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The Ending of Elvis Explained

The ending of Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 biopic “Elvis” focuses on one of Elvis Presley’s final performances. It highlights his enduring legacy and musical talent, rather than the tragic details of his decline.

Baz Luhrmann’s film “Elvis” offers a vibrant portrayal of the King of Rock and Roll. Starring Austin Butler as Elvis and Tom Hanks as his manager Colonel Tom Parker, the movie spans Elvis’s life from his early years to his final days. The ending is particularly poignant, encapsulating the essence of Elvis’s journey.

The Final Performance

The climax of “Elvis” centers around a recreation of one of Elvis Presley’s last performances. This took place just six weeks before his death. The film depicts Elvis singing “Unchained Melody” at a concert in Rapid City, South Dakota, on June 21, 1977. This performance is widely regarded as one of the last great moments of his career. Despite his deteriorating health, Elvis delivers a powerful rendition of the song, showcasing his enduring talent and passion for music (Screen Rant).

In the film, Austin Butler’s portrayal of this moment is strikingly accurate. The actor dons prosthetics to reflect Elvis’s heavier appearance at the time. The scene is a testament to Elvis’s resilience and his ability to captivate audiences even in his final days. The choice to end the film with this performance underscores the idea that Elvis should be remembered for his musical prowess and not the circumstances of his death (Screen Rant).

Thematic Focus

Rather than dwelling on the more sordid aspects of Elvis’s life, such as his drug addiction and health issues, Luhrmann’s film emphasizes the singer’s lasting impact on music and culture. The decision to conclude with “Unchained Melody” serves as a reminder of Elvis’s enduring legacy. This approach aligns with the film’s overall narrative, which highlights Elvis’s journey from a vibrant, groundbreaking artist to a struggling performer who never lost his ability to move audiences (Screen Rant).

The film also touches on Elvis’s fears of being forgotten. In a poignant scene, Elvis expresses his anxiety about his legacy, worrying that he will be remembered only for his decline. This fear is juxtaposed with the powerful performance of “Unchained Melody”, which serves as a counterpoint, affirming that Elvis’s music and influence will indeed endure (Looper).

The Role of Colonel Tom Parker

Tom Hanks’s portrayal of Colonel Tom Parker is central to the film’s narrative. Parker, Elvis’s longtime manager, is depicted as a manipulative figure who played a significant role in both the singer’s success and his eventual downfall. The film begins and ends with Parker, framing the story from his perspective. This choice adds a layer of elaborateity to the narrative, as Parker’s actions and motivations are scrutinized throughout the film (Roger Ebert).

In the final scenes, the film reveals the extent of Parker’s control over Elvis, highlighting the manager’s financial exploitation and the impact it had on Elvis’s life. The epilogue provides additional context, noting that Parker’s background and financial malfeasance were not fully uncovered until after Elvis’s death. This revelation adds a sense of closure to the story, as it underscores the manipulative nature of Parker’s relationship with Elvis (Looper).

Cinematic Techniques

Baz Luhrmann’s distinctive visual style is evident throughout “Elvis”, and the ending is no exception. The film employs a mix of archival footage and dramatic reenactments to create a vivid and immersive experience. The use of real footage of Elvis’s final performance adds an emotional weight to the conclusion, providing a stark contrast to the dramatized scenes that precede it (The Wrap).

Cinematographer Mandy Walker’s work is also noteworthy. She uses different lenses and lighting techniques to reflect the various stages of Elvis’s life. The final performance is shot with a sense of intimacy and immediacy, capturing the raw emotion of the moment. This approach enhances the film’s thematic focus on Elvis’s enduring talent and legacy (IndieWire).

Critical Reception

The ending of “Elvis” has been met with mixed reactions from critics. Some praise the film for its bold and emotional conclusion, while others criticize it for glossing over the more troubling aspects of Elvis’s life. A.O. Scott of The New York Times notes that the film oscillates between “glib revisionism and zombie mythology”, struggling to balance its portrayal of Elvis as both a cultural icon and a tragic figure (The New York Times).

Despite these criticisms, the film has been recognized for its ambitious scope and stylistic flair. It received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, highlighting its impact and significance in the realm of biographical cinema (Screen Rant).


The ending of Baz Luhrmann’s “Elvis” is a powerful and fitting tribute to the King of Rock and Roll. By focusing on one of Elvis’s final performances, the film emphasizes his enduring legacy and musical talent, rather than the tragic details of his decline. This approach aligns with the film’s overall narrative, which seeks to celebrate Elvis’s contributions to music and culture while acknowledging the elaborateities of his life.

Through its distinctive visual style and emotional storytelling, “Elvis” offers a fresh and compelling perspective on the life of one of the most iconic figures in popular music. The film’s conclusion serves as a poignant reminder of Elvis’s lasting impact, ensuring that he will be remembered not for how he died, but for how he lived.


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