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Top 10 British Movie Endings

VO: Richard Bush WRITTEN BY: Andrea Buccino
They say it’s all about the journey, but the destination is pretty important, too. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 British Movie Endings. For this list we take a look at some of the best and most powerful endings in British Cinema. And of course, given the topic, spoilers abound. Special thanks to our user RichardFB for submitting the idea on our interactive suggestion tool: WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Top 10 British Movie Endings

They say it’s all about the journey, but the destination is pretty important, too. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 British Movie Endings.

For this list we take a look at some of the best and most powerful endings in British Cinema. And of course, given the topic, spoilers abound.

#10: “If....” (1968)

Lindsay Anderson’s iconic counterculture picture is one of the most acclaimed stories to ever explore boarding school life and the hypocrisy of British society, and it’s also a revolutionary tale of social awakening. The film takes a turn toward the psychedelic around its midpoint, but nothing quite matches the sheer power of its ending, which screams revolution. A young Malcolm McDowell standing on the roof of the school mowing down teachers with a machine gun is one of the most memorable endings in any coming of age film. Though its legacy has perhaps been complicated by the rise of school shootings around the world, this remains an influential moment in the history of British cinema.

#9: “Get Carter” (1971)

The bleak ending to one of the finest gangster films ever made in Britain is a perfect coda for this masterful tale of revenge. After looking all over for those responsible for his brother’s death, Carter does indeed get his vengeance. He forces a bottle of whisky down the throat of his sibling’s killer just before beating him to death with the butt of his rifle. But the film's apparent resolution is short-lived: while walking on the beach, Carter is shot in the head by a sniper seen during the film’s opening. The film subtly brings things full-circle, but ends with a punch that leaves the audience reeling.

#8: “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” (1998)

Reminiscent of the ending of another great British classic, Guy Ritchie's first feature film also signs off in style, with a not necessarily dramatic, but extremely funny cliff-hanger. After the group of friends at the centre of this caper are left with none of the money they’d hoped for, they idly leaf through an antique weapons catalogue. And there they find their potential saviour, as a familiar looking pair of old shotguns is listed for a lot of money! Alas, those same guns are being thrown in the river right about now… And you’ll never know which way their fortunes fall.

#7: “The Descent” (2005)

We’re talking, of course, about the actual ending to "The Descent", not the horrible abridged version they got in the United States. The one where, after the horrible ordeal that we’ve seen unfold throughout the film, Sarah only dreams of her escape. After the dream turns once again into nightmare, she wakes up to find herself still in the cave, with a vision of her dead daughter and a birthday cake before her. As the camera zooms out, Sarah stares straight ahead and we hear Crawlers making their way towards her. It’s definitely a bleak ending, but clearly a great one.

#6: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

To an ending that encompasses the whole of human life and the human condition: birth, death and beyond. The end of man and its rebirth as the Star Child has become one of the most recognised and discussed moments in the history of science fiction and cinema as a whole. The complex themes that run throughout Kubrick’s masterpiece come to a magnificent climax in the cryptic, philosophically charged final minutes of “2001”, and even though understanding what you’ve just seen might take some time, it’s certainly worth the effort.

#5: “Monty Python's Life of Brian” (1979)

From the spoof of "Spartacus" to its brilliant musical number, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, the ending to one of Monty Python's finest and best loved films is among the greatest achievements of the group's career. The film is hilarious from start to finish, but this ending really cements it as a comic masterpiece. An order of release by Pontius Pilate is appropriated by another convict. An army of the Judean People’s Front commit mass suicide in protest instead of simply saving the prisoners. Right until the very end, everything that can go wrong for poor Brian, does. But hey, there’s always a bright side, right?

#4: “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957)

Next, one of the most emotionally charged and meaningful "What have I done?" lines ever uttered on screen. The story follows a bunch of British POWs in a Japanese camp in Burma, who are forced to help build a bridge on the River Kwai. But, it reaches its climax just as everything goes horribly wrong as some commandos are parachuted in to destroy the structure. The carnage, the explosion and final collapse of the bridge, paired with the overwhelming sense of defeat and hopelessness, make this one of the great endings in the war movie genre.

#3: “The Third Man” (1949)

The average movie tends to follow a basic structure when it comes time to wrap things up: the hero beats the bad guy, gets the girl and goes off into the sunset. But “The Third Man” isn’t your “average movie”. The final moments of this film take place after Lime's funeral, where our hero Martins waits for Anna, who was in love with Orson Welles' character. But instead of giving him or the audience any sort of resolution, she walks on without so much as a glance in his direction, such was her love for the “baddie”. Take that, audience expectations!

#2: “The Italian Job” (1969)

It’s the essential cliff-hanger, and a very literal one at that. Now one of the most iconic endings of all time, the conclusion to “The Italian Job” was intentionally left open for a potential sequel – but that never materialised. In a way, we’re glad it didn’t, for the uncertainty of our heroes’ fate makes it all much more exciting. There has been constant speculation as to how they’d ever manage to escape without falling to their deaths, but we’d take the mystery over a definitive answer any day. And we’ll always have Michael Caine’s spectacular final line.

#1: “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” (1964)

Riding a nuclear bomb like a cowboy rides a bull at a rodeo? Check. Peter Sellers, as the ex-Nazi Dr. Strangelove, standing up from his wheelchair and exclaiming one of the funniest final lines in the history of film? Check. The world ending, enveloped in nuclear fire? Check. This is one of the most memorable endings to any film, British or otherwise. Director Stanley Kubrick takes the grotesque satire of his film to the ultimate level here, where incompetence and misplaced politics result in the most ridiculous ending imaginable - not just for the film, but for the entire world.

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