There are many great endings in movie history, but asking for the most triumphant narrows it down a bit. There are many films with warm and fuzzy happy endings or beautifully bittersweet moral victories, but this is the category featuring the relatively few that gave us a no-holds-barred victory and succeeded. No compromises, no attempt to reign it in, just our heroes in their finest moment. These endings had us leaving the theater a little more hopeful than before, making us believe, where so many clichéd resolutions fail to stick, that there really are nuggets of gold to be found mining in the stream of life. (SPOILERS AHEAD.)


10. Meet the Robinsons: What have I done, you might ask? With the greatest movies of all time to choose from, the movie in 10th place is taken straight from the middle of the lineup of Disney’s early throwaway attempts to transition to CGI? Well, I promised myself I’d be honest here, and so, yes, that’s what I’m saying. I think this humble little feature managed to take its loony plot threads and tie them together into a victory even more significant that much of what they’ve dreamed up in “the happiest place on earth.”


Now that Lewis, the little time-traveling genius, has learned not to judge his worth based on past failures and discovered that the future holds a happy life with a new family, he takes the chance to do what he’d wanted to do in the beginning; find the woman who put him up for adoption. In one last trip to the past, he goes with his future son to watch his mother leave him on the doorstep of the place he grew up, giving him one last embrace and slipping away. He looks on with no confliction and goes back to the present. When his son asks him why he didn’t want to stop her, he answers “Because, I’ve got a family.”


Where so many of Disney’s wonderful movies seem to accomplish all they really wanted to do after the climactic struggle, signing off with a simple scene of the characters enjoying the “fruits of their labor,” this one actually seemed to care more about the resolution than the conflict. It’s not what he has conquered; what Lewis has learned, and exactly what he has won, rings loudly in the final scene of his adoption, well-earning a closing quotation:


“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” – Walt Disney


Keep moving forward






9. Return of the Jedi: Yeah, I would have to give a nod to Star Wars. After one of the most resounding defeats of all time in Empire Strikes Back, the heroes regroup and transcend themselves to defeat the dark side once and for all. (Or at least until 2015.)


This is iconic. Luke faces his father, one of the greatest villains of all time, in the rematch of the “long time ago” era, Han and Leia declare their love for each other, and Vadar redeems himself, destroying the dark side of the force at last. Nobody learns anything in particular, and there’s no particular message to take away. It’s simply one of the most well-earned and iconic triumphs of good over evil in the history of cinema.


8. Aliens: After a slow, suspenseful, and tightly crafted first outing, the sequel to Alien (aptly titled, as it does deliver on the promise of more than one) matched its predecessor’s greatness with a visceral battle of thrills and chills, every bit as horrific as the original. But it also continues to develop Ripley, who, we learn, drifted through space for over fifty years in her escape pod.


She wakes up to learn that all of her loved ones have passed on, and there is not much left for her in the world. She decides, with nothing more worthwhile to do, that she should come on board as an advisor when more of the creatures that wiped out her crew are discovered. The movie has her getting to know the unruly soldiers, saving a little girl who has also, thanks to the aliens, lost everything, fighting for all of their lives, and, something we didn’t expect, winning a second chance at life.


The Alien Queen has cornered Newt, Ripley’s surrogate daughter, when the gate behind them opens and Ripley, well, does this: http/


The alien and Ripley then square off in a fight which has both of them evading death by a hair, until Ripley manages to suck the monster into space, and close the open hatch with all of our heroes hanging just on the edge of it. Newt embraces Ripley as “mommy,” and the two of them proceed to the ship with their friends, having survived against the odds and, what’s more, won back their lives together. (Alien 3, you say? Never heard of it.)


7. Pinocchio: I said that many Disney movies don’t quite have what I’m looking for, but there are a few exceptions, including Peter Pan and Beauty and the Beast. I had to think long and hard about the entry to represent the Disney name, and I finally settled on Pinocchio, because, what did he triumph over in the end? Being dead.


Pinocchio has drowned saving his father from the whale named Monstro and is being mourned like no Disney character before or since. But as the Blue Fairy’s voice is heard one last time, it goes from a sad scene, to a gentle and delicate moment, to an overjoyed celebration of the fact that Pinocchio has, as the immortal phrase goes, become a real boy. His father/creator sets every noisemaker he’s ever carved on full volume and dances around the room with his boy, while Jiminy Cricket steps outside to look up at the stars and thank the fairy, only to find that he has not been forgotten either. The movie fades out with his legendary song, leaving us with the type of ending that Disney magic is made of.


6. The Truman Show: Despite creating some of the more dimensional (and, frankly, funnier) stories of all the crude comedic actors of the 90s, Jim Carrey didn’t reach his highest heights until he started pursuing drama. The Truman Show may or may not be his best dramatic work, but it definitely features his most triumphant ending, in which Truman finally learns the truth about his world that always seemed like it was trying to keep him confined.


Truman has made it to the edge of the set that he’s lived in all of his life and discovered the exit door to the real world. The man responsible for his lifelong predicament talks to Truman over the speaker system and explains that he has created this world especially for Truman. Truman has every reason to fall apart right now. He’s been used all of his life, and now he’s also being told that there’s no more truth outside than in. Truman thinks for a moment as his captor demands he say something, then looks up and gives his audience the final curtain call:

“In case I don’t see you, ‘good afternoon, good evening, and good night.” Bowing to his audience, he steps outside, soon to be reunited with the only woman he ever really loved.

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