10 Movies With a Strong Start and a Bad Second Half

It’s not uncommon for movies to start off strong, with a fascinating premise and a ton of potential, only to fizzle out as they go along. It can be tough to sustain a fresh concept the whole way through or to resist the temptation to fall back on tried-and-true (but stale) endings.

With this in mind, Redditors recently got together on r/movies, the largest film subreddit, to discuss which movies had a great first half but a disappointing second one. From Hancock to Glass, these films were brimming with potential but petered out halfway through.

10 ‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’ (2008)

Harrison Ford, Karen Allen, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf, and Ray Winstone in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Image via Paramount Pictures

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is generally considered to be the weakest film in the series, rehashing old tropes and excessively using CGI. It gets more muddled as it goes along, especially the revelation that the crystal skull is an alien artifact, thus placing the movie in sci-fi territory.

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“It starts off with a solid premise, an intriguing artifact, a decent villain with a believable motivation, two good chase scenes, and some excavating,” said Redditor GodEmperorPorkyMinch. “And then it all stops working […] The reveal of Mutt (Shia LaBeouf) being Indy’s (Harrison Ford) son is way out of place. Marion (Karen Allen) using a snake as a rope breaks all kinds of laws of physics. Indy lecturing Mutt about quicksand as he’s about to sink is so out of character.”

9 ‘Wonder Woman’ (2017)

Wonder Woman wielding her sword in 2017's Wonder Woman
Image via Warner Bros.

2017’s Wonder Woman is an origin story that takes us to the hidden island of Themyscira. Diana Prince (Gal Gadot) grows up in this secluded paradise and becomes a formidable warrior. When a pilot, Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), crash-lands on Themyscira and brings news of World War I’s atrocities, Diana believes it is her duty to help end the conflict.

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The early scenes are the film’s strongest and, as it progresses, it becomes more of a bog-standard superhero flick. In particular, some of the twists about Ares’s real identity are rather underwhelming. “I lost it when the bad guy was Nigel Thornberry in techno armor,” said user DocFreezer.

8 ‘No Hard Feelings’ (2023)

Andrew Barth Feldman sitting in Jennifer Lawrence's lap in No Hard Feelings
Image via Sony

Jennifer Lawrence stars in this comedy as a broke 32-year-old woman who agrees to date a shy 19-year-old named Percy (Andrew Barth Feldman) at his parents’ request and without his knowledge. While not groundbreaking, No Hard Feelings is a charming little gem with a ton of funny moments and a truly committed performance from Lawrence.

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However, it does get weaker as it goes along, leading to some very predictable plot developments and a few cheesy feel-good scenes. “No Hard Feelings [is] funny and feisty at first before descending into dopey, unconvincing rom-com,” said user sniptwister.

7 ‘The Island’ (2005)

the island 20050

Lincoln Six Echo (McGregor) and Jordan Two Delta (Johansson) live in a seemingly idyllic but highly controlled facility, where they discover that they are actually clones being raised for organ harvesting. This concept is fascinating (even if it borrows a little too much from stories like Parts and Never Let Me Go) but The Island soon collapses into action clichés.

The Island had a very intriguing first half. The second half reminded you that it was a Michael Bay movie,” said Redditor bobpetersen55. “I do think it’s one of Michael Bay’s weakest movies outside most of the Transformers sequels,” added user GurpsK.

6 ‘Brave’ (2012)

Princess Merida doing archery in Brave (2012)
Image via Disney

Brave tells the story of Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald), a skilled archer who defies an age-old tradition that dictates her marriage. Her rebellious spirit inadvertently unleashes chaos in her kingdom, and she must embark on a quest to mend the bonds of her family. There’s a lot of terrific stuff here, but many viewers were left scratching at the story twist about halfway through.

“Everything up to the transformation of the mother into a bear was an actually interesting analysis of gender roles and consideration of princesses in fantasy settings which I really liked,” said Redditor Thetonn. “Then we got the ‘person turns into bear’ storyline and go off on that subplot, but doesn’t do anything interesting or original with it [and turns] into a generic Disney story as a course correction.”

5 ‘Downsizing’ (2017)

Kristen Wiig and Matt Damon as Audrey and Paul smiling while looking down at two miniature people waving Downsizing
Image via Paramount Pictures

Downsizing is set in a near-future world where scientists have discovered a way to shrink humans down to just five inches tall, in a bid to combat overpopulation and environmental issues. It’s an idea jam-packed with potential and director Alexander Payne seemed like the perfect person to realize it, but ultimately Downsizing was a disappointment.

“Starts out really interesting, turns into an extremely boring personal journey piece where the core conflict established by shrinking is largely forgotten,” said user Superego366. “It’s like someone wrote the first half and then handed it off to someone else with a completely different vision to finish the second half,” added Redditor BugsyBelle. “It’s like the writer was working on [three] different scripts and then the cleaner accidentally knocked them onto the floor, gathered them all together and nobody noticed,” said user ReeSamll.

4 ‘Glass’ (2019)

Glass - 2019
Image via Universal Pictures

M. Night Shyamalan‘s Glass brings together three individuals with extraordinary abilities: the super-strong David Dunn (Bruce Willis); Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with multiple personalities, one of which is a superhuman beast; and Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), a brilliant but fragile mastermind. They wind up in a mental institution, under the observation of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in treating individuals who believe they have superpowers.

“[Glass] had a lot of hype after Split, and the first half did build eventual face-off between Bruce Willis and James McAvoy quite well. But by the later half most of the tension was gone and the climatic ‘battle’ was underwhelming,” said Redditor fantom_humor.

3 ‘The Matrix: Resurrections’ (2021)

Carrie-Anne Moss and Keanu Reeves in 'Matrix Resurrections'
Image via Warner Bros.

The divisive Matrix: Resurrections takes place years after the original trilogy, with Neo (Keanu Reeves) living an ordinary life as a game developer, seemingly unaware of his past as the savior of humanity. However, when a new version of Morpheus (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) enters his life and reawakens his memories, Neo is drawn back into the war against the machines.

“The beginning of the movie was a complete mind-screw,” said user ChairmanGoodchild. “Once the reveal happens, the rest of the movie just drags. Remember the girl Neo saved on the train station? Want a five-minute explanation of what happened to her after that? You’re gonna get one. If Resurrections had been a two-hour movie instead of a two-and-a-half-hour movie, it would have been much better.”

2 ‘Flight of the Navigator’ (1986)

flight of the navigator0
Image via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Flight of the Navigator is a sci-fi adventure about a boy named David Freeman (Joey Cramer) who, after falling down a ravine, awakens to find that eight years have passed, but he hasn’t aged a day. As scientists study David, they discover he’s connected to an alien spacecraft, Max, which can travel through time and space.

“The first half is a legitimately intriguing sci-fi concept,” said Redditor PepsiPerfect. “Then in the second half, you have Paul Reubens giving the alien/ship a Pee-Wee Herman voice, cracking fat jokes and pee jokes while the boy teaches him about human culture and nearly gets his head bitten off by a Muppet. A jarring tonal shift to say the least […] It did feel like the movie was maybe two scripts cobbled together.”

1 ‘Hancock’ (2008)

Will Smith in 'Hancock'
Image via Sony Pictures

Hancock features Will Smith as a washed-up, alcoholic superhero. It’s an amusing premise, but the tone of the movie changes dramatically in the second half thanks to a plot twist that most fans and critics disliked. It is revealed that Hancock’s PR agent (Jason Bateman)’s wife Mary (Charlize Theron) also has superpowers and that she and Hancock used to be married. However, the two superheroes being close to each other weakened their powers and wiped Hancock’s memories 80 years earlier.

Hancock might be the most obvious answer to this question,” said user artpayne. “I still wish I could see a version of Hancock where they used the stuff from the first half of the movie for the entire movie instead of rendering it irrelevant with the ‘plot twist’ of replacing the entire premise of the movie with a new one that turns all the characters into unlikable assh*les,” said Redditor casperbradfield.

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