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The 50 Greatest Movie Endings of All Time

47. Carrie (1976)

Director: Brian De Palma
Screenwriter: Lawrence D. Cohen

In the horror genre, it's always best to expect the unexpected: a masked serial killer hiding in a closet here, a cat jumping out of nowhere and scaring the bejeezus out of everyone there. But Carrie is not your typical horror movie. And if it weren't for the final scene, this Brian De Palma classic, based on Stephen King's novel, might be better described as a "psychological thriller" than a straight-up scare fest.

Carrie (Sissy Spacek) is the painfully shy and sheltered daughter of a bat-shit crazy Christian fundamentalist (Piper Laurie), and she's having a tough time fitting in at her high school. When she's not being pelted with tampons by her classmates, she's being taunted by the pint-size neighborhood kids who've come up with a sing-songy nickname: Creepy Carrie. OK, so it's not the cleverest of putdowns, but it's spot-on.

Carrie's classmates learn this on prom night, where the gawky teen is about to become the punch line to a cruel joke after she's named Prom Queen—only to be doused with a bucket full of pig blood as she receives her crown. Yeah, not a good idea. Especially when the butt of the joke has some seriously destructive telekinetic powers. Enough to lock all the doors and burn the place down to the group without even moving her skinny little body.

Unfortunately, things don't get much better for Carrie when she arrives home after killing all but one student, Sue Snell (Amy Irving). We'll skip over the spoilers for this part, but will say that just when you think the movie's over, it delivers its biggest scare. The dream-like final moments put the audience at ease, reaching for their coats and assuming that Carrie's reign of terror is over—until her bloody arm reaches out of the ground to finish off that lone survivor. Even when you know it's coming, it's hard not to jump out of your seat a little. —JW

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