Endings are always hard.  Not just in the “can’t say goodbye to yesterday boo hoo hoo love song” sense, but also in the sense that a great story can still end with the giant squid exploding in NYC and undermining the whole narrative.  More difficult than the bad ending, though, is the happy ending, where everything turns out great.  Bill & Ted got two such endings: The first one works, the second one fails, for reasons that aren’t easy to understand.  (Especially since, in many ways, it’s the exact same scene each time.)  A story that chooses to undermine the happy ending can be even more effective than wrapping everything up with a big happy bow, as Dante Hicks correctly remarked, as it resembles real life more, leading to today’s bittersweet query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) has wondered for years whether the ending of ‘Doctor Horrible’ was a happy ending or not, and still can’t decide, asking: What’s your favorite tale that doesn’t have a happy ending?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Daniel Langsdale on

    Spitfire Grill. The ending is transformative, but not what I would call happy.

    Runner-ups include two Star Wars entries (Empire Strikes Back, Rogue One), and I’m curious as to whether you would consider The Black Hole to have a ‘happy’ ending.

  2. For a long time, Seven (or Se7en if you’re nasty) was the highwater mark. Ain’t nobody walking away from that one happy. The Stephen King adaptation that shall go unnamed is also a great recent one.

    It’s hard to think of a movie with a good downer ending without considering if its also a satisfying ending, and how much of that satisfaction is tied into our collective bias towards happy endings. Is a bittersweet ending that has a glimmer of hope like a Rogue One or Endgame more satisfying than an outright 100% bleak ending? Who knows, it’s very hot out

Leave A Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.