All of us have had the kind of cinematic experience that leaves us staring at our blank screens even after the movie has ended. These are the kinds of endings that cause Reddit threads to erupt and viewers to have trouble sleeping. “What exactly did I just see? What exactly does it all imply?” These are just a handful of the thoughts that everyone has after watching a film with ambiguous endings.
As they try to decipher what they should be perceiving after the episode, viewers’ reactions are all over the board. After a while, certain movies can be patched together, and a select few get answers from the filmmakers not long after the film is released. However, the majority of these mind-benders never reach a satisfying conclusion, compelling fans to either give up on the idea or accept their own version of the narrative. Here are 5 movies with ambiguous endings that we still think about today:
1. Birdman – A Psychological Study With An Ambiguous Ending
Riggan Thomson, a washed-up artist, is briefly seen to have deadly superpowers and the capacity to fly throughout the movie Birdman. Though it is clear that these events were conjured up in his head, the film’s conclusion suggests differently. When his daughter Sam comes to visit him in the hospital, she finds the room vacant and notices the window open, so she swiftly looks outside. After realizing that her father did not commit suicide by leaping out the window, she looks up in the sky with wonder for a few moments, until a smile grows across her face The intriguing conclusion suggests that Riggan had superpowers all along or maybe Sam was simply delusional due to his drug addiction.
2. Martha Marcy May Marlene – A Haunting Tale That Leaves You Puzzled With Its Ending
Martha Marcy May Marlene is a film about a young woman who finds safety with her sister after joining a ‘lovely on the surface but dark underneath’ cult. Martha is suffering from PTSD and is having trouble aligning her conditioned actions with the social conventions of the real world. She tries to tell her sister about her experiences but is split between the two realities. Martha’s sister and brother-in-law fear that she is dishonest or mentally sick, and thus start threatening her safety in the sanctuary she has sought. As the film goes backward and forward between past and present, dream and reality, memory and fiction, Martha’s true mental state is never disclosed, creating a living nightmare for Martha and her sanity.
3. Total Recall – A Sci-Fi Benchmark With An Equally Tensed Ambiguous Ending
The wild odyssey of Douglas Quaid, a fairly benign construction worker in search of fun and excitement, is the basic plot of this film. Unable to do anything else about it, he visits Total Recall and buys a memory program that allows him to become a secret agent on Mars. As he’s being implanted, everything goes awry, and his life takes a dramatic turn. It emerges that he was a double agent all along, working for the evil guy in charge of Mars. Through an alien technology that converts the atmosphere into an oxygen-rich one, he kills some people and rescues Mars. Or does he? Perhaps he died as a result of an embolism during memory implantation. Nobody in the whole wide world knows!
4. Blade Runner – An Ending That Creates Existential Dread
Blade Runner did not have any confusing twist when it was released in theatres. When people discuss Blade Runner, they’re referring to the Director’s Cut or the Final Cut, which have more ambiguous endings. Rick Deckard, the soon-to-be-former Replicant hunter, arrives at his residence after the big showdown with Roy Batty, where his Replicant partner Rachael is asleep. He discovers an origami unicorn left by Gaff, his colleague, who is indicated to be knowledgeable of Rachael’s identity. Unicorns, on the other hand, have only appeared in Deckard’s nightmares. Gaff has no way of knowing that. So does that mean Deckard is also a Replicant? Is his “expiration date” the same as Rachael’s? We can only guess!
5. Memento – The Mother Of All Ambiguous Endings
Christopher Nolan‘s masterwork is a tense, thrilling thriller about a man with short-term memory problems who set out to chase down his wife’s killer. He seeks the help of strangers to piece together his jumbled memories, scribbling vital notes on a sheet of paper. The film’s famed reverse timeline storyline immerses you in the mind of its protagonist, with just snippets of information presented. This goes on until we reach a jarring and heart-breaking ending. Every frame is precisely crafted by Nolan, who delivers key hints to the protagonist’s true identity. ‘Memento’ is as thrilling and intellectually stimulating as cinema gets, with plenty of room for intense debate and discussion