Movies Where the Villains Win in the End
Written by: Max Powers
Don't you get tired of watching the good guys win? In the world of film, it seems like a happy ending is a foregone conclusion. Fortunately, there are a few movies that buck that trend. Below are a handful of the best movies in which the bad guys win.
The Empire Strikes Back
Featuring the greatest spoiler in movie history and an absolute series-best performance from everyone in Star Wars saga, this movie created the trend of having the villains win in the middle movie of the series. What makes this one work is that the arc works even on its own. Luke loses a hand, Han gets a great nap, and we meet Lando - and still, the bad guys win.
1984 is a classic novel that feels uncomfortably close to our modern world at times. When it was finally time to adapt the movie to film, there was probably a very reasonable desire to change the ending. Fortunately, the ending remained intact from the novels and that boot kept stomping on the human face forever. Definitely not a feel-good ending for anyone.
Hannibal always wins, right? It doesn't matter the movie - he's going to get away with it. The final scenes of Hannibal are even creepier than those of the preceding film, featuring our beloved serial killer sharing his meal with a little kid. The good news is that this ending is even less creepy than that in the book - and it also makes much more sense.
No Country for Old Men
Never has a coin toss been more intimidating than in this movie. No Country for Old Men is a dark and nihilistic movie, so having the protagonists lose is a given from the word go. It's amazing how it sets up all of the usual tropes for the good guys to overcome in the end but still doesn't pull the trigger. Even if you're fine with the existential dread brought by the losses in the movie, you have to admit that the survival of Chiurgh's haircut counts as a villain win here.
Fight Club is a terminally misunderstood movie. Even if you take all the philosophy out of it, you are still left with the fact that Tyler Durden is the winner for this one. No matter how you feel about his goals, watching those buildings come down is a sign that Project Mayhem won and that the rest of the world lost.
Featuring Jake Gyllenhaal at his absolutely creepiest, Nightcrawler is a dark and uncomfortable movie throughout. The only thing that makes the movie bearable on the first watch is the hope that his character will get his comeuppance by the end. Instead, the movie swerves hard by giving him everything he's ever wanted. It's a true win by a villain and the movie's better for it.
Good news - we know how World War II turned out. Unfortunately for the real-life protagonists of Valkyrie, that knowledge made the bad guys winning this one a foregone conclusion. If you didn't have a good grasp of history going into this one, you might have been blindsided by the idea of a Nazi who wasn't a total monster. It was probably even worse when you realized that his attempts to bring down Hitler wouldn't end well for him.
Remember how good the first Saw movie was? While you might remember all the blood and gore, you might have forgotten a simple fact - Jigsaw won in the first movie! It set the tone for a genre that is now affectionately known as a "torture porn" and helped to establish the idea that the bad guys would often get away with their shenanigans. In this case, of course, those shenanigans generally involved a lot of amputations.
The Wicker Man
The movie has been made twice and the bad guys win in both. If we're talking about great movies in which the bad guys win. Suitably creepy and engaging, there's really no way that the hero can win this one. If you look at the remake, you also get the depressing feeling that the bad guys were the filmmakers and the victims were anyone who paid to watch the movie.
The Usual Suspects
Shockingly, we bring this list to an end with Kevin Spacey. The Usual Suspects is one of those movies that is designed to keep you on the edge of your seat for the entire run-time, hoping that it can push you off in the final few seconds. The last minutes of the movie are absolutely chilling, with one of the better bad-guy exits in cinema. In retrospect, we should have all known that Spacey was the bad guy.
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