This is a critical study of the happy ending in classical and contemporary Hollywood cinema. The Hollywood happy ending has long been considered among the most famous and standardised features in the whole of narrative filmmaking. Yet this overused concept is under-analysed in discussions of popular cinema. What exactly is the happy ending? Is it simply a cliche, as commonly supposed? Why has it earned such an unenviable reputation? What does it, or can it, mean? Concentrating especially on conclusions featuring an ultimate romantic union - the final couple - this wide-ranging investigation probes traditional associations between the 'happy ending' and homogeneity, closure,'unrealism', and ideological conservatism, testing widespread assumptions against the evidence offered by a range of classical and contemporary films. It defines key features of the Hollywood happy ending through detailed textual analysis and theoretical debate. It traces the historical development of the scholarly approaches taken towards the cinematic happy ending. It reassesses the concept of cinematic closure and its relationship to genre, ideology and 'unrealism'.