We recently looked at some of the greatest opening lines in cinema history and explored the importance of starting strong, but equally important is how a story concludes. Often, the final line will be the one that sticks in the back of your mind for days after the credits roll. The closing line can be a real haymaker and have an enormous impact on the audience, and it can be a great way to thrill, raise a question, reinforce an idea, drop a bombshell or neatly tie up the story. Here are the 10 best closing lines in cinema history.
“Now, where was I?”
Much like nearly all of Christopher Nolan’s films, Memento is a complex and twisting story which requires your full attention. It is not until the end of the film that the narrative becomes cohesive and complete, and this makes for a thrilling watch as the protagonist, Leonard (Guy Pearce), is in an endless loop where he is lost in his own reality as he suffers from anterogade amnesia. He realizes at the end that he is the one trying to deceive his own mind, as when he discovers the actual reality he immediately wants to forget it. The narrative ending is not the chronological ending, but this fantastic closing line confirms that his delusion will not stop and this will lead to the events of Teddy’s death. It is a challenging yet rewarding watch, but also brilliantly explores themes of memory, grief and perception.
9. A Clockwork Orange
“I was cured, alright.”
A fantastic conclusion to an amazing film, directed by Stanley Kubrick and an adaptation of Anthony Burgess’s novella, this line is delivered with a heavy amount of sarcasm after finding that Alex has returned to his former ways. It is said by Alex DeLarge, the leader of a gang who engage in “ultra-violence.” He becomes arrested and a test subject for a brutal form of aversion therapy, which includes drugging, strapping him to a chair, propping his eyelids open and forcing him to watch violent images. He appears to be cured, but Alex finds that he no longer has an aversion to violence or sex after waking up in the hospital. The government plans to use him as a campaign weapon, but we then see him have thoughts of violence and sex in front of a crowd before thinking this brilliant line to himself.
8. The Thing
“Why don’t we just wait here for a little while…see what happens.”
Many consider John Carpenter’s The Thing to be the greatest horror film ever, and a large reason for this is the chilling ambiguous ending to the film and the fear coming from what you cannot see and do not know. The final scene sees MacReady sitting near the burning camp, where he is then joined by Childs who claims that he was lost in the storm. They both think that one of them is The Thing, but they realize the futility of their distrust and are simply sitting and waiting to see what happens. It is a powerful closing line to a film as it refers to the future and what we will not see, which of course sparks plenty of fan debate and it is still hotly debated to this day (with many brilliant fan theories out there).
7. The Dark Knight
“He is not a hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector…a dark knight.”
You can’t help but smile when a character title drops, and it was perfectly placed at the very end of The Dark Knight to give the title and scene added significance. The line, spoken by Lt. James Gordon, perfectly encapsulates Batman’s role that he has come to accept. Moments earlier, Batman had stated “I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be,” and at that moment it is a villain so that they can preserve Harvey Dent’s image in order to prevent the Joker from winning. The words are powerfully delivered as we see Batman go on the run, whilst Gordon stands next to his son who is bewildered by what is happening, which goes to show the injustice of it all. This makes it an epic, poetic and powerful conclusion to one of the great modern films.
6. Back to the Future
“Roads!? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.”
A brilliant way to tease the audience and make the sequel highly anticipated, this is one of the most exciting finishes to any film. After Marty returns to present day where everything is positive and it looks like the film is simply going to end here, Doc returns in the DeLorean wearing a futuristic outfit and states that they need to go back to the future. Marty gets in the DeLorean with Jennifer and states that they don’t have enough road, to which Doc delivers this fantastic line as the trio drive forwards and disappear into the future for another incredible adventure. You immediately want to know where they are going and what kind of adventure they are going on, and there would of course be two more installments in what is one of the most loved films trilogies of all time.
“I’m not even gonna swat that fly. I hope they are watching. They’ll see. They’ll see and they’ll know and they’ll say, ‘why, she wouldn’t even harm a fly’…”
Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho is still raved about to this day, and it is widely thought to be one of the most influential horror/thriller films of all time. It is famed for its violence, but it is also a deeply disturbing film with its twist where the disturbed motel owner Norman Bates is revealed to have adopted his mother’s personality after murdering her 10 years earlier. The film closes with Norman (now permanently trapped in the persona of his mother) sat in a detention center at the local courthouse, creepily staring at the camera as he says this chilling line to himself in his mother’s voice. This line and his face summarize just how twisted and frightening this character is.
4. Planet of the Apes
“You maniacs! You blew it up! Damn you! God damn you all to hell!”
One of the most iconic film endings of all time, this brilliant closing line is powerfully delivered by George Taylor (Charlton Heston), which ensures that it is one of the greatest moments in all of cinema. All throughout the film, he believes that he is on an Earth-like planet, but he then comes across a strange object on the beach which is revealed to be the Statue of Liberty. Taylor then realizes that he is on Earth and that humanity destroyed the world. He drops to his knees, where he delivers this incredible line which he apparently wrote himself. The impact of this scene is as heavy as it was upon its 1968 release, and the message behind it is still important today.
3. The Silence of the Lambs
“I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner.”
Although there is some ambiguity to this statement, we all knew exactly what Hannibal Lecter meant when he teasingly says this on the phone to Clarice in the final scene of The Silence of the Lambs. He is in disguise and at an airport in Bimini, and after hanging up the phone on a nervous Clarice, we see him begin to follow Chilton before disappearing into a large crowd. The character of Hannibal Lecter is an interesting one as he is a likeable character, despite being an antagonist. This is largely down to Anthony Hopkins’ rousing performance, and you are strangely cheering Hannibal on at the end, partly due to Chilton not being a likable character. It is still a chilling moment, however, as we know the horrors that Hannibal is capable of.
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
An all-time classic, 1942’s Casablanca is one of the most famous films ever and also has a brilliant ending with the perfect closing line. Spoken by Rick (Humphrey Bogart), a liberal nightclub owner, he is saying this to Captain Louis Renault as they look to leave Morocco and join the Free French in Brazzaville. This heartwarming line is delivered as the characters walk away in a beautifully fog-filled set, which also creates a fantastic atmosphere as the film comes to a close. It is a positive conclusion as the future looks bright after Rick, helped by Louis, managed to assist Isla and Victor in escaping on a plane despite Major Strasser attempting to intervene. Over 70 years later, this is still deemed one of the greatest films of all time and this is partly due to its unforgettable conclusion.
1. The Usual Suspects
“The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he did not exist. And like that…he is gone.”
This is a line which will give goose bumps to many film buffs, as it is chillingly delivered after one of the greatest twists in cinema history. Being interrogated, Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey), is a lowly con man with a disability who tells a complex story about a mission that was commissioned by a mysterious mob boss, Keyser Soze. The police cut him loose, but then realize that all of the names and details of his story match up with items scattered throughout the office. We see Verbal limping away from the office, but then he drops his limp as it becomes apparent that he is, in fact, Keyser Soze. The film ends with this brilliant quote from Charles Baudelaire, defining a seemingly small character as the devil himself.