Be warned, I’m going to spoiling the hell out of these movies, so if you haven’t seen them yet, turn back now.
Still here? Good. Every story ever told, written or put on film has three distinct parts to it. Each part is extremely important in telling a story. If you miss one, the rest of the story will be negatively affected. The first part is the setup. This part introduces the audience to the world of the story as well as the characters that live within. The second part is the conflict. In certain stories, the main characters go up against a foe of some sort, an antagonist if you will. It’s something that’s not resolved right from the get-go, but the situation ends up escalating. Everything is usually resolved in the final part of the story: The resolution. This is arguably the most important of a story, because this is where all the subplots and character development converge. For movies and video games, the conclusion to the story is absolutely crucial. It will determine whether or not you will decide to return to the story or cast it aside. It is also important for an ending to try and keep the same tone as the rest of the movie. For movies that have a dark tone to them, having a happy ending where everybody lives happily ever after is extremely inappropriate. Likewise, if the film has a very upbeat tone, but the ending is a downer, that ruins the experience. There is a level of consistency that must be maintained throughout the story. What I’m going to do with this post is go over some of the best and worst endings in a film. It’s not going to be limited to any genre, because each genre has its fair share movies that have great and terrible endings. What I’m going to do here is follow up a great ending with a bad one. So, let’s get this party started with a bang!
Great ending: The Dark Knight
This is one of my favorite endings, because Batman was forced to kill Harvey Dent, who was disfigured in an explosion. He was holding Gordon’s family hostage, and Batman had to do something to save that family. Taking the blame for Dent’s murderous rampage, Batman chose to become the bad guy because he believed that Gotham needed it’s true hero, Harvey Dent. Dent had managed to put away most of Gotham’s criminals in one fell swoop, so the city needed to believe in that version of Harvey Dent. This ending sent shivers down my spine, because of the emotional speech by Commissioner Gordon detailing why he had to chase Batman. Combine that with Hans Zimmer’s amazing score, and you have an ending that really nails why Batman was needed. It’s not a happy ending, but it is one that leaves with a sense of hope that things are going to turn around in a city that is rife with corruption.
Bad Ending: The Matrix Revolutions
Oh, god, where do I start with this? We had two movies where things were really building up to some kind of final confrontation with The Machines, and this is what we got? This is a prime example of bad writing. It makes absolutely no freaking sense. Okay, Neo has to go the Machine City to do….something. Okay, he’s not coming back from that. What happens, is that he makes a deal with the machines, that if he defeats Smith, they will leave Zion alone and free people who are still trapped in The Matrix. Okay, the rest of the movie was amazing. It was essentially a war movie, with great visual effects and action. The final fight between Smith and Neo was nothing short of amazing. But, and it’s not shown in the video I posted, but Neo eventually stops fighting and allows Smith to take him over. If any of you are scratching your head at that, don’t worry, I am too. The whole ending to this movie and trilogy was horrendously anti-climactic. It boils down to Neo being Jesus and sacrificing himself for the rest of humanity. That’s what I got out of it. Watch the whole trilogy from beginning to end, and you’ll be banging your head against the wall, asking yourself, “What the hell was that?”
Great Ending: The Mist
This one is a bit controversial. Having read the original story by Stephen King, the ending to this movie is a major shocker. See, the original story had some of the main characters escape store and drive off into the mist. It was very ambiguous, and you had no idea whether or not any of them survived. For the movie, Frank Darabont went for a more brutal and tragic ending. Again, survivors driving off into the mist, but they run out of gas. So, the adults agree to be shot instead of being killed by the monsters that live in the mist. So, Thomas Jane’s character, shoots all of them, including his own son, because he didn’t want him to be savagely brutalized by a monster. He doesn’t have a bullet for himself, so he leaves the vehicle hoping that he will be killed by one of the creatures. Out of the mist comes a military convoy escorting survivors from the fog. This is all the more tragic, because if the character had waited a few more minutes, he and his son would have been rescued. This is a sucker punch of an ending, and I’m glad that the filmmakers had the balls to go with this ending instead of the book. Stephen King himself prefers this ending. I can certainly see why people didn’t like it, but I think it was very appropriate for a story like this. To be truthful with you, most of the endings to Stephen Kings books are generally not happy endings.
Bad Ending: Star Trek: Nemesis
There’s no video for this one, so I’ll just tell you. Towards the end of the movie, both the Enterprise and Shinzon’s ship are severely damaged, because Picard rammed his ship into the Scimitar. Since the self-destruct is somehow broken, Picard transports over to the enemy ship to destroy it. After confronting and eventually killing Shinzon, Data shows up, transports Picard back the Enterprise, and then destroys the Scimitar with him still on it. That is definitely a way to send off a character like Data. Unfortunately, because of an earlier subplot involving the discovery of an earlier android model, B-4, the whole sacrifice angle is kind of pointless. Why? Because Data had copied all his memories and abilities over to B-4 so B-4 could, in theory, be more like Data. So, when Data gets blown up, B-4 starts showing signs that Data’s memory transfer starts working. While the film itself wasn’t terrible, I’m just glad they rebooted the series before any further damage could have been done.
Best Ending: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 2 is widely considered to be one of the greatest science fiction sequels to date, and it’s really hard to argue with that assessment. It’s got a great story, with interesting characters and amazing visual effects. As far as sequels go, this was about as good you could get. The film certainly had a great number of memorable moments, with great action and fantastic drama. The ending to the film is one that still tugs at my heart strings today. After spending most of the movie connecting with these characters, it’s heartbreaking to see the Terminator make the decision to be destroyed in the end. But that’s because from the time he spent with John Connor, he knew that it had to be done. After the Terminator sacrifices himself, the film cuts to a road with Sarah Connor speaking: “The future rolls towards us. I face it for the first time with a sense of hope, because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” It’s a pretty powerful ending and it’s one that really resonates with me.
Not a whole lot, is it? These are the ones that are most memorable to me. Sure, there are plenty of movies out there with horrible and great endings. But these are the ones that really stood out the most for me. For certain movies like Lord of the Rings, the ending to each film is leading directly into the next, and I’m absolutely fine with that. But sometimes, movies have endings that setup for a sequel that never happens and THAT I’m not okay with. If you’re going to piss people off with an ending, you want to do it in a way that’s truly memorable for the RIGHT reasons, like The Mist. That was a phenomenal movie with a controversial ending. There’s a difference between pissing people off with an ending and alienating people. The ending to The Matrix Revolutions alienated a lot of people. It was a pretty big faux pas. If any one has any doubts or any suggestions of their own, feel free to leave a comment or question.