When movies save the best for last
What makes a great film finale. Kisses and sunsets? Sometimes. Breakups, fire and dancing dwarves? Those can work, too.
Compiling a list of the Top 25 movie endings can make one realize that some flicks that we are fond of end, well, badly.
Here are the good ones:
25. Boogie Nights. From what I remember, most folks sitting near me were either giggling or staring nervously at their sodas during the credits. Personally, I was just trying to figure out if the last scene would classify as “best costume design” or “best makeup” at the Oscars. (It was nominated in neither category.)
24. Nowhere. The final installment of Gregg Araki’s violent “teen angst trilogy” may not have won any awards ó and I don’t think it should have ó but I will never, ever forget the shocking final scene. Nor will I forget turning to my friend Leanne afterwards, relieved to see she was as wide-eyed and open-mouthed as I was. Eight years later, I still can’t wrap my mind around it.
23. Waiting for Guffman. Throughout the flick I kept hoping director Christopher Guest wouldn’t let me down in the end … and he didn’t.
22. Carrie. The fact that I first saw this movie with my junior-high best friend ó also named Carrie ó made it even creepier. For weeks afterward, I couldn’t walk through our backyard without thinking of Carrie’s last scare.
21. Se7en. “What’s in the box?” The look on Brad Pitt’s face pretty much summed it up.
20. Clue. My family rented this tape so many times during the ’80s they would’ve saved a chunk of change just buying the thing. The twists were so frequent and surprising, my brother and I would forget them within days, prompting us to beg Dad for another rental.
19. Pi. Sometimes, when I’m staring into the bathroom mirror with an electric toothbrush in my hand, Pi comes to mind.
18. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Not only are the flick’s final minutes flawless (especially the soundtrack, which I can hear in my head this instant), we get a great “ending after the ending” during the credits, tracking Mr. Rooney’s tumultuous ride home.
17. Donnie Darko. Dream? Reality? Aliens? It’s no secret my brain spun at the end of this one, as I also wondered, “Where can I get a copy of this amazing song?”
16. Fight Club. The only time I’ve seriously considered starting a conversation with a stranger in a theater lobby was after I went to see Fight Club alone.
15. E.T. It only could’ve concluded in one way. Just remembering it brings a tear to the eye.
14. The Sixth Sense. Perhaps this is my most obvious pick, but you must understand I was one of those people who saw the film on opening weekend, before any buzz had circulated. I think every moviegoer must have gasped at the ending, making Sense one of my best movie-theater experiences.
13. The Wizard of Oz. Think back: When you were a kid, the first time you saw an “it was all a dream” ending, it didn’t seem trite ó it seemed magical. Thankfully, my first exposure to such a scene was with Wizard, and not, say, that crazy episode of Dallas.
12. The Graduate. More is said with that one look on the bus than in the rest of the movie.
11. The Blair Witch Project. Whatever the heck happened, all that screaming and shaky camera work nearly scared the Twizzlers out of my stomach.
10. Short Cuts. On more than one occasion, someone has raved to me about the ending to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia. I always respond by asking if they’ve seen Robert Altman’s Short Cuts, which I feel employs a similar wrap-up, only better. More often than not, the answer is no.
9. Being John Malkovich. The first time I watched it, I spent most of the movie wondering how on earth it was going to end: Was Malkovich going to kill himself? Was someone going to discover a portal into John Cusack’s brain? I never could’ve guessed what actually happened.
8. Thelma and Louise. I know people who hate this ending, and will argue ’til dawn that it’s weak, disgusting, upsetting, sexist or (insert negative adjective here). I disagree, and every time I see it’s on cable, I make sure to watch the last three minutes for the billionth time, just to make sure it actually happened that way.
7. Barton Fink. No strangers to a satisfying movie ending, the Coen brothers delighted me with this simple, yet surprising, denouement.
6. The Empire Strikes Back. As a kid, the first time I felt overwhelmed with so much simultaneous confusion, fear, sadness and excitement was while watching the ending of Empire. The second time, perhaps, was when I realized there was no Santa Claus.
5. Dancer in the Dark. In a book I read recently, the author says, “Dancer in the Dark made me cry so hard for so long that all I could do was put my drained self to bed and apologize the next morning to a friend whose party I missed.” She’s right: The ending doesn’t just astound you, it wrecks you.
4. Say Anything. Ding. Perfection.
3. Harold and Maude. It’s the movie that inspired me to take banjo lessons and contemplate buying a hearse. (In the end, a Saturn just seemed more practical and easier to park.)
2. Easy Rider. One sign of a great film finale is that viewers do everything they can to preserve its secret. I find it amazing that about 25 years after its initial release in 1969, I could see Easy Rider and be floored by the ending. I mean, how did I not hear about this before?
1. Being There. As far as I’m concerned, no film ending will ever top this one, penned by screenwriter Jerzy Kosinski. You hear that, M. Night Shyamalan? Don’t even try.
When movies save the best for last