Often endings can be the most important part of a movie. They can give us a fitting and satisfactory payoff, or they can leave us tearing our hair out in disappointed frustration. Some endings fit perfectly with the tone and story of the film (Manchester By the Sea), whereas some literally seem to make no sense, and ruin the 90 minutes that have come before (Kill List).
Now, there are also some endings that are open to interpretation, and may not mean what you actually think they mean. These are the ones that are the most interesting, because they get us talking about what that ending actually means. These are some of the moves that provide endings that don’t actually mean what you first thought they did – warning, spoilers to follow!
Total Recall (1990)
Cult classic Total Recall is one of the finest movies Arnie ever made, and rightly regarded as a sci-fi classic. But, the movie had an ending full of ambiguity, that has had tongues wagging for years. Because of the nature of the Rekall program – a program that implants memories so people can leave out their dreams – we don’t know whether what we’re watching is real or a dream. There are allusions in the movie that what we see is actually a part of the program – for instance, before Quaid has his memory implants his dream notes detail Mars as having blue sky. At the end of the movie, after saving the planet, Quaid is seen looking at the blue sky of Mars.
Get Out (2017)
Get Out was one of the freshest and most intelligent thrillers in the past twenty yards. It has something to say, says it cleverly, and has a tight script to boot. The movie follows photographer Chris, preparing to meet Rose’s family out in the countryside. Rose is white, Chris is black, and the family behaves strangely around him. What follows is a bold, brilliant, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-type story. With old, wealthy white people stealing the minds and bodies of black people, Chris stages a daring escape. Despite killing the family, and being rescued by his friend, the movie ends on a somber note, with Chris failing to cut off the head of the snake.
Shutter Island (2012)
Many people found Shutter Island to be the ultimate love-it-or-hate-it movie. We thought it was brilliantly done, even if the twist was reasonably easy to spot. DiCaprio’s US Marshal Teddy Daniels heads to an insane asylum on the titular island to investigate the escape of murderer Andrew Laeddis. The main twist of the movie is that Daniels is, in fact, Laeddis, and has been taking part in an exercise devised by his doctor. The idea being to trigger his memories of murdering his wife after she drowned their children. The movie certainly packs a punch, but the ambiguous ending left viewers confused. Basically, Laeddis fakes regression in order to get a lobotomy, so he doesn’t have to live with the realization of what he’s done.
These are some of the best movies we have seen with ambiguous endings. For many people, the endings are pretty simple to grasp, whereas others find them open to interpretation. We love movies that make us think, and give us something to discuss with friends afterward, and these movies definitely fit the bill for that.