A lot of these moments are endings, because no bad scene stands out like a sore thumb more than a movie’s concluding moments, if those ring false. All these flicks are still worth watching, of course. Just be warned — you will be disappointed by the following scenes. Anyway, you know, spoiler alerts abound, if you care.
5. “Layer Cake” (2004), The Ending After The “Layer Cake” Scene (the link is just the last little bit of the “Layer Cake” scene, but you should just watch the whole movie anyway)
The whole point of the movie is crystallized by Michael Gambon’s great speech to Daniel Craig, explaining exactly how and why his getting screwed over is his indoctrination to the larger world of the London underground. Gambon’s character, Eddie Temple, lets Craig and his crew live, because he wants his lecture to serve as a lesson, and he appreciates their pluck. This is where things should naturally conclude.
BUT THEY DON’T.
Instead, Craig supplies us with an overbearing voice-over, played atop a montage of his crew killing Gambon and everybody who works for him. Which is lame because the Gambon scene feels like a great way to establish that Craig’s character (never named in the movie) has just gotten his feet wet, and things are about to get real. Maybe in subsequent movies, maybe it doesn’t matter. The POINT of director Matthew Vaughn’s entire enterprise is that there’s always a bigger fish. When that bigger fish is taken out, it undermines that point. ESPECIALLY when, as in the ensuing scene, we see Craig — the fish who just took OUT said bigger fish — get revenge-murdered by the scrub nephew (Ben Whishaw, Craig’s future Q in the Bond movies) of the Duke, a slain hothead ex-business associate of Craig’s. Thus, after becoming the big fish, the rug is immediately pulled out from Craig by a cokehead punk who’s never going to become a big fish himself. I’m counting the montage and Craig’s murder as one scene because it all takes place over his summarizing narration, first in a voice-over montage, and then in a direct-address moment as he leaves what must certainly be The Most Expensive Restaurant In London with Sienna Miller on his arm.
Speaking of Sienna Miller, this movie also has probably (nah, definitely) the coolest scene in British gangster movie history (okay, okay, in the last 20 years). Too bad that “Layer Cake” has to make this list commemorating bad scenes, too.
4. “Psycho” (1960), The Scene Where They Explain Shit That Doesn’t Need To Be Explained
Damn it, Alfred Hitchock, we KNOW that Norman Bates thinks he’s himself and his own mother. We know he’s, well, a psycho. We don’t need a psychiatrist (Simon Oakland) to tell us this for several minutes. Just skip ahead to that scene where he doesn’t even hurt a fly. Now THAT’s an ending. By the way, “Psycho” boasts one of the all-time great teaser trailers.
3. “Minority Report” (2002), The Wrap-Up Montage After THIS PERFECT ENDING
So the montage, which I couldn’t find online, features a tidy wrap-up that is deeply, wholly unnecessary. You know, just in case we had any questions about whether or not Anderton was acquitted of his sins (he was), whether or not the Precrime Unit in DC was shuttered (it was), whether or not all prisoners were released (they were), whether or not Cruise got back together with his ex, the fly honey from “Cold Case” (he did), and whether or not the Pre-Cogs were able to grow their hair back and live in a nice little hut in a forest, where they could “find relief from their gifts” and “live out their lives in peace” (they were). I DON’T CARE ABOUT ANY OF THIS. It’s all implied in that initial ending and everything that leads up to it. There is no way you can top the dramatic impact of the von Sydow roof scene. Damn it, Spielberg, stop questioning your instincts. Just end the thing where it deserves to end.
2. “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), The Matt Damon Remembers Shit He Never Experienced Scene
Part deux of the Spielberg bad-endings tandem. I’m pretty big on Spielberg (lame for a hardcore cinephile, I know, but whatever, he’s pretty great), but the man’s biggest failing is his knee-jerk tendency for tacking on unnecessary sentimental wrap-ups. It gets going with Tom Hanks’s “Earn this, earn it” non sequitor as his character, Captain Miller, dies right in front of Matt Damon’s Private Ryan on the bridge. We know from the present-day-set opening of “Saving Private Ryan” that this is all somebody’s flashback. The only person who has experienced everything in the flick to this point aside from Tom Hanks is Ed Burns’s Private Reiben. Since Forrest Gump just bit it, deductive reasoning would suggest that, you know, this is Ed Burns’s flashback, right? Obviously. Kind of weird that Burns has brown eyes and the old dude in the flashback (Harrison Young) has blue eyes, but whatever. Instead, we fade from a shot of a disillusioned MATT DAMON to the present day! You’re telling me, this is all Matt Damon’s flashback, Spielberg? HE WAS ONLY THERE FOR THE LAST 25 MINUTES OF THE MOVIE! William Goldman, one of my favorite screenwriters ever (“All The President’s Men,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “Misery,” “Marathon Man,” “The Princess Bride”), tackled this issue far more eloquently than I ever could for Premiere Magazine, and it’s incredibly hilarious. He gets into one of the other great, weird elements of the present-day Ryan flash-forward. It involves his granddaughters. That’s all I’m gonna say.
Look, don’t get me wrong, it’s always nice to see Harvey Keitel getting work. But, I mean, wow. So… John Travolta’s Vincent Vega (great name) and Samuel L. Jackson’s Jules Winfield are driving away with Marcellus Wallace’s MacGuffin (a movie term for a red herring item that moves the plot along but isn’t that important — in “Pulp Fiction,” that item is whatever’s in the briefcase), in Jules’s ’74 Chevy Nova. Travolta and Jackson get into an ill-fated conversation about divine intervention with their hitman-snitch (didn’t know that was a thing until I saw this movie) Marvin (Phil Lamarr). After Travolta accidentally blasts Marvin in the face with his modified 1911A1 Auto Ordnance .45 ACP pistol, splattering blood all over the backseat of the car, they freak out and drive to Quentin Tarantino’s house to get the car out of sight. Therein, Quentin Tarantino (his character is Jimmy Dimmick) busts out his favorite word way too many times, flipping out because his wife, a nurse, will be coming home any minute and he doesn’t want to be seen associating with two hit men and the corpse in the back of their car. So Jules calls Winston “The Wolf” Wolfe (Keitel), a world-class expert “fixer,” who shows up to help Jackson and Travolta sort out their mess. Wolfe drives like Tony Stewart (bad example? Fine, fine, Richard Petty) and is there almost instantaneously. His brilliant plan that they definitely needed to consult him about? He tells them to change clothes and wash out the back of the car. Seriously. What exactly was the point of this scene? To give Keitel work and let Tarantino get kind of racist. That’s IT. Although it does have one of the best lines in the movie: “Let’s not start sucking each other’s dicks just yet, gentlemen.”