At this time of new beginnings, my contrarian spirit has me thinking about great endings. Great movie endings, to be precise.
Tying together or summing up all that has gone on before, they are a large part of what make great movies great.
After all, assuming it's not total dreck, only at the end of a film can we really and truly judge it... that short period sitting in our seats -- thinking, feeling, reacting -- as the final credits roll, and before the house lights come up.
Many great movie endings are marked by a parting line of dialogue that over time becomes almost as familiar as your own name.
All great movies -- and great movie endings -- stay in our memories as normal or indifferent ones never could. They're like great taglines -- their strength lies in the very fact that we can't forget them.
I knew this topic would be well covered, so I did a Google search on the best movie endings of all time. There are indeed multiple sources that publish a top ten, twenty-five or fifty list, and the same, more obvious titles tend to crop up again and again.
Here they are:
1) King Kong (1933)
2) Gone With The Wind (1939)
3) The Wizard of Oz (1939)
4) Citizen Kane (1941)
5) Casablanca (1942)
6) Shane (1953)
7) The Searchers (1956)
8) Some Like It Hot (1959)
9) Psycho (1960)
10) Dr. Strangelove (1964)
11) The Graduate (1967)
12) Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
13) Planet Of The Apes (1968)
14) The Godfather (1972)
15) Chinatown (1974)
16) The Usual Suspects (1995)
17) American Beauty (1999)
18) Memento (2000)
19) Batman Begins (2005)
20) There Will Be Blood (2007)
It's difficult to make the case (with one or two exceptions) that these titles don't make the grade. Most of these films -- and their endings -- remain entrenched in our popular culture decades after they first appeared.
But while it's a terrific list, it's only scratching the surface. This second top twenty compilation contains English-language films with memorable endings that make the grade for me... yet surprisingly, I saw none of these listed on the sites I visited.
I've also inserted little cues and clues after each to jog memories, while trying to avoid outright "spoilers".
1) Modern Times (1936) -- "Smile" -- we'll get along.
2) Bringing Up Baby (1938) -- Dinosaur collapse.
3) The Maltese Falcon (1941) -- "The stuff that dreams are made of."
4) It's A Wonderful Life (1946) -- "To my big brother George -- the richest man in town."
5) Notorious (1946) -- Alex faces the music.
6) Sunset Boulevard (1950) -- Norma's close-up.
7) On The Waterfront (1954) -- Terry walks the final stretch.
8) The Bridge On The River Kwai (1957) -- the Colonel blows it up.
9) The Apartment (1960) --"Shut up and deal."
10) To Kill A Mockingbird (1962) -- "Hey, Boo."
11) Charade (1963) -- Audrey loves him, whatever his name is.
12) Midnight Cowboy (1969) -- Ratso's last trip.
13) Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (1969) -- Shoot-out and freeze frame.
14) The French Connection (1971) -- Popeye's last shot.
15) One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (1975) -- the Chief breaks out.
16) The Deer Hunter (1978) -- God Bless America.
17) Field of Dreams (1989) -- Father and son play catch.
18) The Fugitive (1996) -- The Marshal needs a rest.
19) Traffic (2000) -- "We're here for our daughter"/ Night game.
20) Melancholia (2011) -- Bracing for impact.
Here's to fresh starts, and strong finishes!
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