Finally! The Most Confusing Movie Endings Explained

Few things spark heated debate in this world more than what really happened at the end of a movie. The credits roll and you turn to your friends look at each other confused. You hear someone near you say, “what the heck just happened?” If you’re still trying to figure out the endings to movies like Arrivaland Donnie Darko, we have the answers. Some of them are simpler than you ever could have imagined. Others need a little more explaining to unravel the mystery.

We bet you can’t wait to know what actually happened at the end of “Inception.”

Birdman Didn’t Fly Away At The End

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

The end of Birdman (Or The Expected Virtue Of Ignorance) ends with Michael Keaton’s character Riggan jumping out the window, presumably committing suicide. We don’t don’t see him fall, though; we only see his daughter run to the window and look up instead of down.

The ending left people thinking the fantastical elements of the film had come to life, and that Riggan had found his freedom and literally flew away. The truth is much probably much darker, showing just how devastating Riggan’s actions have been on himself and his daughter. For his part, the director says the ending, “can be interpreted as many way as there are seats in the theater.”

Donnie Darko Is Is About Parallel Universes

Photo Credit: Newmarket Films

Donnie Darkomight be the most confusing movie ever made. The movie makes zero sense. All audiences really know is that Donnie is being haunted by anevil spirit in a creepy bunny costume. The movie never makes an attempt to make sense, but luckily for us, the director has cleared the air on what’s really happening.

The movie follows Donnie as he attempts to destroy the parallel universe he’s living in to fix a time rift that’s opened in “Universe Prime.” By choosing to die at the end of the film, he’s sacrificing himself to save everyone he loves.

Next we reveal the mystery surrounding “Shutter Island.”

Shutter Island Proves The Detective Was The Killer All Along

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

When Shutter Islandcame out, audiences were left scratching their heads when it was revealed US Marshall Teddy Daniel was the killer all along. It turns out to deal with the guilt of killing his wife, Teddy went crazy and was sent to the island for treatment. On the island, Teddy is allowed to investigate the murder to try and find himself.

When Teddy solves the mystery and learns that he killed his wife, he can’t repress the memories any longer. The next part is up for debate. Either he chooses to go through with the lobotomy to forever erase his horrific memories; or his disillusions have forced doctors to take drastic measures.

Interstellar Enters The Fourth Dimension To Solve Its Dilemma

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures/Warner Brothers

Interstellar is a classic Christopher Nolan twist ending that needs extra explaining to make sense. Based on ideas based in quantum physics, Cooper enters a black hole, unknowingly accessing a fourth dimension where he can interact with the past. By doing this, he is able to interact with his daughter in her library.

Cooper uses this dimension to help his daughter solve the mystery equation that will save mankind. The two are reunited at the end, fulfilling Cooper’s promise to his daughter that he would see her again. Oh, and humanity is saved and travelling on a spaceship to a new home planet.

Ahead, we explain once and for all how “Inception” really ended.

InceptionProbably Ends In The Real World

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

The ending of Inception sees Leonardo DiCaprio’s character make it home to his family. He’s finally happy again and that’s all that matters. We’re not supposed to care whether the top stops spinning and whether he’s still trapped in his dream or not. We do care, though, and the answer should make most of you happy.

According to actor Michael Caine, the director explained to him that when he’s on screen, we’re in the real world. In the last scene Michael Caine is present. Mystery solved, right? Unless Christopher Nolan was lying to one of the greatest actors of all-time; yes.

Life Of Pi Just Wants You To Question Your Own Reality

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Life of Pifollows the fantastical story of a young boy stranded adrift on a boat with a Bengal tiger. He survives and makes it back to shore. At the end he recounts two stories to a fictionalized version of Yann Martel (the book’s author). He gives the version we see, and another much darker tale.

In the other tale, Pi says in order to survive he had to kill the ships cook and eat him. Martel says he prefers the other story, to which Pi references the will of God. The ending of the films hints that audiences shouldn’t always trust what they hear, but they have the right to choose which reality they want to live in or which religion to follow.

Arrival Isn’t About Reliving The Past But Instead Choosing To Follow Your Future

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

If that headline doesn’t make total sense, that’s okay, neither does the movie Arrival. The Oscar nominated film is filled with visions of Louise’s haunted past as she tries to save the future of humanity. The trick is, in order to save the future, she must first realize that’s what her visions are coming from in the first place.

Seeing into the future, including the birth and tragic death of her daughter and falling out with Ian, become vital in Louise’s journey to unlock the key to saving the world. At the end, once she’s completed her mission, she chooses to live out the future even though she already knows it’s going to happen.

Coming up, who is Tyler Durden, really? We have the answer!

Edward Norton IS Brad Pitt In Fight Club

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Edward Norton plays the unnamed protagonist in Fight Club, a movie that changed the way we all looked at soap in the ’90s. Brad Pitt plays Tyler Durden, the real life version of the devil on Norton’s shoulder. The end of the film reveals that Norton was Durden the whole time, which isn’t altogether confusing, but does raise the question of how the split personality dynamic works.

The best we can decipher is that when Norton’s character is asleep, Durden comes out to play. Scenes when they’re together with other characters can then be interpreted as Norton “dreaming” or Durden having visions of him.

Patrick Bateman Is An Unreliable Narrator In American Psycho

Photo Credit: Universal Studios

The ending of American Psychois easier to understand if you’ve ever read the book. Told from the point of view of Patrick Bateman, the book offers an incredibly unreliable narrative told by an incredibly unreliable narrator. In the movie this isn’t as clear, so when we learn that Bateman’s killing spree never happened, we aren’t sure what to think.

The best thing to do is trust that reality has returned to normal. Bateman’s mental breakdown is over and the narrative is reliable again. As for what happens to Bateman when the credits roll, that’s left up to audience interpretation.

MementoGoes Backwards In Time To Reveal Leonard Already Solved His Wife’s Murder

Photo Credit: Newmarket Pictures

Christopher Nolan is back at it again on our list with Memento, his twisty debut feature film. The film moves backwards in time as Leonard tries to unravel the mystery of who Sammy Jankis is. Jankis murdered Leonard’s wife, forcing her to overdose on insulin.

We know from the beginning of the film that Leonard has memory loss issues, but we’re still blindsided when it’s revealed Leonard is Jankis, and he created the entire mystery to deal with his guilt from murdering his wife. With the murder solved, he loses his memory and starts the search all over again. Oh, what a cruel world!

Up next, join on the journey of figuring out what the heck “The Machinist” is all about!

The Machinist Follows The “Protagonist Did It” Narrative Of Memento

Photo Credit: Paramount Classics

The Machinistdidn’t make waves when it came out in theaters but has garnered a cult following since. The story follows an emaciated insomniac named Trevor who believes he is being tormented by someone named Ivan. Unfortunately for him, no one around him has ever seen Ivan. Or have they?

Like Memento,it’s revealed that Trevor is Ivan, a version of himself when he was healthy and happy. Ivan was created by Trevor as a figment of his guilt for a hit and run that killed a child. The lesson here, is men like to make up other men to deal with the guilt they can’t face in their everyday lives. It works every time!

There Is No Explanation For The Shining

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

If you’ve ever watched The Shiningand tried to figure out just what happened at the end when Jack Torrance is shown in an old picture at the Overlook Hotel, you’re not alone and you never will be. Stanley Kubrick, the director, loved to throw twists into his movies just to confuse the audience.

In the case of The Shining, that twist is the picture. Fans have debated for years what it means, but no explanation gives a logical answer. The truth is there probably is no answer; just a filmmaker having a little extra fun doing his job.

Deckard Is A Replicant In Blade Runner

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

The devil is in the details in revealing the truth behind the ending of Blade Runner. The final scene sees Rick Deckard run away with with Rachael after finding a origami unicorn left for him by Eduardo Gaff. Director Ridley Scott says that’s the answer, if you know how to read dreams.

Earlier in the film, Deckard had dreamed about a unicorn. There is no way Gaff would have known about this unless it was a dream implanted into Deckard because of who, and what, he really is.

Coming up, is the country really not for old men? We debate!

Bell Isn’t Just Rambling At The End Of No Country For Old Men

Photo Credit: Miramax Films

There’s no exciting climax full of explosions and gunfire at the end of No Country For Old Men. Instead the film ends with Sheriff Bell talking about his dreams. In his speech, he reveals the true meaning of the film through his own realization of his failures as a man.

Bell lived his life trying to make a difference, but now is an old man living in a world of unfix-able chaos around him. He’s grown to old and failed, letting Anton Chigurh get away. At the end of the film, the title of the film becomes utterly poignant.

Neo Sacrifices Himself To Save Humanity In Matrix Revolutions

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

As the Matrixtrilogy entered its third chapter the narrative was overly complex and confusing. A series originally about “man versus machine” was suddenly trying to address bigger issues like religion. At the end of the film, Neo realizes the only way to save humanity is to die a martyr, letting the robots take him over so they can defeat Agent Smith.

Isn’t Agent Smith part of the machine, though? He is, but he wants to take over the real world and the Matrix. In order to create peace between man and machine, Neo and the robot leader join forces, using his his lifeless body as a virus to destroy Agent Smith and all of his clones.

Randy Robinson Goes Out Doing What He Loves In “The Wrestler”

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight

Mickey Rourke saw a career resurgence when he portrayed Randy Robinson in The Wrestler. The film sees Robinson trying to continue his wrestling career despite his doctor’s warning that it will kill him. The thing is, Randy already feels dead on the inside having ruined every relationship he ever had outside the ring.

During a match is the only time he feels alive, and it with this sentiment he jumps off the ropes one last time, breathe leaving his body, when the film cuts to credits. Fans have debated whether or not he survived ever since, even though the director has confirmed it, saying, “if not now, when?”

Next, evolution reaches its end in “2001.”

“2001” Ends With Humanity’s Final Evolution

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers/MGM

2001: A Space Odysseyis one of the greatest films ever made. It is also one of the most confusing. Here’s what happens; the film starts with primitive man-apes discovering tools and ends with Bowman turning into a star baby and reaching the final monolith on Jupiter.

The monolith at the end represents the final evolutionary step for humanity, just like the one at the beginning represents the first. In Kubrick’s own words, “He is reborn, an enhanced being, a star child, an angel, a superman, if you like, and returns to earth prepared for the next leap forward of man’s evolutionary destiny.

The Planet Of The Apes Remake Sees The Apes Go Back In Time And Take Over The World

Photo Credit: Twentieth Century Fox

Planet of the Apesis an iconic film franchise. The original had a twist ending that shocked audiences. When Tim Burton remade the film in the ’90s he included a shocking ending of his own. Burton’s ending has Leo Davidson travel back in time to Earth, or to find out General Thade beat him to it and took over the planet.

Still, there’s been a lot of debate about how Thade could go back in time without a ship of his own. Logically, Thade figured out how to fix the broken escape pod left in Leo’s ship, although that scenario is never shown on-screen.

“Edge Of Tomorrow” Ignores Logic For The Hollywood Ending

Photo Credit: Warner Brothers

In a movie that’s all about following the strict rules of its universe, Edge of Tomorrowthrows the audience for a loop when it throws logic out the door at the end. As you know, every time Cage dies, he’s sent back to where he inherited the alien gift of time travel. So when he dies at the end after saving the day, the timeline should be reset, rendering his sacrifice pointless.

Instead, Cage wakes up back where he started, except the war is over because he beat the aliens. The problem is, if he did die and was reborn back at the beginning, well, look at the paragraph above so we don’t get caught in our own time loop.

Citizen Kane Finds Meaning In Material With Rosebud

Photo Credit: RKO Pictures

Citizen Kaneis considered one of the greatest films of all-time. To modern audiences, though, it’s also one of the most confusing. The central mystery reveals around the reveal of what “Rosebud” means. When the film ends, the mystery is solved when the we see Kane’s childhood sled, named “Rosebud.”

Today, the reveal is underwhelming and confusing. Why is the sled so important to Citizen Kane and what does it mean? It’s debatable, just like any great ending, but we believe it shows that even though he was ruthless in his life, Kane was still human and holding onto a childhood toy shows he remembers his past.

Did Alex Really Change At The End Of A Clockwork Orange?

Warner Bros.

At the end of Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orangefans are led to believe that Alex’s treatment was unsuccessful. If you recall, Alex underwent conditioning and brainwashing after his suicide attempt. But at the end of the movie, it seems that he returns to his violent ways.

Kubrick’s version was a lot darker than the original book. If you really want to know what happens at the end, then according to the book, Alex cleans up and turns his life around after he realizes how much trouble he’s caused. This final chapter of the book didn’t even get published until 15 years after the film debuted.

Vanilla Sky’s Ending Is Exactly What You Think It Is

Paramount Pictures

2001’s Vanilla Skyfeatures Tom Cruise, Penélope Cruz, and Cameron Diaz. Cruise suffers a near-death experience that leaves him incredibly disfigured. Throughout the course of the movie, we learn that Cruise’s character was in a lucid dream the whole time, as he’s been in a cryonic stasis for more than 100 years.

He’s given either the choice to reboot the dream or fall off a building, which would render him awake in real life. Cruise chooses the latter option and the very last scene is him opening his eyes. Director Cameron Crowe has said that he wishes the ending was a little more ambiguous than it turned out to be.

No, Batman Didn’t Die At The End of The Dark Knight Rises

Warner Bros. Pictures

Even the end of the Dark Knighttrilogy had fans arguing over its ending. In the final installment, Batman is seen flying a nuclear bomb out of Gotham City, which led many to believe that he didn’t survive. Yet, in the next scene, Alfred sees Master Bruce with Selina Kyle in Florence.

So did Batman die? Or did he not? Before the big blast, Lucius Fox learns that Bruce Wayne fixed the Bat-plane’s autopilot six months earlier, which is enough to know that Batman could have jumped out of the plane before it blew up with the bomb inside.

Is The Monster Really Gone At The End Of The Babadook?

Entertainment One

2014’s The Babadookwas an indie horror flick out of Australia, featuring a mother and her son who are seemingly haunted by a supernatural monster that is summoned out of a disturbing children’s book.

After the son vanquishes the demon who had possessed his mother, it appears to vanish to the basement where the mother has stored memories of her late husband. At the very end, we see the mother bring a bowl of worms to the basement to feed the beast. It is suspected that the beast all along was the mother’s pent up grief that she will have to live with forever.

The Tree Of LifeHad A Plot That No One Could Figure Out

Fox Searchlight Pictures

In 2011, director Terrence Malick created The Tree of Lifestarring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain. The movie more or less follows a Texas family in a small town, across memories that span from the dawn of time and into what some believe is the after life (the final scene shows a contemplative Sean Penn on the beach).

Malick has never offered an answer to the big question over what this movie is about in its entirety. But film critic Matt Seitz suggests that Malick is sharing his own memories and anecdotes in a way “to prompt you to remember your own life and reflect on it.”

Who Was The Real Enemy In Enemy?

Entertainment One

Jake Gyllenhaal led the 2013 psychological thriller that is Enemy, directed by Denis Villeneuve. Gyllenhaal plays a college history professor who finds his physical doppelgänger in a movie and later gets tangled up in a complicated identity switch.

At the very end, Gyllenhaal’s character is living the life of his doppelgänger and finds his wife turned into a tarantula. The movie seems random but Villeneuve suggests that it’s about “the dictator inside ourselves,” continuing to say, “It’s a movie that is set to a game. It’s not something that gives answers. It creates a lot of questions in your mind, but it’s set like a puzzle.”

The Fountain Is Really Meant To Make People Think About Life

Warner Bros. Pictures

When people first saw Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountainfrom 2006, they really wanted a concrete explanation about the film. However, this movie is big on symbolism and it people who’ve taken the time to digest the movie would figure out that it’s about coming to terms with mortality.

Starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, The Fountainfollows three timelines, but the one from the present is about a doctor searching for a cure for his wife’s brain tumor. Aronofsky himself has said, “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.”

Mulholland DriveIs About Nothing, According To Roger Ebert

Universal Pictures

2001’sMulholland Drivefollows an aspiring actress who comes to Los Angeles and finds an amnesiac woman in her aunt’s home. This film directed by David Lynch made a lot of people confused, especially since it often depicted vignettes of other characters unrelated to the two main protagonists.

Lynch famously refuses to clear things up, but late film critic Roger Ebert offered a possible solution: “The movie is hypnotic; we’re drawn along as if one thing leads to another but nothing leads anywhere… There is no explanation. There may not even be a mystery.”

Barton Fink Gets A Real Taste Of Hollywood, According To Joel Coen

20th Century Fox

Barton Finkwas the Coen Brothers’ project of 1991. It follows an intelligent playwright who travels to Hollywood where he is hired to write scripts for a big-time film studio. There, he realizes that Hollywood is not the dreamland everyone makes it out to be.

Throughout the film, there is a picture of a woman decorating his hotel room. Fink later finds himself on the beach with a view of a woman exactly like the picture before the movie fades to black. What does this mean? Well, Joel Coen explains that this was meant to represent Fink’s psychological state as he coped with Hollywood.

It FollowsHas An Ending That’s Up To You

RADiUS-TWC

In 2014, director David Robert Mitchell unveiled It Follows, a horror movie about Jay, a girl who catches a “sexually transmitted ghost.” Apparently, the only way to get rid of it is by sleeping with someone else to pass it on and after an outrageous series of events, Jay sleeps with her friend Paul. Paul is later seen driving by some women of the night.

At that point, Jay and Paul are seen walking down the street, but an ominous figure seems to be following them. Mitchell explained that this ending was intentional, saying “It allows people to make up their own mind of what it means.”

The Bloody, Emotional Ending OfBlack Swan

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Darren Aronofsky’s 2010 film Black Swanfeatured Natalie Portman as Nina, a ballerina cast as The Swan Queen for a New York City ballet company. Throughout the film, we see Nina struggle with her role, especially with the perceived threat of Lily, who was cast as the Black Swan, played by Mila Kunis.

At the end, however, Nina goes through a torturous fight although it is unclear with whom. She completes the final scene in the ballet and the film ends with her laying on a mattress backstage and bleeding. Many people believe that this signifies Nina’s devotion to her art over herself in a pursuit to be the best.

The Right Way To Interpret The End Of Jacob’s Ladder

TriStar Pictures

1990’s Jacob’s Ladderfeatures Tim Robbins as Jacob Singer, a Vietnam War veteran who suffers from strange visions and hallucinations. In the movie, it is revealed that the military used psychedelic drugs to turn some soldiers into killing machines, which explains Jacob’s visions.

Towards the end, there’s a notable shift to calmer, more peaceful visions. The meaning is best explained by Louis, Jacob’s chiropractor, who says that the more you resist death, “you’ll see devils tearing your life away. But if you’ve made your peace, then the devils are really angels, freeing you from the earth. It’s just a matter of how you look at it.”

The WitchIs Exactly What You Think It’s About

A24

In 2015, The Witchpremiered and was explicit about its supernatural horrors. There’s was no denying that witchcraft of some sort was behind the tragedies that befell the Puritan family who settled at the edge of the mysterious forest.

Thomasin, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, is the eldest child and the one at the heart of all the family’s conflicts. After she kills her own mother in self-defense (the rest of the family had perished by supernatural forces), she mysteriously ends up going into the forest herself. The ending is pretty self-explanatory, it’s not meant to mean anything more than the fact that she succumbs to the witchcraft in the forest.

Looper’sEnding Is Easy To Understand If You Get Time Travel

TriStar Pictures

In 2012, Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in Looper, directed by Rian Johnson. In this sci-fi thriller, Gordon-Levitt and Willis, play both a young and an old version of the same person, respectively, as time traveling hitmen.

At the end of the movie, both Gordon-Levitt and Willis are at a farm, where the child version of the crime boss they’re after lives. Suddenly, Gordon-Levitt kills himself, thereby killing Willis. This is because he realizes that if the boy’s mother is never killed on the farm, then they are able to prevent the messy crime syndicate the boy starts in the future.

Taxi DriverIs Still Up For Debate

Columbia Pictures

Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driverwas critically acclaimed upon its debut in 1976. The neo-noir thriller features Robert De Niro as Travis Bickler, a discharged U.S. Marine who becomes a taxi driver in New York City to help ease his insomnia.

Travis eventually goes on a killing spree. At the end of it, he attempts to kill himself but is out of ammunition as the police come. The next scene depicts Travis back in the routine, but many people believe that this was just a dream and that Travis is dead. Scorsese never says that Travis is actually dead but he does confirm that the killing spree did happen.

Total RecallIs Just One Huge Dream

TriStar Pictures

Much of 1990’s Total Recallis confusing in itself. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who finds himself wrapped up in Mars espionage due to memory implants. The whole movie is spent wondering whether Quaid is living a dream or real life.

Even director Paul Verhoeven has an idea of how the plot actually goes down, but even he says that it’s supposed to be ambiguous on purpose. Verhoeven, though, believes the movie is a dream. After all, it would make sense that Quaid is having a bad reaction to the memory implant that is combining aspects of his real life into the dream.

Nocturnal AnimalsHas An Upsetting Ending That Makes A Lot Of Sense

Focus Features

Tom Ford directed the 2016 thriller Nocturnal Animalsstarring Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal plays Edward, a novelist who sends a manuscript to his estranged ex-wife Susan, played by Amy Adams. As Susan reads the novel, viewers are along for the ride as the novel takes on a sub plot.

Towards the end, Adams is ultimately impressed with Gyllenhaal’s manuscript, though one of the reasons she left him in the first place was because she didn’t believe in his career. She plans to meet with him, but is ultimately stood up and the movie ends. For those who don’t get it, the novel plot was a metaphor for the way Susan made Edward feel when their relationship ended.

The Protagonist Gives Himself A Lobotomy In PiBecause It’s The Only Option

Artisan Entertainment

In 1998, Darren Aronofsky made his directorial debut with Pi. The film follows a number theorist named Max Cohen who believes that everything in life can be explained with numbers. However, Cohen also suffers mentally from cluster headaches, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Cohen tries to use his computer to make stock predictions but over the course of the film he is driven mad, ultimately last seen taking a drill to some part of his body. This can simply be explained by the fact that a self-imposed lobotomy was the only way Cohen believed he could save himself.

PrimerIs So Confusing That You’d Have To Watch It More Than Once

IFC Films

When it comes to time-travel movies, 2004’s Primeris one that is often forgotten, though it has a cult following. This movie requires some heavy thinking and lots of attention to detail, otherwise you’d end up getting lost.

Long story short, friends Aaron and Abe inadvertently create a time machine. They incidentally create multiple overlapping timelines and versions of themselves, which is very dangerous. At the end, Aaron works with his former self to create a bigger version of the machine, while future Abe works hard to prevent original Abe from gaining any knowledge of what they’ve done.

There’s An Unmistakable Warning At The End Of The Graduate

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1967’s The Graduateput Dustin Hoffman on Hollywood’s radar. Hoffman plays recent college graduate Benjamin Braddock, who ends up in an affair with his older neighbor Mrs. Robinson. In the movie, she warns him not to fall for her daughter Elaine, but of course he does exactly that.

In the end, he crashes Elaine’s wedding and they run off together. In the movie’s final scenes, “The Sound of Silence” plays while the pair board a bus. If you look closely, you’ll notice this is the moment where reality sets in and they realize the gravity of their actions. The movie is meant to warn about the dangers of impulse and its consequences.