Top Five Shows or Movies with Terrible Endings

Top Five is a show where the hosts categorize, rank, compare, and stratify everything… from cars to gadgets to people and movies. From stuff that is hot, and things that are not nearly as interesting – it’s Top Five.

Sometimes a show or movie has a fantastic ending that sticks with you for weeks or decades. Then there are some that have terrible endings.

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About Author

Stephen Schleicher began his career writing for the Digital Media Online community of sites, including Digital Producer and Creative Mac covering all aspects of the digital content creation industry. He then moved on to consumer technology, and began the Coolness Roundup podcast. A writing fool, Stephen has freelanced for Sci-Fi Channel's Technology Blog, and Gizmodo. Still longing for the good ol' days, Stephen launched Major Spoilers in July 2006, because he is a glutton for punishment. You can follow him on Twitter @MajorSpoilers and tell him your darkest secrets...


  1. Do you guys ever think about making your lists available on the site? There are times when I pause the podcast to write down stuff from your lists.

  2. Great episode guys!

    Totally agree with those choices.

    Mine would be:
    5. Pretty in Pink – Same reasons as Matthew
    4. The Village – Same reasons as everyone in the world.
    3. Lord of the Rings – Same reasons as Zach.

    Now, the ones I really hate:

    2. Ring 0 – The Japanese prequel to The Ring has a heartbreaking moment at the end where (SPOILERS) Sadako is in the well trying to get out and suddenly flashes back to a happy moment with her boyfriend and it feels like, “OK, she’s dead and maybe this is the afterlife or something,” But then it cuts back to her in the well… I mean sure, we know she becomes a murdering spirit or something, but that hopeful fake out was mean.

    1. Pay it Forward – Ugh. A movie about how maybe it would be cool to be nice to people for a change and then Haley Joel Osment tries to protect his friend, gets stuck with a pocketknife and dies. Why? It doesn’t add more meaning to the story. It’s just an excuse to try to make a Jesus metaphor. So terrible.


  3. I don’t have a whole list, but there’s one show that consistently botches endings, and it kills me, because I love it, and that’s 24.

    It gets harder and harder to suspend disbelief when Jack Bauer never fails to outsmart scores of criminal masterminds, hundreds of thousands of law enforcement officers bent on capturing him, and everyone else in creation. He escapes custody a zillion times, literally walks out of a trial where he’ll probably be convicted for treason, survives TORTURE IN A BLEEPING CHINESE PRISON, etc.

    I understand the desires of the creators and Fox to keep the property alive, but I’m long past the point where the “no, seriously, THIS TIME Jack’s disappearing and never coming back” ending is grating. You’ll always be able to wring some cash and some ratings out of 24, and that’s fine, but the show’s creators need to kill Jack off.

    And for all the complaining I do, I watched the epilogue trailer from Live Another Day on YouTube, where Tony asks to be let back in to general population, and what do I think? “Yeah, that would be cool.”

  4. Yo Stephen! About ‘Snowpiercer’ – I’ve heard you call the girl a drug addict a few times now, and you must have missed something. She isn’t and neither is the scientist dad. At a point in the movie he explains that they aren’t high, but they collect the stuff because it’s explosive.

  5. The ending of Weeds completely frustrated me. SPOILER ALERT!!!

    So Nancy Botwin, the main character, makes a ton of horrid decisions throughout the show. Through some weird circumstance she usually gets out of the trouble. I would be fine with her being a completely irresponsible pot dealer if she didn’t have kids. She completely ruins her kids by her continued selfishness. The last two seasons show them to be somewhat broken people, especially her youngest son.

    Nancy gets NO punishment. None! Nothing permanently bad happens to her. She does get shot in the second to last season, but turns out to be A-OK. As a consequence, there is absolutely no character development. Nancy is basically the same selfish character that she started out as, except she made a pile of money from selling pot. They even had her become rich from a chain of pot cafes when pot becomes legalized everywhere in the show universe. Tainted the whole show!!!

  6. Re: Return of the King
    The extended ending is actually a product of the book and Tolkien’s belief system. The “end” of the book is about halfway through the last book and the rest is denouement. A lot of it stems from Tolkien’s Christian beliefs. If you look at the ring as an allegory for sin and bondage to sin, the movie is then about a struggle against sin and evil. In the Christian worldview, the fight against sin is finished (in the work of Jesus Christ), but the effects of sin are still present. Much of the denouement is exploring this idea that though sin has been defeated, its effects are still present. The Shire in particular is no longer innocent and unstained, but has been tainted by the evil that Sauron perpetuated.

  7. Nathan Lueth Illustration on

    I’m no M. Night Shyamalan apologist. Like Rodrigo, I will never forgive him for The Last AirBender. That said, I will stand by Signs and feel that it has been unfairly maligned for it’s use of water as a metaphor. I stumbled across this review/analysis that totally justifies it, so I humbly submit it for your perusal

    I totally understand that Top Five is completely subjective and all about personal preference, so I apologize if I sound like “that guy”. Keep up the good work!

  8. 5. How I Met Your Mother – The final episode of an otherwise pretty decent sitcom kind of makes the whole thing unravel. It was supposed to be a clever plot twist, but came off as cheap emotional manipulation.

    4. A.I. Artificail Intelligence – A movie that has a great ending right before a terrible ending. The futuristic A.I.s that arrive at the end to erase the tragic, and sad ending take this from a really good film, to one I actively despise.

    3. Battlestar Galactica – A show that promised us the Cylons had a plan right in the opening credits of every episode. It was hinted that this plan would be revealed, but Ronald D. Moore didn’t know what that plan was, even as he ran the show. BSG began to unravel long before its conclusion, and by the end I barely cared. The finale had the characters making some fairly dumb decisions, that soured the whole thing for me. And like Lost, I can’t even go back and watch the really great episodes of the show form early seasons, because I know how it falls apart later.

    2. The X-Files – Confession time. I’ve never actually seen the X-Files final episode. Another deep mythology show that I loved, that really falls apart in the final seasons. By the last handful of episodes, I’d given up. I can’t stand any of the mythology episodes now, and really enjoy the stand alone monster of the week episodes.

    1. Lost – The show was really great at answering questions with more questions. Unfortunately the series finale ended with the question What the F? I think there were a thousand explanations better than what we got. It was so disappointing because the show presented some really great character pieces and was so well done for so long, that at the end the letdown was massive.

    In the final analysis, if you’re producing a show with a sprawling world and deep mythology, you better effing know how you’re going to wrap it up, because otherwise you’re just going to come off as a bad improv comic, trying to do drama. I’ve been burned on these shows one too many times, and if your premiere episode promises a season’s long mystery screaming to be solved I probably won’t be back for episode two. Knock it off.

  9. I am Legend might be one of those stories that defies adaptation. When you read those final couple pages… such powerful stuff. I wouldn’t stick the Fresh Prince in there because I just think as a film the movie fails on every level.

    I thought the increased horror of the Mist’s ending made it much better, really disagree with Matthew’s view on it. We have this unknown horror the characters are sunk into and the movie has a consistent theme of hope dying little by little despite good intentions and “heroic” efforts. That was definitely an awful end that sticks with me.

    Snow Piercer was a mediocre movie so I wouldn’t rank a bad ending high up there.

    Seinfeld – a show about nothing ends with a nothing ending. What saves it a bit is Larry David riffing on it in Curb.

    Superman – Time travel backward flying ruins what is otherwise the best Superman movie ever made and imo probably the best super hero movie until relatively recent times

    The Birds – driving through calm birds… it’s almost like Hitchcock couldn’t think of an ending.

    The Abyss – maybe I’m the only person in history to love 95% of this movie but up until the cheesy gentle alien ending it was such a thrilling movie.

    Return of the Jedi – I am a Gen xer and for us Star Wars is very, very, very… too important. After the excitement of Star Wars, the Holy Crap did you See that? Empire we got the greatest power in the universe being taken down by some teddy bears.

  10. I just finished listening to the show. There IS an alternate ending to Scott Pilgrim where he does get together with Knives. It is on Youtube. I do believe this is the ending you were looking for Rodrigo.

  11. nobody mentioned “Back to the Future Part III”?
    the whole flying train part made me facepalm when i saw it in theaters. for such a cleverly written trilogy to end on such a stupid note…

    also: “Taxi Driver”
    after he points the finger to his head the cop should have shot him. the end.

    one ending i absolutely loathed when it came out but have come to consider perfect in the meantime is the ending to “Twin Peaks”.
    made me furious for several days but now i like it.

  12. Here are my five – I only include 1TV shows because most shows are simply cancelled with no final episode:
    5: – MASH – this was one of the first TV shows to actually film a final episode, and it was a great event which was watched by millions. We actually gathered a circle of friends and had a sort of farewell party to watch the last episode. But… after seven years of watching Hawkeye’s hijinks and humor, what we got was a downer of an episode where Hawkeye ends up in a mental hospital because a carefless statement of his caused a Korean woman to smother her own baby to keep the North Koreans from finding their hidden bus. Such a downer to end a great series.
    4: 2010 – I’ve already ranted about all the terrible diversions of the movie from the book, but the ending was an utter let down because they marred it with the quasi-God message telling mankind to be good or else which wasn’t in the book!
    3: This will probably get me lynched, but the ending of the original version of Return of the Jedi with the dancing Ewoks was terrible! Lucas forgot entirely who is audience was. The extended edition on Laser Disc, which instead cut to celebrations on various planets, with statues of the emporer being torn down was much better. But that, too, has been excised for a revised version of the Ewok Dance. Yuck!!!
    2: This one will have the Geeks gathering to burn my corpse. The Empire Strikes Back had the worst ending of any Star Wars movie. It ends right in the middle with no resolution, and without even a cliff-hanger ending, which is dreadful considering that Lucas’ inspiration was Saturday Morning Serials, which all ended with cliffhangers. Fah!!!
    1: The Golden Compass. I like this movie, but they cut 20 minutes from the end of the film in order to use it as the beginning for the sequel, which was never made. Yet even on the DVD they did not included the unused footage among the deleted scenes.


    As soon as I read the title for this episode I knew you were going to put Lost on your list and it annoys me so much!! Why, do you ask? Well, it’s not just because I liked the ending, but because you have admitted in several opportunities that you didn’t watch the whole show! I can tolerate, and even have a nice discussion with someone that saw the whole thing and disliked the ending, but I refuse to accept the opinion of someone that didn’t watch it as a valid one. So, I’m sorry Mr. Schleicher but I won’t accept your criticism on a series you didn’t watch. In addition to that, I will continue to virtually slap you or anyone else that says that “they were dead the whole time” because that’s not true.

    Now that I’ve taken that out of my system, I only can agree with Zach’s number one. “The happening” is the movie with the most stupid ending that I’ve ever watched. And from recent times, I watched the latest “Saint Seiya” movie a couple of weeks ago and it also had a terrible ending. I still think that they lost the original “footage” for the ending of the movie and they replaced it with one from an entire different property. It was that bad.

    • If you listen to the show, you will know I didn’t say “they were dead the whole time” but rather – because none of the big questions were answered. Big difference there. Thanks for your comments.

  14. Sam(DiploRaptor on

    I decided to go back and for each Top 5 that I have not given a response to I decided to include one. After listening to them again.

    #5 : The Village : I actually walked out on this film the first time 40 minutes in. I watched it some point later after seeing Scary Movie do that joke with it, when I realized that the scary movie spiff was actually right on what was going on I walked away.

    #4 : How I Met Your Mother : This show sets up a great relationship between some characters and then in the last season and heck episodes dashes it in laughing.

    #3 : The Ending to the Most Recent Season of Elementary : Say what you want… this ending makes me not want to defend the series anymore

    #2 : Insidious : Was not clever, was not good was not anything, and the ending was lame

    #1 : The Last Exorcism : This movie is amazing, I do not hate it for most of the ending, I hate the sequel batting at the very end and the found footage aspect because it falls apart when looked at. Which I think is a huge failing in how you end a film that involves the found footage genre.

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