Movie stingers: do they work?

Posted by · 4:39 am · July 8th, 2008

Columbia Pictures\' Hancock

If you saw “Hancock” over the weekend, you probably noticed a brief scene in the middle of the closing credits sequence featuring Mike Epps and meant as a funny punch for your theater exiting pleasure.

It got me thinking about inter- and post-credit sequences — called “stingers” — and whether they ought to be eliminated altogether.  I ask this despite a history that includes a precious few great examples in films like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and perhaps extending way back to the point-and-shoot moment of “The Great Train Robbery” that sent audiences screaming out of nickelodeons in 1903.

Most of the time, these moments are random, useless and nothing more than a send-off treat (like in “Hancock”).  Other times, they might be an “Easter egg” for those who know to stick around, like Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury scene at the end of “Iron Man.” (There are also stingers after the credits of “WALL-E” and “Kung Fu Panda” this year.)

More often, however, they have the potential to leave viewers who weren’t aware somewhat burned.  Or otherwise irritated — like Eric Snider of Cinematical, who dug into this issue in May.

The question actually brings up another point, which is, are the closing credits of a film a part of the greater artistic whole?  Plenty of opening credit sequences provide direct commentary on a film and could therefore be argued part and parcel of the piece.  But with few exceptions, closing credits are a tacked-on necessity that even those featured in the roll wouldn’t consider any part of a directorial vision or collective filmmaking result — even if they are beautiful or interesting (i.e. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”).

Then again, used to the right artistic effect, a subtle stinger might actually add to the overall canvas of a film.  Such is the case, I thnk, with the sound of children’s laughter after the credits of “Children of Men.”

Typically, the existence of stingers just annoys me.  I’m more at ease with the inter-credits stuff.  As I was leaving “Hancock,” the Mike Epps scene kicked in and we all stopped and watch — har, har — off we go.  Fine, fair enough.  But if I miss something I realy want to see (like in “Iron Man”), it’s quite irritating.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the scenes, however.  And I do have a few favorites.

My top 5 movie stingers of all time after the jump! (spoilers obviously involved)

1. “Iron Man”
Yeah, it’s at the top for me.  Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) comes home to find Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., waiting with a proposition.  Let’s face it, it should have been at the end of the film like in “The Incredible Hulk,” but it’s a sweet scene.


2. “X-Men: The Last Stand”
Professor X lives!  If anything, it makes Brett Ratner’s failure somewhat easier to swallow.  At least he and the screenwriters didn’t kill everyone.  But like the “Iron Man” scene, I would have kept it in the film and at the end.  It’s too important.  Then again,t he last shot of the actual movie is pretty cool, too.


3. “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”
The trilogy’s feisty monkey snatches one of the cursed pieces of gold, making him immortal for the rest of the franchise.  The scene from the third installment might have made it if that film weren’t some damned awful.


4. “Masters of the Universe”
Skeletor (Frank Langella) pops up, having survived his fall, and announces “I’ll be back!”  I didn’t discover this until MUCH later in life and I loved the combination of terror and cheese.


5. “Constantine”
I consider this Francis Lawrence film to be something of a guilty pleasure.  Sue me.  But the haunting nature of this bonus clip at the end gets me every time.


What are yours?

→ 18 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

18 responses so far

  • 1 7-08-2008 at 8:20 am

    AJ said...

    I don’t think the Iron Man should have been at the end, it has the perfect ending. Maybe not all the way at the end of the credits, maybe on of them thats like thirty seconds into them, but definitely not at the end of the film.

  • 2 7-08-2008 at 9:35 am

    crazycris said...

    I was so pissed I missed that Iron Man stinger! There should be some kind of a warning to people so we won’t miss out on them! I had no idea there was one at the end of Children of Men either! now I’ll have to go rent the dvd…

    But all in all I think the stingers are frequently like a nice coda, I was less frustrated by the ending (death) to Pirates of the Caribbean after seeing the stinger… :o)

  • 3 7-08-2008 at 10:34 am

    AJ said...

    And the end of children of men is just children laughing over the credits, just as in the beginning of credits and at the end it also just says “shantih shantih shantih”

  • 4 7-08-2008 at 10:50 am

    Chad said...

    I always stick around for the credits and absolutely consider it part of the film. Whatever music or sound the filmmakers choose to serve as an epilogue to the film gets factored into my overall analysis of it. A terrible pop song can turn a B+ film into just a B.

  • 5 7-08-2008 at 11:00 am

    Mr. Gittes said...

    The laughing at the end of Children of Men is not really a “stinger” per say, nor is it very subtle. The children laughter is employed to suggest what happens to the world ten, twenty, thirty years later after Key gets picked up by the Tomorrow. Actually, I think Emmanuel Lubezki was right. I don’t think the Tomorrow needed to show up at all. Leaving Key and her baby all alone in the middle of the sea without the Tomorrow ever showing up would be more, uh, haunting? Cryptic? And then beginning the credits with the children laughing is all we needed to know what happened; that everything turned out okay.

  • 6 7-08-2008 at 11:29 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    It’s certainly subtle compared to what you usually get out of a “stinger.”

  • 7 7-08-2008 at 12:07 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Chad: What about a shot of a guy getting hit by a car and flying cartoonishly into the air? What does that do to a film’s letter grade?

  • 8 7-08-2008 at 12:43 pm

    Joseph said...

    I always stay until the end of the credits now, as it is certainly a part of the film. I mean, just look at all of PIXAR’s films… their credits are essential. Just this year with “WALL•E” the credits served as an epilogue to the film, portraying the rebuilding of life on earth as it progressed through the stages of art throughout history (hieroglyphics, pointilization, Van Gogh’s expressionism, etc. etc.)

    Just as important and worthwhile are songs played over the credits, often originally written for the film and definitely worth staying for.

  • 9 7-08-2008 at 11:16 pm

    William Goss said...

    It’s Eric Snider, no extra ‘e’.

  • 10 7-09-2008 at 12:19 am

    Brian Kinsley said...

    I think “Pirates 3” is the only film I’ve seen where an entire plot thread is wrapped up as part of the stinger, which is absurd.

    I’ve NEVER liked stingers. I can’t think of a single time I’ve felt the wait after credits (and the obnoxious pouring out of the theatre) was worth it. And when they are little set-ups for sequels (ie, Iron Man), it always just feels a little tacky to me.

  • 11 7-09-2008 at 11:00 am

    Matt said...

    Um hello? Ferris Beuller’s Day Off??? This started it all…

  • 12 7-09-2008 at 5:26 pm

    Chad said...

    You had to bring up my kryptonite didn’t you Kris

  • 13 7-10-2008 at 5:02 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Apologies William.

  • 14 7-10-2008 at 8:59 am

    KBJr. said...

    Skeletor was played by the great Jack Palance, not Frank Langella.

    ‘Masters of the Universe’ was sooooo underrated.

  • 15 7-10-2008 at 9:09 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    …no, it was definitely Langella, KBJr.:

  • 16 7-15-2008 at 8:43 pm

    Matt D said...

    LOVE ’em. I definitely consider the music used and the titles shown as continuations of the film, and just as important in the analysis of the work as a whole. And while less often than opening credit sequences, when end credits are designed and designed well, they can be exceptionally cool (“The Mummy Returns” immediately springs to mind).