Endings are so hard to get right. Viewers give so much time and emotions to the characters in franchises that span multiple years and movies that when the ending falls flat, it’s a disappointment all around. The poor reception Game of Thrones received for its final season is why I believe George R.R. Martin hasn’t finished A Song of Ice and Fire.
When certain characters or franchises receive proper endings to their stories, it leaves viewers satisfied. It’s reassurance for all the hours they spent committing to a story, that their time wasn’t wasted. With No Time to Die serving as Daniel Craig’s swan song in the Bond franchise, let’s explore some of the best final movies for a character or franchise.
Note: I tried to stick with characters or franchises with finite endings. I love Return of the Jedi, but Luke, Han, and Leia all returned in the Skywalker trilogy so Episode VI wasn’t a true ending to their story. If Iron Man returns to the MCU, I might have to adjust this list. Toy Story 3 was perfect, but then Toy Story 4 happened so I can’t count the third film as an ending as well.
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
When describing the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a “masterpiece” is typically the noun of choice. There are little flaws in Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy adventure told in three movies. From the epic action sequences to breathtaking cinematography, LOTR became the gold standard for cinematic storytelling. Return of the King is 201 minutes long, and yet it moves so effortlessly and never drags. Every loose end is tied up and every character gets a proper ending to their story. Not only did fans love Return of the King, but critics and Academy voters praised the film, resulting in a perfect 11 for 11 at the 2004 Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Telling a complete story in one film is hard enough. Imagine crafting a story that spans over 11 years and 23 films?* From Iron Man to Captain Marvel, Kevin Feige perfectly pieced together every story in the Infinity Saga, which culminated with Avengers: Endgame. For 7 years, the Mad Titan known as Thanos was built up to be this unbeatable villain, and up until Endgame, he never lost. Not only did Endgame have to conclude the Infinity Saga, but it also had to set up the future of the MCU. Well, the future of the MCU was passed to Spider-Man, Black Panther (RIP Chadwick), and the Guardians of the Galaxy while Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans received admirable endings to their versions of Iron Man and Captain America respectively. Onto Phase 4, we go!
*Spider-Man: Far From Home is included in the Infinity Saga as the 23rd film, but it feels like a bridge between Phase 3 and Phase 4 instead of the last film in Phase 3.
Christian Bale’s Batman in The Dark Knight Rises
There are two camps. You either like Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises or you hate The Dark Knight Rises. I’m in the former. Dark Knight Rises had the impossible task of following The Dark Knight, which is the best comic movie of all time with the best acting performance of the 21st century, Heath Ledger’s Joker. Nothing could top that masterpiece, and when Rises came out, many compared it to The Dark Knight and picked it up apart. Eight years have passed, and The Dark Knight Rises has aged well in terms of its swan song to Christian Bale’s Batman. Bane’s voice is still confusing all these years later, but Bale’s heartfelt goodbye to the caped crusader is successful. It’s a proper and finite ending to a superb trilogy. With rumors of Downey Jr. and Evans returning to the MCU after Endgame, it’s refreshing to see that Bale’s Batman will never come back. He sacrificed himself for Gotham City and retired to Italy with a beautiful woman. If that’s not the dream, I don’t know what is.
Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in Logan
When comic book movies bring in directors with both dramatic and comedic success as well as a strong affinity for character development, good things can happen. Case in point, James Mangold masterfully wrote and directed Logan, Hugh Jackman’s final film as Wolverine. For such a violent film, Jackman played Wolverine with such nuance and compassion that for the first time, viewers could sympathize with Logan the person as opposed to Wolverine the mutant. Logan is a great movie that doesn’t need to add “comic book” as a qualifier.
What are your picks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us @unafraidshow.