The 75 Best Final Shots in Movie History

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

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60. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Sergio Leone
  • Cinematography by Tonino Delli Colli
  • Performance by Robert De Niro

The Stinger

“Deborah’s Theme” by Ennio Morricone


59. She’s Gotta Have It (1986)

Final Shots Shes Gotta Have It

The Shot

She’s Gotta Have It leaves us with each actor announcing their own credit as they snap the clapperboard. The final shot is Spike Lee calling “Action,” saying his name, and then pumping his arm into the air. The smile on his face says what goes unsaid. Spike has arrived, and cinema will never be the same. The moment is silly, joyous, and revelatory in hindsight.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Spike Lee
  • Cinematography by Ernest Dickerson
  • Production Design by Wynn Thomas

The Stinger

“Personal Intro” by M.C. Logic


58. In The Mouth of Madness (1994)

Final Shots In The Mouth Of Madness

The Shot

Ever since Sutter Cane’s latest novel dropped things have really gone to hell…quite literally. John Trent (Sam Neill), the man responsible for bringing Cane’s manuscript into the world, has escaped from a psychiatric facility. Well escaped isn’t quite right; sauntered out really. Stumbling through the wreckage of civilization Trent wanders into a movie theatre, where his own life plays out on screen. He throws his head back in anguish and exasperation, his pained guffaws slipping into a sob; he’s just an insignificant cog in someone else’s story. But hey, when your life’s a cosmic joke, what else is there to do but laugh?

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by John Carpenter
  • Cinematography by Gary B. Kibbe
  • Production Design by Jeff Ginn

The Stinger

“In The Mouth of Madness” by John Carpenter, Jim Lang, and Dave Davies


57. The Invitation (2015)

Final Shots The Invitation

The Shot

An intimate dinner party has spiraled into chaos. But then, what could be more intimate than a forced murder-suicide pact? In spite of their host’s best efforts, Will (Logan Marshall-Green) and his partner Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) are still alive. With her dying breath, the self-destructive Eden asks to be taken outside. The couple obliges. And then they hear sirens. Then they notice, to their horror, the sight stretched before them: dozens of homes, dotted with the same red lanterns as theirs: a sign that the scope of the death cult is much, much larger than they could have imagined. Terrified, but together, the pair hold hands.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Karyn Kusama
  • Cinematography by Bobby Shore
  • Production Design by Almitra Corey

The Stinger

“O My Child” by Craig Wedren and Benjamin Newgard


56. Brazil (1985)

Brazil Final Shot

The Shot

This week on “So You Thought You’d Escaped an Oppressive Totalitarian Regime”: Sam’s breakneck getaway was too good to be true. It turns out his happy ending is but a lobotomy-induced fantasy. Though, in his blissfully scrambled state, Sam seems to have finally found some kind of peace: smiling slightly, softly humming “Aquarela do Brasil.”

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Terry Gilliam
  • Cinematography by Roger Pratt
  • Production Design by Norman Garwood

The Stinger

“Brazil” by Pottery Pie


55. Cabaret (1972)

Cabaret Final Shot

The Shot

Bob Fosse’s Cabaret reigns supreme as far as musical adaptations are concerned. In the film’s final shot, the MC (Joel Grey) is, we assume, going to end on a bang with a modified version of the opening “Wilkommen” number. Nearing the end, he bows swiftly and disappears backstage without finishing the last line; thwarting expectation, and abandoning the drumroll as the camera pans by a mirrored wall, reflecting the Swastikas in the audience. Leave ‘em wanting more.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Bob Fosse
  • Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth
  • Production Design by Rolf Zehetbauer

The Stinger

“Finale” by Joel Grey


54. School Daze (1988)

Final Shots School Daze

The Shot

After Laurence Fishburne’s Dap tears through Mission College, waking the students and the faculty, a crowd gathers around him. His mortal enemy, Giancarlo Esposito’s Julian, wanders toward him, and the two stand nose-to-nose. A smile crosses Julian’s face, and the two turn to the camera. “Please,” says Dap. “Wake up.” Morning has arisen, but don’t be fooled by its glow. Ernest Dickerson’s sunlight painting aesthetic recedes, and as an alarm clock screams, the image retreats to a black-and-white frame. The bullshit has to stop. Action is required beyond Mission College. They gotta get woke and stay woke.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Spike Lee
  • Cinematography by Ernest Dickerson
  • Casting by Robi Reed

The Stinger

“We’ve Already Said Goodbye (Before We Said Hello)” by Pieces of a Dream


53. Julia’s Eyes (2010)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Guillem Morales
  • Cinematography by Oscar Faura
  • Performance by Belén Rueda

The Stinger

“You Promised” by Fernando Velázquez


52. The Quiet Earth (1985)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Geoffrey Murphy
  • Cinematography by James Bartle
  • Production Design by Josephine Ford

The Stinger

“Saturn Rising” by William Southgate


51. Eve’s Bayou (1997)

Final Shots Eves Bayou

The Shot

Two sisters clutch each other’s hands. They’ve dumped their father’s letter to their Aunt in the water. His truth will not be known. Their truth is what matters. As the camera pulls slowly back, Eve’s adult self puts a button on their story. Memory is a selection of images that weaves together to form an intricate tapestry. Within its thread is a story, and that story is their past. The two sisters transform into tiny dots on a landscape, but their future rests in the sunset, and they will meet it together.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Kasi Lemmons
  • Cinematography by Amy Vincent
  • Edited by Terilyn A. Shropshire

The Stinger

“A Child with the Blues” by Erykah Badu & Terence Blanchard


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