2. I Am Legend (2007)

Will Smith as Robert Neville with a Darkseeker in I Am Legend

This particular entry is a complicated one for a few key reasons: while the original ending to I Am Legend is pretty weak, it’s made awful by the fact that a much better alternate ending was discarded. What makes all that even worse is that the book the film is based on has another different ending, and that one is the best of all three (even though the whole story is a little different). All in all, it’s a confusing mess of narrative issues.

This is exactly what makes I Am Legend‘s ending so bad, though. It’s clear that the film’s story has been fiddled and tampered with to the point that it actively makes it worse, and the tacked-on Hollywood ending just rings hollow. After virologist Robert Neville has spent years of his post-apocalyptic life trying to cure the disease that created the vampiric Darkseekers, he finally learns that other survivors exist and that he has successfully created a cure. However, the creatures storm his house at the exact same moment, so he chooses to save the other survivors and the cure, then sacrifices himself to kill the Darkseekers.

However, the alternate ending sees Neville realize that the creatures have retained some humanity, and relinquishes his test subject to appease them. He then drives away into the sunset to find other survivors and spread the cure. It’s better, and it addresses one of the original story’s key points: that Neville’s experiments on the Darkseekers have made him the creature of their nightmares, and that he’s no more or less a monster than they.

However, the book’s ending is the best: Neville realizes that the Darkseekers (who are actually closer to humans in the book) are actually the future and that he’s the dangerous one, having killed countless of their kind in search of a cure. He kills himself, allowing his “legend” to be his narrow-minded pursuit clouding his judgment, hoping that the Darkseekers will create a better world by avoiding his example. From this, it’s clear that the film’s theatrical ending ultimately missed the point of the book, and allows the villain of the story to die a heroic death and save humanity in an ending that doesn’t really fit the story.