Films often unfold the mysteries before the very end credits roll out. However, that’s not always the case with some movies thanks to the wicked geniuses of the respective filmmakers. In addition, it's the historic and iconic movies that always chooses to leave at least one major loose end that somehow dangles the audience for eternity.
While most of the time this ambiguity in films can be seen as a good thing; it compels viewers to actively engage with the story in order to find answers to that keyhole encouraging in further discussion – sometimes it also can be more than a little infuriating.
Although we deal with the notion--there’s no more directors or even the storytellers of this very cliff-hanging movies are going to tell us anything after such nerve-racking scenes, we still crave to know the mystery behind those one or two particular cinematic incidents.
Yet as happens in a magic trick, should we ever actually uncover conclusive proof or just leave as it is considering the enigma is actually the real beauty of it? Whatever, the attempt, deep down we know we’re bound to wind up disappointed – after all, they’re not really meant to be solved.
Nevertheless, here we are still trying to decipher these big screen puzzle. And the subsequent questions that are going to arise along the way are absurdly unsatisfactory yet outrageously fun. So without further ado, let’s delve into the deep riddle these movies have created in the name of story-telling.
The Thing: Who Was Infected?
Curt Russell in The Thing (1982)SOURCE: D Magazine
This 1982 inimitable sci-fi horror classic from New York-born director John Carpenter culminates with one of the most brutal and enticing cliffhanger endings of all time. At the climax, we see the last two remaining survivors at the Antarctic research facility, MacReady (Kurt Russell) and Childs (Keith David) burning the camp down in order to kill or contain the main antagonist of the film—titular alien parasite.
The film's final moments then screens towards MacReady and Childs sitting in the snow watching the camp aflame, each quietly and intensely suspicious of the each other (if either of them has been assimilated by the parasite) yet in no condition to do anything about it.
Before fading to the black, we see them sharing a flask of J&B scotch, and accepting alas one of them is The Thing (malformed humanoid because of an alien embodying in it). Both men seem to accept the hopelessness of this quandary ultimately thinking that whatever the case they're basically doomed.
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It's a literally frightening, nihilistic ending which leaves the real whereabouts and identity of The Thing totally undetermined. According to one popular fan theory, it suggests that MacReady replaced the scotch with gasoline to test Childs, and the Keith David's character not showing any significant reaction to the gasoline would seem to confirm that he is, in fact, The Thing.
However, the theory has been completely refuted by Kurt Russell, while Carpenter never even wanted to imply an answer in either way. Yet the more fitting ending, really, would be to see neither of the men playing host to the creature, rather both of condemning themselves to death caused by hypothermia.
Did Randy Die At The End? - The Wrestler
The Wrestler (2008)SOURCE: The Entertainment
In this Darren Aronofsky's masterful sports drama, earlier, we see the film’s lead Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Micky Rourke) diagnosed with a heart condition. Despite such a fragile condition, Robinson still chooses to fight during the film’s end—and in the duel, Robinson can be seen going all the way in climbing up the top of the turnbuckle and preparing to jump off.
But before the impact is shown, Aronofsky cuts all to the black, thereby leaving the outcome of Randy’s landing and his eventual fate in all to the ambiguity.
Rourke himself has suggested that Robinson's heart explodes on the clash, but as per the director, he has typically resisted revealing the truth in a classic Aronofsky’s fashion. But to see for ourselves, every time the film concludes with Robinson’s high-fly, it certainly seems likely that Robinson does indeed die following the strain as he leaps off the turnbuckle.
Similarly, it is also entirely possible that this is merely a case of chest pain. And even if it sure was a serious cardiac event he nevertheless, may have actually survived his heart eventually emerging out as the champion of the duel against Ayatollah.
In either the scenario, the tragic and heroic gallantry of Robinson knowingly sending himself into the abyss in the quest of entertaining the fans is so damn brilliant that it almost completely throws the fans off the case of Robinson’s post-jump health status.
Who Was Supreme Leader Snoke? - Star Wars: The Last
Snoke in Stars Wars: The Last JediSOURCE: Comic Book
The world was not only left stunned but also ridiculously suspicious when, two-thirds of the way through Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) was sliced in half at the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), despite the expectation from fans that he'd be the trilogy's cardinal big bad (like Thanos-esque in The Avengers franchise).
Fans couldn’t help themselves but go on being annoyed in seeing Snoke thrown off from Stars Wars just like that—and even before anyone had much of clue about who he really was.
Well the real-life actor behind the smoke, Andy Serkis has stated that in his own mind; the supreme leader was several hundred years old and had his skull disfigured by a prior battle - two things most fans can pretty easily assume regardless. As a result of which, he may not have been that of a supreme in the Last Jedi—not at least after we see how easily he gets pierced by his own subordinate.
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In addition, not even a glimpse of earlier stories are teased that could have otherwise show how Ben met Snoke in the first place. With Episode IX predominantly focusing on Kylo Ren supplanting Snoke as the Supreme Leader, it was pretty much clear from the beginning that our journey with Snoke was quite already done with his death and there was not even much reason to expect we'll ever get a satisfying explanation for his origins, at least in the movies.
All we did or might be still doing is dwindle through pages and pages of Starbanks and its respective comic issues.
What Was In The Briefcase? - Pulp Fiction
Samuel L Jackson as Jules with the Case in Pulp FictionSOURCE: Dazed
Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction has shown us the director’s one of the most enduring mystery- the unknown contents of the briefcase fetched by Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) and Vincent (John Travolta) for their boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames).
Despite it being a focal aspect of the movie, the viewers aren’t given much of a hint as to what the briefcase might contain, beyond an orange glow radiating from it and that the case opens with the combination "666".
But again the most common fan theory—the briefcase contains the soul of Wallace himself, with the distinctive plaster on the back of his head suggesting his soul was sucked out somewhere in maybe the deleted scenes or in the story (though not given screen slot in the movie) earlier.
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When asked the director on several occasions, Tarantino has been saying time and again that there never was a definitive explanation, but only a notion—the briefcase was originally set to contain diamonds. Whatever was actually inside it, was clearly of immense value to pretty much every character, and even if the case could have never contained Wallace’s spirit, we can at least deduce that it was something of a great price for the pop-culture, too—as shown by the amusement of Ringo (Tim Roth) upon setting his eyes on recognizes it after setting eyes on that very box.
Did Riggan Die? - Birdman Alejandro G.
The Final Scene; Birdman SOURCE: Mike Rabum
Iñárritu's black comedy-drama Birdman (2014) concludes with its lead, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) ending up in hospital after shooting himself in the head on-stage. The final clip sees Riggan leap out the window of his hospital room, yet when his daughter Sam (Emma Stone) sprints to the window, she utters not horror but a grin on her face and a surging laugh afterward.
The question though, did Riggan finally become Birdman for real or what? The most routinely accepted - and also the most obvious – surmise is that Riggan, in fact, died after inflicting himself on stage and the final scene (if considered the extreme of optimism), is only the character’s hallucination at his dying moment.
Another interpretation suggests that the final visual of Riggan jumping out of the window is simply an analogy of him letting go of his own ego and embracing life. Yet like any other ambiguous movie endings and their mad helmsman, Iñárritu too doesn't really seem to be a peculiar one that is leaning towards any particular interpretation.
Was Patrick Really A Killer? - American Psycho
Christian Bale In American Psycho (2000)SOURCE: Cinema Blend
This 2000 live adaptation film based on Brett Easton Ellis' 1991 novel of the same name revolves around New York investment banker Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale), who in addition to being insanely egotistical is also madly obsessed with killings.
When he's not crunching the numbers and chatting up with his colleagues, Bateman's is brutally busy in butchering people who annoy him. But following a confusingly violent finale, the very end of the movie sees him leaving a confessional voicemail message for his lawyer where he admits his murdering of all the random people.
The irony comes when Bateman not only survives the police chase, but also the following day he is carelessly laughed off about his confession suggesting all that he did were only mere delusions of a mentally ill man.
Whether that’s the case or not, both the endings would at least agree with the film's satirical overtones and the title itself. Director Mary Harron claims it was never her intention to convey the possibility that every murder was imagined since many have latched onto the fact; in the very least, Bateman indeed did something heinously evil.
Was Cobb Never Out Of The Dream? - Inception
The Final Spin: Inception (2010)SOURCE: Youtube
This 2010 out-of-reality masterpiece from Director Christopher Nolan is indecisively hard to construe from each of its every scene. Add to that, the film’s incredible final scene of Nolan showing Cobb (Leonardo Dicaprio) walking away from his spinning totem- an indication of whether a subject is dreaming or not - but before we can see if the top falls over, the director cuts all into the black.
Ever since this final image ended, moviegoers have been forced in begging the actual reality (or not) of Cobb family reunion - is he still dreaming, or is he finally back in reality?
We've all seen that Cobb no longer pays attention to the spinning top and simply accepts his reality, but deep down we also know there was always more than that. However, the specific; Cobb isn’t wearing his wedding ring at the moment of final totem spin (which throughout the film he only wears during dreams) quite clearly shifts the poll towards the final scene being actually a conclusive reality.
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Furthermore, Michael Caine’s character outside the dream sequences from the beginning also supports the claim since his next appearance in the movie is only at the film’s closing moments during the Cobb family reunion.
Conversely, the fact that Cobb's children are shown wearing extremely similar clothes as in his subconscious world has been seen as proof that he was certainly dreaming about them.
The obscurity is really what makes this one sci-fi so brilliantly unique, and Nolan would honestly be an idiot to ever answer it, no matter how agonizing it's going to get.
How Did The Joker Get His Scars? - The Dark Knight
Heath Ledger as Joker in The Dark Knight (2008) SOURCE: Paces
In 2008 Heath Ledger revived the famous arch-nemesis of Batman, the Joker with such madness that rarely any other actors had ever done before. The Dark Knight's lead villain is one of the most iconic characters in cinema history, and one of his more memorable frontlines was his style of telling conflicting stories about the cause of his severely scarred face.
We hear two stories in the film - that his alcoholic, abusive father torn it open with a knife, and alternatively the other--where The Joker himself put a razor in his mouth to give himself matching scars to his wife, whose face was carved by loan sharks.
The Clown Prince of Arkham does prepare to tell a third story during the final brief fight with Batman (Christian Bale) but gets apprehended by the Caped Crusader before he begins to narrate the next anecdote of his face-mark.
While it's possible that one of The Joker's several explanations is actually correct, it's the way in which these contrastingly different stories are told pushes viewers to believe—its just another overtly senseless reasoning tales that the Red Hood often likes to play against his foes.
The best guess though? He was born this way or it was more of an innocent accident which happened to him as a child and he refuses to tell so because it just wouldn’t be that poetic.
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So what's your outlook on these bewildering mysteries? Don’t forget to pour it out in the comments if we forgot to include your favorite mysteries in the list above.
Meanwhile here are some equally honorable mentions which we somehow couldn’t add to the cuts.
- Did Chigurth really kills Carla Jean in the End; No Country For Old Men
- Jack’s Fate; The Shining
- Who’s the father of Madolyn’s Baby; The Departed
- What is Clint Eastwood’s character Name in The Dollars Trilogy