12 Movies Where Everything Comes Full Circle By The End

Over 800 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 12 Movies Where Everything Comes Full Circle By The End
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Vote up the best movies where the plot comes full circle.

It's a true feat of screenwriting when a movie's plot comes full circle. Developing a story that credibly boomerangs takes a great deal of skill and imagination. In returning to the beginning, the plot has to devise a way to make that feel like a progression for the characters, rather than a regression. In other words, they have to gain something by reverting to the start.

The following films are all examples of this in action. Their characters begin in one location or in some specific scenario. From there, they go out on a journey that's filled with tribulations. At the end, either by choice or circumstance, they're dropped right back off where they started. Despite that, they've grown in the interim, so they aren't 100% the same as they were initially. The movies are potent because that idea is crystal clear in their respective stories. By going in a loop, the protagonists are changed in important ways.

Which of these movies best comes full circle at the end? Your votes will decide. 

Photo: Mad Max: Fury Road / Warner Bros. Pictures

  • 1
    604 VOTES

    12 Monkeys opens in 2035, with a team of scientists looking to cure a virus that has spread wildly out of control, at great human cost. In order to develop something to be used against it, they need someone to go back in time to 1996, before the virus mutated. The person they send is Cole (Bruce Willis), a guy with recurring dreams about a chase and shootout at an airport that he witnessed as a child.

    To say chaos ensues would be an understatement. Cole ends up in the wrong year several times. During one of his stops, he's deemed mentally ill because of his time-travel talk and sent to a mental institution. His efforts to learn about the virus - and to investigate the Army of the Twelve Monkeys allegedly responsible for it - are complicated by this inability to get precisely where he needs to be. 

    The story wraps up with Cole at least realizing that the scientists have been on the wrong track. He announces plans to stay in 1996. He gets into a confrontation with police at an airport, at which time they shoot him, as a young boy watches. That boy is the young Cole, and he's just seen the event that will haunt his dreams for decades.

    604 votes

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  • The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
    Photo: MGM

    Tuco is a Mexican bandit. Blondie is a drifter. Together, they have concocted a scheme to make money. It involves Blondie turning the wanted Tuco over to authorities, collecting the reward money, and then freeing him by shooting the noose just as he's about to be hanged. They split the cash afterward. Once this is completed, they go somewhere else and do it all over again. That's the set-up to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

    After a while, the men tire of each other, leading to a double-cross by Blondie and a revenge attempt by Tuco. They reluctantly re-team to beat the bandit Angel Eyes to the location where a fortune in gold is buried. Before they can get there, they're captured and imprisoned by Union forces. Attacks from Angel Eyes's henchmen are another obstacle they must face, as well as stumbling into the middle of a military effort to secure a bridge. 

    The scenario finally ends with a three-way standoff between the men. Angel Eyes is gunned down in the shootout. The other two dig up the gold, but Blondie puts Tuco into a noose under a tree, before riding off on his horse. As he goes, he leans back and shoots the noose, dropping Tuco to the ground. Half the gold is waiting there for him.

    465 votes

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  • The opening scene of The Blues Brothers finds Jake Blues (John Belushi) being released from Joliet State Prison. Waiting for him outside is his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd). The two stare at each other for a moment, hug, then get into Elwood's car and drive off.

    Shortly afterward, they learn that the orphanage where they grew up is in debt. To help out, the two go on a "mission from God," traveling throughout Illinois to reunite the members of their band to start performing again. Some of their antics, including instigating a car chase through a shopping mall, put them on the wrong side of the law. The brothers additionally anger some "Illinois Nazis" along the way, and Elwood faces the wrath of an ex-girlfriend (Carrie Fisher) with a flamethrower. 

    The film concludes with a chase through Chicago, where Jake and Elwood make it into City Hall to pay the fine and are promptly arrested by countless police officers pursuing them. The last scene of The Blues Brothers finds the guys in jail with their band, where they play "Jailhouse Rock" for their fellow inmates. Jake is back in the slammer, and now he's brought Elwood with him.

    414 votes

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  • 4
    369 VOTES

    In The Jerk, Steve Martin plays Navin Johnson, a guy who thinks he "was born a poor Black child" when he's really the adopted son of African-American sharecroppers. Tired of feeling different - and of living in the run-down shack the family calls home - Navin decides it's time to get out and see the world. 

    He heads to St. Louis, where he gets a job at a gas station, evades a sniper, joins a traveling carnival, and marries a woman named Marie. He also invents something called the Opti-Grab that is designed to keep people's glasses pushed up. The invention makes him wealthy, until he gets slapped with a class-action lawsuit from people who claim it's made them cross-eyed. Navin goes broke as quickly as he gets rich. His wife kicks him out in the process.

    Having decided that life on his own isn't worth the effort, he makes the decision to return home to his family. They've taken the money he sent them over the years and invested it in a brand new shack that looks exactly like the old one. Navin is surrounded by the people he loves. Marie comes back, as well, and he's finally happy. 

    369 votes

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  • 5
    213 VOTES

    The Amusement Park

    The Amusement Park
    Photo: Shudder

    The opening minutes of George A. Romero's The Amusement Park show us an elderly man sitting in a white room. He's battered, and his suit is dirty and rumpled. Into the room walks a clean, healthy version of the same man. He attempts to talk to the other version of himself, only to find him despondent. He then announces that he's going to go out for the day, at which point he opens the door and steps out into an amusement park.

    The day does not turn out to be fun. He experiences a series of frustrations, all of which are designed to be metaphors for the alienation and struggles often experienced by senior citizens. He can't get on some of the rides because of health issues. Eating a simple meal becomes a problem. He feels lost and bewildered. A biker gang beats him.

    In the finale, the frustrated man leaves the park and goes back into the white room. He has become the battered version of himself he previously spoke to. As he sits there moaning in anguish, a clean, healthy version of him walks in, and the opening conversation repeats. The point? That, for the elderly, life can feel as though it's an endless, hellish loop.

    213 votes
  • Mad Max: Fury Road begins in the Citadel, a post-apocalyptic wasteland controlled by Immortan Joe. He's a tyrant who has enslaved an entire population of people and gained total control of the water supply. One of his lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), is sent on a mission to obtain gasoline. She's got other plans, helping Joe's five wives - one of whom is pregnant - to escape in her truck. Joe and his goons, called "the War Boys," give chase throughout the desert. Along the way, Furiosa encounters Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy), who has himself escaped the clutches of the War Boys. He agrees to assist them.

    The chase is full of peril, especially when a biker gang reneges on its promise to allow Furiosa safe passage through a canyon they control. Her truck is also routinely attacked. After discovering that the safe harbor they were hoping to reach is uninhabitable, Max convinces Furiosa to return to the Citadel, fight Joe head-on, and liberate the people living under his rule. 

    The group does indeed go back and, with the help of a band of warriors called the Vulvini whom they met en route, slay Joe and make water available to everyone. They've created the utopia they went looking for and couldn't find.

    388 votes

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