The 50 Best Final Shots in Movie History

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

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30. Cabaret

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 Stinger

“Finale” by Joel Grey


29. Werckmeister Harmonies

Werckmeister Harmonies Final Shot

The Shot

Werckmeister Harmonies is a film about post-war Soviet occupation a.k.a it is kind of a huge bummer. Composed of only forty shots, the last of these offers a moment for us to reflect on the haunting, tone poem we’ve just witnessed. A whale lies in the middle of a foggy town square, rotting on corrugated metal sheets, destroyed by the previous nights’ riots. Our protagonist approaches the carcass and stares into its milky, half-open eye. Visibly shaken, he walks away, turning back for one last glance a the mangled behemoth fading into the fog behind him. Whichever way you interpret the whale (a once-great nation? human cruelty?) the shot is powerful, beautiful, and profoundly bleak.

The Stinger

“Old” by Mihály Vig


28. Brazil

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 Stinger

“Brazil” by Pottery Pie


27. Russian Ark

Russian Ark Final Scene

The Shot

Russian Ark is, famously, a film composed of a single unbroken shot. How do you end something that ambitious? The Void. Always the Void. The grand ball is over, and guests from different time periods file slowly out of the Hermitage. As color begins to leech from the frame, we (via our steadfast steady-cam operator) quietly slip away from the procession and out a back door. Outside is a vision of the afterlife as a vast grey sea topped with white mist. We have wondered across time in one breath, and we are ready to leave.

The Stinger

 “Nocturne in F minor” by Mikhail Glinka


26. An Autumn Afternoon

An Autumn Afternoon Final Scene

The Shot

The above shot isn’t just the final shot of An Autumn Afternoon; its the final shot of Yasujirô Ozu’s career. The farewell was, of course, unintentional. But it is, in its way, the perfect goodbye: a dreamy, iconic Ozu pillow POV of a seasoned Ozu actor (Chishū Ryū). Ryū’s character, a widower, has finally married off his only daughter. The house is empty, and he is alone, in the quintessentially Ozu territory between the deeply sad and the bittersweet.

The Stinger

“Theme – Polka – Finale” by Kojun Saitô


25. Big Night

Big Night Final Scene

The Shot

What do you do after a big night? You have a big breakfast. In one continuous five-minute shot, our groggy culinary characters stumble around the kitchen in various degrees of stupor until eggs happen. The scene is quietly sweet, sensory, and relatable; scored simply by the taps of a spatula, the clinks of plates, and the crackle of butter. The brothers have awoken to an uncertain future. But they have each other. And omelets.

The Stinger

“Canta se la vuoi cantar” by Claudio Villa


24. Beau Travail

Beau Travail Final Scene

The Shot

I wish every super depressing film ended the way Beau Travail does, which is to say:  with a manic, solo flail set to an 80s club classic. We turn back from the threat of suicide to engage with what’s come before. In an interview with Sight and Sound, director Claire Denis remarks: “I put the dance at the end because I wanted to give the sense that Galoup could escape himself.” And so Galoup dances alone, in his singularity, between life and death and film credits.

The Stinger

“The Rhythm of the Night,” by Corona


23. The Third Man

The Third Man Final Shot

The Shot

Ending where it all began, in a cemetery, enamored by Anna, Holly Martins elects to stay behind. We wait for her, with him, in anticipation. It is a long, elegiac sigh. She walks towards him, then past him, then out of frame. Holly lights a cigarette then throws away the match. For a post-war film two feet deep in existential loss, it is an appropriately inconclusive final flourish.

The Stinger

“End” by Anton Karas


22. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Indiana Jones Last Crusade Final Shot

The Shot

Sometimes you want an ambiguous final shot that leaves you soaking in existential malaise — and other times you want to see your heroes ride off into the sunset. The Jones’, Marcus and Sallah in tow, escape the temple and crack wise, galloping off across the desert as the credits roll. Does it get any better? It’s the cinematic equivalent of chicken soup.

The Stinger

“Indiana Jones Theme” by John Williams


21. The Thing

The Thing Final Shot

The Shot

After nearly two hours of psychologically and/or physically tearing one another apart, few survivors remain at U.S. Outpost 31. Only two men emerge from the smoldering wreckage of the Antarctic research station — that is, if they are both men. The possibility remains: one of them could very well be the eponymous, shapeshifting Thing. Too tired to fight, Mac and Childs resign themselves to the cold, share swigs of whiskey, and watch the outpost burn.    

The Stinger 

Ennio Morricone’s “Main Theme”


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