Although Thor: Love and Thunder divided critics, one important aspect it got right was a satisfying ending that drew praise even from some of the movie’s harsher detractors. Although endings sometimes feel like an afterthought in action movies, the ability to stick the landing can help make or break a film.
Some of the greatest action movies, such as Die Hard and Inception, succeed because they have incredible endings that excellently conclude the plot. That’s why Redditors decided to pick out the very best action movie endings of all time.
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Although Inglourious Basterds is a movie full of powerful scenes, the ending still manages to stand out and take the war film to another level. Redditors picked out the final line where Raine looks on at what he calls his “masterpiece” in the form of the screaming Landa as the highlight, with one user, MoaningMushroom, saying it’s also a part of what makes the movie Tarantino’s masterpiece.
In their words, “it might just as well be QT’s best” thanks to the “storytelling and dialogue” that culminates in the violent yet satisfying conclusion to the movie. Although it’s not a fairy-tale ending, thanks to the Basterds who didn’t make it as well as the film’s gruesome nature, that makes it ideally suited to a beautifully brutal movie.
Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)
As if any more proof was needed that Quentin Tarantino knows how to end a movie, Kill Bill Vol. 1 happens to have one of the greatest endings of all time. Although the entire battle between The Bride and O-Ren Ishii can be considered one of the best final boss fights in movie history, it’s actually what comes after that stuck with Redditors.
One user, Juan-Claudio, sums up the awed response to the final moments of the movie with “that cliffhanger”. It’s not unusual for action movies to end with a crucial final twist but to dangle it under the viewer’s nose just an instant before the final credits kick in is a masterclass in how to tease the audience.
Although it didn’t enjoy massive success at the box office, Dredd has come to be known as a cult hit, with many fans enjoying the rough charms of one of the best sci-fi remakes. A big part of what has allowed it to maintain a strong fanbase is its ending and Redditor SilentRhino describes in detail why it’s so exceptional.
As they put it, the ending “does everything right and rewards the audience with what they know is coming.” Faced with the choice of allowing Anderson to pass despite her technically failing her training, Dredd chooses to pass her because he “saw she had his back” and knew that was more important. Along with an iconic soundtrack hit, it’s obvious why the ending for Dredd made such an impact.
Nolan is a director just as comfortable making heady dramas as action movies so it’s no surprise he knows how to craft a great ending. One that many consider as by far his best effort is Inception, with Redditor Adeem27 saying “I love Nolan endings, so Inception for me.” The movie has plenty of mind-bending action but it’s actually a tricky question that forms the movie’s iconic ending.
The director sets up the spinning top as a way for the audience as well as the main character to know whether or not he’s inside a dream and, by leaving it spinning in the final frames of the movie, he welcomes the audience to question everything they assumed about what had just taken place. Twist endings can be real crowd pleasers, and that’s the case with this one.
It’s typical for action movies to end on giant action set pieces and that’s especially true of superhero movies, which rarely venture too far into emotional territory. That partly explains why the ending of Logan is so touching and when redditor iambackjohn put forward the movie, saying it was “the perfect send-off for two characters we’ve seen develop for 17 years,” it was a sentiment that resonated for a lot of fans.
It would be easy to disappoint fans in making them say goodbye to beloved characters but everything about those final moments is wonderfully heartfelt. Other Redditors pointed out things like Laura tilting the cross on his grave so it makes an X as small details in Logan that helped make the ending hit home.
In Bruges (2008)
In Bruges is a movie full of incredibly clever dialogue and it’s that same cleverness that allows it to disguise a terrific ending, set up by all of the events leading up to it. To its fans like Redditor-Lumos, the movie is an obvious choice. They say they “can’t believe no one has commented this yet.”
There’s an element of tragedy to the ending which sees the final showdown between Ray and Harry. With a bleeding Ray struggling to communicate the misunderstanding that’s taken place, he and the audience can only watch as Harry impresses on him one final time in deadly fashion the importance of principles. Along with some fantastic scoring, it’s a moment not many fans forget in a hurry.
Die Hard (1988)
Considered one of the must-watch movies of the ’80s, a decade defined by some intense action movies like The Terminator and Command, Die Hard is a true genre classic. However, one area where it beats out both of those movies is in its ending which Redditor MondayNightRawr describes as “very strong and perfectly suited for the tone of the film.”
Of course, its most important moment is finally seeing Gruber meet his end in brutal circumstances but what really makes the ending quintessentially Die Hard is what comes after. With Holly punching Thornburg as he tries to get an interview and the three driving away in a limo, it’s an outstanding celebration of the simple joys of fun and high-octane action.
The Departed (2006)
Martin Scorsese is a master director and capable of pulling off some incredibly memorable endings but when it comes to his more action-based offerings, The Department is the very best of his career. In a simple yet effective twist, he manages to turn a potentially disappointing ending to the epic crime thriller into a satisfying one.
As Redditor boilingfrogsinpants puts it, “Right when you thought you were going to be left angry that the bad guy gets away you get rewarded in the best way possible from the most Bostinian cop.” Without the misdirection, they wouldn’t have been anywhere near as elated by Mark Wahlberg’s Dignam finally getting vengeance for his fellow cops, and that’s why the ending is so powerful.
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Although Hot Fuzz is a parody of high octane, buddy cop action thrillers, it knows when to mock the genre cliches and when to lean into them for some incredibly satisfying moments. Redditor mrbadxampl describes how the movie manages to hit all the right notes in the end with a “great action sequence, satisfying end points for each character, even some good jokes to wrap it all up”.
The best part of the ending is the way it pays off so many points set up throughout the movie. Even the smaller details like Danny’s lifelong desire to fire his gun in the year and scream in frustration finally see a payoff. Along with being consistently hilarious, Hot Fuzz is a movie from which few viewers walk away disappointed.
Men In Black (1997)
Men In Black is remembered as a fantastic entry in the action sci-fi genre that manages to achieve a great balance between humor and some real tension but its ending isn’t often spoken about in the same reverent tone as other movies. However, Redditor calvincrack makes a convincing argument for why it deserves to be.
They describe how the combination of “Jay memory wiping Kay into retirement, tying back to the beginning scene”, the tabloid cover reassuring the audience that K is alright, and the final shot showing our galaxy within a small marble worked together to make a satisfying , touching, and surprisingly “beautiful” conclusion. It’s easy to see why many movie fans were won over.
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