The relevance of a realistic ending is way too underrated in mainstream cinema. Most movies sugarcoat their material and provide answers to viewers that are far too easy to digest. Some filmmakers make excellent use of this but more often than not, it takes away the point and leaves audiences with very little to chew on even after the credits have rolled out. Many mainstream directors make use of plot twists but most of them seem blatantly convoluted for mere shock value. This is where films with shockingly realistic endings become really more powerful than what we think. This article takes a look at top movies with most realistic endings.
10. Gone Baby Gone (2007)
Ben Affleck’s explosive directorial debut remains the actor turned director’s best work till date is one of the better American movies of the past decade. The film centers around two private investigators hunting for an abducted four-year old from the Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. What makes ‘Gone Baby Gone’ so powerful is its ending which takes a different trajectory from conventional mystery thrillers and leaves a lot for its viewers to chew on even long after the credits have rolled out. Affleck refrains from etching out a concrete ending to the story and instead crafts a more complex and morally ambiguous climax that raises numerous questions on consequentialism, morality and ethics.
9. American History X (1998)
Raw, unrestrained and piercing in its intensity, ‘American History X’ is one of the finest American movies that make a strong statement about racism and violence in contemporary society. The film tells the story of Derek, the leader of a Neo-Nazi skinhead group whose extremist ideologies have spewed hatred and violence around the streets of his neighborhood. After serving a harsh time in prison for his criminal activities, Derek returns a changed man only to find out that his brother has embarked on a journey that follows his own fatal footsteps. The ending makes a disturbingly powerful statement on revenge, violence and hate crimes as the repercussions of Derek’s actions and the choices he made in his life kick back to him in a tragedy that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
8. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
Probably no other film in recent times has managed to capture the mental and emotional turmoil of people trapped in the dark, vicious web of addiction. ‘Requiem for a Dream’ is a shockingly heartbreaking look at how drugs could blind a person’s world, his love, ambition and life. The film can get slightly preachy at times but hardly ever loses its focus and works brilliantly for the most part. Aronofsky psychologically damages his viewers with an ending that paints the sour realities of human nature and the devastating truths lurking in the web of addiction. The director abstains from pleasing his audience and rather presents a true image of human psyche, engulfed in the ocean of addiction.
7. City of God (2002)
Brutal, in-your-face and breathing with raw energy and passion, ‘City of God’ is a ferociously powerful work that whacks you with its uncompromising forthrightness. Brilliantly unfolded through a non-linear narrative structure, we are told the story of lives in a brutal neighborhood of Rio De Janeiro through the eyes of a narrator named “Rocket”. The film is a stunning portrayal of rural poverty in Brazil and the lives that suffer under the treacheries and ignorance of its government. What makes the film’s ending so powerful and believable is the manner in which it paints the heart and soul of gang violence and the schizophrenic circle of revenge. In a lawless world, violence is food and death is freedom.
6. Apocalypse Now (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola’s roaring masterpiece is widely regarded as one the most realistic war films ever made in history. ‘Apocalypse Now’ revolves around Captain Willard who is sent on a dangerous mission to assassinate a highly decorated army officer. Willard’s journey into an obscure village in Cambodia to assassinate the enigmatic renegade officer serves as a visual metaphor for a human being’s gut-wrenching voyage into the inexplicable depths of darkness. His strange, eerie fascination for Colonel Kurtz culminates in a shocking discovery of his own image; a hard-hitting reflection of his shattered conscience and morality.
5. Chinatown (1974)
Roman Polanski’s mystery classic that redefined a genre has one of the most famous movie endings of all time. ‘Chinatown’ further exemplifies the fact that an ending is what ultimately defines a movie. The film starts off in a pretty straightforward manner as we see Detective Jake investigating a murder but is gradually shackled by the dark realities and distorted moral conscience of ‘Chinatown’. In the end, Jake fails. And fails miserably. Something that would relentlessly haunt him forever. Something he would find incredibly hard to come to terms with. But eventually, Jake, like one of us, would find himself confronting a reality that is hard to fathom. And all he could do was nothing but to forget it. Because it’s Chinatown.
4. Se7en (1995)
A perpetually raining city. A serial killer embarks on a killing spree. Two detectives set out to investigate the case. What could possibly go wrong with a plot like this at the hands of David Fincher? Fincher, despite being a mainstream filmmaker, has never been the man who would sugarcoat things for his viewers and ‘Se7en’ is no exception. In fact, this is perhaps his rawest and most hard-hitting film ever to date. In an emotionally explosive finale, Fincher exposes the grim realities of a world drenched in downpours of nihilism. The gut-wrenching closing scene is undoubtedly one of the most depressing and tragic realizations ever in cinema. Psychological thriller films have been one of Hollywood’s favorite genres and many filmmakers have been relentlessly exploiting this arena since the past few decades but ‘Se7en’ resonates like no other in its emotional intensity and unnerving honesty.
3. No Country for Old Men (2007)
Shots of gorgeous landscapes with an old man narrating violent tales from his past and his perceptible indifference to the brutal realities of a deceptively beautiful land. This is cinema at its purest. Coen Brothers’ 21st century magnum opus is widely regarded as one of the greatest films of the century and exhibits a striking difference in the style and approach in that the humor, an element that marked the directors’ distinct traits, was startlingly toned down and was a lot more subtle and atmospheric. The ending to the film is one of the most ambiguous and shocking of its kind. There are no showdowns, gun fights. All we get to see are plain, broken, defeated human beings as the bad guy walks off and we are left to ponder over the endless cycle of violence.
2. Funny Games (1997)
It’s a sin to expect anything other than realism from Michael Haneke. His cinema is devoid of convoluted plot twists and cinematic frills. ‘Funny Games’ isn’t a film. It’s a statement to the blatant commercial exploitation of Hollywood filmmakers and a sadistic mockery of violence depicted in the media. ‘Funny Games’ is a brutal satire on the modern society that revels in voyeuristic pleasures and its frightening desensitization to violence. As the title suggests, the film follows a family who is tortured by two young men with their sadistic “funny games”. Haneke, unshaken and brutally honest as he’s always been, wrecks the hell out of his audience in an unnerving final act as the young man coldly throws the woman of the family into the water to drown as we soon see him knock at the neighbor’s house, requesting eggs and smiling at the camera indicating the beginning of their next session of “funny games…”
1. About Elly (2009)
Asghar Farhadi knows about our lives. He knows the people around us and understands the universal truths of human existence. His cinema is a reflection of the realities we live in everyday and leaves us to ponder over the choices we’ve made in life and our actions that unwittingly hurt people in our lives. ‘About Elly’ is a startling observation of human morality that takes the form of a mystery drama. The film follows a group of old friends who go on a vacation to the shores of the Caspian Sea as one of them, a kindergarten teacher, goes missing. What follows are disturbing revelations of the human nature as Farhadi uses the mystery element and mercilessly peels off the layers of his characters and leaves with an ending that wrecks your sleep for days. The film does not shock you with plot twists but rather terrifies you with a reality so brutal that devastates you and by the end you exit a different person altogether.