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The 50 Greatest Movie Endings of All Time

22. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Screenwriter: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick's perverse, horrifying, and acidly funny look at free will and society's relationship to violence ends on a fittingly twisted note. A Clockwork Orange stars Malcolm McDowell as Alex, a murdering rapist who is forced into a government-backed science experiment to control his inhibitions—the procedure involves being forced to watch movies.

When that experiment backfires, leaving Alex vulnerable to his enemies and nearly killed, the powers that be backtrack and "cure" him. The brilliant Ascot Fantasy that ends the film is the perfect capper to what Alex's demented adventure means. With the government planning to wield Alex as a publicity tool, the murdering rapist imagines his free will as socially acceptable. In Alex's fantasy, he is flailing around on the floor with a naked woman while a Victorian-era audience attire applauds him. It's a provocative image of free will from a director who knows how to challenge his audience and what they find acceptable. Rad S.

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