In bad movies, the ending is nothing but pure action. Watch a lousy movie like “The Net” where the hero hits the villain in the face with a fire extinguisher. Since “The Net” is about computer hacking, you would think the hero would defeat the villain using computer hacking skills somehow, but smacking him in the head with a fire extinguisher makes no sense. Even worse, defeating the villain by hitting him with a fire extinguisher doesn’t change the hero emotionally one bit. All action without emotion is a guaranteed recipe for a boring movie.
What every ending needs is action plus emotional change. The hero doesn’t just fight the villain, but the hero changes emotionally as a result of fighting the villain. The hero changes emotionally in two ways:
- First, the hero becomes a better person
- Second, the hero helps others
The ending in “Star Wars” shows Luke destroying the Death Star, but in the process, he learns to become a better person by trusting the Force. By blowing up the Death Star, he also saves the rebellion and Princess Leia. If Luke had simply blown up the Death Star without changing into a better person or saving the rebel base, the ending wouldn’t be nearly as emotionally intriguing.
In the stop-animation film “Early Man,” a team of cave men from the Stone Age must battle a team from the Bronze Age in a soccer game. The hero scores the winning goal but that’s far less important than the fact that he learns just because he’s from the Stone Age doesn’t mean he’s not as good as people from the Bronze Age. Also by scoring the winning goal, he saves his tribe’s home at the same time.
Defeating the villain is more than just action. If you want action and nothing else, just pretend your hero defeats the villain by smashing him in the face with a fire extinguisher. If that ending doesn’t satisfy your story, then you’ll know replacing a fire extinguisher with any other type of mindless action won’t do it either. You need emotions to make an ending worth watching and caring about and that can only come when the hero changes emotionally as a result of defeating the villain.