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Movies where the heroes don't foil the dastardly plot
July 24, 2012 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Movies where the heroes don't foil the dastardly plot.

What are some examples in film (or print, tv, or comics) where our plucky heroes discover the horrific plans of the arch-criminal...and fall just short of actually stopping them.
Example: Watchmen "I did it thirty-five minutes ago.", True Lies' mushroom cloud over the Florida Keys.
posted by Eddie Mars to Media & Arts (64 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
Might not fit exactly, but any chance I can recommend it, I have to take it:

Life Is Beautiful
posted by Grither at 9:26 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sum of All Fears (film of Tom Clancy book) comes to mind.
posted by activitystory at 9:28 AM on July 24, 2012


There are a couple of lists out there for when the bad guys or villains win. Memento is one example.
posted by cnc at 9:29 AM on July 24, 2012


Does Miracle Mile count?

Spoiler, I suppose:




The hero isn't trying so much to foil the disaster as escape it. He still fails.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:30 AM on July 24, 2012


The criminally underrated 2009 film Knowing, starring Nicolas Cage. The hero keeps discovering horrible disasters that are about to happen and races to stop them, and utterly fails every single time, up and and including gur raq bs gur shpxvat jbeyq.
posted by theodolite at 9:30 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Se7en is a great example of this! Great being a debatable term given the outcome for our poor protagonist...
posted by greenish at 9:32 AM on July 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


Halloween 3: Season of the Witch is one of my favorite examples, mainfly for the horrific masterplan being absoludicrously goofy. I'm giggling just remembering it.

TV Tropes "You Are Too Late" page, especially The Bad Guy Wins branching link from it, will give many many examples.
posted by Drastic at 9:34 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Empire Strikes Back. Not that there's some huge plot by the Empire, but the good guys certainly don't "win" in that movie.
posted by LionIndex at 9:34 AM on July 24, 2012


The Usual Suspects
posted by PercussivePaul at 9:35 AM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


T3
posted by Cosine at 9:37 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Usual Suspects


There was no dastardly plot.
posted by Cosine at 9:40 AM on July 24, 2012


Rocky
posted by The World Famous at 9:41 AM on July 24, 2012


All three Godfather films.
posted by The World Famous at 9:42 AM on July 24, 2012


I think it was in the last season of 24 where jack Bauer was too late to stop a nuclear bomb. Although that was just a diversion from the real dastardly plot.
posted by Gungho at 9:42 AM on July 24, 2012


Movies from the 1930's (The Great Depression era) fairly often have real downer endings.

Also, The Devil's Own which has one of my favorite movie lines: "This isn't an American story. It's an Irish one."
posted by Michele in California at 9:43 AM on July 24, 2012


Arlington Road
posted by Gortuk at 9:46 AM on July 24, 2012 [7 favorites]


Well,Seven seems fit the bill.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:48 AM on July 24, 2012


Neon Genesis Evangelion. In some versions of it. Depending on what you think happened. Sort of.

Iain Banks' Complicity
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:51 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Canadian made-for-TV-movie Thunder Point.
posted by deanc at 9:52 AM on July 24, 2012


Every Indiana Jones film except Temple of Doom.

Think about it. It's the only one of the movies where things would have turned out differently if Indy had just stayed home.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:52 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Came in to say Arlington Road as well

Also The Last Seduction, though the evil plot is on a much smaller (interpersonal) scale
posted by Mchelly at 9:56 AM on July 24, 2012


Here's a strange one: The Disney animated movie Aladdin (although it still has a happy ending - maybe you are just looking for movies where the bad guy straight up wins).
posted by muddgirl at 9:56 AM on July 24, 2012


Final Fantasy VI? It isn't a movie, but the world does end unexpectedly.
posted by Garm at 9:57 AM on July 24, 2012


The Avengers

Loki has no reason to want to rule Earth. He wants to get back to Asgard, and Thanos wants the Infinity Gauntlet. With the Rainbow Bridge gone, he needs Thor and the Tesseract to get Asgard, and Thanos needs Loki in Asgard for him to get there.
posted by cmoj at 9:59 AM on July 24, 2012


Think about it. It's the only one of the movies where things would have turned out differently if Indy had just stayed home.

Tell that to all the lower-level baddies he killed gratuitously.
posted by The World Famous at 10:01 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Chinatown
posted by entropicamericana at 10:02 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


While not exactly what you describe, Kurosawa's The Bad Sleep Well is a film where it's the hero's plan that ultimately fails to topple the villains.

To me, Hero would fit this trope if you consider the Emperor as the villain, whose plans are not thwarted by the assassins. However, this depends on who you think the "hero" of the film is.

Similar to Hero is Curse of the Golden Flower, where it would seem the villain's plan is not prevented by the heroes, but again it's debatable as to who the villain is.
posted by CancerMan at 10:06 AM on July 24, 2012


The Wicker Man (unless you consider the people on the island the heroes of the movie)
posted by Julnyes at 10:09 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Chinatown.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2012


Twelve Monkeys
posted by tau_ceti at 10:15 AM on July 24, 2012 [5 favorites]


It depends on who you think the "hero" is, but Inside Man has this aspect.
posted by jillithd at 10:25 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


[CURRENT TV SERIES SPOILER WARNING FOR THE SPOILER-SENSITIVE]

The first season of Game of Thrones.
posted by scody at 10:26 AM on July 24, 2012


La Jetee
Colossus: The Forbin Project
The American?
posted by Calzephyr at 10:40 AM on July 24, 2012


Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

An oldie, but a big enough cult classic that many rental shops still stock it.
posted by Vorteks at 10:40 AM on July 24, 2012 [4 favorites]


976-EVIL.

please don't ask
posted by Shepherd at 10:53 AM on July 24, 2012


300
posted by The World Famous at 10:56 AM on July 24, 2012


Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid
posted by The World Famous at 10:57 AM on July 24, 2012


Mystery Men, kind of.
posted by EmGeeJay at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fight Club, depending on how you watch it
posted by pupdog at 10:58 AM on July 24, 2012 [3 favorites]


Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith
posted by The World Famous at 11:01 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Cabin in the Woods, on quite an epic scale.
posted by whitneyarner at 11:06 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Swordfish
posted by The World Famous at 11:09 AM on July 24, 2012


The Conversation- (spoiler alert) the hero is wrong about who the real villain is until it's too late.
posted by Clambone at 11:27 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fallen
posted by TedW at 11:44 AM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


sorta Ночной дозор, if you consider Anton of the nightwatch to be the hero, trying to save his son from becoming a dark other.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:56 AM on July 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


Cabin in the Woods was the first one I thought of too, but I'm not sure if it really fits. Depends on who you think the bad guys and heroes are, I guess. Because (spoilers) our heroes defeat the villains, and then knowingly (serious spoilers) end the world rather than end their own lives to stop it. So I guess it fits your question if you flip conventional expectations and consider the old gods the villains, the lab guys the heroes, and the kids the wild card that mucks everything up. Gawrsh I love that movie.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:19 PM on July 24, 2012


Vanishing Point
posted by The World Famous at 12:20 PM on July 24, 2012


I can't decide if D.O.A. counts or not.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:26 PM on July 24, 2012


Cloverfield?
posted by AJaffe at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2012


Also The Last Seduction, though the evil plot is on a much smaller (interpersonal) scale

On that note, In the Company of Men
posted by LionIndex at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2012


Watchmen
posted by alchemist at 1:47 PM on July 24, 2012


Ils and The Woman in Black spring to mind. Although this is more true of the original story and stage show of The Woman in Black than the recent film. The Grudge also. There is no getting away from that thing.
posted by Summer at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cabin in the Woods
posted by magolia_mystery at 2:22 PM on July 24, 2012


gahhhhh alchemist beat me to it.
posted by bitterkitten at 2:53 PM on July 24, 2012


The Empire Strikes Back
posted by -harlequin- at 3:04 PM on July 24, 2012


I don't think I would count Vanishing Point.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 4:20 PM on July 24, 2012


Devil's Advocate
posted by Addlepated at 6:37 PM on July 24, 2012


The Ghost Writer
I think (but I've never seen it) The Parallax View
And, in an odd sort of way, Vertigo
posted by pmurray63 at 9:06 PM on July 24, 2012


I really got a kick out of the end of Primal Fear.
posted by princeoftheair at 9:38 PM on July 24, 2012


The Vanishing sort of fits, but not the shoddy Hollywood remake.
posted by ComfySofa at 7:42 AM on July 25, 2012


Part 1 of Atomic Train is structured like an action movie. This makes Part 2 somehow much more horrific.
posted by Acheman at 8:56 AM on July 25, 2012


Thanks for all the answers. I've been marking those that best seem to fit into the pattern of "There's an evil plan, our heroes discover and try to stop it, but fail".
posted by Eddie Mars at 1:24 PM on July 25, 2012


The Cabin in the Woods, on quite an epic scale.

They do foil the dastardly plot in that one.
posted by jsturgill at 7:58 AM on July 28, 2012


Maybe a stretch, but The Mist seems to fit if you have a loose definition of "bad guy".
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:35 PM on July 28, 2012


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