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Top 5 favorite movie endings

As we all bid farewell to summer (gee, wasn’t it great? Hmmm), Brussels local Picturenose’s James Drew and Colin Moors offer their definitive top five favourite finales of all time. Do let us know whether you agree, won’t you?

James’s Top Five Endings

5. Some Like It Hot (1959) Dir. Billy Wilder
Thought that I would start with a classic ‘funny’ ending, before I move into somewhat darker territory with most of the rest of my list; seriously, though, is this not the wittiest last line in movie history? And it ends one of the most dazzlingly witty films of all time, too, in which two loser jazz musicians (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) unwittingly witness the St Valentine’s Day massacre and flee in drag to Miami, where they meet up with ravishing singer Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe) and her all-girl jazz band. A classic treat, and camp millionaire Osgood Fielding III (Joe E. Brown) adamantly refusing to take no for an answer from Lemmon is just the cherry on the cake.

4. Don’t Look Now (1973) Dir. Nicolas Roeg
A sublimely frightening meditation on grief, relationships and the beyond, with Laura Baxter (Julie Christie) and her husband John (Donald Sutherland) spending time in a gloriously beautiful (and creepy) out-of-season Venice, there to forget the death by drowning of their little daughter. But two elderly sisters, one of whom is blind and apparently psychic, tell them that their daughter is still very much with them and, sure enough, there is a diminutive figure dressed in a little red coat wandering the streets. John needs to know more. Oh. My. God.

3. Casablanca (1942) Dir. Michael Curtiz
You must remember this… Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), the owner of Rick's
Café Américain, is a bitter US expat in Casablanca in early December 1941. To his ‘mixed’ clientele, Rick claims to be neutral in all matters, that is, until the reason for Rick's bitterness comes back into his life, namely his Norwegian former lover Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), who walks into his establishment and asks the house pianist Sam (Dooley Wilson) to play As Time Goes By…and the rest, as they say is history. You don’t have a heart beating if you don’t cry at Rick’s final sacrifice for the woman he loves more than life itself. “Here’s looking at you, kid.”

2. The Usual Suspects (1995) Dir. Bryan Singer
Perhaps the best crime movie of all time finishes with maybe the best ending ever, one that few, if any, saw coming – poor, put-upon cripple Verbal Quint (Kevin Spacey) is among the very few survivors of a drug heist on a boat that went terribly wrong, and US Customs ‘tec Dave Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) wants to find out what went down, but most of all, he wants to be convinced that career criminal Dean
Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) is dead. Unfortunately, he’s about to enter the orbit of Keyser Soze, a mythical crime lord who may just be the Devil himself, as Verbal tells his tale. “And like that…he’s gone.”

And James’s winner is:

1. Citizen Kane (1941) Dir. Orson Welles
Sorry to go all film-school on you, but I genuinely do believe this to be the finest
denouement ever committed to film – a newsreel reporter, in trying to solve the
mystery as to what newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles) may have meant by his dying word, “Rosebud”, discovers, as do we, the story of one man’s life, and how it moved from social idealism into the pursuit of power at any cost. And, does he find out what ‘Rosebud’ means? No. But we do…

Colin’s Top Five Endings

5. Trading Places (1983) Dir. John Landis
Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) is a likeable rogue, just for a change, in this film about greed and morality. It’s not going to win any philosophy prizes but it is a lot of fun, and is a candidate for ‘Best Christmas Feel-Good Movie of All Time’. Two wealthy brokers (the Mortimers – Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) bet one dollar that one of them can’t take a homeless bum, strategically shave and wash him, and turn him into a better stock-exchange trader than their current golden boy, Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd). After the rise of Valentine and the fall of Winthorpe, the two get wind of the bet and plan their revenge. Aided and abetted by the hooker with a heart of gold Ophelia (Jamie Lee Curtis), the comeuppance of the Mortimers is swift, complete and makes you want to stand on your seat and whoop. Sorry if I spoiled the ending there, just a bit ahead of time.

4. Brighton Rock (1947) Dir. John Boulting
Even though the UK censors insisted on a softening of the gut-wrenching dénouement to Graham Greene’s classic tale of Faustian evil, Christian good and redemption, there’s still a lot to be said for making you choose your own ending. Pregnant, bereft and at her lowest ebb, unwitting gangster’s pawn Rose (Carol Marsh) plays the recording made by her dead husband. Her dead husband was Pinkie (Richard Attenborough), a gang leader, who married her to keep her off the scent of a murder he ordered. She wants to hear him say “I love you” one last time. As she hears these words of solace, the camera pans to a crucifix on the wall, signifying Pinkie’s redemption. Or not.

3. Midnight Cowboy (1969) Dir. John Schlesinger
Probably as well known for the title track (Everybody’s Talkin’) as the story, Midnight Cowboy is a simple tale of what happens when a small-town boy (Joe Buck, played by Jon Voight) thinks he can go to the bright lights of the big city and make his fortune on looks alone. Except it isn’t, not really. The story is really about what happens when that small town boy fails repeatedly and is forced to hook up with a streetwise yet sickly survivor, Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), in order to survive. Their friendship is uncomfortable at times – neither tolerant nor loving but they both seem to have what it takes to stop New York swallowing them whole. They plan one day to escape the city and move to Florida in the hope of a better life, but tragedy is just a bus ride away – and it’s a testament to the strength of the characters that you care so much what happens to them.

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Dir. Milos Forman
Sometimes, you sit and wonder just why a film won an Oscar (or five). In this case, though, you could be forgiven for thinking that there could be no accolade high enough for a film that has touched and moved so many people. When Randle Patrick McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) pleads insanity to assault charges hoping for an easy sentence in a psychiatric hospital, he gets not only his wish but a lot more into the bargain. An allegorical story of captivity, freedom, oppression and rebellion, this is a film that will captivate, surprise and uplift you, often all at once. If you don’t find the ending heart-breaking – not just for the main character, but for all the downtrodden, beaten and abused – check your pulse. You may have died already.


Ending Part 1:

Ending Part 2:

And Colin’s winner is:

1. DOA (1950) Dir. Rudolph Maté
Do not confuse this with the inferior 1988 remake with Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan. You have been warned! When small time accountant Frank Bigelow (a great outing here for Edmond O’Brien) notarizes a simple shipping document, he unwittingly makes powerful and dangerous enemies. The film opens with the ending, in a way, as Bigelow staggers into a police station in San Francisco to report a homicide. “Who was murdered?” asks a cop. Bigelow replies simply: “I was”. For my money, the best film noir ever – the pace is ramped up until Bigelow’s showdown with his soon-to-be killer. Although it begins at the end, I love the understated ‘not with a bang but a whimper’ feel to the climax. The whole film is public domain now, so you can see it on the Internet Archive for free – enjoy.

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