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Poll: All Ends Well That Ends With a Smile

It doesn't take a scientist's mind to understand all the positive values of smiling: just watching someone smiling can immediately draw us to that person. Smiling relieves us from stress and negative thoughts, allowing us to embrace life in a more detached, fun, cheerful or optimistic way.

And this is why, for all its stress-relieving, attractive and communicative effect, a smile can also work as the perfect conclusion to a movie, drama or comedy, lasting for a few seconds but promised to an eternal memory. And many films owe a great part of their popularity to a final smile that beautifully wrapped them up, captured their spirit and provided the perfect conclusion.

Whether joyful, teary, enigmatic or even creepy, which of these classic final smiles from live-action movies was the most emotionally rewarding conclusion?

Discuss here

Make Your Choice

  1. Vote!
     

    Charles Chaplin in City Lights (1931)

    The blind girl, now cured, after giving the rose to the Tramp, understands that he is the "rich man", the Charming Prince who haunted her dreams. The Tramp is anxious, and timidly asks her if she can see now. The answer of the girl and the breathtaking concluding smile of the Tramp create the most beautiful and inspiring ending ever. Because she had just realized that she saw the essential, which ironically, was invisible to the eyes.
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    Robert De Niro in Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

    Max resurrects in Noodles' life and asks him, as a redeeming act of vengeance to kill him for he took his money, his girlfriend, his life. Max could easily accept, but he can't afford to lose his pride again, and the most valuable things he still possesses, his memories ... even if the illusory happiness implies an illusory guilt. In the end, Noodles' heart finally relieved, if not redeemed, can savor his memories … painful, but intact. No words, again for one of the most beautiful endings in cinema's history, only a gigantic smile.
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    Giulietta Masina in The Nights of Cabiria (1957)

    After such a heart-breaking climax, this was the "City Lights"-like ending the movie needed: the ultimate triumph of the faith in human spirit. Cabiria, a character so desperately needing love, is like reborn in this scene, her eyebrows are (finally) natural, her smile genuine, her wounds healed, as she feels in security again, hence her quick glance at Fellini, her real-life love behind the camera, or was she simply thanking us, viewers, for loving her.
  4. Vote!
     

    Paul Newman in Cool Hand Luke (1967)

    Luke's demise is his last victory because they killed him but never really "reached" him. And he still inspires the working chain-gang to believe that no chains are solid enough to stop them. Dragline, like Luke's apostle, reminds us of his legendary smile, and the last shot with the cross-shaped road junction and Luke grinning with the two girls, whether it was a fake or not, proves that whatever Luke's character communicated to the inmates, to us, he didn't fail.
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    Anthony Perkins in Psycho (1960)

    By killing the main character through one of the most audacious and shocking middle plot twists, Hitch transfered our interest from Marion Crane to Norman Bates. But because of his looks, his easy-going and soft-spoken personality, even after the final revelation, a part of us wants to believe that he's really guided by the soul of his evil mother, this ominous voice we hear while he slowly grins at us. Now, is he smiling because he manipulated everybody or because he's being manipulated? That's the question.
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    Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross in The Graduate (1967)

    The ending is a hymn for immaturity, for this excitement that makes life enjoyable, freedom to make our own mistakes, believing that it's never 'too late'... and the fading smile at the end while they're together in the bus, says as much as "Mona Lisa" for the painting Art: what are they thinking, are they happy, are they regretting ... or just floating, not in a raft trapped in a swimming pool, in a bus that follows a direction ... which one? Who cares?
  7. Vote!
     

    Uma Thurman and Perla Haney-Jardine in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)

    The morning after Bill's death, we find Bea with B.B. in a motel. This time, BB doesn't watch 'Shogun Assassin' but a simple cartoon, showing that things are changing for the better. And in the bathroom, Beatrix cries with an euphoria that sounds like the hangover following the blood-drunkenness provided by so much killings, then, she joins B.B. and we celebrate the tender happy ending of a glorious saga, reminding us that more than a bad-ass swordswoman, Beatrix was a mother and the film couldn't have a better last shot: mother and daughter smiling together.
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    Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt (2002)

    It's about a man trying to look at the right side of life, if not the bright, giving it a direction that would help him to end it the best way. It all comes to an end, so let's live what's left to the fullest. Either I'm happy because I ONLY have 10 years to live or because I STILL have 10 years to live. It's a whole mindset to build and to which the last letter from the little African boy finally provide the first bricks, Warren can live again and embrace life with positive thoughts, an inner revolution he could only welcome through flows of tear before a happy smile.
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    #9

    "Manhattan" is the realization of a man who loved intellectuality and intellectualized love, and lost everything: his job, his girl, out of false impulses, he recollects all the things that makes life worth living, the list ends with … Tracy. The film's ending is a mix of "Casablanca" and "City Lights" as Tracy tells him to be patient and have a "little faith in people". Indeed, "brain is the most overrated organ", and how ironic that it comes from Woody Allen, maybe his scripts are one of the things that can also make life worth living.
  10. Vote!
     

    Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980)

    Jack Nicholson again... the hotel has always been an integral part of Jack Torrance's evolution: all work and no play drove him crazy, the ghosts of the past taunted him into killing his family, he stated his presence by demolishing the door with an ax and he was ultimately defeated by the hedge maze. And while his body is frozen somewhere with a creepy lifeless look, the last picture shows a Jack with a dashing smile, surrounded by his friends... in 1921. He and the Hotel finally made one, and its reconforting to see him belonging to the past, yet feeling so oddly and scarily 'present'.
  11. Vote!
     

    #11

    The power of the film is to consolidate the Addams' status as outcasts no matter how hard they try to fit. And it all comes to a point where we want the Addams to be back to their 'normal' abnormal lifestyle, like the title says, the Addams have values, twisted and weird, but values nonetheless. So whoever falls in love with one of them must cope with their wicked sense of humor, and it's so fitting to have young Cristina Ricci with her creepy smile closing the film, illustrating this bizarre mix of macabre and humor, testing how much of a 'Gomez' her boyfriend can be.
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    John Candy in Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

    ll the parts aren't equally funny, many became archetypal considering the appeal of the two comedic sub-genres; road and buddy movies, but the magic of the film is to grow slowly in your heart, to have an ability to surprise you, to always be printed in your memories right after watching it, and that's an accomplishment even 'better' movies failed to achieve. That's a trip you won't forget, and its conclusion with John Candy's beautifully poignant smile is intergral to the film's legendary status.
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    Mia Farrow in The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

    The bittersweet last shot shows Cecilia, as one of these poor souls, not heroic in their acts, but in their faith in people, despite the encountered treacheries and deceptions. The ending reminds of "Night of Cabiria", Fellini's masterpiece about another woman's heart victim of her own goodness. And despite all the hell Cecilia went through, her illuminated eyes prove that with movies, she'll always have her back-and-forth ticket for Heaven.
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    F. Murray Abraham in Amadeus (1984)

    God put a term to Salieri's malicious scheme by killing his divine protégé and letting Salieri alive witnessing his creations falling in the abyss of memories. As a victim of God's vengeance, Salieri aknowledges his failure and admits being the saint of mediocrities, finally relieved of the burden. He can move forward, like the loser who finally faced the facts, and admitted his flaws, his last beatific smile shows that he finally found inner peace.
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    #15

    The celebration of the iconic superhero, with John Williams' triumphant fanfares close the epic 1978 film, and Superman flashes a smile that seems to break the fourth wall, but it's not the actor smiling at us, it's Superman communicating this optimism, this faith on the ultimate triumph of justice and goodness vs. evil and corruption. If that's not a good reason to smile, I don't know what is.
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    Roseanne Barr in She-Devil (1989)

    What elevates the film above the basic standards of comedy is that the characters play like archetypes, but they change for the best. The ending has something very inspirational: the look on Roseanne Barr's while she walks and smiles surrounded by an army of female underdogs during the "You Look Like an Angel" song is almost beautiful. And then we understand why she had to be so 'ugly' at the start, less for the contrast with Streep than with herself at the end, which is even more satisfying.
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    Dustin Hoffman in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)

    "Kramer vs. Kramer" is the coming-of-realization story of two persons; trying to improve themselves over their selfish motives, in the name of their love for Billy and maybe what's left of the love between them. And as there's no love without recognition, empathy and sacrifice, the film concludes with two decisions from both Ted and Joanna, so generous, that whatever their flaws were, the two Kramers are finally redeemed, proud of each other and capable to exchange genuine smiles at the end.
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    #18

    (suggested by peaspot) ""Black Swan" is all about duality, we're both angels and devils, we're black and white swan, we're Nina and Lily … but perfection can be built on duality, but on a total embodiment, which implies a destructive yet creative fusion. In Aronofsky's "Requiem for a Dream", Sara Goldfarb's constructed an image to ultimately destroy herself, Nina Sayers destructed herself to reach perfection, she's dead but immortal, and can leave the world with a relieved smile, her torments finally over.
  19. Vote!
     

    Jonathan Pryce in Brazil (1985)

    (suggested by peaspot) All of Sam's adventures of the past few minutes, including the happy ending, apparently are all only products of Sam's delusions. As we now realize, is Sam having become catatonic at Jack's hands. He is still strapped in his chair with a smile on his face, quietly humming "Brazil". His smile's telling that he is now giving up with reality, for fantasy is the only escape from the nightmarish reality he is into. But it also acknowledges the despair of dreamy ideals. They are, after all, ideals, and by definition unreachable.
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    Emma Stone in Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

    (suggested by peaspot) Riggan is now in a hospital room after shoting his nose that make his last play a huge success. He sees birds flying outside the window. He opens it and stands on the ledge. When Sam returns to the hospital, Riggan is gone. She looks up into the sky on the open window and smiles. Is she really watching her father soar through the sky? Or she sees her dad's body splattered on the ground and it triggers a break with reality. Just like her dad, she’s started seeing things that aren’t there. Or is she just happy that finally his dad killing himself, and she smiles seeing the meteor as seen in the first scene in the movie?
  21. Vote!
     

    #21

    The film' genius is reached during the alternate reality sequence featuring a Jesus who rejected his duty and surrendered to Satan by choosing to live normally, have children and wives and die peacefully. It's the climactic pay-off of an outstanding beginning, and it works as an inconvenient reality. When Jesus implores God to take him back on the cross and the miracle is accomplished, his new fate, as the price for men's salvation, leaves an unforgettable smile in his ecstatic face, he rest is 'history'.
  22. Vote!
     

    Barbara Harris in Family Plot (1976)

    Last but not least, the fourth-wall breaking smile and wink from the adorable Barbare Harris, the last Hitchcock shot ever. The wink is reproduced in the movie poster, coming this time from the Master himself. Hitchcock always did movies with the audiences in mind, it's all natural to end with what can be seen as a friendly smiling last farewell to the viewers, and panderly wink at the people he toyed with their emotions for half a dentury

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