50 Movies Where A Solution Becomes An Even Bigger Problem
We all know that feeling when you grab a bag of popcorn and sit down and watch a movie, and you get to that moment in the film where the supposed solution to the problem turns into an even bigger problem. Your instinct might be to scream at the screen, "What are you doing?"— a perfectly reasonable reaction.
The best is when you don't realize the problem is making things worse until the end when it's too late. Well, we've got them all — or the top 50 — movies where a solution becomes an even bigger problem, from Sci-Fi to Rom-Com (that's right, Rom-Com). Check out which one's made our list.
I Am Legend
The world would be much better if we found a cure for cancer. Think about all the lives that would be saved each year if we could somehow create an antidote. On the other hand, if a mutated virus could turn most of humanity into ferocious zombie monsters as a result of curing cancer, a few more tests could be run to manage that cure as perfectly as possible.
Scientists in the film I Am Legend developed a variant of the measles virus that cures cancer — what an amazing solution! However, the cure mutates, turning nearly all of humanity into zombie-like creatures. Uh, we're going to need a few more clinical trials on lab mice next time.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
What's that old saying? "The best-laid plans of mice and men..." That is exactly what happened in Avengers: The Age of Ultron. In this Avengers sequel, Tony Stark and the Avengers are, once again, tasked with guarding Earth, so Tony and Bruce Banner create Ultron.
But their villainous creation has other plans and became an even bigger threat to the Avengers — and the world at large. Something they hadn't faced since the New York City debacle from the original Avengers movie. The best part is that these two had to learn this lesson TWICE! Perhaps Tony isn't the billionaire genius he is given credit for being.
Sometimes decisions can backfire. Ask the folks at Snowpiercer how they helped solve climate change with their "solution." While we all know that climate change is a major issue, this film shows us what happens when humanity's solution ends up messing up the climate even worse.
In Snowpiercer, climate engineers were tasked with solving global warming. Unfortunately, their plan worked too well, introducing a new ice age, but no spoilers here. You'll have to watch the film to see how humanity solves its own mistakes.
Guillermo del Toro's 1997 Sci-Fi-Horror film Mimic is another tale of "science gone wrong." In Manhattan, the city's most hated creepy bug — the cockroach — is spreading a life-threatening disease called "Strickler's disease," killing children all over the city.
Doctors create a termite-praying mantis hybrid that releases an enzyme that speeds up the cockroach's metabolism, killing them and preventing the spread of disease. Unfortunately, the super-bugs evolved, mimicking the visage of the humans they targeted and becoming even more of a threat than the cockroaches there were designed to eradicate.
We are cheating a bit on this one, but our list would be incomplete if we didn't mention that Cyberdyne's Skynet is the direct result of reverse-engineering the T-800 Terminator's severed arm. Of course, we don't find that out until the 1991 sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Clearly, Sarah needs to eliminate the Terminator in any way she can, and crushing the Terminator with a hydraulic press is a pretty solid way to do that. After all the pain she endured, it makes sense that she'd want to dodge it and move on with her life. Yet, she could have avoided it all if she had smashed it with the rest of the murderbot.
The Cloverfield Paradox
Like the global water and climate crises, the ongoing long-term energy crisis facing humanity is a serious problem. In The Cloverfield Paradox, a group of astronauts aboard a near-future space station attempt to solve Earth's energy crisis using the Shepard Particle Accelerator.
Unfortunately, the solution opens a portal to a parallel universe, unleashing terror on Earth. The crew must reach the other side of the portal and fight to return to their reality while the monsters wreak havoc on humanity.
Frequency is reminiscent of the Back to the Future franchise. In this 2000 film, John Sullivan (played by Jim Caviezel) finds an old ham radio that allows him to communicate with his deceased father, Frank (played by Dennis Quaid).
John contacts his father the night before he dies and warns of a fire that will take his life the next day. This saves his father's life, but it wouldn't be a very interesting movie if it ended there... John's time manipulation accidentally saves serial killer Jack Shepard's life.
The Dark Knight
The Dark Night made our list for multiple scenes that have us all wondering what the main characters were thinking. First, Batman and the Gotham Police Department believe they caught a big break when they captured the Joker. Nope! They played right into Joker's hands, getting Harvey and his girlfriend captured.
The second solution turned problem is when Harvey Dent (played by Aaron Eckhart) is captured. Batman must choose between saving the woman he loves or Dent. Batman tried to save Rachel (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) but found Dent instead. The new problem is with Dent's girlfriend dead, he became the villain, Two-Face, wreaking even more havoc on Gotham.
The Cabin In The Woods
In another movie where the solution becomes an even bigger problem, The Cabin In The Woods is a Horror-Thriller where a group of friends visits a cabin only to get hunted down. These evil creatures start killing them off.
At the end of this 2012 film, the surviving leads find themselves part of a ritual sacrifice to please the "elders." After discovering this, the main characters save themselves only to unleash these creatures and drive the entire Earth to extinction at the hands of the monsters.
Back To The Future
Back To The Future is a cult classic about a young time traveler who makes one giant mistake and then spends the rest of the movie trying to undo his blunder. The problem is that every solution he comes up with brings him closer to wiping out his own existence.
Marty McFly (played by Michael J. Fox) discovers his friend Doc (played by Christopher Lloyd) has invented a time-traveling car. The two travel to the past, where Marty saves his teen father from getting hit by a car.
The problem is that the accident was how Marty's parents were supposed to meet. Instead, Marty gets hit and nursed back to health by his mother — who now has a crush on Marty instead of his dad like she was supposed to. It's a mess. Just go watch the film.
In the movie Ghostbusters, Gozer is attempting to destroy the world, so Peter Venkman (played by Bill Murray) decides on the no-plan plan, which does nothing to solve the Ghostbuster's dilemma. So Ray Stantz (played by Dan Aykroyd) comes up with a solution that he believes is the most harmless thing possible.
Their plan was to conjure a giant Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man to fight off Gozer. Unfortunately, Ray's solution had the unintended consequence of becoming an even bigger problem.
In this James Bond thriller, the latest assignment went terribly wrong when agents worldwide were vulnerable, and MI6 was attacked. The solution was to relocate the agency, leaving M with only one ally she could trust, Bond.
While her solution was to trust only one agent, her fatal flaw was to trust herself. Even though she was the best of the operators, M handed over Raoul Silva, leading to her demise at the end of the film.
Geostorm is another movie about climate change, except that the main characters don't make the problem worse with the solution. The solution becomes the problem.
In this Sci-Fi-Thriller, scientists discover a way to neutralize climate change, but it comes with giving them unlimited weather-based power. The problem is that there is no way that humanity can harness that much power without causing its own demise.
A robotic cop, what could go wrong? Well, we already know that when robots are the solution, they will end up being the problem. That’s exactly what we get with RoboCop when a fleet of robot cops threatens humanity.
Their solution to rogue robotic cops was to take a human cop about to die (of course) and bring him back to life as a robot but with no memories of being human. Or, at least, that was what was supposed to happen. Unfortunately, the police force had yet another metal cop they couldn’t control.
In Interstellar, a team of astronauts must save humanity by finding a planet that can sustain life after Earth was riddled with famine, disasters, and drought. The two remaining astronauts must avoid being crushed in the cosmos and devise a plan to turn a black hole into a gravitational slingshot.
Unfortunately, the only way for the plan to work was for Coop (played by Matthew McConaughey) to sacrifice himself. Unless... they use a Tesseract created by future humans that allows them to manipulate time. That poses the question: why did the future humans let the problem get to the point of devastating humanity if they could manipulate time, stopping any of it from happening?
The movie Jaws is about a group of tasty swimmers who keep going into the water even though a man-eating shark is feasting on the townsfolk. The mayor doesn't want to scare the townsfolk or the tourists (mostly because he doesn't want to lose out on the money the tourists bring), so he says nothing.
Well, not only does that make it more difficult for the shark hunters to kill the shark, but it also puts the townsfolk in danger, costing many of them their lives. They can't spend money from inside the belly of a shark.
Back To The Future Part II
At the end of the first Back To The Future movie, Doc Brown unexpectedly appears and explains that he desperately needs Marty and Jennifer's help to save their children in the future. That might leave you thinking, Marty endangered the entire space-time continuum on his last journey through time, why would Doc think Marty was capable of saving anyone in the future?
Also, why not just go talk to Marty in 2015? Well, sure enough, everything falls apart as soon as they get to the future. Young Marty and Jennifer quickly act to narrowly avoid running into their future selves. This causes all sorts of problems.
Hellboy II: The Golden Army
In the epic tale of Hellboy II: The Golden Army, there was once a horde of indestructible magical robots (the Golden Army) formed by an ancient Elven king. After the humans were nearly wiped out, they declared a truce, and the magic crown used to control the Golden Army was split into three parts.
Now the wicked son of the Elven king wants to restore the crown and join the golden army to destroy the human race. The evil prince murdered his father to get his piece of the crown. He then murdered everyone at an auction.
To stop her brother, the princess sacrifices herself, killing her and her brother before he harms anyone else. We should mention that some are being left out (to avoid spoilers), but the solution to save humanity was to kill the one person who would best protect the crown, the princess.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
We could have split these movies into three parts, but the solution (which ultimately becomes the problem) for each of these movies is the same for each film — destroy the ring. To save all of humanity and ensure that Sauron doesn't return to enslave the world, young Frodo Baggins (played by Elijah Woods) risks life and limb to save the world.
However, there was a solution all along that wouldn't have caused the death and destruction of so many (and saved us all nearly twelve hours of movie-watching). Elrond, King of the Elves, could have simply destroyed the ring thousands of years before Sauron murdered off half of Middle-earth.
After a boozy stay in Saigon, U.S. Army Captain Willard (played by Martin Sheen) is assigned to Cambodia to assassinate a rogue Special Forces officer. The film follows Willard's arduous journey, where he has to dodge death at nearly every turn.
To help Willard track down the rebel soldier, the Army sets him up with a boat and a crew of men to help, but the solution becomes part of the problem when Willard must begin farther away to track and eliminate his target, making this time-sensitive mission take much longer than necessary.
In the year 2154, humanity depleted nearly all of the Earth's natural resources, so the RDA (Resources Development Authority) finds a moon called Pandora, inhabited by a tall blue alien known as Na'vi. Pandora is toxic to humans, so the RDA develops an "avatar" program that allows humans to pilot Na'vi-like hybrids.
One soldier must become friendly with the Na'vi to get close to their unobtanium, the substance the humans are mining for. Eventually, the story unravels when a human falls in love with a Na'vi woman. Undeterred by this, the RDA wage war on the Moon. However, getting closer to the Na'vi proved to be a bigger problem, as now Jake, the Na'vi-loving human, is helping the indigenous creatures fight to save their home.
Indiana Jones: Raiders Of The Lost Ark
Indiana Jones (played by Harrison Ford), the world's greatest archaeologist, is hired by the U.S. government to retrieve, you guessed it, the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis. His mission takes him around the world, but primarily to Cairo, Egypt, where he battles his nemesis for control of an incredibly powerful artifact.
The majority of the film consists of scenes where Indy actually tries to figure out where the Ark is hidden. However, Indy's involvement in this whole debacle makes things worse by preventing the assassination of Adolf Hitler. So, the movie's solution to saving the world by getting the Ark of the Covenant out of the hands of the Nazis left the evil Nazi leader alive to wreak havoc on the Earth, causing WWII. Great solution.
The Harry Potter Series
Another movie franchise that can all be summed up in a single caption is the Harry Potter series since the problems and the solutions are all the same. For those who don't know, the premise of the films (and books) is a young wizard must face the evil villain who killed his parents.
For most of Harry's young life, his family keeps his wizardry secret to protect him, which almost gets him killed in the first film. These secrets continue throughout the series as Harry learns who he is and how powerful his magic can be. The problem is that if they had told Harry the truth from the beginning, he could have honed his powers earlier in life and actually saved humanity from Voldemort - before the people he cared about died.
The population of planet Earth was moved into outer space so that the planet’s robots (Wall-E) could clean up the waste left behind by the humans. Luckily, the sad lonely robot finds another robot friend. The solution becomes an even bigger problem when the humans are sent to live in space because the planet isn’t healthy for them to live on only for them all to become even more unhealthy.
When the advanced robot takes Wall-E to meet the humans living in space, we see that they are all sedentary, overweight people who float around on hoverboards. By the end of the movie, the people learn the error of their gluttonous ways and begin living healthier lifestyles. However, the automation that was supposed to solve the health crisis only created even lazier and unhealthy people.
We don't want to give too much away with this movie, but there really is no way to discuss this film's problematic solution without giving away some key elements of the plot. Throughout the movie, we think we are following a U.S. Marshal, Teddy Daniels (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), investigating the disappearance of a patient from Ashecliffe Hospital, a local insane asylum.
What we learn is that Daniels isn't actually a U.S. Marshal. He is a patient at the asylum, and the staff is playing along with his delusions. Why they didn't just tell him he was insane is beyond many movie-goers.
Continuing our exploration of the Scorsese, DiCaprio, and Nicholson connection, we have The Departed, another Boston-based cop thriller and perhaps the least obvious Inception-esque film on this list. This film is a thrilling crime drama that involves a lot of double crossings, espionage, and shootouts.
It's definitely one of the more raw and violent movies on this list. The problematic solution is that each of the undercover investigators in the movie becomes so deeply consumed by their double lives. They lose focus on their crime-fighting mission and become criminals.
Tenet is both an absolute "dudes in suits" movie and an intricate maze of films — a palindrome in more ways than one. It has the same composition, forward and backward, a perfect touch to the film's time-reversal premise.
Basically, the timeline and structure of the movie itself are reversed, and the second half of the movie is actually the first half reversed. The solution turned problem comes when The Protagonist (played by John David Washington) uses technology to harness time itself. We won't give away any spoilers in this one. You'll just have to go see the film.
Memento begins with the blond Guy Pearce (playing the character Leonard Shelby) appearing to fire a gun backward - or really a scene where he fires a gun as the action plays backward. We also see polaroid developing in reverse.
In the film, Shelby is working with the police to find out what happened the night his wife was murdered. But since he cannot form any new short-term memories, he takes polaroids to help him remember. The problem with this memory loss solution is that anyone can manipulate his memories simply using photos.
Like Inception, Paprika explores similar plots such as dream manipulation, technological interference, and even mind control. In this film, engineers design a solution to help therapists treat their patients. They invented a device that allows therapists to enter the dreams of their patients.
However, when this device gets stolen, the conscious and unconscious realities of those involved become blurred, making it easy to control them. It takes the bravery of one young researcher to enter the unreal reality and save humanity.
Starring Ryan Reynolds and Ben Kingsley, Self/less is a sophisticated, sexy, and often overlooked gem of a 2015 film. Kingsley plays an aging and rapidly declining Damian who, feeling that he still has work to do, undergoes a highly innovative and secretive procedure.
The solution involves transferring his consciousness into the unanimated body of a young donor. The problem is that Damian learns that he can experience lives within lives, leading him to discover his reality is more concerning than he could have ever imagined.
The 2006 film The Prestige features Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman as rival magicians, delighting audiences and adding twists and turns to the story and layer on layers of deception. And, yes, the real-life historical figure Nikola Tesla is somehow woven into the plot in a very satisfying way.
The problematic solution comes at the beginning of the film when the magicians are starting to make a name for themselves. Instead of conducting actual magic tricks, Bale's character has some sinister secrets up his sleeve that become an even bigger problem than his solution for struggling with magic.
In yet another Christian Bale movie featured on our list, Bale plays the role of Trevor Reznik in this bitter 2004 film, The Machinist. Reznik is a thin, miserable insomniac, that receives a meager income as a machinist in a local factory.
According to Reznik, we learn that he has not slept in a year — his solution for finding success in his field. However, the solution becomes an even bigger problem when things start to get weird. Reznik attempts to keep a grip on his reality. However, if he is unable to break this cycle of insomnia, he could face even bigger problems.
We all know the plot of the Matrix movies. To save humanity, society resides in pods, living a simulated life connected to machines. Or so that's what they want you to believe.
However, this solution of keeping humanity safe in pods is actually causing their demise. Throughout the entire franchise, we follow Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) and his crew as they attempt to save humanity from their simulated lives.
Anon is a peculiar cyber thriller with the hacker-style characteristics of The Matrix and the vibe of heist-thriller Inception. In the 2018 film, Amanda Seyfried and Clive Owens plunge into a steamy game of cat-and-mouse in a futuristic city where humanity is connected biologically to the internet and technology called "the Ether."
Sal (played by Clive Owen) is a town detective who uses this networked crime-fighting technology and relies entirely on the system's detection and remote monitoring capabilities. Unfortunately, the technology fails and becomes an even bigger problem.
In the movie Arrival, aliens make contact with Earth in an egg-like spaceship and communicate with humans using a form of telepathy. The government brings in a specialist (played by Amy Adams) who seemingly solves the communication barrier with the aliens.
The problem is that once she begins communicating with the aliens, we learn that the devastation in her life prior to the aliens' arrival is directly linked to everything that happened after they came to Earth. Learning to communicate with the aliens is what brings her closer to the devastating events in her life.
Limitless is a movie about a man named Eddie (played by Bradley Cooper) who just can’t seem to catch a break in life until he comes across a mind-enhancing drug that allows him to unlock areas of his brain that he couldn’t access before. As a result, he is able to solve all of his more immediate problems.
Unfortunately, his solution to succeeding in life is an even bigger problem as his world begins to fall apart. Not to mention, he only has a limited supply of his mind-bending drugs. That’s only one of Eddie’s now seemingly endless list of problems.
Batman Vs. Superman
In Batman Vs. Superman, the only way to save humanity is by killing off one of the superheroes. What a great solution that will absolutely cause an even bigger problem. Who's going to fight off the evildoers if our superheroes die off?
At the climax of the movie, the three superheroes team up to fight a giant monster threatening humanity. They decide to have Superman fly a kryptonite spear into the heart of the monster, which will absolutely kill him. (Oh, yeah, spoiler alert.) That leaves us all asking, why did Superman have to carry the spear since Wonder Woman can fly as well?
Yes, getting captured, tortured, and forced to make grueling sacrifices to both life and limb seems like quite the problem, and the main characters are pinned against each other to try to save themselves.
Each solution to save themselves creates an even bigger problem down the line, either for that character or someone else. So, being that every solution becomes an even bigger problem for the victims, that makes you wonder, why didn't they just work together to get the cell phone in the first place?
Avengers: Infinity War
Problem: Thanos. Solution: Thor. Problem: Thor. Do you see the pattern? Well, in Avengers: Infinity Wars, we watch the team struggle (and ultimately fail) to prevent Thanos from getting his hands on the Infinity Stones and wiping out all living creatures.
Even though Thanos has all the Infinity Stones, he needs a fully functional hand to attach them to. So, the team sends in Thor, who ends up becoming part of the problem when he hastily throws his axe at Thanos' chest instead of severing his arm. Good job, Thor. You just killed off most of the world with one snap of Thanos' hand.
In Prometheus, we follow explorers who discover a planet that seems to be the dawn of mankind in this Sci-Fi thriller. As the team seeks answers to solve some of the world's most difficult problems, the mission becomes the problem.
As the team explores the newly discovered planet, the truth behind the existence of man is more than anyone is prepared to learn. We won't give away too much here, just go watch the movie. You'll be glad you did.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
In Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Sarah Connor (played by Linda Hamilton) is once again being hunted down by a Terminator from the future. And once again, another Terminator from the future has to come and help.
At this point, the only question we have is, with all of her knowledge of future events, why on Earth does she still go by Sarah Connor? Why wouldn't she have changed her name and avoided all of the trouble in the first place? Continuing to fight the Terminators seems to be a bigger problem than a solution.
Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
Honey, I Shrunk The Kids is a classic film about an inventor struggling to provide for his family who makes a shrinking machine. The contraption ends up putting his children in harm's way when they accidentally get turned into teeny, tiny micro-humans.
It takes them a minute to find a solution, mostly because it takes the children a while to alert the parents that they weren't actually missing. They never left the house!
In Gremlins, a struggling inventor desperate to provide for his family goes to Chinatown to sell one of his inventions to a shop there. The elderly owner, also in need of money, let's the inventor know that he cannot buy his invention.
While the older shop owner is tending to business, his son sees the opportunity to save his family's shop and sells a mysterious creature called a mogwai to the father. He gives him three special rules to follow but doesn't tell him why he must follow them. The inventor doesn't listen, and the solution to save the shop ends up wreaking havoc on the entire town when the mogwai turns into gremlins.
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
In the film Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, young Kevin McCallister (played by Macauley Culkin) is once again separated from his family during the Christmas holiday. While Kevin's mom believes she has come up with the fool-proof solution to last year's problem, which seemingly works when they all make it to the airport, even Kevin.
Unfortunately, the plan didn't work because, while Kevin made it to the airport, her plan failed to ensure the entire family made it on the same flight. So, Kevin goes to New York while the rest of the family travels to Florida. Good grief!
This film made our list for the plan that backfired… for the Warden. If you don't know the premise of Shawshank Redemption, an innocent man goes to prison for killing his wife. He learned there was a way to prove his innocence, except the Warden didn't want to let him go.
Andy had been working on some illegal activities for the Warden. After learning there was a young man who could help prove Andy's innocence, the Warden has the young man killed. The problem with this solution was that after learning of the kid's murder, Andy had no reason to keep working for the Warden. So, he plans his escape, withdraws the money the Warden embezzled, and implicates the Warden, who ends up, well... just go watch the movie.
Whenever robots are the solution in a movie, you can almost always guarantee that AI will become the problem. Case in point, I, Robot, starring Will Smith, a film about AI gone wrong.
In this Sci-Fi flick, Detective Del Spooner (Smith) leads the investigation of the suicide of the leading robotics scientist. In his investigation, he discovers the robots designed to make life easier for humans are actually plotting to take over the world.
World War Z
When the key to surviving the zombie apocalypse is to contract a deadly pathogen, it’s safe to say the solution is an even bigger problem than ravenous zombies. Gerry (played by Brad Pitt) explains a theory to WHO employees that the zombies seem to ignore the terminally ill or those who are severely injured as they are not the best hosts for the infection. He suggests that they inject themselves with a deadly pathogen to act as a camouflage against the zombies.
Gerry tests the theory out on himself and proves that his theory is correct. A vaccine is then created, which acts as a camouflage against the zombies, allowing survivors throughout the world to safely escape zombie-infested areas.
The Sixth Sense
The Sixth Sense has us thinking that a young boy who sees dead people is getting the psychological help he needs when he begins to meet with a therapist on a regular basis. Throughout the movie, we learn that this therapist isn’t exactly as helpful as we thought.
He’s a dead man desperately trying to communicate with his wife and befriend the only living person who sees and hears him. It’s sad that throughout the film we think that the boy is getting help, only to learn the therapist isn’t helping since he, as well, is dead. Which makes him part of the problem.
He’s Just Not That Into You
We’re going to end this list with a Rom-Com because… well, why not?! It can’t all be Thrillers and Sci-Fi films. He’s Just Not That Into You makes our list because of the plot twist at the end when the friend teaching her how to be less clingy learns his way of dating is shallow and meaningless. And it was about to cost him the love of his life.
Turns out his solution to avoiding heartache was keeping him from healing his broken heart… which apparently finding love is supposed to cure…? Okay, we may have made a bit of a stretch on this one too.