What’s the Greatest Final Shot of a Feature film?

At Arts and Faith, Buckeye Jones asked a distracting question today:

What’s your all-time favorite closing shot of a movie?

Here are a few of mine…

I’ll add to this list as they come to mind, but here is the initial rush of closing shots that played like a YouTube montage in my head…

  • Raiders of the Lost Ark: The warehouse. Probably my favorite ending ever.
  • Before Sunset: The peak of both Julie Delpy’s career, and Nina Simone’s career. Probably my favorite ending ever.
  • Barton Fink: Plop. (Greatest big screen moment by a bird ever.) Probably my favorite ending ever.
  • Three Colors: Blue, White, *and* Red: Crying through windows.
  • Birdy: “What?”
  • Raising Arizona: Maybe it was Utah. Best closing monologue ever… except for this next one…
  • No Country for Old Men: “And then I woke up.”
  • A History of Violence: Eye contact at the dinner table.
  • The Mission: The shot at the end of the end credits
  • Fargo: The Gundersons in pregnant anticipation.
  • Beau Travail: The dance
  • The Last Days of Disco: The subway dance
  • Lost in Translation: The murmured secret
  • Twin Peaks (the series finale): “How’s Annie?” (Okay, I know, that’s cheating. But still.)
  • The Graduate: Of course.
  • Se7en: Brad Pitt in torment.
  • Blade Runner: Director’s cut or Final cut.
  • Brazil: Gilliam’s own final shot.
  • Once: It’s a good movie, but the closing shot makes it great.

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  • A few personal favorites…

    “Last Life In The Universe” – Is it all merely a dream?
    “A Boy And His Dog” – Incredibly twisted, but just perfect.
    “The Iron Giant” – “Superman…” (Tears me up every time I think about it.)
    “The Sacrifice” – Both the shots of the burning house and the young boy’s question.
    “Children Of Nature” – A perfect fairy tale ending for a fairy tale about senior citizens.

  • jacqo

    Whoa!!!Great list Jeffrey, and a big thanks to for all 31 preceding each mention simply steller and so transporting to revisit again in the minds eye truly a nice ride !

    though not deemed great by most each linger still as well.

    Cinema Paradisio- for the love of film
    The Elephant Man- for the eyes of the heart
    Shadowlands- for the end voiceover
    and Shawshank Redemption-for the same
    Harvey- for the substance of things unseen
    A River Runs through IT- for the words
    FisherKing-for friendship

  • oregonmuse

    This is late but:

    City Lights by Charlie Chaplin. By far and away the best closing, ever.

    The entire movie is pretty much a set-up for the final scene. It brings tears to my eyes every time I see it, no matter how often I’ve seen it.

  • jeremylandes

    “Gordo Cooper was the greatest pilot that anyone had ever seen!”–Levon Helm’s folksy narration is a delight as the space shuttle lifts off at the end of The Right Stuff and Bill Conti’s score kicks in.

    Always hoped to figure out who that last solitary man was at the tail end of Schindler’s List, standing before the headstone. I won’t say this is the greatest ending, though.

    Thought the ending of Into the Wild was transporting.

  • lacedaemon

    I may be a little late with my comment, but here are some fabulous endings which I don’t think anyone’s mentioned:

    Cries and Whispers – a searing, aching masterpiece from Ingmar Bergman. The final scene offers redemption and beauty, and is one of the most moving I have ever encountered.

    The Seventh Seal – Bergman’s most famous and influential film. The ‘Dance of Death’ at the end is iconic. (And the circumstances in which it was filmed are amazing…)

    The Third Man – it has the best entrance scene in the movies (Harry Lime), and the ending is one of the best exit scenes. Haunting and brooding and unforgettable.

    Wings of Desire – I find the closing monologue incredibly powerful. I actually came to this film through reading the script, and I remember thinking: ‘If only Hollywood could write romance like this!’ The whole film is wonderful, but this scene is something really special.

  • kramerswall

    Perhaps a controversial choice, but I’m going with The Last Temptation of Christ: “It is accomplished! It is accomplished!” Then the camera literally reaches the end of the film reel as Peter Gabriels majestic, mysterious score soars to its greatest heights.

    I also have to pick Braveheart (no matter how cliche it has become), because it’s my favorite movie and I love the phrase “warrior poets.”

    The Royal Tenenbaums is terrific: “Died tragically rescuing his family from the remains of a destroyed sinking battleship.” It has the distinction of being both a lie and the truth at the same time.

    One more for the road is Unbreakable: “They called me Mr. Glass.” For some reason this scene makes me tear up a little. Don’t ask me why…I won’t be able to answer.

  • pwaldron

    What, no love for the old school?
    “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”?
    “Throw that junk in” and Rosebud burns?
    “Dr. Strangelove’s” montage of mushroom clouds to the tune of “We’ll Meet Again”?
    And even if you leave the old school behind, you still have Peter Weir’s haunting freeze-frame from “Gallipoli” or Salieri leaving the horrified priest to become the patron saint of mediocrities in “Amadeus.”
    I give up; there are too many.

  • christopherlake

    The closing shot and fade-out of La Dolce Vita. Absolutely unforgettable! Goodbye to innocence and beauty. Long live innocence and beauty!

  • hsinya

    I don’t have the greatest memory when it comes to movie endings either, but one that jumps into my mind is a Korean movie called “Maundy Thursday” (a.k.a. Our Happy Time). I don’t want to give the plot away, but this is a story about a man and a woman, and how they come to know each other at the lowest points of their lives. At the end of the movie, the camera zooms in on a polaroid picture the woman took for the man, with her reflection on the glass window showing. This is also one of my favorite movies, and it made me cry so hard!

    By the way, I also liked the ending shot (or rather, line) of Iron Man ;)

  • I’m with Brett, the end of “The New World” is amazing. The whole montage at the end is stunningly beautiful. And he also mentioned “The Searchers.” The final shot is one of my favorites. John Wayne walk away, out into the desert, as the door shuts and we fade to black.

    And what about the ending to the Dardenne’s film “L’enfant?” The scene in the prison where the couple is crying. Heartbreaking.

    And finally, the ending to “Bicycle Thieves.” The whole sequence where he attempts to steal the bike is amazing but especially the final shots where the son and the father knowingly look at eachother, as hand in hand they walk away home.

  • epaddon

    Planet Of The Apes-Pullback to reveal the Statue of Liberty. Never topped.

  • The “bonus” take at the end of Ghost World;

    The final scene of Empire Strikes Back: unequalled in my life for “That CAN’T be the end!!!”; no movie has ever left me wanting more as much as this;

    That last shot of Barton Fink does get the big laugh;

    The final dialogue between DeNiro and Grodin in Midnight Run;

    My favorite ending of “all time” (because I’ll be around that long) is the final line of eXistenZ, in which the only reply is, “No, dummy, you’re in a Cronenberg film!”

  • emillikan

    Billy Elliott! It’s the last thirty seconds of the movie that make me gasp, every time.

  • gomezeec

    There are some great sweeping final shots in the western genre-
    “Shane” has been mentioned already, but also “The Searchers” (John Wayne’s famous world-weary retreat away from civilization and back into the wild).
    Another older film that features a great (and shocking for it’s time) final shot was 1932’s “I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang,” in which fugitive Paul Muni’s character responds to the question “how do you live?” by saying “I steal.” and then backing away into a dark fog… Quite the statement against Depression-era America.
    Of course I would have to put a couple of Malick’s final shots on the list too: the little sprout growing on the beach at the end of “The Thin Red Line” and the imposing tree and dropping leaf just before “The New World” goes to black… pure catharsis.

  • sjdeal

    My favorites:

    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has a good ending shot. (“It’s not Hogwarts without you Hagrid”)

    I always liked the ending of The Two Towers with the brief shot of Mordor.

    Then of course there is Anne of Avonlea. For that matter, Anne of Green Gables.

    And last, but not least… Casablanca

  • cptcasualt

    Cinema Paradiso.

    And the bonus moment at the end of the credits is great too.

  • Drew

    Les Quatre Cents Coups aka The 400 Blows
    Hands down one of the most influential and copied final shots in cinema. Plus just a great movie.

    or Ghostbusters
    Slimer coming straight at you, suggesting the eventual, albeit terrible sequel.

    My high and low brow picks.

  • I’ve gotta second i4detail’s nomination of Big Night. The wordless scene in the kitchen is theatrical perfection. After the fireworks of the brothers’ argument the night before, you figure that the family is done, gone, split. Then, in contrast to the gustatory orgy, the simple act of shirring some eggs speaks more than the previous 100 minutes, BUT, and here’s the perfection, we wouldn’t feel the same way about those closing moments without the previous 100 minutes. It’s a stunning summation and moving forward.

    Drat, now I’m going to have to go watch that again, and I’ve got papers to grade. Thanks alot, Jeffrey…

  • aravis7276

    The final scene in the British version of The Descent. Sarah is staring at the torch’s fire, just grinning as the creatures scream in the background.

    The ending of Stanley Kubrick’s The Killing. Sterling Hayden’s expression, the way he says his line…just classic film noir.

  • facesunveiled

    Two from Tarkovsky:

    Stalker: The glasses rattle across the table, stop, and then the train comes.

    Solaris: The prodigal scientist asks the man/planet for forgiveness.

  • Buddy

    -The last scene of Batman Begins.
    -The “shared moment” in Chasing Amy.
    -Holding hands while the city explodes in Fight Club (so much better than the way the book ends).
    -All three films that end with Jennifer Connelley on a pier.
    -Dead Poets Society (still gets me).
    -The original Return of the Jedi with the Celebrate the Love, Yub! Yub! music and no Hayden Christensen.

    More recently, the final scene of The Orphanage. I won’t give it away, since it’s one many may not have had a chance to see yet. It’s on Netflix instant viewing now, so soon no one will have an excuse.

  • petertchattaway

    I think my earlier attempt to post a comment here got lost somewhere. Arrrgh.

    So, in a nutshell, I second the choices of Monsters, Inc. and Raiders of the Lost Ark, and I nominate the final shots of Atonement and Spider-Man 2MI and A because they were profoundly emotional, even cathartic, for me, and RotLA and SM2 because they are quite counter-intuitive for superhero movies, ending as they do on an ominous or ambivalent note and not on the hero’s triumph or whatever.

    For what it’s worth, I also wrote a lengthy blog post on the final shot(s) of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo for the ‘Close-up Blog-a-thon’ that took place last year:


    And since TPRoC is on my all-time top-five list, I might as well also mention The Empire Strikes Back (do you remember how rare it was to see living human beings in the window of a spaceship in a miniature-models shot?) and Koyaanisqatsi (for the metaphorically significant falling rocket). I love the ending of The Family Way, too, but I’m not sure how much of that is the visual component and how much is John Mills’s line delivery.

  • mrmando


  • sarazarr

    I can rarely think in terms of “all time” and “favorite,” partly because my memory is bad and partly because I don’t do favorites, but a couple of recent ones I remember as being exceptionally powerful:

    Final shot of Gone Baby Gone with Casey Affleck and the little girl on the couch watching TV

    Final shot of The Door in the Floor, with Jeff Bridges making the final descent into the appalling life he’s created for himself by failing to deal with his pain. (Not crazy about the movie or the book as a whole, but the last shot killed me.)

  • petertchattaway

    I’ll second Monsters Inc., which got me verklempt in my I’m-31-and-single-and-I-don’t-know-if-I’ll-ever-have-a-child-of-my-own days — and I’ll toss in Atonement, the ending of which had me bawling both times I saw it.

    I love the final shot in Spider-Man 2 because it’s so counter-intuitive and ominous; after all the superheroics, our parting image is not one of spinning webs and leaping over city streets, but one of a woman who has just made a drastic choice that will impact her life, and her relationships with several people, profoundly — and neither she nor we have any idea what that impact will actually be.

    Come to think of it, the final shot in Raiders of the Lost Ark works on a similarly counter-intuitive level; our final focus is not on the heroics or triumph of Indiana Jones, as it is in the final shots of the first two sequels, but rather, it is on the Ark of the Covenant itself, and its retreat into the mystery from which it was briefly summoned.

    FWIW, I wrote an entire blog post on the final shot(s) of Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo for the “Close-Up Blog-a-thon” that took place last year:


    Turning to other films on my all-time top ten list, I would also throw in The Family Way (for John Mills’s delivery of the final line, and for other reasons), The Empire Strikes Back (do you remember how rare it was to see living human beings in the window of a spaceship in a model-effects shot?) and Koyaanisqatsi (love the way the camera lingers on that falling rocket, and on the metaphorical significance the movie makes of that).

  • Excellent list, Jeffrey! One that always pops into my mind is the final shot of Magnolia when Melora Walters smiles into the camera. It’s devastating.

  • lifeofmcblog

    I agree re: Hitchcock- the final shot of The Birds is an awesome setup shot, and from a mise en scene standpoint is incredible – so much going on…

    And as a Joss Whedon devotee, I should also put a plug in for the final shots of both Buffy and Angel. Especially the end of Angel – “Let’s go to work” and Angel rushing through the camera, his coat providing the final fade.

  • jimhart3000

    I’ve always loved the final shot of Notorious, with a very resigned looking Claude Raines turning to face his certain fate. There’s a few good Hitchcock contenders for this though…

  • i4detail

    Oh, and the Dude Abides.

  • mickfoil

    I’ll nominate these:

    1) Two Lane Blacktop Monte Hellman’s underrated road classic.

    2)The DuellistsHarvey Keitel in moral torment as his world falls down around him spiritually.

    3) City Lights Chaplin showed huge courage in allowing his Little Tramp to be shown so completely vulnerable. Got to put that one in there.

  • i4detail

    Oh. And Return of the King. Is my favouritest ending to a book ever, and when Sam said the line, I got shivers.

    I still hates them for not scouring the shire, though. I hates them forever. Screw making two Hobbit movies. Go back, chop the last half an hour off RotK, and make a fourth LotR movie, focused entirely on scouring the shire.

  • i4detail

    The Big Night. Not the greatest movie, but by the time you hit the end , you are so engrossed in these characters that you don’t mind the fact that nobody is saying nothing. Or rather, there is so much being said, without a word being spoken.

  • The first thing that popped in my mind was the closing shot of Monsters, Inc. I found it to be one of the classiest endings of any film (animation is a legit film style!).

    Sully smiles at hearing Boo’s voice after opening her closet door and then fade to black.

    In an age where everything in film seems to pound points in the viewers’ brain with jackhammers, this ending really stood out. We don’t need to see what happens next. The story is over. All their lives become mundane again.