Friday, March 30, 2007

Best Movie Endings Ever

Endings are super hard. Like, very hard. Whether you're talking about a novel, a play, a sketch, or a film, it is very difficult to come up with that perfect ending that not only encapsulates everything that's come before, but also is the highest note in your, uh, symphony.

I can certainly think of plenty of totally awful movie endings that betrayed everything in the movie:

Unbreakable: Ending with a perfunctory title card that spoke more to an inability to end the movie than any sort of plot element.

The Thomas Crown Affair: "If you ever do that again, I'll break both your arms," implying that at some point in the movie, she broke one of his arms.

Godzilla: "Who was that?" "I don't know... Just some French guy." No comment.
But what about really kick-ass, perfect endings? Those are tough, and I think, also imply that the whole movie was also pretty good, to support a great ending. I'm not talking about something like Catwoman popping up at the end of Batman Returns. That's more of a fun bonus tag, than part of the movie.

I can only think of two off-hand:
The 40 Year Old Virgin: Singing "Aquarius" to end the movie perfectly answers the question, "What is it like to lose your virginity at age 40?" There was no real satisfying way I could picture of ending the movie, but this nailed it. And, ends on a musical number. Can't get much bigger than that. Speaking of musical numbers....

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey: Best movie ending of all time. After two movies of wondering, "How do Bill & Ted create a perfect society?" they take a year in their time machine for intense guitar training, travel back to the Battle of the Bands just in time, and through a fluke created by the villain, are able to play Kiss' "God Gave Rock & Roll To You" for the entire world, bringing everybody together in perfect harmony.
Are there others? Sure. "Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid" has a pretty great ending. "Breaking the Waves" has a perfectly heartbreaking last shot. And there are probably plenty more.

But none of them have Bill & Ted rocking out to Kiss.


Murchie said...

Children of Men has a truly great last shot - clear indication of "this is where *our* story, not *the* story ends" that's actually necessary, thought-provoking and affecting, vs. seemingly weak - you end up *more* involved in the characters because of the ending.

Worst recent ending that comes to mind is AI, which actually fades to black on ending-type events, what, 6 times? Like a sketch that tries to get in one last non sequitiur joke after the train has lef thte station.

Andrew Missel said...

Absolutely right about AI. I remember seeing that movie and thinking, during the first fake ending, when the camera is panning over the ocean (or is it underwater?), "hey, that wasn't so bad! I mean, a little heavy-handed, but what do you expect from Spielberg?" Then that shitty coda came on, lasted 15 minutes, and ruined the movie, and I left the theatre disgusted. I have since come to term the act of layering sentimentality and false happiness over an otherwise somewhat bleak piece of art "Speilberging." Speilberg totally Spielberged all over the end of that movie.

Another recent movie with a great last shot is "Junebug." It's surprising and somewhat ambiguous, and sort of subtly subverts the opinions you've (probably) formed of the characters. A great movie all around, by the way.

I can't remember: how does the first Bill and Ted movie end?