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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History

Unlike movie openings, movie endings are always the most important and
mesmerizing part of a film. It lifts the film to a new level and gives the audiences
something to digest afterwards. Sometimes we can recall the ending scene in a clear
image even we forget what the film is about.
Two weeks ago we made a list of the greatest movie opening scenes in film history, its
no-brainer making a follow-up list with movie endings. This time we decide to double
the size, but there is still plenty room for suggestions. Please leave a comment if you
feel one of your favorites is missing here.
Without further ado, here is our choice of the 40 greatest movie endings in film
history. BEWARE OF SPOILERS!
40. Before Sunset

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A Waltz for a night (Before Sunset) Julie Delpy

We are with the two for the whole film, now like the first film, its time for some real
sentiment. Upon his departure, Jesse is invited to Celines apartment and is treated a
song written by Celine herself. Every feeling is all in Julie Delpys sweet voice and the
beautiful song A Waltz for a Night. Is he staying? We hope so. Thank god the
director made the third film and proved we are right.
39. Children of Paradise

One of the greatest French films ever made also has one of the most tragic endings of

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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all French romance films. In one of the most epic crowd scenes in film history,
Baptiste is pushed away from the love of his life further and further by the flood of
people, the helplessness of this scene is tremendously moving.
38. Blow Out

Under the cover of a political thriller, this is a very sad romance film at its core. Jack
is not able to save his love Sally at the last moment. However, he manages to get the
perfect scream which pleases his boss. Its an ironic and tragic ending, its highly
emotional because of John Travoltas brilliant performance and Pino Donaggios
touching score.
37. Aguirre: The Wrath Of God

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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Aguirre, who claims to be the wrath of god, leads his troops into the wild Peruvian
rain forest. He thinks he can conquer this wild land, but he is wrong. People around
him die out, at last only him and a bunch of monkeys are left on the raft. The camera
revolves around the raft in rapid speed to emphasize the solitude of the crazy man
and his doomed failure to fight against the nature.
36. Usual Suspects

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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Probably the greatest twist ending in modern film history. Kent makes everything up
based on the texts he saw in the office and totally fooled the police officer and us. Its
one of these endings that the villain never gets caught, but Kevin Spaceys superb
performance makes it unique and charming.
35. Fight Club

At the end of this thought-provoking film, the Edward Norton character shot himself,
we are as shocked as Marla. Before we realize what is going on here, the skyscrapers
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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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start to fall down in front of them as well as us. Where is my mind?


34. Vengeance Is Mine

Shohei Imuamuras classic ends in a fashion that is quite unusual in Japanese cinema
history. The serial killer is executed; his family takes his ashes to the mountain top
and splashes it. Then its a freezing frame, its like the earth is unwilling to accept a
human being whos so evil.
33. Ashes and Diamonds

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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Ashes and Diamonds is one of the greatest Polish films ever made. At its ending, the
Polish James Dean character is shot, he crawls on a dump and dies like a dog. A
highly emotional ending to a great film.
32. The Wages of Fear

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In this breathtaking French thriller made by Henri Georges Clozout, four European
men, down on their luck, drive two trucks loaded with nitroglycerine needed to
extinguish the flames of an oil company.
At the end, only Mario survives and a party is held to celebrate his arrival. The camera
frequently cuts between the party and the exhausted yet excited Mario on his way
back. It seems like a happy ending. Then the girl faints during her dance, and the
truck falls down a cliff. The film gives us the biggest thrill at the end.
31. The Holy Mountain

In this mind-bending surreal masterpiece by Alejandro Jodorowsky, a team set out to


the Holy Mountain to find immortality. Near the top, the alchemist, played by
Jodorowsky himself, suddenly breaks the fourth wall by saying Zoom back the
camera.
The camera zooms back, revealing all the casts & crews and filmmaking equipment.
The director talks to the team member, as well as us, Real life awaits us, then the
film ends. Its surprising Jodorowsky ends his surreal film in such a realistic way, this
ending adds more layers to the philosophy of this film.
30. Through the Oliver Trees

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In the last chapter of Abbas Kiarostamis Koker Trilogy, actor Hossein pursues one of
the actress he works with while the film goes on. After finishing her scene, the actress
leaves, Hossein runs to follow her.
The ending is a long take, showing us the process of pursuit from long distance.
Hossein catches up with the girl, they talk, he runs back with her response. There is
no close-up shot of his face so we have no idea what the girls response is. The film
ends after he runs through the olive trees.
29. The Marriage of Maria Braun

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The Marriage of Maria Braun, the first film in Fassbinders BRD Trilogy, follows the
ups and downs of a woman called Maria during and after the WWII.
In the mesmerizing finale, Maria is visited by the executor Senkenberg. In the
background plays the live radio broadcast of the final match of FIFA Would Cup 1954.
As we hear a gas explosion which indicates Marias death, the radio is celebrating the
winning of the German National Team. Fassbinder made this ironic ending to remind
the people in Germany that they should not forget their own history.
28. The Leopard

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In this epic tale of decay, director Luchino Visconti puts a long ball scene in the
second half to make a contrast between the noble Prince and the young people of the
new generation.
At the end of the ball, the Prince of Salina looks into a mirror and sheds some tears of
sadness. His time has passed, but will the future be better? He refuses to take the
carriage and walks alone in the alley.
27. Yi Yi

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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Edward Yangs epic of life begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral. At the
funeral, Yangyang, the son of the protagonist NJ, stands in front of his grandmas
coffin and reads his letter to her. I feel Im old too he says. Watching this film is like
living ones life through in 3 hours. After the film experience, we feel the same as
Yangyang feels.
26. Dr. Strangelove

Only a daring filmmaker like Kubrick could end a film with a montage of a series of
atomic bombing footage. One of the most popular songs during the WWII period We
Will Meet Again is played in the background. This is Kubrick at his most satirical, if
we will ever meet again, where and when?
25. Cinema Paradiso

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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At the end of this Oscar Best Foreign Language winning film. The adult Toto flies to
his hometown and finally gets the chance to see the reel of film Alfred left him. Toto
watches this alone in the dark, its a montage of kissing scenes that were cut by Alfred
since they were forbidden in public cinema. Toto is moved to tears, so are we. Ennio
Morricones brilliant score is the ice on the cake.
24. Sansho the Bailiff

Probably the saddest ending of all time. Zushio finally finds his mother whos
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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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supposed to be dead, the blind old woman is sitting at the beach singing a bitter song.
Zushio tells her that both his sister and father are dead, and he quits the post of
governor to follow his fathers teachings. Its a deeply tragic ending of the reunion of a
broken family.
23. Lola Montes

In the finale of the tragic story of a notorious courtesan and showgirl, Lola Montes is
kept in a cage and whoever pays just one dollar is able to kiss her hand. The camera
keeps pulling back, leaving Lola and showing us the long queue of men who lust for
her body. Its the last elegant camera movement Max Ophuls left us, the curtain of his
career is drawn at the end.
22. Landscape in the Mist

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Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos classic tells the story of two children in search
of their father. At the end, through the thick mist, they find a tree. They run to it and
hug it as if it was their father. This symbolic scene is probably the most beautiful
thing Angelopoulos had ever put on the screen. The great Serbian director Dusan
Makavejev said that this last scene of Landscape in the Mist was a revelation for me.
21. Requiem for a Dream

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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Probably the most devastating endings in modern film history. Darren Aronofskys
ending is far from a happy ending: its so disturbing that you dont want to see it
again. In the final scene, all the four characters are in the fetal position which
emphasizes their helplessness. Like a fantasy trip after taking drugs, it blurs the
boundary between reality and dream, making it very hard to watch even for the first
time.
20. 2001: A Space Odyssey

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How to end a film full of puzzles? With more puzzles. This is Kubricks answer with
his enigmatic sci-fi classic. The ending, just like the whole film, is gorgeously shot and
offers open interpretations.
19. Some Like It Hot

Nobody is perfect! Simply the greatest closing line in film history. The whole movie
is worth it just for this line. Billy Wilder loved it so much, he had it written on his
tombstone.
18. Psycho

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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After the big plot twist at the end, Norman Bates is kept in a jail. It is his dead
mothers voice narrating in the background, the camera slowly moves towards him,
and the last shot superimposes the skeleton of his mother on his weirdly smiled face.
This is definitely one of the scariest image in horror film history and one hell of a way
to end a film about split personality.
17. The Searchers

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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At the end of John Fords Western classic, Ethan departs the household he helped
restore with a wistful gesture. Fords precise framing perfectly captures the duality of
Ethans character: a hero that is kept out of the land he helps create. This is a simple
shot, but its emotional resonance is profound.
16. An Autumn Afternoon

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The 40 Greatest Movie Endings In Film History Taste of Cinema

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This is how Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu ended his last film. The widowed father
finally married off her daughter, he is left all alone in the house. Ozu quietly observes
the loneliness of the old man by a half-blocked shot, showing the inevitable future
that awaits for all of us. This scene has the same sad feelings as the famous ending in
his earlier classic Late Spring, but since this is the directors swan song, and the film
is a more or less advanced remake of that film, we finally decided to go with this one.
15. Underground

We drop the famous ending of Fellinis 8 to leave a spot for this one. First, we
already have two Fellini endings on this list. Second, this ending is clearly inspired by
the 8 ending, but its also great in its own right. The story of the film is nothing like
8, but like the 8 ending, all the characters, dead or alive, is back in this scene of a
wedding party. Whats great about this ending is its surreal touch of the last scene, the
people all stand on a mini peninsula that is floating away from the homeland.
14. Cache

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The last shot of Michael Hanekes classic requires close attention. Its a more-thanfour-minute long take of kids stepping out of their school. At first glance, careless
audience would assume nothing happens in this shot, but really?
There is no close-up shot or even medium shot, the director didnt tell us where to
look, thus we have to look closer. There is someone talking to the sullen teenage boy.
Instead of revealing who sends those tapes, it adds more possibilities to the cause of
the whole story: something is hidden.
13. Casablanca

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As the most famous ending in Hollywood history, this scene needs no introduction.
Whats interesting is what happened behind the scenes. They had several endings, but
none of them seemed to work.
Director Michael Curtis had to shoot the ending without a screenplay. Bergman
admitted that her performance in the last scene was completely driven by the
uncertainty of which man she would follow. Ricks famous last line Louis, I think its
the beginning of a beautiful friendship was totally improvised too. Thats the legend
of this unforgettable ending.
12. La Dolce Vita

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In the finale of Federico Fellinis masterpiece, a group of high-class people come to


the sea shore. After the appearance of a sea monster that symbolizes the evil, Marcello
meets the girl again. The girl is trying to tell him something, but Marcello doesnt hear
or understand what shes saying. The girls enigmatic smile in the final shot offers
open interpretations.
11. The Passenger

Antonioni is the master of creating great endings. At the end of his less-known classic,
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Locke lies down on the bed, then the camera moves slowly towards the barred
window, crosses it and goes out. We see a police car coming to the yard, the
policemen go into the hotel.
The camera turns a half circle and reveals the room it has just left. Locke is still on the
bed but he seems to be dead now. This is an amazing long take, but what stays with us
is not the technique but the sense of uplift it creates and the tranquil fashion the film
ends.
10. The Godfather 2

A perfect ending to a perfect film. The ending of The God Father 2 is a flashback scene
of a get-together during Vitos birthday. We can get a general sense of the character of
every Corleone member, Coppola puts this at the end not only to give the film an
almost Shakespearean tragic feel, but also to emphasize Michaels alienation from his
brothers. He is always alone.
9. Nostalgia

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Andrei Tarkovskys first film shot outside his home country, Nostalgia is a poetic film
about nostalgia and faith. At the end of the film, the Russian writer Andrei comes to
the pool to fulfill his promise. He enters the pool and lights the candle, he needs to
come from one end to the other without letting the candle extinguish. After several
attempts, as he finally makes it, he dies. Tarkovsky shot this scene in a long take,
which amplifies the power of faith and the exhaustion of keeping it to the maximum.
8. LEclisse

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There is nothing like the ending of Antonionis masterpiece. Piero and Vittoria agree
to meet again somewhere in Rome. But for the last five and a half minutes of the film,
they do not show up on the screen. What we see instead is a montage of a series of
locations they have been together. Its beautiful, haunting, bold and imaginative. A
profound meditation on love and time.
7. Au hasard Bathazar

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A profoundly moving ending. The old Bathazar, after being maltreated by evil human
beings, comes to a hill. Director Bresson keeps the camera static so that we will watch
the poor donkey slowly dying in front of our eyes. As human, we cant help but
sympathize with the creature and look deep into our own soul.
6. Bicycle Thieves

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Near the end of this Neo-Realism classic, a father and his son cannot find their lost
bicycle. In an unexpected turn, the father steals one and gets caught in front of his
sons eyes. The man who gets stolen becomes the man who steals, its more a social
issue than a moral issue. At last, the two walk in the street with no future ahead of
them, bitter ending.
5. The 400 Blows

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At the end of Francois Truffauts semi-autobiographical New Wave masterpiece, the


boy Antoine escapes from his school again. The camera tracks his long distance run to
the sea, then he comes back and a freeze frame captures his puzzled look. Everyone
who ever grew up would understand the meaning of it.
4. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Like the opening of his Once Upon a Time in the West, this ending is also epic. Leone
shot this duel scene like no one before, he rapidly cuts among the three protagonists,
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takes big close-up shots of their body parts, guns and eyes, tension is built in a highly
effective way. Morricones uplifting score gives this scene a sense of opera. This death
ballet remains one of the greatest movie scenes ever.
3. La Strada

In one of the most emotionally draining endings in cinema history, Zampan learns
about the death of Gelsomina, he gets drunk, comes to the beach and breaks into
tears. For the first time in the whole film, the beast feels the loneliness, regret and
loss. Its a moment of awakening, but it comes too late.
2. City Lights

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This is the most beautiful, romantic and heart-warming moments in all Chaplins
tramp films, and also one of the most moving scenes in film history. You cant watch
it without shedding tears. The blind girl recognized the tramp by a subtle touch to his
hands, yes, I can see now is not only a perfect line to end the film but also a
statement made by the director that seeing is more important than hearing in
cinema.
1. The Third Man

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In one of the most iconic and daring endings in film history, after the real funeral of
Harry Lime, Holly Martins waits for Anna at the side of a long alley. Its a
symmetrical long take, the leaves are falling and the Zither music is always there.
Anna walks very slowly towards us, she passes Holly and then the camera. There is
always only Harry Lime in her heart.
This last shot is beautiful, tense and sad at the same time. Its an audacious antihappy-ending at the time. You just cant end a film better than this.

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