In film, something that is just as crucial as the beginning shot is the ending shot. In this video essay titled, “How to End a Movie”, the author highlights the importance of what the last shot leaves you with. 

The beginning shot draws you in, sets the tone, and gives the information needed to continue on in the story; whereas the ending shot is crucial in leaving you with a message, question, and/or feeling that the director wants you to experience and hopefully explore. This video essay will outline how the roles of the opening and ending shots are meant to function in tandem with each other.

Tell me some of your favorite endings! They can be endings that you think are effective, resonated with you, or even that you just enjoyed!


  1. This definitely opens my eyes more to how beginnings and endings should be tied together and wrap up the movie in some way, even if me, the audience doesn’t “agree with the ending. The movie that comes to mind with an excellent ending is “Knives Out”; the different images and symbols and beginning of the movie are reintroduced at the end to show you where the main character started and has ended up. A feel good ending for me would be “Avengers: Endgame”. The movie is tied and the heart strings are pulled on until you can’t take it no more lol

  2. Magnolia

    The director that wins in the arena of the “perfect way to end a movie” has to be Paul Thomas Anderson. I consider his film “Magnolia” to be his masterpiece.

    *Spoiler alert*

    The movie opens with a prologue which includes the narrator’s favorite phrase, “this was not just a matter of chance”.

    Black and white footage of a man hung with a sign on his chest displaying the number “82”.

    A plane on the runway with the number “82” labeled on it’s side.

    A man playing at a Black Jack table requests a card another card saying, “all I need is a two”, but receives an “8” instead.

    An award dinner scheduled for 8:20pm.

    A man on a roof with a rope forming the number “82”.

    An apartment door with the number “682”.

    An infomercial with the phone number of 1-877-826-3437.

    A police officer mentions a message at box number “82”.

    A title card reads, “Partly Cloudy, 82% chance of rain”.

    A motivational speaker preaches at his audience about his 8-day-waiting-period with a directive to mark their calendars to call “her” back in 8 days. 8n is mentioned twice = 82.

    2 men argue about a loan and the man with red glasses states that he paid it back. And the lender states incredulously that it took him 2 years to payoff.

    A boy raps, “the good Lord brings the rain in.”

    A boy studying an array of books all relating to phenomenon and weather.

    Exodus 8:2 written out by an audience member of the show “What Do Kids Know?”. The host mentions “8 weeks” during his opening.

    A woman arrested and her case number is comprised of “8”s and “2”s.

    An advertisement sign illuminates, but is too distant to read.
    Another advertisement sign illuminates shortly after, but now visibly reads Exodus 8:2.

    *Climax of the film*

    The man with red glasses makes a u-turn on Magnolia street, between the two advertisement signs visibly reading Exodus 8:2.

    The police officer catches the man with red glasses climbing up the side of a store and a quick pan of the camera shows an advertisement reading Exodus 8:2 displayed on a bus stop.

    The police officer makes a u-turn while a frog falls on his windshield.

    A large billboard above becomes visible with the text, “Exodus 8:2”.

    The officer is confused by the frog and looks up to find more frogs falling on his vehicle.

    A woman gets high in her apartment until the sounds of frogs falling outside interrupt her drug consumption.

    The TV host attempts suicide, but a frog falls through his skylight and causes his gun to go off leaving him unable to take his own life.

    He drives to seek shelter and the billboard with “Exodus 8:2” is seen again.

    The TV host’s screeching tires prompts the man with red glasses to pause and look towards his direction.
    The man with red glasses briefly looks up and a frog hits him in the face and causes him to fall.
    His face hits the pavement and now he officially needs the cosmetic surgery he’s been craving.

    The boy is seen in a library repeating the phrase, “this is something that happens”, while frog shadows fall like silhouettes in slow motion behind him.

    A dying man is awakened by the frogs while his son, the motivational speaker, stares at him.

    The father’s death brings his wife and son together at the hospital.

    The boy instructs his Father to be nice to him.

    The officer gives the man with red glasses another chance and provides him with the opportunity to correct his mistakes.

    Exodus 8:2 has been briefly hinted throughout the film for the first 2 and a half hours.
    Exodus 8:2 “If you refuse to let them go, I will send a plague of frogs on your whole country.”
    PTA’s decision to withhold the following verses that follow Exodus 8:2 was strategic. He didn’t want to give away the unexpected climactic ending that was required for these characters to pause or act. Exodus 8:3-4 reads, “The Nile will teem with frogs. They will come up into your palace and your bedroom and onto your bed, into the houses of your officials and on your people, and into your ovens and kneading troughs. 4 The frogs will come up on you and your people and all your officials.”

    The unique phenomenon shared amongst all of the characters; frogs falling from the sky, triggers them all to re-evaluate their lives. The frogs bring no judgement and no correction. This is why I consider Magnolia to have the perfect ending.

    PTA has allowed the audience to journey with the characters into their dark complicated world, we are unaware in the beginning how connected they really are. The characters are either stuck, stubborn, wounded, lacking empathy, or unable to forgive. And this “plague” is their much needed catalyst for change.