Note: contains spoilers. Lots of spoilers.
Although Hollywood is packed with noble adventures where good triumphs over evil, the pessimists among us will know real-life isn’t always as rosy.
Some directors aren’t afraid to reflect that and might leave you a little glum when the villain gets away with their crimes or lives to fight another day. With this in mind, here are 10 movies where the bad guy wins.
1. No Country For Old Men
Joel and Ethan Coen were back on grisly form for 2007’s No Country For Old Men. With an all-star cast that included the likes of Josh Brolin, Woody Harrelson, and Tommy Lee Jones, it was only Javier Bardem’s villainous Anton Chigurh and a handful of others that survived until the credits rolled.
After turning up at the house of Carla Jean Moss (Kelly Macdonald) to exact his revenge, Anton flees the scene of his final murder and is hit by a car. Bribing two boys to give him some clothes and a bike, Anton then rides off into the sunset as audiences are left to imagine his continuing spree of murder and madness.
2. A Nightmare on Elm Street
The original, and arguably best if you don’t count Dream Warriors, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare on Elm Street introduced the world of horror to Freddy Krueger. Long before horror movies were notorious for their twist endings, A Nightmare on Elm Street left fans having nightmares when the Springwood Slasher rose again.
Freddy was easily banished when Heather Langenkamp’s Nancy turned her back on the scar-faced paedophile and everything went back to 'normal'. While Nancy thought it had all been one bad dream and she could go back to her life dating a young Johnny Depp, Freddy possessed her boyfriend’s car and drove the group to an uncertain fate. Cut to a group of creepy girls singing that iconic "One, two, Freddy’s coming for you" song!
One of the greatest examples of a movie you shouldn't watch if you're in need of a pick-me-up, David Fincher’s Se7en had everyone's jaws on the floor with that iconic "what's in the box?" ending. Kevin Spacey played the deranged John Doe and set out to complete his Seven Deadly Sins massacre.
There were several different endings proposed or filmed for Fincher’s movie, but the final cut rounded off with Doe presenting Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box (although we never see it). He explained his sin was Envy because he longs for the life of Brad Pitt’s Detective Mills. Despite the pleas of Morgan Freeman’s Somerset, Mills guns Doe down and fulfils his part as Wrath. Doe may have ended up six feet under but he also got to see his vision come to life.
4. Alien: Covenant
Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to the world of facehuggers and Xenomorphs was supposed to be something horror fans celebrated, but unfortunately, his five-movie arc was cut short after the box office disappointment of Alien: Covenant.
Continuing from 2012’s Prometheus, Alien: Covenant picked up the story with a new crew of doomed heroes and Michael Fassbender picking up two pay cheques to play two robots.
As Fassbender’s psychotic David posed as loveable doppelganger Walter, he unveiled himself to be an even bigger threat than the Xenomorphs. The maniac machine put the surviving crew into stasis and then set about breeding his own aliens to the spurring sound of Wagner's 'Entry of the Gods Into Valhalla'.
5. The Usual Suspects
Slinging together a merry band of notable names like Kevin Spacey, Benicio del Toro, and Gabriel Byrne, complex crime thriller The Usual Suspects came to a head as Spacey’s nervous Verbal Kint spun a great yarn about the mysterious Keyser Söze.
It’s a twist that literally no one saw coming as Kint was exposed as the criminal mastermind. Calmly walking away as the authorities realised they'd been duped, Verbal’s limp quickly vanished and he drove away without punishment.
6. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
Dubbed one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, there’s something about Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back that has stood the test of time. Irvin Kershner had the tough job of topping A New Hope, but boy, did he do it with style. Alongside that "I am your father" reveal, Empire didn’t have the chirpy cliffhanger fans were expecting.
Lando betrays his friends, Luke has his hand chopped off, the Emperor and Darth Vader continue to dominate the Rebel scum, and Han Solo is left frozen in carbonite. If you thought things would get better for fans of that galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith ended on an equally bum note 25 years later as Anakin transformed into Darth Vader and Padme died in childbirth.
7. The Silence of the Lambs
Serving up a healthy portion of liver and Chianti, The Silence of the Lambs made Hannibal Lecter one of the most terrifying villains of all time. Anthony Hopkins went on to play Hannibal the Cannibal in two more movies, but he was at his wide-eyed best in the 1991 thriller.
Even though Buffalo Bill kicked the bucket, Hannibal managed to escape his FBI custody in that spin-chilling face-swap scene. Doctor Lecter left us all on a cliffhanger and put the pieces in place for 2001’s Hannibal as he set his sights on "having dinner" with old friend Frederick Chilton. Julianne Moore replaced Jodie Foster for the sequel, which just so happened to also end with Hannibal finding freedom in an exotic clime.
8. Funny Games
It may not be the best-known movie on this list, but that doesn’t stop Michael Haneke’s Funny Games winning the award for most WTF way the bad guy wins. Haneke remade his own 1997 film of the same name with a new cast including stars like Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt.
Funny Games played out as an unhinged home invasion with some pretty shocking death scenes. There was a glimmer of hope as Watts’ Ann got the upper hand and promptly shot one of her attackers with a shotgun. Before we had a chance to cheer, Funny Games literally pressed rewind with a 'what if' scenario that gave the villains the upper hand. The final scene had Ann tied on a boat and being dumped overboard into a watery grave.
Before he was putting his brooding spin on the Worlds of DC, Zack Snyder brought the legendary Watchmen graphic novel to life as a star-studded superhero movie. Watchmen the movie may have been more divisive than Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ acclaimed work, but at least Snyder stuck with the source material’s thought-provoking ending.
When Matthew Goode’s Ozymandias stepped up as the big bad, he revealed his plan to unite the warring world against a common enemy (Billy Crudup’s Doctor Manhattan). Going with that tried-and-tested "for the greater good" mentality, Ozymandias gets his wish, Doctor Manhattan flees the planet and Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach gets obliterated because he threatens to expose Ozy’s ingenious but wicked plan.
10. Avengers: Infinity War
Ending with the most recent entry to the bad guy hall of fame, the Russo Brothers delivered more than just ticket sales with the record-breaking Avengers: Infinity War – another Watchmen-esque plan where the bad guy goes on a mission of genocide as a means to an end, Infinity War ended with THAT big finger snap.
Now known as "The Decimation", fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are waiting to see what’s going on in the post-Infinity War world. Although we’re fully expecting dead heroes like Spider-Man and Black Panther to triumphantly return to the land of the living – mainly thanks to their upcoming standalone movies – it’s sure to be a wild ride to see how the OG Avengers topple the Mad Titan in Avengers: Endgame.
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