The 50 Best Final Shots in Movie History

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

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20. Thelma and Louise

Thelma And Louise Ending

The Shot

Our two freedom-seeking heroines have come to the end of the road. The law has them cornered, with Thelma and Louise between a Grand Canyon and a hard place. Desperate and refusing to go quietly, the pair decide to double down on their convention-eschewing joy ride. They hold hands, kiss, and shoot off the cliff into a freeze frame where they, eternally, can never be caught.

The Stinger

“The Decision/End Credits” by Hans Zimmer


19. Inception

Inception Final Shot

The Shot

Fearing his long-awaited reunion with his kids is too good to be true, Cobb spins his totem on the kitchen table. But, overwhelmed at seeing his children he rushes off, leaving the top spinning. Whether the top falls or continues to spin is left ambiguous. And that’s the point: whether Cobb is dreaming or not, reality is subjective. And Cobb has found a reality that he decides to trust, and that feels real to him, whether it is or not.

The Stinger

“Time” by Hans Zimmer


18. Oldboy (2003)

Oldboy Final Scene

The Shot

After all the unmentionable things he’s been through (including the film’s ultimate, stomach-churning revelation), one understands why our hero elected to have his memory erased by a hypnotist. But did it stick? As Min-sik Choi’s elated smile shifts into a grimace, it’s difficult to tell whether or not he remembers the awful truth. To boot, it’s unclear which alternative is worse.

The Stinger

“The Last Waltz” by Cho Young-Wuk


17. The Godfather

The Godfather Final Shot

The Shot

The conclusion of The Godfather sees a new don (a new day, and a new life, etc.) in the American crime world: Michael has ascended to the throne. In the final shot, Vito’s youngest and noblest son is addressed as Don Corleone, and Kay watches, and a door closes between her and her husband; the happy couple we knew from Connie’s wedding but a distant memory.

The Stinger

“The Godfather Finale” by Nino Rota


16. UP

Pixar Up Final Shot

The Shot

Never underestimate the power of bookending. UP ends with a vision of a childhood dream realized: Carl’s house, on the cliff beside Paradise Falls, just like Ellie wanted. The moment is sweetened by the realization that, having found Russell, Carl has moved on. The chapter of his life that dedicated to her has closed, and another has opened. The house on the cliff stands, then, as closure; a monument to mourning, and of an adventure well-spent.

The Stinger

“It’s Just a House” by Michael Giacchino


15. Casablanca

Casablanca

The Shot

Redeeming his soul, Rick makes a sacrifice and watches his beloved Ilsa walk off into the fog with her revolutionary husband, Victor. Riding the personal growth kick, Rick and Renault affirm their burgeoning beautiful friendship and trudge off together, in search of a better future. And probably some coffee.

The Stinger

 La Marseilles, duh


14. Amadeus

Amadeus Final Scene

The Shot

I’ve said it once, and I’ll repeat it: bookend shots are rad as hell! Famously framed through the madness of Mozart’s bitter rival Salieri, the film closes out on a tracking shot of our anti-hero being wheeled down the riotous hallway of a mental facility. Where the composer’s opening suicide came as a shock, by the film’s end, his current state radiates with context. We’ve seen what broke and twisted him, and we can’t help but sympathize with the patron saint of mediocrities.

The Stinger

“Piano Concerto No.20 in D Minor” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


13. The Piano

The Piano Final Scene

The Shot

Jane Campion ends her haunting period piece with the image of a piano, sunk on the bottom of the sea, with our heroine suspended above it, quite literally tied to the object that has brought her the greatest joy and the greatest pain. Ada’s suicide attempt short-lived, and one we’re told she looks back on fondly, “a weird lullaby” that brings her peace.

The Stinger

The drone of the ocean floor.


12. Stalker

Stalker Final Shot

The Shot

Stalker doesn’t have time for tidy, back-patting conclusions. And so, true to form, the final shot doubles down on its unnerving thematic meld of sci-fi/philosophic-psycho drama. Our spiritually wounded protagonist has abandoned his beliefs, and so we turn to his potentially mutated daughter. She stares absently at a glass. What follows next is either the result of the passing train or a bonafide miracle: the glass moves. And there it is: this mundane thing, imbued with magic.

The Stinger

The rumbling of a train.


11. Planet of the Apes (1968)

Planet Of The Apes Final Shot

The Shot

A peaceful horse ride on the beach is spoiled when our two human heroes discover the alien world they’ve been trapped on was earth all along. The closing shot sees a curled up Charlton Heston (pooped out from chewing the scenery) doubled over in front of the Statue of Liberty, half-sunk in the sand, corroding in the tide. It’s a great gotcha moment and one that further complicates the line between civilization and savagery.

The Stinger

The lull of lapping waves.


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