This is encapsulates my personal favorite movie endings, they are ranked by the ending not by the film. Each of these endings are ones that left a huge impact on me and my impression of the film.
Probably the best ending in any western and that is saying a lot considering High Noon and Shane. For almost two hours we hear all about Eastwood’s William Munny character and how much of a violent drunk he was yet we see none of it in the film until his friends corpse is used to decorate a saloon. The last fifteen minutes of this film really capture perfectly what this Oscar winning best picture is all about. We finally see William Munny erupt with the drinking and violence in one of the best scenes dealing with the themes of vengeance and redemption ever put on celluloid. It works the best when you see the film in its entirety. Clint Eastwood has had one of the most illustrious careers in motion pictures and this ending is probably the best scene to encapsulate his career… “Deserves got nothing to do with it”
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark
I am not even talking about the amazing climax scene where those evil Nazis have their faces melted off and heads explode by biblical powers no man was meant to control, that scene alone would be enough to warrant being considered one of the greatest endings of all time. Click here for the face melting creepiness . But it’s the final scene in fact the final shot that really has a long lasting impact. After the incredible adventure we went on with our hero. We learn much to Dr. Jones’ dismay that it was all for naught and is being locked away somewhere under the guard of “top men”.
8. Schindler’s List
Another Spielberg movie and I promise you this is the last one on the list. This is one of the most powerful endings I have ever seen in any film and it’s not even the one scene in this picture that brought me to tears that would be this scene here that really encompasses the enormous and devastating magnitude of the Holocaust (along with the best acting Liam Neeson has ever done on screen and I am not exaggerating). For me the scene that comes after it provides closure with a drama that no actors can really create. You see the real life Jews that were saved by Oskar Schindler and the fact that because of him they have children and their families will continue.
Rabbit Proof Fence would take from this, and it works well there too, a great film about the Aborigine genocide in Australia.
7. In the Name of the Father
Unfairly released the same year as Schindler’s List and featuring one of the many great Oscar caliber performances from Daniel Day-Lewis. The ending does make you want to stand up and cheer. It is an incredible true story about overcoming injustice in the law. By the end of the journey you will want to pump your first and cheer as the final verdict is given in court. I could not find a version of the ending that was not cut up so here is the Sinead O’Connor song that plays as Gerry Conlon leaves the courtroom carries over the end credits.
This ending not only surprised audience expectations but also established a Hollywood rule that has never been broken by a major studio. Do not destroy the sanctity of marriage even if you want the two main characters to be together. Ingrid Bergman is much more in love with Humphrey Bogart than her husband played by Paul Henreid, but responsibility and helping people to freedom during World War II was more important than being in love. Plus it marks the start of a “beautiful friendship”. No matter how many times it has been replayed, duplicated in homage, referenced or spoofed, it remains one of the greatest endings of any motion picture.
A great ending from a great independent movie from a great independent director, Trust remains a gem of picture that few people I know have seen, but those that have seen it, love it as much as I do. The final shot is the best with the red light and green light as Martin Donovan’s character is driven away looking back at Adrienne Shelley. So much going on in that final shot it’s a shame I could not find a clip of it online, if you get a chance watch Hal Hartley’s Trust and I am sure you will love it and the ending will stick with you, especially the last shot. Here is a scene that is near the end where our two main characters define love and trust in a way that I find to be beautiful and touching.
Just incase you are curious about this film, here is the trailer:
4. Blade Runner
One of the greatest science fiction films of all time is also one of my personal favorite movies and undeniably has one of cinemas greatest endings. In fact it is so great the studio forced Ridley Scott to change it when it was first released in the United States to something more upbeat. Whether Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard is a replicant or not is all on display with this movies final haunting shot and the one before it where he picks up the origami unicorn and we hear Edward James Olmos’ haunting voice over “it’s too bad she won’t live, but then again who does”. So much has been made of the final scene and like Schindler’s List and Raiders of the Lost Ark the penultimate scene is just as powerful. The special edition DVD features four different endings and analysis by many great science fiction directors, actors and writers. Blade Runner has an ending that leaves you with as many questions as it does answers.
3. Night of the Living Dead
The independent film movement officially started with George A. Romero’s original Zombie masterpiece back in the late 1960’s. I say that not only because it was independently made and financed but also because of its extremely unconventional and controversial ending. It has been debated and analyzed by critics and talking heads ever since its first midnight screenings. What it says as a social commentary about racism in America, civil rights, the military, the war in Vietnam, the fact that it still shocks audiences almost fifty years later says a lot about the impact of this low budget horror film.
2. The Usual Suspects
The only “twist” ending that really surprised and impacted me and every time I go back and watch the film I notice small hints of what was to come. It is my favorite “ah ha” moment in any movie due to the fact that it is a very well written and directed mystery. Plus Kevin Spacey’s Oscar winning performance was what drove the scene and the movie and made the final reveal have the huge impact that it did. I especially love the inclusion of Pete Postlethwaite as “Kobayashi” picking up Kevin Spacey as “Keyser Soze” in the car illustrating how there is some shred of truth to every lie. Please do not watch this if you have not seen the film, you’re only spoiling a great movie for yourself.
1. Planet of the Apes
The 1968 original version is one of the best science fiction films of all time and without a doubt the best ending and final shot of all time. I know this is in many ways a cliché answer when asked what is the greatest ending of all time and the ending has been spoofed and ruined by pop culture ever since it first came out that it is probably not a surprise to anyone who has seen it. But imagine being a child about 9 or 10 years old and first seeing this movie. This left me with more than just the “ah ha” factor that The Usual Suspects had. This ending left me with the “Wow” factor. I was blown away. No matter how many times I have seen this film this final shot always leaved me impressed.