Against the Odds: 15 Films Where Villains Come Out on Top

The good guys don’t always win. This is true for the real world, but not always the world of fiction. Usually, the good guys come out on top in movies and stories, but there are quite a few instances of villains winning in the end. Film lovers on a popular online forum shared their picks for movies where the villain comes out on top.

Warning: Big spoilers ahead!

1. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith Hayden Christensen
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

The Star Wars prequels have always raised questions for fans. However, there is no question that Palpatine wins at the end of Revenge of the Sith. After fighting through the Clone Wars and sowing the seeds of his plan along the way, the Sith lord finally gets what he wants. Anakin is convinced to become his apprentice and join the dark side, the Jedi Order falls, with many going into hiding or being killed, and he becomes Emperor.

2. The Skeleton Key (2005)

The Skeleton Key John Hurt, Kate Hudson
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

This is a movie filled with twists, turns, and villains getting what they want! A young woman takes the job as a hospice nurse for an older couple in an old mansion in New Orleans. As her time taking care of the old man goes on, she starts to notice strange things about the house and its occupants. Eventually, it's discovered that the old man is actually under some sort of spell that renders him unable to move or speak.

The nurse tries to help him escape, but it becomes too late when the wife and her accomplice reveal the truth of them swapping their souls with their victims in order to prolong their lives. They do the same to her; she is left in the same state as their last victim, the old man.

3. Arlington Road (1999)

Jeff Bridges and Hope Davis in Arlington Road (1999)
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment.

Many of these endings carry a feeling of sadness and/or injustice, but this movie feels like one of the worst. After losing his wife to an extremist group, a college professor becomes obsessed with the group and begins to suspect his neighbors of being a part of it. At the film’s end, he attempts to chase a van he believes contains a bomb meant to blow up the FBI headquarters. It's revealed that the van is actually empty and that the professor has been tricked into bringing a bomb there in his own car. The bomb explodes, and since no one is alive to say what really happened, he is framed as the monster responsible.

4. Brightburn (2019)

Brightburn Jackson A. Dunn
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Although of questionable popularity, I have to at least give the creators credit for an interesting idea. Brightburn is basically an alternate universe where Superman is evil. A couple struggles to have a baby when something crashes near their home and into their lives. It’s a spaceship containing a baby boy.

Although appearing normal, the boy has superpowers that grow as he ages. With the arrival of puberty, the boy begins to have a lurking dark side rise from within as his old spaceship begins to signal to him. He eventually embraces this darkness, causing insurmountable destruction to Earth, exactly what his home world wants.

5. Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary Toni Collette
Image Credit: A24.

A while ago, I fell into the rabbit hole of all the secrets, details, and lore of Hereditary and have been there ever since. Maybe that’s why I didn’t consider this a “bad guy winning” story at first, but it very much is. Starting with the loss of the central family’s grandmother, the family begins to experience strange goings-on. Then, they start grieving the loss of the youngest daughter before they have even finished grieving the grandmother. Things begin to take a supernatural turn as the elder son, Peter, starts to believe his sister’s spirit is haunting him as revenge for accidentally killing her.

Eventually, the rest of the family meets cruel, gruesome fates and deaths. It's revealed that everything that has happened since the grandmother’s passing was somehow planned and orchestrated by a cult led by her to give the demon they worshiped, Paimon, a proper vessel. Unfortunately, that vessel is Peter, and by the end of the film, he is possessed by the demon and worshiped by the cult.

6. Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown Jack Nicholson, John Huston
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

An absolute classic and considered one of the best screenplays of all time, Chinatown’s ending is the embodiment of the villain winning in the end. Not only has Noah Cross used shady tactics to get and resell property, but he has done unspeakable things to his own daughter, Evelyn.

As the story continues, the central detective discovers the dark history behind Cross, Evelyn, and Katherine, Evelyn’s sister and daughter. The ending shows the detective trying to help Katherine and Evelyn escape Cross’s grasp. The plan doesn’t go as intended, with Cross finding out, resulting in the police arriving and killing Evelyn. Cross takes away Katherine and he faces no repercussions.

7. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Avengers: Infinity War
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Though the situation may have been turned into an online joke soon after the movie came out, I know that the ending to Infinity War hit many people hard.

After the Avengers worked so hard to try and prevent Thanos from reaching his goal, he made it. He collected all of the Infinity Stones, completing his gauntlet. He then snaps his fingers, causing half of the universe’s population to disintegrate, including many beloved heroes. The final moments show Thanos watching a sunrise, satisfied by his work. Though the Avengers get those disintegrated back in the sequel, this ending is certainly a gut punch.

8. Fallen (1998)

Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Usually, possession movies involve someone stuck in bed or a house as a team works to exorcise the evil from them. Although it may still technically be placed into the category of a possession film, Fallen does not follow this general formula, and neither does its demon. Instead of possessing just one victim throughout the film, the fallen angel Azazel possesses countless people through touch. They have used this ability for centuries, and when the main character discovers what they are really dealing with, a battle begins.

The ending shows Detective John Hobbes attempting to isolate Azazel with a plan to kill their current host and then himself to stop the force. Sadly, things do not go to plan. After Hobbes dies, Azazel seems to be left without a host long enough to finish the fallen angel once and for all. However, it turns out there is a cat that they are able to possess and leave the scene with. Hobbes is now dead, and Azazel lives on, able to continue his mischievous, murderous ways.

9. Saw (2004)

Image Credit: Lions Gate Films.

If I’m being perfectly honest, the entirety of the Saw franchise is included in the “bad guy wins” category. I mean, you must be doing something right if your plans are still working after your death, like John Kramer. But if I were to tell you exactly how the infamous Jigsaw Killer is victorious in every film, we’d be here all day. Instead, we’ll just cover the first film. Two men wake up in a poorly lit and filthy room. Between them is a still man who appears to have checked out his own ticket, holding a revolver and a tape player.

After playing their tapes, it becomes clear that they are a part of the Jigsaw Killer’s latest “game” to see who will leave and who will die. At the end of the movie, one man is able to escape, and the supposed dead man gets up and is revealed to be the killer. The remaining man is left to rot in that room since he failed his game, and the killer shuts the door, leaving it in darkness. So, Kramer goes on to kill more and more people in his complex games and earn himself disciples.

10. Funny Games (2007)

Funny Games Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet
Image Credit: Warner Independent Pictures.

There’s something truly unsettling about a horror movie that focuses on invading one’s personal space. Sometimes, the victim is able to get away in these movies, and sometimes they don’t. Funny Games is most certainly in the second category.

A family arrives at their lake house and meets two strange men who will become their tormentors. After a few irritating and odd interactions, the two begin to show their true colors. Torturous game after torturous game, the men cause more and more harm to the family both physically and psychologically. At one point, it seems as though they are gone, and the wife takes the chance to escape to get help, only for it to be ripped away when the men break the fourth wall and go back to finish things off how they want it to end.

11. Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Unlike the rest of the films on this list, the bad guy getting a win in this film is actually a happy ending. Though not the actual villain of the movie, Wreck-It Ralph is the bad guy in an old 80s video arcade game, Fix-It Felix Jr. Tired of being mistreated by his fellow characters in the game, Ralph goes on an adventure through different games in the arcade to finally win and earn a medal. After a few game jumps and hijinks, Ralph saves the arcade from getting invaded by evil bugs and earns the respect of the citizens in his game!

12. Skyfall (2012)

Skyfall Javier Bardem
Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Raoul Silva’s goal is not that complex for a Bond movie. Previously an agent like our beloved 007, Silva was captured and faced brutal torture, all while hoping he’d be rescued by the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service and the woman he sees as a mother figure, M. She never did because there were six other agents’ lives that would be at risk if he was to be rescued. Because of the feelings of abandonment, Silva wants to kill M as revenge. Ultimately, he succeeds, though he will never know it. Bond kills Silva, and moments later, M dies of her injuries.

13. The Wicker Man (1973)

The Wicker Man
Image Credit: British Lion Films.

After receiving an anonymous letter, a sergeant is sent to a remote island in search of a missing girl. He finds that the island is inhabited by those who embrace paganism, not Christianity. As he continues investigating the island for the young girl, more of the citizen’s strange traditions are revealed. Soon, the sergeant believes that the little girl is to be sacrificed by the people in a ritual to bring about a good harvest. However, that is not the case. The islanders actually picked him to be their sacrifice and are able to force him into the giant wicker man, setting it ablaze and completing their ritual.

14. Swordfish (2001)

Swordfish John Travolta, Halle Berry, Hugh Jackman
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Swordfish is pretty insane, and that’s saying something for a hacker movie. Stanley Jobson, a down-on-his-luck hacker, is approached by a woman who convinces him to work for a wealthy criminal and terrorist, Gabriel Shear. His job is to create a multi-headed worm program to siphon $9.5 billion from the U.S. government. Gabriel is part of an organization that aims to protect the U.S. from those who would threaten it by any means necessary, even if more and more innocent people must die in his attacks.

Though Stanley doesn’t want to take part in the actual heist, he has no choice after the kidnapping of his daughter. After a few double crosses, Gabriel attempts to escape in a helicopter with his remaining men, only for it to be shot down by Stanley. At the very end of the film, it is revealed that Gabriel is actually alive and is able to get the money, leading to attacks on different terrorists.

15. Oldboy (2003)

Oldboy Choi Min-sik, Kang Hye-jung
Image Credit: Show East.

Oldboy is another movie that’s ending hits you straight in the gut. A man is kidnapped and trapped inside a hotel room for 15 years, learning that his wife has been murdered and his captors have framed him as the prime suspect. Not able to do anything to escape his torment, he goes mad. Eventually, the man is released without explanation, sedated, hypnotized, and left on a rooftop. After discovering his daughter has been adopted, he makes it his mission to get vengeance on those who kidnapped him. After a long, violent journey to find the truth and the one responsible, the main character discovers the grisly reality of it all.

Source: Reddit.