My Top 10 Favorite Movie Endings

Endings are hard. Even many great movies miss with their ending, especially if they aim for the kind of feelgood ending that the filmmakers sometimes seem to feel let’s them off the hook with the rest of the movie, as long as the ending makes people feel like the movie was worth seeing when the rest of the movie wasn’t working. Hell, even the best movie of all time has the main character just sitting there for six minutes (it’s actually a great ending, but out of context sounds awful.)

First, due to the nature of the topic, this is going to be full of spoilers. There is no way of avoiding them.

Okay, I’m giving myself a little bit of leeway with what constitutes as the ending. There can be a wrapup of certain things after the ending. The way I understand the ending is hard to put into the structure of a movie. It can be the end of the climax, but it can also be in the resolution after the climax, depending on the situation and the story. So, mostly this is about what I think of as the ending of these movies.

Again, endings are hard. I often know the ending before the end of the first act. Like just last Saturday I went to see May December. I figured out quite early that there will be something about the December in this case (the older woman) having been a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Yes, that happened, but since Haynes (and probably the screenwriters) are smarter than that, they also made it more complicated and unclear. That is not the actual ending of the movie, as it’s just wrapping up a subplot, but felt like a good example of this. This is a hallmark of a good ending. Something that works in the context of the movie, but also manages to subvert expectations without just randomly throwing something in there to throw off the audience.

A good movie doesn’t even need a good ending if other things work for it. Take something like Daisies, a Czech (or, more precisely, Czechoslovakian) film about two women both named Marie, who go on dates with men to get free meals while leaving the men without what they want. The ending is just the two of them doing their best to fix what they did in the previous scene. It seems like it was forced upon the director (and even with that, it was shadowbanned) and also feels very insincere, so it doesn’t really serve the movie, but I don’t really mind either, as the rest of the movie is great.

In no specific order:


Relic is a horror movie with a very unusual ending. The movie is about three generations of women coming together, as the oldest has been lost and the other two are there to find her. When they do, she acts weirdly. It turns out that there’s some sort of parasite that has taken control of her. So, how does the movie end? The middle generation locks the youngest out, as she decides that despite the her mother basically having lost everything other than her shell (practically her skin), the middle generation is still not ready to let go of her and would rather take care of her than abandon her.

You can read the movie as a parabel regarding aging and mental deterioration and how it can be difficult deal with that. The three generations and also the family history points to this having happened before, so there’s some amount of generational trauma as well.

Seppuku or Harakiri

A samurai arrives at a household to kill himself. The master of the house assumes that the samurai is looking for a handout instead, so he decides to make an example of him. However, after discussing why the samurai is looking to commit seppuku, it turns out that the samurai is not there to do that or look for handouts. He is there to take as many people out with him as possible. However, the actual conclusion is what makes this so great: None of this matters. The master just orders the whole deal to be covered up. The point the samurai was trying to make about the pervasiveness of performative honor is completely lost.

Voskhozhdenie or The Ascent

Two partisans somewhere in Belarus are trying to find food for the group of refugees they are escorting. This leads to various encounters with locals and the German invaders. A key topic is treason. They meet a traitor, for example. However, that traitor ends up being executed and it turns out that he was a double-agent anyhow. At the same time, the man who was very adamant about persecuting these traitors has actually turned traitor himself in order to live. For how long? We don’t know, but the final images of the film are about him coming to terms with what he has just done, as he has just been a part of an execution of his brother in arms, a mother and a child, just so that the Germans can hit their quotas.

Il buono, il brutto, il cattivo or The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

A Mexican standoff, which isn’t in itself interesting. Of course, Leone is just a great filmmaker, but the glorious thing here, which we, as the audience don’t know at first, is that two of the men are put into a very difficult situation, while the third has a secret – he took the bullets out of the gun of one of the other men. So, while the other two are looking to figure out who to shoot, the third knows, so he is much more calm than the others. Of course, in true Leone fashion, the lead up to the actual violence is long, but the actual violence is explosively fast and over in a second.

It’s Such a Beautiful Day

This is an animated movie about a man with some kind of problem with his brain. Probably cancer. Throughout the movie, we have narrator, who is very neutral and distant throughout the movie… except that when Bob finally dies alone and confused in the woods after having lost control, the narrator doesn’t accept this. Instead, he takes over the story and let’s Bob live forever. It’s just so beautifully unexpected.

Children of Men

After 18 years of global infertility, a child has been born and Theo, our hero, has her. People are seeking the child out for various reasons and some of them are having a firefight while Theo is trying to carry the baby into safety. The moment when everyone realizes that there is actually a baby among them and see it for the first time is just beautiful. Everything just stops as Theo and the mother traverse through the ramshackle building to get the baby to safety.

There Will Be Blood

I don’t think this needs any kind of explanation. It has been memed to death many times over. At the same time, it does give leeway to various interpretations. In some ways the moment is very cool, which is why it has been memed so much, but at the same time it’s also very sad as the culmination of ambitions that never lead to any kind of happiness or fulfillment.

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

It’s a movie about a specific cinema and cinema as a concept as well. Throughout the movie, a local priest has the local projectionist cut various parts out of the movies. These are sexual content, but very mild at that. The ending of the movie is when the main character, decades after the main story, receives a container of film and watches it only to find out that it’s a collection of all the parts from all those movies that were cut out. It’s just beautiful as it manages to capture so many things that are great about movies.

De uskyldige or The Innocents

This is a horror movie about kids who discover that they have superpowers. The ending is actually very tame. There is an epic battle, but the battle happens completely psychically and just ends when a boy drops dead in a swing and no-one notices. It’s just so different from the Marvel approach of complicated action scenes. It does also have a very different impact on the main character, who finally learns to appreciate her autistic sister.


Again, highly memed, so not necessarily explanations needed, but this is a nice culmination to a mystery that would have been very hard to wrapup in a satisfying way.

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