Some may call me an optimist after reviewing this list, but believe me, I’ve been called worse. I mean, is there anything better than a good, hopeful, awe-inspiring, uplifting, and all out warm-fuzzies guaranteed departure from our fictional, but based-on-a-true-story-world? I’ll be the first to admit, I love leaving the theater (or closing a book) with a butt load of goosebumps and a whole lot of happy, now-how-can-I-take-this-and-become-the-person-I-want-to-be feelings.
Here is my list of best movie endings ever, in this millennium. Please keep in mind that there are numerous honorable mentions (that I’m not going to mention), and that this is completely my opinion — and does not reflect the views of my fellow bloggers (who are probably judging me silently right now).
In alphabetical order (because I’m a teacher and that’s the way I like things):
*beware of spoilers (obviously)*
500 Days of Summer: After we watch poor, romantic Tom (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) get his heart ripped out and stomped on by the non-believer-of-anything-mushy, Summer (Zooey Deschanel), who doesn’t want to swear off the L- word forever?! Thankfully though, the writers wouldn’t do that to us. We get to see Tom and Summer have one last heart-to-heart. In that moment, the newly-married Summer tells Tom he was right. Love is real, and some things are totally meant to be. And even though his love story doesn’t end with her — it doesn’t end. It starts again with a girl he meets on a job interview, Autumn (smiling like an idiot!)!
“Well, you know, I guess it’s ’cause I was sitting in a deli and reading Dorian Gray and a guy comes up to me and asks me about it and… now he’s my husband… So, what if I’d gone to the movies? What if I had gone somewhere else for lunch? What if I’d gotten there 10 minutes later? It was – it was meant to be. And… I just kept thinking… Tom was right.”- Summer Finn
August Rush: If you haven’t seen this movie, take your tail to Wal-Mart and dig through the five dollar bin…. It will probably be there. Just watch it, and tell me if you’re not joyfully crying your heart out by the end.
“Sometimes the world tries to knock it out of you. But I believe in music the way that some people believe in fairy tales. I like to imagine that what I hear came from my mother and father. Maybe the notes I hear, are the same ones they heard, the night they met. Maybe that’s how they found each other. Maybe that’s how they’ll find me. I believe that once upon a time, long ago, they heard the music and followed it.”
– August Rush
Cast Away: Every time I mention this movie to people, I always get mixed reviews. I think most people either love it or hate it. I love it, and I love the ending. After Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) survives a plane crash, DIY dentistry, and losing his BFF, Wilson the volley ball, he finally makes it home to find out the woman he was engaged to (and lived for) is married to and has a child with another man. Talk about an off-day…
Most people would have just jumped back into whichever ocean he came from, but this is the movies. At the end of the film, Chuck is standing outside his car (after having dropped off a mysterious, hope-filled package), staring at a road that goes off in all directions. And he’s still alive, and he can take any path he chooses, and possibility is everywhere.
“And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I’m back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass… And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly. But I’m so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise.
Who knows what the tide could bring?”
– Chuck Noland
Friday Night Lights: For all you realists. They lose…. They lose the BIG game. And I love it because they lose. As much as I enjoy a good underdog-overcomes story, sometimes the underdog gets plowed, and that’s okay. I still believe in the underdog.
“Being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship with yourself, your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down because you told them the truth. And that truth is you did everything you could. There wasn’t one more thing you could’ve done. Can you live in that moment as best you can, with clear eyes, and love in your heart, with joy in your heart? If you can do that gentleman – you’re perfect!”
– Coach Gary Gaines
Paperman: This little short just makes me so very happy. Watch it anytime you feel depressed. You can find it on YouTube. And if you start it on your way to the bathroom at work, you’ll be able to watch it in it’s entirety before anybody knows you’re gone.
(No words… just beautiful music)
People Like Us: (I don’t want to spoil it!) This is one of those endings that take you by surprise. It’s all about a second chance, and a second chance with a twist. In this particular character’s situation, his do-over happens after he’s already faded into black.
“It means that the outcome doesn’t matter. What matters is that you were there for it, whatever IT is, good or bad, kind of like right now.”
– Sam Harper
Secondhand Lions: Shy preteen, Walter (Haley Joel Osment), who has been lied to his whole life by his wishy-washy mother, spends the summer with his two eccentric and rumored millionaire uncles, Garth and Hub (Michael Caine and Robert Duvall). The crazy pair make the days fly by with their tall tales about a greedy Sheik and their constant need for adrenaline. Walter comes to love and ultimately trust the two men and the stability they give him, and he decides to stay with them indefinitely after his mother pulls another one of her selfish stunts.
One day, after Walter is a grown man, he gets a call from the local sheriff. Garth and Hub have passed away after trying to fly their airplane through a barn door. Not long after Walter gets the news about his uncles’ deaths, a mysterious man shows up. He claims that he grew up listening to his grandfather (the Sheik) tell incredible adventures about these two brave American men. The stories were true.
“Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good; that honor, courage, and virtue mean everything; that power and money, money and power, mean nothing; that good always triumphs over evil; and I want you to remember this, that love… true love never dies. You remember that, boy. You remember that. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. You see, a man should believe in those things, because those are the things worth believing in.”
The Bucket List: Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson reveal to us life’s true meaning. This ending could not be anything but good… and a little heart-wrenching.
“Even now I cannot understand the measure of a life, but I can tell you this. I know that when he died, his eyes were closed and his heart was open. And I’m pretty sure he was happy with his final resting place, because he was buried on the mountain. And that was against the law.”
– Carter Chambers
Up: When he lets that house go! Oh my gosh!
“Adventure is out there!”
– Charles Muntz
We Bought A Zoo: Much like “Up,” you have another “kid” movie that changes your life, like so many “kid” things do. Benjamin Mee (Matt Damon) needs a new start when his wife passes away. He decides to buy a zoo and moves himself and his two children out of the city to run it. Everyone thinks he’s a lunatic and asks over and over, “Why?” Mee’s response is simply, “Why not?” The audience discovers in the last few seconds of the movie why that phrase means so much. It was basically the first words his beloved, and now dead wife, ever spoke to him!!!
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
– Benjamin Mee