How to End a Film the Right Way

By Bryan Menegus on at

A film’s ending is dessert; it’s the last impression a film makes on you before you leave the cinema, and that’s what makes it so important. If it doesn’t appropriately encapsulate and comment on the events of the last two hours, everyone goes home with a bad taste in their mouths.

To show just how critical a solid ending is, Now You See It compared Hitchcock’s classic Psycho to 1998's nearly shot-for-shot remake starring Vince Vaughn. In the original, we close on a shot of a car, which we know contains a dead body, being dragged up from a swamp straight towards the camera. We don’t have the option to look away from the grisly and terrible of what’s inside — though we’re forced to imagine rather than see it.

The remake similarly shows the car being dragged up at the end, but in that closing shot, we see a group of police officers before the camera cuts to a wide shot of the landscape. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, but in the language of films, it’s gibberish. Not only does the introduction of law enforcement remove any feelings of discomfort by putting us back in a world where justice prevails, but cutting to the wide shot is just careless and does nothing to sum up the film’s contents. It serves to remove all feelings of suspense, which is not what you want to do in a thriller.

A camera movement might seem like a small detail, but small details are what great films are built on.