Movies with Great Endings

The ending can make a good movie great, and a great movie unforgettable. Here are a few examples.
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1.
I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Wrongly convicted James Allen serves in the intolerable conditions of a southern chain gang, which later comes back to haunt him. (92 mins.)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
“ Here's a film that ends unexpectedly, but very effectively! The ending line and visual neatly summarize the point the film was trying to make. Is it any wonder that it spawned reforms in the penal system? ” - ksneath
 
2.
Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
An elderly couple are forced to separate when they lose their house and none of their five children will take both parents in. (91 mins.)
Director: Leo McCarey
“ A largely forgotten film, the ending here puts the cap on a truly great movie. This one should be seen by all ages. Powerful. ” - ksneath
 
3.
The Palm Beach Story (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An inventor needs cash to develop his big idea. His wife, who loves him, decides to raise it for him by divorcing him and marrying a millionaire. (88 mins.)
Director: Preston Sturges
“ A true "bookend" ending to a very fun film! It's zany, goofy, surprising, and really makes you think (with a smile on your face). Everything a screwball comedy should be. ” - ksneath
 
4.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A naive man is appointed to fill a vacancy in the United States Senate. His plans promptly collide with political corruption, but he doesn't back down. (129 mins.)
Director: Frank Capra
“ Who could forget the climactic scene played out on the floor of Congress? Never mind the gavel, Harry. ” - ksneath
 
5.
The Woman in the Window (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
When a conservative middle-aged professor engages in a minor dalliance with a femme fatale, he is plunged into a nightmarish quicksand of blackmail and murder. (107 mins.)
Director: Fritz Lang
“ One of the first and best uses of this plot device, this ending will surprise you. What some see as annoying inconsistencies or mistakes by E.G.R.'s character, I see as a brilliant setup for the final reel. Not everyone loves it, but I do! ” - ksneath
 
6.
The Public Enemy (1931)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A young hoodlum rises up through the ranks of the Chicago underworld, even as a gangster's accidental death threatens to spark a bloody mob war. (83 mins.)
“ One of the 3 films that popularized gangster movies in the early 30's, this one has two unforgettable scenes at the end with Cagney:
1) The scene in the rain where he "ain't so tough" and,
2) The final shot. ” - ksneath
 
7.
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
Fred Dobbs and Bob Curtin, two Americans searching for work in Mexico, convince an old prospector to help them mine for gold in the Sierra Madre Mountains. (126 mins.)
Director: John Huston
“ Classic ending to a classic movie. Memorable endings are made by scenes such as Bogart at the water hole and Huston in the windstorm. ” - ksneath
 
8.
The Searchers (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An American Civil War veteran embarks on a journey to rescue his niece from the Comanches. (119 mins.)
Director: John Ford
“ One of the most iconic endings of all time. It's hard to overstate how good the final scene is here. ” - ksneath
 
9.
Witness for the Prosecution (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A veteran British barrister must defend his client in a murder trial that has surprise after surprise. (116 mins.)
Director: Billy Wilder
“ The final 5 minutes of this courtroom drama/mystery may give you more than one surprise! Complete with a cast of colorful characters, this is one you should not miss. ” - ksneath
 
10.
Wait Until Dark (1967)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A recently blinded woman is terrorized by a trio of thugs while they search for a heroin-stuffed doll they believe is in her apartment. (108 mins.)
Director: Terence Young
“ This thriller was unparalleled for its time with its intense ending. Despite the distinct 60s era flavor and the slightly annoying post-climactic scene, it is still thrilling today -- even on repeated viewings. ” - ksneath
 
11.
Vertigo (1958)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend's wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her. (128 mins.)
“ A suspenseful and ultimately ironic ending only sweetens the deal for this classic Hitchcock! ” - ksneath
 
12.
The Sting (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
In Chicago in September 1936, a young con man seeking revenge for his murdered partner teams up with a master of the big con to win a fortune from a criminal banker. (129 mins.)
Director: George Roy Hill
“ Probably the best classic con film. This complex movie never fails to entertain -- all the way through to the final seconds. ” - ksneath
 
13.
Psycho (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer's client, goes on the run, and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother. (109 mins.)
“ Set the bar of thriller endings with this one. Remembered for the shower scene twist, the ending is just as surprising and shocking. Only the flies are safe! ” - ksneath
 
14.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving with an obnoxious slob of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion. (93 mins.)
Director: John Hughes
“ The final reel really embellishes this extremely funny comedy. Not only is it funny, but it has a heart. ” - ksneath
 
15.
Roman Holiday (1953)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome. (118 mins.)
Director: William Wyler
“ A classic romance with a great finale. The ending scene subtly has us waiting, hoping, expecting... but when the fade out comes, we're somehow still satisfied. ” - ksneath
 
16.
Love Me or Leave Me (1955)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A fictionalized account of the career of jazz singer Ruth Etting and her tempestuous marriage to gangster Marty Snyder, who helped propel her to stardom. (122 mins.)
Director: Charles Vidor
“ Two powerhouse performances make this a great movie. The nature of the relationships in the film does not necessitate or even imply a happy ending. The way the story concludes still manages to give sufficient dignity to all. ” - ksneath
 
17.
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
When Scott Carey begins to shrink because of exposure to a combination of radiation and insecticide, medical science is powerless to help him. (81 mins.)
Director: Jack Arnold
“ The Day the Earth Stood Still, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Forbidden Planet are all good classic sci-fi films. They are all more well known than this one. This one is better. Great visuals, great story, and great ending! ” - ksneath
 
18.
White Dog (1982)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A trainer attempts to retrain a vicious dog that's been raised to attack black people. (90 mins.)
Director: Samuel Fuller
“ Aborted by the studio for being "racist", this largely unseen film is one of the most powerful race films in existence. The ending is haunting and deserves to be remembered! ” - ksneath
 
19.
The More the Merrier (1943)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
During the World War II housing shortage in Washington, two men and a woman share a single apartment and the older man plays Cupid to the other two. (104 mins.)
Director: George Stevens
“ A very satisfying, sweet final scene incorporating clever visuals. A great romantic screwball film. ” - ksneath
 
20.
The Fastest Gun Alive (1956)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
In the western frontier town of Cross Creek storekeeper George Temple is a polite and soft spoken man with a secret past.When three bank robbers on the lam stop in town to change horses George Temple's past comes back to haunt him. (89 mins.)
Director: Russell Rouse
“ This very entertaining and suspenseful western is garnished by the slick, smart ending. See it if you get the chance. ” - ksneath
 
21.
Homicidal (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
The brutal stabbing murder of a justice-of-the-peace sparks an investigation of dark family secrets in a sleepy small town in Southern California. (87 mins.)
Director: William Castle
“ A Psycho-spawn film which begins a little slow and strange, but really builds towards the end. Complete with a "fright break" and a great reveal! ” - ksneath
 
22.
Hangover Square (1945)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A promising classical musician finds his life poisoned by a music hall dancer -- and by the strange gaps in his memory. (77 mins.)
Director: John Brahm
“ You may or may not be able to readily accept the premise of this film, but one thing you cannot ignore is the ending. Great visuals and very powerful. ” - ksneath
 
23.
A Big Hand for the Little Lady (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Comedy western in which a traveler bets more money than he can afford in a poker game, and unusual events follow. (95 mins.)
Director: Fielder Cook
“ This already-entertaining western comedy with a great cast is only helped along further by the memorable finale. ” - ksneath
 
24.
The Sixth Sense (1999)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A boy who communicates with spirits that don't know they're dead seeks the help of a disheartened child psychologist. (107 mins.)
“ An immediate classic upon release, this movie is well deserving. Fascinating and freaky throughout, but absolutely mesmerizing in the final minutes. Besides, how many other movies can you name that are this freaky and still pull at your heartstrings? ” - ksneath
 
25.
The Bedford Incident (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An American destroyer captain is determined to confront a Soviet submarine caught violating territorial waters. Perhaps too determined. (102 mins.)
Director: James B. Harris
“ Absorbing, if somewhat unrealistic character study of a Captain of a cold war destroyer. Widmark's performance is riveting, and the ending will blow you away! ” - ksneath
 
26.
Strait-Jacket (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
After a twenty-year stay at an asylum for a double murder, a mother returns to her estranged daughter where suspicions arise about her behavior. (93 mins.)
Director: William Castle
“ Joan Crawford as Norman Bates. But with an axe. Need I say more? ” - ksneath
 
27.
Adventures of Don Juan (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
The great lover Don Juan comes to the assistance of his queen. (110 mins.)
Director: Vincent Sherman
“ Entertaining, if otherwise forgettable film. This one makes the list solely for the ending line and its delivery. It really cracked me up and was befitting of the lighthearted nature of the picture. ” - ksneath
 
28.
Random Harvest (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An amnesiac World War I veteran falls in love with a music hall star, only to suffer an accident which restores his original memories but erases his post-war life. (126 mins.)
Director: Mervyn LeRoy
“ A true classic romance movie. You'll be pulling for this ending really hard -- and don't worry, it delivers! ” - ksneath
 
29.
Planet of the Apes (1968)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An astronaut crew crash-lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved. (112 mins.)
“ Another iconic ending. So much so, that it is almost impossible to view the film (or even the packaging!) without already being aware of the twist. It has to be a good ending if you can actually enjoy a picture with an entire cast in bad monkey costumes! ” - ksneath