Ian's Movie Reviews
Short Reviews of Movies, Board Games, and Other Stuff

The Ten Greatest Movie Endings

Once again, I am issuing a blanket spoiler warning for my whole next list. None of the entries are too recent, but consider yourself forewarned nonetheless.

10. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

The ending of The Silence of the Lambs provides both closure and open-endedness at the same time. It wraps up the relationship between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lector perfectly and leaves us with the knowledge that the great villain is somewhere amongst us, while also giving us one hell of a great line; “I’m having an old friend for dinner.”

9. Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Two of the most brutal movie deaths came at the end of this crime drama which helped change the face of cinema. Bonnie and Clyde’s violent nature pushed the limits of where movies were to be headed over the next decade, and this was accentuated perfectly by this bullet-riddled climax. The fate of our leads were sealed with as much blood and violence as the filmmakers could throw at us, and the movies were never the same.

8. Dr. Strangelove: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1962)

One of the greatest comedies ever made spends mot of the film on the verge of lunacy, and at the end, after Slim Pickens takes that fated ride on the bomb, it delves straight into lunacy face-first. Everything from the cowboy calls, to the “mind shaft gap” discussion, to Dr. Strangelove’s last second revelation, Strangelove leaves us with comedic gold. And if that wasn’t enough we have Vera Lynn singing harmoniously with nuclear blast footage.

7. The Graduate (1967)

A non-typical ending to a non-typical movie. The Graduate finishes with heightened dramatics as Benjamin crashes the wedding in chaotic fashion,m but the true brilliance of this ending comes when the two lovebirds reach the bus. All it takes is a simple expression change to show that this is no typical love story and that their future together, despite all the ado around them, is very uncertain and full of doubt.

6. The Sixth Sense (1999)

Over the last decade, The Sixth Sense has become the poster boy for surprise, twist endings. And yet, while this has become a gimmick for many movies, it is no gimmick here. The shocking revelation at the end that Bruce Willis’ character Malcolm is in fact a ghost and has been dead throughout the duration of the movie integrates so well into the rest of the movie. Upon a second viewing we can see that everything makes sense and fits into place. It is one of the best twists cinema has offered since it catches the audience off guard while fitting into the story so well that it remains believable and enhances the entire movie-watching experience.

5. Gone With the Wind (1939)

Some could say that after four hours, this ending is great simply because it finally showed up. Okay, okay, seriously though… I do love Gone With the Wind and I have to recognize its memorable ending in this list. Rhett Butler finally has enough with Scarlett and leaves for good. The way we know that its for good is because of that memorable line, the line which AFI called America’s greatest movie quote, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” A great line, great cinematography, and a just desserts ending for our self-centric heroine add up to a truly classic movie ending.

4. Some Like it Hot (1959)

Perhaps the most comical of all movie endings comes from Billy Wilder’s classic comedy Some Like it Hot. Since Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis spend pretty much the whole movie dressed as women, it was inevitable that some poor sap would fall for one of them. And so we finally get the reveal that Lemmon is in fact a man as he tries desperately to convince his suitor of reasons why not to get married. Hilarious.

3. Citizen Kane (1941)

‘Rosebud.” That one word which started off this great movie maintains the secret of its meaning right up until the very end. Why was this odd word the last to be uttered by this great and mysterious man? But when the sled is thrown into the fire and the plastic coating is burned off to reveal that word carved into the sled, do we know what it means even then? Was it Kane’s desire for a simpler life that he thought of last, for the innocence of his childhood? Or did it in fact mean nothing at all? The interpretation is different for each person who watches it But one thing cannot be disputed, which is Citizen’ Kane’s place in film history and the impact of this great revealing end secret of “Rosebud”.

2. Planet of the Apes (1968)

One of the great surprise endings of all-time comes from this Sci-Fi classic as Taylor realizes the truth behind this backwards planets he’s found himself on. As he finds himself face to face with the Statue of Liberty, revelations come flooding towards him and the audiences as to the fate of the human race. This sends a powerful message about human nature and also puts the basis of the film into a whole new context. Not only that, but it is a brilliantly filmed and scored scene.

1. Casablanca (1942)

The story behind Casablanca’s is legendary. Allegedly, the ending wasn’t even known up until shooting when it was finally decided that Rick and Ilsa would part from each other for the greater good. It can be argued that this decision not to go for the happy together ending is what elevated the film to the iconic status it has today. Its an ending of high dramatics and an unconventional direction. Not to mention that its chock full of great and infamous lines. And with that fantastic final shot of Rick and Louis walking off into the mists, one of cinema’s greatest achievements is capped of with its greatest ending.

11 Responses to “The Ten Greatest Movie Endings”

  1. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship!”
    This is the one I would have put at the very top as well even though Planet of the Apes comes so very close.
    I might also consider putting in one of David Fincher’s films like Se7en or maybe “Fight Club”.
    Very good roundup!

  2. I knew someone would bring up fight club. It was pretty good, but top ten? It was a little too gimmicky for that I think.
    If the list was extended beyond ten it might have a place though.

  3. You nailed it!

    Hard to argue with a single one of your pucks, and the fact that you have CASABLANCA at the top completely validates it.

    One ending I will always love is THE GRADUATE, when the moment of victory is quickly replaced by a “what now?” expression. The perfect ending to an excellent film.

    Excellent choices!!

  4. Thanks for the comments. I played around with the last few spots for a while, and there were some good ones that just didn’t quite make the cut. And I thought many people wouldn’t agree with my number one choice, so I’m glad you do.

  5. I absolutely love all the films you listed.

    I did a similar blog today … except, my list is for movies that ended unambiguously. You know where everyone stands when the credits roll.

    No “frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” … or “Tomorrow is another day.” No self-satisfied smirks of Dustin Hoffman and Kathryn Ross in the back of the bus escaping from what … and to what???

    “The Graduate” and “Gone With the Wind” … two of my all time favs, but the endings left me hanging. Not a criticism.

    Finally, the ending of “The 6th Sense” totally blew me away.

    — Judson

  6. So many liists seem to leave out one of the greatest of all time, and that is Heat

  7. All of these endings are truly great, but I would humbly suggest that one of them might be bumped or at least tie with The Lives Of Others.

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