In today’s world of binge watching an entire TV series in one sitting, cliffhangers are becoming less and less frequent. Rather than hanging on tenterhooks for a week for the next episode of your favorite show to return and resolve the problem that was introduced in the last second, now we need only wait a few seconds for the next episode to load, just enough time to jam one more handful of Cheesy Poofs into your mouth.
But movies (and season finales) still have the ability to crush our souls by ending on a climactic note, forcing you to wait months, years or forever for a true conclusion. However frustrating and infuriating cliffhangers can be, the most effective of them really do their job, convincing fans to tune in next time in droves to see what will happen. Though it hurts to admit it, sometimes the very best cliffhangers have no resolution at all. Sometimes, our imaginations do better work than the filmmakers could ever do. Sometimes our anticipation and “what ifs” are far too huge to ever properly live up to, sometimes but not always.
Over the years, there have been some really amazing cliffhangers. Here are the best of the bunch.
13 Super Mario Bros.
11 Deep Rising
9 Before Sunrise and Before Sunset
8 28 Weeks Later
7 Sylvester Stallone
6 Kill Bill: Vol. 1
5 The Matrix Reloaded
4 Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
In a powerful and emotional ending, the fellowship disbands in multiple ways and all seems to be lost. Frodo and Sam separate from the group, Boromir falls to the Uruk-hai, and Merry and Pippin are kidnapped. While Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli watch Frodo and Sam crawl onto the shore on the other side, it seems that the three warriors will follow them unwanted, but Aragorn makes the decision to hunt down and save the two kidnapped Hobbits instead, leading into The Two Towers. I remember fans in theaters (who hadn’t read the books) were dumbfounded, thinking that surely that can’t be the ending. A guy behind me asked his friend, “is that it?” As an eager, die-hard fan, I leaned over and said, “yes. It is.” He quickly responded, “I wasn’t asking you.”
3 The Empire Strikes Back
2 Back to the Future II
1 The Italian Job
Whenever you can make a cliffhanger both metaphorical and literal, you’re going to be just fine in my books. The famous ending of the heist classic The Italian Job will always be remembered as one of, if not the, best endings of all time. Riding off into the sunset in a coach loaded with stolen gold, the driver of the coach loses control on a winding mountain road, nearly skidding off a cliff, coming to a stop just teetering on the edge. Croker (Michael Caine) tries to crawl to far end of the coach to the gold, but the coach teeters further. With no solution in sight for how to get to the gold, Crocker turns to the rest of the gang at the far end of the bus (and the camera as well) and says, “hang on a minute lads. I’ve got a great idea.”
Sources: IMDB; Wikipedia; Screenrant
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