Hollywood Elsewhere is having a tough day today. I’m sorry but they happen. One way out of this psychological morass or snake pit is to grab your one-iron and “tee off” on someone else’s hard work. Whack! Leap onto someone else’s horse and gallop into the sunset.
Hence HE’s take on “The 101 Greatest Endings in Movie History,” written by three senior Vulture staffers — Bilge Ebiri, Allison Wilmore, Angelica Jade Bastien. Along “with” Nate Jones, Rachel Handler, Hunter Harris, Jackson McHenry, Jen Chaney, Katherine Brooks, Melvin Backman, Rebecca Alter and Helen Shaw. My list is going to be shorter. 25, give or take.
Consider the following Vulture slogan: “Good finales offer catharsis — the best deny us closure altogether.” I have no idea what that means, but I’ll go further than that. Nobody has the slightest idea what that means, including Bilge Ebiri.
The idea seems to be that endings which struggle to fuse the various loose ends and tie them all together with a big red bow are the worst because they’re phony, and endings that leave you cold and stranded with nothing to do and nowhere to hide are the best because they’re frank and real.
In HE’s view, the best endings are those in which the main characters are finally stuck with themselves and they know it…stuck with the yield of their hustling and bustling…left to ponder who they are deep down and to contemplate the terms “just desserts” and “fair shake”…alone with themselves (even if they’re a couple), facing an uncertain future, throwing their hands up, half-laughing and half-crying about their big scheme that didn’t work out, or because it did but led them to an unexpected place. Desire, deception and discovery.
Great endings, in short, are about acceptance of and submission to fate or dumb luck or, if you will, God’s grand plan. We got what we deserved, and we’ve only ourselves to blame.
“Life…life’s a goddam laugh riot!” — Leonard Frey‘s “Harold” in The Boys in the Band.
The finale of Michael Ritchie‘s The Candidate sticks the landing.
The last shot of The Godfather, Part II — Michael Corleone engulfed by solitude and shadows — is a perfect finish.
A nominally “satisfying” ending in which good triumphs over evil but at the same time doesn’t really resonate and could even be called mediocre? The last two minutes of On The Waterfront.
The ending of Thelma and Louise is fatalistic romantic crap.
Another ending that doesn’t quite get it? The last shot of Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey in which Keir Dullea‘s infant star child is gazing down upon earth. Also Sprach Zarathrusta tells you it’s an ending, but try to imagine it “working” without music.
On the other hand the ending of Kubrick’s The Killing is damn near perfect; ditto the ending of A Clockwork Orange — “I was cured, all right!” and therefore a healthy psychopath again!
Anyone will tell you how much they love the ending of Barry Lyndon, but it’s not how the movie ends in a dramatic or visual or musical sense as much as the aptness of the epiloque (“…they are all equal now”).
The best ending of an otherwise mediocre film? The long shadow at the conclusion of Nicholas Ray‘s King of Kings.
Many have praised the last-minute “uh-oh” ending of Mike Nichols‘ The Graduate because the happy ending when Ben and Elaine escape the church ceremony gives way to feelings of uncertainty, loneliness and anxiety. And melancholy is better than ecstasy. They don’t know what to do next. It’s an interesting ending but we all know what happened, of course. Audiences pretty much ignored the “uh-oh” ending and told all their friends about the good parts, and that’s why The Graduate became a huge hit.
The ending of Planet of the Apes isn’t all that great when you think about it. It hasn’t been set up. The film takes place in areas that look like Nevada and SoCal’s Imperial Valley and Malibu Canyon, and yet we’re supposed to believe that this hilly, desert-like terrain is located somewhere on the East Coast near New York City, hence the fallen Statue of Liberty lying on a beach next to Zuma State Beach cliffs. An “oh, wow” ending that doesn’t make the least bit of geographical sense.
Movies that end with senior characters being burned to death are horrible — wicked sadism for the same of wicked sadism. Midsommar, of course. Both versions of The Wicker Man (’73 and ’06). Ken Russell‘s The Devils. Marlon Brando burned to a crisp at the ending of The Fugitive Kind.
One of the greatest endings ever? And the best ending of a nourish police thriller ever devised? Hand that trophy to the director and writer of Se7en — David Fincher and Andrew Kevin Walker.
Another great Fincher ending — Mark Zuckerberg + “Baby, You’re A Rich Man”.
One of the worst, most full-of-shit endings ever was delivered by True Romance.
One of the best was created for Eric Von Stroheim‘s Greed.
Billy Wilder delivered five great endings with Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, Ace in the Hole, Stalag 17 and One, Two, Three.