The 10 Most Shocking Endings and WTF-Cliffhangers in Film and Literature

Inspired by Sherlock’s “unhappy ending” in the last episode of season 2, I decided to collect the most shocking endings in film, literature, and Television. Endings which left us astonished, in awe, and downright confused.

1. Atonement by Ian McEwan

When I was finished reading that novel, I simply had to read it again because the ending changes everything that you have believed in and let’s you see the world of the Tallis sisters with other eyes. This is a happily ever after gone bad.

2. Fight Club

Sigmund Freud would enjoy himself gloriously watching that movie. You can picture him lying on couch, giggling with amusement because he would understand what’s going on here. The unconscious strikes back!

3. The Grey’s Anatomy Season Finales

Is there anything in the world that you can trust more thoroughly than the creative genius of series creator Shonda Rhimes when it comes to scripting a finale? Every year, Grey’s Anatomy blows my mind and it leads its characters into situations which suddenly leave them hanging in the air not knowing where to go. The only catastrophe that has not (yet) taken place is probably dinosaurs taking over Seattle.

4. The Sixth Sense

No need to talk about that. You all know the ending, don’t you?

5. Se7en

When this movie starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman hit the cinemas, it was not yet known who the villain would be. So imagine sitting in a cinema and expecting to watch a Brad Pitt-flick and then there is… No, I’m not gonna tell who plays the villain just let me add that I met him personally, twice.

Plus, the overall plot of the movie is just genius, I think. “What is in the booooox?”

6. Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days

You knew they were gonna make it, but then they didn’t and you thought “Oh, no!”? Well a nice twist in the end can turn losers into heroes!

7. The Life of David Gale

Maybe for some of you, the ending was not a surprise but I clearly couldn’t get my head around it. It was surprising, smart, and moving… Plus: The movie offers a sequence of Kevin Spacey explaining Lacanian psychoanalysis. This does render it a must-see!

8. Shutter Island

I mean… let’s admit it. Was any of us really sure what had happened on that island? Really, really sure? If so… would you please explain it to me??

9. The Prestige

This movie is about the competition between two magicians. Just when you thought that the one of them now finally triumphed over the other you have a look at your watch and see that the movie goes on for one more hour. Then the game begins. You are never quite sure when this movie will end because you constantly think “Now, that’s it! He won.” and then the other magician comes back with a vengeance. Great popcorn cinema.

10. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter is a feminist writer who re-writes fairytales. Her stories are so uncanny and twisted that somehow you anticipate the outcome but somehow you are still a bit shocked in the end.


And my special prize goes to….

John Rambo

The ending of John Rambo is surprising because after having watched it, you will wonder how you could actually watch the whole movie. This movie earns the pole position on my “Why the hell did I watch that?”-list.

And yes, I do own this movie on DVD but just to force others to watch it, too.


I know that there are a lot more twisted movies for me to see and this page list the 50 Best and Worst Twist Endings in Movies. Some of which I like are rated fairly low by them but I stick to my list. I like a good twist in a story and could babble on for ages about the genius of Atonement. What are your WTF-moments in TV, film or literature?


9 thoughts on “The 10 Most Shocking Endings and WTF-Cliffhangers in Film and Literature

  1. Yay, Seven! Als ich irgendwann von meinem Bruder gezwungen wurde, diesen Film zu gucken, war ich erfreulicherweise jung genug, um vorher nicht von allen Seiten im Internet oder anderswo mit dem Inhalt vollgespoilert zu werden. So saß ich da in meinem Sessel und freute mich schon einen Ast, als man die Synchronstimme des Bösen hörte und ich einfach direkt wusste, was da jetzt kommt. Sehr, sehr cool.

  2. Uh, zwei meiner Lieblingsfilme hams auf die Liste geschafft, coole Sache:)
    Unnd als du mir nach der Hälfte von Fight Club schon sagen konntest, wie er ausgeht bzw. die passende Freud-Theorie gefunden hattest, ohne den Film vorher gesehn zu haben, war einer der Momente, in denen du mich bisher in der ganzen Zeit, in der ich dich kenn, am meisten beeindruckt hast:)

    Im Übrigen: Smokin’ Aces und Lucky#Slevin ham recht unerwartete Enden, allerdings weniger schockierend, weil der Zuschauer nie das Gefühl hat, zu wissen, was passiert.
    Richtig cooles Ende und auch so n toller Film: “The Game” mit Michael Douglas.
    Auch zu empfehlen ist -wenn man so Heist-Movies mag- “Inside Man” und evtl.”Oceans Eleven”.. Und an “Wild Things” ist das Ende fast besser als die Poolszene mit Denise Richards und Neve Campbell;)

    • Lucky#Slevin musste ich mir mal anschauen und bin dabei eingeschlafen. Es war aber auch schon sehr spät und lag nicht am Film. Aufgewacht bin ich dann, als Eva Marie Saint im Film erwähnt wurde, weil wir gerade an dem Tag in der Uni über “North by Northwest” mit ihr geredet haben. Das hat mich dann irgendwie total verwirrt und eigentlich bin ich mir heute noch nicht sicher, ob sie tatsächlich im Film erwähnt wird oder ob ich das geträumt hab.

      “The Game” muss ich wohl wirklich mal anschauen. Du hast schon öfter davon erzählt.

      Im Nachhinein ist mir auch noch “Man on Fire” mit Denzel Washington eingefallen. Da hat mich das Ende auch ziemlich überrascht.

      • Ich hab beide Filme; The Game sogar hier….
        Dass in Lucky#Slevin die Dame irgendwann mal erwähnt wird, hab ich nicht mitbekommen, aber vielleicht bist du da einfach feinfühliger für sowas…

        Man on Fire, da kams auch ein wenig überraschend, ja…generell guter Film. Viele brennende Autos, viele Explosionen, einfach toll;)

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