The newly released Moonfall signaled the end of an era, as it was a huge box office bomb and marked the final nail in the disaster movie coffin. However, movies about the end of the world are seemingly done best when the apocalypse doesn’t come until the very last minute. A pocket of fascinating films abruptly end with the end of the world, and some of them are simple dramas and comedies that don’t have any kind of apocalyptic premise.
Redditors have debated which took them by surprise the most. While the apocalypse is traditionally described as the destruction of the world in the way it’s depicted in the Bible, the meaning has expanded to involve other types of world-ending catastrophes. Whether it’s supernatural, a random natural disaster, or an out-of-the-blue nuclear war, these last-minute apocalypses shook viewers to their core.
Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)
Esensofz points to the disappointing sequel, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, as surprising viewers with the apocalypse, positing, “As much as that’s not really a good movie, I did very very much like the ending.” The Redditor is not wrong, as the 2003 release is a bad movie with a great ending, as the bulk of the film makes a ton of continuity mistakes, is too comedic, and is not very well-acted.
However, the ending is bold, brave, and absolutely tragic. While the film makes it seems like John Connor was being led to a bunker that will keep a nuclear war from happening, the audience learns at the same time as John that he was actually led there to be protected from the unstoppable war. The film literally ends with a nuclear war and Judgment Day beginning.
Don’t Look Up (2021)
Reddit user Goblinelevator119 points to one of the newest and biggest movies on Netflix, Don’t Look Up, which is about America’s attempt to stop a meteor from hitting Earth and destroying all of humankind. The Redditor posits, “liked that about Don’t Look Up but I know that’s kind of a hated movie.”
While the film is building up to the end of the world from the very first scene, few viewers would have predicted that it actually ended that way. Several attempts were made by scientists and the government in the movie to keep the meteor from happening, with each one of them seeming more promising than the last. But the inevitable happens, and it leads to a hilarious post-credits scene.
Army Of Darkness (1992)
This Redditor points to the 1992 horror comedy Army of Darkness, noting, “Ash is teleported to the future (incredible movie.)” Army of Darkness is undoubtedly one of the best movies under 90 minutes, but it’s so fast-paced and manages to fit so much into that short runtime. In the movie, the Evil Dead series’ beloved chainsaw-for-a-hand hero Ash is teleported to the Medieval Ages where he slays dragons and fights skeleton armies.
But continuing the teleportation plot twist of Evil Dead 2, the last couple of minutes see Ash thrown into a dystopian Mad Max-like future and seemingly the end of civilization. Nobody could have possibly thought that the movie would end that way while watching it, and then it cuts to black, leaving fans to wonder what happens to Ash next.
Dr. Strangelove (1964)
Dr. Strangelove is one of the funniest and cleverest war comedies ever made, and it has a just as funny ending. The last moments of the film see the titular character, who uses a wheelchair, spontaneously stand up and scream, “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!”
However, just seconds after that weirdly uplifting moment, it cuts to a montage of nuclear explosions, completely changing the tone of the whole movie into something more sinister. Krustycook thinks it’s one of the best examples of a movie randomly ending with the apocalypse, adding, “one of the great endings ever.” However, given how the movie ends with the end of the world, it is a wonder what Kubrick’s unrealized Dr. Strangelove 2 would have been about.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
The fact that 10 Cloverfield Lane was tied to the Cloverfield universe was one of the worst-kept secrets ever, and those who were fans of the 2008 release saw the ending coming from a mile away. However, those who had never seen the monster movie would have been none the wiser. TeamStark31 thinks it’s one of the best surprise apocalypse movies and makes a great point, commenting, “you aren’t sure what’s really happening the whole time until the end.”
The 2016 movie is a simple thriller about a man essentially keeping people prisoners in his bunker, telling them that they can’t leave because the apocalypse is happening outside. Though it’s alluded to throughout the whole film, viewers are torn between whether to believe him or not. But it turns out that he was telling the truth the whole time.
Magnolia‘s ending is way more ambiguous than movies that overtly depict the end of the world with wars, machines, and monsters. However, it’s more apocalyptic than almost any other film, as it literally spontaneously ends with frogs falling from the sky, hinting at the plagues of Egypt and the end of the world.
TheIgnoredWriter points out the film, adding, “not outright exploding in your face like Don’t Look Up. Like I said it’s more alluded toward.” Magnolia‘s final moments are way more surprising than any other film that ends with the apocalypse, as the 1999 release is an exhaustingly emotional melodrama about addiction, miserable child stars, and dying men confessing their regrets.
By 2011, Danish filmmaker Lars von Trier was already well-established and known for trying to disturb audiences just as much as trying to make them cry. Dancer in the Dark is a beautiful film about a mother trying to raise money for surgery for her son, and Antichrist is full of vulgar and masochistic violence.
Melancholia is a mix of both the emotional resonance of Trier’s older films and the shock value of his newer films, as it’s about a depressed woman who has a strained relationship with her family. But as pishposhpoppycock points out, the movie ends with the Earth in flames and being shattered into a billion pieces. However, the story is bookended, as it also opens with a dream sequence of the Earth colliding with another planet, foreshadowing the surprising ending.
If there’s anything that Nicolas Cage is known for other than his eccentric acting, it’s his just as strange movie choices. Knowing is one of the weirder movies in the actor’s filmography, as it’s about a file that contains numbers that allude to potential disasters and even the apocalypse, and in that respect, the final act couldn’t be more satisfying.
However, TheLordJames explains, “It feels like a fever dream. What a horrible ending.” At the end of the 2009 film, extraterrestrial angels take children away in interstellar crafts to another planet while Earth is abandoned and destroyed. But it’s bittersweet, as it also hints at human life continuing on the new planet, almost in an opposite way to Don’t Look Up’s ending.
Iron Sky (2012)
Kinofhera refers to Iron Sky as being one of the best films that surprisingly ends with the apocalypse, describing it as a “satirical comedy about the Nazis actually hiding on the moon and them coming back.” Iron Sky has one of the most interesting high concepts and an even more unique revisionist take on Nazis than Inglorious Basterds.
Not only does it parody the conspiracy theory that the moon is hollow, but also that it’s a secret hideout for Nazis, and they return to Earth in 2018. The movie ends with a nuclear war wiping out humanity, and it’s even revealed that Mars isn’t a planet but a satellite that belongs to the Nazis too.
Take Shelter (2011)
NK_1989 explains that Take Shelter surprisingly ends with the apocalypse. However, the apocalypse happening at the end of the 2011 movie is more ambiguous than anything, and it’s left for the viewers to decide whether or not it’s the apocalypse or simply a storm. The movie is about a man who has apocalyptic visions, and he worries even further when the storm makes its way to Ohio.
But the Redditor adds that there’s something much deeper and more personal going on. They explain, “It doesn’t actually matter whether or not the apocalypse happens; what matters is that Michael Shannon chose to be with his family. Great movie, one of my favorites.”
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