For my last one-page blog of the summer, I thought it only fitting if I wrote about endings. It’s cliché I know, and if that bothers you, sorry! I’ll be out of here shortly. But for now, I’m still around, and wanted to share a few of my favorite finales. Warning: this will probably go over a page, and obviously, spoiler alert.
The Breakfast Club (1985). We all know how this film ends – I daresay more people have seen the ending shot of this film than the actual movie, which is too bad, because the whole film is worth your time. John Hughes’ quintessential 80s coming of age film follows five high school students as they suffer through a Saturday detention together. Each of the students comes from a different clique – there’s the popular pretty girl, the nerd, the jock, the goth, and the rebel. As their punishment, they are asked to write a thousand-word essay about “who they think they are.” The film ends with a voiceover from Brian, the nerd, reading the letter he wrote to Principal Vernon in place of their essays. Brian states that “each one of us is a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal. Does that answer your question?” And signs off the essay with “Sincerely yours, the Breakfast Club.” ‘Don’t you Forget About Me’ by Simple Minds starts to play, and the last thing we see is John Bender, the rebel, raising his fist as he walks across the empty high school football field. I mean, was this not the best use of the freeze frame ever?
Cinema Paradiso (1988). While it’s not technically the last shot, the near-ending scene where Toto watches a roll of film with every single lover’s kiss censored out by the village priest is the culminating emotional moment of the film. Cinema Paradiso is mostly about the relationship between a young boy, Toto, who loves movies, and Alfredo, the projectionist who takes Toto under his wing. The friendship lasts for a long time – until Toto grows up – when Alfredo encourages him to leave everything behind – including Alfredo – and go out into the world. Toto does just that, not returning to his village in Italy until many years later for Alfredo’s funeral. He seems to have forgotten how much he left behind, but the memories come flooding back as he watches the collection of kisses, a gift for Toto assembled by Alfredo before he died. You have to watch the film to understand what a beautiful and bittersweet moment this is, and if you’re a true sap, you will definitely cry. The romantic kisses, paired with Ennio Morricone’s gorgeous musical love theme makes for a wonderful ending to Cinema Paradiso.
La La Land (2016). In the third act of Damien Chazelle’s film, we jump forward to an epilogue where Mia, now a famous actress, stumbles upon a jazz club with her husband. After entering, we soon realize that it is in fact Sebastian’s club – called Seb’s – which Mia suggested he name it when they were together. As Mia lays eyes on him for the first time in years, we are suddenly catapulted into an alternate reality where Mia and Sebastian stay together and live happily ever after, complete with colorful musical numbers and home-video style scenes of the two of them and their child, before being jolted back into reality. It is a heart wrenching few moments of what could have been, and regret for not having tried. This is something everyone feels at one point or another, which only makes this scene more effective.
Almost Famous (2000). I know I’ve talked about this film before, and yes, it is a personal favorite, but this ending is genuinely one of the best I’ve ever seen. After a whirlwind adventure with the band Stillwater, our young protagonist William finally collapses on his bed, exhausted. He’s tired of the growing pains, fame, drugs, rock and roll, love, sex, the doubts of the staff at Rolling Stone, who think his story was fake – he’s tired of all of it. He only comes to when guitarist Russel Hammond appears, finally ready for that interview William was begging for. The sleepy teenager grabs his recorder, grinning from ear to ear, and asks Russel: “What do you love about music?” and he replies, “To begin with, everything.” It is the perfect ending moment to this heartfelt (but not overly sweet) coming of age film.