Top 10 Action Movies Where the Bad Guy Wins

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Top 10 Action Movies Where the Bad Guy Wins

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Turns out that sometimes crime does pay. For this list, we'll be looking at various action movies in which the hero loses and the villain emerges triumphant. Our countdown includes “Inglourious Basterds”, "The Great Escape", "300", and more!
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Top 10 Action Movies Where the Villain Wins


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Action Movies Where the Villain Wins.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various action movies in which the hero loses and the villain emerges triumphant. We will not be including superhero movies, so Thanos’s decimation of half the universe will not be found here.

Which of these endings did you find the most shocking? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: “On Her Majesty's Secret Service” (1969)


This has always been a standout within the James Bond canon. Not only was it the first movie without Sean Connery, but it is also significantly darker than most of the series. Its ending, in particular, has received much attention throughout the decades, and for good reason. Bond hunts Blofeld throughout much of the film, but unlike other entries in the franchise, he doesn’t die in a spectacular shootout. Instead, he crashes the wedding of Bond and Tracy and commits a drive-by shooting with Irma Bunt. Tracy is killed, and Bond is left a broken man. It was an extremely gutsy ending for a Bond film, and it resulted in the movie being ostracized by the fanbase.

#9: “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” (2009)


The ending of “The Rise of Cobra” was mostly used to set up the events of “Retaliation.” And, much like “Infinity War,” it contained a very dark and downbeat ending as a result. G.I. Joe is successful in capturing The Commander and Destro, but McCullen comes out on top by placing Zartan in the White House. With the help of nanomites, Zartan is able to take the physical appearance of the President and fools everyone into believing that he is their leader. The movie effectively ends with the White House infiltrated by the bad guys and McCullen one step closer to establishing his new world order. It’s called “The Rise of Cobra” for a reason!

#8: “Inglourious Basterds” (2009)


Hans Landa is one of the most despicable villains in movie history. And to think, he… mostly gets away with everything. In a shocking turn of events, Landa betrays the Nazi party and helps kill Hitler in exchange for freedom in America. And aside from his new forehead scar provided by Aldo Raine, the plan completely works. In America, Landa will live as a free man on Nantucket Island and will be rewarded with multiple distinctions. He might even be regarded as a war hero, because he did help end World War II. Perhaps the worst thing about Landa is that he is incredibly smart, and it helps him get away with everything.

#7: “Gangs of Wasseypur” (2012)


An Indian crime epic spanning over five hours, “Gangs of Wasseypur” centers around the coal mafia of Dhanbad and the interconnected web of criminals, law enforcement, and corrupt politicians that it contains. Owing to its intimidating length, the movie was split into two parts, and the latter half ends in quite a downbeat fashion. J.P. Singh is the ultimate chessmaster and rigs power for himself by letting the hero, Faizal, kill his father, Ramadhir. Faizal is then killed by the main villain, Definite. The cycle of revenge is complete, and the wrong people come out on top. Granted, that’s typically how it works in a corrupt society.

#6: “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines” (2003)


The first two “Terminator” movies ended on optimistic notes of hope and redemption. Not “Terminator 3.” The third film in the legendary franchise is all about trying to prevent that which is unpreventable - Judgment Day. You know, the thing John thought he prevented at the end of “Terminator 2.” Skynet tricks its creators and becomes active, prompting the titular Rise of the Machines. The malicious program launches nuclear warheads throughout the globe, killing billions and starting the apocalyptic war that will seal the fates of John, Kyle, Sarah, and the various Terminators. Maybe time can’t be altered, after all. What a bummer.

#5: “The Great Escape” (1963)


Real life contains many unhappy endings, and this was one of them. “The Great Escape” is based on the historic breakout from Stalag Luft III during World War II. In March of 1944, 76 prisoners of war escaped the concentration camp, resulting in its designation as “The Great Escape.” However, only three actually got away. The rest were recaptured and taken back to the camp, and 50 of the 73 were executed on Hitler’s order. That included the leader of the operation, Roger Bushell. And while John Sturges’ masterpiece fictionalized much of the story, it kept the tragic ending intact.

#4: “Skyfall” (2012)


To celebrate its 50th birthday, the James Bond franchise released a film in which 007 loses. Happy birthday! Raoul Silva is the movie’s main villain, and he concocts an elaborate plan to kill M for a supposed betrayal that occurred years earlier. In an act of great subversion, Bond remains one step behind the villain throughout the entire movie. He is nothing but a pawn in Silva’s game, and nearly everything he does throughout the story helps Silva to some degree. And no matter how badass he is in that final battle, Bond fails in saving M from Silva, and she dies in his arms. Even though the villain doesn’t survive, he still wins.

#3: “300” (2006)


Zack Snyder’s outrageous action movie contains another story beholden to history. Yes, the film is essentially a work of fantasy, but it’s based on the historic Battle of Thermopylae. While Leonidas earns a personal victory in wounding Xerxes and proving his humanity, he and the rest of the 300 die in the invasion. The Spartans perished, the Persians won, and their invasion continued, which is exactly what happened in real life. However, the movie ends on an optimistic note, as the Spartans’ sacrifice emboldens a massive army to fight in the Battle of Plataea. This battle went much smoother for the Greeks, and it effectively turned the tide of the Greco-Persian Wars.

#2: “The Matrix Reloaded” (2003)


To set up the concluding chapter of what was initially supposed to be the “Matrix” trilogy, “Reloaded” ends on a dour note with the villains emerging victorious. The matrix and its inhabitants seem doomed, as Neo chooses to save Trinity rather than reboot the system. Furthermore, Zion is on the brink of destruction, as the machines are quickly advancing on the last bastion of humanity. Furthermore, the Nebuchadnezzar is destroyed in a Sentinel attack, Neo falls into a coma, and Agent Smith looks to cause havoc in the real world by possessing Bane. Things certainly didn’t look good for humanity, and it had everyone impatiently anticipating the next chapter.

#1: “Oldboy” (2003)


Nobody really wins in this movie, but Lee Woo-jin comes closest. To get revenge on a past grievance, Woo-jin manipulates Dae-su into falling in love and sleeping with his own daughter. To enact the plan, Woo-jin had Dae-su imprisoned for years and used a hypnotist to guide him into finding his now-grown daughter. This is revealed in a wonderfully executed plot twist that has all the story threads horrifically falling into place. Woo-jin ends up taking his own life, but not before revealing the truth to Dae-su and ruining his entire existence. This isn’t knowledge that one can live with, and Dae-su’s drooping face in the final shot proves it.
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