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Spoiler Warning: This list WILL contain spoilers. This is your only warning. Don't complain if you had a movie spoiled for you.
Whenever you're writing for a movie, video game, book, playwright, etc., one thing rises above all - endings are hard. It can be really disappointing for an amazing film to be ruined by a bad ending. However, sometimes a great ending can make a great movie even better. Also, it can make a bad or boring movie totally worth the wait. An ending can either make or break a movie so it's always good to spend as much time as possible on them so they turn out to be the best they can be. In this list, I'm going to count down the ten movie endings which I enjoyed the most and feel are the best based on all of the other movies I watched. You will disagree on some but just remember that this is my opinion and it's likely going to be different than yours. Anyways, I hope you enjoy the list and feel free to comment on the ones you enjoyed the most.
- Citizen Kane (1941)
Citizen Kane is often regarded as one of if not the greatest movie ever made and for good reasons. It was very revolutionary when it came out and it contained many memorable scenes. The two most famous scenes in it are its opening and its ending which has been parodied so many times in pop culture. After a wealthy man dies, a detective scrambles as he tries to figure out the meaning of his last word which was "Rosebud". During the movie, we see different flashbacks that detail different events which he experienced in his life. The detective concludes that he is unable to figure out the meaning of "Rosebud" and he gives up as we watch Charles Foster Kane's things being burned. Then it is revealed that "Rosebud" was the name of his sled which represented the only time in life he was happy. But then his sled is burned thus destroying the last vestige of happiness he had in his life. It's a heartbreaking ending which is why it made it to the number 12 spot on my list.
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Like Citizen Kane, The Shawshank Redemption is also cited as one of the greatest movies ever made. It actually contains many memorable scenes. From Brooks Hatlen's suicide montage to Andy Dufresne's escape from prison, this movie has clearly set an enormous iconic status in cinema history. However, the ending is by far the most iconic and the best scene in the film. Andy Dufresne is wrongly accused of murdering his ex-wife and her lover and he is thrown in jail. While in there, he befriends another man named Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding. The 2 men bond over the years and they encounter many hardships. Eventually though, Andy successfully escapes from prison. After a while, Ellis is released from prison as well. After searching for a bit, they finally meet each other and embrace as the camera pans out. It is a really powerful scene because we've experienced a lot in the movie and it is emotional knowing that they've finally met each other on the outside.
- American History X (1998)
A movie doesn't have to have a happy ending in order for it to be good. Sometimes, sad endings can be good too. While I could have chosen "The Green Mile" and "Requiem For a Dream", none of the quite have the same amount of emotional power as "American History X" does. This movie centers around Derek Vinyard, a racist leader of a group of Neo-nazi's, who is released from prison after killing two young black men who were trying to hijack his car. But as the movie continues on, we get a backstory on his character and we witness how he changed his violent ways while he was in prison. When he is released though, he sets out to stop his younger brother, Danny Vinyard, from going down the same wrong path that he did. After it seems like the movie is going to end on a happy note, the movie surprises us when Danny is shot dead from another black boy who he had a confrontation with the previous day. Then Danny's narration reads us the conclusion to the essay he wrote as he says an inspiring quote. This movie contained a ton of character development which makes this ending real tragic.
- Fight Club (1999)
Fight Club was definitely a very "trippy" movie. The movie contains many odd scenes and the brilliant plot twist at the end cements it into movie history. In my opinion, it is one of the greatest films of all time. This movie follows an insomniac office worker as he encounters a soap salesman named Tyler Durden. They decide to open up an underground fighting club which eventually grows dangerously out of control. After a series of bizarre experiences, the narrator discovers that he has multi-personality disorder and Tyler Durden and him are both the same person. He is then inside a building as he prepares to watch explosives destroy several credit card buildings to set everyone's debt back to zero. At the end though, the narrator shoots himself in the face and the bullet causes him to stop mentally projecting himself thus defeating Tyler Durden. He talks to his love interest, Marla Singer, and they then hold hands and look on and watch as all of the buildings collapse around them. This scene is also accompanied by one of the most fitting ending songs ever in cinema. One word. Brilliant.
- Se7en (1995)
Se7en is one of the more horrifying movies out there. It's gore can be hard to watch and it has many dark moments in it. Everyone who has seen this movie though knows about how shocking and nail-biting its finale is though. This movie follows Detective Mills and Detective Somerset as they search for a murderer who kills people in ways based around the seven deadly sins. After five people are murdered, the killer surrenders and allows himself to be arrested. John Doe, the killer, promises to lead them out so they can fins the other 2 bodies. He leads them out to the middle of nowhere and a package is delivered there. When Somerset opens it, he discovers that the head of Detective Mills wife is in it. He attempts to stop Mills but he is unable and Mills shoots John Doe repeatedly, killing him. This is a very gripping scene and it keeps you on the edge of your seat when it starts and when it ends. The reason that this is not higher is because I didn't feel that the few minutes which follows that scene is really necessary. However, the gripping "The Box" scene more than makes up for it which is why it gets the number eight spot on this list.
- Russian Ark (2002)
This is definitely the most ambitious film on this list. I can understand why some would find this boring but this movie enthralled me every step of the way because I love history and art. Because of that, this is one of my favorite movies of all time. This movie is shot in a single, uninterrupted long take. It follows a ghostly narrator who travels through the Russian Hermitage Museum and encounters historical figures from the last 200+ years. Historical figures and events featured include Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Tsar Nicholas I, Alexander Griboedov, Tsar Nicholas II, Joeseph Stalin, and a desperate Leningrader making his own coffin during the 900-day siege of WW2. A grand ball follows and then everyone exits out of the grand staircase. The narrator then walks backwards out of the hallway only to see an endless, but does not look back or see the building. This can be interpreted as an ark preserves Russian history as it floats in the sea of time. Its ending is quite poignant and the music makes it a pretty great scene. This is a film that you won't be forgetting anytime soon and as long as you don't mind slower-paced films then I recommend that you watch this.
- Come and See (1985)
You may remember that this movie topped my previous movie list (Top 10 Horrifying Movies Ever Made). This definitely did contain some dark content. But the ending is often called the best because it's open to interpretation. After a boy named Florya finds a rifle while digging in a sand field, he uses it to join the Soviet partisan forces and fight in WW2. By the end of the movie though, he has basically been through hell. He experienced many horrifying scenes such as escaping a burning church with many villagers stuck inside it and witnessing many people he encounters brutally killed. At the end, he is rescued by his fellow partisans. After they are about to leave, he notices a picture oh Hitler lying in the dirt. He then starts to shoot at it. Each time he shoots it, it shows a montage of Hitler's life in reverse and it displays many historical events from his life. However, he finds that he cannot bring himself to shoot the picture of Hitler as a baby. He then catches up to his fellow partisans and they march into the woods. People have discussed what it meant when he stopped shooting Hitler's infant picture. Whatever your interpretation to the film's ending is, it raises the question - would you shoot a baby in order to save millions?
- The Truman Show (1998)
This is definitely one of the most underrated movies ever. I don't really care for Jim Carrey in his comedic roles but time has shown us again and again that when he is placed in serious movies such as "The Number 23" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", he does an exceptional job. This movie is another example. This movie is about a man named Truman Burbank. His entire life is broadcasted on a tv show, but he's not supposed to know about it. Throughout the movie, he begins to grow suspicious after a series of bizarre instances. Eventually, he takes a boat and attempts to escape. The creator of the show tries to stop him but he decides to let him discover the truth on his own. Then his boat hits the wall surrounding the city and he breaks down crying as he thinks he's trapped there forever. He then finds a staircase and is about to escape, but the producer tries one last time to convince him to stay. After thinking for a bit, he delivers his catch phrase "In case I don't see you - good afternoon, good evening, and good night" and he then leaves the show for good. This is a very heartbreaking scene and the ending is what made me decide that this would be one of my favorite movies ever.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" is a classic film which is most famous for the onscreen battles between Randle McMurphy and Nurse Ratched. This was a film which was both uplifting and disheartening. After a man is admitted to a mental institution, he grows attached to many of the patients inside it. The place is run by Nurse Ratched who we grow to despise throughout the film. One of the patients believed to be deaf and dumb, Chief Bromdem, reveals to McMurphy that he lied to everyone so that he can deflect attention. Eventually, Nurse Ratched pushes another member of the institution, Billy Bibbit, to his breaking point and he commits suicide. Enraged, McMufphy nearly chokes Nurse Ratched to death until he is knocked out. Upon returning back, Chief believes that they can now escape together. However, Chief then realizes that he has lobotomy scars on his forehead. Unwilling to allow him to live in such a state, he smothers him with a pillow. He then lifts the hydrotherapy console off the floor and uses it to break the window and escape. The last shots show him running away from the asylum and the movie ends. This scene always gave me chills and it's both happy and tragic. It's a perfect conclusion to this film.
- Whiplash (2014)
Some may find it odd that I'm putting a new movie above "Citizen Kane" and "The Shawshank Redemption" which are both much more famous. However, I can't resist. I just enjoyed this movie's ending more. That's all. Andrew Neiman is an ambitious drummer who applies at Shaffer University. But he finds out that the jazz teacher, Terence Fletcher, is very abusive towards his students. Eventually, Neiman loses control and attacks Fletcher causing himself to be kicked out of Shaffer because of it. Many months later, he meets Fletcher and he agrees to participate in a festival concert. However, Andrew discovers that he was not given sheet music for the first song they were playing and messes up on it. Embarrassed, he begins to walk away but he then comes back and interrupts with the aggressive drum solo of "Caravan". What follows is one of the best drum performances you will ever see. It is guaranteed to engage you like anything else. After the credits rolled, I was instantly shocked. I was completely blown away by this film's ending and I personally found it to be more tense than most other action scenes from movies. This is a modern movie but an excellent one at that and "Whiplash" is one of the best movies that I've ever seen.
- Man With a Movie Camera (1929)
Nowadays, this movie is often considered to be one of the best movies from the silent film era. This film was pretty revolutionary when it came out. it pioneered different film techniques such as split screens, jump cuts, slow motion, time-lapses, and Dutch angles. It contains many great trick shots. This is a documentary which shows what an average day in a Soviet town would look like. It contains many gorgeous shots of city-life and it represents the film techniques well. But at the ending, the movie suddenly becomes more upbeat and engaging. Just before the ending, it shows a stop motion clip showing a camera mount on its tripod and "crawl" away. Then it begins to show all of the trick shots and camera techniques it displayed earlier in the film and the movie plays jazzy music in the background. After the music stops, it shows us a close-up shot of the shutters of a camera closing signifying the end of the movie. Surprisingly, I actually found this scene to be very great and it really got me even more into the movie. I thought that it was a very engaging scene. Throughout the movie, I felt that a few parts were a bit boring and the movie did lose my attention a bit. But when the ending came, my attention immediately snapped back on and I could tell that the director put most of his effort on that scene.
- The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Like "The Truman Show", I feel that this is a pretty underrated movie also. It may not be as good as "The Truman Show" but this is definitely a film which flew under the radar. This movie focuses on the relationship between the notorious outlaw "Jesse James" and "Robert Ford" and it focuses on the events which led up to the killings. After a while, the relationship between Robert and Jesse starts to fall apart and Robert Ford shoots Jesse James and kills him so he can get a bounty of $10,000. However, people soon dislike how Robert Ford shot him with his back turned and he is labeled as a coward by many people around the country. At the end, very well-written narration explains that Edward O' Kelly murdered him when he was in a saloon. The narration describes 2 tragedies in the film. The tragedies are that Robert Ford regretted killing Jesse James and the other one is that Robert Ford was forgotten after his death. Even though it is revealed that Robert Ford is going to be shot and killed before it actually happens, the narration at the end still makes for a pretty emotional and memorable scene which sticks with the viewer long after watching it. The scene when Jesse James get shot is also pretty memorable, but this scene is the best one because it's really heartbreaking and it has great narration.
- Apocalypse Now (1979)
Apocalypse Now was directed by Francis Ford Coppola. He was the same guy who directed The Godfather Part I and II. Apocalypse Now is another famous film by him and it is also often considered to be one of the greatest movies ever made. This movie has several iconic scenes. The Napalm strike, the intro explosion, and the classic quote "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" are very iconic scenes but they don't quite come close enough to topping the movie's conclusion which is handled masterfully. There was really nothing else that could have topped this. The ending is a very iconic scene and it was handled real well. Five soldiers in the Vietnam War are sent into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonial. Along the way, two of them die. When the three remaining soldiers reach the island, Captain Benjamin L. Willard is subdued, Colonel Walter E. Kurtz drops the severed head of Chief Quartermaster George Phillips on his lap indicating that there will be no airstrike. Shortly afterwards, Willard is allowed to wander the camp. That night, as the villagers prepare to ceremonially slaughter a water buffalo, Willard sneaks up to Kurtz and kills him with a machete. Just before he dies, he whispers "...The horror...the horror...". All the villagers bow down to Lance as he walks out with a bloody machete. They allow him to take the other crew member, Lance B. Johnson, and lead him to their boat so they can escape. As they sail out, Kurtz's final words echo eerily in his head as the movie fades to black. Everything about this scene is magnificent. The song "The Doors - The End" is well-written and it perfectly fits the mood of the scene. The meaning behind the quote "...The horror...the horror..." has been discussed for years and people have discussed the meaning behind it. Some people even say that the explosion scene near the beginning of the movie actually shows the village being bombed after they left it. Whatever your interpretation to the film is though, it is still a perfect conclusion and I have never seen anything like its ending which made me think about its meaning days after viewing it. because of this, it gets the number one spot on this list.
Did I miss a great movie ending? What are your favorite movie endings? Leave your choices in the comments. I enjoy reading them.