Watch older movies and they tend to be slower and often close with a whimper instead of a bang. Then you watch newer, good movies and notice how they end with a huge bang at the end that’s bigger than anything that came before it.
In the original “La Femme Nikita,” the hero faces her first test by shooting three people in a restaurant and then trying to escape. Unfortunately for her, her escape route is bricked up, so she’s trapped in the restaurant and must find an ingenious way to escape, but not before exchanging gunfire with several men armed with pistols, machine guns, and a grenade launcher. This scene occurs near the halfway point of the movie, yet it’s the biggest action spectacular of the whole movie. Everything else from that point on is much milder and less chaotic, and that leaves “La Femme Nikita” closing to a slow end like a car coasting to a stop instead of smashing into a brick wall at full speed.
What you want early in your story is a hint of action that foreshadows the final, much bigger climactic scene at the end. The end must always be bigger and more exciting because that’s the final battle. The simple way to make the ending bigger is to make add more action. That’s what “Mad Max: Fury Road” does at the end with more hand to hand fighting and car crashes. The second way to make the ending bigger is to raise the emotional stakes, and that’s what the original “La Femme Nikita” does at the end. Not only is the hero in “La Femme Nikita” trying to survive, but she’s also trying to keep her espionage activities hidden from her fiancé.
Ideally, you want to raise both the action and the emotional stakes in the end. In “Die Hard,” the final battle between the hero and the villain isn’t the biggest battle, but it’s the biggest emotional battle because this is the end where the hero either saves his wife or not. More action would be meaningless if there wasn’t more emotion at stake. In “Mad Max: Fury Road,” there are several emotional elements that occur in the end.
First there’s an older woman who dies with a smile as she helps guide the young woman back home. Second, there’s a young man who redeems himself by saving the girl he loves. Third, there’s the female hero who wants to save the young women. Fourth there’s Mad Max who wants to help bring hope to people. With so many emotional moments coming at the end with bigger action, “Mad Max: Fury Road” ends with a huge bang both from an action standpoint and from an emotional standpoint. It’s not a perfect movie, but it ends with the biggest bang of all time.
Think of your biggest action scene with the biggest emotional confrontation,and that’s your ending. Once you know your ending, work backwards to the beginning to set up the ending. By saving your big bang for last, you’re guaranteed to end your story on a high point.