List compiled by Eddie on 13/03/2015
After both Jordan and I wrote up our list of Classic Movie Opening Scenes it felt apt to follow up with a Classic Ending’s list.
In a hotly debated topic that has many right answers and a raft of candidates it bought up the interesting question of what makes a good ending?
The answer to this question is one that spans many a plausible answer, satisfaction, shock, narrative conclusion and countless others make the ending of a movie memorable and while there are ending scenes that would appeal to certain people, there is a huge collection of classic endings that made this list incredibly hard to narrow down.
In the below list I’ve tried to minimise spoilers but with any list that focuses on endings it would be wise that if you notice a title you have yet to see it may be best to skip the reasoning behind it’s pick in this top 10.
The movie ending is truly the make or break for a film and its what us punters leave with as we walk out of the cinema or debate a film in the comfort of our own homes, as always –
Happy reading and happy watching!
10. The Sixth Sense (1999)
The payoff – The true ghost comes to light.
“I think I can go now. Just needed to do a couple of things. I needed to help someone; I think I did”
Do I really need to say anything about this one? And come on, no one picked that ending no matter what they say. Easily one of cinemas greatest blindsides, perfectly played out in the final scenes.
9. Inglorious Basterds (2009)
The payoff – World War 2 is re-written, Col. Hans Landa gets his punishment.
“You know somethin’, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece”
I’d argue that the whole loud and insane final act of Basterd’s acts as one of recent cinemas most insanely glorious conclusions. Re-writing World War 2, Tarrantino let loose with a barrage of inventive and wicked narrative scenarios that closes with a brutal yet somehow justified act of violence on a man that lived his life in it.
8. Primal Fear (1996)
The payoff – Lawyer Martin Vail finds out who his been representing all along.
“We’re a great team, you and me. You think I could’ve done this without you?”
You wouldn’t call Primal Fear’s reveal an out and out plot twist but what it is is a frightfully eerie and downright creepy final chapter to a tale that you thought was going to end one way but does a 180 and makes you feel like you’re in need of a cleansing shower. With the stunning debut of Edward Norton culminating in one of cinemas greatest send offs, Primal Fear set the bar very high for courtroom thrillers that followed.
7. Scarface (1983)
The payoff – Tony Montana’s world gets taken from him.
“Okay. You wanna play rough? Okay. Say hello to my little friend!”
The world we have seen immigrant turned drug kingpin Tony Montana build up gets torn down spectacularly in this OTT but gratifying finale. Brian De Palma crafts a stunningly constructed, explosive and blood pumping finish to this cautionary tale of what happens when you want the world to be yours and expect no one to take it from you.
6. Psycho (1960)
The payoff – Norman Bates shows his real identity.
“Let them see what kind of a person I am. I’m not even going to swat that fly”
An image that will forever be etched into my memory, that being Norman Bates intently staring back at me through the screen, his image morphing into the skeleton of his dearly beloved and deceased mother as the police uncover the true horrors of his crimes. Psycho, crafted so beautifully and against type by Hitchcock is a flawless thriller/mystery that ended in the most downbeat and terrifying way possible.
5. The Prestige (2006)
The payoff – The true cost of ‘magic’ is revealed.
“Now you’re looking for the secret. But you won’t find it because of course, you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to work it out. You want to be fooled”
I for one must admit to being completely blindsided to Nolan’s the Prestige upon watching it in my local cinema on release. The film had me in its tight grip from the moment Michael Caine’s voice over asked me if I was watching closely and when the true meaning of all those hats became apparent I realised just what a magical trick Nolan’s film played on me, and I was ever so thankful for it. A conclusion to a unique and perfectly constructed thriller, the ending to this film remains a truly memorable one.
4. Fight Club (1999)
The payoff – The system comes crumbling down.
“You met me at a very strange time in my life”
Once David Fincher has allowed the audience to catch up on the mind bending realities what has come before we begin to watch with The Narrator and his girlfriend the true power of what his reign of chaos has done. With the Pixies playing loudly over the films destructive beauty, this is an unforgettable ending to a film that continues to be discovered and loved by audiences the world over.
3. The Godfather (1972)
The payoff – The door closes on Michael Corleone’s previous life.
“All right. This one time I’ll let you ask me about my affairs”
While what leads up to the conclusion of Francis Ford Coppola’s universally loved gangster picture is impressively staged and arguably more cinematic, the final frames of this 3 hour epic are incredibly well staged and heartbreakingly human. Michael Corleone a loving family man who tried so hard to make a life for himself out of his family business finally closes the door on what has come before and entered once and for all into the life that he was drawn into no matter the costs.
2. The Thing (1982)
The payoff – Who is human and who perhaps is not?
“Why don’t we just… wait here for a little while… see what happens?”
From the cold beginning through to the fiery finale, John Carpenter’s quintessential 80’s Horror culminates in the most satisfying conclusions, even though the answer will never be fully correct. An ending that has created endless and fantastic debate, the ending of this classic is what makes the journey so fun to experience time and time again.
1. There Will Be Blood (2007)
The payoff – Bowling pins and milkshakes.
I can still vividly remember sitting in an empty movie theatre (bar my film loving buddy and his chauffeur/mum) and having the feeling like I’d just had my senses knocked about by Paul Thomas Anderson’s incredible opus of greed, oil and family. Daniel Day Lewis’s Daniel Plainview was a creation for the ages and his epic last act of a lifetime of pent up rage and hatred remains one of the most incredible finales ever seen on screen. I for one will drink this milkshake any day.
Best of the rest:
- Jaws (1975)
- A Clockwork Orange (1971)
- The Station Agent (2003)
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
- Good Will Hunting (1997)
- The Departed (2006)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
- Monty Python: The Holy Grail (1975)
- Kill List (2011)
- Enemy (2013)
Immortals, Unbreakable, The Others, Pan’s Labyrinth, Watchmen, Tree of Life, Children of Men, A Prophet, Gladiator, Session 9, Dazed and Confused, Escape From New York, Seven, Donnie Darko, Southland Tales, Heat, No Country For Old Men, Shutter Island, The Breakfast Club, The 25th Hour, Inception, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, The Grey.
What are your favourite endings? Are there some hidden gems that aren’t well known or is this list on the money? Let us know in the comment below! We’d love to hear your thoughts.