Ok, so we’ll start with one that you might have seen.
After two hours of manipulation, destruction, and a lot of graphic violence, Ed Norton’s narrator finally discovers how to get rid of his toxic alter ego, Tyler Durden, and blows off half his face in the process. Unfortunately, it’s too late to stop the dastardly plans of Tyler, as the narrator watches the city skyline crumble before him. As his girlfriend (Helena Bonham Carter) witnesses this destruction – and his bloodied face – in horror, he apologetically explains; “You met me at a very strange time in my life.”
(Pete Docter, 2001)
Child Scaring duo Sully and Mike pretty much save the day when they discover a solution that keeps both monsters and kids happy.
However Sully struggles to forget Boo, the pocket size human girl that once escaped her home to cause chaos in Monstropolis. He is amazed when Mike manages to piece together the door to her room, offering him a way to meet her again. Sully gingerly turns the door handle – will it work? Will Boo have forgotten him? – but as he appears in the doorway, we hear the small voice of Boo (voiced by a real toddler) excitedly uttering her nickname for Sully: “Kitty!”
Good Will Hunting
(Gus Van Sant, 1997)
It seems like Will Hunting (Matt Damon) already has his happy ending when he finally puts his genius to good use and secures the job of his dreams. However the true transformation Will had made isn’t with his smarts, but his heart.
He leaves a note for his therapist Sean (Robin Williams) declaring that he has turned the job down, and instead is on the way to California to ‘see about a girl’ (go and find the ex girlfriend he previously couldn’t commit to) .
Many viewers don’t like the ending, claiming that Will shouldn’t have turned down a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a girl that might not even take him back. But this would disregard the life lessons that Sean bestowed on him. By coming to terms with his childhood trauma and the shitty cards that life has dealt him, Will is able to accept the chance of happiness and go after what he really wants.
Call Me By Your Name
(Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
CMBYN’s final scene is set back at the holiday home in which teenager Elio and grad student Oliver spent the summer together. It’s months since the two parted, and Elio’s family are back for Hanukkah. Elio receives a call -it’s Oliver. We see his face drop as Oliver shares the news that he’s getting married. Elio can’t resist reminding his former lover of their time together, to which Oliver replies “I remember everything.”
The call ends and a tearful Elio sits in front of the fireplace as his mother sets the table behind him. The credits roll beside him as he sits there, glassy eyed, before looking directly into the camera and turning away.
The age gap romance divided audience opinions, but few can deny the power of this poignant ending.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
(Peyton Reed, 2018)
Ok, so technically not a final scene, but a post credits scene. And, most likely, the most shocking post credits scene ever produced by Marvel.
For those unaware of the Marvel movie timeline, the Ant-Man sequel takes place at a similar time to Avengers: Infinity War, which ends with baddie Thanos using the Infinity Gauntlet to kill – or, well disintegrate – half of all life on Earth.
Which brings us back to the post credits scene of Ant-Man and the Wasp, in which the gang have gotten to grips with the quantum realm, and have shrunk the Ant-Man himself, Scott, to atom size to harvest quantum energy. From inside the quantum tunnel, Scott calls on the radio to tell the others he’s ready to return. They begin a countdown…and then it stops. The screen cuts to the outside of the tunnel, where – unbeknownst to Scott – all of his team are gone, presumably at the hands of Thanos. And a teeny tiny Ant-Man is still stuck in the quantum realm.
(Jordan Peele, 2019)
After a final showdown between our heroine Adelaide (Lupita N’yongo) and her ‘tethered’ doppleganger, her family drive away from the horrors happening on the streets. Other tethereds have appeared from underground to murder their counterparts before joining hands in an imitation of the 1980s ‘Hands Across America’ movement. However, in a disturbing twist, it is revealed that Adelaide herself was born a tethered, who injured and imprisoned her above-ground self underground to get a chance at a better life.
Adelaide and her son exchange looks, and it is suggested that, somehow, he knows the truth. She smiles at him, and he pulls his toy mask over his face, hinting that he is willing to keep her secret. The screen pans out to the landscape, where thousands of tetherds, unlike their counterparts 30 years before them – whose wobbly human chain had many gaps – have succeeded in holding hands in a line across America. The ending shot is simultaneously terrifying and impressive.
(Greta Gerwig, 2017)
After spending the entire film applying to East Coast universities, desperate to escape a Catholic education, a mother she just can’t see eye to eye with, and the crummy part of Sacramento in which she lives, ‘Ladybird’ (Saoirse Ronan) gets her wish and moves to New York to attend NYU. By this point, she and her mother are no longer on speaking terms, but when unpacking her things, Ladybird comes across a bunch of unfinished letters that her mother wrote for her.
After waking up in hospital following a drinking session, a lonely Ladybird, now going by her original name Christine, wanders the streets of New York. She stops at a church, where she appears moved by the service taking place. Leaving church, Christine leaves her parents a voicemail; she hints that she misses Sacramento after all, and tells her mother that she loves her, before hanging up.
(Paul Brickman, 1983)
So, this last one isn’t strictly true, as I’m referring to the Director’s Cut ending, as opposed to the final scenes actually used in the film. The ending chosen for the audience ends the bizarre comedy on a happier note, with the unlikely couple of teen Joel (Tom Cruise) and prostitute Lana (Rebecca De Mornay) walking in the park together, discussing their plans for the evening, with the audio of Joel’s ‘Future Enterprisers’ speech playing over the top.
The director’s cut is similar, but leaves Joel and Lana earlier in the evening, at a restaurant. Mirroring an earlier scene, in which Lana had told a nervous Joel to ‘come closer’, Joel asks the same of Lana, who is sitting across the table from him. She moves to a closer seat, before ending up sitting on his lap. While this alternate scene is more intimate, it leaves their relationship on more uncertain terms, giving a feeling that this may be the last time they see each other.