Movies

10 Beloved Movies Where The Villain Actually Wins

Summary

  • Movies with happy endings give audiences uplifting messages, but movies where the villains win reveal darker truths and somber messages.
  • Thrillers and horror films often have endings where the villains prevail, fitting thematically and providing cautionary tales.
  • Movies like “Midsommar” and “Hereditary” explore the power of malicious forces and the vulnerability of characters, leaving disturbing and lasting impressions.


Audiences are primed to enjoy movies where the good guys win, but some beloved films are ones where the villains prevail. Movies with happy endings tend to have uplifting messages meant to give audiences a nice thought to walk away with once the credits roll. In contrast, movies where the bad guys win tend to reveal darker, more devastating truths and give audiences more somber messages to ponder after the film’s conclusion.

Thrillers and horror films can more often lend themselves to having endings where the villains win than other genres. Many times, the villains in these types of films are metaphors for real-life challenges. Having the villains win not only fits thematically with the genre of horror and suspense films, but it helps films tell cautionary tales designed to warn, and terrify, audiences and inspire in-depth discussions about these films’ greater meanings.


10 Midsommar (2019)

Written and directed by Ari Aster

Midsommar

Release Date
July 3, 2019

Cast
Julia Ragnarsson , Rebecka Johnston , Henrik Norlén , William Jackson Harper , Gunnel Fred , Anna Åström , will poulter , Archie Madekwe , Louise Peterhoff , Björn Andrésen , Isabelle Grill , Jack Reynor , Florence Pugh , Liv Mjönes

In this suspenseful tale, a group of college friends travel to a remote Swedish village to participate in a midsummer festival. The scenic landscape where the sun never sets begins as a serene escape for the group, until it becomes clear that the village is a cult intent on killing the travelers as part of a ritual. Dani (Florence Pugh) is named the May Queen of the event and, after embracing their violent ways, participates in the village’s sacrifice of her boyfriend, becoming her friend group’s sole survivor.

This unsettling story is gripping from start to finish, beginning with the tragic death of Dani’s family and ending with her acceptance of a new “family.” In this way, the film comments on the power of malicious forces, such as cults, to take advantage of and manipulate people when they’re at their most vulnerable, such as Dani as she was grieving her family. By telling the story largely through Dani’s perspective, the ending of Midsommar is disturbing and sticks with the viewer long after the credits roll.

9 Hereditary (2018)

Written and directed by Ari Aster

Annie screaming with Steve looking on in horror in Hereditary

Hereditary

Release Date
June 7, 2018

Cast
Toni Collette , Milly Shapiro , Zachary Arthur , Gabriel Byrne , Mallory Bechtel , Alex Wolff , Ann Dowd

This horror film follows the destruction of the Graham family. After Ellen dies, her daughter, Annie (Toni Collette) is consumed with grief. Her grief only intensifies after her daughter, Charlie, dies tragically. This kickstarts a series of increasingly disturbing, supernatural events that threaten every member of the family. Annie uncovers dark truths about her mother, eventually learning that she was the leader of a coven that worshipped Paimon, a demon king, and hoped to give him a human body. He originally possessed Charlie, but the coven seemed to orchestrate her death to allow him to possess Annie’s son, Peter, instead.

The film ends with every member of the Graham family dead and with the coven successfully possessing Peter with Paimon. The film hints at the devastating ending to come, with Peter’s English class discussing whether it’s more or less tragic if someone’s disastrous fate, like the one Peter meets, is unavoidable. Much of Hereditary is confusing and left up to interpretation, but the fact that there’s seemingly nothing the Graham family could’ve done to prevent the coven’s victory makes the tragic ending of Hereditary that much more of a gut-punch for the viewer.

8 Annihilation (2018)

Written and directed by Alex Garland

The scientists enter The Shimmer in Annihilation

Based on the novel by Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation follows a group of military personnel as they enter The Shimmer, a mysterious, destructive, ever-growing alien region. They hope to uncover the mystery behind The Shimmer and defeat the dangers that lie within. Nobody who has entered the region, however, has ever escaped, except for one of the personnel, Lena’s (Natalie Portman), husband Kane (Oscar Isaac). By the ending of the film, it’s revealed that the Kane who returned wasn’t actually him, but rather, was a doppelgänger created by The Shimmer.

Lena was the only survivor from her expedition and she, presumably, destroys The Shimmer at the end of the film. While this might seem like a victory, the movie hints that the Lena who returns to tell the tale might not really be her. She may be a double, just like Kane, indicating that The Shimmer may have reigned supreme at the end of Annihilation. The truth, however, is left ambiguous and up to audience interpretation.

7 The Neon Demon (2016)

Written and directed by Nicolas Winding Refn

Elle Fanning in The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon

Release Date
June 9, 2016

Director
Nicolas Winding Refn

This disturbing, yet intriguing film follows Jesse (Elle Fanning), an orphaned teenage girl who moves to Los Angeles in hopes of pursuing a modeling career. Jesse quickly makes waves in the industry, much to the dismay of fellow models also competing for the spotlight. Ultimately, her nemeses kill and eat her in hopes of obtaining her effortless, natural beauty and skyrocketing their own careers.

The warm demeanor she begins the film with fades away into cold narcissism as she gains prominence, giving viewers hope that she might just be able to escape the evil forces closing in on her. The fact that Jesse meets this tragic end, however, highlights The Neon Demon’s critique of society’s value of physical beauty above all else. This destructive attitude can take sweet people like Jesse and eat them alive (in Jesse’s case, quite literally).

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6 Krampus (2015)

Directed by Michael Dougherty

Krampus' hand about to touch a scared person

Krampus

Release Date
December 4, 2015

Director
Michael Dougherty

Cast
Luke Hawker , Toni Collette , Adam Scott , Emjay Anthony , Allison Tolman , Stefania Owen , David Koechner , Conchata Ferrell

This terrifying Christmas-horror film inspired by European folklore follows a contentious family during Christmas. Their bickering and distaste for one another has caused them to lose the Christmas spirit. This leads to the demonic figure, Krampus, appearing and raining terror upon them. By the end of the film, much of the family has been killed by Krampus.

In a final plea to save them, young boy Max (Emjay Anthony) begs Krampus to spare them, only for him to be dispatched as well. The family awakens in their beautiful home on Christmas morning, having seemingly escaped their disastrous fate. Crushingly, however, the ending of Krampus reveals that the family members have all become eternal slaves of the demon’s torment, forever trapped together in one of his snow globes. This surprising ending is sure to stick with viewers and terrify them into enjoying the holidays just a bit more.

5 Regression (2015)

Written and directed by Alejandro Amenábar

Angela cries next to a fireplace in Regression

Regression

Release Date
October 9, 2015

Director
Alejandro Amenábar

This psychological thriller follows detective Bruce Kenner (Ethan Hawke) as he investigates the alleged sexual abuse of teen girl Angela Gray (Emma Watson) at the hands of her father. Gray claims that the abuse was done by a satanic cult which her family is part of. As the cult seems to close in, causing Kenner disturbing nightmares and intense paranoia, a shocking plot twist comes about at the end of the film: Gray made it all up in an attempt to escape her family, who she blames for her mother’s death.

Gray’s sudden reveal of her true colors when Kenner confronts her is a chilling sight. Devastatingly, her father pleads guilty to a crime he didn’t commit in the hopes that it’ll make Gray forgive him for not being the best father. The film ends with Gray speaking out on the news about how important it is to believe victims of satanic cults, like her. By having Gray get away with it, the ending of Regression comments on the devastating power of mass hysteria, such as what was seen during the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s.

4 Gone Girl (2014)

Directed by David Fincher

Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Gillian Flynn, this Gone Girl follows Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) after his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike), goes missing. A media storm erupts around him as revelations about Nick’s infidelity lead the media, and the audience, to suspect that he murdered Amy. The film, however, shockingly reveals that she staged her apparent murder in an attempt to get Nick arrested as revenge for his mistreatment of her.

The film deftly explores the moral ambiguity of its characters. While the audience can sympathize with Amy to an extent, considering how Nick mistreated her, her actions become so extreme that she could be considered the main antagonist of the film. It’s disheartening when the movie ends with her miraculously returning, crafting a tale that exonerates Nick, and becoming pregnant with his baby to trap him in a relationship with her. This devastating ending of Gone Girl leaves audiences with much to discuss as the credits roll and drives home the message that what’s seen in the media shouldn’t always be believed.

3 Nightcrawler (2014)

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy

Lou (Jake Gyllenhaal) grinning in Nightcrawler

Nightcrawler

Release Date
October 31, 2014

Director
Dan Gilroy

Cast
Riz Ahmed , Bill Paxton , Jake Gyllenhaal , Rene Russo , Kevin Rahm , Michael Hyatt , Ann Cusack

This thriller tells the story of Louis Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal), a criminal looking for a lucrative venture. He begins a career as a freelance videographer, discovering that he can achieve the money and prestige he craves by filming grisly crimes and selling the footage to news stations. To boost his success, he goes as far as masterminding violent crimes to get more graphic footage, and more money in his pocket.

Bloom’s ice-cold demeanor is bone-chilling, and it’s disturbing to see how he manipulates, threatens, and profits off of people’s pain throughout the film, unflinchingly and without remorse. While audiences may be rooting for Bloom’s downfall, the movie ends with him achieving more success than ever, expanding his business by employing several people and acquiring more news vans. The gut-wrenching ending of Nightcrawler leaves audiences to ponder Nightcrawler’s message about how a culture that craves violence could create the perfect breeding ground for unethical monsters, like Bloom, to thrive.

2 Enemy (2013)

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

Jake Gyllenhaal as Anthony Claire confronting Adam Bell in Enemy

Enemy

Release Date
February 6, 2014

Cast
Mélanie Laurent , Isabella Rossellini , Jake Gyllenhaal , Kedar Brown , Sarah Gadon

Loosely based on the novel, The Double, by José Saramago, and also starring Gyllenhaal in both lead roles, Enemy follows college history professor Adam Bell. He discovers Anthony Claire, a man who is physically identical to him, but who has a very different personality. The men stalk each other and attempt to uncover the mystery of their existence, before Claire manipulates Bell into letting him sleep with Bell’s girlfriend, Mary. The encounter escalates into an argument which ends with Claire and Mary’s deaths.

The film ends with Bell carrying on with what seems like it’ll be a happy marriage between him and Claire’s wife, Helen, only for the final moments to reveal that he, like Claire, will cheat on Helen. The film is deeply metaphorical, using visual storytelling to tell a tale about one man’s battle with his divided psyche. Claire was seemingly his darker half, so his death could’ve meant a happy ending for Bell and Helen, but the reveal that Bell has the same unfaithful characteristics as Claire suggests that his darker self, his inner enemy, triumphed at the ending of Enemy.

1 The Village (2004)

Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan

The Village

Release Date
June 30, 2004

Director
M. Night Shyamalan

After her love, Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix), is injured and nears death, Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) is entrusted to leave her secluded, 19th-century village to travel to a neighboring village and retrieve medicine for him. Her village lives in fear of the monsters that lurk in the surrounding woods. Ivy successfully obtains the medicine and returns, saving Lucius’ life and presumably allowing them to wed. While this may seem like a happy ending, it’s very sinister considering the film’s classic Shyamalan plot twist: the monsters are actually the village elders in disguise, and the characters live in the 21st century.

They’ve perpetuated the myth of the monsters to keep the community they’ve created isolated from the world. Ivy was trusted with retrieving the medicine because she’s blind, meaning that she wouldn’t see the modern world during the trip and discover the elders’ secret. By the ending of The Village, the elder’s secret in The Village is still safe, meaning that their villainous, manipulative hold over the village remains.

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