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20 FANTASTIC FINALES FROM FILMDOM (1 of 4)

IsleofCinema and BoxingUweBoll team up to bring you The TOP 20 CLOSING SCENES in film, as selected by our writers:

Openings are easy – anyone can drop a group of strangers on an island and introduce mysteries willy-nilly: It’s wrapping things up that’s hard, especially in a way that’s fresh, unexpected and that provides closure. As the man said, “Always be Closing!” – and filmmakers should follow that advice, ‘cos if the opening sequence of a film is designed to suck you into the narrative, then the closing sequence gets you out into the world, where you can suck in others (you should be ashamed of yourself). Good endings can elevate an okay movie, bad endings can sink a good one, and that rarest of birds – the “TRULY GREAT ENDING” – can send you home with a tingling sensation at the base of your skull, basking in cinematic afterglow, excited about the possibilities of this medium we call Flix. In a world where movies no longer have “legs” and everyone’s all about opening weekend, great endings are a thing of the past, hallmarks of a vanishing craftsmanship no longer seen so readily in Hollywood.

With this in mind, the writers over at Boxing Uwe Boll and we here at Isle of Cinema put our heads together to wax nostalgic about the greatest closing scenes in movie history. But before you rush on in, be sure to first head over to Boxing Uwe Boll to read our choices of THE 20 GREATEST OPENING SCENES, keeping in mind that both lists were created by generating one master list from the dozen or so submitted by the staff writers of both blogs. And after you’ve perused the beginnings, come back for the endings, you’re encouraged to discover the middles for yourselves. Special thanks goes to Boxing Uwe Boll’s David Micevic for organizing the logistics and persuading otherwise employed individuals to submit volumes of unpaid writing on a subject they love.

So full steam ahead, with SPOILER ALERT warnings flying high, as we open our mega-post on the subject of closings:

20.) A Fistful of Dollars (1964) – Sergio Leone

[by Louis Doerge]

In the scene directly preceding the finale to Sergio Leone’s iconic western, A Fistful Of Dollars, the nameless, and wounded protagonist (Clint Eastwood) acquires handfuls of dynamite, which we assume he’ll use to terminate the gang of villains responsible for his injuries. He is, after all, only one skilled gunfighter taking on several skilled gunfighters. However, instead of bearing witness to Eastwood hurling lit clumps of dynamite at his enemies -which incidentally was James Coburn’s preferred means of combat in Leone’s 1971 Duck, You Sucker! – Leone uses the dynamite for spectacle’s sake and spectacle’s sake alone. As head bad-guy Ramon and his posse publicly torture Eastwood’s elderly friend, their attention is diverted by the massive explosions outside town. Through the smoke, and with enough confidence for ten orphanages, struts the expressionless Eastwood. The Man’s penchant for theatricality is further illustrated as Ramon tries to eliminate Eastwood via shooting him in the heart several times in a row. After each shot Eastwood gets back up, almost as if resurrecting himself, egging Ramon on and criticizing his aim. After a series of stunning close-ups that show the confusion and terror exuding from Ramon and his men, Eastwood reveals the secret to his immortality… the wild wild west’s first bulletproof vest. Watching this scene as a kid, I used to wonder why Eastwood was so sure of himself. How did he know that Ramon wouldn’t put a bullet in his head or kneecap? And come to think of it, why didn’t Ramon put a bullet in his head or kneecap? Thankfully, Leone ignored these pragmatic questions, and instead directed one of the most memorable and influential action climaxes of all time.

[admin. note: we couldn’t find the entire ending. This is the best we could do.]

19.) The Searchers (1956) – John Ford

[by Marco Noyola]

For five long years Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) searches for Scar, the Comanche chief who massacred his brother’s family and kidnapped his young niece, Debbie. With him is Marty, the Edwards’ adopted son – whom Ethan resents for being part-Cherokee. So great is Ethan’s fear of miscegenation that he plans to find Debbie and kill her before she can be married off to a Comanche, which means Marty must not only rescue his adoptive sister from Scar but also defend her from Ethan, whose brutality, racism and hatred are especially shocking coming from Wayne, the paragon of American virtue. Director Ford uses the “quarter-breed” Marty to give the film its moral center- balancing Ethan’s hatred with Marty’s love of family, even if his bonds aren’t blood as Ethan constantly reminds him. And in the end it is this morality that wins out, when Ethan finds that he cannot bring himself to kill Debbie, and instead takes her home where she and Marty are welcomed with love and acceptance. Ethan, on the other hand, stands unacknowledged, alone on the porch, as the reunited settlers walk into the house. The message is that while men such as Ethan may have been necessary to settle the frontier, there is no place for them in a civilized society. As the community regroups, Ethan himself seems to realize that he is too tainted to enter such a loving home, wandering towards the distance as Ford shuts the door on him and his kind forever.

18.) Rosemary’s Baby (1968) – Roman Polanski

[by Nick Burd]

It’s been said that the best endings are those that somehow manage to feel both surprising and inevitable. If this is the case, there may be no better filmic example of this theory than the final moments of Roman Polanski’s 1968 masterpiece Rosemary’s Baby. Up until this point, Polanski gives his audience a beautifully shot story of a young Manhattan couple (played by Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes), their new apartment, and the impending arrival of their first child. But audiences soon sense undercurrents of claustrophobia and paranoia in the tale. What are Rosemary and Guy’s nosy neighbors really up to? What’s the meaning of Rosemary’s vivid nightmares? The viewer remains tied to Farrow’s perspective throughout the picture and eventually feels the ache of her fear and and unease. But we also participate in her self-doubt. Of course Guy, her husband, would never do anything to harm her. And there’s nothing to fear about Mrs. Castevet’s chocolate mousse. But as we all know, Rosemary’s Baby didn’t earn the title of one of the best horror films ever by being afraid to delve into darkness. The end of the movie takes us to the limits of amorality and reveals the culmination of a satanic plot that we have unknowingly witnessed all along. From the casually included swastikas to the fact that we never see exactly what it means that Rosemary’s baby has his father’s eyes, the closing moments of the picture manage to wrap the viewer in a unique and groundbreaking sense of terror.

17.) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – Stanley Kubrick

[by Rockie Juarez]

Ballsy, head strong, and full of cinematic wonder, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey has an ending so enigmatic, that debate/discussion is just waiting to be sparked once the credits roll. A monolith, the mysterious artifact that haunts us, as well as the main characters through the picture, orbits the planet Jupiter. Following a powerful radio signal emitted from the black tablet of mystery, astronaut Dr. David Bowman has reached the end of his near fatal mission. David decides to give chase. Sometimes when all is lost (in this case his entire crew), all one can do is press forward. With flying colors, Kubrick takes us target=”_blank”>Beyond The Infinite. A kaleidoscope of imagery relentlessly washes over us as David’s journey finally brings him to a random home. But where are we? What is this final place? Is it the end of time? Are we in David’s mind? Within a few cuts David goes from middle aged, to elderly, to (wait for it……) a fetus……floating in space. WHAT!? Sure, Arthur C. Clarke, writer of the novel the film is based on, breaks down the enigma in the book, but on screen it’s a whole other ball game. Kubrick never insults you with exposition, laying it all out for you. In fact during this entire last act, not a single word is uttered. He trusts his audience to be smart enough to take the ride without demanding spoon fed answers. It’s a long star trek, but the payoff is one of pure wonder and nothing less than one of cinemas greatest achievements.

[admin. note: embedding has been disabled, so you will be transported to youtube to see the following clip.]

16.) Evil Dead II (1987) – Sam Raimi

[by Boaz Dror]

Most horror movies don’t begin with a first act lasting 3 minutes, or feature Ray Harryhausen-inspired stop motion target=”_blank”>Necronomicons, or risk having sight-gag homages to the Three Stooges break the mood. But Sam Raimi’s re-imagining of his low budget Evil Dead (1981) six years on isn’t most horror films – it’s a harbinger of a new era in genre filmmaking, a film which has inspired everyone from Peter Jackson to Takashi Miike to a host of film-school graduates. And if by the middle of the 2nd act you’ve managed to miss the fact you’re watching something out of it’s mind unique, then the ending hammers the point home beautifully. Raimi’s already taken his protag, Ashley J. “Ash” Williams (Bruce Campbell in a career-defining role), from cheesy douchebag to demon survivor – so why not complete the most genre bending, wish-fulfillment character arc in film history by sending him hurtling through a rip in the space-time continuum to medieval times, to become the savior of mankind? It’s not just that Ash’s reluctant elevation to legendary hero status redeems the sadistic suffering we’ve seen him endure for the past hour and a half alone in a cabin in the woods – it’s that it also raises some serious questions about our heroes, indulging geek boy fantasies while subverting them. It’s daring, inspired fun that fuses Monty Python with J.R.R. Tolkein, and it’s an ending that elevates this small, unassuming movie into the most satisfying first (or is it second?) act of a franchise since Star Wars.

[admin. note: embedding has been disabled, so you will be transported to youtube to see the following clip.]

Hope you enjoyed part 1! Be sure to tune in next week when we bring you part 2!

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