This month Film Forum, one of New York City’s coolest indie theaters that, thankfully survived the worst of the pandemic is hosting a new series entitled Road Movies. The compilation includes 39 classic movies whose stories take place on or around a road. This got me thinking about other movies that feature a road. Not necessarily in the forefront, but as a symbolic part of the story. The final shot itself. These movies that end on a road are about forging down a new, unknown path. One story ends, and another begins far off screen.
We can all relate to traveling down a long winding road in these last two years. Maybe that’s why it seems so relatable to see this final shot in movies. The symbolism of traveling down a mysterious path. Awaiting a destiny that isn’t yet visible.
These final shots lead to us crafting our own stories, imagining what the next moment might entail. The following movies that end on a road do exactly that.
Thelma and Louise.
We know all too well that the classic female road movie certainly ends on a road, rather going off it. In this case though, we don’t have to envision their future. Sadly, know it. However, with the decision not to show the final moment, the women get their imagined heroic ending.
See ones of the classic movies that end on a road at Film Forum this month.
The 1999 classic thriller has another small signature detail other than ending on a road. It also concludes with a final moment that mimics the beginning. In the end, a peaceful, victorious Annette (Reese Witherspoon) drives down the highway in her dead boyfriend’s car. His now distributed, reputation destroying journal in the backseat. It’s symbolic because the film begins the same way, with a cocky, not yet changed Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe) driving his own 1956 Jaguar 2 seat convertible.
Showgirls also begins and ends the exact same way. The opening of Paul Verhoven’s film shows Nomi Malone (Elizabeth Berkley) hitching a ride into Las Vegas with a greasy stranger who steals her things and leaves her stranded. In the end, after everything, Nomi’s back on that same road. This time, hitchhiking her way out of Vegas.
In the final shot Nomi realizes that the car that’s picked her up is the same guy who stole her belongings. This time, she’s better prepared. Holding him at knife point as they drive off into the distance.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
Another classic movie whose final shot depicts the main character departing down a road with a sense of closure. In this case, it’s protagonist, private eye Eddie Valiant who has finally avenged his brother’s death. He begins to literally, mosey off into the sunset towards the fully animated Toontown which he’s happy to re enter. Alongside his girlfriend, partner Roger, and of course, his wife Jessica Rabbit.
The movie is about Tom Hanks surviving on a desert island with no one other than his volleyball BFF. Ironically, however, this film also ends on a road, at a metaphorical, and quite literal crossroads.
Fedex executive Chuck Noland has returned home after being lost at sea in a plane crash. Surrounded by dozens of packages, which he opened and used to help him through his ordeal. All except one, a box with actual angel wings that functioned as his guardian angel. In the end, he delivers that still contained box to its owner, Bettina Peterson.
Upon reaching a literal fork in the road he runs into a woman in a truck who helps him. She explains where each turn goes, and when she drives away down one of them, Noland sees the wings painted on the back of her truck. He realizes the woman he just met, and his guardian angel are one and the same.
This is Where I Leave You.
The 2014 adaptation of the Jonathan Tropper book (of the same name) is part of Jason Bateman’s cynically, charming canon. Playing Judd, who finds his wife cheating on him, and then has to go back to his family home after his father dies. There, he falls for Penny, the townie girl he used to know (a not yet famous Rose Byrne) and reconnects with family and himself. Though Judd spends most of the film lost, in the end he does find some clarity.
This is where I leave you closes with Judd on his way on the highway. Where he was going to take his life has been a question throughout. He finally makes his choice, as we see him on the highway, headed towards his dream destination of Maine.
10 Cloverfield Lane.
The sequel to JJ Abrhams Cloverfield is vastly different. Although it does connect in the end, we’re never clear exactly what we saw. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) finally escapes the clutches of her ambiguously villainous captor (John Goodman). Though unclear throughout the film if there really was a threat, we all learn that in fact, it was true.
There are monsters actually invading, and she has to fight them off to survive. Ultimately, she kills them and continues her escape. The radio broadcasts the news of the invasions as we watch her drive off onto the cinematic, long, dark road.
FIlm Forums’ Road Movies series runs now through December 2ndViews – 1882