Movie endings are as important as the opening titles. The final, lingering shot can sum up everything that's come before and have you walking from the cinema either seething or smiling.

It doesn't always have to be a coda, however. Sometimes, the best endings are completely ambiguous - leaving the story hanging on a note that requires the audience to draw their own conclusions.

Some endings, it seems, don't even make sense. You're left with unanswered questions to analyse and obsess over for decades to come.

Here's our ten best movie endings. Spoilers ahead, obviously.


10. INCEPTION (2010)

Perhaps the most recent entry on this list, Inception's final scene did more rankle fans. Did the top keep spinning? Did it fall? Who knows. As Christopher Nolan explained in an interview, it wasn't about the top spinning. It was about how Leonardo DiCaprio's character had moved beyond truth or fiction. Coupled with Hans Zimmer's emotional score and all that came before, it's a beautiful moment to finish out on. For our money, we think the top fell. Yes, that's not the point of the scene, but still. We need a conclusion.



"Nothing's riding on this, except the First Amendment, freedom of the press and the future of this country." It's hard to understand, in our age of instant news, just how important a film All The President's Men was. At the time, the story was so young and prescient that the film almost veered into the territory of documentary. Now, it stands a document to one of America's darkest periods in history and the power of the free press. Alan J. Pakula's clever direction allows the final scene to breathe with no dialogue from the actors, save Nixon himself. Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, Woodward and Bernstein, frantically typing during the Inauguration. The flashing news-wire spits out the inevitable end. The rest, as they say, is history.



As an example of setting a film up for a sequel, The Empire Strikes Back stands as the perfect example. Luke Skywalker, beaten to within an inch of his life and suffering from the loss of his hands, is reeling in every sense of the word. Is his father Darth Vader, the tyrannical warlord who's plagued the galaxy? Will his best friend, Han Solo, survive the cluthes of Jabba the Hutt? What now for the Rebel Alliance? We all know this now, sure, but in 1980, nobody knew. And that's what made it so special.



Twist endings can be infuriating. They force you to look back over what you've seen, analyse it for mistakes and then deal with the repercussions - usually in the space of three minutes. The Usual Suspects, with its meandering story and Rashomon-esque narrative, begs you from the very beginning to question what you're seeing. The final scene, when Kevin Spacey triumphantly marches out of the police station - only to transform into Keyzer Soze is powerful. Was Soze a criminal mastermind? Did he, in fact, kill all those people? Was the story he told even accurate? Or was it simply a yarn to waste time?


6. THE SHINING (1980)

For such a precise and calculating director like Stanley Kubrick, his endings were often ambiguous. 2001: A Space Odyssey ended with a trip through time, space and the very fabric of our existence and ended with an iconic image of a star-child. However, The Shining truly warped our minds. The swirling jazz number plays over a simple close-up to an innocuous photograph that reveals Jack Nicholson's visage in a photograph from 1922. So what happened? Was Jack Nicholson always the caretaker, as Mr. Grady told him? Or was it some kind of temporal warp that placed him back then? If we had to describe this ending in one word, it's this: unsettling.


5. HEAT (1994)

"I told you I wasn't going back." Heat's central premise was that Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino were two sides of the same coin. Driven, determined and alone - one kept up the pretence of a normal life while the other had rejected it, but found himself drawn out. The final shoot-out is laden with tension as Pacino stalks his prey to the very end, before a final connection is made. All set to Moby's fantastic track, God Moving Over The Face of the Waters. Interesting tidbit: Elliot Goldenthal's unused score for this scene was later used by Neil Jordan for the ending of Michael Collins.



Arguably Sergio Leone's greatest film and the perfect Western, The Good The Bad & The Ugly was about many things. The futility of war, the incessant greed that drives all mankind and, especially in the ending, natural justice. Following the iconic three-way standoff between Eastwood's Blondie, Eli Wallach's Tuco and Lee Van Cleef's Angel Eyes, the victorious Blondie delivers that fantastic line. "There's two kinds of people in this world, my friend. Those with loaded guns and those who dig. You dig." The final scene, with Eastwood riding off into the sunset and laden with gold, is so beautifully bad-ass.


3. CHINATOWN (1974)

There's been many endings that are quotable and recognisable to their film. Casablanca, Gone With The Wind, et cetera. For us, Chinatown's final piece of dialogue puts the full stop on the film with a perfect line - especially considering what's come before. There's yet been a film that has such a nihilistic, devastating ending about the futility of trying to help someone who's doomed in every sense of the word. Robert Towne's screenplay finishes like a Greek tragedy. The evil Noah Cross carries away his "daughter", Faye Dunaway's bloodied corpse holds down the car-horn that reinforces the shocking nature of what we've seen whilst Jack Nicholson looks on in resignation and soul-crushing shock.



2. TOY STORY 3 (2010)

Toy Story, Pixar's greatest achievement, began as a film about the magic of childhood and imagination. The third entry sees Andy, now a young adult, moving on with his life. This scene, in which Andy gives away Woody and Buzz, to a young girl is loaded with emotion. The two toys, who have been sigils of his childhood, are now being passed on to another. He's leaving behind his younger days to start on another journey - without them. Who didn't cry at the end of this?



1. THE GRADUATE (1967)

What makes The Graduate such a brilliant ending is how it sets you up for something, pulls the rug from underneath you, but doesn't leave you angry because of it. Ben Braddock, a malcontent young man - teenager, almost - drives desperately to the wedding of Elaine in an attempt to break it up. It's exactly what you'd expect, the chaos of it all and finally, they make it out in romantic fashion. But then, sitting on the bus whilst Simon & Garfunkel's track begins to play, they realise the gravity of what they've done. Are they able to go on? Has she destroyed her future? Do they even love each other?