Friday, December 30, 2005

 

How Does it End?

Endings. These days (unfortunately) many films go through a series of focus groups and corporate approvals before an ending is decided. Usually, though not always, a dour ending is scrapped in favor of a more upbeat "Hollywood" ending. Still, in the cinematic world, some endings have become legendary. Often times, they are what the film is most remembered for. So, as this year also draws to an end, I thought I would indulge myself with one more list before we say goodbye to 2005. Following is my list of the Top Ten Best Movie Endings Ever! (Warning, if you haven't seen these films yet, then most of list is filled with spoilers.)

10) King Kong (1933) - When you think about it, this entire film is chock full of novel oddities, but the one for which it is best remembered, was the decision to have Kong climb the Empire State Building at the end, swatting airplanes as he holds Fay Wray in his hand. In retrospect, everything about that unique decision works, including the phallic nature of the building and the fact that it was the tallest in the world at the time. The mighty Kong would of course climb the mightiest building in NY. Right? Symbolically and viscerally it's an unforgettable ending.
9) Halloween (1978) - After a night of terror, Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) has just been saved by Dr. Sam Loomis (Donald Pleasence) as the good doctor pumps six bullets into the murderous "Shape," Michael Myers, sending him backwards off a second floor balcony. "He really was the bogeyman," cries Laurie." As a matter of fact," confirms Loomis, "He was." Then the doctor (and we) peer over the side of the balcony and the Shape is gone.

8) Gone With the Wind (1939) - All is fair in love and war. And frankly, we do give a damn. Although, most forget that the actual last line of the film is the defiant comeback "Tomorrow is a another day!" The culmination of this grand, sweeping epic, in the end, symbolically comes down to two people.
7) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - Some loved this film. Some hated it. But anyone who saw it, never forgets the "Star Child" at the end.

6) When Harry Met Sally... (1989) - In the course of this film, Harry and Sally actually discuss best last lines of films, while watching Casablanca together. But this movie creates one hell of an ending itself -- On New Year's Eve, Harry, realizing he loves Sally, runs through the streets of Manhattan searching for her. He finally reaches her at an elegant New Year's Eve Party, at the stroke of midnight, as she's about to leave, and proceeds to tell her all the reasons he loves her. "See?" she responds with tears in her eyes. "That's just like you Harry. You say these things and you make it impossible for me to hate you Harry. And I hate you. I really hate you." They kiss.
5) Casablanca (1942) - "I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship." Harry thought this film had the best last line ever. I am in near agreement. And the ending is heartbreaking. But in my opinion, the next four films top it.
4) Seven (1995) - When I first saw this film, I sat riveted to my seat for the last 15 minutes of this film. My heart was pounding as I was wondering what was going to happen out there, in the desert. How would this brilliantly twisted film end? Then the box is delivered and Brad Pitt's character, as Morgan Freeman's character begs him not to, opens it...Few films have ever drawn the line between hero and villain quite as clearly (Taxi Driver and Blue Velvet spring to mind). And a very thin line it is.

3) Psycho (1960) - Alfred Hitchcock shot this film cheap and in black and white, not realizing it would be considered by most to be his masterpiece. That terrible secret in the basement. Norman Bates' complete transformation into his own mother. The shot of him alone, covered by a blanket, in a padded room. "She" knows they're watching and she wouldn't hurt a fly. Blink and you miss the mummified skull superimposed over Norman's face. It doesn't get any creepier or more shocking than the ending of Psycho. One of the most brilliant endings to a film, ever.

2) Citizen Kane (1941) - The film starts with the single dying word of Charles Foster Kane, "Rosebud." But it's only at the end of this magnificent film -- written, produced, directed and starring Orson Welles -- that we discover Rosebud, the thing which comes to mind at the end of this powerful and ruthless man's life, is his sled, a symbol of a more innocent time. One he grasps to now as his life ebbs away.
1) City Lights (1931) - The oldest film on this list is still the best. Charles Chaplin created his masterpiece with City Lights, and one of the greatest films ever produced. It embodies everything for which his character, the Little Tramp, was created. And its ending is the best ever put on celluloid. The tramp. The blind girl he loves. A flower. The touch of a face. The revelation, and the Tramp's reaction. Then, the fade out. I don't want to say anymore. If you've seen it, you know what I mean. If you haven't, you deserve to experience it without my spoiling or analyzing it any further.

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