The Final Shot in Film

It’s psychologically proven the last piece in a sequence is what you will remember. Applying that to film, even mediocre films are elevated with the superb final shot. A great film? Probably because it ended perfectly.

Is your hero going out in a blaze of glory? Is it “The horror, the horror” captured in a glance? A new beginning? Here are several of my favorite final shots; do you recognize them all?

All is not lost; Chief becomes a man.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978

And yours?

34 thoughts on “The Final Shot in Film

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      1. No, I haven’t been able to watch war movies for many years. Perhaps, I would choose the ending of Simmer of ’42 or the ending of Monte Walsh – the Lee Marvin / Jack Palance version.

  1. It’s interesting how many films I’ve seen that were great for the first 3/4 of the movie. But they could figure out how to end it or wraps things up. Fortunately some people get it right – or even brilliantly. They didn’t have a “failure to communicate”.

      1. Cindi, I’m baffled by this rather amazing photo? Can you expand on it? Is that Paul with a couple of ladies from … what?
        (Loved the ending to “Shawshank Redemption” too)

        1. Hi JC. Sure! You made a reference to Cool Hand Luke when you said “we have a failure to communicate” the classic line. Luke throughout the film is the martyr, the Christ figure–the scene with him eating 50 eggs and then lying prostrate, arms wide on the table after the contest, his diciples, etcetera. So at the end of the film, they take him away to kill him (the red stop-light, death) and then you have the cross roads which has been referenced before in films (Castaway) as the spot where a man meets the devil or decides to do good. Anyway, the crossroads and the folded picture of him with two women, the creases are shaped to match the crossroads in the road. It’s a clever trick. Actually, it should have ended there and forget the close up into Luke’s eye. But, that’s okay. The crossroads is the remaining image I see after watching the film. Very clever. 🙂

  2. All terrific last scenes, Cindy and they are so important for keeping that lasting memory of the film in your mind. The only one that comes to mind I would add, is Clint Eastwood’s mirage in “Pale Rider.”

  3. Interesting post. I have noticed that the last resonating shot really can have the power to make a movie stick with you for quite some time after the fact. Off the top of my head, some particularly impressive last shots that instantly come to mind are Revenge of the Sith, Another Earth, and Prisoners, but I know that so many more are just escaping me at the moment.

    1. Hi Chris, openings and endings. They are quite important. Seems like a no-brainer–that’s why I’m surprised many films have lack-luster ones. With Sith, it mirrored Luke’s stare off into the distance in Episode 6 and was a perfect end for Episode 3. I agree.

      Haven’t seen Another Earth. Prisoners–the whistle blow–I loved the ending. Perfect.

  4. What a great article, once again you’ve topped yourself Cindy! It’s true the final shot of a film gives a lasting impression. The two I thought of right away are the ones from Roman Holiday: http://lifeasahuman.com/files/2012/10/roman-holiday.jpg and Phantom of the Opera: http://www.dioenglish.com/wiki/uploads/201002/1265343276vuob777M.jpg Both are rather poignant as the *hero* didn’t get the girl. I LOVE the final shot for Casablanca too, and interestingly enough, the hero didn’t get the girl either 😉

    1. Thanks, Ruth, and you are so right about Roman Holiday and Phantom. Great picks! What is it about that–the hero is unselfish in the end and his pining is commendable. HHmmm. That sadness sticks with you, doesn’t it?

  5. Another great post by you. I like the closing scene with Norman Bates sitting in a room by himself in Psycho. He’s totally nuts… Perkins was great in that film. CREEPY.

    1. Ahh, Kate! So glad you mentioned Psycho. Actually, the final shot is the car being pulled from the swamp but most people remember the final close up of Norman’s face. 😉

  6. Hi, Cindy:

    Wow! Good stuff!

    Where to begin?

    I’ll go with the bongo drum, inner city park freeze frame ending of Lumet’s ‘Fail Safe’.

    Also the shotgun blast ending that no one sees coming in ‘The Parallax View’.

    The cloud of stolen swag bills caught in an airliner’s prop wash ending of Kubrick’s ‘The Killing’
    rates highly.

    Walter Huston’s dry cackling laugh at the end of ‘The Treasure of The Sierra Madre’ speaks volumes!

    The ending out of left field in the last minutes of the bunker assault in ‘Hell Is For Heroes’.

    The non ending ending and thumbnails of all the major players in ‘The French Connection’.

    1. Hiya Kevin: A fine collection of films featuring stellar last shots. The Killing, Sierra Madre, French Connection–all great classics (those are the ones I’ve seen from your list) due in part to the final shot. As always, your breadth of knowledge and input is much appreciated. 🙂

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