SPOILER ALERT! This list discusses the endings of many popular films.
Here’s the deal. Storytellers craft a narrative that has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Audiences spend about two hours, hopefully becoming invested in the story, and at the conclusion, there’s a payout. The writer is expected to wrap up the story, giving audiences some kind of closure. Except, of course, when a screenwriter doesn’t pen a cut and dry ending, and instead chooses to leave the audience hanging with a serious cliffhanger or otherwise open-ended movie.
This list ranks the best films that have ambiguous endings. You may ask yourself why a screenwriter would choose to leave an audience gasping, “What the heck happened, how does the story end!?” Some spectators don’t think it’s fair and feel cheated when they don’t know what really happens, while others believe that it’s sort of cool and interesting to work through plot points upon repeated viewings and attempt to analyze a conclusion.
Of course, everyone has their own interpretations of these open-ended films. For every person who watched American Psycho and thought that Patrick Bateman was really a murderer, there is another person who is absolutely positive that he was just delusional.
Controversy is just one of the reasons why these movies are so brilliant; they create thought through deconstruction. All of these films contain multiple layers, each features plot points that beg to be examined, and several ultimately blur the line between reality and fantasy. We can’t trust our eyes and we have to ask questions. We are forced to think outside the proverbial box to try to create order out of a filmmaker’s chaos.
Have a favorite open-ended film that’s not on this list? Let us know in the comments section and be sure to cast your votes for the greatest movies below, despite (or maybe because of) their ambiguous and unclear endings.