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"The Butterfly Effect" Movie Review

Updated on August 5, 2017
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An avid movie watcher who dedicates her free time to writing passionate (mostly) negative reviews, even when she usually enjoys the film.

Movie Cover:


Movie: The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Directed by: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber

Screenplay by: J. Mackye Gruber, Eric Bress

Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Melora Walters

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Release date: January 23, 2004

My Rating:8.9/10

IMDB: 7.7/10

Verdict: One of the best "time altering" movies with the butterfly effect theory


Review (spoiler free):

You know....I can't honestly complain about this movie. I can't say why it sucked here or there, or how they could have done this or that differently...and you know why? BECAUSE THIS MOVIE DOES IT FOR ME.

I'm not joking. The whole point of the movie is for Evan to go back in time and fix things, and do things differently. We watch how each scenario affects his life and his family/friends.

And for that alone, I loved this movie.

I'd known about this movie for ages, but for some reason...I kept avoiding watching it. I even know I would love it...but you know, life is busy, and new movies are distracting.

But I finally did watch it a few months ago, and remembered to review it now.


Evan has suffered blackouts during significant events of his life, since he was a kid. As he grows up, he finds a way to remember these lost memories and a supernatural way to alter his life by reading his journal. Thanks to his journal, and later videos and pictures, he learns how to play God to save his love interest, but then later his mother and friends. Each act changes something else he doesn't like, turning this time altering game into an addiction at trying to find the perfect balance, which could cost his life.

Because this movie has 4 different endings, I will spend most of my time talking about those and comparing which ones I think are the best and worst.


If you have no seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It's got some of the best mind-bending stuff, and leaves you wondering about your life and the people you love, and what you want to change if you could go back in time.

Highly recommend watching the directors cut version compared to the theatrical one for the most effective ending.

Who would you save?

Will you save your friend?
Will you save your friend?
Your girlfriend?
Your girlfriend?
Your mother?
Your mother?

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction:

No matter what Evan tries to do, another terrible thing happens. I think the equal/opposite reaction is very prevalent in this time altering film. They never say it, but it's pretty obvious in the film.

I mean, the bigger meaning is the butterfly effect, which says that "small causes can have large effects"....but I never really found any of his actions as "small", they all seemed to be climactic moments in time that would truly define a future. So, changing it could dramatically change a lot, as it does in the film.

But overall, I really liked how the concept played out in the film.

Scroll down to read the spoilery ending section of this article, or go watch the movie if you haven't seen it yet.

Movie Trailer:

Alternate Endings:

Ending + Alternate Endings Comparisons:

There are 4 different endings. Let's talk about each of them.

Ending 1 (theatrical cut): In this version, he goes back in time and upsets younger Kayleigh so that she won't want to stay with him; which means, she and her brother leave their creepy father and lives with her mother. "Eight years later in New York City, an adult Evan exits an office building and passes by Kayleigh on the street. Though a brief look of recognition passes over both of their faces, they both decide to keep walking." This is the bittersweet ending.

Why some thought it was good:

1. Its core theme is about two soulmates who are cursed and the only solution is not being together. When he sees her again, he just walks away because they're not meant to be.

2. It's bittersweet, the perfect balance.

3. He is finally able to let go of the person he loves so she can be happy, without killing himself.

Ending 2 (happy ending): They meet each other on the street and stop and decide to grab coffee. This was just..I'm going to say it: utter garbage. Nope. I did not like it at all. Completely felt alien in comparison to the film. Next! Sappy romantics will like this one...but if you like this one, you clearly did not understand this film and it's themes.

Ending 3 (stalker ending): Same as 2, except he just follows her after passing her. It's called "open ending"...but really, it's just creepy. Sorry, but not sorry. It's worse than the second ending.

Ending 4 (directors cut): The most powerful ending. Also, very tragic.

"With his brain terribly damaged and aware that he is about to be committed to a psychiatric facility where he will lose access to his time travel ability, Evan makes a desperate attempt to change the timeline by travelling back to his pre-birth self (by viewing a family film of his father's), where he strangles himself in the womb with his umbilical cord so as to prevent the multi-generational curse from continuing, consistent with an added scene where a fortune teller describes Evan to Evan and his mother as "having no lifeline" and "not belonging to this world".

Kayleigh is then seen as a child in the new timeline having chosen to live with her mother instead of her father, and a montage suggests that the lives of the other childhood characters have become loving and less tragic."

Why some didn't like it:

1. It's too sad

2. The message of this story is that the world would be a better place without Evan.

3. It hits close to home

4. Suicide is against our nature, so it's too hard to kill oneself. Would be easier to find a loophole to fix everything and survive.

5. Suicide ending puts the blame on Evan, while the pedophile is really the one who ruins everyone's lives (he puts the butterfly effect into motion).

6. Makes no sense, if he was not born, he wouldn't be able to go back in time to kill himself.

7. His mother would have probably resorted to chain smoking or killing herself if she had another stillborn baby.


1. Some of the best movies/most famous movies have tragic endings (Titanic anyone). In a world full of happy ending movies, a movie becomes that much more special by being sad. The shock factor alone makes the movie stay with the viewer long after the film has ended. Occasionally, depressing endings have the most impact on the viewer.

2. Maybe that's what you take from it, but there's plenty of other things to be learned, which will be addressed in the next section below.

3. That's kind of the whole point of the film - to affect you emotionally.

4. Suicide may be against our nature, but it still happens. More often than we'd like, and more much dumber reasons. All the time. Failing your classes? Someone doesn't love you? Do you have no friends? Does nobody care about you in your family? Are you having a hard time finding a job? etc etc...all these have been motivating factors for can it be hard to believe that someone would kill themselves to save their loved ones? I think you just don't want him to die. Also, he tried all the loopholes he could find the whole duration of the film. Given his situation, he decided to take the most dramatic action to just get the job done.

5. Probably the only decent point made here...but still having some issues. It doesn't put the blame on him, it just so happens that a certain situation forces him to make the ultimate sacrifice to make everyone he knows happy. It brings to question whether we are being our best self, if our presence harms others, and if someone would be better off without us. It makes us question. Also, the pedophile might have a hand in this, but it's hardly the only reason. Throughout the film, there are so many factors and events that play a role in fixing or ruining someones's hard to put all blame on that scene alone. I can easily say that the accidental murder of the mother/child by the mailbox was a serious consequence of what later ruins ALL their lives. In fact, I found that scene to be the most disturbing scene from the whole film. We all face hardships in our lives, and sometimes we take responsibility for our role in that, and try to make the best of it. Sometimes, all we can be is reactionary: react the best way we can to some terrible thing, and based on how we react to it, we can either save ourselves and those we love, or fall victim.

6. He never goes back in time, but his memories. It's a little different and tricky, but even if he did go back in time, it can easily be explained away through the multiverse theory.

7. I think she would be fine. Some go into depression after the first or second, so the fact that she even got to the fourth (Evan) means she was strong and determined. Also, the fourth time was probably the last time she could handle it (though not negatively), as shown in the movie. Because it made her divorce her husband, and find someone else to be happy with - which gave her a baby girl. Based on her character that was set up originally, I think she would go on to be fine. The only time she lost it was when her "miracle baby" got hurt. That affect her deeply, but before having the child, I think she would be in the same place - upset and angry for not being able to give birth to a healthy child, but determined to try again.

Why I loved the film:

1. The greatest lesson learned is his own demise- because of altering the past. The butterfly effect, explained perfectly by his own last action. It is a reaction to another butterfly effect - which back then seemed so small at first, but has now put him in such a situation that his life might have to be given up to fix all damages.

2. It implies that the stillborns before him also did the same (3 babies-boys- that died before birth) and the child born after will also do the same; expect now that his mother decides to divorce his dad, she marries someone else and the time-altering gene is no longer a reason to cause her to have stillborn babies. As seen at the end of the film, she is happy with a baby girl with a new husband. She finally can move on and be happy, with the exception of Evan's presence or happiness. This matches the overall darker tone of the film.

3."You have no life line, no soul... you were never meant to be..." I loved that this was a foreshadowing, along with her other stillborn babies. They gave us a heads-up way long ago of what to expect.

4. Someone explained it well: "When u saw & felt all the pain & sadness of people around you, your family, your loved ones, and yourself, somehow you will understand this & wish you were never born ... that's the depth." I completely agree with this statement.

5. Live your lie without your soulmate or die? sometimes death is easier. Makes me think of Romeo and Juliet.

6. Theatrical ending has a bittersweet feeling to it. But the problem with this ending is that Evan recovers from the last time-altering event. In reality, he would end up in the same place as his father in this ending, not the completely altogether, undamaged, workingman. Unrealistic and inconsistent based on the original story.

7. The theme of the butterfly effect is best shown in this ending. As said in the first point, any action he makes doesn't have the reactions he expects. The consequences are too great, and the unpredictable events to varied to control. The best thing, the most effective thing he can do is cut himself out of the picture completely, to basically "kill it before it lays eggs". It always explains why Evan's father got violent with him at some point (when he wanted to play God), and tried to kill his son. His father wanted to end the curse with him, and he got his wish.

8. Great theme of playing God. Is it right? Wrong? Will it work out or not? To what extend can we change our lives? many many questions that you can ponder over...and maybe even apply to now: is abortion ethical? is genetic engineering ethical? If so, to what extent? How long before abortion is wrong? How far can we take genetic engineering? To fix or remove a genetic defect, or further, in completely changing who we were originally. Giving us strength and knowledge and certain looks that we would not have had originally? How much and how long can we play God?


Well, you can watch any ending and pretend that one was the true ending. Or, since it's basically a time travel story, you can assume all these endings live in alternate timelines, and that each one is real. Therefore, everyone is happy, because every ending is the real ending.

You can pick your happy ending, but I'm sticking with the most tragic ending. If it's going to haunt me like it did...I will keep loving that one. Sometimes, even a negative impact on my life is more meaningful than some happy moment that is too fleeting and forgettable.

Will you watch this movie?

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