The fantasy genre seems to be perpetually popular, although like most genres it does have its cycles. It’s also a genre that has a reputation for being either very good or very bad. There is some rationale for this, as some of the canonical fantasy movies really deserve their reputation as great movies, while others probably would have been better had they been left as screenplays rather than full fledged movies.
It’s also true that fantasy films tend to either block the landing or dramatically fail to provide any form of closure. From the perfect trilogy clips to endings that were more of a trailer than an actual conclusion, here are the five best and five worst fantasy movie endings of all time, ranked.
ten SUPER: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)
This latest entry in the film trilogy directed by Peter Jackson deserves its reputation as one of the best films of 2003. After all, it won the Oscar for Best Picture and much more.
The end of The king’s return is one of the most beautiful and heart-wrenching of all fantasy films, and so is the original novel. It’s hard not to shed a tear as Frodo finally has to say goodbye to his beloved Middle-earth, because the place he saved seems to have no more room for him. Not only that, but the beloved community has finally separated for good.
9 Awful: Dungeons & Dragons (2000)
It’s hard to say what exactly was going through the minds of those responsible for making this film. Despite allegedly being based on the hugely popular game of the same name, the narrative is almost unlike anything that happens during normal table play.
The ending, however, is even more frustrating, as it really doesn’t offer any form of resolution to an already shapeless and confusing film. It’s definitely a movie that most fantasy fans should skip, unless they’re really into guilty pleas that are so bad they’re good.
8 SUPER: Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
Guillermo del Toro has a well-deserved reputation for creating films that manage to harness both the fantastic and the horrible, and none of his films show it as clearly as Pan’s Labyrinth.
Set during the darker days of the Spanish Civil War and focusing on a young girl who may or may not be the daughter of the King of the Underworld, Pan’s Labyrinth is a haunting movie, and the ending is one of the best in fantasy. This is precisely because she leaves open the question of whether the girl has in fact returned to her real father or if she is in the midst of a dying delirium.
seven AWFUL: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
Peter Jackson has received quite a bit of criticism for his decision to make JRR Tolkien The Hobbit into a trilogy of films, mainly because it is a slender children’s novel and not a series of books. While the first and third installments are entertaining, the middle installment sags a bit and there’s more of Jackson than Tolkien.
The end of The desolation of Smaug is particularly unfortunate, as it focuses on the dragon nearly drowned in molten gold before flying off to destroy Laketown. To make matters worse, this ending seemed to turn into a drawn-out battle with the infamous dragon, only for Smaug to be quickly defeated in the prologue of The battle of the five armies. It’s certainly not Jackson’s best work.
6 SUPER: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
The success of Jackson Tolkien’s original trilogy spawned a glut of similar fantasy films, one of which was The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, based on the bestselling CS Lewis novel. It’s a truly extraordinary film, managing to both stay true to Lewis’s novel and manage on its own.
The ending, in which the four children return to their own world after spending several years in Narnia but only being away for a few minutes in their real home, is one of the strangest but most intriguing of all of fantasy.
5 Ugly: Eragon (2006)
Like so many before, Eragon is one of those fantastic movies that was clearly trying to cash in on the success of The Lord of the Rings. Sadly, the film as a whole failed to deliver in any meaningful way, precisely because it so often feels like an overhaul of Tolkien and Jackson’s work (without its depth and opera grandeur) even though it does is based on a completely separate book.
The ending is just as flat, largely because it ends on some sort of cliffhanger that the filmmakers clearly thought was the teaser for other sequels to come. Unfortunately for them, no Eragon sequelae have never been made.
4 SUPER: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
For all of its flaws, there’s actually a lot to commend for some parts of Jackson’s three-part adaptation. The Hobbit. The ending of the final film, in particular, is the best of the entire trilogy, as it involves Bilbo returning home to find that he has been completely changed by his adventure to the Mountain.
Plus, there’s a wonderful little moment at the end where the viewer sees Ian Holm return as the older Bilbo, eagerly awaiting Gandalf’s arrival. This brief ending formally links The Hobbit trilogy at the start of The Lord of the Rings.
3 Awful: The Golden Compass (2007)
The 2000s were in some ways the golden age of fantasy movies and many fans of the hit Philip Pullman series Its dark materials were excited about a film adaptation. Sadly, that effort fell flat, in large part because the filmmakers took away much of what made the novels themselves so popular.
Plus, the ending was one of those that left viewers looking forward to a sequel that sadly never happened. Luckily for fans, the books have now been adapted by HBO for a new series, which they hope is better than the previous live-action attempt.
2 SUPER: Frozen (2013)
Disney has always excelled at making brilliant fantasy films based on classic fairy tales, and Frozen turned out to be one of their biggest hits to date – both financially and narratively.
Much of that success stems from the risks the film takes with the mainstream narrative. The fact that it’s the brotherly bond between Elsa and Anna that ends up saving the day rather than the traditional prince or love interest is a powerful reminder that sometimes it’s really worth taking a few risks with old stories.
1 AWFUL: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)
It was probably inevitable that the end of the Harry potter the movies would be a bit of a bummer, especially since any reader who watches the movie knows how dull the ending is. But despite this foreknowledge, the epilogue of the film in which all the characters appear several years older managed to be both baffling and disappointing.
While CGI is the best one would expect of the time, it can’t quite escape the fact that it’s always weird to see actors (still quite young) hastily transform into themselves. supposedly older for an epilogue that seemed to be rushing to get to the end credits. An undeniably formative generational story such as Harry potter deserved a better and more sincere farewell than this.
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