The 101 Best Movie Endings of All Time

OK, folks, I consider myself a bit of a film buff. But I also acknowledge the one essential fact of being a buff (of anything) — there’s always someone more buff than you. I like talking about films, and not just the recent ones. I’ll talk your ear off about Frank Capra, Fellini, or Chaplin. I think it’s a mistake to confine your film vocabulary to the last several years. Narrative motion pictures have been around for about 100 years and what they tell us about their times is important. Some are mostly timeless, that is if you can get past the uncomfortable prejudices and mores of an earlier day.

And I’d consider myself a pretty democratic film buff. Not “Democratic” as in the political party. I mean democratic. I’m just as likely to look at a Bugs Bunny cartoon as a masterpiece as I am a film from Ingmar Bergman. To me, the real test of a film is whether or not it does what it meant to do. Avengers: Endgame was meant to make a crap ton of money. It did, and that makes it a good film. As good, in many ways, as something like The Seven Samurai.

The buffs that are buffier than I

If you can, read this article in Vulture called “The 101 Greatest Endings in Movies History.” The site lets you have one or two free reads a month and then locks you out. So, reading it through over multiple days may take multiple browsers, VPNs, or heck you could just pay for the darn thing.

The authors, listed as Alison Willmore, Angelica Jade Bastién, Bilge Ebiri, Nate Jones, Rachel Handler, Hunter Harris, Jackson McHenry, Jen Chaney, Katherine Brooks, Melvin Backman, Rebecca Alter, and Helen Shaw, have compiled what they think are the 100 best movie endings of all.

What I like about what they wrote is that like me they are democratic. They’re not afraid to talk about My Best Friend’s Wedding with the same revered tone they use to talk about the 1937 film The Grand Illusion. Like me, they realize that a film doesn’t have to be “relevant” or old to be good.

Strangely left out

There are a number of notable omissions here. You won’t find the mind-melting last act of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the last moments of either The Godfather or The Godfather Part II, both of which would compete for top film ending for me, the twist endings of Planet of the Apes or even The Sixth Sense. You won’t even find the hyperactive last moments of Scarface. I would have put all these in a list of best film endings and this lot doesn’t even think one of them belongs there. Strangely they do think that Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is a perfect film and that is their right. I’ll just sit back and disagree.

What do you think?

What I really like about film is the personal relationship it has with its viewers. I won’t exclude episodic television or short films either. The question is, did it reach you? Did it frame your own experience differently because you saw it? Did it become something you’ll use later to compare other experiences to? In that context, What’s Opera, Doc? is just as much a masterpiece as The 400 Blows. Film is, what it means to you. And these 100 film endings meant something to these authors. I could argue their choices for days, at least for the films I’ve seen. But in the end I respect them.

As I said, there’s always someone buffier than you. And I’ll hand it to these folks, they pulled out films I’d never heard of. And that’s saying an awful lot.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.