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Top Ten Best Movie Endings

Updated on June 10, 2013

Have you ever watched a movie that was so entertaining you didn't want it to end? I certainly have. That's undoubtedly a big reason why the endings to movies never cease to be arguably the most important portion. No matter how good a movie may be, if the ending is weak, the audience departs from the theater disappointed. Granted, a movie isn't all about the ending, but that last impression elicited by any film seems to have understandable fundamental value. This list is comprised of what I believe were the top ten most memorial endings in movie history, from the tenth best, to the best ever.

10: As Good as it Gets (1997)

I wouldn't necessarily say that the ending to this movie was as good as it gets, but it certainly came close. What's so touching about it is that Melvin, (played by Jack Nicholson), makes love happen with Carol, (played by Helen Hunt), against all odds. Yes, one may argue his money, and his experience writing romance novels may have had a little something to do with it, but this movie ending, the way Melvin finds a way inside Carol's heart, was truly heartwarming nonetheless.

9: The Lost Boys (1987)

It wasn't as much the shock of learning that Grandpa, (played by Barnard Hughes), knew about the existence of vampires in Santa Carla all along that made this ending worthy of this top ten list as much as what he said after rescuing his family from vampire corruption by killing the head vampire with a fence post attached to his jeep. With his family deeply shaken, his house virtually destroyed, and vampire blood splattered everywhere, he casually walks into his kitchen, opens his fridge, pulls out a bottle of root beer, takes a drink, and proclaims, "One thing about living in Santa Carla I never could stomach...all the damn vampires." I didn't know if I should laugh or cry! Barnard Hughes may have never won an Oscar, but his role in the final scene of this movie still won a place in my heart for ages to come.

8: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

It wasn't near as much the idea that made this ending phenomenal, as it was the portrayal of the idea. Watching the heroes of a film ride off into the sunset after defeating their enemy and accomplishing their goal at a film's conclusion was certainly not a new idea by the time this film was created, but there was something about the way it was portrayed in this film that literally remained in my memory for hours, even days, after first watching it. It seems Steven Spielberg never settles for a half-ass job when it comes to portraying nature in his works of entertainment, and that couldn't have been better exemplified in this ending. He couldn't have created the setting in which this movie's final credits began more perfectly. The way the sun setting into the horizon of the flat desert ground, beneath the blue sky with puffy clouds was captured and displayed in this film was truly awe-inspiring. Sure, watching the movie's two heroes, Indiana Jones, (played by Harrison Ford), and his father, (played by Sean Connery), along with their two companions, Marcus Brody, (played by Denholm Elliot), and Sallah, (played by John Rhys-Davies), retreat on their horses after successfully completing a near impossible task was an added bonus, but it was the nature that really made this ending memorial, and the best ending in my opinion to any of the Indiana Jones films.

7: Rocky II (1979)

When it comes to the Rocky films, it seems everyone always praises the ending to the original Rocky from 1976. While I still believe the original Rocky was the best overall of the Rocky films, I always found the ending a bit overrated. "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you," after the judges announced that Apollo Creed had won the fight? Maybe it's just me, but I don't see why everyone found that so touching and breathtaking. Don't get me wrong, it was a good ending, but I don't think I'd describe it as outstanding. The ending of Rocky II, on the other hand, I thought was perfect. After sitting through what was arguably the least exciting of the six Rocky films, we got an unforgettable ending to reminisce. Rocky Balboa, (played by Sylvester Stallone), after an emotional speech, held up the title to the heavyweight boxing crown, that he'd just won from Apollo Creed, (played by Carl Weathers), and cried out, "Yo Adrien...I did it!" There was something so original in his voice during this scene. It was almost like he wasn't acting, but improvising in response to something personal in his life. Either way, it was one of the few movie endings during which I can honestly say I had difficulty holding back a tear. I didn't think his speech at the conclusion of Rocky IV even came close. The end of Rocky II was emotional and inspiring: an outstanding performance by Stallone, and an unforgettably great ending to this movie.

6: The Usual Suspects (1995)

If you haven't yet watched this film, skip this section and move on to the next immediately, as reading this could easily spoil the entire movie. If you have, however, watched it already, then you probably aren't surprised in the least that it made this list, and you also know exactly why. A lot of great movies have fantastic twist endings: Wild Things (1998), The Sixth Sense (1999), and Fight Club (1999), to name a few of the more memorial ones. However, there's only one that stands out in my mind as truly remarkable. In contemplating the question this movie presents, who is Keyser Soze, I never for the life of me considered the obvious answer, until it was revealed at the end. It's the kind of ending after which you resort to kicking yourself and pondering until watching the entire movie over for a second time, just to make sure the plot still works out with that ending, which of course it does. I doubt anyone who's seen it would disagree that it's an absolute brilliant ending to an outstandingly created film.

5: First Blood (1982)

Okay, two Stallone films on this list: I'm sure some of you are probably shaking your heads right now and telling yourselves that's two too many, but if you honestly feel that way, I beg to differ. Just because Sylvester Stallone has never won an Oscar doesn't mean there wasn't at least a time in his movie career during which he could display an outstanding performance. And much like with Rocky II, largely accountable to the raw emotion Sylvester Stallone portrayed in this film's final scene within the police station, this movie had an unforgettable ending. It's very rare I find myself struggling to hold back tears during a scene from a movie, yet that was certainly the case while watching John Rambo, (played by Sylvester Stallone), lift his guard and spill out his feelings about the Vietnam War to Colonel Trautman, (played by Richard Crenna), before inevitably being taken into custody. I believe, regardless of how critics have rated Stallone's acting skills throughout his career, this performance, which may have been his best performance ever, along with the fitting background music, and the setting, shaped this into one of the greatest movie endings of all time.

4: Jurassic Park (1993)

This movie's ending was, from my perspective, the best example ever in a film of how a picture can speak a thousand words. As I'm sure you recall if you've watched it, this movie ends with the survivors of the horror that occurred on the island at which Jurassic Park had existed, according to the film, flying off in a helicopter, undoubtedly to evade further casualties. Nobody had a thing to say to each other, but their facial expressions, and body language spoke volumes as to what they were feeling at that given moment. The flock of birds out the window, background music, and unique sunset setting, (no pun intended), contributed to making this, in my view, the fourth greatest movie ending ever. I can honestly confess, I have on at least one occasion inserted this movie in the DVD player and fast-forwarded to the end, just to enjoy the glamor of this scene. A masterpiece ending, such as this, could have been directed by none other than Steven Spielberg.

3: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Ever think life is slipping by pretty fast? If you've never watched the ending to Stanley Kubrick's classic, "2001: A Space Odyssey," you don't know the half of it. In this movie ending, astronaut Dave Bowman, (played by Keir Dullea), after an unexpected apparent trip through the infinite of space, watches himself convert from a fairly young adult to an old man on his death bed within a matter of minutes. And that's all prior to the best part of this movie ending. While lying on his death bed, he reaches out to the mysterious black monolith in front of him, which apparently contains divine power, according to the film, and is converted back into a fetus, which is released into space on an apparent unknown journey through the stars. Interesting? Sometimes it's the endings that make us think that remain in our memories the longest. And to say this ending made me think would be an understatement. Thinking aside, Stanley Kubrick's brilliant directing, along with Also Sprach Zarathustra playing in the background, helped make this movie ending easily worthy of the number three slot on this list.

2: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

As purported above, nobody directs a movie ending quite like Steven Spielberg, and in my opinion, this 1977 classic contained his best constructed movie ending throughout his entire film-making career. I don't believe in magic, but it almost felt like magic was required to elicit the emotions I felt watching the final scene to this memorial blockbuster hit. I think it's partially how realistic this clearly fictional scene was portrayed that made it so awe-inspiring. One can't help but wonder while watching it, could something like this really happen? I think it's safe to say that if intelligent beings from another world were to ever actually visit this planet, as they did in this movie, this ending summed up everyone's thoughts as to exactly how they'd want our first encounter with such visitors to be like. This ending was touching to say the least, and that catchy background music couldn't have been more fitting. Over thirty-five years have passed since this movie was created, but I think this ending was proof that advanced computerized technology utilized in many modern films for visual effects aren't required to make an unforgettable and 'magical' movie scene. There's only one other movie I believe had an ending that matched the quality of this one, and that movie of course is listed below.

1: The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

What made the ending to The Shawshank Redemption the best movie ending ever? I honestly believe the film's apparent moral was largely attributable: the notion that people should never give up hope in whatever they may be pursuing. In a world in which fulfilling our hopes and dreams can oftentimes seem challenging, if not impossible, it almost seems inevitable for people to eventually question the virtue in hope. Yet this movie served as an example that hope can certainly pay off, in a very large way for the main characters in the ending of this film. The manner in which Andy Dufresne, (played by Tim Robbins), achieved his salvation, and assisted in later providing the same for his friend, Red, (played by Morgan Freeman), in this film's ending literally gave me goosebumps. And the thought that this realistic ending to a fictional movie was made possible by hope gives rise to a type of inspiration few movie scenes can rival. I honestly don't believe there could ever be a movie ending better than this one, but I suppose one can always 'hope.'

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    • thebiologyofleah profile image

      Leah Kennedy-Jangraw 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great idea for a hub, I especially like the format so that if the reader has not seen a particular movie they can skip over that one.

      I completely agree with your inclusion of Usual Suspects and Shawshank. I don't think there will ever be a better played out twist than in Usual Suspects and upon first reviewing I did immediately go back and watch the whole thing over again. And you hit the nail on the head with the goosebumps line about Shawshank, every time Red makes his way to Andy and his boat as the camera pans out that's exactly what happens to me.

    • lukemike92 profile image
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      lukemike92 4 years ago

      They were both fantastic endings. Jurassic Park revolutionized graphics in film-making, (perhaps best displayed in the T-Rex scene towards the end), but acting, directing, music, and dialogue I think are still paramount in ensuring film quality. If you recall HAL from "2001: A Space Odyssey," I think it goes without saying that computers are fantastic, but should never be entirely relied upon, @.

    • To Start Again profile image

      Selina Kyle 4 years ago

      My husband and I just caught the Shawshank Redemption on TV the other night and watched it again for the twentieth time lol and I was thinking how great the ending was. It's definitely one of the better endings, I even made a comment about it while we were watching-that that's the way movies should end. Everybody gets what they want, your favorite characters are happy and you know what happens to them.

      And, although it isn't quite the very end, the part in Jurassic Park where the T Rex eats the velociraptors and the banner falls down and he roars is one of the most artistic moments in a film IMO.