15 Movie Endings That Made Us Ask 'What Just Happened?' In 2022

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Vote up the movie endings that made you do a double-take.

A great ending will send audiences out of the theater on a high. The year 2022 gave moviegoers a number of real winners, from Pete Mitchell's romantic flight with Penny Benjamin in Top Gun: Maverick to the pitch-perfect - and highly meaningful - final shot in Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans. These endings let you know exactly where the main characters are going after the end credits are done rolling. Their execution is flawless.

But 2022 also gave us several movie endings that got people asking, “What just happened?” These finales were sometimes intentionally vague, designed to get viewers thinking about what they've just seen. A few are a little more concrete than that, yet still offer an unconventional way of wrapping up. Whether weird, crazy, or provocative, the following endings proved memorable for the fascinating, unexpected manners in which they drew their stories to a close. Tread lightly if you haven't seen the films, because spoilers abound. 

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  • 1
    48 VOTES
    The Whale
    Photo: A24

    Charlie (Brendan Fraser) is a morbidly obese man, trapped by his weight inside his apartment, where he works as an online English professor. The only thing that brings a little joy to his life is an essay someone wrote about Moby Dick, which he reads to calm down. One day, his estranged daughter Ellie (Sadie Sink) shows up to air her resentments toward him. They stem from him leaving her and her mother after falling in love with one of his male students. 

    In the dramatic final minutes, Charlie's congenital heart failure overtakes him. It's revealed that the essay was actually written by Ellie, and it brings him comfort because it's the only piece of her that he's had for years. At his request, she reads the essay aloud, while he lifts himself out of his chair and begins to walk toward her as she stands in the doorway - an act he was previously unable to do. Upon reaching the door, Charlie looks up at the light shining through. The screen turns to white. Then we see a shot of a much lighter version of him standing on a beach, little girl Ellie playing in the sand.

    Director Darren Aronofsky makes it fairly clear that this is the moment Charlie's heart finally gives out. What's less clear is the meaning of the beach. It could possibly represent heaven, coming in the form of a happier time in the character's life. It could also be his dying memory. The possibility even exists that it's a simple representation of the last-minute healing that has occurred between father and daughter. 

  • Bodies, Bodies, Bodies
    Photo: A24

    Bodies Bodies Bodies finds a bunch of young people gathering at their rich friend's home for a “hurricane party.” A major storm is coming, and they intend to ride it out together with drinking and revelry. During the night, they all decide to play the titular game, a pseudo murder mystery in which one person is the “killer” and the others have to guess that person's identity before they off everyone else. When the players begin dying for real, one by one, it appears that someone in the gang is a secret psycho.

    The film's twist is pretty amazing. In the last three minutes, it becomes clear to the two survivors, Sophie (Amandla Stenberg) and Bee (Maria Bakalova), that there actually were no murders. Some died by accident, like the guy who cut himself playing with a sword and the girl who fell down a flight of stairs. Others were killed in the wake of suspicion that a psycho was in their midst, like the girl Bee pushes over the side of a staircase bannister. Bodies Bodies Bodies reveals that it's been toying with viewers all along, making them believe they were watching a slasher flick when, in fact, the exact opposite is true. No slasher exists.

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  • 3
    103 VOTES
    Pearl
    Photo: A24

    Pearl stars Mia Goth as the title character, a very unhappy woman. Her husband is off fighting the war, leaving her at home with her invalid father and her emotionally abusive mother. She has dreams of becoming a star, yet lacks the talent. A fling with the projectionist at the local cinema sputters out not long after it begins. There's also a deadly virus raging outside, which everyone lives in constant fear of. These factors combine to push her off the deep end. She commits several murders in the wake of this.

    By the end, Pearl has slain her mother and her sister-in-law. She tidies up the house in anticipation of her husband's return. He arrives the next morning, only to find her parents' bodies propped up at the dinner table. Pearl has tried to give the appearance of things being normal, despite the fact that they clearly aren't. What happens next is up to the viewer. The film ends with a 3-minute unbroken shot of Pearl looking right into the camera with a forced smile on her face and tears streaming down her cheeks. The implication is that she is trying to retain her husband's approval in spite of her depraved actions. Who knows whether she succeeds?

  • Decision to Leave
    Photo: MUBI

    Decision to Leave presents a police investigation that is anything but ethical. Detective Hae-Joon is looking for the person who pushed a former immigration employee off the side of a mountain. The primary suspect is the guy's much-younger wife, Seo-Rae. In a tantalizing twist, Hae-Joon becomes infatuated with Seo-Rae after staking her out and interviewing her a couple times. They soon begin a relationship, and he clears her from suspicion.

    Lots of things happen in the interim, including her re-marrying another man, who is also murdered, once again making her a prime suspect. And once again, Hae-Joon is called in to investigate. This reignites things between them, leading to a dramatic finale that reveals he advised Seo-Rae to destroy a phone containing incriminating evidence against her.

    Sao-Rae takes the phone to a beach, digs a hole in the sand big enough for her to crawl into, and allows the tide to fill it in. Following clues she left behind, Hae-Joon shows up at the beach, yet is unable to locate her. The film ends with him more or less standing right over where she's buried herself. Decision to Leave has an intentionally fractured style of storytelling that left some people befuddled as to why Sao-Rae takes herself out in such a manner. Given her knowledge of Hae-Joon's inability to mentally let go of cold cases, the choice to make her whereabouts an unsolvable mystery feels like either an effort to make sure her former lover never forgets her, or a deliberate attempt to torment him.

  • 5
    75 VOTES

    Amleth (Alexander Skarsgård) is a Viking prince who, as a child, saw uncle Fjölnir (Claes Bang) murder his father Aurvandil (Ethan Hawke) and then force mother Gudrún (Nicole Kidman) to marry him. He's on a mission of revenge in The Northman, posing as a slave and making a long journey to Iceland in order to get close enough to kill his perceived enemy. Along the way, he befriends another slave, Olga (Anya Taylor-Joy), and goes on a quest to obtain a magical sword. 

    In a thrilling denouement, Amleth and Fjölnir have a naked sword fight on a volcano, during which the latter is beheaded and the former mortally wounded. As he lay dying, Amleth has a vision of Olga cradling children. This echoes an earlier scene, in which he had a vision of her pregnancy. Director Robert Eggers lets it vague as to whether these visions are legitimate or merely a projection of what his life could be were he not driven by this personal vendetta. We're left with an image of a Valkyrie carrying his body through the gates of Valhalla. His legacy might carry on through children. Conversely, it might be nothing more than a comforting thought as he approaches the hereafter.

  • 6
    56 VOTES

    TÁR is about a very famous orchestra conductor named Lydia Tár (played by Cate Blanchett) whose career is jeopardized because of two problematic incidents she herself created. In one, a video of her berating a music student goes viral. In the other, she's accused of grooming young musicians and ruining their careers if they resist her advances. The family of one such young woman, who ended up taking her own life, is suing her.

    These episodes cause Lydia to be replaced from an important live recording of Mahler's 5th symphony that she's been preparing for. In the final minutes of TÁR, we see her abruptly going somewhere in Southeast Asia. First, she attempts to hire a female prostitute, but becomes ill and throws up on the street. Then she meets a new orchestra consisting of young musicians. The final shot is her conducting them in front of an audience full of people wearing strange costumes. 

    A lot of viewers were left wondering who those people are and why they are dressed like that. The detail isn't specifically spelled out, but Lydia has been reduced to recording the score for one of the Monster Hunter video games, and the people in the audience are fans of that series dressed in cosplay costumes. TÁR suggests this is tantamount to a career demotion, without explicitly indicating whether Lydia is humiliated by this unanticipated career turn or simply glad to have a job in the music field.