We’re all so used to seeing the good guy win at the end of films, but in reality, it just seems unrealistic, and so often, tacked on to satisfy more casual audiences who simply want pure, silly escapism. That’s why, then, these 10 endings have stuck in our minds, in which the bad guy defeats the hero at the end, with the viewer still feeling satisfied, arguably more so than had everything been neatly tied up.
It goes without saying, of course, that massive spoilers lie ahead…
10. Primal Fear
Edward Norton delivers a masterful, Oscar-nominated performance as Aaron Stampler, the seemingly shy and retiring altar boy who ends up being accused of murdering an archbishop. It’s Norton’s searing turn that keeps us on edge, preventing us from twigging the sublime twist ending to Gregory Hoblit’s cracking thriller, in which it turns out that, yes, Aaron was the bad guy all along. Over the course of the film, we learn that Aaron has a second personality called Roy who appears to have caused the murder, yet at the film’s climax, we learn that Roy – or in fact, Aaron – never existed, and that Norton’s character simply concocted an elaborate lie, such that he would spend a few months in an asylum and then end up back on the streets soon enough.
Twist endings can feel cheap and forced, but Primal Fear’s works because while it’s a swerve, it’s also backed up by not only Norton’s commanding performance, but a live-wire script that, surprisingly, doesn’t feel convoluted.