12 Movies Where Everything Comes Full Circle By The End

List Rules
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. 


  • 1
    426 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.

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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.

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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.

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  • 4
    275 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. 

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