Back in March we shared a video essay that compares the first and final frames of several films to demonstrate how they can encapsulate the foundation of the story. In this video montage by Lorenzo Antico, we take a look at the last shots of films like Enter The Void, Little Miss Sunshine, and Lost in Translation to see how a character's catharsis and change can be expressed in the final moments before the scene fades to black. 

Here's a list of the films used in order of appearance:

If you're struggling to find the perfect ending to your project, this video will certainly give you some great ideas on how to approach it. The final moment of a scene is your last chance to speak to your audience. They are your film's final words. The films in the video do a lot of different things with their last shots. Some use it as an opportunity to instill doubt or suspense (Inception). Some use it as a means to communicate a return to the "old world" -- simply an ending to the adventure (Little Miss Sunshine). Still, others use it as an emotional zenith, a chance to really drive home how much (or little) the protagonist was willing to change before their story came to a close (The Wrestler).


Here's one thing to think about -- the final moment of most films focus on one of two things: the protagonist's external goal (saving the world, getting the girl, etc.) or their internal goal (getting closure, overcoming their fear, etc.). Which one you decide to end on seems to depend on what kind of film you're making. For instance, Inception is a very emotional film, but it tends to lean more heavily on the intellectual concepts of dreaming vs. reality, so it's no wonder why the final shot is of Cobb's spinning top rather than of him with his children. In the same vein, Rocky, although full of action-packed fight scenes, was never a film about a boxer trying to win a bout, but a societal loser wanting to gain self-respect. So a close-up of the Rocky at the end makes more sense, because his emotional defeat is more important than his physical/professional one. He might've lost the fight, but he won the heart of Adrian.

However you decide to end your film, it should be pretty clear that it needs to not only be satisfying (or deliberately dissatisfying) to your audience visually/emotionally/mentally, but it needs to communicate the film's themes, as well as let the viewer know where your protagonist stands in terms of the progress made on their journey.

Source: Lorenzo Antico