The film was released by Universal Pictures on November 24, 1999. It has grossed $66.9 million in North America and $145.1 million elsewhere, for a worldwide total of $212 million. The film received mainly negative reviews.
In 1979 a priest at the Vatican sees a comet arching over the moon (described as the "Eye of God"), heralding the birth of one chosen to be the mother of Satan's child. The priest is sent on a mission by the Pope to find and protect the girl from Satan, although a few Vatican Knights (led by a corrupt cardinal) insist that she must die. In New York a newborn girl, Christine York, is identified by Satanists (including her physician, Dr. Abel, and her nurse and future guardian, Mabel) as the woman chosen to bear Satan's child on New Year's Eve, 1999. The Satanists perform occult rites on the newborn.
In late 1999, Satan possesses an investment banker in a restaurant; he then destroys the restaurant, killing many inside. Suicidal and alcoholic former police detective Jericho Cane, depressed since his wife and daughter were killed in contract killings, works for a private security company and blames God for his plight. Jericho and co-worker Bobby Chicago are assigned to protect the possessed banker. A priest, Thomas Aquinas, unsuccessfully tries to kill the banker. Jericho captures Aquinas, who warns Jericho: "The thousand years has ended, the dark angel is loosed from his prison" and says that a girl is central. Jericho shoots Aquinas, who is arrested by the New York Police Department. Marge Francis, an NYPD detective and Jericho's former colleague, tells him that Aquinas has no tongue.
Jericho and Bobby investigate on their own, learning that Aquinas was trained at the Vatican and was sent to New York before disappearing. Jericho questions Father Kovak, a priest who knew Aquinas. Kovak asks Jericho if he believes in God; when he says no, the priest tells him that Aquinas was driven mad by forces an atheist could not understand. They go to Aquinas’ apartment, where they find his tongue in a jar and messages and symbols written in blood on the walls. Marge arrives, forcing them to leave. Satan infiltrates Aquinas' hospital, and crucifies him on the ceiling. Although he survives, he is shot by a Satanic police officer. Jericho and Chicago see Latin words and "Christ in New York" scratched into Aquinas' skin, and begins searching for Christine York.
Jericho and Chicago find Christine in her apartment, saving her from the Vatican Knights, and she brings them to Mabel's house. After Satan destroys Chicago's van, killing him, Jericho attempts to leave with Christine. Mabel attacks Jericho, refusing to let him have Christine. Satan enters the house and kills Mabel for failing him; Jericho and Christine escape. Marge and another officer, both Satanists, tell Jericho to surrender Christine. Jericho kills them, but Satan resurrects Marge. Father Kovak tells Jericho and Christine that Satan must impregnate her moments before midnight on New Year's Eve to usher in the "end of days". Christine accepts Kovak's protection.
Satan infiltrates Jericho's apartment, showing him a vision of his family's murder, offering to bring them back in return for Christine. Enraged, Jericho throws Satan through his apartment window after a fight, and Chicago appears.
At the church, the Vatican Knights try to kill Christine before Satan kills them. Chicago tells Jericho that he is in league with Satan after he brought him back. Kovak rescues Jericho, and Satan kidnaps Christine. After locating Satan's underground temple, Jericho rescues Christine and again kills Marge. Chicago stops Jericho, who persuades him to fight off Satan's influence; Satan burns him alive. Jericho escapes with Christine into a subway tunnel. They battle to survive against Satan together; Jericho fires a grenade at their pursuer, who leaves the banker to die for a new host.
Jericho and Christine escape to another church, where Jericho renews his faith in God and prays for strength. Satan confronts Jericho as a massive, winged creature and possesses him. Jericho attempts to rape Christine, who tries to escape before Jericho deliberately impales himself on a sword protruding from a statue. At the stroke of midnight God frees Jericho's dying body, sends Satan back to hell and the world celebrates the new millennium. Jericho and Christine see the former's family waiting for him in the afterlife. He dies in peace, and Christine waits with his body for the authorities.
An alternative ending was filmed in which Jericho returns to life after being impaled on the statue's sword and leaves the church with Christine, but test audiences preferred the original version. The ending was used in the film's novelization.
Directors Sam Raimi and Guillermo del Toro were offered End of Days, but turned it down due to other projects. Marcus Nispel was going to direct the film, but he left because of budget and script problems and was replaced by Peter Hyams.
The role of Jericho Cane was written for Tom Cruise, but he chose to work on Magnolia and Arnold Schwarzenegger was then cast. Liv Tyler was the first choice for the role of Christine York, but she declined over contractual issues. Kate Winslet was then set to play the character, but she dropped out and Robin Tunney replaced her. According to Hyams,
Jim Cameron was the kind of godfather of me doing that film, because of his relationship with Schwarzenegger. He told me I was doing it! ... End Of Days was going to be Marcus Nispel, but it wasn’t working somehow, but they had Arnold and a start date, and Jim came to me and told me I had to do it. This was the first picture Arnold had made for a couple of years. I think he had a heart thing. So this was Arnold coming back. And he wanted to try to make something good, and to take some chances. I applauded that. And we had very, very good actors around him, like Gabriel Byrne and Kevin Pollak and Rod Steiger. It was a very enjoyable experience. Half way through shooting I told Arnold I thought he should die in this movie. Of course Universal blanched at the idea, so I shot the ending both ways, and everybody agreed that the dying ending was the better one.
End of Days received mainly negative reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 11%, based on reviews from 99 critics. Metacritic gives it an average score of 33/100, based on reviews from 33 critics.
The film grossed $66,889,043 in the United States and about $212 million worldwide, against a budget estimated at $100 million. Although it was profitable because of strong international revenue and DVD sales, its final numbers fell short of Universal Studios' expectations. Schwarzenegger received a salary of $25 million for his role in the film.
End of Days was nominated for three Razzie Awards—Worst Actor (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Worst Supporting Actor (Gabriel Byrne) and Worst Director—and was pre-nominated for Worst Picture, but it was withdrawn shortly before the awards ceremony.
The film's soundtrack primarily contains tracks by alternative metal and industrial rock bands. It features the first song released by the "new line-up" of Guns N' Roses, the industrial-rock "Oh My God". During End of Days's editing, soundtrack songs were overlaid in scenes that are typically silent in thriller films. A sample from Spectrasonics' "Symphony Of Voices" is heard in several scenes.Track listing