Today I’m going to talk about movie endings I love. Most of them are happy, a few are miserable, others ambiguous, but all of them felt just “right”. They brought the movie at halt exactly where it should, like a figure skater landing a perfect final quadruple jump and then halts, ready to receive the love of the audience.
I will make an effort not to go into too many details, but if you’re very spoiler sensitive and want to know as little as possible of all movies you see, consider yourself warned. If you go on, tread carefully and don’t read about the movies you haven’t watched yet.
Lord of the Rings
I came to think of movie endings as I wrote about The Ides of March the other day. I liked the final scene so much that it bumped up my rating of the entire movie and this made me realize how important it is that a movie end on a high note. My memory is only that good, so the last impression is often what will linger in my mind as I walk home from the theatre it’s also what I’ll take with me from the film in the long run.
My preferred movie ending is bittersweet. I’m a sucker for that perfect blend of sadness and joy, loss and gain, grief and hope. The twilight zone.
A good example of this is my favourite scene of the Lord of the Rings trilogy – the heartbreaking farewell in the gray heavens. When I read it I know that the book is about to end and I don’t want it to end but it has to and I don’t want them to go but they must and why does the world need to change and Sam, Sam, you have to go home, and look, there’s your wife and kids and the world we live in isn’t such a bad place after all…
It never fails me. It always makes me cry. Even as much as thinking about it as I’m writing this post brings tears into my eyes.
Endings of 2011
But let’s leave the literature and move along to the world of films.
I’ve seen several movies this year with memorable endings. My number one by far is Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. The final image, wasn’t unexpected, but yet somehow shockingly beautiful and painful at the same time. It will go right into my list of best movie endings ever.
Another favourite was the final image from Of Gods and Men. The movie is based on true events, about a group of French monks who died in Algeria in 1996 when they refused to evacuate their monastery when their life was put at danger. Their destiny is known from the beginning, but the movie doesn’t end with an execution as you could expect, but in a more subtle way as we see them disappearing in a snowy landscape.
15 great final scenes
And now it’s time to go further back into film history. I’m going to share 15 final scenes I truly love with you. It’s not aimed to be a ranking list over the best endings ever made. It’s just some movie endings I love. Maybe you’ll agree, maybe not. We’ll soon find out!
The Big Blue
Here is something as weird as a movie with two endings, aiming for different audiences. Both show a man who is swimming after a dolphin. But in one case he’s swimming on the surface and in the other deep down in the sea, which makes quite a bit of a difference for the interpretation. One was for Europe, the other one for US. I am a European, that’s for sure.
It can easily feel a bit too cheap and cheesy when a movie ends with a sudden jump into the future to see “what happened afterwards” . While I loved Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2, the final scene was a bit underwhelming. The aging of the young actors was so unconvincing that the audience burst into laughter. (The same ending in book form actually didn’t bug me at all.)
Billy Elliot has a similar jump into the future where we get see how all turned out in the end for the protagonist. But as opposed to with HP they’ve used a different actor and it works better. Whenever I hear the lead motive of Swan Lake, it’s not Natalie Portman that comes into my mind. It’s Billy.
Some people don’t like sentimentality on the movie screen. I bet they’re the same ones who claim they don’t like candy. I’m not ashamed to say that I love both. This is the sweetest end I know of. I just need to make sure to have a paper towel at hands, to wipe of the sugar and the tears in equal amounts.
Could you ever believe that seeing an alarm clock to off in the morning could be that exciting and exhilarating?
Will it fall? Or won’t it? Didn’t I see it stagger a little? Was it a dream? Or wasn’t it? If there ever was an ambiguous end, open for interpretations it was this one. I know there were answers given in interviews afterwards. But I still love the image of the spinning toy. It certainly gave some food for thought and discussion on our way home from the theatre.
It’s a Wonderful Life
There’s a sugar warning for this one on par with E.T. But who cares? If I ever start to doubt my reason for existence, this is where to go to get medication.
Life of Brian
I wanted to include a movie that ends with a musical number on my list and this is probably my favourite. It’s catchy and it never fails to cheer me up.
Life’s a piece of shit
When you look at it
Life’s a laugh and death’s a joke, it’s true.
You’ll see it’s all a show
Keep ’em laughing as you go
Just remember that the last laugh is on you.
Always look on the bright side of life
Lost in Translation
What does Bill Murray whisper in the ear of Scarlett Johansen? I don’t want need to know. The melancholy and unanswered questions hit the right spot for me.
Of course it needed to end on the airport. A romantic comedy requires an airport scene and what better place could you choose to knit together all the storylines? What I love most about this scene is how it pans out to embrace not only the characters we’ve been following, but all the people at the airport and eventually mankind. Whenever I’m at an airport I think of Love Actually. Of meetings and separation, of love that is or could have been. It makes me equally happy and unhappy.
Match Point ends pretty much like Inception. You stare at an item wondering not if it will fall, but where, but this time we get an answer. I love how it. It ties the entire movie into one elegant package, beautifully connecting with the beginning. Allen knows how not to drop the ball.
Never Let Me Go
An empty field, a piece of plastic or paper stuck at a barbed wire blowing in the wind. Never did I see a more gripping image of how fragile and volatile a life is in the end. It’s the perfect ending of a thoroughly saddening movie.
The Truman show
A man walks through a door. And it makes the world. Sometimes the simplest is the best.
The combination of football, snow and Abba is so irresistible that even I want to throw my grownup dignity and join the party.
And so it begins. Or ends. It depends on how you see it and it’s as beautiful as it’s sad.
2001 – A Space Odyssey
I’m not sure I fully understand everything about what was going on with at the alien place and where the space baby comes from. But I understand the language of Also Sprach Zarathustra. Bom bom bom bom bom bom. It’s space worthy.
And speaking of ends, that’s where we have arrived in this post. I’m afraid I have no beautiful quadruple jump to treat you with, so I’ll leave you with a whimper rather than with a bang. But if you agree or disagree about my choices or if you have some favorite endings you’d like to share, we can always talk about it over a drink in the comment section.