Monday, January 25, 2010

Some of My Favorite Endings

Inspired by Greg Ferrara's wonderful post this morning over at Cinema Styles (, I've decided to put together a list of my favorite endings. Someone I was sitting with on a panel once said, "You really write a movie for the final five minutes.  And if those moments work, then everything else just kinda falls into place."  I never really articulated it in that way.  But I do have to admit, the final five minutes of a movie are more important to me than everything else.  

Here's my list, as I can best remember them (not in any specific order):

The Heiress (William Wyler, 1949)
The Soft Skin (Francois Truffaut, 1964) 
Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
Shampoo (Hal Ashby, 1975)
King of New York (Abel Ferrara, 1990)
La chienne (Jean Renoir, 1931)
Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)
Carlito's Way (Brian De Palma, 1993)
The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)
Rumble Fish (Francis Ford Coppola, 1983)
Through the Olive Trees (Abbas Kiarostami, 1994)
Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini, 1950)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1995)
Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970) 
Gertrud (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1964)
The French Connection (William Friedkin, 1971)
The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
Night Moves (Arthur Penn, 1975)


  1. Each one of these could make my list but the ending of Chinatown has always stood out for me as one of the most powerful and bleakest endings I've ever seen. And speaking of powerful and bleak around the same time Nashville comes to mind as an ending I just love. The way Altman stays with the crowd and the stage and Barbara Harris singing away for a good three or four minutes after the main "plot" of the movie has ended. It's beautiful.

    You achieved a lot of the same feeling I like with the ending of The Last Lullaby which is why I liked it so much. The idea of gearing everything towards the ending is how I've always developed my own ideas and stories, sometimes to the point where I can't think of how to begin the damn thing because I've devoted so much time to the end. (SPOILER - for those who haven't seen it yet) In The Last Lullaby I really like how they just sit in the car for a few moments, in silence, before Sizemore says, "we're good, you and me" and the screen fades to black before we hear the car start. (END SPOILER)

    Great list Jeffrey.

  2. Greg, I completely agree about CHINATOWN. If I shortened this list to fifteen, it would still be on there. Ten, still on there. Five, well you get the point. NASHVILLE I'll have to re-visit at some point. I've really never seen a good version of it, only an old beat up VHS copy.

    Thanks again for the really kind words on LULLABY, too. That's funny that you're as obsessed with endings as I am.

  3. i like this idea of an endings list, and of the films on your list i am familiar with, i couldn't agree more. though i do love films endings as well, i can't help but wonder about your favorite film openings. i find opening sequences set the tone for the rest of the film, and especially the ending.
    a few notable examples include The New World, Alien, and Millenium Mambo.
    i've been enjoying reading your blog lately, and would interest in your thoughts on this.


  4. Thanks so much for the comments! It's a good question because after the final five minutes, my next obsession is the way films open.

    Some of my favorite openings are (in no specific order):

    Dead Man (Jarmusch, 1995)
    Kiss Me Deadly (Aldrich, 1955)
    Shoot the Piano Player (Truffaut, 1960)
    George Washington (Gordon Green, 2000)
    The Wild Bunch (Peckinpah, 1969)
    Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)
    La bete humaine (Renoir, 1938)
    Days of Heaven (Malick, 1978)
    Blow Out (De Palma, 1981)
    Carlito's Way (De Palma, 1993)
    Taxi Driver (Scorsese, 1976)
    Trust (Hartley, 1990)
    The French Connection (Friedkin, 1971)
    Heat (Mann, 1995)
    Pierrot le fou (Godard, 1965)
    Funny Ha Ha (Bujalski, 2002)
    Fargo (Coen Brothers, 1996)
    The Magnificent Ambersons (Welles, 1942)
    Boy Meets Girl (Carax, 1984)
    Halloween (Carpenter, 1978)
    Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)

  5. I'm still waiting on the Horror genre to catch up with the amazing opening to Halloween.
    And the Apocalypse Now opening is just beyond words...
    One of the editors of the picture - Walter Murch - wrote a great book on editing called "In the Blink of an Eye."

  6. Sinne, thanks so much for the comments! Yes, I really love both of these. And thanks for reminding me about the Murch book. It's one I definitely need to read.

  7. Jeffrey:

    Great topic. I wrote about this on my blog back in September and had a lot of fun writing about it. Although, I did it off the top of my head, so my answers leaned more towards the modern.

    Here's the post:

  8. Hey, Kevin, great post on your site, too! I probably should have included BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, CARRIE, and CITY LIGHTS on my list. I'm a huge fan of the way all of those films end.

    I need to re-visit THE SWEET HEREAFTER and THE THIRD MAN. I like both a great deal; I just can't remember their endings that well.

    I also know that you're a huge fan of 8 1/2. Believe it or not, I'm not sure I've ever seen it in its entirety. I will absolutely rectify that though in the near future.

    Have you ever done a list of your favorite openings? I'd love to see it. I put one together in the comment section of this same post.