Brad Johnson of Script Mag has written a great article covering what he identifies as the four essential elements that you script will need to end successfully. He uses Rocky to demonstrate his point that whether your ending is happy or sad, it won’t work unless it meets these four standards:
It’s probably the most common complaint I hear from people after they see a movie: “It was a good movie, but I hated the ending.” It has always confused me because most of the writers I know tend to start off writing their scripts already knowing how it begins and how it end. So why then is it so common to hear audiences bemoan some variation on this theme? Simply put, there’s a difference between having an idea for a great ending and writing a satisfying one.
If you’ve been writing long, you’ve experienced that moment where the image pops into your head. The lightbulb goes off and you get positively giddy. You’ve just realized the perfect way to end your script. It’s visually compelling, it’s unique, and it will stick with audiences for years, you just know it!
But now you have to write it.
And there’s the rub, because once you sit to write it’s no longer a self-contained scene. Even if you’ve outlined the hell out of your story (you did that, right? Good.), it’s more complicated now because your ending is part of a whole; it’s tied to everything else that comes before it in your script. And that’s where a lot of writers lose their way. Their ending is a good scene, but it hasn’t been developed into an ending to a story.
What do I mean?
Basically, there are four things that a good ending needs to accomplish:
- It has to bring closure to both the exterior and interior conflict of your story
- It should tie back in with the themes that you’ve been exploring
- It should be realistic (to the world you’ve created) and emotional (it should mean something to your characters)
- It should result in change (your Protagonist should not be the same as they were 2 hours ago)
And one of the best films you can look at to see how to capture all of these things is one about a down-on-his-luck, south paw boxer set in the city of brotherly love.