Closing titles have been a staple of movies for years. But while many movies traditionally opened with credits at the very beginning, it slowly became more and more common place for cast and crew to be credited at the end of the film until it became the tradition. While the vast majority of films choose to be closed out with simple white credits over black background accompanied by a title track or piece of score, there are some that choose a far more artistic way to wrap up their films.
Through artistic vision and creativity, films over the years have kept audiences in their seats by dazzling them with sequences that present credits in a far more thrilling and enjoyable manner. The best of the best even tie in with the film itself, whether by extending the narrative or continuing the themes and emotions of the movie for a longer lasting and more complete moviegoing experience. With the right music and visuals, some end credit sequences may just be better than the actual film itself. In any case, great closing title sequences are few and far between. But when they hit the mark they can truly leave an impression.
The following 15 end credit sequences are the best of the best thanks to their art, music, and synergy with the movie they follow. Of note, these are not mid- or post-credit sequences, but the end title sequences themselves. For a countdown of opening credits, read The 15 Best Movie Opening Title Sequences.
While director and writer Joseph Kosinski’s sci-fi film Oblivion may have not blown audiences away with its story, the visuals and music by M83 were clearly highlights of the film. Here, these two strengths are put on full display through the end credits sequence. The eye in the sky views of the post-apocalyptic Earth blend well with the focus of the movie, pointing out pieces of the narrative that has just unfolded. But most important, it’s back by the title track “Oblivion” by M83 and Susan Sundfor, which is easily one of the greatest movie theme songs of all time. It’s greatness and emotional resonance help put these titles on the list.
14. Pacific Rim
Guillermo Del Toro’s Pacific Rim is a movie all about giant robots and monsters beating the snot out of each other and not much more. So it’s only appropriate that the end titles focus on these epic creations. Backed by composer Ramin Djawadi’s rock-infused score, audiences are given up-close details of these titanic creations in the form of slick metal models that freeze them in the midst of battle. The cool metal blues, red highlights, and glinting light makes everything look fantastic, as these creations strike a balance between the clearly CGI and the tangible feel of models. It’s a great way to close out a frenetic and action-filled movie.
13. The LEGO Movie
What better way to close out a movie about LEGOs than with an end title made up entirely of actual LEGOs? While The LEGO Movie may have been composed of extremely realistic CGI that emulated the style of LEGO blocks, having the real thing compose the credits is pitch perfect. It’s also backed by “Everything is Awesome,” which is sure to get stuck in your head for days afterward. You can also notice that each scene ties into the roles of each actor’s character, as well as the roles of several of the movie’s creators. Like the film itself, these credits are both an homage to the beauty of creativity and the result of wonderful creativity itself.
12. Thor: The Dark World
A clear candidate for the category of End Titles Better Than The Movie, it’s almost stunning how artistic and exciting the credits to Thor: The Dark World are, given how mediocre the movie itself is. Here, constantly movie and layering effects are used to bring various characters and scenes to life in a manner that look like the work of a painter moving at lightning speed. It fits well with the ancient world of Asgard and has a regal quality that works with Brian Tyler’s bombastic score.
11. Iron Man
The first film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe set a precedent for the many films that have followed by creating a fantastic end credits sequences that is both visually thrilling and tied closely with the ideas of the film itself. Plus, the end credits for Iron Man are filled with little Easter Eggs, as the many images highlight the inner workings of the armor and even show a glimpse of the War Machine armor, which would eventually be part of Iron Man II. Plus, it’s all backed by a version of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man,” which is perfect for the film’s rock and roll tone and the character itself.
Pixar has a great tradition of incorporating traditional hand-drawn animation into their end title sequences, more of which you will see later on this list. Here, Ratatouille ends with beautiful kitchen hijynx that highlight the many wonderful elements of the story. It’s great fun to see it all come together with Michael Giachinno’s vibrant end titles music keep the film feeling fun and fresh even as the credits roll.
9. The Avengers
Every well-loved comic book character has some iconic visual element to him or her and The Avengers are no exception. Closing out the original Avengers, audiences are given close up details of the heroes’ weapons and costumes, showing off their fine details and the results of the epic battle they have just won. The CGI here is executed in exquisite details and its simply thrilling to see these many iconic pieces brought together at the close of the film, with composer Alan Silvestiri’s main theme marching out. So much to love here and it is still better than the statue art used in the credits to Avengers: Age of Ultron.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger
For a hero that is steeped in the iconography of World War II era America, the closing titles to Captain America: The First Avengers are simply sublime. Everything from Uncle Sam to the “We Can Do It” poster are all brought to life through a vivid piece of art that explores the WWII images in 3D. With vibrant colors and composer Alan Silvestri’s “Captain America” theme brought together, this is a triumphant and thrilling way to close out the throwback Marvel film in a way that is unlike most other superhero films currently being made.
7. Sherlock Holmes
Another end credits sequence that embraces the art and mood of the era of the film, the closing to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes fits perfectly with the movie’s blend of Victorian era setting and modern action. Ancient paper, ink splashes, and art that quickly form on the screen overlay various scenes from the film, recreating them in a stylized black and white that is slowly unveiled to be pieces of Watson’s journal. While these films may not be everyone’s personal favorite when it comes to Holmes adaptations, these work wonderfully with the film series and this first entry in particular.
6. Tron: Legacy
Simple, vibrant, and backed by the dazzling “End Titles” by Daft Punk, the closing credits to Tron: Legacy work wonders in the scope of the film. While they may not be complex or offer much more than a stylish take on presenting who worked on the film, they are executed in perfect form. The blend of crisp CGI with minor blurring and haze make these credits feel like they’ve been ripped straight out of The Grid and make fans beg for another return journey to the digital world. It’s just another piece of the exotic and mind-blowing world building that makes Tron: Legacy one of modern cinema’s finest visual and audio experiences.
5. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Easily the best Harry Potter closing titles (although the credits to Goblet of Fire are quite exquisite), the end sequences to Prisoner of Azkabanwill make you sit through the entire credits. Not just to wait and see if there’s anything at the end, but to enjoy the full experience that was lovingly crafted here. By making the sequence a trip through The Marauder’s Map, which plays an integral part of the story, the credits feel far more alive and mischievous. By hearing Harry’s incantations at the beginning and end, the titles feel like one giant experience that is just as alive and creative as the film itself. This is clearly the result of a team that thought through every piece of the experience.
4. How to Train Your Dragon
Like the ending of the film itself, the end titles to Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon are a loving and sweet experience that is uplifting for even the most cynical of moviegoers. Taking pages out of The Dragon Book, audiences get to see tons of amazing concept drawings of the many dragons that appear in the film and many more who do not. Backed by Jonsi’s “Sticks and Stones,” how could anyone not love these end titles? And once the song ends, we get to hear even more of John Powell’s magnificent score, all placed over the beautiful pages given a bright and brilliant color in the style of an ancient tome.
3. 22 Jump Street
Easily the funniest end titles ever made, the entire end credits to 22 Jump Street hilariously skewer the concept of never-ending franchises and their diminishing returns. This may be the funniest part of the entire movie and is very much worth watching the entire film just to get to this part. You can’t take your eyes off this amazing parody that seems to never run out of ideas and amazing subversions, which is perfect for an unexpectedly great film series that loves to point out the ridiculousness of itself.
2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Very much the opposite of the closing titles to the first Captain America movie, the credits to Captain America: The Winter Soldier focus on the dark ideas of the film, with political intrigue at the forefront. Completely in black and white save for only a few red accents, these titles manage to be just as thrilling as the film itself, which is really saying something. There’s a sense of uncertainty behind the many shadowy figures while still having ideas of good and evil make their presence known. Symbols of good are corrupted and the specter of Hydra subverts the images of SHIELD in what is easily the greatest end titles to a superhero film to date and one of the best ever created.
Not just a loving wrap up to the many ideas on display throughout Pixar’s Wall-E, these end titles are actually a continuation of the story. We have the chance to see the rebirth of humanity on Earth as nature and future technology combine to make something more beautiful and happy than the world we once doomed. It’s all done through art that ranges from hieroglyphics to portraits that echo art’s progression through the ages, including Monet, Serot, and Van Gogh. And it all ends with a happy Wall-E and Eve, watching over the tree that they protected. They mix perfectly with the concepts explored in Peter Gabriel’s “Down to Earth,” which plays over the credits. These credits make me cry. That’s powerful art in a medium that is most often a utilitarian aspect.
Honorable Mentions: Kung Fu Panda, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 300, Evil Dead, Iron Man 3, Edge of Tomorrow, The Incredibles