Everyone loves a happy ending. Y’know, the sort where the hero finally wins over their love interest, or that lost treasure is finally found, or crisis is averted and life goes on. In fact, a significant portion of modern storytelling is built around just that: the delivery of a satisfying conclusion with decidedly positive implications.
Unfortunately, not all movies skew that optimistically, though. Of course, there are many instances of movies with sad, tragic, or horrifying endings – in fact, far too many to document in a simple list – but those aren’t the ones we’re talking about here. The examples compiled in this list all look remarkably like the former, but are secretly the latter.
All of the entries on these list are endings that are presented as happy, but really aren’t. Many of them are from innocent and beloved family films, where all endings must crucially appear to be happy as not to accidentally give younger audiences the impression that things don’t always work out. Unfortunately, these films all teach a much more valuable lesson, even if it is a little bleak: not all “happy” endings are as happy as they seem.
8. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
One of the most beloved Pixar films of a generation tells the imaginative story of a world of monsters who harness the power of children’s screams for their own energy. In fact, their entire society is built around scream-powered energy – at least, that is, until best friends Mike and Sully accidentally uncover a conspiracy to conceal the true nature of the power of children.
The film ends with Mike and Sully drastically altering the energy-creation process by having the monsters of Monsters, Inc. switch from scaring children to making them laugh. This seemingly fixes the monsters’ energy crisis and makes for a world of happier children and monsters. But does it?
Ultimately, the monsters of Monsters, Inc. were all shaped by a society that valued fear and scariness. Mike and Sully’s actions would have done more than simply upset the status quo, they would have made the entire system crumble. One of the biggest industries in Monsters, Inc.’s world changed drastically overnight, forcing a huge part of the workforce to either entirely change their personalities or face losing their jobs. Though Mike and Sully might have solved the energy crisis, they almost undoubtedly would have caused an economic crisis, and that’s something that the upbeat ending of Monsters, Inc. doesn’t properly address.