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The most satisfying movie endings ever

Leaving an audience in a complete and utter state of satisfaction is no mean feat, even for the most talented of filmmakers. There's no rule book or proven formula to follow when it comes to crafting a perfect finale, but the most enjoyable endings are usually the ones that are earned. While we all love a good twist, having the rug pulled out from under you after a few hours of head-scratching isn't always that gratifying. For a film to truly satisfy, it needs to set expectations over the course of the first two acts and then deliver on them before the credits roll, which the following features do with aplomb.

From white-knuckle action flicks and controversial comedies to big-budget franchise-cappers and critically acclaimed modern classics, let's take a look back at some of the most satisfying movie endings of all time. Needless to say, there are huge spoilers ahead.

John Wick avenging his murdered dog is always satisfying

The 2014 tour de force John Wick uses our innate love of puppies to excuse one of the most brutal killing sprees in cinematic history. When Wick's adorable beagle pup, Daisy — a parting gift from his late wife — is callously kicked to death by bratty Russian mob kid Iosef Tarasov (Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen), the retired hitman essentially gets carte blanche to murder as many people as he likes. Anyone who stands in the way of justice for Daisy is instantly fair game in the viewer's mind ... and plenty do. Keanu Reeves' character dispatches 77 gangsters in total. Of course, he's really only after one man.

When Wick finally corners his prey towards the end of the film, he makes incredibly short work of him. The most satisfying thing about the big revenge scene is that Wick doesn't even give Iosef the chance to launch into a bad guy monologue, putting a bullet in his head before he can even get a full sentence out. He ties up loose ends by taking out Iosef's father, Viggo Tarasov (Michael Nyqvist), in the coolest of fashions — allowing himself to be stabbed in order to take control of the blade. But the cherry on the cake comes in the final moments, when Wick breaks into a veterinary clinic to treat his wounds and comes out with a new dog, a pit bull puppy who'd been scheduled to be euthanized.

Brian's send-off in Furious 7 is a real tearjerker

Fast and Furious star Paul Walker was busy working on the seventh installment in the action franchise when he lost his life in a single-vehicle accident. "It was a terrible tragedy, and he had a third of the movie to go," production designer Bill Brzeski told Looper in an exclusive interview. "People don't really realize how much of the movie he had left. They worked around it, and it was hard." Weta Digital came in to help complete Brian O'Conner's arc, digitally adding Walker's face to the bodies of his brothers. Caleb and Cody Walker were used in around 260 shots, and old footage of their late sibling was repurposed for the film. The result was not only visually impressive but deeply moving.

And in 2015, Furious 7 quickly became the most critically acclaimed entry in the franchise to date (and still is at the time of this writing), with a Certified Fresh score of 82 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, where the vast majority of reviews heaped praise on the "unexpected dramatic heft" of the final scene. In it, O'Conner pulls up alongside Vin Diesel's Dom Toretto and asks him why he thought he could leave without saying goodbye. We see a montage of their best moments together, and then they drive off in separate directions as the road ahead splits. Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again" plays throughout, the finishing touch on a sad but ultimately very satisfying final scene.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood's ending is a welcome revision of history

How do you end a movie about the Manson Family murders on a satisfying note? You take the people who slaughtered pregnant actress Sharon Tate and her friends, and you have them suffer an incredibly grisly fate, instead. Charles Manson's followers broke into Tate's place to commit unspeakable acts back in 1969, but in Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, the crazed cultists unwisely choose to target her neighbor, has-been Western star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio). The would-be murderers run into Rick's extremely high stunt double, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt), and a series of hyper-violent yet undeniably satisfying events begins to unfold.

Turns out Cliff isn't quite as high as we were led to believe. The second Tex (Austin Butler) removes the safety from his pistol, the stuntman sets his dog on the intruder. Pit bull Brandy latches onto Tex's private parts and then takes a good chunk out of Sadie (Mikey Madison), who staggers through a glass door and into Dalton's swimming pool. The startled actor finishes her off with the flamethrower he used in his World War II movie, The Fourteen Fists of McCluskey. Safe in the knowledge that the audience know exactly what these people had planned, Tarantino goes to town on the Manson Family followers, giving them a taste of their own medicine. And the film's final shot couldn't be more satisfying — the in-need-of-a-break Dalton is invited for drinks by the alive-and-well Tate.

When Chris finally gets out in Get Out

The moment that Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) manages to escape the Armitage's house of horrors in Jordan Peele's 2017 smash hit Get Out is pure satisfaction. We're dying for the photographer to bolt the second we realize that something isn't quite right with his white girlfriend's family, but — just as most of us do when meeting the parents — he battles through the awkwardness. He's still in denial about what's happening (the Armitage family has been transplanting the brains of old VIPs into the bodies of young Black people) right up until the moment he finds pictures of past victims, by which point it's too late. At least, we're led to believe it's too late.

When Jeremy Armitage (a perfectly punchable Caleb Landry Jones) comes to collect the seemingly unconscious Chris for his surgery, he gets knocked out cold. It turns out the quick-thinking captive shoved cotton stuffing into his ears to avoid being hypnotized, and he gets revenge on the Armitage clan one by one as he escapes, stabbing mother Missy (Catherine Keener) and impaling patriarch Dean (Bradley Whitford) with deer antlers. Girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) is last to go, and the satisfaction is complete when Chris' friend, TSA Agent Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery), shows up to take him home. Peele also filmed a version in which the police show up instead of Rod, and Chris is arrested for murder, but test screenings told him that audiences preferred the happy ending.

The Truman Show's iconic ending is still just as satisfying today

The Truman Show was practically science fiction when it debuted in 1998, though its depiction of a world in which everyday life blends almost seamlessly with entertainment is now an accepted reality. The difference between Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) and modern reality stars is that he doesn't know he's being filmed. The first child to be legally adopted by a corporation, his entire life is beamed out to the world without his knowledge, which doesn't sit right with some. As the "Free Truman" campaign builds steam on the outside, the unwitting TV star begins to get suspicious about all the coincidences that keep stopping him from leaving Seahaven Island.

Just when it seems as though producer Christof (Ed Harris) has managed to pull the wool over Truman's eyes once again, we discover that our hero has escaped his home though a makeshift tunnel and is sailing towards the unknown, despite a fear of water instilled in him through years of manipulation. He braves a man-made storm before quite literally reaching the edge of the world as he knows it. Despite Christof's warnings about the outside, Truman delivers his signature line ("In case I don't see you, good afternoon, good evening, and good night") and exits with a bow. It remains the most critically acclaimed movie of Jim Carrey's career, with a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 95 percent, and the ending is just as satisfying today as it was over two decades ago.

Avengers: Endgame lived up to the hype

There's never been anything quite like 2019's Avengers: Endgame, and it'll be a number of years before we see the likes of it again. The much-hyped team-up movie basically brought an end to the Infinity Saga, the overall arc of the first three Marvel Cinematic Universe phases. It took 22 feature films to get to that point, so the movie had a lot to live up to. Luckily for Marvel and its legions of fans, the sequel delivered big time, wowing the critics and raking in just under $2.8 billion at the global box office. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) sacrificed himself to defeat intergalactic warlord Thanos (Josh Brolin), and his funeral was certainly a tearjerker, but it didn't make the finale any less satisfying.

The lead-up to Iron Man's heroic death was full of hugely enjoyable moments. Captain America wielding Thor's hammer Mjolnir brought huge cheers from audiences, as did Chadwick Boseman's Black Panther stepping through the first of Doctor Strange's inter-dimensional rings. By the time the restored Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy showed up to even the odds, cineplexes were practically rocking. Robert Downey Jr.'s big "I am Iron Man" moment (a callback to the final line of 2008's Iron Man, the first MCU movie) became instantly iconic, despite being a last-minute addition. "Poetically, it ended up being the last thing we shot," co-director Joe Russo told GQ. And then the action was all capped off by, well, Cap finally getting that dance with Peggy Carter. It doesn't get any better than that.

The Interview ends on an explosive note

Controversial 2014 action comedy The Interview follows talk show host Dave Skylark (James Franco) and his producer, Aaron Rapaport (Seth Rogen, who co-directed with regular collaborator Evan Goldberg), as they navigate the corridors of power in Pyongyang, the secretive capital of North Korea. The pair receive an invite from the pariah state's head, Kim Jong-un (a typically hilarious Randall Park), who claims to be a superfan of their show, Skylark Tonight. Kim's plan is to use the dim-witted Skylark as a mouthpiece, but the American journalists have their own hidden agenda — they've been recruited by the CIA to assassinate the foreign leader.

The film probably could've done with a few more laughs in the lead-up to the big showdown, though it still manages to send you away satisfied. In an action-packed finale, Skylark, Rapaport, and North Korean turncoat Sook (Diana Bang) stop a crazed Kim — whose regime is guilty of multiple human rights violations in real life, Amnesty International reports — from launching his nukes by using one of his own tanks against him. The trio send a missile crashing into his chopper during a hypnotic slow-motion sequence set to a stripped down version of Katy Perry's "Firework" (the Supreme Leader's guilty pleasure in the film), quite literally blowing his face off. The Interview's memorable ending was made all the more satisfying by the fact that North Korea attempted to stop its release with a massive cyber attack on Sony.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2 didn't disappoint

The '00s was the decade of Harry Potter in Hollywood. The bespectacled British wizard made his debut in 2001's Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and would appear in a further seven installments in the ten years that followed. They all ended up with Certified Fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes, but 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 is the undisputed top pick, with a whopping 96 percent on the Tomatometer. The stakes were high going into the final film (especially after Deathly Hallows – Part 1 was deemed a tad underwhelming), but Daniel Radcliffe delivered with his most complete turn as the Boy Who Lived, bringing the character full circle.

There's no denying that the finale is a little traumatic. Fan-favorite couple Lupin and Tonks lose their lives during the Battle of Hogwarts, as do Fred Weasley and Severus Snape, who's finally revealed as a double agent. Turns out Harry's most-hated teacher has been looking out for him all this time, having been deeply in love with his famous student's late mother for years. He gets killed before he can tell Harry this in person, but his sacrifice wasn't in vain. With the last of Voldemort's Horcruxes destroyed, Harry Potter finally takes his nemesis out, avenging his parents. This was satisfying enough, but fans got complete closure with the final scene of Harry and company sending their kids off to Hogwarts, 19 years later.

The ending of Inglourious Basterds is one satisfying revenge fantasy

A decade before Quentin Tarantino gave history a satisfying rewrite with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, he did the same in Inglourious Basterds, his thrilling World War II flick. The filmmaker went to great lengths to keep the finale of Hollywood secret (the last few pages of the script were kept in a safe), but that wasn't a problem with Inglourious because he never wrote the final scene down. "The ending for Inglourious Basterds wasn't in the script anywhere," Tarantino's first AD William Paul Clark told IndieWire. "It was basically an outline with little snippets of dialogue. He wrote this out by hand and handed me a stack of yellow ruled paper."

That stack of papers contained one of the most satisfying endings in movie history. Inglourious Basterds was described as "kosher porn" by star Eli Roth, whose character Donny "The Bear Jew" Donowitz gets the final stages of the film off to an unforgettable start when he machine guns Adolf Hitler and right-hand man Joseph Goebbels to pieces. As the movie theater they're in starts to go up in flames, the laughing face of Jewish owner Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) informs her Nazi guests that they're all going to die. The part that Tarantino kept hidden in his head is yet to come, however. His practically flawless film comes to a close with Brad Pitt's Lt. Aldo Raine giving deserter Hans "The Jew Hunter" Landa a little something he can't take off. Yeah, we're talking a permanent swastika, courtesy of Raine's trusty Bowie knife.

The Shawshank Redemption is well worth the wait

You can't talk about satisfying movie endings without mentioning The Shawshank Redemption. Frank Darabont's classic was actually a box office disappointment upon its release in 1994, but the critics loved it, and so did the Academy. It was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Morgan Freeman. Freeman co-stars as Ellis "Red" Redding, a lifer at Shawshank State Penitentiary. The contraband smuggler makes an unlikely friend in banker Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins), who's been found guilty of murdering his wife and her lover, despite his claims of innocence.

The movie plays out over the span of two decades, which makes the ending all the more satisfying. The final scene is foreshadowed after Andy is released from a stint in solitary. He tells Red that his dream is to fix up an old boat and run a little hotel on Mexican beach in Zihuatanejo. That dream becomes a reality when Andy escapes from Shawshank through a tunnel that took him 19 years to dig. He "crawled to freedom through 500 yards of s***-smelling foulness," according to Red, who ends up serving 40 years behind bars. When he gets out, he immediately breaks the law ... violating his parole and, after retrieving a wad of cash that Andy left for him, heading for the border. Seeing the two friends reunite on that beach remains one of the most satisfying sights in cinema.

The Return of the King capped The Lord of the Rings in style

Those who went to see Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003 got a half-dozen satisfying endings for the price of one. The movie ran for well over three hours, and that was just the theatrical release. The Blu-ray Extended Edition goes on for over four hours. Despite this, Jackson refused to water down his intended ending, tying up every one of the threads he wove throughout his trilogy. It went on a tad too long for some, but for fans of Tolkien's epic, it was pure satisfaction.

The finale begins when hobbit besties Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) finally destroy the One Ring, only to find themselves trapped by lava. Luckily, the eagles help out once more, swooping in to rescue the stranded heroes. The film could've ended here, but then we never would have got to see the Fellowship of the Ring reunite. After that it's Aragorn's coronation, and then it's back to the Shire where the triumphant hobbits share a silent toast, and Sam marries his sweetheart. After handing Sam the Red Book of Westmarch — the record of their adventures out in the world — Frodo departs Middle-earth with Bilbo, Gandalf, and the elves, en route for the Undying Lands. Finally, Sam returns to his family, and all is well in the world. Now that's an ending.