Follow TV Tropes


Freeze-Frame Ending

Go To
Their stare will last 400 blows.

A common trope, this is the use of a freeze-frame at the end of a work.

The moving image, most typically if not always a close up of a character's face, turns into a still. It may or may not get a zoom. The character is usually in a dramatic pose, or with a specific expression. Freeze. Roll credits.

The character is usually the protagonist, and the pose can be of a variety, but often a smile, laugh or a Double Take.

Though now a technique used more meaningfully — often to connect with the character — or as parody, in some Eighties whodunits it was treated as a standard of its television show format.

In the field of Film Studies, scholars promote François Truffaut's The 400 Blows as the earliest notable use (or Ur-Example). At the end there is a freeze and then zoom on the young protagonist's face as he looks, conflicted, at the camera. The scene was also used as both the original promotional and cover image for the film, possibly the first time such a scene has made it into mass marketing.

One variation is a 'flash' sequence, when there is a freeze frame featuring the initial credits before possibly a Stinger and then the actual credits.

This trope can be specific kind of Fourth Wall-breaking, in instances when a character looks directly into the camera, but still is not completely breaking the fourth wall as it is often treated as an addendum to the actual work. It may also be a Pastel-Chalked Freeze Frame. Compare Group Picture Ending and "YEAH!" Shot.

As this is an Ending Trope, unmarked spoilers abound. Beware.


    open/close all folders 

  • The Doraemon episode "Battle of the Dueling Nobys" ends with a freeze-frame of Doraemon and Noby.
  • Pokémon Generations: Episode 8 ends with Archie and Shelly screaming in front of Kyogre's gaping maw, freezing just as Kyogre opens its mouth.
  • Tamagotchi! Yume Kira Dream episode 34 ends with a freeze-frame of Himespetchi, who is still distraught from having to return to her home planet.

    Asian Animation 
  • YoYo Man: The series finale, Season 4 episode 13, ends with a freeze-frame that turns sepia, of the five Yoyo Supermen jumping into the air.

    Live-Action Film 
  • 16 Blocks: The last shot is a freeze frame where the hero holds up a photograph.
  • The 400 Blows: As young Antoine finally reaches the coast from his perpetual series of bad luck and federal injustice. He's still being chased, and has nowhere to go beyond the coast, but is enjoying the beach and an innocent sense of freedom, causing him to smile back towards the land and, consequently, into the camera. The camera then freezes and zooms on his face.
  • ...And Justice for All's credits roll over the freeze frame of Arthur's stunned expression as he sees Jay coming up the courthouse steps, apparently back to normal.
  • Another Round ends with a freeze-frame on Martin as he's jumping off the pier in the middle of a drunken dance number.
  • Barry Lyndon ends with a freeze-frame on Barry, after he's lost a duel and his whole life has been ruined due to his own selfishness.
  • The Breakfast Club: ends with a freeze-frame of John Bender pumping his fist in the air.
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: The original Bolivian Army Ending, the frame freezing just as Butch and Sundance, hopelessly outnumbered, come out firing. The massive gunfire heard during the freeze frame implies they did not make it.
  • Change of Habit's credits roll over a scene of Carpenter singing to the congregation, which freezes at the end.
  • Dangerous Men ends suddenly on a freeze frame of the villain getting arrested.
  • Déjà Vu (2006) ends with a freeze frame of the hero in his car.
  • Gallipoli: Famously ended on Archie's senseless death.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ends with a freeze-frame of Harry flying towards the camera on his brand-new Firebolt broomstick.
  • Joe (1970) ends with a freeze frame of Melissa seen from the front, fleeing the house as she's unwittingly shot and killed by her own father.
  • Max Keeble's Big Move ends with a freeze frame of Max riding his bike as the Evil Ice Cream Man pursues him in his truck.
  • The Naked Gun parodies this as it does with so many other tropes: Frank and the other two characters he's with hold their mid-laugh poses all through the credits while the papers he had tossed up gently scatter all over the floor and a cat pokes at them
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles ends with a freeze frame shot on the smiling face of John Candy's character.
  • The Revolt of Job: Set in 1944 Hungary, this film ends with a freeze-frame of Lacko running after the cart that is taking away his adoptive parents, who are Jews, to their deaths in the Holocaust.
  • Rollerball concludes with the crowd chanting "Jonathan!" as The Hero takes a victory lap. The camera freezes on the face of the man who refused to be beaten as the credits appear in succession.
  • Sisters of Death ends with a freeze frame shot of Judy laughing after she and Mark have cleared the gate and escaped the mansion. And she has just shot Mark.
  • Thelma & Louise ends on the duo driving their car into the Grand Canyon, freezing mid-flight.
  • Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown/Mujeres al Borde de un Ataque de Nervios, one of Pedro Almodóvar's famous films, has the film end of a freeze frame of Pepa and Marisa on the Very Important Terrace. Interestingly, the entirety of the credits runs over the freeze frame, there's no black background.
  • A Tale of Two Sisters ends on a freeze frame on Soo-mi as she wakes away from the house.
  • Brian's Song, the original 1971 made-for-tv film about real-life Chicago Bears football player Brian Piccolo's fight against cancer, ends shortly after his death with a flashback of Piccolo and teammate Gale Sayers running through a park together with the final shot before the credits being a freeze-frame on a close-up of Piccolo's face.
  • Run Wild, Run Free ends with a close-up of Philip's face.
  • Son-Rise: A Miracle of Love ends on a shot of Barry lifting Raun into the air while Suzie stands nearby.
  • Relative Fear ends with a freeze-frame of Adam pointing a stick shaped like a gun at Henry and saying, "Bang, you're dead."
  • David's Mother ends with a shot of Sally about to leave the institution where David now lives.
  • The Trip (1967): Thanks to Executive Meddling, the movie ends with a shot of Paul's face shattering to symbolize his broken and traumatized mind, although there's nothing else in the closing scene to suggest that his LSD experience hurt him.
  • Backstreet Dreams combines this with Off-into-the-Distance Ending, with Dean, Stevie, and Shane driving to California, where there's a special school Dean hopes will help Shane.
  • God Told Me To ends with a shot of Pete's face, along with a caption saying he was committed to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane.
  • The Abduction of Saint Anne ends with Anne waving.
  • Electra Glide in Blue has a very lengthy final shot set to "Tell Me." Wintergreen is killed in a Sudden Downer Ending, and over the course of several minutes, the camera backs away from his corpse on the highway until he recedes into the distance. Then the image freezes and stays that way for about a minute before the colors fade to black and white. Then the credits roll over the image.
  • Jimmie (2008) ends with a freeze-frame on Jimmie's face after the Dolphins win first prize at the swimming competition.
  • Parodied and lampshaded in Odd Squad: The Movie, where the main 7 suit up in Odd Squad suits, and pose for the camera. After standing in the same spot for a while, Oscar asks how long they have to hold the pose. After a few more seconds, Oprah declares that they’ve held it long enough, and all seven of them walk away.
  • Aaron Loves Angela: The credits play over a freeze-frame of Aaron and Angela running hand in hand.
  • Sunburn (1979)'s credits roll over a freeze-frame of Jake and Ellie driving in a convertible.
  • Trouble Man has an unusual example. The credits roll over a freeze-frame of T's car pulling out of the police station parking lot, but then after the credits end, the image unfreezes and the car pulls into traffic before the movie ends.
  • Sugar Hill (1974)'s credits roll over a freeze-frame of Sugar and Mama Maitresse standing in the swamp.
  • Bloody Mama ends with a series of stills of Kate's death, alternated with stills of her sons' deaths.
  • Wanda Nevada combines this with Off-into-the-Distance Ending. The credits start to roll as Beau and Wanda drive away from the camera in the new car Beau bought with his new fortune. The image freezes when they've almost vanished behind a hill.
  • When the Bough Breaks (1994) ends with a freeze-frame of Jordan shedding a Single Tear as he reunites with his long-lost twin Jenny.
  • The credits of Dark August play over a freeze-frame of Sal kneeling over his dog's bloody body.
  • The Strawberry Statement ends with a freeze-frame of Simon being dragged away by police.
  • The credits of Moving Violation roll over a freeze-frame of Cam climbing over the fence around her institution to run away with Eddie.
  • Busting ends with a freeze-frame of Keneely's face, with a voice-over of him applying for an new job after quitting the police department.
  • The credits of Satan's Triangle play over a freeze-frame of Satan using Pagnolini's body to wave for help as he floats in the ocean.
  • Saturday Night Fever ends with a freeze frame over the credits showing Tony and Stephanie warmly embracing each other as they reconcile and agree to be Just Friends.
  • In Eyes of Laura Mars, the beginning and end credits play over a freeze-frame of Laura's face that turns into a negative.
  • The credits of Getting Straight roll over a freeze-frame of the riot in the school building.
  • Blood Debts famously ends on a freeze frame of Bill being blown up with a rocket launcher, with text describing how Mark turned himself in and the credits scrolling over the frame.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sitcoms do this extensively, especially during The '80s, usually punctuating a last gag. Kenneth parodied this in an episode of 30 Rock, when he did his own personal freeze frame ending, while everyone else puzzled at him suddenly standing in a frozen Milking the Giant Cow pose.
  • Another World would end all its episodes like this in the eighties.
  • A Bit of Fry and Laurie: Parodied in the pilot episode. The final sketch is a send-up of terrible Australian soap operas, and ends with a dumb joke and a freeze frame...except that the camera is still rolling. The credits roll in their entirety while Hugh does a ridiculous expression and Stephen balances on one foot.
  • CHiPs: The Stingers use multiple freeze-frames during the scene.
  • Corner Gas: Every episode ends this way, and it is actually lampshaded in "Lacey Borrows".
  • Degrassi:
  • Doctor Who:
    • Part two of "Genesis of the Daleks" uses this for a cliffhanger, ending on a shot of Sarah falling from the scaffolding around the Thals' missile.
    • Part three of "The Deadly Assassin" infamously ends on a freeze-frame shot of Goth attempting to drown the Doctor. The cliffhanger drew so much outcry from Moral Guardians that it actually got producer Philip Hinchcliffe kicked off the show; the offending footage was wiped from the master tape, and the cliffhanger was altered around this. However, off-air U-matic recordings of the uncensored version survived, and the original cliffhanger was restored from these for home media releases.
    • "Revelation of the Daleks" closes with the Doctor and Peri deciding to go somewhere more lighthearted after their trip to Tranquil Repose turned out to be anything but. The Doctor comes up with an idea and tells Peri that "I'll take you to—" before getting cut off by a freeze-frame into the credits. This was meant to lead into the next season's opener, "The Nightmare Fair", where he would've finished the sentence with "Blackpool," but a BBC-imposed 18-month hiatus led to the entire season being rewritten. The footage of the complete line was consequently thrown out.
  • Farscape. The episode "Nerve" freezes on John Crichton screaming in agony as he's Mind Raped in the Aurora Chair.
  • Hogan's Heroes: First utilized a flash-freeze frame beginning in Season Five, when previous producer Edward H. Feldman had been promoted to executive producer (a position the series didn't previously have); this carried on for the remainder of the show's run.
  • The Krofft Supershow. Each of the show's recurring segments ended this way to highlight the specific writers, directors, and other crewmembers for those particular segments.
  • M*A*S*H began using the flash variation in Season Six, usually to acknowledge the show's ever-changing story editors (or script consultants as they were eventually called), program consultants, and to acknowledge creative consultants Gene Reynolds (co-creator and previous producer) and Alan Alda. Also depending on the nature of the episode, the variation of the music cue would differ: standard episodes included a short variation of the show's main theme, sombre and poignant episodes would exclude music altogether, and particularly dramatic and Downer Episodes would use a slower and more melancholy arrangement. This continued up until the Grand Finale.
  • About four-fifths of Miami Vice episodes end this way, with some even ending in a death. Notable examples were "No Exit" where the apparent Karma Houdini criminal of the episode ends up being shot by his abused wife and in "Florence Italy" where the killer, a race car driver who has been eluding capture all episode long, ends up crashing his car into a wall at high speed after being surrounded by police.
  • NCIS: This happens not just at the end of each episode, but the end of every segment, as well. The freeze frame is always black and white.
  • Odd Squad:
    • The end of the episode “Disorder in the Court” has a variety of characters jumping into the air with a simultaneous “Yeah!” Lampshaded during Oscar’s Where Are They Now voiceover, when he ends it with “...and Danny T. remains frozen in middair until this day.”
    • The season 2 and 3 finales also end on freeze-frames, both with the main agents using gadgets against oddness.
  • Orange Is the New Black: The season 4 finale, focusing on Poussey's backstory in light of her death, ends with the image of her by the river in New York City, smiling into the camera. The actress noted how that's not a thing that OITNB does, but after seeing it knew that the producers and directors were right to do it. Aside from ending the story well, the set-up of the shot evokes The 400 Blows, and so may be additionally referring to and invoking a lot of the unfair judicial practices and discrimination.
  • Police Squad! parodies this Once an Episode. Everyone on screen stops moving beneath the credits, but the camera continues to roll, so everyone is still blinking, breathing and trying hard to maintain their pose as their expression twists into a grimace with the strain. Props fall over and coffee continues to pour until it overflows a character's cup. In one episode, the caught perpetrator doesn't freeze with everyone else and starts running around the room trying to escape. In another, a policeman enters the room after everyone freezes, so adopts various 'freeze' poses to try and fit in.
  • The 1992-3 Australian Police Procedural Phoenix, most notably in the episode "Give A Dog A Bone" which freezes on a detective being groin-punched by one of his colleagues.
  • The Professionals
    • "When the Heat Cools Off" ends with an imprisoned cop killer being told his plan to get his conviction reversed has failed, and he'll now spend the rest of his life in prison for another murder he had committed. The scene freezes on him angrily pounding a fist on the table.
    • "Fugitive" presents a sympathetic view of a female terrorist that CI5 captures. She gets shot in the back by another terrorist as she's fleeing towards an escape aircraft, and the episode freezes on Cowley cradling her dead body.
  • The Red Dwarf episode "Balance of Power" ends on a freeze frame of Lister leaping into the air in victory. This was done as a pragmatic measure: while filming the scene, Craig Charles landed badly and injured his back, rendering the end of the shot unusable and preventing reshoots.
  • Seinfeld had the short freeze frame from the beginning for Larry David (Seasons One through Seven) and Jerry Seinfeld (Seasons Eight and Nine) as executive producer, and co-executive producers George Shapiro & Howard West.
  • Every Space: 1999 episode ends this way.
  • Almost every Starsky & Hutch episode ends this way.
  • Every Switch (1975) episode ends with one.
  • Threesome did this routinely, sometimes with the main cast's credits over it, before The Stinger.
  • Used at the end of the final episode of ITV mini-series Tina And Bobby, after a silent montage of Tina and Bobby having fun and laughing together after coincidentally meeting on a train. As Tina is laughing, she turns and it freezes when she is looking into the camera, then fades to the "doom slate".
  • Happens on plenty of the ever-quirky "TV show you and I used to be on together" skits from The Tonight Show.
  • The Grand Finale of the 2017 series of The Worst Witch ends on a freeze-frame of Mildred and her friends celebrating Mildred's promotion to Head Girl at assembly.

    Music Videos 
  • Talking Heads: The video for "Blind" ends with a freeze-frame of a baby clutching the shrunken-down, defeated monkey wrench in its fist.
  • Tears for Fears:
    • The final shot of the "Change" music video is a still of Curt Smith's mouth. He was lip-syncing the lyrics, and then the footage abruptly halts even though the music and the vocals haven't finished yet.
    • The first "Mothers Talk" music video comes to a close with a freeze-frame of Roland Orzabal playing his guitar.
    • It's used to imply the family's death at the end of the 1986 "Mothers Talk" music video.

  • The Inspector General by Nikolai Gogol ends with the officials hearing that the real inspector wants to see them. According to the author's instructions, everyone is supposed to freeze in place (in thoroughly described positions) until the curtain falls over a minute later. Few performances have managed to follow these demands to a letter; Vsevolod Meyerhold actually used dolls for the scene.

    Web Animation 
  • A few episodes of Let's Go! Tamagotchi end on a freeze-frame of a character. For example, one episode ends on a freeze-frame of Memetchi and Flowertchi.

    Western Animation 
  • The Big City Greens episode "Fill Bill" ends with a freeze-frame of the Greens jumping happily.
  • The last episode of The Boondocks, "The New Black", ends with a photo of Riley Freeman running away from an angry mob of mentally-challenged children.
  • Code Lyoko does this twice. In "Log Book," it freezes on Odd jumping in the air in a victory pose while Jeremie claps for the return of Ulrich's diary. In the episode "I'd Rather Not Talk About It", it ends with a still of Jim complimenting Jeremie on his courage.
  • Family Guy: Parodied in an episode where Peter leaps into the air in a happy victory and the scene seems to freeze, but then Lois asks how he's remaining in mid air, to which Peter worriedly states he has no idea what's happening and can't get down.
  • Fancy Nancy: After Nancy learned that at her School De Fancy, everyone has their own way of being unique, she and her friends celebrate and the episode freezes on them doing a "YEAH!" Shot as the screen fades to black.
  • The first episode of LoliRock ends in a freeze-frame of Iris, Talia and Auriana high-fiving.
  • The Nature Cat episode "Skip It" plays this very similarly to the Fancy Nancy example above, with Nature Cat shouting "Let's rock!" as the gang jumps in the air and the camera freezes on them as the screen fades out.
  • The Simpsons episode "Any Given Sundance" parodied the ending of The 400 Blows (compare).
  • SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Band Geeks" uses a freeze-frame ending where Squidward jumps in the air.
  • The Season 2 finale of Wander over Yonder ends with a freeze-frame of Wander and Sylvia flying toward the camera in their orbble with Hater's ship chasing them.


Video Example(s):


Butch Cassidy and Sundance

[Trope Namer] Cornered by the Bolivian army with little to no chance of escape, both Butch Cassidy and Sundance decided to take their chances and go out in a blaze of glory. The film then ends with a freeze-frame of the two outlaws as they engage with the soldiers.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / BolivianArmyEnding

Media sources: