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Unreality Mag's '10 Movies Where the Bad Guys Win' (Spoiler alert!) (Updated)

Posted Monday, January 19, 2009 at 1:38 PM Central

by Tim Briscoe

Entertainment blog Unreality Magazine recently posted an article that received a lot of attention around the web. The concept was a simple one -- "Ten Movies Where the Bad Guys Win."

Yes, the theme is simple but it's a hard list to assemble. Think of all the movies you've watched in your life. Nearly all end with the protagonist overcoming a conflict of some sort. We all know this, at least subconsciously, but we watch and enjoy movies anyway because it's all about the journey. Otherwise, how would Titanic -- a movie where we all know the ship sinks at the end -- be the number one money-making movie of all time?

OK, enough pondering on my part. Let's get to the list. If you haven't watched these movies, there are some major spoilers ahead. Just by their inclusion on this list really. If you don't want any movies' endings ruined, don't read on.

None of the movies on the list are all that new. The most recent is from 2004. They are all pretty popular films so there's a good chance you've seen most if not all.

If you don't care to be spoiled, mouse over the white space below.

The list is a great one. What I'm most intrigued about personally is these are among my favorite movies of all time. In general, why are movies like this popular? Similarly, why do people like slasher movies? Any psychologists or psychiatrists in the house who can explain this? Are we all sadists or misanthropes?

This is certainly not an exhaustive one. What other movies can you think of where the bad guy wins? Send them in to us and we'll post them to this story as an addendum.


We've received a bunch of great feedback since this story was first posted. Thank you all for your suggestions. I'm going to include all the "Bad Guy Wins" submissions below rather than citing each reader email. There is just too much to include and lots of duplicates. A few are certainly debatable.

Once again, to avoid spoilers, I've hidden these until you mouse over them.

  • 12 Monkeys (link)
  • The Arrival (not sure if this person is referring to the 1990 or 1996 version)
  • Braveheart (link)
  • Chinatown (link)
  • Cry_Wolf (link)
  • The Dark Knight (link)
  • Dawn of the Dead (link or 2004 version)
  • Empire (link)
  • The Fallen (link)
  • Fight Club (link)
  • Frailty (link)
  • Funny Games (link)
  • The Great Escape (link)
  • The Grudge (link)
  • Identity (link)
  • Infernal Affairs (link; but not necessarily its remake The Departed, link)
  • Inside Man (link)
  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers (link)
  • Jurassic Park (link)
  • King Kong (link)
  • A Nightmare on Elm Street (link)
  • No Country for Old Men (link)
  • On Her Majesty's Secret Service (link)
  • Payback (link)
  • The Professional (link)
  • Road to Perdition {link)
  • Rocky (link)
  • Secret Window (link)
  • Silent Hill (link)
  • The Skeleton Key (link)
  • Spartacus (link)
  • Spellbinder (link)
  • The Strangers (link)
  • Spellbinder (link)
  • Swordfish (link)
  • The Terminator (link; eventually)
  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (link)
  • The Vanishing (link; and its original Spoorloos, link)
  • Wild Things (link)

There were a few interesting psychological discussions presented to us:

You like the different ending where the bad guy wins because you are used to the "good guy" winning. In every type of story the hero never dies and always wins. Every once and a while you would like to see the bad guy win. Where the hero dies and does not save the day. It only means that you are curious as to that outcome. Not that you want it to come true just what would it be like. I do not pretend to be a professional shrink I just know that you are normal like the rest of world and is curious as to see the outcome of the bad guy winning.
-- Matthew in San Diego, CA

Though most movies suspend belief it is unrealistic thinking to believe that good always conquers evil or that the outcome of an event will always be favorable. These movies bring us back to the reality of our own lives and the sense that sometimes we don't succeed. Sometimes we get beat down by the worst that life can throw at us. By the way where is Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Clearly the ending has mankind losing out to the alien presence.
--Clif (APO)

And finally, this response was too funny to not pass up:

How about the 2000 and 2004 United States Presidential elections? Each was a year of build-up, only to have a villain win in the end.
--Carlton in Woodstock, GA