If what they say is true, that the beginning and end of a film are the most memorable parts, then music aficionados, editors, and filmmakers know that an opening and closing song can have an enormous impact on how you feel walking out of the theater. Here’s a list of 15 movies that ended on a perfect note.
The following list does contain spoilers for the movies themselves.
15. High Fidelity – I Believe – Stevie Wonder
High Fidelity is a coming of age story for a man who should have grown up years ago. John Cusack plays a record storeowner who’s on the outs with his girlfriend and he recounts his previous loves as he realizes his own immaturity and obsession with music might play a role in his misery. “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?”
The soundtrack, true to the lead character’s taste, is one of the best of the 90’s. The film ends with our lead having reconciled with the love of his life, stating that he’s now working on a new mix tape for her with songs she would like. This symbolizing him finally putting someone else’s needs and wants in front of his own.
Stevie Wonder then comes in with “I Believe” a long song that is wholly optimistic about the future. It sends the viewer out walking on air as a fitting end to one of the best romantic comedies of the 90’s.
14. Drive – A Real Hero – College and Electric Youth
In Drive, director Nicolas Winding Refn created a stylish piece of action pop art that felt fresh as well as nostalgic. The movie’s reminiscent of gritty yet flashy Michael Mann films of the 80’s, but was a breath of fresh air to film fans when it debuted in 2011.
It gave us a reason to take Ryan Gosling serious as the stoic and dangerous driver, let us fall in love with Carey Mulligan, and even gave us our first taste of Oscar Isaac, all while swirling in a magnetic synth pop soundtrack.
The film opens with a head-bopper crooning, “There’s something about you.. it’s hard to explain.” As we’re introduced to the mysterious driver and are lead on a journey to discover what was going on behind Gosling’s hood.
When the movie reaches its climax, and the selfless but ruthful driver has righted the wrongs of Mulligan’s single mother, it’s as if the soundtrack is confirming that his actions have proven him to be a real person and a real hero.
13. An American Werewolf in London – Blue Moon – The Marcels
An American Werewolf in London is an anomaly of its time, a comedic director, John Landis, makes one of the best horror movies of the 80’s and still and still keeps it funny. You’d be mistaken to think the movie is “horror-comedy” hybrid, it’s a truly scary film that just happens to have moments of hysterical levity.
After American tourist, David’s best friend is murdered by a werewolf, and he’s bitten, he’s haunted by his friend, Jack, in the form of a mutilated corpse. David falls in love with his lovely English nurse while recovering, but when the full moon blooms, he takes the form of a wolf and murders the innocent. Hilarious, right? Landis cleverly scatters upbeat tunes throughout, all with the word “moon” in the title.
The final edit of the film perfectly captures the film’s dark pathos while still having it’s tongue in its cheek when it cuts from David’s dead body to the credits and The Marcels knock down the figurative door with their “Bom ba ba boms” and “Dang a dang dang’s.”
12. The Breakfast Club – Don’t You (Forget About Me) – Simple Minds
The Breakfast Club is snapshot of 1980’s suburban youth. It takes pre-existing stereotypes of high school students that would have been used as nothing more than comic fodder in earlier films, are dissected and torn apart to reveal scared, confused, and damaged young people.
The nerd, the jock, the popular girl, the basket case, and the trouble maker all reveal in one another that their differences have really been constructed by lies they’ve all been sold and they have more in common than they realized.
Don’t You (Forget About Me) is a cry not just for the individual characters to remember what they’ve gained in the day they’ve spent with each other, but it’s a cry of a disenchanted generation. By the end of the film, you feel the charactes have won a small victory in reclaiming their true identities.
With Judd Nelson’s fist in the air, Simple Minds song plays as an anthem and the film ends with the audience punching their fists up in the air as well.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox – Let Her Dance – The Bobby Fuller Four
Wes Anderson’s soundtracks usually evoke nostalgia and revel in a fairy tale sensibility. None more so than his adaptation of a Roald Dahl folktale, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Anderson infuses plenty of late 60’s/early 70’s tunes and sounds to make the film feel not just of the time it was written, but also the time when Anderson himself was a child.
Let Her Dance by The Bobby Fuller Four captures the carefree nature of the movie, as well as the nature of our lead fox who’s escaped danger and outwitted all the stuff-shirts who sought to wreck his good time. The movie has little aim but to take a note from Mr. Fox and not take life so seriously, and if you can outwit the stuff-shirts, all the better.
10. Dr. Strangelove – We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lin
Look up “soundtrack dissonance” and you’ll probably find this scene somewhere. Probably Kubrick’s most brilliantly relevant film, thanks to its cynical view of world leaders, it doesn’t hurt that’s it’s also one of the most darkly hilarious movies ever made.
It’s hard to imagine any crowd in 1964 picking up on the kind of subtle laughs that Kubrick was after. Did anyone know how to feel watching nuclear explosions wiping out mankind, little did they know Kubrick was probably laughing his head off.
9. Zodiac – Hurdy Gurdy Man – Donovan
David Fincher just knows how to end a film. What makes Fincher’s near docu-drama, Zodiac, so creepy is its attention to detail in recreating a series of murders that actually occurred in California in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Fincher weaves a string of clues that stretch over two and half hours and only to lead to one conclusion: we will never know who the boogey man is.
While that sounds infuriating, Hurdy Gurdy Man ushers the audience out of the theater with a feeling that the nightmare has not yet ended and that some mysteries do not have satisfactory endings. Fincher is trying to scare you, not with surprises or thrills, but simply with the cold and creepy truth.