Research has shown that when we walk away from a film the parts, we remember the most clearly are the peaks, the moments we enjoyed the most for whatever reason, and the end. Everyone has different preferences and therefore our most beloved scenes may not be on the radar of others, however the end is precisely orchestrated and cements the finality of the film’s story. This crucial moment has several iterations you may be familiar with. Beware spoilers ahead.
Happily Ever After – Disney Films
The fairy tale ending as many know it is a typical light finale used for children’s stories. Here despite the mild horror and devious baddies that plotted against the lovable protagonists, in the end everything is right as rain. The final scenes here often show characters safe in their homes as normality returns panning out to some vibrant nature before credits. Disney are now mastering of executing this and use it in seemingly every film they release.
Terrible Fate – The Mist
On the opposite side of thee coin is where everything goes wrong. Thanks to years of happily ever after endings growing up this dark variation may shock you the first time you see one. Here despite the trials surpassed by the hero or heroine the odds are stacked against them and they fail, often concluding in their demise or that of a loved one. Stephen King’s The Mist does this perfectly with a heart-breaking ending that rolls credits to a devastated Tom Jane with immediate survivors guilt.
Ambiguity – Inception
The ambiguous ending is something that isn’t for everyone. Popcorn films always conclude with a clear cut, often positive end whereas the unknown doesn’t intrigue every movie goer. In this style of ending we as the audience aren’t entirely sure what happens afterwards. In a perfect execution of this Christopher Nolan’s Inception leaves us with a final moment where we aren’t sure which plane Leonardo DiCaprio’s character is walking on. Is he awake? Is he in a dream? We are denied clarity on purpose leaving it up to the viewer to draw their own conclusion.
Cliff-hanger – Avengers: Infinity War
Though an uncertain ending may be sometimes seen as a cliff-hanger, a real cliff-hanger is one where the end happens prematurely, and we are assured there is more to come. This is often used in TV shows to build tension for the next episode, but film series do this too. Since the entire MCU was a string of cliff-hangers for over a decade it stands that their penultimate title had a big one. Here a great deal of heroes disappears in an instant while the main villain is still at large, forcing you to question how things could be resolved.
The Twist – The Village
This one is another style that doesn’t work for everyone. The twist exploits the way our brain works by surprising us with a completely unexpected turn, the same mechanism that makes jokes funny is sued here to shock us. The master of the twist is M. Night Shyamalan whose breakout film The Sixth Sense stunned audiences everywhere. Though I’d contest that the reveal in his later film The Village pulls the rug from underneath us with a greater eye opener.