Best last movies, albums, novels, etc?

I was looking over a list of “Best Last Movies” for film directors - and saw a few I thought were rather weak (Altman’s last) and several I agreed with (Buñuel’s “That Obscure Object of Desire”)

These can be last because they died, or retired, or moved on to other things. But for this thread, let’s expand it beyond directors, or even movies to include final works from an artist, actor, writer, musician, etc?


One I noticed one that’s always missing on lists, is the final film from Indian director, Mrinal Sen. Looking at the write-ups, it appears that it’s not loved by one and all, but I thought Aamaar Bhuvan (My Land) 2002 saw Sen going out on top.

That’s one from me to get us started, who do you think closed a career with a bang?


The Police. Yes, they did a reunion tour and, yes, they recorded an ill-conceived update of “Don’t Stand So Close To Me,” but they ended their lifespan as a proper band with Synchronicity.

I would argue that it is their best album and it was a inescapable on the radio during the summer/fall/winter of '83.


Good one Freeman.

I’m trying to resist the temptation to come in and list a bunch, and allow others to get a voice in this. But I’ll chime in with one of my favorite directors from Japan, Mikio Naruse.

The thing I found interesting with Naruse, is that, unlike other older directors, he didn’t get stale, didn’t find his comfort zone, and stay there.

His last film, Scattered Clouds (also known as Two in the Shadow) is a masterpiece. One of my top 3 movies from the director. A review from the Naruse companion…

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Higher Truth
Hypnotic Eye and Mudcrutch 2
Move Like This
Icky Thump

Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead
Charlie Wilson’s War


Everything about Blackstar was perfect. Bowie hadn’t intended it to be his final album at the time of writing, but considering how prolific he was, and how often he took risks reinvented himself, the fact that Blackstar is undoubtedly among his best… certainly the best of his later career, of which I’d say only Heathen is even in the running… means that he’ll always be remembered for going out on a high.

I’d agree with the Police’s Synchronicity as well, and would also include Chuck, Chuck Berry’s final album, released posthumously, which (while by no means his best work) was still quite widely regarded as going out on an extremely high note, especially considering he recorded it when he was almost 90 and his previous studio album, Rockit was released way back in 1979.


I can think of lots of other smaller examples, but usually from less-famous bands/writer/filmmakers who only have 2 to 4 releases to their name, or who are still actively producing content and may possibly release something else before they expire or fade away completely.

If David Lynch or Ben Wheatley should drop dead tomorrow, I’d say they went out on a high, but both have new film projects in development that may or may not get made, and may or may not suck. (I have more confidence in Lynch, but Wheatley tends to alternate between his own trippy-as-balls indie stuff, and major studio works like Meg 2: The Trench, so flip a coin as to whether his final film will be something great or something mediocre that pays the bills.)

In terms of literature, you’ve got writers like Vernor Vinge whose last book was really good, but it takes him 15 years to complete a novel and even though he’s getting on in years, he’s not dead yet, so I can’t discount that there may be another one coming that will better/worse than the previous.

And then you’ve got writers like Raymond Chandler, who’s final completed novel, The Long Good-Bye, was definitely among his best… but then Playback was released posthumously, which wasn’t as good, but also wasn’t officially finished, so does it still count as a “last” work or not?

The opposite goes for Douglas Adams and The Salmon of Doubt, which was just a collection of half-finished stuff collected from his computer, not a true final novel… but still far more enjoyable than Mostly Harmless, his last officially published work, which was the closest Adams ever came to writing a “bad” book. (I think by that point, he was pretty well sick of writing Hitchhikers, but knew people would never stop pestering him until he “ended” the series, so he did his best to auger that baby into the ground.)



Yeah there are some gray areas - Abbey Road’s the last LP the Beatles worked on, though Let It Be was released after.

Orson Welles’s The Other Side of the Wind is another interesting one, but after that, they put out a doc/interview things with Dennis Hopper, Welles had done in 1970, and before those, several unfinished pictures were released, and then there were the TV stuff and shorts he did.

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David Bowie (Blackstar)

XTC (Wasp Star: Apple Venus Vol. 2)

Nick Drake (Pink Moon)

Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water)

The Beat (Special Beat Service)

The Police (Synchronicity)

Tom Petty (Hypnotic Eye)

Roxy Music (Avalon)

Richard & Linda Thompson (Shoot Out the Lights)

The Cars (Move Like This)

The White Stripes (Icky Thump)

In terms of singles, Otis Redding (“The Dock of the Bay”) and Joy Division (“Love Will Tear Us Apart”) released their best singles posthumously.

As an honorable mention, Johnny Cash’s last recordings with Rick Rubin at the end of his life were among his best.

Some bands would have made this list if certain surviving members hadn’t commandeered the name and put out mediocre-to-bad albums afterwards… The Doors, The Velvet Underground, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the J. Geils Band.)


I came here to make sure this was listed. Thank you!

Sidney Lumet and Mike Nichols

Good choices, I enjoyed them both.

Another of mine…


Ingmar Bergman could have concluded (and for some time, did conclude) his film career with Fanny and Alexander, but then he came out with Saraband.

Both films are something indelible and deeply affecting. While Fanny and Alexander had this sweeping, ornate, epic feel to it, Saraband was quietly but nevertheless powerfully resonant. Bergman truly was something else like that.


Yeah, I’m a movie freak, but I thought I might look at my favorite novelist too?

Fyodor Dostoyevsky? The Brothers Karamazov is my favorite novel of all time and was completed 2 months before his death.

Jane Austen? She completed 11 chapters of Sanditon before illness forced her to stop. 4 months later she died. Her last completed novel was Persuasion, which is fine, but not my favorite, nowhere near the level of Pride and Prejudice, or even Emma and Sense and Sensibility.

Shirley Jackson? Also had several posthumous publications, but her last completed novel was a goodie, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

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Just watched Fritz Langs final film, The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse and thought of this old thread. It was one of 3 Mabuse films Lang directed in his career and was quite enjoyable. Lots of secrets and lies, you can see it in its original language with English subs, here…

Los 1000 Ojos del Dr. Mabuse, 1960 (subtitulado) - YouTube


I would add that Johnny Cash had the absolute best final track on his final album released while he was alive. Every one knew about his health problems at the time The first time I listened to his then new CD and heard this final track, it made me cry because you could tell it was meant as a farewell message. It still gets me a little misty eyed today.


It was likely not intended as their final album, but Linkin Park’s One More Light album is, IMO, one of their absolute best and is made even more poignant by the subsequent suicide of frontman Chester Bennington. Linkin Park is probably the only band where I can honestly say I truly like all of the music they have ever put out, and Chester’s death hit hard throughout the music world. While the band is making an effort to continue with releasing some remixes and previously recorded works, One More Light is really the definitive final work for the band when they were at their most cohesive whole.

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Clockwork Angels

band rush GIF


I remember enjoying the last Redwall novel, though some of that probably has to do with the novelty of the amphibious pirate ship.