There are some who might say a movie’s entire message is sent by how it begins, and how it ends. But rarely do directors actually treat their first and final shots with so much importance. Unforgettable views, moments of triumph, or witty dialogue can all make a cut-to-black and end credits seem perfectly timed, but some directors go the extra mile, crafting a start and finish that add an extra level of storytelling for viewers paying close attention.
Here is our list of First & Final Movie Scenes That Are Secretly Identical.
James Cameron’s 3D blockbuster smash may have taken audiences to an alien world, but it begins at home, in a futuristic Earth. Actually, Avatar begins in a dream sequence, with the movie’s hero Jake Sully explaining that his sleep has become filled with visions of flying ever since he was wounded in combat, opening his eyes every morning to find he’s still confined to a wheelchair. His adventure on the planet Pandora piloting an artificially-grown human/Na-vi hybrid allows him to do more than fly, successfully defending the planet from his own side’s forces. The final shots of the movie mirror the beginning directly, showing Jake once again opening his eyes – this time, to a new body, a new people, and a new purpose. To take things further, the end credits are run over the exact same shots of flying as Jake’s first dream.
Director Terry Gilliam is known for his offbeat visions of the future, with 12 Monkeys focused on a single prisoner, sent into the past to help scientists cure a worldwide plague that killed billions. The film opens with the hero dreaming of his younger self, watching an unknown man gunned down in a crowded airport. Unsure if the memory is real or imagined, he goes on to learn that the virus was spread on purpose by a single person, and sets out to stop it from ever happening. He fails when airport security shoots him dead in front of his younger self. The boy watches as the plane takes off, setting into motion billions of deaths, and closing the endless time loop the way it began.
Although most of the film is set on a remote tropical island, Cast Away begins in the heart of Texas, introducing an unknown woman sending a FedEx package. The choice makes sense when the camera follows a FedEx package from there all the way to Russia, where the film’s hero Chuck Noland is introduced. When Chuck finally makes it back to civilization, little of his old life remains, and he decides to start over from scratch – but first, he has to return a package that washed ashore on his desert island along with him. That brings him to the exact same intersection the movie opened on, where Chuck finally encounters the woman who he says saved his life. After considering which direction to head, Chuck turns to the woman’s disappearing truck with a smile, and the film’s final shot gives another look down the deserted road it opened on – plus Chuck.
David Fincher had an incredible challenge adapting the novel Gone Girl to film, but the opening shot is a hard one to forget. Showing what should be a loving scene between a husband and wife, star Rosamund Pike’s sudden stare into the camera and Ben Affleck’s narration put audiences on edge, warning them that the story about to unfold was anything but simple. A kidnapping, lies, and murder all led the estranged couple back to eachother, forced to decide just how willing they were to keep lying for the sake of a marriage – and public perception. Having the couple end up right back where they started from may have been a hard pill for viewers to swallow, but Fincher makes the message loud and clear, ending the movie with the exact same shot he opened on – but the audience’s opinion of the woman in frame has completely changed.
Total Recall is a simple enough story: an everyday Earthling in the not-too-distant future, Douglas Quaid, dreams of a passionate affair with a beautiful woman on the surface of Mars. So when a business offers to implant false memories for a price, Quaid decides to make his dream a reality – at least as far as his mind is concerned. The procedure goes awry, and Quaid’s false memories disappear, revealing that he really WAS a secret agent working on Mars, and the woman from his dreams wasn’t imaginary. At least, that’s what he thinks. The movie never states whether Quaid’s return to Mars really happened, and whether he succeeded in releasing air into its atmosphere, and saving its poor population. But taking a quick glance at just how closely the film’s final scene resembles Quaid’s dream, those suspecting it was simply a fantasy have even more evidence to back up their claim.
Director Martin Scorsese wasn’t exactly subtle with the tension and terror of Cape Fear, the story of a convicted criminal who seeks revenge on the lawyer who put him there, terrorizing him and his family, particularly his teenage daughter. Beginning the movie with chilling music and a blood red close-up on the daughter’s eyes warns audiences that the story she’s about to recount is a violent and truly unsettling one, due in large part to Robert De Niro’s acclaimed performance as the film’s villain. The family survives in the end, with the lawyer successfully killing his former client – but the damage has been done. To remind viewers that Cape Fear is as much about the loss of innocence as it is about revenge or protecting your family, the film returns to the “spared” daughter, this time fading from innocent white to red – and keeping audiences from feeling too good about its happy ending.
No other actor embodies the age of American Westerns like John Wayne, with his role as Ethan Edwards in The Searchers considered one of his finest roles. The film opens inside a West Texas homestead, revealing a stunning landscape as Ethan first returns home after leaving years earlier to fight in the Civil War. When his brother’s family is killed not long after, and their two daughters kidnapped, Ethan sets off to find them no matter how long it may take. The youngest daughter Debbie is finally tracked down years later, and Ethan personally delivers brings her back home. Although it’s technically a different home, she is welcomed with open arms, and the future, for once, looks bright. With no place for an aging soldier inside, Ethan is left to walk into the wild all by himself. The shot is a perfect mirror of the one which started the film, and director John Ford’s iconic closing image is just one of the reasons The Searchers would go on to be seen by many as a masterpiece, and one of the greatest films ever made.
So what do you think of our list? Did we miss any of your favorite bookends and mirrored scenes? Let us know in our comment section and don’t forget to subscribe to our channel for more videos like this one.