The 50 Best Final Shots in Movie History

Here’s lookin’ at you, beautiful final shots.

Best Final Shots Ever Header

Anyone in storytelling will tell you that a good ending is hard won. That beginning a film, building up a world and getting to know it’s characters, is one thing, but that figuring out how to leave them is another. When the lights come up, and eyes adjust, how do you want your audience to leave the theatre? Elated? Resolute? Horrified? In tears? Changed?

You’ll need a good ending and, if you’re a real pro, a good final shot. It’s the last thing the audience will see before the credits roll and, done well, the image that will follow them home. You know what they say about last impressions.

Some closing shots provide unexpected answers to big questions. Others let questions dangle endlessly; leaving it to the audience to decide for themselves how the film closed out. Some provide resolve. Others double down on tragedy. 

Below we’ve assembled the fifty best, ranked. Enjoy.

50. The Breakfast Club

The Breakfast Club Final Shot

The Shot

Of all the coming of age flicks in its weight class, The Breakfast Club is a consistent knockout. A pitch-perfect slice of the anxiously sweet silliness of being not quite an adult or a kid. Naturally, the film’s closing shot is the most teen thing ever: a triumphant fist pump at the prospect of having finally connected with someone. It’s overdramatic, a little awkward, which is to say: completely perfect.

The Stinger

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds

49. Gladiator

Gladiator Final Shot

The Shot

Oddly enough “I will see you again, but not yet” is the same thing I yell at my TV every time after I finish rewatching Gladiator. Look, back in 2000 you only had so many DVDs. With Maximus’ story at a close, a freed Juba (Djimon Hounsou) returns to the Roman Coliseum to bury effigies of Maximus’ wife and son on the spot where he died. Juba promises he’ll see his friend again someday, and the camera pans up. Before us stretches Rome, the early sun, and unworldly rosy clouds; a warmth and beauty denied us for much of the film.

The Stinger

“Now We Are Free” by Lisa Gerrard, Hanz Zimmer, and others

48. Julia’s Eyes

Julias Eyes Final Shot

The Shot

Julia’s new eyes are too damaged, and cannot be saved. In her last few sighted hours, Julia says her final goodbyes to the corpse of Iván, the nursing aide. Upon seeing his face, she realizes that her eyes, the ones she’s about to lose, were donated by Iván. Rushing to the mirror, she looks into her eyes, his eyes, for the last time.

The Stinger

“You Promised” by Fernando Velázquez

47. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid Final Shot

The Shot

Oh good. For a moment there, I thought we were in trouble. Wild West outlaws Butch Cassidy and his bromantic partner Harry “Sundance Kid” Longabaugh find themselves surrounded. In a pinch, musing about a trip to Australia they’ll never take, they charge out, and the shot freezes on our duo, guns blazing, surrounded by the lingering pops of gunfire. And, as the shot leeches into sepia, the plucky pair return to their place in history.

The Stinger

“Not Goin’ Home Anymore” (Reprise)” by Burt Bacharach

46. Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts Of The Southern Wild Final Shot

The Shot

The final shot of Benh Zeitlin’s film is a deeply moving, if problematically romantic, tableau of a community united. It is, like much of Beasts, a slice of visual poetry: in the haze of a storm, a weathered community walks together in procession down a highway, waves lapping at their feet. As the camera zooms away, and the haze dwarfs the crowd, they continue forward, together.

The Stinger

“Once There Was a Hushpuppy,” by Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin

45. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Bad Lieutenant Port Of Call New Orleans Final Scene

The Shot

Everyone seems to have sobered up except McDonagh. Even the prisoner he bumps into, the one he saved at the beginning of the film, has kicked the habit. He offers to help McDonagh find sobriety. It’s all Cage can do to lean in earnestly and ask if “fish have dreams.” Our final shot sees McDonagh and the prisoner bathed in the blue light of an aquarium. Whether the scene is real or a dream, uplifting or an overdose, is unclear. But Werner Herzog leaves us with this: the last laugh, at dreams, and at madness.

The Stinger

“Mother Died” by Washboard Chaz

44. Halloween (1978)

Halloween Final Shot

The Shot

Presumably defeated, the boogeyman lives to slash another day. The lawn which previously housed the crumpled corpse of Michael Myers is now terrifyingly empty. And in a flourish of calculated anticipation, John Carpenter rolls out a montage of suburbia scored by the predatory wheeze of Michael’s breaths. We finally arrive at a dark, abandoned house, and the camera lingers. The suggestion is clear: the rampage isn’t quite over yet.

The Stinger

“Halloween Main Theme” by John Carpenter

43. Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon A Time In America Final Shot

The Shot

After four (four!) hours we’ve finally made it: the last shot; a drug-fuelled freeze frame of Noodles laughing. The shot is often considered a bookend to one protracted hallucination. Others take it as a death throe. Either way, it’s an unnervingly enigmatic flourish; a Mona Lisa smile in an opium den.

The Stinger

“Deborah’s Theme” by Ennio Morricone

42. The 400 Blows

Blows Final Shot

The Shot

In 400 Blows’ final scene, Antoine (Jean-Pierre Leaud) escapes juvie and heads to the sea. Water past his ankles, he turns to face the camera, which locks onto his gaze. For Leaud (who Truffaut simply told to “run towards the sea and turn around”) the shot is writ with mystery, that one may interpret as they wish. Antoine’s mother said he wanted to see the beach, but he’s there, now what? One chapter ends and another begins; life goes on. If that’s not a fitting end to a coming-of-age flick, I don’t know what is.

The Stinger

“Trinite et Finale” by Jean Constantin

41. North by Northwest

North By Northwest Ending

The Shot

Back in the 50s, you couldn’t just show two people boinking on a train. You had to be creative. You had to use the sacred art of innuendo. You had to show a speeding train whipping through a tunnel. Hitchcock reportedly considered it one of his finest, naughtiest achievements. We’d have to agree. Adding the Hays Code-appeasing hand wave of “Mrs. Thornhill” was worth it. 

The Stinger

Bernard Herrmann’s “Finale”

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