The 33 best movie endings of all time, ranked

  • Nothing beats a great movie ending.
  • Here we rank 33 of the all-time best.
  • Find out where favorites like "Inception," "Avengers: Infinity War," and "Casablanca" end up on the list.
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Movie endings can leave you with a sense of satisfaction or make you want to throw your chair at the screen.

Every filmmaker strives for the former, and in some cases, they manage to pull off something that will be remembered forever.

Whether it leaves you happy or sad, or has a visual or line of dialogue that just brings everything together, a movie ending can make or break how you feel about the story you just watched.

From "Gone with the Wind" to "Avengers: Infinity War," here we rank 33 of the best movie endings of all time (spoilers galore, obviously).

33. "There Will Be Blood" (2007)

In a movie filled with mind games, the ending of Paul Thomas Anderson's classic is its most memorable.

Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) comes to Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in hopes of selling him land for oil. Plainview agrees, but only if Eli, a preacher, denounces his faith. Sunday does, but then Plainview reveals that the land is worthless as the oil has already been taken from it. This leads to a confrontation that ends with Plainview killing Sunday with a bowling pin.

The last line of the movie is Plainview shouting, "I'm finished!"

32. "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (1975)

In one of Jack Nicholson's greatest performances, the fate of R.P. McMurphy is sad but also inspiring. His rebel attitude, sapped due to a lobotomy, transfers to the gentle giant Chief, who finally has the strength to escape the ward. And we like to think the spirit of McMurphy is right there with him.

31. "Shane" (1953)

Gunfighter Shane (Alan Ladd) has beaten the bad guy and brought justice to the West, but as he gets on his horse, young Joey (Brandon De Wilde) sees blood dripping from Shane, his arm limp as he rides off.

What follows is one of the most quoted closings in movie history — Joey shouting out, "Shane! Come back!"

30. "Easy Rider" (1969)

Driving home the "we blew it" statement in the scene before the conclusion of the revolutionary counterculture tale, Billy (Dennis Hopper) is shot by a hillbilly, and when Wyatt (Peter Fonda) drives off to get help, he's also shot and killed.

An aerial shot shows Wyatt's burning motorcycle on the roadside.

29. "La La Land" (2016)

Mia (Emma Stone) and her husband (Tom Everett Scott) stroll into a jazz bar and suddenly Mia realizes she's in Sebastian's (Ryan Gosling) establishment. And there he is on stage introducing the band that just played. The two lock eyes and it completely shatters Sebastian. He gets on the piano and begins to play a song.

We are then thrust into a sequence of flashbacks of what he could have done to have kept Mia. It all would have culminated with him sitting next to her at the jazz bar instead of her current husband. The scene ends with no words just Mia and Sebastian locking eyes for the last time as she leaves. It's one heck of a way to end a love story.

28. "The Sixth Sense" (1999)

For better or worse, director M. Night Shyamalan became the king of the surprise ending with the reveal at the end of "The Sixth Sense." It turns out Malcolm Crowe (Bruce Willis) was in fact one of the dead people Cole (Haley Joel Osment) sees.

Shyamalan reveals this through a series of flashbacks at the end of the movie and finally the reveal that Malcolm never survived the opening scene of the movie when the intruder entered his house.

27. "Gone with the Wind" (1939)

The epic love story set during the Civil War ends in grand fashion. Tired of the games being played by Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh), Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) walks out on Scarlett with the epic line, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." This leads to Scarlett pledging to win back Rhett because "tomorrow is another day." The film closes with an incredible shot of Scarlett standing in front of a setting sun as the score by Max Steiner plays.

26. "Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark" (1981)

After successfully obtaining the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis' possession, Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) brings it back to the US and is told sternly that the Ark will now be studied by "top men." But in a final shot, director Steven Spielberg shows the Ark boxed up and wheeled off in a warehouse among thousands of other boxed secrets.

25. "Rocky II" (1976)

"Rocky" had the incredible first bout between Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) and Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) and the famous "Adrian!" line at the end. But the "Rocky II" ending tops the first.

The rematch between Balboa and Creed ends with the two knocked down in the final round and racing to stand before the referee gets to a 10 count. The scene is intense regardless of how many times you've seen it.

24. "The Thing" (1982)

After destroying the alien that has terrorized him and his crew, R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) thinks he's all alone in Antarctica. That is until Childs (Keith David) comes out of the darkness.

MacReady thinks Childs could have been contaminated by the alien, but doesn't have the strength to do anything about it. Instead, the two share a drink from the same bottle and "see what happens."

23. "Inception" (2010)

It's an ending that continues to befuddle many. After Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) completes the job that gets him back home he goes to see his kids, he spins his small top, the totem that will convince him he's in reality. But before he can see the top stop spinning he sees his kids and runs to them. The camera turns back to the top, still spinning. Or is it finally about to stop?

We'll never know, the screen turns black and the credits roll.

22. "The 400 Blows" (1959)

Francois Truffaut's landmark story of a delinquent boy's life in Paris (partly based on his own) ends with the main character Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Leaud) running away from a troubled boys' school to the ocean, a sight he's never seen before. He turns and looks directly into the camera. The freeze-frame of his face is one of the most powerful images in movie history and has led to countless interpretations.

21. "Psycho" (1960)

After the big reveal that shows Norman Bates (Anthony Perkins) was in fact dressed as his mother and committed all the murders at the Bates Motel, director Alfred Hitchcock shows Bates in a holding cell as the voice of his mother protesting the murders is heard. If you look closely, you'll see the chilling skeleton head of Norman's mother as the picture dissolves to show Marion's (Janet Leigh) car being pulled out of the swamp next to the Bates Motel. 

20. "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1978)

One of the better remakes of a horror movie, the 1978 version of "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" has a great shock ending as we find Michael (Donald Sutherland), thought to still be human, walking around until he runs into Elizabeth, who has also stayed human. But when Elizabeth gets closer, Michael points at her and lets out a scream that the pod people do.

Elizabeth is frozen in terror. Michael is now one of them. Try to go to sleep after watching that scene!

19. "Bonnie and Clyde" (1967)

Controversial at the time of its release because of the violence depicted, the film's ending drove home that unrest as outlaws Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) and Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) are killed in a hail of gunfire from police who had finally caught up with them.

What's most memorable in the ending (outside of the violence) is the editing done. A fast close-up on both characters just before the shooting starts.

18. "The Shawshank Redemption" (1994)

After being the first man ever to successfully escape Shawshank, Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) sends a message to friend "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) on how to find him once he is paroled. This leads to a powerfully touching reunion between the two on a beach.

17. "Avengers: Infinity War" (2018)

"You should have gone for the head" — and with that line Thanos snaps his fingers and disappears, destroying half of all living things. We watch as many of our favorite Avengers disintegrate, leaving the ones who survived in complete shock.

We then see Thanos on another planet, sitting down as the sun sets and smiling. It's definitely the most powerful ending ever to a superhero movie.

16. "The Wild Bunch" (1969)

Director Sam Peckinpah was always for delivering harsh visuals to his audience and with this classic Western he gave a blood-soaked ending that's hard to forget. Pike Bishop (William Holden) and his gang take on the Mexican army with their sidearms and a very big machine gun. It's a complete bloodbath with few survivors.

15. "Night of the Living Dead" (1968)

In an ending that is very much commentary on the racial unrest in the US at the time of its release in the late 1960s, Ben (Duane Jones), the lone survivor in the house from the zombie attack, is shot and killed by hunters the morning after the attack as he's mistaken for a zombie. Ben, who is black, is then thrown into a bonfire.

14. "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb" (1964)

With nuclear weapons certain to destroy the world, the politicians and generals in the war room think of how mankind can live. Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers) begins to explain how a super-race can be created and begins to stand from his wheelchair.

He shouts: "Mein Führer, I can walk!" Then the doomsday device goes off. There's only one better ending from a Stanley Kubrick movie. (Keep reading to find out.)

13. "Scarface" (1983)

As drug lord Sosa has his men attack the compound of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), Tony goes out in one of the most incredible shootouts ever filmed, with a machine gun and a lot of smack talk. It's the scene that will link Pacino and director Brian De Palma forever.

12. "The Godfather" (1972)

After putting out hits on all the heads of his rival mafia families, Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) is confronted by his wife Kay (Diane Keaton) about the death of his disloyal brother-in-law, Carlo. Saying he doesn't talk about his business, Michael finally gives in and tells her he had nothing to do with Carlo's death.

We then see from Kay's point of view Michael being greeted by the men in his family who call him "Don Corleone." As the door closes on Kay, she realizes Michael is no longer the man she fell in love with.

11. "Sunset Boulevard" (1950)

Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) is to be taken by the police for the murder of screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) but doesn't move until the press arrives — with cameras. Then, with her public waiting, she gives her final performance. It's a walk down her long staircase, all press frozen in time. Desmond continues to walk, directly right at us to the screen as the movie ends.

10. "The Graduate" (1967)

Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) successfully breaks up Elaine Robinson's (Katharine Ross) wedding, and the two run off on a bus. After the excitement subsides, the camera inspects the two sitting in the back of the bus as they contemplate what they have just done.

The camera stays on them as their smiles move to "oh, s—" blank expressions.

9. "Chinatown" (1974)

When Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson) finally figures out the twisted love affair of Noah Cross (John Huston) and Evelyn Mulwray (Faye Dunaway), it's too late. The cops are hot on his tail, and everything comes to a head in the Chinatown district of LA. Evelyn is killed, and Noah leaves with Katherine (Evelyn's sister and daughter). It's then that Jake is told the classic line, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."

8. "Carrie" (1976)

When you think all the scares are done, director Brian De Palma gives one more at the end of his adaptation of the Stephen King novel. As Sue (Amy Irving) walks to Carrie's old home to pay her respects, a hand comes out of the ground to grab her. We realize she is actually dreaming and she wakes up in hysterics in her bedroom while the haunting music rages.

7. "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968)

The ending of Stanley Kubrick's "2001" is a technological masterwork. David Bowman (Keir Dullea) flies into the monolith, where he finds a vortex of colored lights, sees an older version of himself, and finally becomes the star child.

Well, we think that's what happens, anyway. It's an ending with countless interpretation to this day.

6. "The Third Man" (1949)

The beautiful end to Carol Reed's film noir proves that sometimes action really does speak louder than words. The single shot with no dialogue shows Alida (Anna Schmidt) walking from Harry's (Orson Welles) funeral and completely passing Holly (Joseph Cotten), proving how much she really cared about Harry. All of this is over the unique score by Anton Karas.

5. "Seven" (1995)

The shocking twist in David Fincher's "Seven" brings to a thrilling conclusion a police whodunit that we thought couldn't get any more insane. Finally having captured John Doe (Kevin Spacey), Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are led by the madman to an open field, where a box is delivered.

The reveal of what's inside the box — the head of Mills' wife (Gwyneth Paltrow) — is an incredible shock and leads to the final sin being committed: wrath.

4. "Casablanca" (1942)

With plans to run off with Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman), Rick (Humphrey Bogart) instead shocks her, and the audience, by telling her to leave with Victor (Paul Henreid) to America. After Rick kills Major Strasser (Conrad Veidt) so the two can get away, Rick is left with Captain Louis Renault, who tells his officers to "round up the usual suspects" for the Major's death.

Rick and Louis famously walk away in the fog as Rick says one of the most memorable closing lines to a movie: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

3. "Citizen Kane" (1941)

What does "Rosebud" mean? That's the word MacGuffin director Orson Welles plugs into his classic movie, using it as a device to tell the life of Charles Foster Kane (Welles). We learn the truth at the end, as objects of the late Kane are thrown into an incinerator, including his boyhood sled, called Rosebud.

2. "The Usual Suspects" (1995)

One of the most surprising endings in the history of movies, the reveal in the last few minutes that "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey) is actually the legendary crime lord Keyser Söze is a twist that may never be duplicated.

1. "Planet of the Apes" (1968)

Thinking he has been on a planet where apes evolved from men, George Taylor (Charlton Heston) realizes that he has been on Earth the whole time after seeing a destroyed Statue of Liberty.

It's the most powerful movie ending of all time — not just because it's the perfect ending for a sci-fi movie made in the late 1960s, when the country was in turmoil and a sweet ending just wasn't on the cards, but because to this day it still has a strong shock effect.

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