The 50 Best Final Shots in Movie History

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

Best Final Shots Header

40. Solaris (1972)

Solaris Final Shot

The Shot

Solaris, the planet covered by an intelligent life form that deceptively takes the form of a sea, has begun to sprout islands. Kelvin, whose brainwaves have been being beamed into Solaris, isn’t sure if he should stay or return to earth. In the final shot, Kelvin seems to have chosen the latter and returned to his father’s house. Then the camera pulls back, revealing that the house is, in fact, on an island on Solaris. Eschewing reality, Kelvin has chosen his memories.

The Stinger

“Part XVII” by Edward Artemiev


39. The Quiet Earth

The Quiet Earth Final Scene

The Shot

In the final shot of  Geoff Murphy’s criminally under-seen Kiwi sci-fi epic, Zac wakes up on a beach to find bizarre cloud formations rising from the sea, and a massive ringed planet emerging on the horizon. The image is fantastical and strange; like a pulp novel made animate. Our hero has found himself on the shores of an otherworldly purgatory, but damn if it ain’t beautiful.

The Stinger

“Saturn Rising” by William Southgate


38. Raging Bull

Raging Bull Final Scene

The Shot

Jake stumbles through the famous, repentant monologue from On the Waterfront, and it is deeply uncomfortable. But De Niro’s performance is such that we almost empathize with the brutish boxer. Almost. His true nature isn’t far off; it rears its head in the hasty shadow boxing and manic affirmations of greatness. Even now, the rage is still there under the paranoia and bloat.

The Stinger

Pitiable silence.


37. Dancer in the Dark

Dancer In The Dark Final Scene

The Shot

By the time it finally happens, the conclusion of Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark almost comes as a relief. A horrible, massively upsetting exhalation after over two hours of torment and musical misery. Singing, blind, Selma hangs. Her body swings in the background and the curtains close. It’s an immediate, uncomfortable, and ugly end that we don’t want to behold. Which is to say: utterly von Trier.

The Stinger

“The Next to Last Song,” by Bjork


36. Heat

Heat Final Shot

The Shot

They’re two sides of the same coin, and one of them had to go. The final showdown between Hanna and McCauley is something the audience always knew was coming; the town just wasn’t big enough for both the two of them. In the end, Hanna guns down the only man he truly understands and respects. He didn’t want it to end like this; he wanted justice, but McCauley would sooner die than go back to prison. And so we end on two equals, holding hands, center-framed against the glittering pitch of the L.A. skyline.

The Stinger

“God Moving Over the Face of the Waters,” by Moby


35. Rushmore

Rushmore Final Scene

The Shot

Let’s see if the D.J. can play something with a little more…narrative resolution. Having come to a place of mutual understanding, our heroic high school ingenue and Rosemary share a dance and time gets funny. Stylish as ever, Wes Anderson grinds things to a halt, extending the moment as the curtain closes. It’s the perfect punctuation mark on this coming-of-age chapter of Max’s life, a bittersweet coda to the quirks and charms of growing up.

The Stinger

“Ooh La La” by Faces


34. Ikiru

Ikiru Final Scene

The Shot

Kanji Watanabe started living after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. And now that he’s passed, those affected by his extraordinary passion and goodness can’t help but lead their lives with newfound purpose. The film closes out on Watanabe, singing in the dark on the snowy playground that proved to be his dying wish. In a rare moment of tranquility from Kurosawa, the old man swings alone, utterly content and at peace.

The Stinger

“Gondola No Uta” as sung by Takashi Shimura


33. A Serious Man

A Serious Man Final Shot

The Shot

Of all their work, A Serious Man is the Coens’ most flagrant engagement with “The Book of Job.” An Old Testament banger, “Job” offers a meditation on the conflict between the human need for meaning and the indifference of the Universe. With Job’s Coen surrogate Larry in mind, the final shot of A Serious Man acts as the perfect punchline: a massive, uncaring storm. It wafts of futility and wonder, resentment and awe. Of a thunderous, baffling “shit happens.”

The Stinger

Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody to Love”


32. Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Aguirre The Wrath Of God Final Scene

The Shot

At its core, Aguirre is a film about madness. And they don’t come much crazier than a lone survivor on a dinky, monkey-infested raft in the Amazon monologuing about how he’s about to take over the world. Even surrounded by dead men, Aguirre’s greed blinds him to the folly of his expedition. And in the film’s final moments, the camera rotates around the raft with the emphasis of a red pen circling a crunchy phrase. The jungle is about to eat this last, rusty conquistador alive. And he has no idea.

The Stinger

“Aguirre III,” by Popul Vuh


31. Fight Club

Fight Club Final Shot

The Shot

Nothing like watching an act of domestic terrorism with your manic pixie dream girl while trying to keep your brains from leaking out the of the hole in your cheek. Free from his way-cool alternative personality Tyler Durden, the Narrator pauses after the third act mayhem to watch capitalist America crumble. Though with a bonus gift from Tyler before the credits roll, perhaps things are less peaceful than the symmetry and soft blue hues would let on.

The Stinger

“Where is My Mind?” by the Pixies


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