Top 10 best movie endings

Published: Thursday, Dec. 30 2010 7:00 p.m. MST

#10 - “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” (2002) Next » 1 of 10 « Prev
These two films are grouped together because each is the middle child in its respective trilogy. They also happen to represent the best endings of any of the films in those trilogies.

The first “Star Wars” ended in dramatic if predictable fashion, as did the last. The first “Lord of the Rings” film featured a solid ending, but the last, as mentioned previously, didn’t seem to want to end at all. But the middle children brought it all together.

Whether it was the bittersweet escape from Cloud City in “Empire” or the heroic Battle of Helm’s Deep at the conclusion of “The Two Towers,” each film wove disparate story lines together with just enough catharsis to leave you feeling good while keeping you eager for what was to come.
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Orem, UT

My favorite movie ending was No Country for Old Men. Basically everyone I know who has seen it hated how it ended but it was so perfect!

Cedar Hills, UT

A bit surprised not to see 'Gone With the Wind' or a single Hitchcock, but other than that great list! Well done.

Eagle Mountain, UT

I agree with DoughBoy Fresh. In fact, not just No Country for Old Men's ending, but many, if not all their films end right. Another great ending to a Coen Brothers' film is the current True Grit, which continues their spot as the most honorable storytellers (whether they adapt material or create it themselves) in an industry looking solely for huge box office in my opinion. When they make money on a film, it genuinely feels they have earned it by not going with the most obvious or cliched or even the happiest ending, though a few of them end happy. They have a story to tell and they do so in a way that usually catches us off guard, irritates us to no end, or has us shaking our heads, muttering, "I didn't see that coming." That seems to push film into the realm of a more literate venture when that happens. Too bad so few filmmakers do that these days.

Orem, UT

Surprised to not see The Sting make this list. One of the best movies ever made, and definitely one of the best twist endings ever!

South Jordan, UT

I agree with cooler20days. This was the first movie I saw after my mission. My mom told me I had to see this great movie and so she took me down to the Rialto (or Roxy, I can't remember) in Pacific Beach, CA. AFter purchasing our tickets, we stood in a long line waiting for the previous showing to end. As people filed out of the theater, they all had a big grin on their faces and I was really excited to see what this show was all about. When the final gunshots were fired, I remember thinking that the previous audience was a bunch of sadists to be grinning after an ending like that. Moments later, I realized that I, along with the rest of the audience, had been the real victims of the sting. I had been set up for two hours to that final scene and they got me. Of course, I left the theater with a big grin on my face.

And now, for 36 years this has remained one of my favorite movies of all time.

hmmm interesting
Salt Lake City, UT

I agree that LOTR: Two Towers had a great ending, but I left Empire Strikes Back totally upset with the ending. The whole film was depressing. Of course, I then thought Return of the Jedi was lame and hated how it ended with the pseudo-spiritual incarnations of Vader/Anakin and Obi Wan. Don't even get me started about Star Wars Chapters 1, 2 and 3. Boo. :o)

I agree with the other commenters that the Coens create films with good endings. I, too, really like their re-telling of True Grit.

Sandy, UT

I like the totally unpredictable surprise ending of the sleeper movie "Dragonfly" with Keven Costner. I didn't see It coming

Sacramento, CA

I think the sermon at the end of "The Bishop's Wife" (1947) would constitute a great ending. It's maybe not as exciting as some, but it packs a powerful message.

A proper Bostonian
medford, MA

What about "Inherit The Wind" (the original) when Darrow walks out of the court room alone to "Battle Hymn of the Republic" playing in the background?
Now there's a great movie ending. As far as the "Graduate"...eh!

Weston Jurney
West Jordan, UT

This list became a travesty when it included The Graduate and failed to list Schindler's List. That movie is so intense that I have never been able to bear the thought of watching it through for a second time, but its end is the perfect summation of courage and nobility amid unspeakable horror. It is redemption, pure, simple, and non-fictional. A few years back I saw just those last two minutes or so. It had me in tears all over again.

Tooele, UT

I would like to suggest "She wore a yellow ribbon". This was the one which John Wayne should have won the academy award for best actor as SGT Tyree ("That's not my department") chased CPT Nathan Brittles down as he rode off into the sunset after retiring from the cavalry.

Lone Ranger
Tooele, UT

Another great ending was from "Gunga Din". This was when the regimental commander paid Din the ultimate verbal complement, rewarding him as an honorary corporal while Din lay in his casket as the bagpipes faded into the background while the tough old sereant, played by Victor Mclaglen, could be ovserved with unabashed tears in his eyes.

HiO Silver!

Tooele, UT

Good list, although I would add "Gone With the Wind" when Clark Gable says, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a..." well, you know the rest.

And of course, many of us still get choked up at the end of "It's A Wonderful Life" when Harry Bailey says, "A toast, to my big brother George, the richest man in town."

The ending of "Field of Dreams" where Kevin Costner is playing catch with the ghost of his dad is also a tear jerker.

As for the WORST movies ending, hands down it goes to "Dead Poets Society" with Robin Williams. The ending left me so furious, I will never sit down and watch that movie again.

Richard Saunders
Provo, UT

I know almost nothing about film, but these are my favorite endings (in no particular order):
Toy Story 3
The Prestige
Cast Away
LOTR: Return of the King (I don't care what he says, I still love it)

P. Jones
Bountiful, UT

Don't like about half the list. Mr. Terry puts too much emphasis on whether or not the ending was "predictable." Who cares! If the ending was done well, it works regardless of whether you see it coming or not. Besides ET, Rocky and Tootsie all had unavoidable endings that you knew were eventually coming. By emphasizing predictability as the benchmark, you open it up to anti-climatic endings. The Graduate is a great movie with a poignant endingbut it was kind of a blah ending. Empire was clearly the best Star Wars film, but like any second act, it really didnt have an ending. The original Star Wars ending was predictable, but it was exhilarating and truly climatic. There is something to be said for ending on high note in the narrative. That said, some definite good ones on the list.

casper, wy

The all time great last lines ever spoken in a movie
was in. " SOME LIKE IT HOT "
Joe E. Brown said to Jack L. when Jack said " But I am a man "
and Joe said " it does'nt matter "

Herriman, UT

Another vote for Gone With the Wind, when Rhett finally finds his self-respect and walks out, and The Sting!

Salt Lake City, UT

Bostonian, you're right! "it's a good book, but it's not the only book."

And someone already mentioned it's a wonderful life, and gone with the wind.

But what about the end of The Godfather, with the door closing on Dianne Keaton's (?) face?

Or the chilling end of Apocalypse Now, or how about the end of John Carpenter's The Thing, or The Exorsist, or the directors cut of Blade Runner?

The Coen brothers films, how bout Fargo?

There Will Be Blood has an amazing ending.

Unforgiven, a huge mythic ending.

Or the Duke's True Grit, "big words for a one eyed fat man." "Fill you hands you sons of . . .!" truly an iconic movie ending.

The Sting has been mentioned.

The original King Kong, twas beauty killed the beast.

A Streetcar Named Desire

Al Pacino's end in Scarface


One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest

Oh, good heavens, Kubrick: Doctor Strangelove, Slim Pickens riding The Bomb, Peter Sellers "Mein Furhor! I can WALK!" A Clockwork Orange, "I was cured"

Ah no, The Two Towers? The Empire Strikes Back? Tootsie? The Graduate? ET? Really?

Layton, UT

Are you kidding me? Did the author watch any movies in the last 25 years besides LOTR and the Sixth Sense? How old is this guy? Tootsie is basically a remake of Some Like it Hot, and there's not a single Scorsese, Hitchcock, or Kubrick movie on the list. Rocky, Casablanca and the Graduate belong, but that's about it. Given the readership of the DesNews, I get that the list not include 'R' rated films, but what about The Wizard of Oz, The Sting, Gone with the Wind, It's a Wonderful Life, or The Prestige?

Of course, a "real" list should include Memento, The Godfather (I or II), Pulp Fiction, Psycho, Se7en, Schindler's List, Chinatown, the French Connection, Fight Club, and of course, Silence of the Lamb's: "I'm having an old friend for dinner."

Providence, UT

No Way Out. One of the most unexpected endings in a movie. Stars Kevin Costner. Never saw it coming.

Rick for Truth
Provo, UT

I like the alternative ending to Casablanca, rarely seen, it was filmed so no one Know which ending would be used, in the alternative ending, she stays! It was a much better ending.

I like the ending in the US cemetery in France in Saving Private Ryan,

I also like the "Best Little W H in Texas" where he refuses to let her go and keeps her.

Finally, I like the "you have to see it after 2 minutes of credits" Young Sherlock Homes, when his adversary checks into a cottage and signs his name Professor Moriarty .

Howard Beal
Provo, UT

I'm glad someone said "No Way Out" as I didn't see that one coming but saw The Sixth Sense five minutes into the film.

How about Lawrence of Arabia--great start of the movie and ending...

How about Dr. Zhivago--the pain of it all

How about Jaws--Smile you...

How about Heathers--"Sorry about your boyfriend blowing up"

How about Invasion of the Body Snatchers

The ending in Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan very powerful

Definitely get some Kubrick, Hitchcock in there

How about Network--that ending was classic!!!

Godfather trilogy--the ending of III was way ironical...

Though it was corny, loved the ending of "The Natural" that was done in fine style

I would agree with The Sting and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Dan Maloy
Enid, OK

Best movie ending?

"The Natural", Robert Redford, 1984.

That last shot, that music, with visuals in slow motion, completing the story and yet starting it all over again?

Not even close. See the movie and then you'll know why.

American Fork, UT

Shawshank had the best ending of any movie I've ever seen. Hope.

Utes Fan
Salt Lake City, UT

I vote for "Shawshank Redemption" as the best ending ever - very touching.

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