The final breath of any movie can linger on in the mind of the viewer long after watching. A final shot can be heartbreaking, terrifying, or even inspiring. Every film is an experience and a journey that you take with the characters. Sometimes, when a film comes to an end, there are unanswered questions left up to the audience. Sometimes, it is a perfect resolution that leaves you completely satisfied.
In every movie, there are ups and downs, conflicts, and characters that can bring out many different emotions. Each frame creates a scene. Each scene is edited together to create the final product. While some scenes may be forgotten, the final shot of a film will stay with the viewer long after leaving the theater.
Kids, written by Harmony Korine, shocked audiences around the globe. It follows Telly, an HIV-positive teenager, and his hedonist friends over the course of one day in New York City. The final shot shows Telly’s best friend, Casper (Justin Pierce), strung out on the couch after a drug-fueled party. He utters one phrase: “Jesus Christ, what happened?”. The screen cuts to black, leaving it up to the audience to imagine the fate of these doomed teenagers. It is a perfect example of a movie coming together full circle.
13Bonnie and Clyde
&Arthur Penn’s classic crime film follows the OG antiheroes, Bonnie and Clyde, through their epic crime spree across the country. Unfortunately, their journey comes to an end as they are gunned down by the police. The film’s final shot shows the two dead protagonists riddled with bullets. Bonnie and Clyde are no more; thus the film abruptly cuts to black.
12Good Will Hunting
The Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting screenplay made Matt Damon and Ben Affleck overnight superstars. Will Hunting, a boy-genius from South Boston, struggles to live up to his potential until he is guided by his therapist Sean (Robin Williams). The final shot shows Will driving down the road on his way to California to the woman he loves. The fate of Will is uncertain, but what we do know is… he had to go see about a girl.
David Fincher’s cult classic Fight Club is about outcasts forming a “fight club” that eventually turns into a terrorist plot to bring down corporate America. The beautiful, yet disturbing, final shot consists of The Narrator (Edward Norton) and Marla (Helena Bonham Carter) holding hands as they watch skyscrapers crumble to the ground set to the tune of Pixies’s Where Is My Mind?.
Vittorio De Sica’s 1948 Italian drama Bicycle Thieves follows a poor man, Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani), and his son searching for his stolen bicycle. Without the bicycle, Antonio cannot provide for his family. In the end, Antonio attempts to steal a bicycle himself, but is caught in the process. The final shot shows the broken father and son disappearing into the crowd. It’s a tragic ending showcasing the turmoils of poverty within society.
9The Shawshank Redemption
Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), is an innocent man sentenced to life behind bars in The Shawshank Redemption. In the end, Dufresne escapes to the shores of Mexico, eventually being joined by his best friend Red (Morgan Freeman). The beautiful ending of the two embracing each other on the Pacific perfectly counteracts with the life they knew in jail, giving you a refreshing and perfect conclusion.
The performances, editing, and rocking Easy Rider soundtrack make this film unforgettable. It’s a story of two outcasts who decide to hit the road on their motorcycles, leaving society behind them. In the tragic ending, our heroes fail to succeed in freedom. They are gunned down and killed, portraying the ignorance and constraints of society.
7There Will Be Blood
Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood is a brutal film about wealth and greed is led by Daniel Day-Lewis’s powerhouse performance as Daniel Plainview. The Kubrick-like final shot shows a drunk and broken Plainview sitting in his bowling alley after killing Eli Sunday (Paul Dano). It’s a perfect way to show the greed and ruthlessness of capitalism.
6One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest
Milos Forman’s masterpiece One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest ends with Chief (Will Sampson) running into the wilderness after breaking out of the mental institution. He has just smothered a lobotomized Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson). It’s a bittersweet ending. Our hero McMurphy may be dead, but in a way he is free and his legacy lives on as Chief runs to freedom.
5Thelma and Louise
This female buddy crime film has one of the most famous ending shots in history. After an epic crime spree, Thelma & Louise are finally caught by the police. Instead of surrendering, they decide to “keep going”. They take each other’s hands and drive off a cliff, giving us a tragic, yet optimistic, ending to a classic film about friendship.
4The Breakfast Club
Everyone knows the story of five teenagers sentenced to a Saturday detention. The five teens learn truths about each other that will forever change them. The Breakfast Club closes on John Bender (Judd Nelson) raising his fist in victory as he walks through the football field. He has just experienced true love and even though it will be gone come Monday, he is going to embrace the moment right now.
Stanley Kubrick’s chilling final shot in The Shining tells an entire story within itself. After the many horrors that took place, we are left with a portrait of a smiling Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) attending a party at the Overlook Hotel in 1921. Jack is now a part of the Overlook for all of eternity, both past and future. As the ghost of Delbert Grady said to Jack, “You’ve always been the caretaker”.
In the beginning of Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece The Godfather, Michael Corleone has no interest in being part of the “family business”. By the end, he is doomed by his fate and is crowned Don Corleone. The final shot shows Michael carrying out his duties as boss of the family as the door closes, leaving his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) in the dark.
The Graduate is the crown jewel of final shots. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) has just sabotaged Elaine’s (Katharine Ross) wedding and the two hop on a bus leaving their families behind. As the bus drives away, their laughter fades as reality sets in. Their futures are uncertain and they now have no money or security. Set to the tune of Simon and Garfunkel’s &&&The Sound Of Silence,& we have a beautiful, yet bleak, ending to a classic film.