These vague resolutions lead to an endless debate between people who simply can’t agree on what the ending actually meant. The credits have long since rolled, but now your time is dedicated to figuring out this confusing conclusion. Well, not anymore. Keep scrolling for our explanation of the most confusing movie endings no one really understood.
Total Recall follows Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who suddenly learns that he might be part of an international espionage mission, which led to his real memories being erased and replaced with his current life. However, it’s also possible that Quaid is simply living in a dream.
Although director Paul Verhoeven hasn’t officially cleared up the ending of the movie, he has stated that he believes Quaid is dreaming. Rather than living those moments, Quaid is simply having a bad reaction to a memory implant that takes him down an insane path.
The Planet Of The Apes
In Tim Burton's 2001 film Planet of the Apes , the innovative director included a twist at the end. When Leo Davidson travels back in time, he discovers that General Thade is already there. Not only that, but the ape also took over the planet.
However, the twist raised the question of how Thade made his way into the past without a ship. Fans have posited the idea that Thade fixed the broken escape pod from Leo’s ship and managed to create his own time machine. Although this was never shown onscreen, it’s a logical conclusion.
Fight Club does a fairly good job of explaining its confusing ending, but we’ll rehash it for you anyway. The film centers on unnamed protagonist Edward Norton, whose life gets turned upside down when he meets the violent Tyler Durden.
At the end of the film, however, it’s revealed that Edward Norton’s character and Tyler Durden were always one and the same. The narrator was suffering from a sort of split personality dynamic. While he was “sleeping,” Durden was wreaking havoc on his life. The scenes where they’re together are simply figments of the narrator’s imagination.
Black Swan follows professional ballerina Nina (Natalie Portman), who tries to be the best she can be when cast as The Swan Queen for a ballet company. Throughout the film, Nina struggles with her role, fighting not only herself but also Lily (Mila Kunis) – a talented ballerina cast as the Black Swan.
In the end, Nina performs the ballet and collapses on a mattress, exhausted and bleeding. The final scene is about how far a person is willing to push the boundaries of their own sanity in order to be the best at what they do.
At the end of Citizen Kane , the audience finds out that Kane had a childhood sled named Rosebud. That one reveal is one of the central mysteries of the movie, so the discovery that it is just a simple sled is somewhat underwhelming.
However, the sled does play a purpose. It shows that, underneath his viciousness, Citizen Kane always had a human side. His cherished childhood toy represents the softness inside of him and a past he’s still holding onto, no matter what.
Silent Hill exists in a universe that includes both our world and a creepy otherworld filled with monsters. The two worlds are separated by a sort of mist, which is at first confined to the town of Silent Hill. At the end of the film, however, when Rose and Sharon return home after defeating Alessa, the fog follows them.
The reason that Sharon and Rose can no longer escape is that Alessa now lives on in Sharon and other characters. The director explained this dichotomy, noting that Alessa is like the town itself – full of different dimensions.
The third installment of the Matrix saga ends with Neo sacrificing himself to allow the robots to use him to defeat Agent Smith. However, Agent Smith is supposedly part of the machine, which makes Neo’s decision confusing. Thankfully, we have the answer.
While Agent Smith is part of the machine, he also wants to take over the real world. By sacrificing himself and becoming a martyr, Neo creates a sense of peace between man and machine. He dies, but the robot leader is able to use his body to destroy all the clones. It’s not the happiest ending, but it works.
The ultimate question sitting on everyone’s tongue at the end of Blade Runner is whether or not Rick Deckard himself is a replicant. The answer, it seems, would be yes. In the final scene, Deckard finds an origami uniform left for him by Eduardo Gaff.
Earlier in the film, Deckard dreamed about a unicorn. The only way Gaff could have made that connection and supplied an origami unicorn is if the dream itself was implanted into Deckard. Since Gaff knows the contents of Deckard’s private dreams, Deckard must be a replicant.
While some movie endings are a little too ambiguous, Vanilla Sky director Cameron Crowe has complained that his ending wasn’t vague enough. The film follows Tom Cruise’s character, who suffers a terrible experience that leaves him horribly disfigured.
As the movie progresses, we learn that Cruise’s character is actually in a dream. In the end, he can choose to live the dream again, or he can fall off a building and wake himself up. The final scene is Cruise opening his eyes, showing that he chose to live in the real world rather than existing in his fantasy.
The director of Birdman once stated that the ending “could be interpreted as many ways as there are seats in the theater.” At the end of the film, Riggan (Michael Keaton) jumps out the window to his supposed death. When his daughter rushes to the window, however, she looks up instead of down.
Some fans took this to mean that Riggan found the freedom he was searching for and flew away. In reality, his daughter’s upward glance is likely a red herring. The ending is probably exactly what it looks like, with no redemption for this destructive character.
Taxi Driver stars Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle, a former U.S. Marine who takes on a new job as a taxi driver in New York City. Struggling with a severe lack of sleep, Bickle goes on a killing spree that ends with him trying to shoot himself. Before he can take his life, the police arrive on the scene.
The very next scene, however, shows Bickle back to business as usual. While fans thought that the killing spree was a dream, director Martin Scorsese confirmed the murders did happen, though he didn’t say if Bickle died or not.
Any movie that deals with space and time paradoxes will always be confusing. Interstellar uses the ideas of quantum physics to push its main character, Cooper, into a black hole. In this fourth dimension, Cooper can interact with the past.
To help save mankind, Cooper chooses to interact with a past version of his daughter, giving her the equation she needs to save the earth. By the end of the movie, he’s reunited with his little girl, who is now a much older woman. Although they have little time left together, their prior work succeeded in saving the human race.
Another time travel movie, 12 Monkeys, focuses on the idea that time travel can’t change the past. At the end of the film, Cole goes back in time and ends up getting shot when he attacks Dr. Peters, fulfilling the scene from the beginning when young Cole watches an unknown man die.
Although Cole didn’t change anything for himself, he was able to get some information to the future that helped create a vaccine. The movie focuses on changing the future, not the past. Hence the “insurance agent” follows Peters at the end of the movie.
Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow’s conclusion doesn’t really make much sense. The movie follows William Cage, who is sent back to the same moment in time every time he dies. In the end, he dies in the process of defeating the aliens, which should send him back to the beginning of the timeline and undo all his hard work.
Instead, Cage wakes up where he started, but his victory over the aliens still stands. The big Hollywood ending results in a happily ever after, but it’s missing some crucial logic.
When Vietnam War veteran Jacob Singer returns home, he’s plagued by strange visions. Throughout the course of the movie, we learn that the military gave their soldiers psychedelic drugs, which made each man particularly violent and aggressive.
As the movie comes to a close, however, Jacob’s visions switch to calmer, more peaceful hallucinations. The shift is explained by Jacob’s chiropractor, who states that you must come to terms with death and realize that it’s a freedom from the earth, rather than a punishment. Although it’s a bleak explanation, it makes sense within the narrative of the movie.
The Wrestler stars Mickey Rourke as Randy Robinson, a pro wrestler who’s warned that he’ll kill himself if he continues fighting. Robinson, however, cares very little for his life, especially since he’s ruined every relationship he has had outside of the ring.
He continues to fight, ending with one last jump from the ropes where the breath finally leaves his body. Before we reach a full conclusion, however, the film cuts to black. While fans like to debate whether or not Robinson survived, the director confirmed that Robinson did indeed pass away in the arena, where he felt most alive.
Annihilation offers plenty of confusion throughout the film, and it might have you scratching your head when you reach the end. While the explorers look into the Shimmer, Lena (Natalie Portman) engages in a fight with her doppelganger. When the winner emerges, we can’t be sure it’s the real Lena. She later reunites with her husband, and their eyes change to match the Shimmer.
While the ending left viewers wondering whether the characters were real or alien, it doesn’t really matter. The Shimmer only represents the self-destructive nature that lives inside all of us, so it will never truly be gone.
After a confusing film involving dreams and dreams within dreams, Inception ultimately ends with Leonardo DiCaprio’s character returning home to his family. But it is a scene that has often appeared in his dreams throughout the movie. He spins his wife’s top to make sure he’s actually in the real world but runs to his children before the top falls down.
While most fans assumed that this meant he was actually in a dream, actor Michael Caine promised that wasn’t the case. According to Caine, the director stated during the final scene that the characters were in the real world. Case closed.
The Witch follows a Puritan family who settles at the edge of a forest. Throughout the film, supernatural horrors affect each member of the family, as they slowly succumb to the witchcraft that dominates the forest.
By the end of the movie, eldest daughter Anya Taylor-Joy is the only one left. She’s forced to kill her own mother in self-defense, and the rest of her family members have been taken away by supernatural forces. Although she manages to survive, she still steps into the forest, proving that no one can truly escape the witchcraft that resides there.
A Scanner Darkly
In A Scanner Darkly , Robert Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is an undercover cop trying to find the source of an illegal drug called Substance D. At the same time, New Path – the company that makes the drug – plots to get him hooked on Substance D so they can ruin his brain function and use him for labor.
At the end of the film, that’s exactly what happens. However, Arctor manages to steal a flower to send to his superiors that will blow the case wide open, proving that his brain isn’t as dead as New Path believes.
The 1972 film Solaris follows Kris Kelvin during his time on a spaceship that orbits the strange, somehow sentient planet, Solaris. The planet has the ability to see into an astronaut’s memory and create clones of people based on what they desire.
Knowing that it’s all the more confusing when, at the end of the film, Kris walks into his childhood home and reunites with his father. While the moment has the potential for a happy ending, Kris is still on Solaris, choosing to live in the fantasy the planet created rather than the less-appealing reality.
With three separate timelines included in the film, The Fountain is bound to be confusing. This 2006 movie prompted viewers to demand an explanation for the many bewildering elements when they first saw it.
However, director Darren Aronofsky refused to ruin the symbolism of the film by giving a clear answer. He stated, “It’s a film that’s a journey, and it’s a trip, and it’s an experience throughout the meditation of a lot of these questions.” If you look at the movie through that lens, you can see that it’s about the process of coming to terms with one’s mortality.
The Graduate is a love story finished off with an incredible warning. When Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) starts an affair with his older neighbor, he promises not to fall in love with her daughter, Elaine. Unfortunately, he can’t keep his promise.
In the end, Benjamin ruins Elaine’s wedding, and they run away together, ready to start a relationship. When they board a bus, however, reality sets in, and the two characters look highly unhappy with their impulsive decision. It’s a clear warning to think before you act, as the consequences might not be worth it.
The Machinist follows a gaunt, sickly insomniac named Trevor, who believes that he’s being tortured by a man named Ivan. Much like Memento , however, the movie includes a shocking twist at the end.
It’s finally revealed that Trevor and Ivan are one and the same. Trevor created his own tormentor in an attempt to punish himself for a previous hit and run that resulted in a child’s death. That’s why no one around Trevor has ever seen Ivan. If there’s a character no one else can see, you can pretty much guarantee that they’ll be part of a big twist.
In After Darkness , the world faces a disaster of epic proportions – the sun is burning out. Raymond Beaty is trying to escape the crisis and find a way to survive with his wife and two children. However, the ending of the movie shows the Beaty family falling asleep together without any hope for help, only to emerge into a restored world the next morning.
Unfortunately, the ending scene likely isn’t real. Instead, the Beaty family passed away together after eating some poison berries, and the sunny morning was simply symbolic of their afterlife.
The Tree of Life
It wasn’t just the ending of The Tree of Life that was a little confusing—it was the whole movie. It centers primarily on a family living in a Texas town, though their lives are intercut with other scenes that represent everything from the dawn of time to the afterlife.
Director Terrence Malick never specified exactly what the movie was about. However, film critics have suggested that the movie prompts you to reflect on all the good and bad in your own life and how it fits into the bigger picture.
The Babadook features a mother and son who accidentally summon a terrifying monster out of a children’s book. The monster possesses the mother, and the child is forced to beat the demon on his own.
After the son sends the demon away, however, it appears to disappear into the basement. At the end of the film, the mother brings a bowl of worms downstairs to feed the Babadook. While some fans took this to mean that the monster never disappeared, others assumed that the monster was simply a manifestation of the mother’s own grief at the loss of her husband.
In Arrival , Amy Adams's character is haunted by visions of what we assume to be her past while trying to communicate with a new alien race. In the end, however, we find out that her visions of the past are actually visions of Louise’s future, which become vital in her journey to save the world.
After successfully saving mankind, Louise chooses to live her future, knowing that the pain of losing both her daughter and her husband awaits her down the line. Her “happy ending” is bittersweet because both the viewer and Louise know what’s coming.
After his ex-wife Susan (Amy Adams) leaves him because she doesn’t believe in his talent, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal) sends a copy of his new book for Susan to read. She’s quickly caught up in the story and ends the film asking to meet with Edward again, in part to tell him she’s impressed with his manuscript.
When the day of the date comes, however, Susan is stood up. The entire movie is simply a metaphor for Susan and Edward’s relationship that allows him to finally get his feelings out about their dissolution.
The Shining director Stanley Kubrick decided to throw a big twist into the ending of the movie by showing Jack Torrance in an old picture of the Overlook Hotel. For years, fans have debated what the photo means, but they haven’t been able to come up with a logical answer.
Considering Kubrick likes to mess with his audience, it’s likely that the picture doesn’t actually mean anything. Instead, it was just an attempt to add a little intrigue at the end without contributing to the overall story. It has certainly kept people guessing, which is precisely what Kubrick wanted.
Yet another time travel conundrum, Primer follows Aaron and Abe, two friends who accidentally create a time machine. While messing with their device, the friends create overlapping timelines and versions of themselves that have the capability to cause some serious damage.
By the end of the film, the friends take opposing viewpoints. Aaron works with his former self to revamp the original time machine, while Abe tries to prevent his former self from learning of the time machine at all. You’ll probably have to watch this movie more than once to truly get it.
No Country For Old Men
No Country For Old Men ends on a rather calm note, with a long monologue from Sheriff Bell, where the policeman discusses his dreams. However, his speech isn’t just about filling some empty space.
Instead, Bell recognizes that he tried to make a difference but that he’s now too old and tired to fix the world around him. He let Anton Chigurh get away and failed to make the world a better place. His monologue about his dreams outlines his own feelings about his failures, drawing out the true meaning of the film.
The plot of Hereditary is somewhat straight-forward, but it leaves viewers with one big question – who are the cultists who appear at the end of the film? Well, the answer is found in the very beginning of the movie, when Annie is confused why so many people showed up at her mother’s funeral.
The cultists are actually friends of Annie’s mother, who all found each other through their shared love of demon worship. That’s certainly one way to bond with your neighbors.
Honestly, all of Donnie Darko is pretty confusing. Throughout the film, Donnie is haunted by an evil spirit in a bunny costume. What the movie fails to clear up – and what the director has stated in the aftermath of the film – is that Donnie Darko actually involves parallel universes.
Donnie himself is living in a parallel universe. The film follows him as he tries to fix a time rift in “Universe Prime.” When he dies at the end of the film, he acts as a sacrifice that then saves everyone he loves. It’s really a heroic story.
The premise of the 2014 film It Follows is already a little ridiculous. It centers on Jay, who catches a “sexually transmitted ghost” and must pass on her curse by sleeping with someone else. By the end of the film, Jay manages to pass the ghost onto Paul, who then passes it on to a prostitute.
In the final scene, however, Jay and Paul are followed by a dark figure as they walk down the street. The film’s director, David Robert Mitchell, says the scene was purposely created to be open to interpretation.
In Looper , Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play old and young versions of the same hitman, who are trying to take down a crime boss who ruins their lives in the future.
When they come face-to-face with the crime boss – who at the time is just a child – Levitt’s character realizes that he’ll turn into the monster he becomes if his mother dies. In order to prevent that, Levitt kills himself, thereby killing Willis as well. That way, the boy’s mother survives, and the kid never turns into the crime boss of the future.
When an aspiring actress moves to Los Angeles, her plans are slightly derailed when she finds an amnesiac woman living in her aunt’s home. The film sets itself up for a solid story, but it goes off the rails, especially when it shows random vignette’s about other, seemingly random characters.
Director David Lynch refused to comment on the meaning of the movie, but one critic claimed that the film is meant to be about nothing. Roger Ebert said, “The movie is hypnotic. We’re drawn along as if one thing leads to another, but nothing leads anywhere.”
Drive finished on an interesting cliffhanger. As Ryan Gosling’s driver speeds away at the end of the film with a painful stab wound, viewers are left wondering if he lives or dies.
Unfortunately, the driver doesn’t make it. Earlier in the movie, Gosling asks the mob boss if he is familiar with the story of the Scorpion and the Frog, which ends with both animals dying because they must be true to their natures. By asking this question, the driver makes it clear that he knows he’s going to die because neither he nor the boss will resist their nature.
Grease is a fairly realistic movie about two high school teenagers who fall in love. It’s filled with musical numbers, but there’s nothing to suggest any sort of supernatural element in the film...except the ending. After Danny and Sandy finally decide to be together, they get into a car that then drives into the air and flies away.
While some fans have suggested that Sandy was actually dead for the entire film, the filmmakers have rebuffed their ideas. It’s likely that the moment was simply a bad editing decision to end the film on a high note. Literally.
While Darren Aronofsky has appeared on this list more than once, his directorial debut proves that he’s always been a fan of confusing endings. In Pi , Max Cohen believes that everything can be solved by numbers, though he can’t fix his own medical problems.
While Cohen spends his life making stock predictions, he can’t overcome the headaches and hallucinations that plague him every day. Eventually, he is driven to total madness and performs a lobotomy on himself to end the pain forever. While it’s a dark ending, it’s the only way Cohen believed he could save himself.
A Clockwork Orange
In typical Stanley Kubrick fashion, A Clockwork Orange takes a much darker turn than the book it’s based on. In the story, Alex undergoes conditioning and brainwashing after his suicide attempt in an effort to rid him of his violent ways.
In the movie, however, Alex seemingly makes a return to his aggressive behavior by the end of the film. The book, however, takes a happier approach. It shows that Alex does clean up his life and moves forward after realizing the toll his behavior has taken on those around him.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Put most simply, 2001 tracks humanity’s evolution. It starts with primitive peoples who resemble apes creating tools and ends with Bowman transforming into a super being and being sent back to Earth.
Director Stanley Kubrick explained the ending of the film with more finesse, stating that Bowman was studied by a team of super-beings and sent back to Earth after he made his final evolution. As for what happens when he returns to Earth with his new powers, viewers can only guess.
The Dark Knight Rises
The controversial ending scene in The Dark Knight Rises features Albert seeing Bruce Wayne across a crowded cafe in Florence. However, Bruce supposedly died when he flew a nuclear bomb out of Gotham City. Because of that, fans started to speculate that the Bruce in the ending is simply a figment of Albert’s imagination.
You have to notice, however, that Lucius Fox learns in the ending scenes that Bruce Wayne fixed the autopilot in the Bat-plane. Knowing that it’s safe to assume that Bruce exited the aircraft and went on to live a quiet life with Selina (aka Catwoman).
Life of Pi
Life of Pi follows a boy stranded on a boat with a tiger. In the end, he manages to make it to shore, where he recounts his story to a fictional Yann Martel.
Although he first tells Martel the story we saw in the film, he then recounts a bloodier tale where he had to kill and eat the ship’s cook to stay alive. When asked which story is real, the young man only gives a vague answer. But the ending itself is about forcing you to question your own reality rather than worrying about the trials of the characters.
Jake Gyllenhaal stars in this psychological thriller as a college history professor who switches places with his doppelgänger. While the two men weave a tangled web, the ending of the film provides more questions than answers.
While Gyllenhaal is living his doppelgänger’s life, he suddenly finds his wife transformed into a tarantula. The movie’s director, Denis Villeneuve, described the film as a “puzzle,” stating that it was supposed to provide more questions than answers. If that was the goal, he certainly accomplished it.
Shutter Island follows U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels as he investigates a disappearance at an eerie mental hospital. The film first suggests that the doctors on the island are the real villains, only to reveal that Teddy himself is a patient who struggles with delusions to block out the memory of killing his wife.
While the movie leaves you scratching your head as to whether or not Teddy is really unstable, the logical conclusion is that he indeed killed his wife, but he chooses to go through with the lobotomy because he can no longer live with the memory.
Directed by the Coen Brothers, Barton Fink centers on a playwright hired to write scripts for a big studio in Hollywood and who soon becomes disillusioned with the entertainment lifestyle. While Fink deals with the trials and tribulations of screenwriting, he has a picture of a woman hanging in his hotel room as a decoration.
At the end of the film, Fink is sitting on a beach looking at a woman who looks exactly like his picture. It’s the final scene before the screen fades to black, and Joel Coen explained that it is representative of Fink’s psychological state at the time.
Director Christopher Nolan loves a good twist, and Memento is no exception. Instead of following a successive timeline, the movie moves in a backward sequence to show Leonard trying to unravel the mystery of his wife’s killer, Sammy Jankis.
At the end of the film, which is really the beginning of Leonard’s journey, we find out that Leonard is Jankis and his memory loss issues allowed him to create a mystery in order to cope with his own guilt. He keeps solving the mystery, only to forget and start the process of working the case all over again.
While the American Psycho movie is a little confusing, the book offers a bit more clarity. In short, Patrick Bateman is going through a severe mental breakdown, so his entire narration of events is unreliable. That’s why Bateman eventually finds out that he never went on a killing spree, though he’s completely convinced that he did.
While the movie is meant to leave a little gray area that opens up the possibility that he did actually kill someone, the most logical conclusion is that Bateman’s mental breakdown is over and his narration is somewhat reliable again.
Now You See Me
"Now You See Me" is a very engaging movie about four magicians who pull off baffling heists. At the end of their journey, the magicians are offered entrance into The Eye, an ancient group comprised of only the most talented magicians. When they agree to join, they step onto a moving carousel and disappear.
While the moment is filled with drama, it suggests that the magicians completed their audition in the form of their many tricks and are now members of The Eye, who fight for the greater good of all people.
I’m Thinking of Ending Things
Since the movie was written by Charlie Kaufman, it’s pretty easy to know going in that “I’m Thinking of Ending Things” was going to leave us feeling confused. It begins with a young woman going to meet her boyfriend’s parents during a winter storm and gets weirder and weirder as time goes on. The woman’s name constantly changes, time flips back and forth, even things like backstories, outfits, and sets change on what seems to be a whim.
It turns out the whole thing is a fantasy of a lonely high school janitor...and the movie seems to end with the janitor killing himself, but nothing is on screen, and the final scene is the boyfriend giving a long speech from another movie.
The seminal horror flick “The Thing” will make it hard to trust your friends. It’s an exploration of paranoia and loneliness set inside of a terrifying scenario. As an alien creature wrecks havoc on the team of researchers in the arctic, it transforms into friends and foes at the drop of a hat, which not only creates some wonderfully disgusting scenes but makes every character fear for his or her life.
In the end, as the survivors fly away in a helicopter, it’s never made clear whether or not the alien menace was actually destroyed. To the characters - and the viewers - it’s all-too-possible for the creature to still be alive.
The Blair Witch Project
Low- or no-budget horror movies are becoming more and more popular, regardless of their quality. There are plenty of good ones to choose from, but the one that started it all was “The Blair Witch Project,” which still holds the record for high box office based on budget.
As one of the very first found-footage films, it follows a group of students who go looking for the “Blair Witch,” a being of myth and legend. To their horror, they find her and find themselves picked off one-by-one until the final shot reveals that no one is safe. The ending was a shocker, but it’s simple to understand: the characters are dead.
Christmas horror movies are nothing new, which is a good way overall to explain “Krampus.” The Krampus is a mythical beast that sort of exists as the antithesis to Santa Claus, punishing bad children in December.
The 2015 “Krampus” movie is one that should stay in the bargain bin, and the ending is no help - it seems as if the characters are trapped in a loop of reliving Christmas day over and over, with more and more horror added every time, but it’s also possible that they’re now free to escape from the horror of the Krampus, but he’ll always be watching over them. The movie doesn’t want to explain, and viewers were quick to move on.
No one can deny that “Us” is a great film, and even though it didn’t gain the critical acclaim of the director’s earlier work “Get Out,” it still brought fans in droves. The ending of the film is even rather clear: the underground version of the lead female character, Adelaide Wilson, was actually living aboveground the entire time.
Yet it’s still the kind of movie that will send one to random pages on the internet trying to figure out all the little twists and turns, and viewers are known to have spent hours falling down Youtube theory holes in an effort to better understand everything they just witnessed.
While the character of the Joker is well-known, a movie that fully explores his backstory, keeping away from Batman, has never been done. Audiences loved this film thanks to Joaquin Phoenix’s performance, but it left a lot of questions in its wake. Fittingly, as it focuses on a character that is losing his grip on reality, it makes us wonder what really happened in the film and what didn’t.
Was it possible that the Joker ever really went crazy? Was he ever in public, or did he spend the entirety of the movie in an asylum? Finally, is he really the famous Batman villain, an inspiration for someone else, or something in between? The film ends without giving up its secrets.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Seeing as it’s a thriller and a spy movie, everyone expected “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” to have twists and turns, but a lot of people ended up feeling lost as to who was on the good side or the bad side, and if there were even what you might call good sides or bad sides in the movie.
Through careful study, it’s possible to decode it: Bill is a bad guy, and Jim - his lover, has to snipe him before he gets deported. Percy Alleline and Roy Bland are dismissed from The Circus, and Smiley takes charge as the new head. Of course, the movie moves so fast that it can be hard to get those details even if you’re paying attention.
I Am Legend
Though generally well-liked, the ending(s) of “I Am Legend” didn’t stick the landing. There are a few plot holes - how did the women and kid show up if they destroyed all the bridges? - but there are also questions about why Will Smith’s character sacrificed himself when it looked like there was still room for him.
More questions arise thanks to the alternate ending, which had the zombie/vampire creatures suddenly develop speech and society. At the same time, the second ending is closer to what original writer Richard Matheson wrote; having it come right before the film closes left a lot of people befuddled.
The Tim Burton film had a lot of questions attached to it, though most people still find the film watchable enough. Yet at the ending, when the main character decides NOT to marry the titular bride, she turns into butterflies.
It had a lot of people saying, “huh?” since it got them to wonder if the other corpses will also turn into butterflies, why Emily is supposed to only be freed – read, turn into butterflies – when she marries her true love, who doesn’t marry her. Is she truly dead now? Does her consciousness persist in butterfly form? There are lots of poetic interpretations but no real answers to get from the movie.
Though not confusing in the traditional sense – we know exactly what happened to the characters and why – but a lot of viewers had follow-up questions for the film that never got answered. The film ends with Amy (Rosamund Pike) clearing Nick (Ben Affleck) of her murder. She had initially framed him for it, but she then forced him to stay with her by getting pregnant with his child.
Viewers couldn't help but ask: would Nick really stay with her? How long will the relationship last before it ends in murder? Did they actually want to be together because they enjoyed the drama, or is it going to crash and burn?
The dark fantasy film “Pan's Labyrinth” by Guillermo del Toro has an ending that can be interpreted in several different ways. At the end of the film, the main character, Ofelia, dies in the mystical, magical stone labyrinth, but the film continues to show her being reborn as Princess Moanna, taking her place at her father the king's side.
Did Ofelia imagine her rebirth into royalty as a last gasp at a happy life after a childhood full of darkness and despair? Or did it really happen? She died with a smile on her face, so it is impossible to tell, and it's all up to the audience to decide.
Though straightforward on the surface-level, the dark comedy/crime film “In Bruges” raises questions on repeated viewings. At the end of the movie, guilty assassin Ray (Colin Farrell) takes a bullet in the streets of Bruges and is carried into an ambulance. Did he die? The movie doesn't tell us. It also doesn't tell us...if Ray is already dead.
During the length of the movie, Ray is complaining about discomfort and boredom, leading some film theories to posit that Ray is already dead, and Bruges is some form of purgatory. Others believe Ray will be forced to live out the rest of his life in Bruges, bored, cold, and annoyed.
At the end of the dramatic apocalyptic movie “The Road,” Viggo Mortensen's character dies, leaving his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) alone in a world full of famine, drought, and cannibals. A family approaches him, wanting to take him in, but he is mistrustful.
They convince him to go along with them, and the movie leaves the audience to decide if this was a good decision or not. Will he be able to live for very long without his father? Will the family treat him well? Like the road the two main characters travel for the movie's duration, the ending is wide open.
There are few movies with as many shocking and disturbing twists as the South Korean action-drama “Oldboy.” At the end of the movie, Oh Dae-Su (Choi Min-Sik) gets his revenge on the person who kept him captive for fifteen years, but then the villain reveals that the woman he's fallen in love with and made love to is actually his daughter.
Reeling, Dae-Su chooses to have a hypnotist wipe his memory. In the final scene, his daughter says she loves him. The enigmatic expression Dae-su has on his face doesn't let the viewers know if the hypnotism worked, or he is stuck with the awful knowledge and unwilling to tell his daughter the truth.
Marketed as a “Taken” style film with Liam Neeson fighting against nature and wolves, “The Grey” actually turned out to be a thoughtful, almost poetic look into man against nature. In the final scene of the film, Neeson's character John Ottway prepares to fight the alpha wolf, armed with a knife and broken bottles.
We don't actually get to see the fight, and after the credits, we see Ottway's head lying prone on the wolf's body. Did he survive? Will he go on to reach safety after crashing in a frozen wilderness? Is the rest of the pack waiting to tear him to shreds? His fate is unclear, but he still fought.
Lost in Translation
While not mind-bending, “Lost in Translation” left viewers with one big question. After watching an aging movie star and a young college grad (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson, respectively) develop a friendship while stuck in Japan. Just before the end of the movie, in the final shot, Bill Murray whispers something into Johannson's ear. The film ends.
We don't get to learn what Murray said – in fact, it's been revealed that it was an improvised moment, which means even if we look at the script or talk to the writer, we won't learn a thing. The only one who knows is Bill Murray, and he isn't talking.
A Serious Man
Throughout “A Serious Man,” stress and difficulties pile on Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). By the end of the movie, he has finally built up peace – his son's Bar Mitzvah goes well, he and his wife have rebuilt their relationship, and it looks like he's moments from getting tenure. At the very end, not only does a doctor need to speak with him about an x-ray, but a tornado is headed right for his son's school.
Is it an illness? Will his son be alright? The film ends right there. It's a look at life in our modern world, with constant issues, but we aren't given any conclusion to the new issues.
Alfred Hitchcock's famous horror-thriller “The Birds” fills uncertainty with fear. After surviving a movie's worth of vicious bird attacks, Melanie (Tippi Hedren) is injured and nearly comatose. Mitch (Rod Taylor) has to drive her and a few children to San Francisco. As they drive, birds are everywhere, watching the car roll.
The radio tells them that the attacks are spreading, and the military is even getting involved. The movie comes to a close, and credits roll, leaving us to wonder if the characters will survive when the horror ends and why it started in the first place.
One of the most chilling anime movies ever, “Perfect Blue,” watches a young idol singer, Mima, try to make a name for herself in movies, dealing with a deadly stalker and a weakening mental state. Her manager wants to take her place, and Mima just barely survives. At the end of the film, the manager is recovering in an insane asylum, and Mima is finally sure of who she is.
However, the manager's voice actor has the final line, which we are led to believe is Mima speaking. Her hair might just be swept in the opposite direction...but she says, “No, I'm the real thing” at the end. But who is saying it?
Christopher Nolan appears again, this time with his magical mystery film “The Prestige.” It's the kind of movie you have to watch twice in a row, just to try and understand what was happening. The ultimate twist that Christian Bale's character, Borden, is actually twin brothers puts the entire rest of the movie into perspective.
But the movie actually spoils the twist early on. Angier (Hugh Jackman) reads Borden's diary. It says: “We were two young men at the start of a great career.” Viewers think it's referring to Borden and Angiers, but it's actually referring to the Borden twins. It's easy to miss but makes sense on repeated viewings.
On lists of strangest films ever made, the Japanese 1977 film “House” is bound to appear. It's a fever dream of nightmarish visuals that remain unforgettable. The ending is just as bizarre and difficult. After all of the girls in the house have been killed off, a new step-mother of one of them stops by to visit.
The girl, Gorgeous, is – we think – possessed by the spirit of her evil aunt. The two shake hands, and Ryoko, the step-mom, is burned away. For the entire movie, Gorgeous is furious that her father would remarry, and the ending represents her ideal situation – no step-mother for her.
Under the Skin
“Under the Skin” is the kind of movie that, if someone asked you to explain it, you wouldn't be able to say much. It's surreal, artistic, and weird. The plot itself is relatively simple; however: Scarlett Johannson's character is an alien sent to earth to harvestmen so her species can eat them, but she feels guilty about this and begins to integrate into their society by doing human things.
At the end of the film, a potential predator chases her through the woods, and her skin tears off, revealing her for the alien she really is.
You see, the title is ironic. Once you get to the end, however, you might just find that all of the details fit. But, there's a phone call at the end of the film that is still confusing. Emily spends the movie looking for a reality where she's happy, and once she finally finds it, kills “Happy Em,” the Emily from that reality.
When Emily wakes up after sleeping, the dead Em is gone, and the Kevin from the good reality gets a call from the very-much-alive Happy Em. She's trapped in the worst reality, where Emily broke into a house, tried to murder someone, and tried to pass herself off as a dead girl.
Understanding the ending of the 2013 film “Upstream Color” requires you to understand the entire movie. Shane Carruth's weird love story isn't metaphorical – everything you see really happened. You see, there's a parasite that goes from humans to pigs to orchids, thanks to two men named The Thief and The Sampler.
When the parasite moves into pigs, the original human hosts experience the pig's mood swings, and then when the pigs die, they fertilize orchids to continue the cycle. Main characters Kris and Jeff eventually piece together what's happening to them and enact their revenge on both The Thief and The Sampler.
There are few dystopian films that are stranger than “Brazil,” directed by Terry Gilliam and released in 1985. It's Orwellian, bleak, bizarre, and yet strangely beautiful. There are two versions of the film that you might have seen.
The shorter and friendlier version is the “Love Conquers All” version, where main characters Sam and Jill escape to a farmhouse, though there is still bleakness there. The longer – and Gilliam's preferred – version shows us Sam strapped to a chair, having retreated to his fantasies to escape the madness of life. Gilliam still thinks it's a happy and optimistic ending.
Directed by Duncan Jones – David Bowie's son – “Moon” starts out simple and then begins to drift. Astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is on a space station alone and discovers another astronaut up there with him that looks just like him. Existences are questioned, truths are revealed, and the film barrels toward a sad ending that the viewer could easily misinterpret.
It's a great sci-fi flick that presents an incredible story with few sets and a small budget. Rockwell acts manic, excited, heartbroken, and every other emotion under the sun as he discovers the truth.
The World's End
The films in Edgar Wright's “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy get better with every watch. For instance, “The World's End” is full of tiny hints and clues as to what is going to happen. Next time you watch, take a look at the names of the pubs the main characters visit.
The legendary story of the lads' last trip, before moving off to college, is also basically a road map for how the plot is going to go. The plot itself isn't hard to figure out, but this is still a film that deserves a few more viewings, just like “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz.”
It's not the most confusing movie, but “The Lobster” ends on a big cliffhanger. The bizarre film has Colin Farrell as David and Rachel Weisz as “The Short-Sighted Woman” escaping to the big city from the confines of “The Hotel,” a dystopian place where you either find your true love or turn into an animal of your choice.
The Short-Sighted Woman blinds herself before the movie ends, and the film ends before Dave makes – or doesn't make – the choice to follow in her footsteps. Is it worth it for Dave?
Based on Josh Malerman's novel of the same name, “Bird Box” inspired social fads and lots of washing. Sandra Bullock is determined to protect her children from whatever is out there – we never really find out – and at the end of the film, her family reaches a school for the blind. What does this mean for the characters?
The evil or supernatural entities won't affect people who can't see them, and the scene is one of weakness turned to strength. Bullock's character Mallory also has faith that she can save her children no matter what.