Totally Subvert the ending of a work of fiction

For example, at the end of Dr. Strangelove, hundreds of multi-megaton nuclear devices go off in the Soviet Union-


  • it wasn’t a global doomsday. Due to a severe shortage of Cobalt Thorium-G, the builders lied about their progress and none of the nukes were “salted”. The regional fallout devastated the Soviet Union and the western 2/3 of China and within a year global communism had collapsed. In later years General Ripper was memorialized as a hero, although ironically concerns about fallout led to the adoption of a national fluoridation plan.

He killed Big Brother.

“I was cured all right.” That one subverts itself.

He IS Big Brother!
Big Brother is his missing big brother!
Big Sister is really a man!

“It was all a dream.” Or alternatively, the stupid “it was all a dream” ending wasn’t a dream. Or something else happened with Newhart.

As it turns out, Soylent Green isn’t people at all. It’s mostly corn, with a little food coloring.

…but then Ahab leapt from the water with Queequeg’s harpoon in his hand. For lo, death’s grasp had failed to claim him! Just before Moby Dick dropped below the water’s surface, Ahab drove the steel pike into the white whale, piercing him in the left eye. The whale bellowed and screamed for hour upon hour, but Ahab never slackened his grip. He drove his weapon further and further into the beast, until at long last, Moby Dick lay motionless and silent.

Call me amazed.

12 Angry Men

[spoiler]Juror 8 and Juror 9 make their introductions, and their goodbyes…

And Juror 8 casually makes his way down the sidewalk, watching as an inconspicuous man in an inconspicuous nice suit approaches in the other direction, and casually drops a half-full popcorn bag in a trash can twenty yards before the two pass, wordlessly, without even a nod.

8 casually stops by the trash can, stopping to tie his loafers, before he gets up straightens his back, getting a good look at the surroundings, and gently plucks the bag out of the trash.

An over the shoulder shot gives the camera a good look at his fingers as he sweeps aside enough of the kernels to uncover the wrapped stack of fifties hidden underneath.

He beams. Bounces and catches a little kernel, boyishly, before rolling up the bag and resuming his stroll home, a spring in his step. A good day’s work![/spoiler]


[Spoiler]“Good god…I can’t even read this chickenscratch. Is this even English?


“Yeeeck! Well it smells like it came from a hobo’s jock! G’bye…”

(Journal sails across room, hits the rim of a novelty basketball hoop, and plops square in the trash)

“Woohoo, two points! I DID IT!” [/Spoiler]

After saying “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” Rhett Butler slams the door and dies of a massive heart attack. Scarlett goes back to Tara for the rest of her life.

“And so Jesus was dead as a doornail. I mean really, really, really dead–so dead there was no freaking way he was ever coming back. Everyone was sad, but they eventually dealt with their grief and moved on with life. The end.”

Harry Potter:

Right after the “. . . and all was well” line, the Hogwarts Express sets off. A few hours later, the train crashes, killing all the children aboard. A whole generation of witches and wizards are lost, and Harry, Ginny, Ron, and Hermione suffer nervous breakdowns from the tragedy. Today they reside in the Permanent Residents ward of St. Mungo’s, and have yet to regain the ability to speak.

At the beginning, no the end:
Camera pans up on Xanadu, the home of Charles Foster Kane. We go into his bedroom, where he’;s on his deathbed, holding a snowglobe. Closeup on his lips, as he says his dying words:

“Flexible Flyer”

Deckard himself … oh, never mind.

“Well, I’m back. Rosie! I’m home! Rosie? ARAGORN???”

Vader: Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny! Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy as father and son! Come with me. It is the only way.

Skywalker: [thinks about it for minute] Y’know what? Let’s do it! First order of business: exterminate the Gungans!

…Kurtz cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision,—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath—“The whore! The whore!”

Then Mr. Kurtz died, regretting that he’d gone to Africa without bringing a condom.

Deputy Fife immediately shot the stranger dead.

“Barney! How could you do that? You only had 1 bullet!” exclaimed Sheriff Taylor.

“I only need 1”, said Fife.

IIRC, Mad Magazine had the pure-hearted juror stride down the courthouse steps right before getting brutally mugged at knifepoint by you-know-who.

“Next day it snowed, and killed off half the crops–but it was a good day, since it finally occurred to somebody to just walk up behind the little omnipotent creep and drive a spike into the back of his head without any warning at all.”

Horatio, weep thou not: I have received
A flesh wound only. I will surely live.

Oh sure, and deny the world the glory that was “Fish Heads.” I’ll take the Jack in the Box men, thanks!

Also, we wouldn’t have that Treehouse of Horror episode.

At the 39:30 mark: Nicholas Nickleby does Romeo & Juliet.