To honor the end of this school year, a few of us in the film beat have decided to pay homage to a select few of the greatest endings in movie history.
For me, no other movie ending better captures the beauty of cinema and the power of nostalgia than that of “Cinema Paradiso.” The scene is simple. Salvatore, our protagonist, much older than he was at the beginning of the film, watches a compilation of old movie scenes made for him by Alfredo, his childhood mentor. No words are necessary — we can tell everything we need to know through his eyes, which quickly fill with tears. The scenes remind him of his childhood years working at a movie theater, all the things he once felt and all the things he’s lost. Despite the tears, Salvatore has a smile on his face. Although the past is gone, his memories of it will never leave him. “Cinema Paradiso,” especially its ending, is a profound love letter to cinema and its ability to help us remember our own stories.
— Elise Godfryd, Daily Arts Writer
“Good Will Hunting” is one of my first cinematic loves and it continues to rank in my top 10 for a number of reasons, including killer music, a knockout cast and some of the most quotable lines ever. But perhaps the greatest charm of Van Sant’s masterpiece is its, truly flawless ending.
In the final scene, Sean (Robin Williams, “Mrs. Doubtfire”) opens the mysterious note in his mailbox from Will (Matt Damon, “The Martian”), and grinningly reads the unforgettable phrase, “I had to go see about a girl,” the same last line from the story he told Will months before about how he met his wife. Cutting to the open road and Will’s battered-up car, we are filled with the same sense of satisfaction as Sean, proud at Will for driving off into the sunset after Skylar (Minnie Driver, “Grosse Pointe Blank”).
Simple, yet profound, the final moments of the car coasting down the interstate, accompanied by the iconic Elliott Smith ballad “Miss Misery,” fall perfectly in line with the tone of quiet profundity reflected throughout the film, and distinguish this ending as one of the most gratifying and full-circle of all time.
— Samantha Nelson, Daily Arts Writer
“Annihilation” is not a perfect movie. The loose adaptation from the first part of Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy was a quilt of fascinating ideas executed poorly. And yet, many of its flaws are forgettable because of the film’s truly horrifying final 20 minutes.
In what has to be one of the strangest dance-offs ever conceived, a colorful pulsating alien transforms into a doppelganger of Natalie Portman’s Lena. What follows is a jarring, skin-crawling series of physical maneuvers. The most revolting aspect is that the alien is not attacking her; It is simply mirroring her movements. When she reaches out her hand, it punches her back. When she runs for the door, the alien pins her against the door so it too, can escape.
The finale of “Annihilation” is a testament to the realization of heady themes into a simple yet effective conclusion. It demonstrated some of the most ambitious filmmaking of 2018 and, for the most part, redeemed the movie.
— Anish Tamhaney, Daily Arts Writer
I’m cheating a little bit, but Hirokazu Kore-eda (“Nobody Knows”) made me: My ending scene is not technically the final one from “Shoplifters,” but rather the perfectly unsatisfying rift that Osamu (Lily Franky, “The Devil’s Path”) and Shota’s (Jyo Kairi, “Erased”) informal father-son relationship comes to under Kore-eda’s artful direction. In it, Shota boards a bus and leaves the surrogate father who failed him, Osamu desperately chases, calling Shota’s name, and all Shota can do is watch. But as he watches, he whispers, calling Osamu “Dad” for the first time.
What a way to elaborate on one of the best lines of “Shoplifters,” spoken several scenes earlier. “If they really loved you,” Osamu’s partner Nobuyo (Sakura Andô, “100 Yen Love”) tells Yuri (Miyu Sasaki, “Samurai Gourmet”), whose birth parents neglected her, “this is what they’d do,” and surrogate mother rocks daughter back-and-forth in her arms.
If you know the harsh reality of love in families, this is the scene you end with: full of hesitation, of waiting too long to say important things, of not knowing how to say goodbye. But in those futile pursuits, Kore-eda seems to see the purest kind of love in the act of trying anyway. I see it, too.
— Julianna Morano, Daily Arts Writer
Go ahead. Make your jokes. I’ll wait. “Which ending are you picking? Hurhurhur.”
Now tell me: which of the endings to “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” are you going to cut? What catharsis are you going to you going to deny the audience, you monster? Is it Aragorn’s coronation and the Hobbits finally getting recognized as heroes? Is it their return to the Shire, where they realize that despite everything they did, life in their home has gone on and will continue to go on as usual? How about Frodo leaving Middle-Earth because he can’t cope with everything he went through? Oh, I see, you’re going to take away Sam’s happy ending, because even though he’s the one person to resist the call of the One Ring, he doesn’t deserve to settle down and have a family who loves him as much as we do. No, these endings are all perfect, and this movie is perfect.
— Jeremiah VanderHelm, Daily Arts Writer