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: Warner Bros. Pictures
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.Full circle?
- Photo: Warner Bros.
Martin Scorsese made a rare foray into comedy with 1985's After Hours. Griffin Dunne stars as Paul Hackett, a mild-mannered computer data-entry worker. In the opening scene, we find him on the job in a bustling office building. He seems bored by his career, abruptly getting up and walking out when a coworker starts to ramble about his own professional dissatisfaction.
Paul gets a much-needed dose of excitement when he heads out to purchase a paperweight designed to resemble a bagel from an NYC artist. (In truth, he's interested in sleeping with the artist's roommate, Marcy; the paperweight is merely a pretext.) On the cab ride there, his money blows out the window, leaving him with no return fare. After Hours documents his surreal attempts to get home, which are stymied by rising subway fare, an encounter with a couple of burglars, a confrontation with a group of punks, and temporary encasement in plaster.
The movie ends with the burglars dropping the now-battered Paul off in front of his office. He enters and sits down at his desk, ready for a day of monotony after a night of nonstop insanity.Full circle?
- 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.Full circle?
- Photo: Universal Pictures
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.Full circle?