'The Fault In Our Stars,' and 8 Other Films With Satisfying Unhappy Endings

I had to stop myself from crying like a little baby on the airplane when I read The Fault In Our Stars for the first time, which is interesting considering I didn’t expect to even read the book so my friend had already spoiled the plotline for me. Knowing what happened hardly mattered, though. I still disturbed the passengers around me, sobbing as I flipped each page. But when the The Fault In Our Stars' official trailer was released, it was all over. My neighbors had to build an ark to get out of the flood I created. (And for those of you who don't want the ending of the book spoiled, consider this your requisite spoiler alert.)

Here’s the thing, though: I’m a sucker for happy, fairytale endings, and The Fault In Our Stars' John Green was like, “Nope, sorry, this is real life.” While I initially felt sucker punched reading the book's ending — I’m a sappy romantic and good books don’t end this way — I was pleasantly surprised that I indeed was satisfied with an unhappy conclusion to this story.

Movies and books often fill us with unrealistic expectations. They tell us we could be dating someone who even remotely looks like Gerard Butler or Jeffrey Dean Morgan in P.S. I Love You, or that our childhood best friend would grow up handsome and build us a pink house, like in 13 Going On 30. But that's why we love romantic comedies. We want to see the central couple make up and fall in love, or the successful woman who gets all that she seeks in life (including that top-tier career that many of us continue to tirelessly work toward), because, in reality, life plans don’t always pan out and fairytale endings don’t always exist. Hence the use of films and heavy reading to let us escape into a fantasy world in which we can expect the impossible.

So you can probably imagine the surprise — or have actually experienced it yourself — when a movie doesn’t end up being as predictable as you thought it would be. A main character might die, the happy couple might not get back together, or the shipwrecked man might lose his volleyball. (No! Not Wilson!) And all you can do is sit there, stick your head into the popcorn bowl, and begin bawling because all the feels. But you'll also be surprised with how, well, okay you were with said sad ending. I didn't just feel that way with The Fault In Our Stars — here are eight films that tugged on our heartstrings with their satisfying unhappy ending. And, of course, spoilers ahead!


Briony Tallis will forever remain one of the most irritating characters of literature and film history. She’s the little sister who walks in on her older sister getting it on in the library with her lover, and who then reports the boyfriend for rape. We learn that Cecilia and Robbie are separated because of this incident and World War II, and Robbie dies of septicemia and Cecilia dies in the Balham tube station flood. Briony attempts to make up for this by giving Cecilia and Robbie a happy life in her last novel, but we can never forgive her because it’s all her fault. Yet, it makes sense — their love might have been brought to a halt in real life, but it will span generations in fiction form.

Nights In Rodanthe

My mom suggested that we watch this movie after a rough breakup, and at the time it seemed like a good idea… until I started randomly sobbing when the credits began rolling. Typical Nicholas Sparks. And the plot of the movie is quite typical as well: Man meets woman and they bond over the fact that their lives are both falling apart. Not typical? The fact that Paul (Richard Gere) flies off to South America to mend the relationship with his son, Mark (James Franco), and on the night that he is supposed to return, Mark takes his place instead because his dad died in a flash flood. Horrifying. But, at the same time, heartwarming.

Mystic River

Not only does this movie start off making you want to crawl under your Snuggie and recede into the dark depths of the earth, but it also concludes making you want to rip your hair out. Here we follow the lives of Jimmy Markum, Sean Devine and Dave Boyle, who, at the beginning of the story are approached by two “officers” for writing their names into wet concrete. Because it’s not like a cop would have anything better to do, like save lives or something. Dave is kidnapped by the men and sexually abused. He finally escapes, but years later, when the three men are all married and working, we discover that Dave is still having issues from his past. Long story short, innocent people die and, for the most part, the film ends with injustice. Yet despite the fact that I ended up sitting in a corner rocking back and forth after this ending, the entire movie was riveting and its message important, no matter how depressing.

Love Actually

Well, to be fair, most people in the new classic romantic comedy get a happy ending. Nerdy British man meets sexy American woman (because we all have Southern accents and wear cowgirl hats over here in ‘Murica), the Prime Minister finds true love in his assistant, and two people who didn’t even speak the same language somehow manage to fall madly in love and get engaged. BUT WAIT. Let’s not forget the fact that Professor Snape (aka Harry, aka Alan Rickman) cheats on his wife, and that Sarah (Laura Linney) can never be with the man she loves (Carl) because she must care for her brother, who is mentally ill. Though we could never truly get over the fact that Sarah took that phone call, the fact that Harry and Karen's relationship remained ambivalent was the one refreshingly realistic part of a film in which a young boy successfully evades airport security.

King Kong

“It was beauty that killed the beast.” I never thought I’d fall for an obscenely large gorilla, but I did. So cruel, and so unfair. I still can’t get over the sight of our lovable, furry friend falling to his death off the Empire State Building. But was there any other fate for the gorilla in this ugly world?

The Mist

You would have thought this story about a small town that is overcome by a — yes, you guessed it — mist full of unknown man-killing creatures would have been as lame as it sounds, but Stephen King managed to make it scary as hell. But the film's twist? The main character kills his friends and family when their car runs out of gas, sparing them from the great beast they can hear in the distance. With only four bullets and five people, David (Thomas Jane) surrenders himself to the mist, only to see soldiers and survivors pass by him. It’s clear that they have discovered a way to defeat the monsters and if David had just waited a few moments, all his loved ones could have lived. Sad? Yes. But the idea of a Stephen King ending that didn't haunt you for days seems scary wrong.

30 Days Of Night

Just like The Blair Witch Project, this vampire film will make you want to avoid forests for the rest of your life. (I’ve decided that I will never visit Alaska during winter because the concept of vampires hunting me down for 30 days is not preferable. Also, Sarah Palin.) Eben Oleson (Josh Hartnett, where did you go?!) and some of his friends and family are forced to face a coven of vampires who can only be killed by ultraviolet light. At the end of the movie, Eben injects himself with vampire blood to save everyone and prevent the vampires from destroying all evidence of their existence. Horrible, but it's nice to remember a time when we all adored Hartnett.

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest

As much as we want to dislike McMurphy in this Ken Kesey adaptation, Jack Nicholson can do no wrong on screen. A man who is sentenced to prison for statutory rape, McMurphy makes his way to a mental institution where he causes a ruckus, challenging the head nurse, Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and causing other patients to defy the system as well. After taking things to the extreme and testing the nurse’s patience, McMurphy receives a lobotomy. Chief Bromden, a supposedly deaf and mute patient, labeled a “Chronic,” refuses to let his comrade suffer this way and smothers him with a pillow. Is this a story of an extremely bizarre friendship? Yes. Is it horrifying to watch the way patients were treated in the hospital? Yes. But do you still walk out of the film, warmed by the relationships fostered between the inmates? Most definitely yes.

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