Study Guide

Bonnie and Clyde What's Up With the Ending?

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What's Up With the Ending?

The ending in Bonnie and Clyde is among the most famous endings in film history. We're not just being bombastic—it's widely considered one of the best.

We are, of course, referring to the scene when Bonnie and Clyde stop along a road to help C.W.'s father, Malcolm…and are suddenly ambushed. And the heartbreaking thing is that this comes at a time when things seem to be going well for them. They've finally had sex. They're coming back from grocery shopping and sharing a pear. They're blissfully happy.

The ending—which is credited to Penn, the film's editor Dede Allen, and her assistant, Jerry Greenberg—was startling for the time. While people had used freeze-frames, slow motion photography, shock cuts (cuts between dramatically different shots), and other techniques before in films, no one had every done anything quite like this.

In just about a minute of screen time, Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down in a hail storm of machine gun fire, their bodies bobbling about in what New Yorker Magazine film critic Pauline Kael called "the rag doll dance of death." (Source)

After that, there's just silence as the various law enforcement officers come out of hiding to view the two dead bodies. No swelling music. No pious last words. Just stunned silence and then the words: "The End."

Ugh. It gets us every time.

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