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Top 10 Greatest Closing Shots in Movies of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp

Now that’s how you end a film. For this list, we’ll be looking at the most iconic final shots in cinematic history. Our list includes the final shots from “Planet of the Apes” (1968), “The Shining” (1980), “The Breakfast Club” (1985), “Raging Bull” (1980), “The Searchers” (1956), and more! Join WatchMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Greatest Final Shots in Movies.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Greatest%20Final%20Shots%20in%20Movies. Special thanks to our users Andrew A. Dennison, MikeMJPMUNCH, and TypicalChannel for suggesting this idea!


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Now that’s how you end a film. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Greatest Final Shots in Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most classic final shots in all of cinema. We’ll be considering how the shot is framed, how it integrates into the overall narrative, and the emotional impact that it may generate. We’ll only be considering the very final shot itself, not the entire closing scene.

#10: The Victorious Fist “The Breakfast Club” (1985)

Is there a more iconic ending in all of teen movie history? As John Bender leaves detention, he pumps his fist into the air, and the movie ends on a freeze frame of his victorious pose. Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but this was the ‘80s, so we can forgive it. This shot has since become one of the most parodied movie scenes in history, and it encapsulates everything that makes “The Breakfast Club” such a heartwarming classic. When Bender pumps his fist into the air, we can’t help but feel a little warm and gooey inside.

#9: Jack in 1921 “The Shining” (1980)

“The Shining” seemingly ends in a typical horror movie fashion – Jack chases his son through a hedge maze and freezes to death, and his family gets away. But then Kubrick has to be Kubrick and throw one final curveball. The ending shot is a slow crawl towards a photograph, wherein Jack can be seen with a group of partygoers… in 1921. Wait, what? Huh? This final shot leaves viewers’ minds racing, and it has become the source of endless discussion and interpretation. That said, Kubrick explicitly revealed in an interview with Michel Ciment that the photograph was meant to convey Jack’s reincarnation. Like Grady told him earlier in the movie, “You’ve always been the caretaker.”

#8: Mirror Shot “Raging Bull” (1980)

Martin Scorsese sure knows how to end a movie. The final shot of “The Departed” was one of the most-talked about endings of the 2000s, just as the mirror shot of “Raging Bull” was one of the greatest of the ‘80s. In a final long take, Jake contemplates on the idea that his own blind rage and self-destructive tendencies have led him down a path of ostracization and broken dreams. He addresses himself and his flaws in the mirror, relates to Terry Malloy from “On the Waterfront,” and looks back on his past glory by shadowboxing. It’s one of the most beautiful bittersweet endings in all of cinema.

#7: ‘I’m Finished’ “There Will Be Blood” (2007)

Sure, the ending of “There Will Be Blood” has become a bit of a meme, but there’s no denying the dramatic impact of the final shot. It’s a beautifully framed image that shows the resulting carnage of Daniel’s psychopathy, including the brilliant depiction of the greedy Daniel sitting next to Eli’s fallen corpse. Like a great piece of literature, there is so much meaning to be derived just from this final image alone, including concepts and arguments of greed, vice, selfishness, sacrifice, and Biblical metaphors. “I’m finished” may mean different things to different people, but we don’t think there’s any arguing with the fact that this final shot is a killer.

#6: Ethan’s Departure “The Searchers” (1956)

“The Searchers” is often considered to be the greatest Western ever made, and its final shot has become iconic. Debbie is returned to the Jorgensen ranch, and Ethan departs alone as the door swings shut on his receding image. Not only is the shot itself immaculately framed and lit, but it also represents the finality of a genre. Ethan, a Western hero, departs into history and legend as the screen goes black behind him. Sure, Westerns continued for a few more years, but film critics and historians generally agree that the genre peaked with “The Searchers.” This final image is a perfect representation of that peak, a final goodbye to a unique period in film history.

#5: Antoine Looks at the Camera “The 400 Blows” (1959)

“The 400 Blows” tells the story of the rebellious Antoine Doinel who partakes in petty crime before being sent to a youth detention center. Having successfully escaped the center, the final shot of the movie sees Antoine running on the beach before freezing on his face as he stares directly into the camera. What Antoine’s look is meant to convey has been endlessly debated, with various interpretations resulting in many different readings of the movie itself. Is it condemning this life of freedom? Encouraging it? Where will Antoine go from here? Does the open ocean represent endless possibilities, or does the abrupt end of the shoreline represent disappointing finality? You decide.

#4: The Statue of Liberty “Planet of the Apes” (1968)

Can you imagine how mind-blowing this was back in 1968? Taylor and Nova ride freely on the seemingly alien beach before Taylor sees something that stops him in his tracks and sends him to his knees – the remains of the Statue of Liberty. It was Earth all along! Duh duh duh! The way the shot is composed is just brilliant, as it initially focuses on Taylor and Nova before panning out to reveal the now iconic matte remains of the buried statue. It’s an intelligent way to unveil the final, shocking gut-punch of the movie, and it’s an image that has been burned into the public consciousness for decades.

#3: The Spinning Top “Inception” (2010)

Has there been a more discussed and debated ending in the early 21st century? The end of “Inception” sees Cobb spinning the top to determine if he is dreaming, but he decides to ignore the result once he sees the faces of his children. The final image of his totem kept viewers enthralled, and many audible “ahh, come ons!” were heard in theaters around the world. It’s a brilliantly ambiguous and tantalizing ending that has generated endless debate (yes, we are aware of the wedding ring, so shush), and Christopher Nolan has stated that this is the most asked-about scene of his career. Such is the power of a simple spinning top.

#2: The Star Child “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

The ending of “2001” is so ingrained in popular culture that its image has become one of the most iconic and parodied in movie history. Once old-man Bowman reaches for the monolith, he is transformed into some godly fetus that watches over Earth and stares directly into the camera. One could write entire dissertations about the meaning of this final image, but even if you ignore all the thematic and symbolic implications it represents, you are still left with an unbelievably stunning picture that can either haunt your dreams or make you feel content. How do you feel as the Star Child gazes into your eyes?

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

The Approaching Tornado

“A Serious Man” (2009)

The Climactic Freeze Frame

“Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (1969)

‘The Rhythm of the Night’

“Beau Travail” (1999)

#1: The Door Closes on Kay “The Godfather” (1972)

It’s weird that so many gangsters looked up to “The Godfather” as inspiration when it was clearly condemning the lifestyles of its protagonists. This theme is perfectly encapsulated in its final image when a gangster closes the door on Michael’s wife. Despite insisting that the lifestyle isn’t for him, Michael is sucked into this world of depravity and becomes the Don. The final image is a perfect metaphor for his transformation. Michael not only lies about his job to his wife, but she is also subsequently denied access to that part of his life. The door shuts on his past life of happiness and love, as he now devotes himself entirely to the dirty family business.


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