The Best Movie Endings of All Time

Discover the movie endings & plot twists that left us speechless. These are some of the best movie endings of all time—spoiler alert.

The Usual Suspects
Image via Gramercy Pictures
The Usual Suspects

Nothing makes a movie quite as memorable as a good ending. Whether they come suddenly or they’re expected, the most satisfying movie endings leave you thinking about what you just watched for a while. Similarly, there’s nothing worse than a good movie with a bad ending. Thankfully, we’re here today to talk about good endings: the best movie endings of all time.

There’s no single way to achieve a great film ending. Some of the best movie endings leave you wanting more, while others wrap everything up in a neat bow. The perfect plot twist can leave everyone in the crowd gasping, or a great soundtrack can end things on a perfect final note. A beautiful final shot or a devastating line of dialogue can really stay with an audience. 

Horror movies have to end with one last good scare. Comedies have to end with one last good joke or payoff to a running gag. Romantic movies have to end… well, they should end romantically, but that doesn’t always happen. Ultimately, what ties together all of the best movie endings is that they exceed expectations. We’re talking about the movie endings that you immediately need to talk to your friends and coworkers about, the ones that prompt immediate discussion of serious issues, the ones that leave you in a puddle of your own joyful or heartbroken.

Without further ado, here are the best movie endings of all time. Spoilers abound, obviously.

8 1/2 (1963)

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Director: Federico Fellini

Stars: Marcello Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale

Italian master Federico Fellini's semi-autobiographical fever-dream about movie-making builds to a point where it seems as if it couldn't possible have an ending. How do you end a movie that's about one man's inability to make a movie? Guido Anselmi (
Marcello Mastroianni) winds up on an empty lot that seems to stretch forever. We've just watch him imagine to shoot himself at a press conference for his latest picture, the one he hasn't started. From nowhere, a massive procession of people comes pouring out. Nina Rota's score reaches a circus-like whir as Guido leads a rich pageant of all the people he's ever known and loved. He's the center, the ringmaster, the band leader, the director. The image is Fellini's visual metaphor for life, a little narcissistic, but ultimately beautiful. —GT

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

One of the greatest films of all time also has one of the greatest film endings of all time. The ending to 2001: A Space Odyssey is also one of the most hotly debated endings of all time; Kubrick himself encouraged interpretations of the film and refused to give a straightforward explanation of the ending and the film as a whole.

The end of 2001 finds Dr. David Bowman (Keir Dullea), after just having unplugged the evil HAL 9000, getting into a small spacecraft so he can examine a monolith orbiting Jupiter. The spacecraft is suddenly pulled into a portal full of colored light, and Bowman is transported across huge distances of space, witnessing alien landscape after landscape. Bowman then finds himself in a stately bedroom, witnessing older versions of himself and then aging into them himself until he is an old man lying in bed. The monolith appears at the foot of his bed, and when Bowman reaches towards it, he’s transformed into a fetus enclosed in an orb of light. As “Also sprach Zarathustra,” the classical piece that opened the film, plays, Bowman, now a “Star Child,” floats in space, gazing at the Earth as the film ends. There are numerous interpretations of this ending, including several religious, psychological, and other allegorical theories. No matter how you interpret the ending, there’s no debating that it’s truly astonishing filmmaking.

Boogie Nights (1987)

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Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Burt Reynolds, Julianne Moore

Notorious at the time for a certain prosthetic, the ending to Boogie Nights is so much more than that. A decade spanning epic, the film follows several porn stars and a famous porn director through the highs and lows of their careers, from the early ‘70s (the Golden Age of Porn) to the late ‘80s. After several of the main characters find themselves in dire straits in the early eighties, the year 1984 opens with them finally finding success.

Soundtracked by The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” Boogie Nights gives epilogues to each of the main characters: Amber Waves (Julianne Moore) shoots a television commercial for Buck Swope’s (Don Cheadle) store, which he’s finally allowed to open. Reed (John C. Reilly) is now a successful magician. The young Rollergirl (Heather Graham) is finally getting a higher education and taking a GED class. It’s an emotional montage that underlines the fact that, to quote New Girl’s Jess, “They’re pornographers but they’re also a family!”

Of course, the movie also ends on a more infamous, subversive note. Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) is amping up for his return to porn as he rehearses his lines in a dressing room and psyches himself up for his shoot. He repeats the phrase “I’m a star” as he takes out his penis, the first time the viewer actually sees the mythically long member (not Wahlberg’s, but a noticeably fake prosthetic) that’s made his career. Life goes on and people burn out or settle down, but being a star with a huge talent can immortalize you.

Carol (2015)

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Director: Todd Haynes

Stars: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy

It’s only fitting that a breathtaking and sumptuous romantic film would also have a breathtaking and sumptuous ending. It’s been noted that a lot of films concerning LGBTQ romance usually end in tragedy, especially those that are also period pieces; Carol upends this idea.

The film ends where it begins. The first shot follows a man who recognizes Therese (Rooney Mara) in a hotel. She’s just finished having what seems like an emotionally fraught conversation with Carol (Cate Blanchett). Therese leaves with the man, as they’re both going to the same party, and Therese reminisces on their relationship, the bulk of the movie being her flashback. The ending of Carol finds us hearing their conversation. Carol has previously broken up with Therese via letter after discovering that her husband Harge had discovered their affair via private investigator in a bid to gain custody of their child. Carol has admitted to the affair and has even offered Harge custody as long as she can visit her; she now has her own apartment and a new job and offers to have Therese move in. A still heartbroken Therese declines the offer, but Carol still invites her to dinner with friends at the Plaza Hotel later. Then, the background noise goes quiet as Carol looks directly at Therese and says “I love you” for the first time. Therese is floored by the declaration as the man from the beginning of the film recognizes her and she’s whisked away. It appears that Carol is headed towards a typically sad LGBTQ movie ending, but Therese is deeply unhappy at her party, not even giving a visibly interested Carrie Brownstein the time of day. She leaves the party and goes to the Plaza Hotel. She finds Carol with friends and slowly walks towards her. The camera cuts to Carol’s face as she sees Therese and smiles as the screen cuts to black. Carol ends with a rare unambiguously happy ending for its central gay couple.

Chinatown (1974)

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Director: Roman Polanski

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, Roman Polanski

The last line in Chinatown is perhaps one of the most famous—and debated—final sentiments. The brilliantly twisty neo-noir, deftly directed by Roman Polanski from a whip-smart script by Robert Towne, is based on the real-life California Water Wars that raged between the city of Los Angeles and the people of Owens Valley, a farming community some 250 miles east, when the mayor realized he could build and aqueduct to supply more water to the growing City of Angels.

In the film, fictional P.I. Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) is (in a roundabout way) hired to investigate the death of one of the reservoir project's chief engineers, causing him to be drawn deeper into the controversy as well as the beyond-dysfunctional family dynamics of the murder victim's wife, Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway).

To explain the full plot would take more hours than there are in a day. Suffice it to say that, in the end, none of Gittes' legwork seems to matter when the final scene moves all of the main characters from L.A.'s leafy upper-class enclaves to the seedy part of town in the title. After all the secrets he has uncovered and the danger he has put himself into to find justice, Gittes is instructed to "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." Indeed, it is. —JW

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

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Director: Stanley Kubrick

Stars: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott

Stanley Kubrick's detour into gut-busting comedy provided what is arguably the greatest satire ever. Kubrick's spoof on Cold War era paranoia kicks off when a mad American general sends an atomic bomb to Russia, unwittingly activating a doomsday device that spells the end of the world.

After U.S. Major T. J. Kong rides the phallic-like bomb as if he were a cowboy (America's hero obsession killing us all), the film concludes with politicians and scientists gathered in a war room debating who should survive the apocalypse in underground bunkers. Their selection process (borrowing a bit from Nazi politics) is based on who might give these men an erection. But it doesn't take long for this collaborative survival effort to fall apart because of the still lingering communist paranoia.

The finale is pure hilarity but it pivots on a dark truth, depicting nations run into the ground by feeble men who can only think with their cocks and their weapons. The final montage of nuclear explosions is the result of such men blowing their load. —Rad S.

The Godfather (1972)

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Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Stars: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando,  James Caan, Diane Keaton

The final few moments of Francis Ford Coppola's epic American gangster film serve as much as a summary of the 172 minutes that preceded them as it does a prologue to the film's sequel. The Godfather stars Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, the straight-and-narrow-walking son of a renowned New York mob boss (Marlon Brando) who, against his many protestations that he's nothing like his family, eventually ends up at the top of the mafia food chain. Unlike the gangster films that came before it, The Godfather's message went beyond the idea of trading violence for power. It's a deeply layered portrait of the ties that bind us and, in the case of the Corleones, the struggle between family and "family."

The final scene makes it clear that the latter will always triumph when Michael gives his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) one chance to ask him about his affairs: "Is it true?," she asks of sister Connie's claim that Michael killed his own brother-in-law. "No," he lies. She smiles, clearly relieved, and they embrace. As Kay leaves the room to pour them a drink, the camera's focus does not leave Michael, even though it's Kay who is in the immediate foreground. A few of Michael's cronies enter the room to kiss the hand of The Godfather. Kay looks on as the door closes her out. The end. —JW

The Graduate (1967)

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Director: Mike Nichols

Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross

The funny thing about Mike Nichols' generation-defining motion picture is that the ending has been misrepresented. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), the drifting college grad, sets out on a mission to interrupt the marriage of the young woman he's in love with. His beating on the glass walls of the church has done as much for people's conception of what overwhelming love should look as a pair of star-crossed 16-years-olds in Italy. Advertisers have appropriated this imagery, and over time, the ending of The Graduate has been absorbed by pop culture as a simple one: Love saves the day.

But what's truly exceptional about Nichols' film is the way the story shifts from this jubilant scene into something much more complicated. Look at their faces as they sit on the bus. Worn and full of life initially, Benjamin and Elaine (Katharine Ross) come to grips with what's happen. You watch the realization hit them that they have no idea what they're doing. They may have just become their parents. And it's terrifying. —RS

Her (2013)

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Director: Spike Jonze

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Rooney Mara, Olivia Wilde

Inception (2010)

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Stars: Leonado DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard

One of the more famous recent cinematic endings, Inception’s final scene left an indelible print on everyone who’s seen it. Only Christopher Nolan could have us staring at a top, seeing if it will fall, in the last scene of a movie.

At the end of Inception, all members of the dream heist gang have made it out after the successful inception of an idea into the mind of the owner of an energy conglomerate, meaning Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is now cleared of an unjust murder charge and is free to go home to his children. There’s brief hesitation as Cobb’s passport is checked at the immigration checkpoint, but he’s let through. The rest of the heist members deplane at LAX and glance at Cobb one by one, acknowledging a job well done, while Hans Zimmer’s “Time” plays, one of many memorable tracks from the film’s score. Cobb meets with Professor Miles (Michael Caine) and they go to Cobb’s home. Cobb uses his “totem” to determine whether or not he’s still dreaming: if his top spins indefinitely, he’s dreaming. If it falls, he’s awake. He spins the top but suddenly sees his children and runs toward them. The camera zooms in on the top as it stays steady... and then seems to topple a bit... and the screen cuts to black before we can get confirmation that he is indeed not dreaming. Many a film nerd has tried to decipher this ending, but it’s actually very straightforward: Cobb has earned a happy ending with his children and truly doesn’t care whether it’s real or not.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978)

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Director: Philip Kaufman

Stars: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, 

Do you root for the bad guy? If so, Philip Kaufman's excellent adaptation of author Jack Finney's novel The Body Snatchershas the perfect ending.

Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) spends the film doing his best to not become one of the pod people. All around him, friends and neighbors are falling asleep human and waking up alien, having been cloned by intergalactic, gelatinous villains that let the evil clones live and leave the original persons to die in the pods. In the end, Matthew's lover, Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) can't stay awake any longer, submitting to fatigue and, sadly, switching over to Team Pod. Rather than join her in that inhuman state, Matthew destroys the facility where the pods are grown.

Victory isn't his, though. Elizabeth's clone spots Matthew out in public and sends her fellow E.T. goons after him. Fast forward to the next morning, when Matthew's casually strolling around the city, seeming normal. His friend, Nancy (Veronica Cartwright), on the run from the pod people, sees him and, ecstatically, calls his name. Unfortunately, Matthew's now a pod product, evidenced by the shrieking, ear-slicing scream he lets out as he points toward Nancy. She wails in defeat, the terror on her face unmistakable. Victory is the pods'. —MB

La La Land (2016)

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Director: Damien Chazelle

Stars: Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, J.K. Simmons, Rosemarie DeWitt

Lost In Translation (2003)

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Director: Sofia Coppola

Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, Anna Farris, Giovanni Ribisi, Catherine Lambert

Moonlight (2016)

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Director: Barry Jenkins

Stars: Mahershala Ali, Trevante Rhodes, Naomie Harris, Asthon Sanders, Alex R. Hibbert

Moonlight is a movie unlike any other; it’s less a movie than a poem about a black gay man from Miami named Chiron. The movie is told in three parts: childhood, when he learns about the world around him, adolescence, when he learns about himself, and adulthood, when he decides to go back the beginning to find the first man he may have loved, Kevin. In the movie’s final moments, after Chiron admits he never loved anyone else, the two embrace, but whether that means the feeling is mutual is left in the balance. The point isn’t what happens next; the film forces the viewer to focus on the simple act of connection, of understanding, of belonging. The movie’s final seconds, though, cut to a scene washed in an atmospheric blue tint with Chiron as a young boy again staring at the ocean, the place where so many of his memories originate from. — Julia Pimentel

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

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Director: George A. Romero

Stars: Duane Jones​, Judith 

Heroes aren't supposed to die, right? Isn't that the agreement viewers made with filmmakers a long, long time ago? Well, back in 1968, first-time director George A. Romero and screenwriter John Russo broke that agreement.

Throughout Night of the Living Dead, Ben (Duane Jones)—the lone black man inside a farmhouse full of scared white folks—is the voice of reason. He's calm, unafraid to fight the undead, chivalrous towards the nearly catatonic Barbara (Judith O'Dea), and an all-around good guy. When the zombies finally enter the house, Ben's the only one resilient, and lucky, enough to make his way into the basement. Down there, he's safe. The hero has survived.

The next morning, though, Ben hears gunfire outside. It's a bunch of police-sanctioned, armed men clearing the area of its reanimated corpses. Ben slowly exits the basement, inching toward the window with his rifle. Outside, one of the hunters tells his superior that he's heard a noise. Without taking a second to investigate, the superior tells him to shoot whatever's inside the house in its head. Boom, Ben's dead.

What follows is an end credits sequence with still-frame images of the hunters removing Ben's body from the house, tossing it onto a pile of shot-down zombies, and setting his lifeless body on fire. Keep in mind that Night of the Living Dead was made in 1968, a time when black actors didn't get leading parts. The film's ending evokes lynchings and mobs, right down to the sight of white men proudly disposing of an innocent black man. Romero certainly wanted to make a scary movie, but he also wanted to spark much-needed conversations. —MB

No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Director: Joel and Ethan Coen

​Stars: Josh Brolin​, Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones​

Cormac McCarthy, the author of great novels like All the Pretty Horses and Blood Meridian, does not write the easiest dialogue to deliver. His sentences are either long, baroque constructions, like gilded suspension bridges, or they're clipped and terse, speech that you spit out. His phrasing is unusual. Ending a film on a large chunk of text from McCarthy, as is the case in the Coens' adaptation of No Country for Old Men—an improvement on the novel, it should be noted—is a bold and difficult thing. But, apparently, the soultion is simple: Point the camera at Tommy Lee Jones and let him do his thing.

Jones, as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, recounts two dreams to his wife. No music accompanies his monologue. The two dreams, both of which involve his father, inspire as much mystery as they do illuminate the broader themes of the work. His dead father, in a romanticised Western scene, carries on through "the mountains of the night," and Ed Tom follows. His dead father carries fire. In the dream, Ed Tom has nothing. Has he helped in his own time to make the world better, or has he only put his soul at hazard? Is he a coward? Has he had a premonition of his own death? The film ends—"And then I woke up"—with the quiet ticking of a clock, nothing more. RS

One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

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Director: Milos Forman

Stars: Jack Nicholson, Will Sampson

R.P. McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) is the kind of guy you'd want to have a couple of beers with...if only he weren't locked up in that pesky mental institution, where every one of the patients' movements are watched by the eagle-eyed and evil-eyed Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher). And she's got a beef with McMurphy, both because she realizes he doesn't belong here and because, unlike the others, he's immune to her attempts to use humiliation and unnecessary medical practices to control the men in her ward. McMurphy's only there as an alternative to prison, but he plans to make the most of his time there and his fellow patients are immediately ready to follow. Their days of staring at walls and doing what they're told are replaced by challenging the rules that Ratched has laid out, with raucous poker games, unauthorized group "field trips" and one booze-and-drug-filled party that pushes Ratched over the top and McMurphy out of the ward.

While the group tries to maintain some semblance of their newfound freedom, it's not the same without McMurphy, who the patients want to believe made a triumphant escape but know is probably upstairs in the medical ward. When "Chief" Bromden (Will Sampson) sees McMurphy being returned to his room late one night, he believes that he has come back in order for them to escape together as they had planned (Chief will lift and throw a huge plumbing fixture through the window and they'll simply make a run for it). Chief's hopes are dashed when he finds a lobotomy-scarred McMurphy in a vegetative state. Knowing that this wild man-child would never want to live like this, Chief smothers him with a pillow then continues with their escape plan. As he runs off into the distance, his fellow inmates cheer him on. —JW

Phoenix (2014)

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Director: Christian Petzold

Stars: Nina Hoss, Ronald Zehrfeld, Nina Kunzendorf

One of the best and most underseen movies of 2014, Phoenix was an arthouse smash that received special attention for its breathtaking, yet subtle ending. Similar to the Hitchcock classic Vertigo, Phoenix involves love and mistaken identity. Set in post-WWII Germany, the film follows a Holocaust survivor named Nelly (Nina Hoss) who returns to Berlin after receiving facial reconstruction surgery for a bullet wound. Nelly reunites with her husband, Johnny (Ronald Zehrfeld), despite her friend Lene (Nina Kunzendorf) implying that he may have given her up to the Nazis, and finds he doesn’t recognize her, though he does think she resembles his late wife and later asks her to impersonate her so that he can get her inheritance. Nelly refuses to believe that Johnny could have betrayed her and plays along as he trains her to act like his late wife, while questioning him about his feelings for his late wife. 

As Johnny plans to stage his wife’s “return” for their friends so that he can receive the inheritance, Nelly discovers that Johnny divorced her the day before she was arrested, and is finally convinced that he betrayed her. Nelly doesn’t say anything to Johnny and goes along with the inheritance plan. Later, at one of their friend’s houses, Nelly asks to sing while Johnny plays piano. As she sings the song “Swing Low,” Johnny slowly recognizes her voice and notices the concentration camp prisoner number tattooed on her arm. He stops playing as he realizes what he’s done as she continues singing, asserting her survival and identity in devastating fashion. All of their friends are unaware of the explosive revelation that has just occurred; Nelly finishes singing and leaves. Phoenix ends with this intriguing grace note, leaving the viewer in awe of the shocking melodramatic twist that just subtly played out.

Planet of the Apes (1968)

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Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Stars: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Linda Harrison​

It should come as no surprise that the greatest twist ending of all time was written by Rod Serling-after all, he's the same mastermind who created The Twilight Zone, the venerable breeding ground for mind-blowing twists and unforeseen narrative turns.

The ending of the 1968 sci-fi classic Planet of the Apes is such common knowledge nowadays that it's difficult to process just how brain-melting it was for audiences back in '68, but let's try to put ourselves in their shoes: You're watching a movie about an American astronaut, George Taylor (Charlton Heston), who crash-lands on a distant planet that's inhabited by talking and civilized apes, and everything about it says that the setting is located somewhere else in our galaxy.

And when Taylor and gorgeous cave woman Nova (Linda Harrison) ride off into the sunset on horseback, having escaped the tyrannical primates' clutches, Taylor notices a large object sticking out of a beach's sand, and not just any old object-it's the top-half of the Statue of Liberty. He's been on a future, post-nuclear-war Earth all along. "Goddamn you all to hell," he shouts in a fit of fiery sadness. He's clearly unaware that, 33 years down the line, Tim Burton will direct a painfully bad Planet of the Apesremake. Had he known, there surely would have been more curse words in that statement. —MB

Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

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Director: Roman Polanski

Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Sidney Blackmer, Ru
th Gordon

One of the creepiest movie ever madeRosemary's Baby is ultimately about the distinction between inside and out. Young wife and expectant mother Rosemary Woodhouse's (Mia Farrow) torture in her high-rise apartment is about the loss of barriers, both physical—the paper-thin stage walls of her bedroom, from behind which the neighbors listen and plot—and social—her role as a wife, mother, and woman. Is she the victim of a coven of witches? Is her pregnancy really abnormal? Is everyone lying to her?

In the final moments, everything comes crashing together. From the moment Rosemary enters the secret passage in her own apartment into the coven, nothing is familiar. She finds her baby, but something's wrong with its eyes. She's terrified. Polanski could've ended the film on this high note, but he lets the camera linger in the den of evil. Slowly, Rosemary is manipulated into playing the mother to this child of Satan. The witches have really won, now. Rosemary is a new mother, hollowed out, smiling, changed. GT

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

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Director: Wes Anderson

Stars: Gene Hackman, Luke Wilson, Ben Stiller

The Royal Tenenbaums is one of Wes Anderson’s most down to Earth films, and the ending is one of his best. We spend the entirety of the film following the three Tenenbaum children (Richie (Luke Wilson), Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), and Chas (Ben Stiller)) as they flounder in their late adulthood (after their prodigious childhoods) and are brought together when their patriarch, Royal (Gene Hackman), announces that he’s dying. Only problem is, he’s not actually dying: it’s a ploy to try to get closer his ex-wife and estranged children. He’s eventually found out and, only after saving Chas’s children from a car accident, does his family become close with him once more. 

A few years later, the Tenenbaum children are successful in their endeavors once more, coming to terms with their faults and their father. Royal has a heart attack and dies, and, just as he wished, his death brings his family together once more as they gather in silence at his funeral. Earlier in the film, Royal admires a grave for a war hero, wishing he could have a grave like that. As his funeral ends, the priest stares confusedly at the epitaph on his gravestone: “Died tragically rescuing his family from the wreckage of a destroyed sinking battleship.” It’s a visual joke that’s funny because of Royal’s hubris while he was alive, but also heartwarming in its truth: in a way he really did save his family, specifically his children, from themselves by finally choosing to be open and loving. Cue Van Morrison’s “Everyone” as everyone walks out of the cemetery, in typical Wes Anderson slow-motion fashion.

Say Anything (1989)

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Director: Cameron Crowe

Stars: John Cusack, Ione Skye, John Mahoney

Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut Say Anything displays the strong characterization and sense of humanity he would later employ in Almost Famous and Jerry Maguire. Ostensibly a romantic comedy about underachiever Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack), who falls in love with sheltered valedictorian Diane Court (Ione Skye) after their high school graduation, Say Anything becomes just as much Diane’s movie as it is Lloyd’s. Diane’s father, Jim (John Mahoney), disapproves of Lloyd and urges her to break up with him and focus on herself and her upcoming fellowship in London. Diane is very close with her father, and agrees to his demand this directly leads to the famous scene in which Lloyd plays Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” under her bedroom window, the song that played when they first had sex. 

The next day, Diane learns that her father is guilty of embezzling funds and discovers hidden money at home. Jim explains that he stole to secure financial independence for her, and this leads her to reconcile with Lloyd. Later, Lloyd and Diane visit Jim in jail, Lloyd asserting that he cares for Diane and is good for her, Diane embracing him and telling him to write them while they’re in England for her fellowship. Lloyd and Diane depart on a plane, and Lloyd assuages her fear of flying by saying that once the smoking sign dings that their flight is guaranteed to be safe. Diane tells him “Nobody really thinks this will work, will they?” with Lloyd responding “You just described every success story.” They kiss and hold each other close as the plane takes off. They stare at the smoking sign for a few minutes until… ding, and the credits roll. It’s an emotional ending that shows how far both Lloyd and Diane have come since graduation, and how good they are for each other.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

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Director: Frank Darabont

Stars: Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

When you spend the bulk of your life in prison, there's usually just one thought on your mind: freedom. Blue skies and fresh air can't come soon enough for Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), a banker serving two life sentences for the murders of his wife and her lover. With the help of fellow inmate Ellis "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), Andy gets a rock hammer and a series of pin-up girl posters and, over the years, digs his way out. Red, on the other hand, waits to be paroled. And when that day comes he knows exactly where he'll find his old friend Andy: the melodic Mexican beach town of Zihuantanejo. 

Violating his parole, Red makes his way across the border and, on an abandoned beach that's as beautiful as he imagined it to be, he finds his old friend, who has clearly been waiting for this moment, they shake hands—as free men. —JW

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

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Director: Billy Wilder

Stars: Gloria Swanson, William Holden

It's very rare that you know the ending of a movie from the beginning, and even more rare when that ending is more shocking the second time around. But that's the case in Billy Wilder's sophisticated noir, 
Sunset Boulevard. The film explores the toll that fame can take on a person's sense of reality. The silent-film-star-gone-shut-in Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) has one last performance in her, and when Joe Gillis (William Holden), her last shot at fame, tries to walk out the door, the results are truly spectacular. There's no doubt whom the focus is on when she delivers her chilling final line: "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." GT

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974)

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Director: Joseph Sargent

Stars: Robert Shaw​, Martin Balsam​, Hector 
Elizondo​, Earl Hindman​

Though it's more of a cult classic than a bona fide "hit," Joseph Sargent's The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, adapted from a novel by John Godey, is a film worth seeking out only in its original version (read: not the 1998 made-for-TV movie version with Edward James Olmos and Vincent D'Onofrio and definitely not Tony Scott's 2009 remake starring John Travolta and Denzel Washington). It's a particularly nostalgic treat for any New Yorker forced to contend with the 6 train on a daily basis, as a quartet of baddies known simply by their colored code names —Mr. Blue (Robert Shaw), Mr. Green (Martin Balsam), Mr. Grey (Hector Elizondo) and Mr. Brown (Earl Hindman)—board a downtown train at four different stations, then hijack the first car and its 17 strap-hangers. (It the code name concept sounds familiar, it's because Quentin Tarantino stole it for Reservoir Dogs.)

What could four guys possibly do with a single subway parked in an underground tunnel? That's what Transit Authority lieutenants Zachary Garber (Walter Matthau) and Rico Patrone (Jerry Stiller) are trying to figure out. But Mr. Blue is demanding that $1 million be delivered within the hour, with one passenger killed for every minute they are late.

Pelham is one of those rare movies where there's not a single bit of superfluity; every verbal exchange and action actually pushes the film forward and helps to create a perfect balance of suspense and comedy. While the film's two updates suggest that some might believe it to be dated, it's the film's period setting that is key to its thrills: With the hijackers below ground and the Transit Authority above, neither party can see what the other is doing. (Try doing that today without a few hundred Tweets or Vine videos.) The only thing Garber knows is that leader Blue has an English accent and Green is fighting a killer cold (throughout their negotiations, Green sneezes, to which Garber tells him "Gesundheit").

The hijackers' machinations really need to be seen to be appreciated, but in the end only Green gets away. Garber and Patrone, convinced that the fourth hijacker must be a former transit employee, pay house calls to a list of potential suspects. With a pile of money hiding in his stove, Green lies his way through their line of questioning well enough that they leave. But just as they step outside Green sneezes yet again and Garber knows they've got their man. The freeze on Matthau's expression is priceless. Gesundheit? —JW

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

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Director: Tobe Hooper

Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger

One of the most terrifying and game changing horror movies of all time, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is shocking from beginning (with the opening text scroll explaining that it’s a true story) to the very end. The movie follows a woman named Sally, her wheelchair-bound brother, and their friends, as they investigate claims of grave robbing at their grandfather’s cemetery. After investigating a nearby house, they run afoul of Leatherface, a masked murderer who kills their friends one by one.

Near the end of the film, Sally is the only teenager left alive and is being held captive for a disturbing dinner with Leatherface and his family. They decide that their grandfather should be the one to kill Sally, but he’s too frail and is unable to kill her with a hammer. Sally takes advantage of this and breaks free, jumping through a window and running toward a road. Leatherface and his brother give chase, with his brother slashing at Sally. His brother gets hit by a truck and the truck driver realizes that he has bigger problems than a hit and run, and ends up running from Leatherface alongside Sally. As the truck driver runs away, a pickup truck shows up and Sally flags it down. The pickup truck turns around and Sally manages to get in the back, the truck barely speeding away as Leatherface swings his chainsaw. Sally looks back, covered in blood, screaming in both joy and terror, in one of the most cathartic and haunting scenes of horror cinema. The film ends on Leatherface, twirling around disturbingly with his chainsaw, lamenting his lost conquest. That horrible buzzing stays in your ears until the sudden cut to black.

The Third Man (1949)

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Director: Carol Reed

Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli 

Hero solves the crime, wastes the bad guy, and gets the girl. That's how things are supposed to end, but that's not exactly the case in Carol Reed's masterful film noir. The Third Man weaves a pulpy murder mystery set against the backdrop of post-WWII Vienna. While the Allies divide up the country, bumbling American fiction writer Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten) arrives, stumbling upon a conspiracy and the fetching woman Anna who is tied up in the ordeal.

In a film that's as relevant today as it was more than 60 years ago, Martins is a awkward American presence in a foreign country, a well-meaning hero whose earnest efforts can also be harmful. His victory is not met with the exaltation he might have hoped for.

In the film's haunting final moments, the villain is in the grave and Martins is ready to return home, but not without sharing another moment with Anna, whom he waits for on a tree lined road. As we watch Anna slowly approach, we're eager for a resolution that never comes. She walks right on past Martins without so much a look in his direction. He's left by himself on the side of the road and we're left shell-shocked by a conclusion that's boldly cynical but also strikingly sincere. —Rad S.

The Truman Show (1998)

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Director: Peter Weir

Stars: Jim Carrey, Laura Linney, Ed Harris, Natascha McElhone, Noah Emmerich

The Truman Show was definitely ahead of its time. Jim Carrey plays Truman Burbank, a man who’s life is unwittingly bought by a large corporation who makes a 24/7 international reality TV show solely about his life. Every aspect of his life, down to the death of his father, has been orchestrated by television producers, namely a man named Christof (sensing the Biblical vibes yet?) He eventually finds out the truth, and attempts to escape on a sailboat, but not before Christof engineers a massive storm (okay, now you see the religious analogies, yes?) Just as Truman finds a door out of his sheltered dome, Christof tells him there’s “no more truth out there” than there is inside Truman’s fabricated world, to which Truman heroically replies, “there was never a camera in my head.” Truman then literally bows out of his own show, which stops transmitting immediately. It’s a simple ending, and could perhaps have been made more complex, especially considering the societal implications of the Truman Show itself, but it’s still a great and inspirational example of a man taking agency against forces that feel stronger than him. — Julia Pimentel

The Usual Suspects (1995)

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Director: Bryan Singer

Stars: Kevin Spacey, Chazz Palminteri

It's the cool, confident walk that continues to blow viewers' mind to this day. In the densely plotted and clever The Usual Suspects, crippled criminal "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey) recounts a the complicated tale of a botched heist to an increasingly agitated customs agent (Chazz Palminteri), alluding to a mysterious kingpin named Keyser Soze as the enigmatic figure behind the ordeal.

Unable to convict Kent of anything, Agent Kujan lets the gimp go free, and Kint's stroll toward his new life starts off in a limp but, brilliantly, culminates in a straight leg—wouldn't you know it, he's Keyser Soze. Kujan is too late to realize that nearly every detail in Kint's story was lifted, by name, from the various knick-knacks in the agent's office.

It all wraps up with the pitch-perfect closing line, voiced by Kint/Soze: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn't exist; and like that, he's gone." And we're floored. —MB

The Wicker Man (1973)

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Director: Robin Hardy
Stars: Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Christopher Lee 

Let's start with an exercise: Forget that Nicolas Cage's remake of The Wicker Man exists. It's out of your mind? Great—now we can acknowledge director Robin Hardy's original 1973 horror classic without any lingering sourness.

On its way to one of the best gut-punch endings of all time, The Wicker Man follows the never-been-laid, morally upright Scottish police officer Neil Howie (Edward Woodward) as he searches for a missing girl on the remote island known as Summerisle, where the inhabitants are always perky and the dread is palpable to everyone but poor Howie.

The lawman thinks that the missing schoolgirl is about to be offered up as a virgin sacrifice on May Day, when the residents of Summerisle participate in a pagan ritual to bring on a fresh harvest. Little does he know, unfortunately, that he's the sacrifice—the girl was just the bait to make him visit Summerisle.

By the time Howie wakes up and smells the burning wicker, it's far too late—the island's creepy citizens encircle the massive Wicker Man in which Howie is trapped as it burns him alive. His his killers hold his hands and chant happy-go-lucky folk songs. And, no, Woodward doesn't mention anything about the bees. —MB

Whiplash (2014)

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Director: Damien Chazelle

StarsJ.K Simmons, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Austin Stowell

The relationship between natural talent and ability is a trenchant topic for any artist, but for Andrew Neiman (Teller) in Whiplash, none of it matters much. He just wants to become the best drummer in the world. Fletcher, his instructor (Simmons) is aggressive and abusive, but Andrew feeds off his negative energy to reach his breaking point. After several explosive confrontations, Andrew is forced to leave Fletcher’s band and even reluctantly testifies against him in a case about another student whom Fletcher abused. But Andrew can’t stay away, and shows up unannounced at one of Fletcher’s performances in a bid to prove himself to his biggest antagonist. It ends up being more confrontation than performance, as Andrew releases all the built up tension in a fiery, unplanned drum solo. It’s a powerful and slightly surreal ending that perfectly encapsulates the power of the movie. — Julia Pimentel

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