Unlike movie openings, movie endings are always the most important and mesmerizing part of a film. It lifts the film to a new level and gives the audiences something to digest afterwards. Sometimes we can recall the ending scene in a clear image even we forget what the film is about.
Two weeks ago we made a list of the greatest movie opening scenes in film history, it’s no-brainer making a follow-up list with movie endings. This time we decide to double the size, but there is still plenty room for suggestions. Please leave a comment if you feel one of your favorites is missing here.
Without further ado, here is our choice of the 40 greatest movie endings in film history. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
40. Before Sunset
We are with the two for the whole film, now like the first film, it’s time for some real sentiment. Upon his departure, Jesse is invited to Celine’s apartment and is treated a song written by Celine herself. Every feeling is all in Julie Delpy’s sweet voice and the beautiful song “A Waltz for a Night”. Is he staying? We hope so. Thank god the director made the third film and proved we are right.
39. Children of Paradise
One of the greatest French films ever made also has one of the most tragic endings of all French romance films. In one of the most epic crowd scenes in film history, Baptiste is pushed away from the love of his life further and further by the flood of people, the helplessness of this scene is tremendously moving.
38. Blow Out
Under the cover of a political thriller, this is a very sad romance film at its core. Jack is not able to save his love Sally at the last moment. However, he manages to get the perfect scream which pleases his boss. It’s an ironic and tragic ending, it’s highly emotional because of John Travolta’s brilliant performance and Pino Donaggio’s touching score.
37. Aguirre: The Wrath Of God
Aguirre, who claims to be the wrath of god, leads his troops into the wild Peruvian rain forest. He thinks he can conquer this wild land, but he is wrong. People around him die out, at last only him and a bunch of monkeys are left on the raft. The camera revolves around the raft in rapid speed to emphasize the solitude of the crazy man and his doomed failure to fight against the nature.
36. Usual Suspects
Probably the greatest twist ending in modern film history. Kent makes everything up based on the texts he saw in the office and totally fooled the police officer and us. It’s one of these endings that the villain never gets caught, but Kevin Spacey’s superb performance makes it unique and charming.
35. Fight Club
At the end of this thought-provoking film, the Edward Norton character shot himself, we are as shocked as Marla. Before we realize what is going on here, the skyscrapers start to fall down in front of them as well as us. Where is my mind?
34. Vengeance Is Mine
Shohei Imuamura’s classic ends in a fashion that is quite unusual in Japanese cinema history. The serial killer is executed; his family takes his ashes to the mountain top and splashes it. Then it’s a freezing frame, it’s like the earth is unwilling to accept a human being who’s so evil.
33. Ashes and Diamonds
Ashes and Diamonds is one of the greatest Polish films ever made. At its ending, the Polish James Dean character is shot, he crawls on a dump and dies like a dog. A highly emotional ending to a great film.
32. The Wages of Fear
In this breathtaking French thriller made by Henri Georges Clozout, four European men, down on their luck, drive two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine needed to extinguish the flames of an oil company.
At the end, only Mario survives and a party is held to celebrate his arrival. The camera frequently cuts between the party and the exhausted yet excited Mario on his way back. It seems like a happy ending. Then the girl faints during her dance, and the truck falls down a cliff. The film gives us the biggest thrill at the end.
31. The Holy Mountain
In this mind-bending surreal masterpiece by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a team set out to the Holy Mountain to find immortality. Near the top, the alchemist, played by Jodorowsky himself, suddenly breaks the fourth wall by saying “Zoom back the camera”.
The camera zooms back, revealing all the casts & crews and filmmaking equipment. The director talks to the team member, as well as us, “Real life awaits us”, then the film ends. It’s surprising Jodorowsky ends his surreal film in such a realistic way, this ending adds more layers to the philosophy of this film.
30. Through the Oliver Trees
In the last chapter of Abbas Kiarostami’s Koker Trilogy, actor Hossein pursues one of the actress he works with while the film goes on. After finishing her scene, the actress leaves, Hossein runs to follow her.
The ending is a long take, showing us the process of pursuit from long distance. Hossein catches up with the girl, they talk, he runs back with her response. There is no close-up shot of his face so we have no idea what the girl’s response is. The film ends after he runs through the olive trees.
29. The Marriage of Maria Braun
The Marriage of Maria Braun, the first film in Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy, follows the ups and downs of a woman called Maria during and after the WWII.
In the mesmerizing finale, Maria is visited by the executor Senkenberg. In the background plays the live radio broadcast of the final match of FIFA Would Cup 1954. As we hear a gas explosion which indicates Maria’s death, the radio is celebrating the winning of the German National Team. Fassbinder made this ironic ending to remind the people in Germany that they should not forget their own history.
28. The Leopard
In this epic tale of decay, director Luchino Visconti puts a long ball scene in the second half to make a contrast between the noble Prince and the young people of the new generation.
At the end of the ball, the Prince of Salina looks into a mirror and sheds some tears of sadness. His time has passed, but will the future be better? He refuses to take the carriage and walks alone in the alley.