Saturday, March 29, 2014

What Movie Has the Best Ending?

This one probably has spoilers.

Inspired by Adam Riske's column this week, it seems like a good time to bring up some of your favorite final scenes, twists, shots or lines of dialogue in movies.

Keep in mind that you don't have to spoil the ending of whatever movie you're discussing, especially if you think not many people have seen it. Maybe a title will suffice.

If you are going to talk specifics, try to name the movie first so people can decide whether or not they want to keep reading.

And these don't have to be twists! Any ending to any movie is fair game. Let's hear them!


  1. The Godfather Part 2

    In watching it subsequent times I have no idea why this ending impacted me so much, especially considering that they say exactly whats going happen leading up to it, but the killing of Fredo knocked me off my feet when I first saw it. Left such a massive impression. Made the whole movie for me.

    1. I like all three Godfather Endings, the third less so than the first two.

  2. The French Connection

    I first saw this at a relatively young age and I remember being so into that amazing chase sequence and seeing how Gene Hackman does not actually catch the bad guy was simply amazing. It was one of the first times I had seen a film to do that and it stuck with me for a long time. Great film

  3. The ending of L'Avventura because that means it's finally over.

    1. I couldn't agree more JB.

    2. Boo! Hiss! It's a great ending to a fantastic movie. If I ever go to Italy (fat chance... get it? ;-P) I'm making the hotel where they shot that final shot of "L'Avventura" one of my stops.

  4. The Godfather. Even if II had never happened, closing the door on Kay was the perfect way to end the story being told. Brad is right about the incredible ending of II as well. It almost makes you sad there was never a III, doesn't it? Too bad they never managed to make a III, it could have been excellent. Shame.


    1. I agree. It's too bad there was never a third movie. I bet that would have been just great.

    2. Oh Godfather 3 has it's moments, it just doesn't have enough of them. I actually kind of like the end of 3, just not as much as the end of 1 and 2.

    3. Pacino's silent scream might have been effective if everyone in the theater hadn't been cheering because it meant we didn't have to see Sofia attempt to emote anymore. To be fair, in theory the scene works.

    4. If you say "in theory," doesn't that mean the scene doesn't work?

      Actually, the one scene in Godfather III that I think really does work is the quiet lunch between Michael and Kay, where he tries to explain how he got so far from his youthful ideals. Both Pacino and Keaton are terrific in that scene.

    5. I meant more that the scene works on paper. It's effective on a script level, but the execution hampers what could have been a devastating Greek tragedy.

  5. I was recently listening to the Carrie remake podcast again, and I think the ORIGINAL Carrie might have one of the greatest endings of all time, especially for its day. To be a person seeing that in a theater at a time when that kind of ending was rarely, if ever, seen before...Wow!

    1. I had the pleasure of seeing a re-release of the original "Carrie" in Jersey a few years back with a good crowd of folks who seemed unfamiliar with the movie. When that ending it, it felt like I time traveled back to the 70s to experience it with an audience who, unlike me, had no idea what was coming. It was awesome. :D

    2. That sounds great, Brian! I would love to see it in a theater. Even still, I can't help but think how amazingly well the ending must have worked in a theater in 1976 when people weren't so inundated with "one last scare" endings to horror movies. That being said, it still works great today!

  6. The Thing is definitely up there. I'm a big fan of ambiguous endings and this has to be one of the best. The end of Dr. Strangelove is so great as well.

  7. Replies
    1. Love it - the ending to that movie still makes me cry weird happy-sad tears.

  8. There are dozens that come to my mind, but I'll start with The Searchers, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Casino Royale as some of my favorites.

  9. The Descent(the original ending), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Shining, The Dark Knight, It's a Wonderful Life, and Seven Samurai.

    1. Yes on Seven Samurai and The Shining. I like Crusade as a cap on the Trilogy.

    2. I love the ending of Its A Wonderful Life. Brings tears to my eyes every time. He tells his mum he won a fucking tank.

    3. Excellent call on The Descent. I'll add in The Orphanage for another gut punch of a conclusion.

  10. Hitchcock came up with some masterful final shots for many of his movies, including:

    Psycho - that final stare...
    The Birds - How to be terrifying and hopeful in the same shot
    North by Northwest - the perfect visual double entendre
    Vertigo - I don't even have words to describe this one

  11. I have already voiced agreement with some people above, so I won't repeat, except for one.

    Seven Samurai is such a great movie that I have to mention it's ending in my own list. There is basically no part of that movie that doesn't hit the right buttons for me. It's like the perfect Group of Guy's Do Stuff movie by which all others are to be judged. Same with Raiders of the Lost Ark, perfect movie - perfect ending.

    While I like Brazil, I've never been quite able to actually LOVE it. However, the end of that movie is so great. He wins, he escapes, even though he lost and didn't get away.

    I think we forget how great the end of Star Wars actually is, Jedi as well.

    The Maltese Falcon has one of the best bitter endings ever written and The Asphalt Jungle comes a close second.

    Yojimbo has a great bad-ass ending, as does Hara-Kiri (Takashi Miike's remake is actually an improvement on the original)

  12. It's a Wonderful Life
    City Lights
    Beauty and the Beast
    Treasure of the Sierra Madre
    Godfather I & II
    Schindler's List
    and of course...
    Raiders of the Lost Ark
    because Raiders has the best of everything.

  13. So many great ones stated. So many that won't. But here are some others I love.

    The Devil's Rejects
    Pee Wee's Big Adventure
    Man on the Moon
    Death Proof
    Mary Poppins
    Fight Club
    Spiderman 2
    The Silence of the Lambs
    Rosemary's Baby
    Series 7: The Contenders
    Halloween and Halloween H20
    Something Wild
    The Hangover
    La Bamba
    Some Kind of Wonderful
    Army of Darkness

  14. Big shoutout to Die Hard, Fargo, American Psycho, Halloween, You're Next, and Heat.

    But for the best, I gotta go with Unforgiven and Apocalypse Now.

    Unforgiven is a great deconstruction of gunfights in the old west, with Munny always reminding us that he was to drunk to remember them, but that he's always just been good at killing people. And the whole movie culminates in a half-drunk, sloppy gunfight, where no one can seem to hit anything because, as Little Bill put it, they were all in such a rush to get the first shot out, that none of them bothered to aim. And it just so happens to contain one of my all-time favorite lines, "That's right, I've killed women and children. I've killed just about everything that's walked or crawled at some point. And I'm here to kill you Little Bill, for what you've done to Ned." Oh Clint, come back to Earth please, we dearly miss you.

    And Apocalypse Now, for such a loud, visceral, epic, big, intense movie, it sure does end small and quiet. It's so refreshing to see such a great big movie that doesn't feel the need to outdo itself at the end (I'm looking at you, Dark Knight Rises). The original scripted ending featured Kurtz fighting an aerial assault with an anti-aircraft gun while screaming "I CAN FEEL IT IN MY LOINS!" Which would have been.....just terrible. I just love the fact that a movie that opens with a napalm explosion, and features a long scene of a troop of helicopters attacking a beach, ends with no gunfire, almost no words. Just two men walking back to their boat. Perfect filmmaking.

  15. Escape from LA. The ending is so gloriously ballsy it redeems the rest of a pretty weak film. "Welcome... To the human race."

  16. Oh wait! In the "twist ending" realm, you can't go without mentioning....Planet of the Apes!

  17. Since no one has mentioned it yet I absolutely love the ending to The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. The way it builds up with Morricone's score as Tuco runs past the graves in the cemetery you just know something magnificent is about to happen. It also works well as another backdrop to the civil war as you witness all the lives that have been buried and forgotten there.

    Then once the three of them are finally together for the first time and the "duel" commences I am always on pins and needles waiting for Blondie to shoot first. There is also so much going on in the scene just with their eyes. Morricone's score once again entrances me with in amazement as to what is about to occur, I actually went to a Metallica concert once just to hear them play the score (which always opens their act).

    Surely Blondie is going to win, but with both of his foes perish? The one thing I always wondered is who Tuco would have shot first?

    Then the actual ending plays with you on what Blondie is going to do with Tuco. Surely the other two would have just left the defeated to rot, but the ending at least enforcers why Eastwood's character is "the good", when you rarely saw that throughout the rest of the movie. Finally you are left to wonder what Tuco shouts at Blondie as he takes off.

    Another one I love is The Last of the Mohicans, which also has an amazing score that plays over the ending. Even though much of the movie's plot has a large scope the ending is more simplistic with our group of heroes trying to save Alice from the "evil" Magua (although Magua isn't necessarily evil of course). I am always left in awe at how our "heroes" force their way through Magua's group of Huron's. It of course ends in tragedy, but the way Michael Mann filmed the scene is absolutely stunning. Much of the movie doesn't work, but when it does it's just phenomenal (still my favorite Michael Mann movie).

    One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest immediately came to mind as well, but I suppose one's appreciation for the ending depends on how they relate to the message it's trying to tell.

    1. I think that The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly shows Tuco trying to shoot Angel Eyes (but of course he can't).

      This is off topic, but that movie has a great piece of advice that the bad guys never, ever follow. After Tuco dispatches a loquacious baddie while soaking in a tub, he tells the corpse, "If you have to shoot, shoot! Don't talk."

    2. My problem with that scene is that he has the gun in the tub with him. Would that gun even work after it's been soaking in the water for that long? It's sage wisdom, but I question the accuracy of the moment!

    3. And even if it did work, don't get me started on what may have happened if it accidentally went off while it was in there. Yikes!

  18. Psycho - The corpse of Vera Farmiga

    Chinatown - wait what?! Sister AND daughter?!!

    Night of the Living Dead - when he gets shot by the cops, because reasons.

    Dr. Strangelove - Gets out of the wheelchair "We’ll Meet Again"

    Fargo - cause why not end it with a couple in bed.

    Before Sunset - because Julie Delpy is dancing for me damnit

    The Graduate - Believe this was talked about on the Garden State pod (if I'm not mistaken), but that look they have in the car.

    1. I thought about Night of the Living Dead, too. That's such a dark but great and effective ending. Definitely one of the best.

  19. Totally agree with The Graduate, above, and am also reminded of The Candidate - the "What now?" ending

    Also, I have to second The Thing, but need to add Escape From New York - just wonderful cynicism from Carpenter

    Dazed And Confused - open road, anything could happen

    Blade Runner - you mean he's one of them too???

    Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid - super satisfying (and kind of homaged in Thelma And Louise)

    I love the camera move at the end of The Conversation, and also Electra Glide In Blue

    Is anyone going to mention Seven???

    And what about grandpa at the end of The Lost Boys :)

  20. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

    The "That was my favorite age" line gets me every time.

  21. I have a list of my 34 favorite movies hanging on the cubicle where I work (yes, on a Saturday night... killing time until the midnight showing of "The Apple" in 35mm at the Nitehawk theater in Brooklyn; jealous? :-P). Going from those that have a particularly memorable ending (and in no particular order):

    -Psycho: fucked-up final speech, fucked-up stare, fucked-up discovery in the swamp.

    -Spider-Man 2: Patrick nails it in the "Favorite Superheroes" podcast: to end a multi-million summer blockbuster on the face of Mary Jane as she looks worried as Peter Parker is off to danger (instead of the high of Spidey swinging away) is a thing of beauty, the perfect ending to a perfect superhero movie.

    -Another Earth: Just watch the damn flick. The ending (and the implications of what it means) are mind-blowing and yet so simple.

    -The Third Man: Ann does you-know-what as Holly Martins just smokes that cigarette to the tune of Anton Karas' score. Does it get any better?

    -The Fly ('86): The last five minutes are just one unending series of 'Wow!' moments, one after the next. Brutal, sheer cinematic perfection.

    -Forbidden Games: 'Michel, Michel, Michel, Michel, Michel. :'(

    -Rushmore: Max and Rosemary talk, look at each other and The Faces' "Ooh La La" comes on... God, all mighty, it's just beautiful.

    -Late Spring: Chishû Ryû lowers his head... waterfalls.

    -Annie Hall: that street, that song, the egg joke.

    -Dr. Strangelove: 'We'll meet again,' indeed.

    -Titanic: Rose finally reunites with Jack and goes back to Titanic.

    -The Usual Suspects: John Ottman doesn't deserve enough credit for writing a score and specific finale music that elevates editing and voice-over into a fairy tale fantasy escape. Remove the music and the scene just does not work.

    Gotta run to Brooklyn, but gotta give it up to Nebraska and Enemy (in limited release), the former for just about the most well-timed ending at the right moment, and the latter for making me piss my pants and still making my head scratch days after seeing it. Seriously, "Enemy," WTF??!! :-)

  22. I have a weird love for the original ending to Paranormal Activity, before they decided they needed a sequel. Katie walks up to the camera and slits her own throat. still gets me.

  23. A lot of great endings posted here but here's a couple I dont believe I saw mentioned

    Alien 3: The film as a whole is full of faults but man the cajones they had to go with the ending they did, it wraps everything up perfectly-then Alien Resurrection had to come around.

    Terminator 2: Best thumbs up finale to a movie ever.

    Terminator 3: Just like Alien 3, super troubled overall but super awesome finale that HAD to happen.

  24. The ones that immediately come to my mind are

    The Godfather
    The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    Return of the Jedi
    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    1. How could I forget Spider-Man 2?!? That final shot of Mary Jane is a very subversive close to the movie, as it truly hits you how personal Peter's course over the film is.. he finally has somebody to go home to, for better or for worse.

      Oh, and Return of the King. Sam, Rosie and their children walking into their little hobbit hole, followed by Into the West (an amazing song) sends shivers down my spine and actually gets me a little misty-eyed.

    2. Oh poop, Kill Bill! The lioness has reunited with her cub, and all is right in the jungle.

  25. Rocky, The Empire Strikes Back, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Batman Begins

  26. The Mist and Return Of The Living Dead

    I kinda have a thing for down endings.

    P.s. Can't believe it's taken me six months of listening to finally write something on here.