Film

Top Ten Lists: Best Final Lines in Movie History.

In over a hundred years of cinema, films have routinely tried to capture our imagination with a classic final line, which hopefully might linger in our head well after the movie has finished. The truth is that very few films have truly great final lines. If we have to really try hard and think about it or even do a search on it, is it really that great? The truly memorable final lines are those that have sipped into the fabric of our existence. Sometimes we haven’t even seen the film associated with a famous final line but it doesn’t stop us from appreciating its sentiment or worth. For instance, “That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.” is something that will always be synonymous with George Miller’s Babe (1995). Or how about this final line, “I’ll go home and I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all, tomorrow is another day” from Gone With The Wind (1939). That said, as you can see, final lines can be anything. But the best sign-offs in my opinion are usually either funny, profound, disturbing or even somewhat cynical. With that in mind, check what I believe are the best final lines in all of movie history.

10. The Usual Suspect (1995) – “The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. And like that – poof – he’s gone!”

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This is the brilliant final line of The Usual Suspects that shocked audiences worldwide. In the final reveal of the film we come to realise that sad-sack Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint (Kevin Spacey) is the sociopath criminal mastermind Keyser Söze, who manipulated both the police and his criminal associates to save his own skin. Despite clues of who Keyser Söze is throughout the film, it’s not until the shocking flashback at the end in which we find federal customs agent Dave Kujan surveying a bulletin board that we realise that Verbal is in fact the demonic Söze. The end scene is heightened with Verbal’s casual escape from the police station where we see him drop his cerebral palsy act before stepping into a getaway car and disappearing for good.

9. Ferris Buellers Day Off (1986) – “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

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Skipping school seem like a rite of passage every single kid should do once during their adolescence. I know I did but my adventures were unfortunately not as highbrow as one of the ‘80s greatest heroes Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick). It’s not to say my misadventures weren’t too dissimilar to Buellers. Enlisting the help of your pals and making sure the School Prinicipal or Dean of Students was oblivious to your plans always helped too.

John Hughes who wrote and directed the teen comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off had an uncanny ability of understand young people. When he created teenager Ferris Bueller, he wanted a character “who could handle everyone and everything.” Interestingly, when the situation arises and Ferris breaks the ‘fourth wall’ to talk to the audience throughout the movie, you better make sure you’re paying attention because you just might actually learn a thing or two. At the end of the movie when Bueller beats his parents and Ed Rooney, the Dean of Students, home to get back into his supposed sick bed, he throws up one more gem about life worth listening to. Looking directly at the camera and at the audience he says,  “I said it before and I’ll say it again: Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” And with that bombshell of advice Bueller arguably stands alongside the greats of philosophy like Socrates or Aristotle. Oh yeahhhhhhh!

8. Inglorious Basterds (2009) – You know something, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.”

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There are two things that instantly come to mind about Inglorious Basterds. The first is the opening sequence that introduces us to Colonel Hans Landa, in which a long meandering conversation with a dairy farmer turns into a masterclass of suspense, before a hail of bullets rip through the floorboards, killing a Jewish family except for a sole survivor who is allowed to escape. The second is the final scene of the film which is also incidentally the only scene in the film in which Landa isn’t in control. After making a deal to surrender with the only surviving members of the Inglorious Basterds unit, Landa believes he will fade away in obscurity after he removes his Nazi uniform. One thing though he didn’t count on was being double-crossed by Basterds leader Aldo Raine and his twisted sense of justice and one that leaves a permanent reminder of who Landa really was. It is here in the closing scene of the film that Aldo carves a swatiska into Landa’s forehead. Then finally, as Aldo looks at his handiwork and is satisfied that Landa will never escape from his past, tells his fellow Basterd, “You know something, Utivich? I think this just might be my masterpiece.” 

7. Some Like It Hot (1959) – “I’m A Man!” “ Well, nobody’s perfect.”

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This line from the film Some Like It Hot is arguably one of the greatest in all of movie history. It is perfect in almost every way, especially in its comedic timing. (To check out ‘Cinemas Greatest Scenes: Some Like It Hot’s perfect ending’ click here.) As Jack Lemmon realises his days of deception as cross-dressing Daphne are over, he does almost everything humanly possible of getting out of marrying millionaire Osgood Fielding III. When Osgood refuses to see sense, Lemmon doffs off his wig to announce, “I’m a man!” One would expect Osgood to come to his senses but the moment becomes a bold one that suggests love can transcend gender (even by late 1950s standards) when Osgood simply shrugs and announces “Nobody’s perfect”.

6. The Maltese Falcon (1941). – “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

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The Maltese Falcon is a film noir story about private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) who must untangle the truth about the death of a friend and a mysterious black bird at the centre of it all. After a series of thrilling twists and turns, we eventually discover the villain of the movie is the woman who Spade has fallen in love with. But with simply no other choice but to turn her over to the authorities in an attempt to exonerate himself, all that is left for Spade is his dignity as he stands holding a little black statue. He’s asked by Lieutenant Polhaus what it is, to which he replies, “The stuff that dreams are made of.” 

5. Sunset Boulevard (1950) – “Alright Mr DeMille. I’m ready for my close up.”

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Filmmaker William Wilder is often said to be a master of final pay-offs. He makes us see the funny and poignant side of relationships in the final scene of films like Some Like It Hot (1959) and The Apartment (1960). But in one of his earlier great films, Sunset Boulevard, he arguably sets the benchmark of final pay-offs when former silent film star and delusional murderess Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), who dreams of making a comeback, poses in vain for the cameras for the final time, before she is presumably led away in handcuffs. “There’s nothing else. Just us, and the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark. All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my closeup”, declares Norma. Even though it is a tragic moment of Hollywood proportions for Norma Desmond, it is still arguably one of the best final lines ever delivered. Even today we laugh and cry at its absurdity. 

4. The Wizard of Oz (1939) – “Oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.”

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Near the end of The Wizard of Oz, the main protagonists – The Tin Man, Scarecrow and the Lion – have all seemingly got their wish except Dorothy. Her entire journey across the land of Oz was to find the wizard who was supposed to help her get back home to Kansas. Upon discovering that he was a fraud, Dorothy is seemingly stuck in Oz until Glinda the Good Witch appears to help her. “Click your heels together three times and say ‘There’s no place like home’ and you’ll be there.” After Dorothy clicks the heels of her ruby red slippers and repeats three times, “There’s no place like home”, she awakens to find herself safe in her own bed in Kansas. Although we hear Dorothy say “There’s no place like home” repeatedly in those last few minutes (of the film) she truly comes to believe it in the presence of her loving family and friends. It is here right at the end that Dorothy has an epiphany. “Oh Auntie Em, there’s no place like home.”

3. Back To The Future (1985) – “Roads? Where were going, we don’t need roads.”

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It goes without saying, Back To The Future is one of the greatest time travel films of all time. When Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955, he embarks on an adventure to save his future and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) who was murdered in 1985. With a promise of the future almost in reach and with the help of a much younger Doc Brown in 1955, Marty miraculously returns back to 1985 just before Doc is murdered. In short, Doc survives being shot because he pieced together a note Marty tore up in 1955 in which Marty warned Doc about his future. With their lives seemingly altered for the better, Doc travels to the future to only return in dramatic fashion to warn Marty about his wayward kids. As Doc preps the DeLorean time machine for another adventure, Marty warns Doc that they don’t have enough road in front of them to generate the power required for time travel. “Roads?, Doc objects. “Where were going, we don’t need roads!” And with those iconic words, the DeLorean rises from the road and shoots off back to the future.

2. Casablanca (1942) “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

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From “We’ll always have Paris to “Here’s looking at you kid” I cannot think of any other movie that has more memorable lines than Casablanca. Over time we have all come to adore this timeless masterpiece, especially its memorable quotes because of our affection for its lively characters such as Captain Louis Renault but more so its leading love birds Rick (Humphrey Bogart) and IIsa (Ingrid Bergman). While many moviegoers remember Casablanca as a devastating romance, it is also remembered for its patriotism and moral conviction (and maybe even an inkling of optimism). For instance, when Rick shoots German officer, Major Strasser, to keep him from stopping Victor and Ilsa Laszlo’s plane from taking off, Captain Renault reluctantly turns a blind eye. Though it’s fair to say he had no choice in the matter. Soon after Renault could have easily arrested Rick but he doesn’t instead calling on his cronies to “round up the usual suspects.” In turn we witness an unlikely friendship forming between Rick and Captain Renault. Of course, there was always an air of respect between both men but now with a greater cause forcing their hand Renault and Rick become allies, which leads Rick to say, “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

1. Planet Of The Apes (1968) – “You maniacs! You blew it up! Argh, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

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The unforgettable ending of Planet Of The Apes is as powerful today as it was some fifty years ago. The hint of the head of the Statute of Liberty set against an ocean with its crashing waves and two figures on horseback gives me goose bumps upon every viewing. The scene of course expands to reveal the charred remnants of a New York landmark that once greeted new arrivals to America. Lady liberty now greets astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) but with the realisation that the alien planet Taylor thought he was on, was in fact a post apocalyptic version of his former home. Seemingly devastated Taylor drops to his knees as he curses the human race. “You maniacs! You blew it up! Argh, damn you! God damn you all to hell!”

I cannot imagine a more chilling ending than the destruction of the earth at the hands of man. Released before my time, I would have given anything to have seen this upon its original release. The reaction to the ending for audiences who saw it for the first time would have ranged from sheer wonder to terror, something that was likely mirrored in society during the 1960s, especially with the fear of a nuclear holocaust. It makes astronaut Taylor’s gut wrenching reaction and words even more meaningful, one that definitely sticks in the mind of moviegoers.

Robert Horvat is a Melbourne based blogger. He believes that the world is round and that art is one of our most important treasures. He has seen far too many classic films and believes coffee runs through his veins. As a student of history, he favours ancient and medieval history. Music pretty much rules his life and inspires his moods. Favourite artists include The Beatles, Pearl Jam, Garbage and Lana Del Rey.

14 comments on “Top Ten Lists: Best Final Lines in Movie History.

  1. Angelo Sticca

    Great line up there … if I could add one it would be the last line of Shawshank Redemption “I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

  2. Fantastic list sir! I couldn’t think of anything better other than I agree with Angelo as I do love Shawshank.

  3. Fantastic collection of zingers. Makes me want to seek out the couple I’m unfamiliar with!

  4. Fantastic post Robert! I can’t argue with any that you’ve chosen, as they’re all terrific. I’m especially glad you included “The Wizard of Oz” (my all-time favorite film), “Sunset Boulevard” and “Some Like It Hot”.

  5. Great list. Film noir homage is rife with great last lines. There would be room on there for Chinatown and Brick from me. “Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown” and “She called me a dirty name”. Things To Do In Denver (When You’re Dead) has a good one too “Life is a mustard burp. Momentarily tangy and then forgotten in the air”

    • I cannot argue with your assessment for the inclusion of “Forget it Jake, It’s Chinatown.” It’s a devastating assessment of the tragic end to the movie Chinatown. I’m thrilled you liked my list.

  6. I Love your List!
    I still remember my dad seeing Planet of the Apes…..He Loved it and raved about it to everyone who would listen. He was So SHOCKED by that ending….
    I’ve seen it many times myself.👍👏💖💖😃🇨🇦

  7. Great choices! The Usual Suspects may just be one of the best ever screenplays in cinematic history. Nothing clever comes to my mind immediately re memorable last lines and I was about to suggest the Gone with the Wind one, but I see you’ve mentioned it in your introduction. Shutter Island has a good one too…or second to last, actually? I can’t remember: “This place makes me wonder… Which would be worse, to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?” I particularly like it because I’ve recently read the book and it is not there. That particular thought-provoking end must be the scriptwriter’s work. I think they’ve done a good job.

    • Shutter Island’s ambiguous final line is right up there with the best. I believe Dennis Lehane who wrote Shutter Island actually liked the inclusion of the final line by Scorsese in the film because it was phrased as a question rather than a statement.

  8. Nice, I was wondering what #1 would be!

  9. I love your choices of last lines. Never really thought about them before reading this but you found some good ones. My favorite in your list because of their impact: 8 and 5.

  10. I love this list. Some of my all time favourite movies are represented showing that we are on the same page!

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