Full Throttle: Re-Thinking the Ending of ‘Thelma and Louise’

"Let's keep goin'!"
Thelma and Louise ending car

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that explores the controversial ending of “Thelma and Louise.”

Every now and then, you come across repeated visual ideas in cinema; echoes of the same feeling, image, and intent that feel related in some way.

There have been a number of triumphant airborne escapes across movie history. Elliott’s triumphant bicycle escape in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial springs to mind; so iconic that it became the logo for Amblin Entertainment. Or Bastian chasing down bullies aboard Falkor at the end of The NeverEnding Story.

The freedom flight that concludes Thelma & Louise is equally triumphant, but with a notable twist. Namely (and ironically), that its titular dynamic duo’s flight is also a shocking choice to embrace death rather than captivity. The ending, all these years later, still smacks of a certain degree of tragic camp. And we’ve all seen the scene reproduced and parodied to the point where both its downbeat power and its exhilarating edge have been lost in the sauce, so to speak.

Enter: Gestalt psychology, the idea that placing things beside one another creates a whole bigger than the sum of its parts. Below you’ll find a video essay that sets the ending of Ridley Scott’s 1991 classic alongside other iconic scenes of characters escaping into the sky. Enjoy, and don’t forget your parachutes.

Watch “Improbable Dialogisms or the Art of Flying”

Who made this?

The above video essay on the complicated ending of Ridley Scott’s Thelma and Louise is by Barbara Zecchi. Raised in Italy, Zecchi is a Professor and Director of the Film Studies Program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a film scholar, film critic, and video essayist. You can check out her work on Vimeo here.

More videos like this

  • For another taste of Zecchi’s work, here’s her video essay that queers the already outrageously camp classic Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
  • Zecchi has also created content for Ariel Avissar’s “TV Dictionary” series. Here’s her look at the 2018–2020 coming-of-age show Baby.
  • The ending of Thelma and Louise famously includes a car. Here’s the always-great Thomas Flight on why car is just a car.
  • For Entertainment Weekly, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis sat down to reminisce about the film.
  • And finally, here’s Davis on the Graham Norton Show discussing why Brad Pitt was cast in Thelma and Louise.
Meg Shields: Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.