We tried to make a list of the most memorable movie endings we had ever seen. This was a surprisingly difficult task since good movies frequently have forgettable endings. For example, I really liked Trading Places with Eddie Murphy (back when he was funny) and Dan Akroyd (back when he was working). Great setup, super cast, but what happened at the end? I’m not talking about a general, "Eddie and Danny tricked the two brothers and now they’re rich, blah, blah, blah." I mean specifically, what exactly happened? I don’t remember and chances are you don’t either.
By definition, a memorable movie ending is one that you can think of off the top of your head; it could be clever, unexpected, appropriate, or even depressing as hell but one that stayed with you well after the credits.
Here are a few movie endings that have stayed with me, and I invite you to share your own.
Usual Suspects – You can argue all day whether or not everything in Usual Suspects made “sense,” but you can’t deny that Kevin Spacey’s final exit was very, very cool. The finishing touch was when the too-smug Chazz Palminteri was left standing on the curb completely clueless and outclassed.
American History X – This was a dark, gritty film that was on the cusp of becoming sentimental before it took a loaded gun and shot it’s way into this list. The senselessness of the final scene reopened all those emotional wounds gouged in by the film’s previous acts.
Planet of the Apes – I already knew how this one ended before I pressed Play, and I was still surprised. By the way, if you think I'm referring to the 2001 version with Mark Wahlberg then you have just suffered a recent head trauma and require immediate medical attention.
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid – This movie had all kinds of excellent in it: great cast, great plot, and memorable characters that stayed true to their doomed-gunslinger persona right up until the very last frame.
Thelma & Louise – I’ll confess that I haven’t seen this entire movie. I know there’s some gun shooting and some half naked Brad Pitt in there, but fifteen years later, the ending remains so memorable that it’s become a cliché (Wayne’s World 2, anybody?). It’s also very much like an updated version of the Butch Cassidy ending, but still memorable for all of that.
Brazil – Odd, odd film. I’d like to take some props because I actually saw this one coming; as strange as Brazil was, I knew there was no way Jonathon Pryce was going to get off that well.
For some reason, my memorable endings lean on the dark and tragic side (perhaps it’s a reflection of my tragic love for dairy products?). Please share the movie endings that have stuck with you and maybe we’ll learn about you in the process.