Cinema Reservoir
Breaking Cinematic Opinion and Observation

Delicious Spoilers: 10 Great Film Endings

Aside from the meat of a film, the middle that is, the most important parts are the ways you open and close it.  I would argue that the later is the most important since the final scene in a film not only ties up all that has come before it, but also needs to leave a lasting impression on its audience.  It must be very, very difficult since not too many film endings stick out at me… but as for the ones that do stick out in my mind, these are the endings that blow me away every time I see them.

king-of-kong

10: KING OF KONG: A Fist Full of Quarters

Since the entire documentary is about a tactical war between two characters fighting for the mantle of highest score in Donkey Kong, it’s only fitting that the final scene (after showing sad sac Steve Wiebe receive an apology from his tormentors, Twin Galaxies, finally recognizing his accomplishments) be an amazing montage of scenes from video games.  Each snippet is an image of characters, vehicles, or machines in battle all set to “Ride of the Valkyries” perfectly illustrating what it’s opening quotations by Burroughs suggests: “This is a war universe. War all the time.  There may be other universes based on all sorts of other principles, but ours seems to be based on war and games.”

bonnie-and-clyde

9: Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Everyone knows through the whole film whats going to happen to Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.  It is with great anticipation that you watch the last few scenes, where they are set up by one of their cohorts.  And indeed it happens… they get shot in their car, many times over, in fact.  This, in itself is nothing spectacular, but what’s great is how the expression of the sheriff leading the execution mirrors that of the audience, no doubt feeling that same anticipation.   Once the dust settles and he gets a good look at the  couple sprawled out everywhere he lets out a sigh of relief and then the credits roll.

His fathers house, normally seen on Earth

His fathers house, normally seen on Earth

8.  SOLARIS (1972)

Say what you will about this whale of a film… It may be over long at points, and certainly takes its time divulging its secrets, but the ending is one of the most haunting in film history.  In the beginning, Dr. Kris Kelvin visits his elderly father, for Dr. Kelvin will shortly be going to a space station to investigate some strange goings on, most notably the planet this station orbits… Solaris.  The trip will be too long for Kelvin to see his father again, so this is goodbye.  But since the planet likes to dredge up the past of anyone who observes it, it’s not exactly goodbye.  In the final moments of the film, Kelvin gets down to the planet and finds a replica of his fathers house and when he walks up to the door the old man answers and the two share an emotional hug, which lasts until the credits begin to roll.

Rowlands and Hackman enjoy a romantic stroll through Central Park

Rowlands and Hackman enjoy a romantic stroll through Central Park

7.  ANOTHER WOMAN  (1988)

Woody Allen’s very Bergman-esque tale of Marion, a 50 year old Philosopher(Gena Rowlands) who begins reflecting on her life after eavesdropping on  a mostly unseen woman’s talks with her shrink.   Throughout the movie Marion is reminded by flashbacks of all the different times in her life when she’s deprived herself of happiness, family, and true love.  What makes the ending so grand is Gena Rowlands expression as she reads from a section of a book which is supposedly based on her. As she reads, she also remembers… the scene in question involves Rowlands leading on her husband’s  best friend (Gene Hackman), they sneak a kiss in Central Park and for a the first time in the movie she get’s passionate about something, only to quickly put her shield back up.   The final moment presents an interesting reflection as Gene Hackman’s book asks “Is a memory something you have or something you’ve lost?”  Marion doesn’t answer the question, but you can see she’s figured out the answer.

Kurt Russell

6.  BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (1986)

John Carpenter’s one true cult film in his catalog of cult films finds his favorite actor, Kurt Russell reluctantly battling supernatural forces in the titular locale.  Though Kim Cattrall plays the beautiful girl Russell’s truck driver cum hero, Jack Burton, must save, it’s not her that he drives off with into the sunset in the end.   No, Jack’s ego is just too great to share the spotlight with anyone, so he ends up alone with his 18-wheeler, CB radioing in one of the most amazing monologues ever written for an action movie. (see picture)

Death proof

5.  Death Proof (2007)

Another movie happening to feature Kurt Russell.   This time Russell is a deranged stunt man – Stunt Man Mike – who gets his kicks from murdering young women with his ”Death Proof” Car, at times seeming to take Cronenberg’s Crash a little too literally.  Unfortunately for him, the last half of the movie finds him stalking the wrong group of women… stunt women!  After they turn the chase around on him and wreck his car, they drag him out and beat him to death, jump up in the air in celebration as  a big retro looking ‘THE END’  freezes the triumphant heroines in mid jump.

pink_flamingos1

4. Pink Flamingos (1972)

The ending that created and  solidified John Waters’ mantle as the Pope of trash, King of puke, Sultan of sleaze, etc.. The ending is the culmination of the feud going on between the Marbles and Divine’s insane clan, a feud to prove who is the filthiest of all.  If incest, bestiality, murder, theft, indecent exposure, and cannibalism weren’t enough to prove Divine the winner, then the last few seconds should.  Divine walks around the corner of a building, sees a poodle taking a crap, then runs over and eats it.  The final image gives literal meaning to the phrase “shit eating grin”.

3. Dr. Stangelove or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the  Bomb (1964)

DrStrangelove4


Perhaps the most iconic film about nuclear annihilation ever made was a comedy.  It’s amazing that even Stanley Kubrick could manage to pull off such a feat, given that it was released less than two years after the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ and that school children were being shown “duck and cover” videos.   Despite it’s unfortunate (or prescient) premier, the film stands out as an allegory for government silliness and ineffectiveness.  So in the end, Peter Sellers (in three different roles) tries and fails to stop General Ripper from activating the “Doomsday Device” which will trigger a mutually assured destruction type scenario.  But so it goes, as Billy Pilgrim would say and we get the most famous scene in the movie right at the end as Slim Pickens rides a nuclear bomb like a Bull… YEEHAWING all the way down.

sunshine

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (2004)

The best film of the last decade… Charlie Kaufman’s science fiction love story is something like a cross between Annie Hall and Total Recall .  The story centers around a couple (Kate Winslett and Jim Carrey) inexplicably drawn to each other, who find out they’ve both been erased from each others memory.  Michel Gondry brings a welcome visual flair and is mostly responsible for the ending in question.  After realizing that their relationship has already ended in heartache,  Carrey and Winslet decide to give it another go.  The film cuts from the couple embracing in an apartment corridor, to the snowy Montauk beach, where the two play in the snow on a repeating loop, apparently destined to make the same mistakes and revelations over and over for the rest of their lives.

TIE!!! I just cannot decide between these two endings.  They’re both so amazing it’s too hard to make a call!

blood01


Blood Simple. (1984)

The Coen Brother’s first film is a gritty, Hitchcockian film noir about a Texas love triangle gone horrible wrong.  The best character, however, exists outside the triangle – M. Emmit Walsh’s sleazy unnamed private detective.  Tying up all the loose ends of a murder is not simple, as all the characters find out.. As the detective stalks down everyone tied to a cuckolded bar owner he finds that while he may be the smartest guy in the movie, he isn’t the luckiest, as a case of mistaken identity gets him shot by the bar owners wife.  Laying underneath a bathroom sink, dying, he looks up at the piping and noticies a drop of water formulating and is curiously frightened.  The last shot is of that drop falling toward his head as The Four Tops “Same Old Song” begins to play.  What does it mean, exactly?  I’ve never been able to decide for sure but it amazes me every time I see it.

Barton_Fink_pictures_of_women

Barton Fink (1981)

Another Coen Brothers favorite of mine.  The lauded New York playwright Barton Fink moves to L.A. to write a film, but spends most of his day either staring at his typewriter or staring at an odd picture in his baron and drab room.  This odd picture is of a woman on a beach, shielding her eyes from the sun.  Though the people he meets in the City of Angels frequently let him down… this picture remains his only source of consistency and escape.  Unable to write anything that both he and his studio can appreciate, while also narrowly escaping a fiery death by his deranged neighbor (John Goodman), Fink literally escapes to the beach and happens upon a coincidental situation.  While sitting on the beach reflecting on his many failures a beautiful and somehow familiar woman walks by, he asks if – because she’s so beautiful – she happens to be in pictures.  “Don’t be silly” she replies before sitting down, looking into the ocean and shielding her eyes from the sun.  Confused by the suddenness of art becoming reality, Barton looks on in amazement before we fade to black.

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