Great movie endings.

I recently found this list of The Best Movie Endings Ever, which I thought interesting. While I thought many of them good (albeit obvious) choices, such as Casablanca and The Sixth Sense, I thought the list missed out on a few opportunities. I find that a film's ending need not be epic (Gone with the Wind) or tense (Seven) or a surprise (Les Diaboliques) to truly be a great ending.

I mentioned the closing shot of The Searchers in my post regarding the film: It's the kind of ending that almost overpowers the film with its perfection, an ending that sums up the whole movie better than any piece of dialog could.

Here are some other great movie endings that were left off this list.

Le notti di Cabiria (The Nights of Cabiria)
Most of this 1957 Fellini film didn't really captivate me. Cabiria just gets trodden on for much of the running time, which is tiring. At the start of the movie, she's dumped by her boyfriend, who steals 40,000 lire from her and leaves her for dead in a river. And things don't get much better. Near the end, she meets a man who she thinks really cares for her. But he leads her to the edge of a cliff and forces her to give him all of her money. Once again broke and far from home, she starts her long trek back to her shanty of a house. It's during this walk that she briefly looks directly into the camera, with a slight smile on her face. The smile reads that Cabiria knows she's going to be okay. That she can get by. It's a heartbreaking ending that Fellini and Giulietta Masina play perfectly.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
If you haven't seen Liberty Valance, here's a sum-up:
James Stewart is Ransom Stoddard, a cityboy who comes to a small town in the West with high ideals and high virtues (he opens the town's first schoolhouse and openly despises guns).
John Wayne is Tom Doniphon, local hero, gunslinger and essentially town heartthrob.
Lee Marvin is Liberty valance, douchebag.
Stoddard finally stands up to Liberty Valance, shooting him dead in a shootout. What we don't find out until later is that Doniphon is the one that actually shot Valance without anyone knowing it. Stoddard's been struggling with the fact that everyone thinks he killed a man; he's practically famous for it (Valance being such a royal douchebag). At the very end of the film, Stoddard is riding a train home and the conductor informs him that they're holding his connection for him. Stoddard thanks him for this and conductor replies, "Nothing's too good for the man who shot Liberty Valance." Stoddard's face sours as he slowly snuffs the lit match he's been readying to light his pipe. The camera lingers on him and his wife for a moment before cutting to the train riding into the distance. The line's so exquisite because it's said so casually, so off-handedly, yet it has so much impact, practically summing up a man's fears of who he is and how he got there in one fell swoop.

Monster's Ball
Forget Halle Berry, Billy Bob Thornton should have been handed the Oscar for his performance in this film. He's so quiet and conflicted and hopeful and she's so loud and weepy. He's the perfect Rowan to her Martin, Martin to her Lewis. At the close of the film, she's just found out that he's the one who pulled the lever on the electric chair that killed her husband. He doesn't know she knows, and he sits down on the step of his house with a cup of ice cream and a plastic spoon and says, "I think we're gonna be alright." She has a look of incredulity on her face and the camera pans up to look at the stars. His hopefulness and optimism seem to outweigh any skepticism, no matter how great. The idea of a grown man wilfully being so purposefully naive and optimistic has a great power, that it's still in fact possible that we can do whatever we want, however hard.

Any other suggestions?

3 comment(s).:

July 16, 2008 at 10:50 AM Anna said...
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July 16, 2008 at 11:05 AM Anna said...

I've been writing "an ending". I now see I should be trying for "a great ending". So thanks for this - son of Timber.

July 17, 2008 at 3:22 AM monster paperbag said...

I agree. "Monster's Ball's" ending is truly sublime.