50 Most Depressing Happy Endings

The Truman Show (1998)

The Happy Ending: Having discovered his life’s been a reality TV show fake, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) finds the door to the real world and steps right through it.

The De pressing Implications : Just imagine that scene from Splash! when Daryl Hannah first arrives in New York. Then add a little Synecdoche, NY. Yeah, Truman’s in for a rough ride.

The Wizard Of Oz (1939)

The Happy Ending: Dorothy (Judy Garland) escapes the clutches of the Wicked Witch, meets the wizard of Oz and returns home with little dog Toto.

The Depressing Implications: So Dorothy’s defeated the Wicked Witch and helped out her animal friends. Big whoop, she still ends up back in a Great Depression-gripped Kansas…

Aliens (1986)

The Happy Ending: Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) defeats the Alien Queen and tucks young Newt into her cryo chamber for a little sleep.

The Depressing Implications:
These guys are just going to float through space again? Didn’t Ripley learn anything from the Nostromo? Then there’s Alien 3, which totally destroys any fuzzy feelings the end of Aliens might have left you with.

Pretty Woman (1990)

The Happy Ending: Prostitute Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) is swept off her feet by businessman Edward Lewis (Richard Gere), who’s realised he can’t live without her.

The Depressing Implications: Great, so Vivian got her guy. Who just so happens to be an egotistical big-spender with a penchant for prostitutes. Good one…

Toy Story 2 (1999)

The Happy Ending: After an impressive airport tension-eker, the toys make it back home to owner Andy, who gives them a much-needed tune up.

The Depressing Implications:
The entire film’s about what happens to toys when their owners grow up. And sure enough, Toy Story 3 picks up at that thread (or: threat). So despite Buzz, Woody and co making it back to Andy, it’s not going to be long before they’re discarded again. For good.

Back To The Future: Part III (1990)

The Happy Ending: All is put right in the universe as Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) returns to 1985. For good.

The Depressing Implications: The DeLorean’s been destroyed. Marty’s back with a family he doesn’t actually know. And, worst of all, the Doc’s pretty much gone forever.

Philadelphia (1993)

The Happy Ending: Dying lawyer Andrew Beckett (Tom Hanks) wins his case of wrongful dismissal after contracting AIDS.

The Depressing Implications: Beckett wins the case, but he still ends up in a casket. This is just about the definition of a bittersweet movie ending.

Grease (1978)

The Happy Ending : “You’re the one that I want!” Danny (John Travolta) and a make-overed Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) reunite at the fairground then ride off into the sky.

The Depressing Implications: In general, we’re all for Olivia Newton-John in a skin-tight catsuit. But the troubling subtext of Sandy’s transformation is that she’s had to completely do away with everything that makes her Sandy, and conformed to some hyper-sexy rock image that Danny would approve of. Wrong.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

The Happy Ending: John Connor (Edward Furlong) and battle-mom Sarah (Linda Hamilton) survive the T-100’s (Robert Patrick) assassination attempt with a helping hand from the T-800.

The Depressing Implications: “There’s no fate but what we make.” So despite all the hard work the Connors and the T-800 have just put in destroying the T-1000, it’s basically all for nothing because the future’s never set in stone. Oof.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The Happy Ending: Ten-year-old Elliot (Henry Thomas) watches on as alien buddy ET is taken home by his family in a shiny, blinking spaceship.

The Depressing Implications: Hurray, ET’s been reunited with his kind and whisked off home amongst the stars. But boy is that depressing, not least for poor little Elliot, who’s lost his only friend. Thank goodness the sequel - featuring carnivorous evil albino ETs - never made it past the treatment stage.

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.