Like the last bite of pie or the end of a great novel, the final line of a movie can be a beautiful thing. It sends you on your way satisfied and just a little sorry the experience is over. Here are some of my favorites.
“Shane! Come back! Bye, Shane.”
As you might guess, this line is shouted by a little boy as gunslinger Shane rides off in the distance, never to return. Is the kid’s plaintive cry annoying? Yes. But it absolutely works because you know how he feels; you feel the same way.
THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939)
“There’s no place like home.”
In a timeless classic full of timeless lines, this is one of the best. Corny, but great.
THE CANDIDATE (1972)
“What do we do now?”
Here, the final sentence of the film is also the whole point of the story. It’s as true now as it was in ’72.
“That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
This oddly beguiling movie, full of fun, fantasy and food for thought, ends in the perfect way: A heartfelt affirmation between a man and his pig.
EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (BUT WERE AFRAID TO ASK) (1972)
“Attention, gonads, we’re going for a record.”
Unquestionably, the winner of the “Unlikeliest Final Words of a Movie” sweepstakes. Also, the best pairing of Tony Randall and Burt Reynolds EVER.
INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956)
By the time Kevin McCarthy gets all up in your grill with this warning, the movie already has worked its terrifying mojo. Be sure to check the basement for pods before bed.
GONE WITH THE WIND (1939)
“After all, tomorrow is another day!”
Confession time, folks. This makes the List for me not because I love it, but because I’ve always been amazed at the nerve it took to end such a sprawling, high-profile film this way. Kind of like the end of “The Sopranos.”
APOCALYPSE NOW (1979)
“The horror. The horror.”
Nothing is easy about “Apocalypse Now” – not the lighting, not the sound, not the surreal dialogue. Yet the cumulative power of the whole experience, including the final words, is immense.
THE SEARCHERS (1956)
“Let’s go home, Debbie.”
What’s remarkable about this ending is that you’d never have predicted it.
THE PRINCESS BRIDE (1987)
“As you wish.”
The great Peter Falk delivers the goods with a perfect twinkle in his eye. I have serious questions about anyone who doesn’t like this movie.
THE PRODUCERS (1968)
“We open in Leavenworth Saturday night!”
A zany movie HAS to end with a big punchline. Thanks Mel. Thanks Zero. Thanks Gene.
THE PLAYER (1992)
“Traffic was a bitch.”
The biting satire of this last line wraps up the movie in a sarcastic little bow.
SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950)
“All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”
Matched with the visual of Gloria Swanson in full nutjob mode, the final line is wonderfully creepy.
TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD (1962)
“He would be in Jem’s room all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.”
This one’s kind of a cheat, because of the incredible source material. It doesn’t get better than Harper Lee.
ARMY OF DARKNESS (1993)
“Hail to the king, baby.”
I love this line. It’s got that Elvis-kicks-an-alien’s-ass-in-the-parking-lot kind of vibe, just like the rest of the film.
MAGNUM FORCE (1973)
“A man’s got to know his limitations.”
Fittingly, this has become one of Clint Eastwood’s many iconic lines. It’s both spare and ironic.
SOME LIKE IT HOT (1959)
“Well, nobody’s perfect!”
How do you finish one of the wittiest, most absurd blockbusters in film history? With a line that’s witty and absurd, naturally.
THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999)
“Goodnight, you princes of Maine. You kings of New England.”
Hokey, to be sure, but you have to admit this recurring line has a certain lilt.
BACK TO THE FUTURE (1985)
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
In this case, the last words pull double duty. They need to leave you wanting to see the sequel. Mission accomplished, Doc.
KING KONG (1933)
“It was Beauty killed the Beast.”
Who knew Fay Wray could have this kind of effect?
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER (2009)
“Nice to meet you. I’m Autumn.”
Of course this is the last line of this smart little movie. How could it not be?
THE APARTMENT (1960)
“Shut up and deal.”
Looking back at this one through the lens of “Mad Men,” the end line is exquisite – all about longings that find their expression in loaded language.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)
I could listen to Morgan Freeman’s concluding narration a hundred times. Oh, wait. I already have.
THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940)
“And we’ll go on forever, Pa, cause we’re the people.”
What’s important to me is that even though the film ends much differently than Steinbeck’s brilliant novel, it still carries the same message of faith in human perseverance against all odds.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Does that line sing or what? Not only is it true to Bogie’s character, it pretty well sums up a whole generation of tough, duty-driven people. Compared to “Casablanca,” most movie exit lines aren’t worth a hill of beans.
That’s my two cents, ladies and gents. Feel free to add yours.