Feature Blogs

A Finale To Remember

Created on Tuesday, 03 June 2003 21:00
Written by Matthew Toomey


Over the past few weeks I’ve been thinking just how important the very final scene in a movie is and I thought I’d elaborate on that as today’s Film Pie spool. Many a movie has had a great opening or great plot development throughout but the truth is, very few people will remember it. What leaves the lasting impression is that final scene. If you can wow the audience with that, then even a mediocre flick can be saved. Vise versa, an awesome film can be made look vulnerable.


Think about your own favourite films and then think about the very final scene in each one of them. Can you remember them? I would think that you do. That one scene is the essence of the film and sums up everything that precedes it. It’s the final thing you see before leaving the theatre or switching off the video player.


There are different ways of ending a movie on the right note. One method I’m a fan of is where words appear on the screen to tell us what happens to these characters in the future. Last year’s Bloody Sunday was the best example of that. This can work for any genre and can be both funny and poignant.


Another way to end is by having the camera pan back and finishing with a sweeping shot of the surroundings. This pops up most in dramatic films and if you get the right background music, it can be just the ticket. An example here would be The Shawshank Redemption.


If you’re going to stun an audience with a thriller, don’t drag it out. One quick final scene can leave an audience walking out in awe at the twist that’s just been laid in front of them. How can you overlook The Usual Suspects as the perfect example here – “and like that, he’s gone.”


I’ve been through my own best and worst list to find a few more favourite finales. Billy Elliot ends by seeing the older Billy leap out onto the stage in triumph before flashing back to see the young Billy jumping on his bed (where it all began). Titanic ends with a camera sweeping along the decks of the sunken ship before entering the grand ballroom to see Jack and Rose reunite. Being John Malkovich ends with John Cusack trapped in the body of a small girl as she swims gracefully in a swimming pool. The Ice Storm ends with a scene in a car as the weight of the night’s events finally gets to Kevin Kline. The People Vs. Larry Flynt ends with a series of “where are they now” captions which beautifully sums up the point the film is trying to make. Traffic ends with Benecio Del Toro sitting at a Mexican baseball field watching little league players having great fun….


I could go on but I think you get the message. So next time you see a movie that you really do like, have a think about that very last scene. You may find it’s something that you’ll never forget.