Beginning in 2008 with Iron Man, MCU became notorious for their use of the post-credit scene. They mainly employ it to amp up comic fans’ excitement for sequels and new MCU movies. MCU was certainly not the first to set precedence. The after-credit scene is a decades-long trend dating back to 1966’s The Silencers, an American spy comedy starring Dean Martin as agent Matt Helm.
Shortly after, came the earliest example of a post-credit stinger in horror in the classic zombie film Night of the Living Dead (1968). Many filmmakers of the genre have followed suit in the years to come. Curse of Chucky (2013) is a notable example of a well-executed post-credit scene. In it, we see an adult Andy Barclay, played by the original actor Alex Vincent, be seamlessly inserted back into the franchise. In a similar fashion Cult of Chucky (2017) reintroduces his foster sister Kyle Simpson (Christine Elise) back into the mix.
Then there are horror movies like Slither (2006) and The Green Inferno (2013) who had compelling after-credit scenes that teased a sequel but never had a follow-up come into fruition. Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000) had a stinger that featured big bad villain Brenda Bates (Rebecca Gayheart) as a nurse at the home for the criminally insane telling the killer Solomon (Hart Bochner) that they have a lot in common. The viewers wanted to know what was next for the two antagonists. The next installment in the franchise completely dropped this plot thread in favor of a supernatural one where neither character was seen. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022) shows Leatherface returning to his home where it all began in the after-credits, but didn’t get a sequel.
A good stinger can either set up a sequel, pay homage to an original film, break the fourth wall, serve as one last effective jumpscare, reframe everything you thought you knew, provide an ambiguous ending, or give the movie an entirely new conclusion. Below is a curated list of horror films with intriguing takes on post-credit scenes.
George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead is widely considered one of the greatest zombie movies ever made—arguably the best. It’s known for being more ambitious than its predecessor, however, Night of the Living Dead shouldn’t be overlooked. The movie is impactful and thought-provoking. It can be thanked for paving the way for future brutally violent movies of the genre. Its ending is a grim, devastating one. Ben (Duane Jones) is the only character out of the group to survive the zombie attack. He makes it through the night only to be perceived as a threat and shot by an armed posse of white men—including the sheriff and deputies. Romero may have not intended it to be about race, but the allegory cannot be denied. “Good shot. Okay, he’s dead. Let’s go get him, that’s another one for the fire.” Through still frames we see Ben be dragged away by meat hooks and be added to a rising pile of bodies. After the credits roll, there’s a still shot of the lit bonfire—the death and destruction is visceral. But nothing hits as hard as having just witnessed Ben’s life and body be treated as expendable.
Ratings be damned, this 1999 remake of the 1959 classic starring Vincent Price is wildly entertaining. Amusement park mogul Stephen Price (Geoffrey Rush) invites a group of people to stay at an old abandoned mental asylum, the Vannacutt Psychiatric Institute for the Criminally Insane, which is said to be haunted with malevolent spirits. Whoever can survive the night will receive $1 million, and anyone who leaves before the night is over forfeits their $1 million to that person. Although revealed to be a terrible person in more ways than one, in the end the millionaire dies heroically. After the credits, we see him and his wife (Famke Jannsen) be tortured until the end of time by the ghosts of the former asylum inmates. Nothing can ever dissolve their highly toxic marriage. Not even death can come between them now. This is their personal hell.
Dawn of the Dead had an iconic opening sequence and an equally iconic post-credit scene. A group of people take refuge from zombies in a mall. Soon the situation begins deteriorating and their only option is to escape to the marina and travel by boat to an island in Lake Michigan. They successfully reinforce a couple of parking shuttles and get away. Things go awry on the way, and only a few survivors manage to flee by yacht. The post-credit scenes reveal that the survivors didn’t have such a happy ending after all. It gave the film an entirely new ending. Through video camera footage the audience is shown that everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong. They run out of gas and become stranded on a random island. Quickly after stepping foot on the dock, a horde of zombies runs out of the trees. It’s a vicious scene—one that guarantees nobody survives.
The small community of Harmony is preparing for a Valentine’s dance. Over a decade prior, a preventable accident cost the lives of a group of men who got trapped in the mine shaft. One of the men killed the rest of the group to conserve oxygen. He then exacted his revenge by going on a murder rampage before being shot at and retreating deeper into the mines. As the town prepares for the celebration, a killer in miner’s attire begins terrorizing the town. The film is a very loose remake of the 1981 original, but a solid slasher nonetheless. It has a good script and offers excellent performances, making it one of the better horror reboots there is. After the end, the camera slowly advances down the mine tunnel with the credits rolling on screen. When the credits have finished, the psychopathic villain emerges one last time and takes a swipe at the camera with his pickaxe. It was bonkers seeing it 3D in theaters.
After Insidious concludes in a devastating ending with Elaine’s (Lin Shayne) death and the revelation of Josh’s (Patrick Wilson) possession, the credits roll and then the viewer is given one of the most chilling post-credit scenes in horror history. It’s simple, yet an effective final jolt. The Bride in Black appears in the dark holding a candle and blows it out. It’s a call back to the beginning of the movie where the Bride in Black is seen holding the same candle. It’s symbolic of the evil spirit’s success in finally taking control of Josh. It amped up excitement for the sequel. The viewer was left wondering who this entity was and how it would be defeated by the Lamberts.
This remake of John Carpenter’s iconic movie follows paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) as she joins a team of Norwegian researchers to study an extraterrestrial life form after they discover an alien craft buried in the Antarctic ice. Critics didn’t have great things to say about the remake, while audiences were split. Many fans felt it lacked the appeal of the original. Opinions about the film aside, the post-credit scene is iconic for functioning as a direct lead-in to the original movie. The scene shows Lars’ dog, who was thought dead, run away as it’s revealed he’s possessed by the Thing. Then we see the dog being chased by the Norwegian men in a helicopter. It pays homage to the opening of the first film where they chase a dog into the American research station, affirming itself as a prequel.
Fede Álvarez’s directorial debut proved to horror fans that superb remakes are possible. 2013’s Evil Dead follows a group of friends who travel to a remote cabin to support Mia (Jane Levy) through withdrawals as she tries to quit heroin cold turkey. When one of them discovers the Naturom Demonto in the cellar and reads an incantation from the book, they’re faced with something worse than Mia’s inner demons. After the credits rolled, fans of the original movie were rewarded with an older Ash, the true star of the franchise. “Groovy,” he exclaims before turning his face to the camera.
Andy heads to the hospital to help Nica (Fiona Dourif) after learning of Chucky’s ability to possess multiple dolls at once. Unfortunately for our hero, things wind up disastrous when he’s locked in a padded room. That is, until the post-credit stinger. Kyle (Christine Elise) makes her re-entry into the franchise. She enters Andy’s cabin and informs the decapitated Chucky head that his torture will continue. They both reprise their roles in the current series.
After the ending reveals Susie to be Mother Suspiriorum and she overthrows Markos, the credits roll, and then the viewer is given one quick final shot of Dakota Johnson. In it she appears to be in the dance academy’s passageways. She’s staring at something in the upper right side of the frame and reaches out with black-gloved hand to touch it. Susie then turns her wrist to the right and then the left, then lowers her hand. It’s the same move she made when erasing Dr. Klemperer’s memories.
Screenwriter David Kajganich shared the following about the scene with Inverse: “We knew we would maybe want one depending on how the end of the film sat. That wasn’t scripted. That was shot when they were shooting the film. Luca had mentioned wanting possibly to have a post-credits just to point the gaze of our film to the future, to make room for more narrative. I quite loved it when I saw it for the first time.” He then hinted at this being a tease for potential remakes of Argento’s two other films in the trilogy. Some fans interpreted the scene as Susie wiping someone else’s memories, or putting someone else under a spell. Others think that although far-fetched, she might have been restoring Madame Blanc. Director Luca Guadagnino provided a more chilling explanation in the same interview with Inverse, “Madame Suspiriorum is browsing the world and foreseeing the future. Now, she’s walking in the night and she sees something beyond the camera. Maybe she’s looking at us?”
Janelle Monáe absolutely slayed in this film. After surviving the horrors of a modern “Civil War reenactment-style” plantation and escaping, one can only assume that Veronica was reunited with her family to go on and live a fulfilling life. While technically what comes after is a mid-credit scene, it’s too satisfying not to put it on this list. During the credits we see the FBI arrive and raid the “park” to shut it down and help the survivors.
The ending to David Lowery’s adaptation of the 14-century poem “Sir Gaiwan and the Green Knight” had audiences divided everywhere. The ending could be interpreted in three different ways. One version is that he flees like a coward and ultimately leads his kingdom to ruin (as foreshadowed in the opening credits where he bursts into flames on the throne). Another interpretation is that he is beheaded and dies an honorable man. Other fans think that the Green Knight’s final line “off with your head” was jokingly said—that Gaiwan chooses to die but is spared by the Green Knight and goes back home to transform into a better man. The post-credit scene only added to the ambiguity. In it, a little girl is seen playing and placing the crown on her head. Some think this means that Gaiwan was a coward who went on to have kids who had to learn the lessons he didn’t or risk repeating his mistakes. Others think it means he was spared and would go on to raise a great ruler. Then there’s fans that interpret the scene as an afterlife vision of what could have been. The beauty of the scene is that it’s up to the viewer to deduce their own ending.
You had to watch Ti West’s X in theaters to have been able to witness this truly iconic post-credit scene. Final girl Maxine (Mia Goth) is left standing after a bloody closing act. She gets in the truck, reverses it, and runs over Pearl. Then a scene plays out with law enforcement at the crime scene speculating about what the found footage could hold. Cue in the credits. After they were finished rolling, audiences who stayed through until the very end were surprised with a teaser for Pearl: An X-traordinary Origin Story. In a similar fashion to X, Pearl closed in theaters with a teaser for the upcoming third installment Maxxxine.
Saw X recently debuted with a 79% critic score and an 89% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. It has received its fair share of praise. Amelia Emberwing wrote for IGN, “Almost 20 years into the franchise, Saw X showcases an emotional depth that manages to take one of these stories higher than ever before. Make no mistake, though, the traps are still on full display and Jigsaw still has full intent to showcase the true evils of humanity. And to give them the chance to save themselves (if they’re good enough), of course.” If you haven’t yet watched the newly released Saw X, then don’t read ahead because there’s major spoilers.
After John Kramer (Tobin Bell) turns the tables on the con artists scamming terminally ill patients, the audience gets rewarded with an extra scene. John and Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) stand with Henry, who has a new trap strapped over his abdomen and has been revealed to have been in on the con. They’re standing in the same decrepit room that provided the setting for the first Saw. Mark is shown to be the nameless detective John calls throughout the film. Producer Mark Burg shared with Men’s Health that if there’s to be an 11th movie, the focus will be on Hoffman: “Oren and myself are superstitious so we never talk about another movie until this movie opens. But should this movie open well, and should Lionsgate want to make another one, that’s exactly where we’re going with the next one.” Here’s to hoping for the next!