Life isn’t always fair. And that’s especially true of movies, where the hero usually wins. But every now and then, audiences are thrown a curveball, and the villain ends a film victorious. Here are 10 times baddies climaxed on top. Just BEWARE OF SPOILERS ahead …
Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
Based on Ira Levin’s bestselling book, Rosemary’s Baby stars Mia Farrow as a pregnant woman who becomes convinced that her unborn baby is in danger. It all kicks off when Rosemary and her husband move into a New York apartment, where the residents are as strange as they are friendly. Then weird things start to happen. A suicide. A man mysteriously going blind. Rosemary passing out — on the night she conceives no less — and dreaming that she is being raped by a demon. And while those around her convince Rosemary there’s nothing strange going on, it turns out something very much is, with Rosemary giving birth to Satan’s son at the end of the movie, and deciding to raise the child. As was the plan from the very beginning.
The Wicker Man (1973)
Deeply religious police sergeant Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) heads to the island of Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a school girl. While there he’s led a merry dance by the locals, who seem strangely relaxed about the missing youngster. That’s because it’s all a rouse, with the islanders requiring someone who is a fool and a virgin to visit Summerisle of their own free will, so they can be sacrificed to appease the pagan gods. The film ends with Howie being forced into a huge wicker statue and burned alive.
The Omen (1976)
Another horror film with satanism at its core, The Omen plays like a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby had that film ended a few moments earlier. A child is born to an American diplomat and his wife, but when said baby apparently passes away, he’s replaced by an orphan whom they name Damien. But this is no ordinary boy. Rather he’s the Antichrist, protected by a network of satanists who ingratiate themselves into Damien’s life. And they succeed, with his adopted father shot while trying to kill the boy, the film ending with Damien smiling at his funeral.
Body Heat (1981)
As nasty as it is sexy, Body Heat is fine film noir with a fantastic femme fatale and a marvellously dark ending. William Hurt plays dumb lawyer Ned Racine, who embarks on an affair with the very-much-married Matty Walker (Kathleen Turner). The pair kill Matty’s husband for the insurance money, though during the investigation into his death, all fingers point to Ned. Realising he is being set up by the object of his affections, Ned endeavours to save his own skin, but Matty is several steps ahead, and fakes her own death. The film ends with Ned in prison for the murder of the Walkers, and Matty drinking cocktails on a beach.
The Vanishing (1988)
Most of these films leave a nasty taste in your mouth, but none come more unpleasant than The Vanishing. Happy couple Rex and Saskia are holidaying in France when Saskia goes missing at a petrol station. Rex searches for her, but to no avail. Years later he’s confronted by the man who kidnapped Saskia, who makes him an offer. He can find out who happened to his girlfriend, but only by experiencing it for himself. The man offers him a drugged coffee, Rex drinks it, and the movie ends with him buried in a box underground.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Dodgy conman and cerebral palsy sufferer Verbal Kint is interrogated by detective Dave Kujan following a boat massacre. He spins a tale of mystery and intrigue, revolving around infamous boogie man Keyser Söze — a man so ruthless he murdered his own family to prove his commitment to crime. The police don’t believe his story, but Verbal’s bail is posted, and he limps out of the police station. We then witness Verbal’s cerebral palsy disappear as he sparks up a cigarette, just as Kujan realises that Kint’s story was just that; a tall tale made from names and places on the police bulletin board behind him. Meaning that Verbal IS Keyser Söze, and he’s just gone free.
More from disgraced former actor Kevin Spacey, this time playing John Doe in seminal serial killer flick Se7en (Seven? 7? Seven7Seven?). Doe plans a series of murders based on the seven deadly sins; pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, sloth and wrath. But when the character hands himself into the police, only five of the murders have been carried out, causing much head-scratching. Doe soon reveals that he murdered Detective David Mills’ wife as an act of envy for murder six. And encourages Mills to kill him via wrath for the full house. In spite of his partner begging him not to, Mills does just that, shooting Doe dead; thereby completing the madman’s mission.
Primal Fear (1996)
The air of superiority that Richard Gere frequently displays onscreen works wonders for Primal Fear. In this film he plays Chicago Defence Attorney Martin Vail, who specialises in finding legal loopholes, and loves the limelight a little too much. His current case involves young alter boy Aaron Stampler (Edward Norton, in a startling screen debut), who is charged with the brutal murder of an Archbishop. Vail discovers that severe stutterer Stampler has dissociative identity disorder — brought on by years of abuse — and that his violent alternate personality ‘Roy’ committed the crime. Aaron turns into Roy on the stand and is found not guilty by reason of insanity. But in the film’s final scene, when they are celebrating the victory, Vail catches him out in a lie. “There was never an Aaron” Stampler reveals. Meaning he was always Roy.
Arlington Road (1999)
Embittered history teacher Michael Faraday (Jeff Bridges) — who blames the FBI for the death of his wife — befriends neighbours Oliver and Cheryl Lang (Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack). But soon starts to suspect them of something shady, due to multiple lies about Oliver’s past, and some mysterious blueprints in his house. Michael is right to be suspicious, as the Langs are terrorists, targeting the U.S. government. Before he can expose them however, a bomb that has been planted in Michael’s car detonates, blowing up the FBI headquarters, and resulting in the now very-much-dead Michael being the only suspect.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Supervillain Thanos has been playing the long game, and it’s all led to this moment. With the big bad collecting the last of the Infinity Stones to make him all-powerful, and ready for Infinity War. The Avengers do their best to stop him, but they don’t understand the power of the Infinity Gauntlet. As with one snap of his fingers, half of life in the universe disintegrates, including 50% of ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.’ The story isn’t over, with Part 2 of the saga hitting early next year. But this instalment ends with Thanos watching the sun rise in a newly balanced universe.
BONUS: Various Star Wars Movies
Star Wars loves a downbeat ending, even if you don’t realise that the villain has won at the time. Empire Strikes Back is an obvious downer, with Luke losing an arm at much the same time that he discovers the truth about his father, Han frozen in carbonite, and the Rebels pretty much screwed. There’s a modicum of ‘New Hope’ at the end of Revenge of the Sith, but you’ve also got Anakin’s final transformation into cinema’s most prodigious killer. But The Phantom Menace might be the best example. Senator Palpatine becomes the new Chancellor and Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme and co celebrate their victory over the Trade Federation. The gang all laughter and joy, little realising that Palpatine is actually the villain of the piece, and this is the start of his victory lap.