Out of all the critical moments of a film, the ending itself easily ranks as one of, if not the, most important. So much can go right and so much can go terribly wrong in the last moments an audience gets to spend in the cinematic world a director has created. It’s what could leave a bad taste in the mouth of a moviegoer or get an entire audience pumped up for an inevitable sequel. Here are my picks for the best movie endings of 2012.
NOTE: As you might be able to assume from the headline, this article will delve into SPOILERS for these five films. So if you spot a title on this list that you haven’t seen yet, we heavily advise you skip that part of the article!
Sam Mendes’ take on the James Bond franchise had a knack for making Bond feel fresh and new yet again while also referencing back to the lore and legacy of the world’s best spy. Little musical touches back to the classic theme, the Aston Martin, and even Bond’s classic one-liners all made an appearance in Skyfall. All of these nods and winks come to a head at the end of Skyfall after the startling choice to kill off Judi Dench as M. It’s a heartbreaking, tear-jerking, beautiful moment between James and his “caretaker” of sorts but immediately afterwards we realize we’re now set up in the world of James Bond known by so many of the older fans of the franchise. Moneypenny and a brand new M are all in place, and now it’s up to another director to continue combining the familiar heritage of 007 with the modern sensibilities given to Bond by Martin Campbell and Sam Mendes.
4. The Cabin in the Woods
The final moments of Cabin in the Woods deliver an experience like no other, if anything else on a pure visual level that fans of the macabre and gory could rarely even imagine. Seeing countless horror icons wage war and unleash havoc was pure, insane merriment. Everything starts to make sense once all things seem to fall apart, and it all ends in an appropriately crazy explanation from Sigourney Weaver about trying to appease ancient gods by sacrificing teenagers. Sound crazy? I can’t blame you. It’s one of those moments in any great comedy that forever changes the way you see movies of that genre.
Some of the best movie endings are the ones that completely change the way you see that movie. Such an ending was that of Safety Not Guaranteed, where we realize that Kenneth wasn’t crazy after all and had, in fact created a way to travel back in time. Not only do we realize that Kenneth hasn’t lost his mind, but we also realize moments before his ulterior motives to traveling back in time. It’s a scene that reveals how much complexity really was in Mark Duplass’ terrific performance. It’s a moment that leaves jaws dropped, minds open, and hearts touched by the emotional journeys of Kenneth, Darius, and Jeff.
2. The Grey
In a different light yet similar to Safety Not Guaranteed, the ending of The Grey changes the way we see Ottway’s journey through the entire movie, but only by revealing how futile his efforts really were. After having to watch each one of the other survivors meet their own grisly demises, Ottway succumbs to his own depression and has to stare down the barrel of his own failure. Realizing that Ottway’s been marching towards the den of the wolves the entire time, Ottway prepares himself, readies his own weapons from old bottles, and lays out the identities of each man lost on his doomed journey. It’s an ending that openly frustrates some viewers, but really impressed me by just how brave it was. It cements The Grey as a depressing movie, but a beautifully depressing one at that. Ottway recites his father’s poem, Marc Streitenberg’s music swells, and we say goodbye to one of 2012’s most tragic heroes.
Finally, I couldn’t neglect placing Christopher Nolan’s parting moments to the soul of Bruce Wayne in the final seconds of The Dark Knight Rises as the Best Ending of 2012. While the whole movie has its ups and downs, the last fifteen minutes of Rises is arguably the best moment of the entire trilogy. It’s the ending that offers up the most, has the most to say, and leaves you the most satisfied. Following the “death” of Batman, we’re hit with so much information so quickly. The emotional uppercut from Alfred and his teary apology at Bruce’s funeral, the unveiling of the marble tribute to Batman in city hall, realizing John Blake’s real name… It’s all so… perfect. Culminating in one final one-two punch as we see Robin taking the mantle of the cowl and seeing Bruce happy together with Selena in Florence, matched with the one last swelling score from Hans Zimmer, it was enough to bring tears to my eyes just from pure happiness. The ending to Rises was kept in total secret for months, with Nolan never writing out the scene but only verbally telling the cast and crew involved, and for good reason. Batman couldn’t have asked for a better send-off than this.
And that’s my five favorite movie endings of 2012. But what do you think? Have any that you particularly loved? Let us know in the comments!