If you have to go out, why not go out with a bang? Every movie comes to an end eventually, and if you can end your film with something memorable that sticks with viewers, you have a chance to make a movie that really gets people talking. Well, you can’t save a bad movie with a great ending, but you can ruin a good movie with a bad ending. We aren’t talking about those ones, though. We’re talking about the movies with the most memorable endings. Oh, and if it wasn’t obvious already, spoiler alert!
“The Blair Witch Project” (1999)
Everything about “The Blair Witch Project” was memorable and remarkable. It basically created the modern trend of the low-budget, found-footage horror movie. The ending, though, with all its eeriness, confusion and abruptness, really stuck the landing. It made it feel like you were watching the last moments of a documentary crew.
“The Crying Game” (1992)
“The Crying Game” has one of the most famous endings ever. It’s so famous basically everybody knows it even though a lot of people haven’t seen the movie. Do you know the plot of “The Crying Game?” Do you know any actor in it other than Jaye Davidson? Even if you haven’t seen it, you are surely aware of the reveal that happens at the end, one of the most notable instances of full-frontal nudity in film.
We can sum up why the ending of this Jack Nicholson film noir classic is so iconic in one sentence: “Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.” With that line, “Chinatown” was given movie immortality. It’s even more powerful when you see it in the context of the profoundly bleak ending of the film.
Speaking of iconic last lines, the ending of “Casablanca” is definitely cheerier than “Chinatown,” even if it takes place during World War II. Rick has told his former love Ilsa to get on the plane out of town with her husband Victor Laszlo, who has been saved from the Nazis with the help of police captain Louis Renault. As Rick and Renault walk into the distance, Rick utters the now-famous words, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
“Citizen Kane” (1941)
For years, “Citizen Kane” has had the reputation as one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest, film ever made. It’s Orson Welles’ masterpiece. It’s a classic film right to its conclusion. For the entire movie, a newsman has been trying to dig up the story behind Charles Foster Kane’s purported final word, “Rosebud.” We find out the answer to that at the end, when we see some of Kane’s many possessions being thrown into a fire. That includes his childhood sled, which has the word “Rosebud” emblazoned on it.
Some movies have definitive, hard-hitting endings. And some leave you wondering. “Inception” is definitely in the latter camp. As the movie ends, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is spinning a top, his “totem” that he uses to figure out if he is in the dream world or the real world. If it wobbles, he’s back in reality. However, the movies ends before we get to find out, leaving us hanging in suspense for the rest of time.
“The Usual Suspects” (1995)
While real-life revelations have not been kind to “The Usual Suspects,” at the time it was a cult hit, and a lot of that is owed to the ending. For the entire movie, we’ve watched the seemingly mild-mannered, somewhat helpless criminal Verbal Kint tell a tale of everything that happened in a crime gone wrong. It turns out, though, that he’s been playing everybody. Kint is actually the feared criminal kingpin Keyser Soze, and Chazz Palminteri has ruined a perfectly good coffee cup.