Donnie Darko (2001)
The Unhappy Ending: After finally deciphering the nature of the time-loop within which he is trapped, Donnie opts to sacrifice himself in order to smooth out a kink in the space-time continuum.
Bleak Implications: Not only does poor Donnie meet an untimely end, but Patrick Swayze’s paedophile presumably remains under the radar!
Reasons To Be Cheerful: The universe is saved from collapsing in on itself. And Mad World is rather beautiful, isn’t it?
No Country For Old Men (2007)
The Unhappy Ending: Having already chased Josh Brolin to a bloody death off-screen, Javier Bardem proceeds to kill his wife, who has just returned from her mother’s funeral. Bemused and frightened by the trail of violence he has witnessed, poor Tommy Lee Jones is left a broken man, his worldview shattered alongside his faith in humanity.
Bleak Implications: The world has always been a violent, nihilistic place and what’s more, it always will be.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least Bardem refrains from killing the two young boys who assist him after his car crash.
The Unhappy Ending: After the seemingly triumphant ending which sees Cinque and his fellow captives returning to Africa as free men, a passage of text appears on the screen revealing that Cinque returned home to discover his entire tribe had been captured by slavers.
Bleak Implications: He may have his freedom, but everyone dear to Cinque has long vanished. Not only that, but they have vanished into a life of slavery. Not much of a “welcome home” is it?
Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least Matthew McConaughey’s character scored a career-boosting courtroom victory.
The Unhappy Ending: As the film comes to its jarring close, it is revealed that both Robbie and Cecilia died during WW2, their reunion never coming to pass. The narrative is revealed to be the contents of a book written by a guilt-stricken Briony, who finally realises the consequences of her earlier lie.
Bleak Implications: Not only did Robbie and Cecilia both die before their romance could be fully realised, but Briony has spent a miserable life beating herself up about it. Bleak doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least Briony realises the gravity of her error. Not that its much use to Robbie or Cecilia.
The Vanishing (1988)
The Unhappy Ending: Consumed by a desire to know what happened to his missing wife, Rex takes the drugged coffee offered by the man who has revealed himself to be her kidnapper. When he wakes, he finds he has been buried alive. D’oh!
Bleak Implications: Not only will Rex suffer one of the most horrific deaths conceivable, he will do so in the knowledge that his wife went the same way. Truly horrific.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least he has closure.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
The Unhappy Ending: As Joe and Ratso sit on the bus headed towards a new life in Florida, the former realises the latter has died. Informing the driver of the news, Joe is told that the bus cannot stop, forcing the stricken man to sit next to his friend’s corpse for the remainder of the journey.
Bleak Implications: There’s no surer way of making God laugh than by telling him your plans.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: Joe isn’t as naïve as he was at the outset, although that may prove to be as much of a curse as it is a blessing.
The Unhappy Ending: Denzel Washington’s hard-bitten cop taunts the demon Azazel whilst smoking a poisoned-laced cigarette he believes will render him useless as a host. However, as he dies, Azazel possesses a nearby cat and runs off into the night.
Bleak Implications: Denzel’s efforts were all in vain, and it will only be a matter of time before Azazel finds himself a new human to possess. Balls.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: At least Denzel’s spell under Azazel’s thrall was mercifully brief.
Miracle Mile (1988)
The Unhappy Ending: Amid the onset of nuclear war, Harry and Julie are rescued by a helicopter, only for said helicopter to crash-land in the La Brea Tar Pits. The screen fades to black as water steadily floods the compartment…
Bleak Implications: The love-struck couple are left to a watery grave, whilst LA is steadily blown to smithereens behind them. With nuclear war underway, humanity’s prospects don’t look the best…
Reasons To Be Cheerful: The final explosion that greets the end credits suggests a direct hit has put the pair out of their misery.
The Fly (1986)
The Unhappy Ending: Having endured yet another hideous transformation (this time fusing chunks of metal to its horrific visage) the Brundlefly finally gives up the ghost and begs former lover Veronica to put it out of its misery. She does, before collapsing in a heap of anguished sobs.
Bleak Implications: The whole sorry saga began as a result of Brundle’s misplaced paranoia which is depressing enough on its own merits. His eventual demise is simply the bitter icing on a particularly unpalatable cake.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: His research will likely make Brundle a household name…
The Wicker Man (1973)
The Unhappy Ending: Poor Sergeant Howie only got involved with the film’s pagan wackos because he wanted to save a little girl. As it turns out, he ends up burned alive, safe in the knowledge that she was in on it all along. Bastards!
Bleak Implications: Despite waiting the whole film for these rural hicks to get their comeuppance, it eventually becomes clear that there will be no such pay-off. Instead we are treated to the grisly demise of the man we’ve spent ninety minutes rooting for. Cheers.
Reasons To Be Cheerful: You can put on the Nic Cage version immediately afterwards and treat yourself to a good old chuckle.