Movie Endings that Have Us Scratching Our Heads

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

As far as the entertainment medium goes, movies rank right up with little or no competition. Everyone loves great characters and plot. A movie can start out with terrific three-dimensional actors and a unique, awe-inspiring premise. Yet when it comes to the third act before the curtain call, some movies can blow our minds, albeit not in a good way. Some movies just leave us stone-cold, confused, and disenchanted.

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

A.I., a movie directed by Steven Spielberg, started off well enough by introducing us to the boy robot, David, who is on a quest to find the “Blue Fairy”, which is a key plot device that might restore him to his mother (who gave him up) and grant his wish to be a real human boy. David does finally catch up to the Blue Fairy, but it is only by accident when he falls from a structure and lands in the ocean. He then sinks to the bottom and comes to rest in full view of Blue Fairy.

Had the movie ended at this point, it would have used the bitter-sweet trope and would have sufficed. Instead, there comes a bizarre sequence in where we are transported to a far-off future to see that advanced robot aliens have rescued David from his watery grave and restored him to functionality. As though reading the boy’s mind, the aliens clone a duplicate mother for David from a strand of hair that was kept by the boy’s toy robot, Teddy. David is given one day to experience the love and companionship of his mother before she ultimately dies, with him following her shortly after. The tack-on ending, meant to draw draws tears, succeeded in drawing a lot of blanks from the audience.

Layer Cake

Layer Cake, starring Daniel Craig and directed by Matthew Vaughn, is an admittedly hilarious British crime film that instilled a lighthearted tone and atmosphere for the majority of its running time. In stark contrast, the ending, meant to throttle the viewer like a taser hit, has the star (Craig) mercilessly shot and killed.

Any enjoyment of the movie’s delightful romp up until the death blow is lost on the incomprehensible and needless demise of the MC, which the movie goes to great lengths to develop. Just as the movie had no mercy on its main character, it also had no mercy on the invested audience, ripping them from their comfort zone.

Signs

Signs is an alien invasion story starring Mel Gibson that borrows from the crop circle trope but never really explores it, at least like Contact did with the radio telescope. When this movie finally gets around to the alien confrontation we find that these advanced, super-intelligent space beings capable of interstellar flight, not only run around naked and unarmed, but they are incapable of unlocking doors and have a deathly aversion to water–to water, the life-giving solvent of the universe.

It seems all that it takes to repel one is a home-run hitting baseball swing with a Louisville slugger. Or was it actually the faith of the dormant priest in Mel Gibson that felled the enemy? The movie was not only implausible, but too convenient an ending to wrap up this bigger than life plot.

Chasing Amy

Chasing Amy, a Kevin Smith romantic comedy, is a fun, non-stop laugh fest about discovering one’s identity. It’s pretty deep, given all the witty dialogue, the irony and seriously deep human emotion. Ben Afflick’s character, Holden, has issues and personality turmoil that really reach down to gut level, drawing empathy and understanding.

We really start to feel for this guy and wonder what kind of a new leaf he intends to turn over to set everything right. At the end, and out of nowhere, he blows all ballast from his deep philosophical meanderings to the surface and end up in very shallow waters.

He proposes that the answer to his emotional turmoil is to have a three-way with Jason Lee’s character, Banky, and Joey Adam’s Lauren. That’s right, love solves everything. Only it did not love really, but plain old carnal lust that puts everything life-worthy back into perspective. The movie was like eating steak for dinner then having jelly beans for dessert.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail

It’s probably one of the funniest movies ever made and it takes the audience right along with Arthur’s quest in search of, you guessed it, the Holy Grail.

However, Arthur never gets to fulfill his quest and win the prize as would be expected or surely anticipated. The final scene takes an abrupt and staggering departure out of left field when cops, who had parts in a previous scene within the film, bust in on the actors and arrest them.

It has the subtlety of a tornado in a trailer park, leaving the audience with a huh what? It appears that they had no ending in the script and flipped a coin for the lamest cop-out they could invent.

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13 Comments

  1. Nintenjoe82

    April 24, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Layer Cake’s was in no way a confusing ending. It was the scourge of modern British cinema in action, the ‘Carlito’s Way rip-off ending’ also seen in London Boulevard. It’s also standard practice in these films to have a ‘Benny Blanco getting belittled’ scene early on to absolutely ensure everyone knows it’s coming.

  2. ferryman

    May 12, 2013 at 8:47 pm

    Regarding Signs: “too convenient an ending to wrap up this bigger than life plot.”
    You really weren’t paying attention, were you? Your criticism is the exact point of the whole movie.

  3. Carley Scott

    May 18, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    Re: Holy Grail: yes, “cop-out” was the pun. That’s why they got *out* of the film using *cops.* Python loves these visual puns, and it did come about because they were out of time to write and spent a few minutes giggling over “cop-out” before someone came up with the ending we saw.

  4. John Smith

    May 27, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Holy Grail makes perfect sense. Early in the movie, the famous historian was beheaded by a knight on horseback. Note the fleeting scenes of police scattered throughout the rest of the movie, in a murder investigation that reaches its conclusion when Arthur and Friends are arrested.

  5. Matt

    June 19, 2013 at 2:09 am

    Layer Cake’s ending is genius, Daniel Craig’s character becomes another meaningless, nameless person killed for no reason. In the themes of the movie, it makes perfect sense.

  6. GoToFilmSchool

    June 27, 2013 at 4:22 am

    Monty Python’s QFHG has one of the best endings ever. Only an idiot would call it “lame.” So much thought and development went into it. You fail as a critic.

  7. Tad

    June 28, 2013 at 4:49 am

    And you write so intelligently too…

  8. Chase

    August 13, 2013 at 11:57 am

    Did you watch Chasing Amy’s ending or just quit when Holden offered the three some? He gets shot down by everyone and is left alone, because he hasn’t shown emotional growth or understanding. He could have had his girl and his friend had he just accepted who he is.

  9. jam man

    August 16, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    This article is terribly written.

  10. Bill

    September 12, 2013 at 2:33 am

    A.I. is the only film I would even remotely agree with. If you were confused by the endings of the remaining four films I truly hope you parents held you back a year or two.

  11. Ryan Hibbett

    October 16, 2013 at 12:27 am

    Actually you should do your research before writing an article. It is well known that they had a huge ending planned out for Holy Grail, but they ran out of money. What you see on the screen is a gag that they decided to do since they could not shoot what was originally written.

  12. Richard H

    October 29, 2013 at 8:36 am

    Yes, Holy Grail feels like a (literal, as someone has pointed out) cop out first time around, and Python often ended sketches in the TV series by having police turn up and arrest everyone because they couldn’t think of an ending. But… you could also see it as part of the way that the film deliberately sets up these medieval myths that still inspired people with ideals of chivalry and the like right up to the early 20th century, and then plonks them into a modern context to make you realise how ludicrous they are in today’s world. The peasant who argues politics with the King, Galahad realising that medieval abstinence is just no fun, all make a similar point, and having Launcelot’s chivalric ‘idiom’ revealed for the murderous thuggery that it really was all along actually does, to my mind, top things off nicely.

  13. Just me

    December 2, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    Wait.., “No Country for Old Men” didn’t make this list? Great movie, WTF for an ending…

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