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10 Most Memorable Final Shots From 2010s Movies


10 Most Memorable Final Shots From 2010s Movies


Warning: This list contains spoilers for some movies from the 2010s.


Summary

  • Memorable final shots from the 2010s movies capture thematic elements, leaving a lasting impression on the audience.
  • Both ambiguity and clear meanings in final shots create impact, with some overlapping with Best Picture nominees.
  • Highlights include the
    Knives Out
    mug,
    Joker’s
    protagonist’s trail of bloody footprints, and
    Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’s
    twist.


The most memorable final shots of movies from the 2010s are funny, morbid, puzzling, heartfelt, and a variety of other things. Above all, they capture something about the movie thematically, making a final impression on the audience regarding what they just saw. Several of the most famous movie endings from the 2010s are notoriously ambiguous, and are still hotly debated today, well into the 2020s.

However, other final shots have completely clear meanings, but manage to make an impact just the same. In some cases, this is the result of many years of filmmaking (and previous movies) building up to one moment. In others, it is simply the result of a well-planned, self-contained movie that tells a poignant story from the opening scene to the final shot. The latter scenario has some (but not a universal) overlap with movies that won or were nominated for Best Picture.


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10 Knives Out (2019)

Marta inherits everything, including Harlan’s favorite mug.

Knives Out is a prime example of an “Eat the Rich” movie, highlighting the entitled behavior of the Harlan family, who are outraged to find out that their patriarch has left his entire fortune to his caretaker and close friend Marta. Marta doesn’t necessarily want the money; she is just as startled as anyone and is mostly concerned with getting away with what she believes was the accidental murder of Harlan. As Benoit Blanc vehemently explains, Marta is good, hardworking, and far more deserving than the family.


In the end, Marta is still a kind person at heart and thinks she should help the family adjust after not getting the money they were counting on. However, she ultimately does not renounce the Thrombey inheritance. The sharp final shot of her drinking from Harlan’s mug — which reads “My house, my rules, my coffee” — showcases how she has become just a little bit more defensive. She is legally entitled to the money and can use it to help her family, not just help the Thrombeys maintain their privileged lifestyle.

Knives Out movie final poster

Knives Out

When renowned crime novelist Harlan Thrombey is found dead at his estate just after his 85th birthday, the inquisitive and debonair Detective Benoit Blanc is mysteriously enlisted to investigate. From Harlan’s dysfunctional family to his devoted staff, there are suspects aplenty. Blanc sifts through a web of red herrings and self-serving lies to uncover the truth behind Harlan’s untimely death.

Release Date
November 27, 2019

Cast
Chris Evans , LaKeith Stanfield , Katherine Langford , Daniel Craig , Toni Collette , Jamie Lee Curtis , Ana De Armas , Michael Shannon , Christopher Plummer , Don Johnson , Riki Lindhome

Runtime
130 minutes


9 Birdman Or (The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance) (2014)

Sam sees her father fly away?

Birdman is the highly symbolic Best Picture winner featuring powerful performances from both Michael Keaton and Emma Stone. It follows the quest of a former superhero actor to regain fame and purpose on the stage. What happened to Riggan in Birdman’s ending is highly debated, with the literal interpretation apparently being that Sam looks out the window of the hospital room to see her father flying away.

Maybe Riggan is finally free from the opinion of others.


The debated literality of this moment is what muddles what the end of the movie is supposed to mean. Riggan may have found the greatness he craved in the eyes of others or just for himself, or maybe he only thinks he has, and the whole thing is a dream. Maybe Riggan is finally free from the opinion of others. It is hopelessly confusing, but this only makes it more memorable.

Birdman Movie Poster

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Birdman is a dark comedy drama that stars Michael Keaton as washed-up actor Riggan Thomson, who’s famous for playing a bird-themed superhero and who attempts to stage a comeback by directing and starring in a Broadway play. Shot as one single long take and with Edward Norton, Naomi Watts, Zach Galifianakis, and Emma Stone in its cast, the 2014 film won four Oscars, including Best Picture.

Director
Alejandro González Iñárritu

Release Date
October 17, 2014

Runtime
120 Minutes

8 The Invitation (2015)

What seemed like an isolated attack is part of a much bigger event.


In The Invitation, not to be confused with the 2022 movie of the same name, a group of friends is invited to what they believe will be an awkward dinner party with one friend’s ex-wife following their divorce and the death of their son. It turns out to be a claustrophobic horror scenario when it is revealed that the grieving mother and her new partner and friends believe they will find peace through more death. Many of the characters are killed in the ensuing struggle, leaving only three of the invitees alive.

The survivors stumble out of the house, temporarily relieved — only to realize that red lanterns signaling that the same thing is happening are lit all over the Los Angeles neighborhood, shown in the harrowing final shot. It perfectly captures what director Karyn Kusama describes (via Film Inquiry) as the movie’s core theme of “a kind of madness to […] organized societies.” The effect is chilling, making for a great final twist.


The Invitation

Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi and directed by Karyn Kusama, The Invitation is a Horror film starring Logan Marshall-Green and Tammy Blanchard. The premise follows a man that visits his ex-wife with his new girlfriend for a dinner party, and unveils the plot of a sinister cult.

Director
Karyn Kusama

Release Date
April 8, 2016

Cast
John Carroll Lynch , Emayatzy Corinealdi , Lindsay Burdge , Tammy Blanchard , Logan Marshall-Green , Michael Huisman

Runtime
100 minutes

7 Joker (2019)

Joker constitutes a somewhat divisive portrayal of Batman’s most famous nemesis, but it doesn’t fail in the horror aspect of the character. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an unnerving performance which concludes with the Joker being more or less who he is when Batman enters the story. Following instigating a violent riot in the streets of Gotham City, Arthur/the Joker is committed to Arkhan Asylum, where he seems to exist in his own world, with a unique understanding of the people he’s surrounded by.


The final shot shows the Joker walking down its white halls leaving a trail of bloody footprints, implying that he just killed his therapist. The image is set against the upbeat tune of Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” for the soundtrack. Moments like this are among the movie’s strengths, showcasing an even grittier take on the characters and the story, both visually and thematically.

Joker Movie Poster

Joker (2019)

Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker is an origin story for Batman’s most iconic villain. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a down-on-his-luck clown who is trying to become a successful stand-up comedian. When things don’t go according to plan, and Arthur feels Gotham is oppressing him and others with mental illness, Arthur sparks a violent revolution within the city.

Director
Todd Phillips

Release Date
October 2, 2019

Runtime
122 minutes

6 The Florida Project (2017)

Moonee and her friend run through Disneyworld.


The Florida Project bases its story on the juxtaposition of the residents living in a rundown motel just a stone’s throw away from Disneyworld, with the iconic castle being a symbol of consumerism and a magic that is available for a price. The movie focuses on six-year-old Moonee and her friends, whose childhood wonder allows them an escape that their parents do not have. The Florida Project’s ending is also ambiguous but very memorable.

Social services come to take Moonee away from her single mother Halley, after being informed that Halley is supporting them through sex work. However, Moonee grabs one of her friends and runs away, apparently running off to Disneyworld, slipping past the park’s security, for a memorable final shot of the two girls running down Main Street up to the castle. Whether this actually happened is unclear (and doubtful), but it once again shows the power of Moonee’s imagination, allowing her to reach the “happiest place on Earth.”


The Florida Project

The Florida Project is a drama film that follows a six-year-old girl named Moone and her mother, Halley, as they attempt to enjoy life to their fullest and make ends meet in the Disney-dominated county of Kissimmee, Florida. Halley and Moonee’s lives are fraught with distress while living in a motel. However, Moonee befriends another child in the motel while her mother struggles to keep them above water and hold on to her daughter as the risk of protective services taking her grows ever larger.

Director
Sean Baker

Release Date
October 6, 2017

Cast
Brooklynn Prince , Christopher Rivera , Caleb Landry Jones , Sandy Kane , Bria Vinaite , Karren Karagulian , Valeria Cotto , Willem Dafoe , Macon Blair

Runtime
111 Minutes

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5 Portrait Of A Lady On Fire (2019)

Héloïse experiences the concert Marianne once told her about.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire focuses on themes of womanhood amid the strict patriarchy of the 18th century. A painter is left alone at a secluded estate to complete the wedding portrait of a woman about to be married off, resulting in the two having a love affair. The only other person with them is a maid, who is trying to find a way to end her pregnancy. At one point, Marianne plays an orchestral melody for Héloïse, saying that it is an incredibly powerful performance to hear in concert.

They have a conversation where Marianne tries to cheer Héloïse up about moving to Milan because it is a thriving, cultural city, to which Héloïse mockingly responds that what Marianne is saying is that she will get some consolation prizes for being forced into marriage. However, in the final scene, Marianne sees Héloïse from across an opera house, when the same melody is played. The performance leaves Héloïse emotional and breathless, reminding her of her lost love and perhaps taking some comfort in what she is seeing after all.


Portrait of a Lady on Fire

A painter travels to a secluded estate on an island in Brittany to complete the wedding portrait of a young woman without her knowledge.

Director
Céline Sciamma

Release Date
September 18, 2019

4 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Rey meets Luke Skywalker.

The Star Wars sequel trilogy has a lot of issues, but the final scene of Star Wars: The Force Awakens does exactly what it is supposed to do and leaves the audience stunned (at least when they saw it for the first time in a movie theater). The score perfectly captures the ambiance of the moment, a mixture of mystery, power, and a legacy being continued. The final shot pans out to show Rey still offering the lightsaber to Luke.


Obviously, the meaning of the moment was undermined by the next movie — when Luke tosses the lightsaber away like it’s nothing. However, that perhaps only makes it more interesting to look at the final moments of The Force Awakens in isolation, and how much was conveyed in the final image of Rey returning the lightsaber to Luke. It’s a powerful shot, which lives up to the legacy of Star Wars up until that point.

Star Wars the Force Awakens Poster

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

Set 30 years after Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the JediStar Wars: The Force Awakens teams new heroes Finn (John Boyega), Rey (Daisy Ridley), and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) with Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who is now a General in the Rebel Alliance. Together they try to track down Luke Skywalker while battling the First Order, led by the villainous Kylo Ren. The Force Awakens is the first Star Wars film to be produced by Disney and was directed by JJ Abrams.

3 Whiplash (2014)

Andrew becomes one of the greats through Fletcher’s brutal instruction.


Whiplash depicts the toxic relationship between a talented young musician and the brutal instructor who argues that he wants to make his student a legend. Whiplash explores what it takes to become great and the obsession of both student and teacher with perfection. Fletcher loses his job when Andrew testifies about the psychological abuse he inflicted on his student, but the movie does not end there.

The final shot simply shows Andrew thrilled and exhausted by his own performance after an equally memorable scene.


After a chance encounter, Andrew agrees to play in a concert for Fletcher again, leading to the movie’s electric final drum solo. Whiplash’s ending doesn’t resolve a lot of things in the movie: Fletcher is still fired and apparently hates Andrew for it, Andrew is still willing to let Fletcher abuse him to become a better musician, and the audience doesn’t even know how much it will benefit his career. However, the final shot simply shows Andrew thrilled and exhausted by his own performance after an equally memorable scene.

Whiplash

Directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash follows Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), a first-year music student at a prestigious New York City conservatory who becomes the target of abuse by one of his instructors, Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). As Andrew works harder to impress Fletcher, their increasingly hostile relationship sends his life into a tailspin.  Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist star alongside Teller and Simmons. 

Director
Damien Chazelle

Release Date
October 10, 2014

Cast
Paul Reiser , Miles Teller , Melissa Benoist , J. K. Simmons

Runtime
107minutes

2 Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (2019)

The Tate-LaBianca murders are avoided through another conflict.


Once Upon a Time in Hollywood features another classic Quentin Tarantino alternate history. Through pure chance, the Manson family takes a detour on the night they planned to attack Sharon Tate’s house because they recognize a fictional stuntman in the neighborhood whom they have a grudge against. They go to attack his house instead and are decimated by the men there who happen to have access to a flamethrower.

After Cliff is taken away by paramedics, the neighbors ask Rick what is going on, and he ends up being invited up to their house. The final shot is very simple but has huge implications, showing Rick greeting a pregnant Sharon, with everything calm and happy. If the Tate-LaBianca murders are the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood, this strangely peaceful shot effectively conveys the idea of the Golden Age going on forever.


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1 Inception (2010)

Cobb’s top is left spinning and doesn’t quite fall over.

Inception’s ending is famous a paradox that has no real answer. Cobb only wants to clear his name and get back to his children throughout the story, but whether he accomplishes this is still debated. Inception consistently blurs the lines between dreams and realities and prompts the audience to think about whether one is more real than the other. Cobb always confirms if he is dreaming or not by spinning a top to see if it falls over, as it should in the real world bound by the laws of physics.


However, Cobb walks off to greet his children before he sees if the top falls and the audience is treated to a perfect shot where it looks like the top *might* wobble a little bit before the movie cuts to black. No one will ever know if the kids were real. Because of this, Inception’s final shot still stands as one of the most famous moments from 2010s cinema.

Inception

Christopher Nolan’s 2010 Sci-fi action film Inception follows a thief who enters the dreams of others to steal information and, after being caught, is given a chance to clean his slate by performing an untested concept – implanting an idea within another mind. An ensemble cast is brought together by former target Saito, who seeks to implant the idea of destroying his own company into his father’s mind. In a complex labyrinth of dreams and untested theories at the forefront, survival is not guaranteed in this psychological heist where the stakes are high, and nothing is what it seems.

Release Date
July 16, 2010

Runtime
148 minutes

Source: Film Inquiry

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