blair Witch Project. I know many people who absolutely *hate* this movie. However, it worked for me. I had trouble going into the basement of my apartment building for three, four days afterwards. Just. Not. Right.

-- The Unabrewer mentioned Memento. I'd agree except, really, isn't Memento's downer ending really it's *beginning*? ;-)

-- Das Boot. A good spot by Chris. You spend the entire film on the edge of your seat, rooting for the "bad guys," hoping they survive-- only to see them die at the very end of the film. Yup, war sucks. . . it sucks hard.

-- Seven. Credit to See-Dubya for this.

BTW, anyone know where I can get a prosthetic version of Gwyneth Paltrow's head? I've always wanted to mail a package with one to a friend for the holidays-- it'd make a great gift.

See-Dubya also mentions Blade Runner, albeit the original ending of the film. I hesitate to call it a downer ending-- it's more of an ambiguous ending. Although, with the original version, you don't have it hammered home that Deckard is a replicant, so the ambiguous ending makes it seem like a melancholy love story (Sean Young is going to die) rather than a tale of two doomed androids.

As for some other potential nominees, I resist assigning the downer ending to certain movies that still hold out some sort of hope in the end. For example, The Empire Strikes Back by far has the all-time greatest downer ending-- except it doesn't end there. You know there's still hope as Lando and Chewbacca fly away. Had the film ended with the Millenium Falcon going into hyperspace, I think it's downer credentials would be strengthened.

Likewise, Glory has a similar "half-downer" ending. Every character in the movie dies at the end. Still, it's difficult to avoid being uplifted in the perverse sense that the demonstration of courage and bravery in the face of impossible odds can achieve. A lot of movies are like this-- The Perfect Storm, and Braveheart come to mind.

That said, they ain't downer endings-- not in the fullest sense of the term.

"Electraglide in Blue"

Robert Blake, motorcycle cop, gets whacked by a shotgun after trying to return a punk's driver's license after a routine traffic stop.
"The Great Santini"

Still my favorite Robert Duvall role next to Col. Kilgore.
"Do the Right Thing"

"Arlington Road"

"Easy Rider"

"Terminator 3"
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