Outlining my next great novel has been an absolute thrill up until I reached the ending.
The ending of a story is, in my opinion, the most important part of the story. Some people might say the beginning is the most important. Though I agree that the beginning is crucial to enticing an audience to read on, I don't think it's as important as the ending.
Have you ever watched a movie that really got you going right from the start only to have the ending pass you by? The credits start rolling and you think to yourself, "That was it?" Sometimes the ending is so disappointing that you actually sit through the credits hoping that the director pasted a clever little scene afterward that might clear everything up. Finally, when all other disappointing movie goers leave, and the lights are back on, and some zit-faced 15-year-old is sweeping up the carnage in the front row, you realize that you had indeed witnessed the ending. Now you feel like a sucker. The trailer and the acting and the mood, everything that once seemed purely awesome, is now one big joke.
I'll admit that I've read some stories that made me a little disappointed because the author took the story in a direction I wouldn't have gone, but the next day, after I've had time to contemplate the ending, I feel much better. Sometimes sad endings do that to me. But these endings can still be great. They leave you with a profound statement of some sort. The message is something you think about for quite a while.
Here are some examples of great ending:
"I Am Legend" (The book!) Yes, the main character dies in the end but I still feel satisfied with the ending because the twist. Robert Nevell realizes that he is the monster. He's the one killing the masses while they sleep, even though they happen to be vampires.
"Oceans 11" This was a great ending because you never see it coming. Not only do the protagonists pull-off the ultimate heist, but they do it in perfect style. This ending satisfies by giving the audience what they want plus some.
"The Village" I know I'm going to get some backlash for adding this to my list a great endings, but first let me defend my reasoning. The entire movie is based in a fantasy world, but in the end you find out that the village is really just a bunch of disenfranchised Americans trying to go back to the good old days when crime wasn't a problem. You also learn that nostalgia isn't really helpful. This is one of those endings that, at first, left me wanting more but after I thought about it, I felt better. The greatness of this ending is because of the message. I know many critics disagree, but they have different criteria for great endings than I do.
I don't have time to go through all the endings that I really enjoyed. I'm not saying these are the absolute best endings of all time, but they are endings I've admired.
What do you think? What movies or books have great endings?