20 Most Controversial Movie Endings

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story." - Frank Herbert

The ending of any given motion picture is arguably the most important part of the experience - the point at which a story chooses to end, plotlines are wrapped up, characters are left to deal with the circumstances in which they have either gotten themselves into or have subsequently evaded, and you're left to make up your lasting impression of whatever it is you've just spent two or three hours watching. Endings come in all shapes and sizes, of course: happy, sad, ambiguous, and€ well, controversial. And it's the controversial endings that we're focusing in on for the length of this article. Controversial endings, by definition, are those that leave people shaking their heads, wondering what happened, feeling sick to their stomachs, wronged by the choice of the writers of filmmakers, or downright confused. In other terms, a controversial ending is one that people were totally not expecting, given what came before. The endings that caused an uproar amongst movie-goers and film critics alike; they might also happen to be those endings which were the cause of much debate and controversy during filming. Whatever the reason, then, here are our picks for the 20 Most Controversial Movie Endings to have graced cinema screens thus far. Obviously, there are many, many spoilers involved, so don't say you weren't warned.

20. What Actually Happened? - Sunshine

Sunshine is a great movie in search of a great third act - one that it, unfortunately, never manages to find, opting instead for mindless ambiguity in favour of things like "logic" and "coherency." So the problem with Danny Boyle's otherwise brilliant sci-fi movie is that it never really figures out what it's trying to say, and as result ends up feeling like a load of nonsense when in fact - for the majority of the film - it felt a lot like genuinely intelligent sci-fi fare. The ending, then, comes when a delusional, manic killer boards the ship containing our heroes (tasked with reigniting the sun using a specially designed bomb), and proceeding to kill them off one by one. In the end, our hero - Robert Capa - ends up staring into the very centre of the sun, and.. well, then what? It seemed like any ending for the sake of an ending, almost as if nobody could be assed to figure something out. Disappointing.
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Sam Hill is an ardent cinephile and has been writing about film professionally since 2008. He harbours a particular fondness for western and sci-fi movies.