Endings are not always the end of the movie. Sometimes they can mean a new beginning to a franchise or leave the audience with lingering thoughts that haunt long after the final credits. I have compiled a list of some of the movies with the greatest endings. Warning: spoilers ahead.
10. The Howling- News Anchor Karen White, played by Dee Wallace, is investigating a coven of werewolves in the guise of a resort colony. After being bitten she decides to warn the world of the existence of werewolves. She goes on the air and transforms into a wolfman creature and is killed by a shotgun on camera. It is a bold and dark ending to film with great special effects.
9. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari- A German silent film from 1920, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is influential on many future films. It may have even been one of the first films to feature a “twist” ending. After a man is telling his story of a somnambulist under the control of the sinister Dr. Caligari the audience discovers that the man is actually an inmate at an insane asylum and all the characters in his story are either other inmates or doctors. It is a spooky way to end an expressionist piece of cinematic history.
8. Primal Fear- Altar boy Aaron Stampler, played by Edward Norton, is accused of murdering a priest. During the trial it is revealed that he suffers from multiple personality disorder and he is able to use the insanity plea. As it turns out Aaron was making up the entire disorder; he basically gets away with murder. Aaron leaves his lawyer feeling disillusioned and shocked. It is a twisted ending to a dark movie.
7. Rosemary’s Baby- After discovering that the tenants inside her New York apartment are Satan worshipers that have been manipulating her to give birth to the antichrist, Rosemary finally comes face to face with her baby. At first she is horrified but then she settles down and decides to be a mother to this creature. This is a great ending to a fantastic psychological thriller.
6. Night of the Living Dead- After surviving an onslaught of ghouls inside of a farmhouse overnight, Ben is completely worn-out. As a militia marches toward the house shooting zombies he emerges to look out the window. As he looks, some of the militia mistake him for one of the undead and shoot Ben dead. It is a shocking and sad ending that hits like an exclamation point at the end of a sentence.
5. Oldboy- After being locked up for 15 years in a solitary room, Oh Dae-su is hunting down the persons responsible for his imprisonment. He discovers that the girl that has become Oh Dae-su’s greatest ally and lover during this ordeal is actually his daughter and it was a vast revenge plot to get them together. Not only is this movie a brilliant piece of writing but it is one of the best action movies put to film.
4. Brazil- Brazil ends with the protagonist, Sam Lowry, captured by the oppressive government about to be tortured. As he is strapped to the chair he is suddenly rescued and saved by a resistance and ends up with the woman he loves. Turns out that he is still strapped to the chair in the torture room and he is imagining everything. He just slips into his own insanity to escape the torture. It is a brilliant ending to a brilliant movie and it has been copied several times for other movies.
3. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)- So many people have been turned into pod people by the end of the film. As a new day dawns, the protagonist gets up and watches people go about their day-to-day tasks. He spots Nancy, a friend of his, who calls his name revealing that she is not a pod person. He turns and points to her and screeches revealing that he too is a pod person and Nancy is totally alone. This ending is depressing but really makes the movie unique from the predecessor.
2. The Sixth Sense- Child psychologists Dr. Malcolm Crowe, has been helping Cole Sear. Cole is revealed to have the ability to see ghosts. After embracing this gift Malcolm goes home to his wife. When she does not respond to him he realizes that the bullet wound he suffered at the beginning of the film killed him and he is a ghost. This movie is still chilling even knowing the ending and holds up to this day.
1. Planet of the Apes- Astronaut Taylor has landed on a planet where the dominant species are apes. Human are used as pets and cattle. Taylor is able to convince apes of his intelligence and is allowed to go to the forbidden zone. There he discovers the remains of the Statue of Liberty. It turns out Taylor was on Earth all along. This is possibly one of the most mind-blowing moments in cinema. It makes sense since the writer was Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame.
The Thing (1982)- An alien shapeshifting monster has forced the Antarctic crew to blow up the research facility. With only two crew members left and the burning building dying down in the arctic cold the two men embrace their deaths with a drink in the freezing weather. It is a nihilistic finale, which makes the epic effects laden movie all the more great.
Raiders of the Lost Ark- A source of great power has been taken from the Nazis and is being held by the Americans. When we see what became of the lost ark we see it being boxed up and put in a warehouse with thousands of other similar boxes. This ending is humorous and a smart way to wrap up the film.
Easy Rider- Two men on choppers drive across America. They see some of the good and the bad of being part of the counter culture of 1960s. As they come across some men in a truck they are gunned down in a failed prank. It is a shocking and unexpected way to end the movie.
Sunset Boulevard- A man found dead in a pool tells his story. As we go flash back we get to see the event that lead to his death. This has been repeated in other movies since Sunset Boulevard. It is not often that you see a movie where you know what will become of the protagonist, you are just watching the events unfold to see how it all came to be.
Angel Heart- A gumshoe is hired by a man named Louis Cypher to find a man. As it turns out Louis Cypher is the uncreative nickname of the devil that has come to collect a few souls. The movie is truly a dark and seductive piece of film noir.
So many movies have endings that are fantastic. These are only a few that have haunted me over time. If you have a chance you should rent them sometime soon and enjoy. Bask in the fantastic beginnings, middles, and ends and treat yourself to a movie today.