I have always been a sucker for a film’s ending. It can be sappy or intense, but mostly I prefer those that define creative writing. Lately, however, most videos or posts define “ending” as the climax or twist well before the film actually ends.
This ongoing series has the intention of giving credit to some of the greatest film endings of all time. But these are the real endings. The absolute final scenes. The ones that have the last chance to inspire (or haunt) us with their closing message. And when they are over, the credits roll.
This round, those that are obviously worthy.
10) Back to the Future (1985)
It would have been crazy seeing this film on opening day, sitting in that theater as the crowd pours in, then 115 minutes later the final scene reveals itself blowing everybody’s minds. Because of the cliffhanger, because of the franchise’s immense success, this ending is a fine example of a gamble that payed off.
film as a whole rank: #7
9) Citizen Kane (1941)
What is Rosebud? I feel people who simply answer, “it’s the sled!” have no desire to uncover more alluring meanings. Citizen Kane is impossible for a film student to escape throughout their scholarly years, with an ending almost too obviously important, so therefore I mischievously made it no. 9.
film as a whole rank: #10
8) Rudy (1993)
Some people know Fortune’s pep talk, most people remember the jersey scene, but what leaves everyone with a smile is the final scene. Iconic nature of being lifted onto the shoulders of others, both literally and metaphorically, clearly did not start with this film, but it is safe to say Rudy enhanced its importance. Rudy’s reward for his hard work and perseverance becomes our reward for staying with him and his journey.
film as a whole rank: #9
7) The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966)
Depending on your perspective this Clint Eastwood tour de force has a lengthy final scene. Even if you consider the final scene everything after the final duel, it still has a place on this list. The closing camerawork wanders past spectacular as the characters reach their arcs in illuminating fashion.
film as a whole rank: #3
6) Rocky (1976)
It surprises even me that this film is only number six on this list, however I have good reason for that. Mainly, films five to one have better final scenes. Yet, I do not want to take anything away from Rocky‘s final moments. This scene shows character. It shows what he values and ultimately who he is.
film as a whole rank: #6
5) The Usual Suspects (1995)
Copious amounts of people consider this ending the best there ever was, or at least the twist. The reason why it stays where it is – regardless of its fame and prestige – derives chiefly from the fact that this final scene exclusively satisfies the plot arc. Of course The Usual Suspects attests to the acting capabilities of Kevin Spacey, and at first glance his character goes through a major transformation at the end. But, his character does not change in the midst of the finale, rather his change manifested well before the chronological starting point. Still greatness should be recognized, so we have The Usual Suspects at number five.
film as a whole rank: #8
4) The Godfather (1972)
I’ll admit I may have gotten bored the first time watching The Godfather. I was young and had the hardest time understanding why films had to be so long. In many ways I still do, but that is besides the point and an argument for a different time. Now – in my wise years – I look at this film and recognize one of the greatest character arcs ever written. This closing scene says it all, even the most determined can fall to immense power.
film as a whole rank: #4
3) The Breakfast Club (1985)
Cheesy and feel-good, maybe, but man do I love it. Fist pump, 80’s music (that actually makes for a brilliant score), and teenagers overcoming social facades, I mean what more can you ask for of a film ending? In all seriousness, the wholehearted representation of The Breakfast Club‘s ending will forever sear its stamp on our minds.
film as a whole rank: #5
2) Chinatown (1974)
This ending was incredibly close to the prestigious distinction of being numero uno on this list. Throughout my college years, Chinatown was without question screened more in my classes than any other film. Yet, even with that this film also has the rare honor of me not caring – seeing as it reinvented a sacred American genre and has one of the greatest written scripts of all time. Every single time, no matter if it’s the first, third, or twentieth viewing, my intrigue patiently waits for the final scene. A moment that could not possibly be forgotten, as it will firmly remain in the depths of my inspirations igniting my hopeful film career.
film as a whole rank: #1
1) Dead Poets Society (1989)
film as a whole rank: #2