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First And Final Frames Of Movies Tell You More Than You Think

We’re safely assuming that as children, we all at some point did that thing where you read the first and last sentences, pages, or chapters of a book in an attempt to glean some sort of information about the overall story. Can the same be done with movies? In an extremely interesting video by Jacob T. Swinney, we’re given a side by side look of the first and final moments of over fifty films. Glean what you may.

It’s sometimes easy to forget the effort put forth into films and often gloss over the subtle nuances involved in what a single shot can convey. At times we may entirely love an iconic scene or game changing plot point while not always giving credit to how it’s shot. Seeing the first and last scenes puts an interesting perspective on what the filmmakers could have been going for.

For example, albeit a strange one considering the circumstances of a movie shot so beautifully as Birdman, the first shot of a fireball burning through the clouds and the last of Emma Stone grinning as she looks up toward the sky makes the entire film feel almost cyclical. Depending on how you interpreted the ending of this year’s winner for best picture, seeing the opening shot next to the last lends even more ambiguity to Stone’s bittersweet smile.

Other shots are similar such as Gone Girl, Frank, and Lord of War, they each denote a distinct change over the course of the film and revisiting them allows us to bookend the journey we’ve just watched. Rosamund Pike’s Amy Dunne resting her head on her husband’s chest seems drastically more menacing the second time around despite being almost identical.

While in Frank, we’re subtly shown character growth with a similar shots of Domhnall Gleeson’s “Jon” from behind. Stationary in the first where we’re introduced to the creatively stuck young musician and in the last we watch him willingly and confidently walk away from a performance of the band he so desperately wanted to be a part of. Lord of War ends up with similar mirrored shots of the ground littered with bullets which, when placed side by side, seem almost tidal suggesting that things will never really change that much.

In others, it’s easy to see the progression of loners finding their special someone in the world as is the case with Silver Linings Playbook or Fight Club.
Some shots even give a quick snapshot of the journey of the film like those of Shutter Island and Inception. In Shutter Island, Leo’s “Teddy” literally comes out of a fog in and the end there’s a peaceful and clear shot of a sunset that could be interpreted as him realizing his psychosis and resigning himself to his inevitable lobotomy. Not to further harp on DiCaprio movies, but Inception’s first and last of rough seas to calm home could be seen as Cobb’s mind itself. The first shot of the turbulent and tormenting seas of limbo may represent his guilt and the last shot of his home where he’s finally able to let go and walk away from his wife’s totem.

Movie over-analysis aside, this video is at its core just a whole lot of fun. The juxtaposition of each makes us re-think the entire film and in some cases have us itching for a good binge re-watch of almost all of these movies. Except for Cloud Atlas – that movie was weird. And that’s the true-true.

What are some good first and last scenes people should know about? Do you think I read a bit too far into some of these? Over analyze things with me on Twitter or Let us know in the comments!

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  1. GKW says:

    How can you make such an inane comment on Cloud Atlas?  Better to have said nothing.

  2. klue says:

    Did you know the first and last frames of Batman and Robin feature close-up looks of our heroes erect nipples ready to fight crime? It’s so artistic. Joel Schumacher is a visionary.

  3. Cara says:

    Cloud Atlas was beautiful. Your article just lost my respect. 

  4. carrion177 says:

    One of my favorites, while not exactly a movie, was Lost. The opening of the eye, and the closing of the eye was just perfect.

  5. Watcher says:

    Check more of kubrick, he also often tied last frames to first frames of the next movie. Example, the 2001 baby > Clock work Orange’s Alex

  6. Jdge says:

    Cuz visuals was literally the only thing 2001 has going for it at this point. 

  7. DCILutheran says:

    You were doing good until you bashed Cloud Atlas. 

  8. Debbie says:

    I really liked this but didn’t always know which movie was which.  I would like to have had the titles too.

    • George32027 says:

      The Tree of Life 00:00
      The Master 00:09
      Brokeback Mountain 00:15
      No Country for Old Men 00:23
      Her 00:27
      Blue Valentine 00:30
      Birdman 00:34
      Black Swan 00:41
      Gone Girl 00:47
      Kill Bill Vol. 2 00:53
      Punch-Drunk Love 00:59
      Silver Linings Playbook 01:06
      Taxi Driver 01:11
      Shutter Island 01:20
      Children of Men 01:27
      We Need to Talk About Kevin 01:33
      Funny Games (2007) 01:41
      Fight Club 01:47
      12 Years a Slave 01:54
      There Will be Blood 01:59
      The Godfather Part II 02:05
      Shame 02:10
      Never Let Me Go 02:17
      The Road 02:21
      Hunger 02:27
      Raging Bull 02:31
      Cabaret 02:36
      Before Sunrise 02:42
      Nebraska 02:47
      Frank 02:54
      Cast Away 03:01
      Somewhere 03:06
      Melancholia 03:11
      Morvern Callar 03:18
      Take this Waltz 03:21
      Buried 03:25
      Lord of War 03:32
      Cape Fear 03:38
      12 Monkeys 03:45
      The World According to Garp 03:50
      Saving Private Ryan 03:57
      Poetry 04:02
      Solaris (1972) 04:05
      Dr. Strangelove 04:11
      The Astronaut Farmer 04:16
      The Piano 04:21
      Inception 04:26
      Boyhood 04:31
      Whiplash 04:37
      Cloud Atlas 04:43
      Under the Skin 04:47
      2001: A Space Odyssey 04:51
      Gravity 04:57
      The Searchers 05:03
      The Usual Suspects 05:23

  9. Max says:

    I guess for this to be significant, you’d have to have seen more than 2 or 3 of the movies.