The Secret To The Best Movie Endings Revealed

Learning from the masters.

gone girl ending
20th Century Fox

Everyone has their favourite film ending. Whether it's the uplifting reunion of Andy and Red in The Shawshank Redemption or the iconic freeze frame of Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid as they go out in a blaze of glory, great endings have the power to stir audiences to the core.

While it may seem like movie magic at work, a new video essay from YouTubers Now You See It shatters the illusion and breaks down the secrets behind a great movie ending.

The essay kicks off with a neat comparison between Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho and the 1998 remake by Gus Van Sant. Few would disagree that the remake was vastly inferior, and the analysis of its closing moments, in which the camera drifts away from the corpse-filled car rather than lingering as Hitchcock did, is a perfect illustration of how stylistic choices can make or break the ending.


A selection of classic movies are drawn upon to highlight different techniques. Characters moving away into the distance - popularised with characters riding towards the sunset in Westerns like The Magnificent Seven - traditionally evoke the notion of a journey's end. But this device can have a more sinister application, the essay showing the closing moment from The Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal Lecter's ominous stroll into a crowded street.

More complex is the juxtaposition of the closing and opening shots, bringing the narrative fuil circle and emphasising the changes experienced by the character. The Godfather Part 2 ends on a shot of Michael Corleone as a transformed man, while Gone Girl recapitulates the violent imagery from Nick Dunne's opening monologue, the context now radically overhauled in light of the events leading up to this moment.


It's a well-crafted essay which casts a new light on how seemingly simple filmmaking techniques can result in some truly powerful imagery. If you're a film fanatic eager to learn more about how your favourite films were put together or a budding filmmaker yourself, this video essay is essential viewing.

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