The 75 Best Final Shots in Movie History

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

Best Final Shots Ever Header

10. Daughters of the Dust (1991)

Final Shots Daughters Of The Dust

The Shot

The ocean stretches out into nothingness, taking on the sunlight, mixing sky and water together. Three silhouetted Gullah Geechee women cross the screen from left to right as the Unborn Child narrates, “We remained behind, growing older, wiser, stronger.” They could not leave the soil beneath their feet, nor the blood below that. Arthur Jafa’s lens soaks in the light, and we can feel the warmth and the breeze in the air. Daughters of the Dust drifts away, but the history it details lingers like a strand of genetic memory. We are the people who came before.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Julie Dash
  • Cinematography by Arthur Jafa
  • Costumes Designed by Arline Burks Gant

The Stinger

“Elegba’s Theme” by John Barnes


9. There Will Be Blood (2007)

There Will Be Blood Final Shot

The Shot

As Eli drains out onto the bowling alley, Daniel sits twisted and panting, surrounded by the detritus of his anger and the hollowness of his spoils. And yet, for all its grit, There Will Be Blood has its darkly comedic moments. The finale is no different: from the vantage of the butler, we take in the wreckage. And, out of breath, Daniel responds: “I’m finished!”

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Cinematography by Robert Elswit
  • Production Design by Jack Fisk

The Stinger

“Violin Concerto in D Major (Movement III)” by Johannes Brahms


8. Moonlight (2016)

Final Shots Moonlight

The Shot

After several moments of silence, Chiron’s life-long experience of romantic and social isolation takes the form of a yearning sentence: “you’re the only man that’s ever touched me.” It is a line that encapsulates the longing that has defined Chiron’s life. And the image on-screen resonates with the film’s somber, conclusive heartache: a young boy, glowing in the magical melancholy of the moon, looking back at his adult self finally finding the words to express his desire and his hurt.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Barry Jenkins
  • Cinematography by James Laxton
  • Edited by Joi McMillon and Nat Sanders

The Stinger

“Who Is You?” by Nicholas Britell


7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

A Space Odyssey Final Shot Child

The Shot

The end of 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most infamous “what the fuck did I just watch” moments of cinema. Good news (maybe), Kubrick himself has explained what the last scene means. After being taken in by formless, energy-based “god-like entities” our hero Dave spends the rest of his life in a human zoo. Finally, he is “transformed into some kind of super-being” (see: big baby) and sent back to earth. We can only imagine what comes next, but the cogs of myth crank on.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Stanley Kubrick
  • Cinematography by Geoffrey Unsworth
  • Art Direction by John Hoesli

The Stinger

“Also sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss


6. 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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner
  • Cinematography by Leon Shamroy
  • Art Direction by William J. Creber and Jack Martin Smith

The Stinger

The lull of lapping waves.


5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

Texas Chainsaw Massacre Final Shot

The Shot

After flailing down the highway to the freedom of a fortuitous pickup, Sally bursts into laughter at the miracle of her survival. Leatherface’s reaction is, naturally, to take out his frustration the only way he knows how: dance. Silhouetted against the sunrise, he twirls in madness, letting the weight of his weapon lead his unhinged pirouettes. What better way to end the massacre. No rhyme or reason: only a chainsaw. 

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Tobe Hooper
  • Cinematography by Daniel Pearl
  • Location Sound Recorded by Ted Nicolaou

The Stinger

A final, hungry chainsaw rip.


4. Beau Travail (1999)

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 Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Claire Denis
  • Cinematography by Agnès Godard
  • Production Design by Arnaud de Moleron

The Stinger

“The Rhythm of the Night,” by Corona


3. Seven Samurai (1954)

Seven Samurai Final Scene

The Shot

Seven Samurai’s happy ending comes at a price. Kambei, Katsushiro, and Shichioroji stand over the graves of their fallen friends, without a word of thanks from the village they have saved. They are loved when they are needed. But the danger has passed, and there is no reward, no ride into the sunset; the villagers move on in ways the samurai cannot. They will trudge down the road to the next village, the image of their friend’s burial ground fresh in their minds.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Akira Kurosawa
  • Cinematography by Asakazu Nakai
  • Production Design by Takashi Matsuyama

The Stinger

“Part 16,” by Fumio Hayasaka


2. The Shining (1980)

The Shining Final Shot

The Shot

After an ominously intentional dolly zoom, we land right where Kubrick wants us: face to face with a photograph. In it, Jack Torrence impossibly stands front and center of a gaggle of guests at the 1921 July 4th Ball, sixty odd years before the story we have just witnessed. What is Jack doing in 1921? Kubrick has said that it “suggests the reincarnation of Jack,” in other words, as Delbert Grady put it, Jack has “always been the caretaker.” In any case, the final result of Jack becoming part of the hotel forever is unnerving as hell.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by Stanley Kubrick
  • Cinematography by John Alcott
  • Production Design by Roy Walker

The Stinger

“Midnight, The Stars and You” by Al Bowlly and Ray Noble and His Orchestra


1. The Searchers (1956)

The Searchers Final Shot

The Shot

John Ford’s classic begins and ends with virtually the same scene. The opening starts in darkness; a door opens, a silhouetted woman steps into frame, and Monument Valley (and the rider in the distance ) is revealed. Finally, Ethan Edwards returns, cradling his niece, who enters into the dark house to join her family, leaving Ethan alone in the doorway. Forgotten by his friends and family, Ethan does as the score instructs, and turns to ride away once more, the door closing behind him. And so we leave Ethan as we met him: wandering.

The Talent Behind It

  • Directed by John Ford
  • Cinematography by Winton C. Hoch
  • Art Direction by James Basevi and Frank Hotaling

The Stinger 

“The Searchers (The Sons of the Pioneers)” by Max Steiner


This list was assembled, written, and edited by Meg Shields, Brad Gullickson, and Neil Miller.

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

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