Top 10 Best Thriller Movie Endings
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
Now that's you end a great thriller movie! A satisfying crime, psychological, or political thriller needs suspense, action, but above all, a rewarding finale. Our favorite thriller endings from 21st century movies include climactic final moments from “Shutter Island” (2010), “Gone Girl” (2014), “Unbreakable” (2000), “Buried” (2010), and “Hard Candy” (2005)! Did your favorite modern thriller ending make the list? Let us know in the comments!
Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Endings%20of%20Thriller%20Films
Special thanks to our user MikeMJPMUNCH2 for suggesting this idea!
Script written by Nick Spake
Top 10 Modern Thriller Movie Endings
Now THAT'S how you end a movie! Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Modern Thriller Movie Endings.
For this list, we’re taking a look at thrillers from the year 2000 onward that left audiences on high notes. We’re including psychological and crime thrillers, although we’re drawing a line when it comes to pure horror movies. Needless to say, a spoiler alert is in order.
#10: So Sorry, Paul
Ryan Reynolds delivers a captivating performance as Paul Conroy, who’s confined to a coffin for the 95-minute runtime. It’s a race against the clock to save Paul as the coffin slowly fills with sand like an hourglass. The setting may be limited, but this film has no shortage of heart-pounding moments, especially its claustrophobic climax. Paul’s given a glimmer of hope when Dan Brenner calls him back, claiming that a rescue unit is on the way. Instead of Paul’s coffin, however, the team digs up Mark White, another hostage who’d been buried alive. Contrary to what he claimed earlier, Brenner failed to reach Mark in time, and Paul is only seconds away from meeting the same suffocating fate.
#9: They Call Me Mr. Glass
On the heels of his breakout film “The Sixth Sense”, M. Night Shyamalan further solidified his reputation for twist endings in “Unbreakable”. Having accepted his role as a hero, David Dunn learns that his closest ally was actually his archenemy. The fragile Elijah Price, or Mr. Glass as he calls himself, caused multiple disasters in hopes of finding his polar opposite. In Elijah’s warped mind, he’s finally found his rightful place in the world as a villain.The reception to “Unbreakable” was more mixed upon release, but over the years, the film developed a cult following, with many interested in seeing a follow-up. Shyamalan continued David’s story in the most unexpected way possible, revealing at the eleventh hour that 2016’s “Split” was a standalone sequel.
#8: Or Not
“Hard Candy” (2005)
“Hard Candy” is an emotionally conflicting rollercoaster that deliberately messes with audience sympathies. Ellen Page’s Haley, meanwhile, feels no empathy for Patrick Wilson’s Jeff, spending much of the film trying to torture a confession of pedophilia and murder out of him. Haley makes Jeff a deal, swearing that she’ll destroy the evidence against him if he commits suicide. At the end of his rope in more ways than one, Jeff eventually agrees to hang himself. Once his neck snaps, however, Haley makes it clear that she’s not about to forgive and forget. As she walks off in her red hoodie, the audience isn’t sure whether to feel relieved that there’s one less monster in the world or disturbed by what we just witnessed.
#7: Die as a Good Man
“Shutter Island” (2010)
Sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. “Teddy Daniels” is under the impression that he’s fallen down the rabbit hole, but in reality, he’s the one who’s gone mad. After fabricating an identity as a U.S. Marshal to cope with the loss of his family, Teddy discovers that he’s really Andrew Laeddis, a man locked up for killing his wife. The past few days were orchestrated to determine if he requires a lobotomy. Speaking to one of his doctors, Laeddis leads him and the audience to believe that he’s regressed. But a crucial line of dialog reveals that he’s actually now of sound mind. Unable to live with the truth, he WANTS to be lobotomized - an unsettling end to a haunting film.
#6: Who’s Your Daddy?
After 15 years of confinement, Oh Dae-su sets out to find his captors and his daughter, who was four when he last saw her. It turns out that the answer was right in front of Dae-su this entire time, as the woman he’s become intimately involved with IS his daughter. It’s a classic tragedy heavily inspired by the Greek myth of Oedipus. In order to take control of his life, Dae-su decides to undergo hypnosis once more, expunging this mortifying experience from his mind. When Dae-su reunites with his daughter, though, we’re left on an ambiguous note that implies he’ll never escape his personal hell. Smiling one second and woefully clenching his teeth the next, Dae-su’s final look pierces us like an icepick.
#5: What Are You Thinking?
“Gone Girl” (2014)
This adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s page-turning novel is full of shocking revelations, but the ending in particular hammers home just how twisted these characters are. After returning home from her quote unquote kidnapping, Amy tells Nick that she’s artificially inseminated herself with his semen. Nick says he’ll remain by Amy’s side solely for the sake of the baby, but his sister senses there’s a part of him that actually WANTS to stay with her. Whatever his true feelings for Amy are, Nick is stuck in a toxic marriage and must spend the rest of his life keeping up a charade. You can’t always trust what you see on the news, and the same can be said about the person you sleep next to at night.
#4: And Then I Woke Up
“No Country for Old Men” (2007)
The Cohen brother’s Best Picture-winning tour de force is one of their grittiest films, which is saying a lot. For a movie that’s wall to wall with tense bloodshed, the ending is surprisingly subdued, although that doesn’t make it any less harrowing. The recently retired Sheriff Bell reminisces about two dreams he had, both of which involved his late father. The true dream, however, was Bell’s perception of the world, which was never as innocent as he thought. Having followed the trail of mayhem Moss and Chigurh left behind, Bell has woken up to see that the world is overrun with senseless violence. Unlike his father, Bell has lived long enough to realize there’s no room in this country for old men such as himself.
“Black Swan” (2010)
We’ve seen numerous stories about the price of fame, but “Black Swan” is more about the price of perfection. In a role that won her a Best Actress Oscar, Natalie Portman gives a physically and mentally exhausting performance as Nina. Simply watching Nina spiral out of control leaves the audience gasping for air. By the grand finale, Nina’s hallucinations have unraveled her mind, leading the ballerina to think she’s stabbed Lily when it reality she’s stabbed herself. In true show must go on fashion, Nina returns to the stage and performs the final dance in which the White Swan kills herself. Bleeding out as she stares into the stage lights above, it’s safe to assume that the curtain has closed on Nina’s life.
#2: For Whom the Whistle Blows
This movie’s title doesn’t just apply to the children who are taken. Keller Dover is a prisoner of many things: alcoholism, grief, desperation. When he tracks down the kidnapper, however, Dover becomes a literal prisoner, getting trapped in a hidden pit. Although Detective Loki finds the missing children and brings their abductor to justice, Dover’s whereabouts remain the one loose end. On a hunch, Loki returns to the crime scene where he hears Dover blowing the emergency whistle his daughter left behind. Loki briefly second-guesses himself, but is drawn back in after hearing the whistle again. While Loki likely rescued Dover from the pit, it’s hard to say if any of these characters will ever truly be free after such an emotionally scarring ordeal.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
It Was All in Modern Times
“The Village” (2004)
“Michael Clayton” (2007)
Edward is a No-Show
“Nocturnal Animals” (2016)
Business is Blooming
“The Guest” (2014)
#1: Where Was I?
Christopher Nolan structured “The Prestige” like a magic act, building to a finale that turned the ordinary into the extraordinary. Nolan’s breakthrough hit “Memento” was even more ambitious in its narrative structure, beginning at the end and ending at the beginning. Bringing this tightly-plotted thriller full circle, Leonard winds up back where he started/finished, learning the truth about his wife’s death. For the audience, all the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place, but Leonard isn’t satisfied. Knowing that he’ll forget what happened due to his anterograde amnesia, he fabricates another puzzle to solve, which will inevitably lead to him killing the corrupt cop who’s been using him. When all’s said and done, Leonard chose how his story would end.