This was a ruddy difficult list to come up with! One of the things I love most about films is their endings. The way a film ends is so important because it’s the last thing you’re thinking off when you step out of the cinema or humble living room at home. Many mediocre films are made good by their ending and some even rely on the way they end. Sleepaway Camp, for example is a film completely transformed by the final ten seconds. I won’t spoil it for those who are yet to see it, but the whole film is basically a hilariously cheesy teen slasher until the final ten seconds which are the most terrifying ten seconds I have ever experienced.
So, trying to come up with a top ten was difficult for me. It’s a list of personal favourites, so you won’t find The Third Man or Casablanca on here I’m afraid. The trouble is that I love so many film endings and trying to whittle it down to a top ten is a difficult task. But any who, after much thought and deliberation I have come up with ten movie endings I love. Please don’t hurt me. Spoilers will obviously ensue so if you haven’t seen one of them, quickly scroll down to the next!
10) The Dark Knight
My love for Christopher Nolan is no secret. Many consider The Dark Knight his crowning achievement and it isn’t difficult to see why. The film is packed full of memorable scenes and its powerful ending is amongst one of them. The stunning shot of Batman riding away into a tunnel of light has since become iconic. With Gary Oldman’s incredible monologue playing over a montage of images alongside Hans Zimmer’s gorgeous score, it’s impossible not to get the chills once “the dark knight” is said and then cuts to black. A perfect end to a perfect film.
I’ll never forget the mixture of excitement and concern when I finally sat down to watch the notorious Irreversible. It’s often lauded as being one of the most disturbing films of all time with people often coming out of it in a state of trauma! That’s if they haven’t switched it off already after the dizzying camerawork and extreme bludgeon to the face in the first ten minutes. Irreversible is a total assault on the senses. For those who don’t know, it’s the tale of Vincent Cassel getting revenge on a man who raped his girlfriend. However, it’s told backward in a Memento style so perhaps this ending I speak of is technically the beginning? Oh well, it’s brilliant anyway and marvellously depressing. We see the couple loved up and totally unaware of the tragedy that’s about to face them. Monica lies on the grass with Beethoven’s symphony playing over. The camera spins in the most dizzying way until we’re hit by strobe lighting with the words “time destroys everything”. What a happy line to end on.
8) The Piano Teacher
Michael Haneke has done a few masterpieces, but The Piano Teacher could very well be my favourite. It’s kind of like a good version of Fifty Shade of Grey. Isabelle Huppert (on electrifying form) eats up the scenery as an oppressed woman longing for an abusive relationship. She thinks she might’ve found one in one of her sexpot pupil’s, Walter Klemmer and cringe-inducing awkwardness ensues. The film ends in a shocking and powerful way. After being humiliated and raped by Walter, Erica goes to a concert hall where Walter is playing and sees him chatting up some girls. In a moment of total madness she pulls out a kitchen knife and stabs herself before walking calmly out of the doors. It’s such a haunting ending and most of it is down to Isabelle’s spellbinding wordless portrayal.
7) Requiem for a Dream
I’m not sure what all these downbeat endings say about me, but I’m not a manic depressive, honest! Requiem for a Dream is manically depressing though. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a whisk being plunged into your heart. It also holds a crown for having one of the most miserable endings of all time. Our four heroes begin the film full of hope and dreams, however by the end of it we find them all at the lowest of the low with no suggestion of them ever escaping. After one of the most intense twenty minutes you’re ever likely to see, we’re treated to a tracking out of each character in bed and getting into the foetal position. All the while Clint Mansell’s legendary score plays in the most haunting fashion. The saddest part is seeing Ellen Burstyn’s character turn into a mental wreck before finally dreaming of being reunited with her son on the infomercial and in the red dress. If this doesn’t move you, then there’s no hope.
6) Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
This film is often seen as a misfire in the Lynchian canon, but for me it’s one of his best. It’s possibly the darkest film he has ever done and also one of the scariest. Instead of documenting the last seven days of cult icon, Laura Palmer, in a realistic police procedural way, David goes full on Lynch on us and presents her final days as a dizzying and haunting nightmare. It all leads up to the horrific train car murder full of flashing lights, screaming and BOB. After that eye-popping trauma we’re left with Laura sitting in the red room with Dale Cooper standing over her. She begins to cry as an angel hovers over her. Suddenly her cries turn into laughter. It’s such a haunting final image, but it’s also full of hope as Laura finally got her angel. Whenever someone mentions Twin Peaks, it’s this stunning image I immediately think of.
5) The Holy Mountain
This is the film that actually inspired the list. I saw The Holy Mountain for the first time last week and was astounded by its ending. I thought to myself, ‘surely that’s one of the best endings of all time?’ and I honestly think it is! The entire film is full of the weirdest stuff you could ever imagine. It’s not just got the odd weird moment in it; the whole film is weird every second of the way, like Eraserhead. So the fact that it ends with such stark realism is jarring. The master (played by the director himself) sits our heroes down in a circle and reveals to them the grand secret of the holy mountain. “We began in a fairytale and we came to life, but is this life reality? No. It is a film! Zoom back camera.” The camera then zooms back to reveal the film crew. It ends with him saying “real life awaits us” as everyone walks away. It has to be the boldest breaking of the fourth wall ever! It’s so postmodern that it would give Bodger a heart attack.
4) Dancer in the Dark
I said that Requiem for a Dream holds the crown for one of the most depressing endings ever. Well, if Requiem holds the crown, Dancer in the Dark wears it. Lars Von Trier’s shattering musical stars Icelandic oddball, Bjork as a simple penniless immigrant going blind and lifting the gloom by pretending her life is a musical. She ends up on death row for shooting a bastard cop and of course, Lars, the king of nihilism makes us witness the final hanging in all its hope-shredding glory. It’s probably the most traumatic scene I’ve ever witnessed on film with Bjork turning into a total wreck before singing a final song. The song is violently cut short as they pull the lever and her neck snaps. It’s executed in such a shocking and powerful way. Some curtains are shut (like the end of a stage musical perhaps?) and a quote comes up which basically tells the audience that they knew what was going to happen, so why did they sit through it? The camera then goes up and out of the ceiling just like Bjork described earlier in the film. It’s a beautifully tragic and agonising way to end.
3) Black Swan
Here’s another offering from Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is one hell of an intense experience. The whole schizophrenic fever dream of a film builds up to the final scene where Nina finally stops fighting her hallucinations and embraces them. It results in her giving (in the words of Rowetta) the greatest performance of her life. Her eyes go red and she even bursts out of her skin with giant swan wings. After a disagreement with rival Lily, in the interval (resulting in murder) she goes on stage to rapturous applause and takes her final bow. We see Nina with a giant bleeding hole in her stomach as she jumps down proclaiming that she “was perfect” before fading to white. God it’s exhilarating! The searing score helps a lot too. When the credits roll over the applause we can finally breathe a sigh of relief as we realise that Darren has just pulled off one of the very best films of all time.
2) There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s epic masterpiece tells the tale of Daniel Plainview, an oil man with a lot of ambition and greed. It’s a rag to riches story which is made profoundly ironic by its mesmerising third act. Daniel is basically insane, friendless and drunk (sounds like a description of me!) with contempt for everything in life, but he is rich. He’s very rich! He’s so rich that he even has a bowling alley in his mansion. It’s this bowling alley which will haunt you forever. Whenever I see a bowling alley, I immediately think back to this final scene and get an urge to stomp all over it shouting, “DRAAAIIIIINAGE!” which is why I’m barred from several bowling alleys in my area. The ending to There Will Be Blood features the greatest performance by any actor ever. It’s impossible to take your eyes off of Daniel Day Lewis as he goes ape at Eli before pounding his head in with a bowling pin. His butler potters in as Daniel speaks the immortal lines “I’m finished.” Thus, commanding the end of the film. That final image of Daniel crouching and eating his steak over Eli’s bloodied body has haunted me ever since.
1) The Cabin in the Woods
Perhaps this is a controversial number one pick, but I think The Cabin in the Woods has to be my favourite ending to any film I’ve seen. If you’re not a passionate horror lover or hater then the joke of The Cabin in the Woods will likely go over your head. It’s a highly meta and unbelievably intelligent film which pokes fun at slasher movies and harshly criticises them in equal measure. Every slasher film seems dull in comparison to The Cabin in the Woods which is the ultimate slasher film. It begins in a world full of clichés we’ve seen ten gazillion times. A bunch of youngsters going out to an abandoned cabin blah blah blah. Which is why it is such a shock in the way the film ends. The first act is so grounded in reality compared to its absolutely loopy final act which sees the characters being part of some ludicrous conspiracy involving the end of the world. After witnessing an insane amount of glorious carnage, Sigourney Weaver makes a surprise cameo appearance as the mysterious ‘director’ of the mysterious underground research facility to reveal the big twist. Before we know it, we find out that the world is ending and our beloved Marty (the fool) must die otherwise the gods will rise. Sure enough a giant hand bursts through the ground and whacks us in the face. It has to be the most surprising ending ever to one of the most surprising films. Not only does it work on an entertaining level, but there’s so much deeper meaning to it about horror films in general if you’re willing to dig a little deeper.
So there we have it! Ten of my favourite endings. There are loads and loads of others which I would’ve loved to have included so please tell me your favourite movie endings. Also, please be kind to me in the comments 🙂