50 Most Depressing Happy Endings

Straw Dogs (1971)

The Happy Ending: David Sumner (Dustin Hoffman) mans up and fights the village idiots, killing them in order to save his home and his wife. “Jesus, I got ‘em all.”

The Depressing Implications: David and his wife (Susan George) are obviously destined for divorce, while David turns into some sort of drifter. Yikes.

Big Fish (2003)

The Happy Ending: Edward (Albert Finney) realises that all of his father’s fantastical stories were true (albeit slightly exaggerated), and passes the stories onto his young son.

The Depressing Implications: Well, that’s all well and good, but it doesn’t make up for the fact that Edward spent his entire life hating his ‘lying’ father. You can’t mend that with an eleventh hour revelation.

Benny & Joon (1993)

The Happy Ending: Joon (Mary Stuart Masterson) is released from hospital and gets her own apartment. Lovely.

The Depressing Implications: When Benny (Aidan Quinn) visits his sister, he finds her with Sam (Johnny Depp) and decides to leave them in peace. Which means the brother-sister relationship will never be the same again. Sob.

Hard Candy (2005)

The Happy Ending: Teenager Hayley Stark (Ellen Page) makes Jeff Kohlver (Patrick Wilson) pay for his ill deeds by forcing him to step off the edge of his roof and hang himself.

The Depressing Implications: Can Hayley actually get away with what she did? It might look like a suicide, but there has actually been a murder here - and the police tend to investigate that sort of thing. How long before they track her IP address? Also, Kohlver was definitely a monster, but we pity his poor friends, who have been completely kept in the dark up until the events of the movie. It's going to be an awkward funeral, that's for sure.

Top Gun (1986)

The Happy Ending : Maverick (Tom Cruise) and co are sent out on a dangerous mission to rescue a communications ship and battle six enemy planes. They succeed.

The Depressing Implications:
According to the original script and the red stars on their helmets, the enemy planes actually belong to North Korea. By engaging with the six bogies, Maverick’s actually proclaiming war on North Korea…

Let The Right One In (2008)

The Happy Ending: Loner Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant) is saved from bullies by vampire Eli (Lina Leandersson) and runs away with her.

The Depressing Implications: Oskar’s sure to end up just like Eli’s other companion, Håkan (Per Ragnar), who winds up tortured and – eventually – very dead. Poor Oskar.

Pans Labyrinth (2006)

The Happy Ending: Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) dies and is revealed to be Princess Moanna, who goes on to rule the underworld.

The Depressing Implications: That’s all very well and good, but in the real world, poor Ofelia does actually die. Which isn’t happy at all, really…

Life Of Brian (1979)

The Happy Ending: Happy in the sense that it ends on a group of guys merrily singing along to ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.’

The Depressing Implications: But then depressing as hell when you remember the guys singing have actually all been crucified. A slow, painful death awaits them at the end of that musical ditty.

Kramer Vs Kramer (1979)

The Happy Ending: Joanna (Meryl Streep) wins the court case for custody of her son, but decides ex-husband Ted (Dustin Hoffman) should take him instead.

The Depressing Implications: We’re happy that little Billy gets to stay with his dad, but he’s still going to grow up without a mum. Which sucks no matter how you look at it.

Wall-E (2008)

The Happy Ending: The humans decide it’s time to head back to Earth, relearn to use their limbs and start rebuilding the planet.

The Depressing Implications: Wall-E’s out of a job, surely. Yeah, he’s got Eve now, but a man who doesn’t bring home the bacon and all that…

Josh Winning has worn a lot of hats over the years. Contributing Editor at Total Film, writer for SFX, and senior film writer at the Radio Times. Josh has also penned a novel about mysteries and monsters, is the co-host of a movie podcast, and has a library of pretty phenomenal stories from visiting some of the biggest TV and film sets in the world. He would also like you to know that he "lives for cat videos..." Don't we all, Josh. Don't we all.