6 Horrifying Endings That 'True Story' Movies Left Out
There are few words more pointlessly empty than "based on a true story." Movies based on a true story are notorious for inventing details to make its characters seem more heroic and omitting any true-life events that make the characters look like shitheels. And sometimes, as we've previously discussed, the movie will simply decide to wrap things up and roll credits right before the real story took an awful turn, effectively sweeping the depressing true-life outcome under the Hollywood rug of lies and wishful thinking. Here's some more classic movies with endings that were happy purely by virtue of omission ...
12 Years A Slave: Shortly After Being Freed, Solomon Northup Suddenly Disappeared Forever
The critically acclaimed 12 Years A Slave, which won the Oscar for both Best Picture and Most Plot Given Away By Title, tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free black man in 19th century America who was kidnapped and enslaved. He deals with that shit for 12 years before finally getting reunited with his family for the perfect happy ending. Then, right before the credits, a little stinger goes up onscreen reading "the date, location, and circumstances of Solomon's death are unknown."
OK, weird. B-but ... that's because it's 1850 and they kept bad records, right? Right?
The Unpleasant Real Ending:
Take a minute to imagine what Northup's family was going through during those 12 years. The man straight-up disappeared. For years, his family's every waking moment was spent looking for him, thinking he was in trouble, thinking he was dead, and thinking maybe he left on purpose.
"Did he tire of buying us fancy clothes?"
When Northup was freed in 1853, he returned to his family in New York and published 12 Years a Slave later that year. During this time, he (unsuccessfully) tried suing his kidnappers, moved in with his daughter, and gave lectures on slavery. Then, four years later, he fucking disappeared again. To this day, historians and even family members have no idea what happened to him. According to a newspaper article, his last public appearance was in August 1857 in Ontario, though a reverend claimed he saw him in Vermont five years later.
As with all mysteries, there are a few theories about where Northup went. Maybe he joined the Union Army? Maybe he became part of the Underground Railroad? And of course, there are always aliens. But this was a man who was a walking, lecturing reminder of the cruel insanity of slavery. And as history has shown us, racist slave owners never dealt well with opposing viewpoints. It's entirely possible Northup was kidnapped again, or maybe even murdered. The movie just ends with a giant question mark, as if it forgot it just spent two hours telling us about a man who mysteriously disappeared for 12 years at the hands of kidnapping slavers.
"Look it was this or 'The End?'"
The Theory Of Everything: Stephen Hawking Has A Bitter Divorce, Gets Abused
The Theory Of Everything told the story of famed robotic astrophysicist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane. Jane married the brilliant man knowing he had a terrible disease and bravely stepped into a role as his caretaker (although, in all honesty, probably not expecting him to live very long). They both ended up falling in love with other people and getting divorced, but they remained close, he remains one of the greatest scientific minds in the world, and we all remain unobliterated by the event horizon of a super black hole. It might not be a Hollywood happy ending, but it's real, man.
The Unpleasant Real Ending:
The film depicts Stephen and Jane slowly drifting out of love with each other. What the film didn't show is that, after their divorce in 1990, Hawking barely spoke to Jane and actually required her to make an appointment with his office to see him. His relationship with their children became strained, and his daughter started drinking heavily. Jane wrote about this and several other instances of Stephen Hawking dickitry in her memoir, Music To Move The Stars: A Life With Stephen Hawking, which, despite its whimsical title, was super bitter. Considering how taboo it is to talk shit about people with debilitating neuromuscular diseases, Jane really had to hate this guy.
The working title was Why You Shouldn't Give Sickly, Creepy Nerds The Time Of Day.
To be clear, Stephen wasn't living like a fat rat after the divorce. He married his nurse, Elaine Mason, in 1995, at which point her level of care seemed to decline at what you might call a criminal rate. The Cambridge police were alerted after Stephen suffered a number of bad injuries, including a fractured wrist, broken arm, split lip, and broken femur. You may recognize these as injuries that are ludicrously difficult for a man who cannot move to receive, unless someone is beating the shit out of him and/or tipping his wheelchair over a staircase. He also got heatstroke and a severe sunburn in 2005, after being left outside in his garden on the hottest day of the year. Nurses in the house reported that Mason would scream obscenities at Stephen, and he once typed a message to them that read, "I cannot be left alone with her. Please don't go."
Despite all this, Hawking denied any abuse, and even threatened to sue the police for harassment. Eventually, they dropped the investigation, and Stephen divorced Elaine and resumed a friendly relationship with his children, grandchildren, and Jane, who reconciled with him enough to revise and retitle her book to Travelling To Infinity: My Life With Stephen. Admittedly, it's hard to tell the difference between the original title and the revised title, but the revised memoir cuts out a lot of the horror stories about Hawking and depicts a much better relationship between him and Jane. This version of her memoir was the basis of The Theory Of Everything, so in a way, the movie ends accurately. It just cuts out two and a half decades of horribleness.
The revised memoir's working title was The Theory Of Selective Memory.
Pocahontas: Pocahontas Was Kidnapped And Died In London At Age 21
Pocahontas is a whimsical animated musical about the titular Native American princess, who falls in love with an English settler named John Smith and rescues him from getting his head smashed in on a rock by her angry father. You know all this already, we're sure, because everyone has either seen that movie or heard the story as kids in grade school.
Which is also the age she would have been in this scene.
What you probably didn't see was Disney's god-awful, direct-to-video sequel, entitled Pocahontas II: Journey To A New World. In this cartoon docudrama, Pocahontas goes to England with a man named John Rolfe to negotiate peace between the nations. You probably know it didn't work, but she and Rolfe fell in love and went back to Virginia together. The film ends with a romantic kiss as they sail into the sunset.
The Unpleasant Real Ending:
As we have pointed out before, Disney is a little less than slavishly accurate when it comes to the life story of Pocahontas. But at least the first movie had a couple of toes in reality. The sequel screwed with the facts so severely that it might as well be an alternate history fan fiction. Mortal Kombat: Annihilation more accurately depicts the events of Pocahontas' life than Pocahontas II.
Featuring classic Disney girl-power songs like, "Let's Get You All Dolled Up To Impress The Dude Who Made You Immediately Forget Your Tragically Deceased Husband" and "Backwards Native Gets Completely Baffled By British Culture."
First off, by this point in her life, Pocahontas' name was Rebecca. You see, she was kidnapped by the English, who lured her onto a ship and held her ransom for a year. They forced her to convert to Christianity and take a less heathen name, which you may recognize as the two biggest spaces on a 17th century racist bingo card. And while she did eventually marry tobacco planter John Rolfe, historians aren't so sure she did this by choice. Especially since "Rebecca" was already married, and she was exceptionally out of John's league.
Her wacky animal sidekicks could only provide so much comfort in that scenario.
Like in the Disney adaptation, Rebecca, her family, and a dozen Native American representatives traveled to England. But in reality, she was mostly used as a walking billboard to encourage people to invest in business and trade in Virginia (her husband was a tobacco farmer, after all). After staying there for a year (about 51 weeks longer than she did in the cartoon), she started sailing back to America, but immediately became so sick they had to turn the boat around. She died soon after, at the age of 21. However, none of these facts stopped Disney from inexplicably deciding to turn a real person's life into a cartoon fairy tale. If they had any respect for her at all, Pocahontas II would have been directed by Darren Aronofsky, and then shelved and never released.
The Sound Of Music: The Von Trapp House Became A Nazi Headquarters
The Sound of Music is the true story of Maria, a young orphan studying to become a nun during the Nazi occupation of Austria. The family she comes to live with, the von Trapps, had lost their mother to scarlet fever. All these Nazis and dead parents were inexplicably the perfect formula for the cheeriest musical of all time.
At the end of the film, the von Trapps trick the Nazis and escape Austria, even though in real life their dramatic escape basically just consisted of buying train tickets and then using them. But weirdly enough, the von Trapps were actual singers, so the nonstop musical joy was probably accurate.
The Unpleasant Real Ending:
When the von Trapps left Salzburg in 1938, they rented out their house to some local Catholic priests. It wasn't long after that when the Nazis came and turned it into an operating base. Barracks and bomb shelters were built on the gardens, and the family chapel was turned into a beer parlor, because the Nazis didn't give a fuck about anything.
Worst of all, they ordered the roses dried, the kitten whiskers cut, the copper kettles melted down,
the woolen mittens unraveled, and the brown paper packages tied with barbed wire.
The villa even became the part-time home of Nazi all-star Heinrich Himmler, the man whom historians call "the architect of genocide." So, the place where the lovely singing von Trapps came together to pray became a keg party for literally one of the most evil human beings to have ever existed. Even better, Hitler's vacation home was a mere 17 miles away, so he would frequently stay over at the newly renovated von Trapps house in one of the extra bedrooms, which demands the question, "How much evil can be in one house before it's made entirely out of ghost?"
After the war, the priests returned to the home and turned Himmler's office (once a little girl's bedroom) into a prayer room, although we imagine the Lord turned his back on that room long ago. Today, it's a bed and breakfast, so anyone can go sleep in one of the most confusingly haunted places in history.
Himmler's ghost is terrifying, but his yodeling in "The Lonely Fascist" is admittedly impressive.
Big Miracle: The Whales Probably Never Made It Out Of The Arctic
Big Miracle is a heartwarming story about three gray whales trapped in ice near the town of Barrow, Alaska, only able to breathe through a tiny opening in the sheet of frozen death above them. The tragedy compounded when John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore became the only two human faces they could see. The entire world looked on as America, the Soviet Union, Greenpeace, and an oil company improbably joined forces to free the whales. It's such an amazing, uplifting story that one could almost forget the thesis of the article they're reading.
The Unpleasant Real Ending:
If you saw the film, you may remember the local Inupiat whale hunters talking about killing them for food. And while the local Inupiat hunters totally wanted to kill those whales, it wasn't because they wanted to eat them. They wanted to put the whales out of their goddamned misery, because as it turns out, you can't just live beneath the ice for an extended period of time and come out of it totally fine.
"The whales are singing The Cure; there's no hope for them now."
In the movie, they comment on how the whales are covered in "cuts and bruises," but in real life, one whale had scraped its chin down to the bone. They were bloody, suffering, desperate animals, stuck in a frozen trap designed by the Jigsaw killer. And to make matters worse, some dickbag tried to communicate with the whales by playing a recording of a whale song, but screwed it up completely by accidentally playing a recording of a killer whale. This is very likely what caused the baby whale to flee from the air hole, never to be seen again.
Still, those other two whales got to safety, right? Well, no one actually knows, because they were so sickly and exhausted the National Marine Fisheries Service refused to attach radio tracking tags to them. Also, the whales' escape route took them through even more treacherous ice, so no one expected them to make it out. Hundreds of people searched for some sign of the whales, but none was ever discovered. The popular opinion is that they ended up as polar bear food, which is sad for us and the three whales, but easily the greatest day in the polar bear's life.
Which is why Big Miracle bombed domestically but broke records in the Arctic Circle.
Titanic: The Band's Families Were Billed For The Cost Of Their Uniforms (And Corpse Shipping)
Although no one disputes the fact that the main characters of James Cameron's unintentionally hilarious 1997 epic Titanic -- Jack, Rose, Fabrizio, and Billy Zane -- never actually existed, the movie does feature several actual people, although they were portrayed so inaccurately they might as well have been fictional characters. However, there was one detail in Titanic that is famously accurate, and that's when the band stood on deck and continued nobly playing their instruments as the ship sank. Truly, outside of dying while beating an army of skeletons to death with a guitar, there is no braver way for a musician to gallantly meet his end.
The Unpleasant Real Ending:
Rescue ships managed to recover the body of violinist Jock Hume, and while there are no happy stories about transporting a mountain of corpses from the largest shipwreck ever, we can at least feel some bittersweet satisfaction that Hume's remains were sent home to his family, right? Well, not quite, because things quickly took a skullduggerous turn.
And there wasn't even a band to provide the appropriate music.
Fifteen days after the Titanic sank, Jock Hume's father was sent a bill. It turns out that Jock's Titanic contract didn't cover the cost of the brass buttons on his rented uniform, which had been ruined when Jock drowned in the fucking North Atlantic. Also, Jock's father was charged the standard cargo rate one might pay to express-mail a human-sized package from the middle of the ocean. Truly, the lesson to be learned here is to make sure you lock your buttons in a protective case before slipping beneath the stygian waves of frozen oblivion, and to refuse delivery of any casket-sized packages bearing your dead son's name.
In the first draft of the movie, Rose saves the buttons but throws them into the sea in front of the dad.
Believe it or not, this story actually gets worse. You see, Jock had a pregnant fiancee. While mourning the death of the man she never got to marry, she patiently waited for the money she was justifiably owed from the Titanic legal settlement. Unfortunately, it did not live up to its name. The amount paid for her fiance's life was a grand total of 67 pounds. And since Jock's father had always had problems with their relationship, he heroically decided to keep the money instead of passing it on to her. Really, for all the dignity the people responsible for his death showed him, Jock should've spent his final moments pissing on every square inch of the Titanic not already underwater.
Yes, lots of happy endings are anything but. Like how the next Top Gun movie should probably start with the beginning of World War 3. And Bruce Wayne will never, ever be able to live a normal life. See what we mean in 6 Horrible Aftermaths Implied By Movies With Happy Endings and 6 Happy Movie Endings That Actually Ruin The Hero's Life.
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