Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door Ending Explained & Film Analysis

The 1997 German film is a legendary cinematic parable, one of a kind. For various reasons, “Knockin ‘on Heaven” cannot be compared with other films, neither Hollywood nor European. Eternal themes of life, death and dreams, presented in the form of a grotesque comedy. Vivid contrasts throughout give this film story a special magic. Exaggerated humor and serious things, gangsters and poetry, really funny and incredibly sad. Quotes from the film have gone forever to the people.

In the sky, there is only talk about the sea.

No other work by filmmaker Thomas Jan has had such a success. In the late 90s, the picture acquired the status of a truly cult. Twenty years have passed, but due to its uniqueness, the film has not lost and, it seems, will never lose its incredible charm.


Many moments have hidden connotations that are not immediately revealed. “Knockin ‘on Heaven” is a highly exaggerated story about what lies ahead for each of us.

The meaning of the name

The title of the movie comes from the 1973 song of the same name, written by Bob Dylan. In the picture, the song is performed by the German band Selig.

“Knockin ‘on Heaven” is the Russian version of the film’s title. Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door can be translated as “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” or even “Knockin ‘on Heaven’s Door”. In other words, we are knocking on heaven on the verge of death.


Heroes, finding themselves at the edge of life, are actively knocking on the heavenly gates. Perhaps they succeed.

All are equal in the face of death

The plot is known: two young people learn from doctors about their fatal diagnoses. They were given a few days of life or not at all. The characters are completely different in character: Martin is cheeky, unceremonious, breaks all possible rules, and his roommate turns out to be law-abiding quiet Rudy.


– Light a cigarette, it’s easier.

– Smoking? No, it is dangerous to health.

The irony of fate: no one is immune from serious illness or death. People of different social behaviors and habits simultaneously become hopeless patients and lie on neighboring beds with equally bleak prospects.

Death is a very unpleasant form of being.

Signs of Destiny

Providence often sends us signs. They need to be seen in time and accepted with gratitude.


The heroes tell each other about the doctors’ verdict. At this moment, something happens, which became the trigger for further events. The crucifix falls and the nightstand opens, in which there is a bottle of tequila – this is just a sign from above. Life must be tasteful, otherwise what is it? A gray, insipid existence, there is even nothing to remember. Martin and Rudy go looking for a snack for an unexpectedly generous gift.


Fate is generous when a person is at the last line: if salt is a bag, you need a lemon – that’s a whole mountain. Car, money? Not a problem! The car is served, and in it is a case with a million.

Wish lists

How many different things in life do we want to do but always put off? Or we definitely plan to do it in the future, which is even funnier. Unfortunately, none of us know when our time will come to knock on heaven. After all, tomorrow may never happen.

– And you haven’t been to the sea either …

– I didn’t have time, it didn’t work out.

The heroes of the film know that there is no time left. And their main goal is to visit the sea. Next, the guys undertake to compile a list of cherished desires that have not been fulfilled in such a short life. Having received lists of eight to twenty items, choose one at a time. There is no more time.


The choice of desires is symbolic: a chic pink Cadillac for mom from the cynical Martin and not so beautiful desire to “sleep with two” from the quiet Rudy. On the eve of death, it is too late to hide behind the armor that protects us for life. Secret desires are something that everyone carefully hides for years.

All in a pair

All the characters in the film appear in pairs. The main characters are Martin and Rudy, two miracle bandits, even two mafiosi. Two sides pursue the fugitives: the criminals and the police.


Who knows, maybe that makes sense too. I didn’t have time to find a match for myself, so the Lord will send you a friend. We are born and die one by one. However, living alone is very difficult.

Poetry and philosophy

The characters’ dialogues about the sea, which sound like poetry and philosophy at the same time, became the decoration of the film. And also a mysterious poem by an unknown author.

You stand on the shore and feel the salty smell of the wind blowing from the sea. And you believe that you are free and life has just begun. And a kiss burns her friend’s lips.

Unlike a short human life, the sea is boundless and endless. There is something absolutely magical about it. Salt waves were seen by thousands of people many thousands of years ago. And many centuries later, the people of the future will come to the shore and will be just fascinated to look at the same waves. Infinity and a certain connection of times – perhaps this is what attracts people to the sea element. The endless eternal sea is the unconditional embodiment of romance in art.


“Do you think we’re really going to sit on a cloud and talk about the sea?”

– Yes, I strongly believe in it.

Crime and permissiveness

A few opponents of the film pay undue attention to the criminal acts of the characters. The arguments of those who take the plot too literally: the picture promotes crime, debauchery and vulgarity, even before death, not everything is allowed.


Of course, the criminal plot line is grotesque, a clear exaggeration. The detachment of a couple of the doomed in the last days of their lives has rather symbolic meaning. Funny adventures on the screen are a hint-clue: in our ordinary life, we are too limited by the rules, which is why we cannot realize our own aspirations. Sometimes you need to be able to go beyond some framework, otherwise the whole life will pass by.

Interesting Facts

  • The names of the main characters are the names of real people: screenwriter Rudy Wurlitzer, as well as director Martin Brest.
  • The script for the film was written by director Thomas Jan and Til Schweiger, the leading actor. The work took about a year.
  • The actual shooting was done in just three weeks. The reason is a limited budget.
  • Thomas Yang starred in the episode: The Role of a Taxi Driver. According to some reports, the cameo actor did not show up for the shooting, and the director decided to replace him.


The meaning of the ending

After incredible adventures, the last in their lives, the friends reached the sea. Martin dies right on the shore, Rudy is no longer in a hurry to save him. Terminally ill heroes reached their goal, reached the heavens. Now dying is no longer scary.


Great cinema on eternal themes evokes certain thoughts about the meaning of life.

  • None of us will live forever. At the same time, it is important to have time to do the main thing.
  • If you die tomorrow, this does not mean that you need to give up life today.
  • You need to leave happy. After all, life was not given to each of us in vain.

In fact, everything is simple:

It is stupid to be afraid.

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