Brendan Fraser has been making headlines for his comeback role in The Whale, a movie about a 600-pount man trying to reconnect with his daughter. The movie, particularly Fraser’s performance has been the toast of the fall film festival season, premiering in Venice and also screening at TIFF. It has been described as an emotional gut punch, which is no surprise considering the director is Darren Aronofsky. Aronofsky is famous for his intense, emotional films, and many of them have bleak endings, from Requiem for a Dream to The Wrestler.
From Aronofsky’s filmography to tragic character studies like Philadelphia, some of the best movies in history deliver a heartbreaking conclusion. Though plenty of great movies have bleak endings, some had users on Reddit so emotionally wrecked that they could never watch them again.
Never Let Me Go (2010)
The inevitability of death is one of the most common themes explored in bleak endings, and Never Let Me Go took the idea to its fullest. User slicshuter defined what the movie meant for them when they said “‘Bleak’ is the perfect word I’d use to describe Never Let Me Go‘s ending….Never Let Me Go left me as a traumatised, emotionless, husk of a person for the rest of the day.”
Using sci-fi to tell its pseudo dystopian narrative, the film is otherwise a gripping interpersonal drama. What makes it so difficult to rewatch is that its downbeat ending colors everything that comes before. The inescapable nature of death, even in a society of expanded lifespans, is just as dark as in the real world.
The Wrestler (2008)
Some movie endings are left vague, and in that vagueness exists the possibility of an ending so bleak that it is almost indescribable. User civonakle mentioned one such film when writing “The Wrestler…I have zero interest in rewatching – and I’m a big rewatcher”.
Watching Randy “The Ram” torture his broken down body for money is heartbreaking enough, but director Aronofsky further twists the knife with the open-to-interpretation finale. Though most of the best sports films have upbeat endings, The Wrestler seems to suggest that “The Ram’s” last dance is truly that.
Gone Girl (2014)
Endings can be bleak because of death or imminent doom, but Gone Girl‘s ending is unique among downbeat finales. User NonStopDiscoGG loved and hated the movie’s ending when they said “I really love Gone Girl’s ending…and I still DESPISE (in a good way) the ending.”
Second-hand embarrassment, or watching a character make the worst possible choices can leave audiences exasperated. Gone Girl is the story of a mutually toxic relationship, and the whole thing culminates in a seeming confirmation of the worst parts of both lead characters. Though it is well made, the ending doesn’t make Gone Girl one of David Fincher’s most rewatchable movies.
A Simple Plan (1998)
Thrillers and action films often don’t stop to reflect on the emotional state of their characters, but A Simple Plan seems to revel in reminding the audience of just how dark it is. When mentioning downbeat endings, user PanhandleMan54 wrote “A Simple Plan…the book was even bleaker”.
Futility is a powerful theme in films, but when that futility is the backdrop for a series of betrayals and murders, it can leave the audience gutted. Though A Simple Plan is mostly remembered as a cult classic, its extremely downbeat ending makes it a difficult rewatch when compared to contemporary films like Fargo.
Dancer In The Dark (2000)
Director Lars von Trier is known for his downer endings, but with Dancer in the Dark, he took things further than ever before. User bugspotter made it clear which movie ending was too bleak for them, saying “Dancer in the Dark. Love Bjork and I don’t need to watch that again”.
Dancer in the Dark puts the sadness pedal to the floor and never lets up until it culminates in an ending that would be cheesy if not in the deft hands of von Trier. Despite being a non-actor, Bjork delivers a towering performance that only helps to make the heartbreaking ending hurt all the more.
Though it is generally regarded as one of Tom Hanks’ best films, Philadelphia has an earned reputation as a heartbreaker. User brotherharambe420 got specific about the movie when they said “Philadelphia…ending always kills me especially when the song plays.”
Hollow victory would be the term best used to describe Johnathan Demme’s film about the AIDS crisis, and the movie beautifully mixes triumph and tragedy in its final scene. Helped along by Neil Young’s haunting title song, the audience is inundated with a deluge of conflicting emotions that never fails to leave them exhausted.
Some bleak endings are rather obvious while others are thinkers that truly embed themselves in the audience’s heart. A deleted user knew exactly which bleak movie ending they could never watch again when they said simply “Atonement is so brilliant but so sad”.
Told over the bulk of a century, the story is essentially the consequences of a youthful mistake that ruined lives. What’s worse, the film never gives the audience closure and insists that everything turned out poorly in the end. Atonement could have been chintzy and melodramatic, but the subtlety of the writing makes it a tour de force of sadness.
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
LGBTQ+ cinema has come a long way in recent years, and Brokeback Mountain was one of the first films to bring it mainstream. User FrenchMaisNon summed up their relationship with the film’s ending when they said “I’ve seen Brokeback Mountain only once because of this.”
Star-crossed lovers who are kept apart by the prejudices of society is a tale as old as time, but Brokeback Mountain‘s bummer of an ending rivaled even the most classic of romantic tragedies. The simplicity of the tale is what helps it shine the brightest, and many viewers couldn’t handle the harsh realities presented within the picture.
Leaving Las Vegas (1995)
Ranking highly among Nicolas Cage’s best movies, the titanically tragic Leaving Las Vegas was further proof of the actor’s strong abilities. User damienkarras1973 didn’t hold back when talking about the movie, saying “LEAVING LAS VEGAS I’ll never watch that movie again”.
The movie never misrepresents itself as anything but a tragedy, and the story of a failed screenwriter who intends to drink himself to death in Vegas was obviously not going to be the comedy of the century. However, the movie still over-delivers on its promise of sadness by giving the audience hope for Cage’s character, only to snatch it away.
Requiem For A Dream (2000)
Though that was the intended purpose of the movie, some viewers were left with a visceral reaction to Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream. User Faded_Sun was one such viewer, and commented “I remember feeling physically ill after the end of Requiem for a Dream. I’ll never watch it again”.
Films have depicted substance abuse in a variety of lights over the years, but no movie was as scant and unflinching as Requiem. Intentionally emotionally torturous, there is no light at the end of the tunnel, and it is no surprise that audiences get their fill of it on first viewing and never want to return.