A good ending is like the cherry-on-top for a movie. A good ending can make you forgive a bad movie, and a bad ending can ruin an awesome movie.
What movies got it right, and which ones got it wrong? Today we're honoring some of our favorite and not-so-favorite film endings.
WARNING: This story contains MAJOR spoilers. Skip over any movies that you haven't seen, unless you don't mind the ending being ruined. Don't say we didn't warn you!
Award: Most ambiguous ending
Why: "Inception" takes place in the world of a dream, and in this 2010 movie (PG-13), a totem is an object used to tell whether you are in a dream or in real life. (Each totem has a unique test, for instance Cobb's (Leonardo DiCaprio) totem is a spinning top that, if in a dream, will spin forever.)
At the end of the movie, Cobb has successfully performed inception and is finally reunited with his kids. He spins the top, but looks away as his kids come; the final seconds show the top spinning, and then everything cuts out suddenly. You are left to decide -- does the top fall over, or was everything just a dream?
* "Sherlock Holmes"
Award: Best "makes-you-rethink-the-entire movie"
Why: Supernatural elements and dark magic play a huge part of the movie (2009, PG-13) as Holmes' enemy seems to have risen from the dead and unleashed supernatural chaos. But everything ends up having a logical explanation and all the mysteries of the movie are totally unraveled and dissected by Holmes as all of the "dark magic" is discovered to be an incredibly intricate series of carefully crafted and brilliant, well-thought-out scientific tricks.
* "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels"
Award: Most unexpected
Why: Two skilled con men decide to make a bet to see who can be the first to scam $50,000 out of a naive, wealthy woman. The lies get deeper in this 1988 film (PG), the scams get bigger, and you start to feel really bad for the woman being scammed -- until, at the end, there is a huge twist. Janet Colgate (Glenne Headly) was a scam artist all along, taking $50,000 out of the both of them!
* "The Help"
Award: Best use of "karma"
Why: In this 2011 film, rated PG-13, Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan, a young white woman aspiring to be a writer, moves back into her parents' house in Jackson, Miss., during the civil rights era. Skeeter soon realizes that the African-American household maids are being treated terribly by their employers. She decides to write a book collecting experiences of the maids, but Hilly Holbrook, a manipulative, racist woman who is almost the "head mean girl" or social leader of sorts for the well-off women in Jackson, could ruin everything for the maids if they speak.
Then Skeeter finds the perfect way to protect the identities of the maids. A special chapter of the book containing Holbrook's most embarrassing secret is added, so Holbrook will try to convince everyone in Jackson that the anonymous book (which concealed real names and places), did not take place in their city. The secret story comes from Hilly's mistreated maid, who planned the greatest, most awful, horrible and embarrassing revenge prank ever, after being fired for simply not using a segregated bathroom.
* "Monty Python"
Award: Most anticlimactic
Why: I can forgive this ending because it is a cheesy ending to a very cheesy 1975 movie (PG). But as the climax begins, when King Arthur and all his followers charge in to storm the castle of the Holy Grail, the police suddenly come in and arrest everyone -- ending the movie. Talk about a letdown.
Award: Most over-the-top
Why: Through a strange turn of events, Jonathan Koestler (Nicholas Cage) discovers a prophecy of sorts in this 2009 film (PG-13) that predicts all of the natural disasters and catastrophes in a soon-to-end 50 year time period -- only to find out that the final event is a solar flare hitting Earth and killing everyone, which he is unable to prevent.
* "Cast Away"
Award: Most unconventional, sad love story ending
Why: Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) is stranded on a deserted island for four years. He survives with the hope of coming home and returning to his fiancee (Helen Hunt), and he keeps a locket with her picture in it for all those years.
When Noland is finally rescued and gets back home, he realizes everyone had to try to forget about him and his fiancee married someone else. The two try to meet up and talk on a rainy night, and they realize they still love each other, but anything between them would never be possible again, and Noland has to let go of her. The film was made in 2000 and is rated PG-13.
Award: Most interesting book adaptation, good and bad
Why: "Sahara" is ranked on imdb.com as the 10th biggest movie flop of all time, bringing in $100million less than it took to actually make the high-budget action movie in 2005 (PG-13). To be fair, there were simply too many different storylines in the book to fit into a two-hour movie.
The ironic thing is that "Sahara," the Clive Cussler novel, was a fantastic book with a dumb ending, and even as disappointing as the movie was, it managed to get rid of the ridiculous ending. In the book, just as the climax was over and all the loose ends were tied up, the author suddenly threw in a ridiculous conspiracy theory that Abraham Lincoln was actually never assassinated, and the whole thing was a cover-up because Lincoln was actually kidnapped by the Confederates and ended up in the middle of the Sahara desert. What is it with conspiracy theories about Abraham Lincoln lately? (Yes, filmmakers of "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer," I'm talking to you.)
* "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"
Award: Most tragic, horrible, awful, terrible, no-good movie ending in film history
Why: Two boys become unlikely friends in this 2008 film (PG-13). One is Shmuel, a Jew in a concentration camp, the other is Bruno, the son of a Nazi official in charge of the camp. The boys, about 9 years old, meet each other on opposite sides of the labor camp fence every day just to talk and to try to understand what is going on.
It is not until the end of the movie when Bruno sneaks into the concentration camp to help his friend that Bruno sees the horror there. In a horrible twist of events, Bruno and Shmuel and all the men in their part of the camp are suddenly forced to get up and leave, and in a terrifying, intense climax, they are forced to the gas chambers. Without a doubt the most tragic movie I have ever seen.
Nathan Beeston is a senior at Syracuse High School. He loves swim team, writing and life-guarding at Cherry Hill, and is always up for making new friends. Contact him at email@example.com.