The 75 Best Final Shots in Movie History

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

Best Final Shots Ever Header

50. North by Northwest (1959)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
  • Cinematography by Robert Burks
  • Production Design by Robert Boyle

The Stinger

Bernard Herrmann’s “Finale”


49. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Werner Herzog
  • Cinematography by Thomas Mauch
  • Edited by Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus

The Stinger

“Aguirre III,” by Popul Vuh


48. The Third Man (1949)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Carol Reed
  • Cinematography by Robert Krasker
  • Edited by Oswald Hafenrichter

The Stinger

“End” by Anton Karas


47. If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)

Final Shots If Beale Street Could Talk

The Shot

James Laxton plants his camera in the corner of the prison visiting area. Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James) are the focus, consuming the foreground, but they’re one of several stories on display. Sunlight seeps in through the windows and mixes with the fluorescents beaming from the ceiling above. It’s equal parts warm and blinding. Fonny has accepted a plea for a crime he did not commit. He awaits a freedom that will come eventually. The only miracle in this room is the love that remains between the two partners and the child scrawling away with crayons at their table. It must be enough for them, but it can’t be enough for us.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Barry Jenkins
  • Cinematography by James Laxton
  • Costumes Designed by Caroline Eselin

The Stinger

“My Country ‘Tis of Thee” by Billy Preston


46. Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Call Me By Your Name Final Shot

The Shot

After receiving a surprise phone call from a now-engaged Oliver, Elio sits by the fire and lets his sadness sit. And we sit with him, longer than we’re used to sitting with broken-hearted characters. There is no sense of rush, nothing waiting impatiently in the wings: just a sad, fragile, private moment.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Luca Guadagnino
  • Cinematography by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom
  • Production Design by Samuel Deshors

The Stinger

“Visions of Gideon” by Sufjan Stevens 


45. Dogs Don’t Wear Pants (2019)

Final Shots Dogs Dont Wear Pants

The Shot

J.-P. Valkeapää’s shockingly sweet examination of the unlikely ways we learn to live with our pain ends in a release. Juha’s (Pekka Strang) self-destructive journey of self-discovery has led him to a BDSM club. After a couple of drinks, Juha makes his way to the dance floor and lets loose. Free, ectatic, and messy; Juha’s tentative sways give way to ecstatic arm pumps. His unbridled joy is a far cry from the cold, unfeeling man we met at the beginning of the film. He spies Mona, the dominatrix, across the dance floor. He sees her smile and returns his own, toothless grin.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by J.-P. Valkeapää
  • Cinematography by Pietari Peltola
  • Edited by Mervi Junkkonen

The Stinger

“Take A Chance – Original Mix” by Mr. Flagio


44. Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Final Shots Riki Oh

The Shot

With the extremely evil (and surprisingly buff) prison warden shredded to a pulp in an industrial blender, nothing is holding Ricky (Fan Siu-Wong) back. Our hero strides into the yard and tosses the warden’s bloodied, mutant head into the crowd of rioting prisoners. Ricky turns to the massive, comically tall wall, and punches straight through it. “You’re all free now,” Ricky declares, and he and his fellow inmates liberate themselves. It’s an appropriately operatic punctuation mark to a film continually one-upping its own excess; joyful freedom, coated in the warm glow of comic-book hyperbole.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Ngai Choi Lam
  • Cinematography by Hoi-Man Mak
  • Production Design by Karen Sandhu

The Stinger

Untitled Score by Fei-Lit Chan


43. THX 1138

Final Shots Thx

The Shot

The final shot of George Lucas’ feature film debut is an exclamation of joy and terror. His lover dead and nothing left to lose, our eponymous hero (Robert Duvall) chooses freedom, electing to wake up from the state-mandated sedation of his dystopian society. When THX’s robotic pursuer’s budget runs out, they offer him one last chance to turn back. But, hardly daunted, THX continues, bursting out onto the surface; his sterile subterranean world obliterated by the god-like fireball of the setting sun.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by George Lucas
  • Cinematography by Albert Kihn and David Myers
  • Art Direction by Michael D. Haller

The Stinger

“St. Matthew’s Passion” by Johann Sebastian Bach


42. Selma (2014)

Final Shots Selma

The Shot

Selma’s final shot is taken from a low angle, below Martin Luther King Jr.’s podium. We’re staring up at him as he stares heavenward. The frame is divided by a half dozen microphones. We’re listening. The whole world is listening. “Glory Hallelujah,” he bellows. “His truth is marching on!” The activist fills our vision, and we bask in his triumph at the Alabama State Capitol while also recognizing the long road ahead. The march doesn’t stop. King is no longer with us, but we are very much alive. The shot commands us to ride the wave of his declaration. We honor him by carrying his fight forward and sparking non-violent resistance in the hearts of those we encounter.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Ava DuVernay
  • Cinematography by Bradford Young
  • Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter

The Stinger

“Glory” by Common & John Legend


41. 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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky
  • Cinematography by Vadim Yusov
  • Production Design by Mikhail Romadin

The Stinger

“Part XVII” by Edward Artemiev


Next Page

Articles from the One Perfect Shot archives, written by committee or guests.

Freestar Publisher Operations by Freestar. Report an ad