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The 20 Most Satisfying Happy Movie Endings Ever

07 December 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by David Zou

happy movie endings

Deep down in the far reaches of our very human essence, we all pray for a happy ending. Well, that’s probably a slight over-exaggeration, but we all love a happy ending, don’t we? Sure, leaving the movie theater feeling drained and shocked has its good points, too, but there’s no feeling quite matched by that of catching a flick that makes you feel all warm and gooey inside. Here are the 20 most satisfying movie happy endings ever.


20. Up (2009)

The Ending: Kevin and Dug are saved, Russell and Carl’s friendship is secured, and their adventure draws to a close,

Moreover, we learn that the balloon-powered flying house has finally alighted on the very Paradise Falls cliffs that Carl and his deceased wife Ellie had so wanted to visit during their life together.

Goosebump Moment: It’s a heartwarming finish to an unusually (for an animated film) emotionally deep story, and the fact that Carl has jettisoned his sentimental old possessions to help Russell is touching – as is the fact that he presents the boy with his Wilderness Explorer badge when Russell’s father can’t make the ceremony.

Mind you, nothing quite compares to the much earlier montage of Carl and Ellie’s relationship. Jesus, it’s brutal.

If They’d Gone Bleak: We’d have just had like 90 minutes of of that Carl and Ellie bit, piped mercilessly into our reddened eyes and shattered hearts until we’d bawled all the fluid out of our shriveled, wheezing husks of bodies.

And then they’d play it again.


19. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

The Ending: A whole bunch of loose ends left over from the film’s various ragged plot lines are tied up in particularly pleasing ways.

Kip and LaFawnduh board a bus for a new life together; a humbled Uncle Rico gets a second chance with his girlfriend; Pedro celebrates the class presidency with friends and family; grandma and Tina the llama are reunited; and Napoleon moves closer to Deb over a gloriously ham-fisted game of tether ball.

Goosebump Moment: It’s more a series of little goosebumpy aftershocks than a build-up to one big moment, but it’s no less effective. Director Jared Hess’s use of The Promise by When In Rome as we leave Napoleon and Deb playing is inspired.

Arguably even more effective, though, is a tune you sadly won’t find on the official soundtrack album – a Patrick Street reworking of Penguin Cafe Orchestra’s Music For A Found Harmonium that underpins the uplifting montage sequence.

If They’d Gone Bleak: To be honest, everything could have ended with precisely the opposite mood and outcome for each character, and the film might easily have worked just as well.

We’d simply assume that everyone shuffled back to their tragi-comic little lives in the middle of nowhere, and we’d probably have seen a sequel wrung out of it. Now that would be bleak.


18. The Truman Show (1998)

The Ending: Having stumbled upon the possible truth about his chocolate box life, unwitting reality TV star Truman makes a break for it in a small sailboat to see just what’s really out there.

Only when the bow of his boat literally crunches through the painted MDF of the ‘horizon’ does the full extent of his situation become horribly, abundantly clear.

Goosebump Moment: Seeing a man as psychologically tortured as Truman feels in this moment pounding on and collapsing against the literal boundaries of his existence is pretty moving.

But not as moving as the moment in which he turns, delivers his trademark “good afternoon, good evening and good night”, and slips through the set door into the real world – sending a TV audience of millions into justifiably tearful raptures.

If They’d Gone Bleak: Realising he can’t face the terrors of the unknown society beyond the physical borders of his fabricated hometown, Truman returns dejectedly to a life he no longer cares about or understands.

He spirals into a black depression, making the next 40 years of The Truman Show one of the bleakest TV experiences imaginable. Everyone still watches it, and a whole nation sinks into a Prozac-guzzling funk as a result.


17. North By Northwest (1959)

The Ending: Roger Thornhill (Carey Grant) manages to evade his pursuers on the Mount Rushmore monument, saving Eve (Eve Kendall) from an untimely plummet to her doom and foiling the microfilm spy plot he unwittingly wandered into.

As he pulls her to safety, we seamlessly segue into a shot of Thornhill pulling Eve up on to a train cabin bunk, and calling her “Mrs Thornhill” – cheesy, but effective.

Goosebump Moment: It’s the head-spinning directorial efficiency of this whole ending sequence that really thrills: the microfilm is retrieved, the bad guy captured, his goons eliminated, the leading man and his beau saved, and the lovers married – all in a breathless 43 seconds of film.

If They’d Gone Bleak: Eve would have lost her grip and fallen to her death from Thomas Jefferson’s colossal stone hooter like a tragic, screaming bogey. Thornhill, overcome with remorse, flings himself after her.

The spies escape with the microfilm, and the shady government agencies use Thornhill’s already soiled name to account for the various deaths that their botched scheming has caused.

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  • Jim Kamlowsky

    The original Robocop and the original Rollerball both had amazing endings.

  • VetMike

    I would include Moonrise Kingdom on the list.