These are by no means the “definitive” best movie endings. These are the opinions of just one man. So please allow me to have them. If you disagree, excellent! There is a place to discuss it below! Thanks, and I hope you enjoy.
Just a warning, there is some strong language below.
25. Falling Down (1993)
Much like the fall of Walter White, the good guy nicknamed ‘D-Fens’, goes from innocent bystander to anger infused madman. One last moment of pure aggravation sends D-Fens into a downward spiral of violence and mayhem. I can’t forget to mention the fast food scene; I think we’ve all fantasized about doing what he does. At the culmination of his journey, he realizes he is now the bad guy. And in a finale befitting a true villain, he has a duel with the one police officer who had been nipping at D-Fens’ heels the entire bloody journey.
24. Buried (2010)
90 minute run time and the entire film never leaves the confines of a buried coffin? That couldn’t possibly work out, right? Well, not only does it work but the ending showcases what appears to be a happy and cathartic ending. Then, almost immediately it’s ripped out from under the audience and what we are left with is tragedy. And it is slow, suffocating, and painful. Escape is impossible and the coffin is filling with sand. Time is against Paul Conroy, the man, kidnapped and left to die. I like the endings that turn out badly. Happy endings have been done, give me a little misfortune.
“I’m sorry, Paul. I’m so sorry.”
23. Michael Clayton (2007)
In a moment, the villain thinks she has won and covered all her bases. Michael Clayton appears to rise from the dead to expose her and her company’s corrupt business practice of poisoning crops which caused the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. To follow this, Karen Crowder sets out to kill Michael Clayton shortly after she has already executed his dear friend. She goes from victor to loser in a matter of minutes when she sees him very obviously not deceased. After an epic lecturing of how screwed she really is, he presents irrefutable evidence proving her involvement in murder as well as her company’s poisoning of the innocent. Then, in a final moment of desperation she tries to bribe this man that she just attempted to exterminate; he then signals the police standing by who just happened to be listening in on the entire conversation. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
“You are so fucked.”
22. Source Code (2011)
Everything this man has been told says that what he wants in his current condition is impossible. Having just learned that technically speaking, he’s already dead and simply living on in a machine, he asks to save the damsel in distress as well as the rest of the ostensibly doomed train passengers. He can’t, they continuously tell him. But as Colter Stevens has experienced the workings of this fascinating machine repeatedly, he believes they do not fully understand what it is they have built. What they believed to be a window, he thinks might actually be a doorway. One last attempt, and in a moment of defiance, his only real ally hits the terminate button thus ending his life in its current state. It is said that when this button is pressed, his life ends. He thinks there is more on the other side. He has 8 minutes to find out.
“Tell me everything is gonna be okay.”
21. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
An ending that creates debate long after the credits have rolled and does it unabashedly. When Patrick and Angie were tasked as P.I.’s to find a missing little girl named Amanda, they had no idea what it was going to take. It would test everything about them including their relationship. As the pieces fall together, Patrick discovers an ugly truth about her whereabouts and who took her, the chief of police himself and the girl’s own uncle. Done out of love but in a highly illegal manner, Patrick is faced with a life changing decision; his own, Angie’s, and especially little Amanda’s fate all rest in what he ultimately decides. The reason she was taken from her mother is the mother was nothing more than a drug mule and addict. Fearing for Amanda’s safety, her uncle steals her and tries to give her a better life, a safer life with the police chief who has dealt with his own child’s death some years ago. The question: Does Patrick expose them and return Amanda to her mother who is unfit at being a parent? He decides yes, despite the inherent dangers of the degenerate mom. Was it right? You decide that part.
“This city can be hard. When I was young, I asked my priest how you could get to heaven and still protect yourself from all the evil in the world. He told me what God said to His children. ‘You are sheep among wolves. Be wise as serpents, yet innocent as doves.'”
20. Trick ‘r Treat (2007)
I like to think this has multiple endings concluding with one overall message: Respect the traditions of Halloween. Don’t blowout jack-o-lanterns before midnight, always check your candy, don’t go out alone, and respect the dead for it is their night to frolic amongst us. Be the traditionalist on this night and you may just make it out alive. A little keeper of Halloween tradition, Sam will adhere to tradition at all costs, including murder of those not following the rules. Think of him as the mascot of Halloween. Dead children get revenge on their murderer, bullies get their just desserts, a virgin finds her first, and a murderous school Principal finds his next victim. It has a lot of endings and each one is a damn good time.
“Always check your candy.”
19. Shutter Island (2010)
Again, the debatable ending; did he come back to reality? Did the tragedy keep him from ever actually accepting his true fate? As Teddy Daniels traverses this island trying to uncover a conspiracy of patient torture and murder, he discovers that he himself is the very patient he was searching for, patient 67. Because of the tragedy he experienced when his own wife lost her mind and drowned their children, he executes her and begins his imaginary life as a U.S. Marshal. It was so traumatic that his mind refused to accept anything but a world where he is the good guy pursuing the bad guy. After his doctors’ attempts of letting him play out his scenario, they force Teddy to face what happened to his own family. After giving up his false state, he seems to find the road to recovery. But as the doctor approaches Teddy the following day after the successful experiment, Teddy has apparently resorted back to his delusions of being a Marshal. The tragedy is that because of his violent nature, if the experiment didn’t work, Teddy would be lobotomized to prevent further injury to those around him. In a very subtle but brilliant moment, Teddy turns to give his doctor one last look before he gets lobotomized and in Teddy’s face there is a hint of clarity; maybe he knows who he really is. Maybe, for the last time, he is punishing the bad guy, patient 67.
“Who is 67?”
18. Mystic River (2003)
A conclusion of mistaken certainty makes this one of the more tragic endings on this list. A murdered child, a broken family, and a father determined to handle his daughter’s murderer himself. He, however, is not a detective and therefore not overly concerned with all the facts that should have led him in a completely different direction. When he confronts the man he “knows” to be the killer, a former childhood friend of his, the father kills him and disposes of his body. It’s shortly after that he discovers that it was in fact two teenage boys who committed the crime. This man murdered his innocent friend and must face this for the rest of his life. No matter what way this turned out, it was never going to end well.
“We bury our sins here, Dave. We wash them clean.”
17. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
It’s a Quentin Tarantino directed WWII film about what never actually happened, but wouldn’t it have been wonderful if it had? Hitler and his entire hierarchy are killed in one fell swoop. Much like fish in a barrel there is nothing they can do as they are mowed down with machine guns by two of the Basterds who gleefully pull the triggers. If that wasn’t enough, the owner of the cinema they were attending decides on revenge against those that killed her entire family by setting the cinema on fire and trapping them inside to burn alive. Bullets from above and fire from behind, these Nazis are not going out peacefully. And finally, the one man who could have stopped the attack and didn’t, believes he has successfully escaped death and imprisonment by striking a deal with the American military. What Hans Landa has failed to realize is that Aldo Raine and his Basterds don’t always follow the rules. In a scene of pure brilliance they make Landa pay in his own blood.
“You probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business; we in the killin’ Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin’.”
16. Prisoners (2013)
Once again, give me heartache in the end over the campy, unrealistic typical Hollywood ending. In Prisoners, one father’s anger-driven quest leads him to a place he never anticipated. As he confronts the kidnapper of his daughter he is forced, at gunpoint, into a pit of darkness in the freezing cold and left for dead. It isn’t long after that Detective Loki discovers the kidnapper’s identity and finds him attempting to kill the victims once and for all. In a very brief but very exciting moment, Loki is forced to shoot and kill the kidnapper and then must rush the little girl to the hospital or the poison now running through her veins will kill her. He is injured; half blind racing through rain and sleet and heavy traffic in in hopes that he can save this innocent little girl’s life. What should have been a joyful conclusion turns into more agony as the father can’t be located and is feared on the run for the crimes he committed in an attempt to find his daughter. In the last moments, Loki is scouring the home of the kidnapper as his colleagues close up the crime scene for the night. As it goes silent he hears a faint whisper of what sounds like a whistle. Waving it off as nothing he turns to leave but hears it again and this time much more clearly. As he turns to investigate further, the screen cuts to black. One would assume the detective found the injured father but it’s never shown.
“Where’s my daughter!?!”
Click HERE to read Part II!
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