films Great Films That Get Away with Not Explaining Things  

Ann Casano
42.5k votes 11.7k voters 2.0M views 18 items

List Rules Vote up the films that were better off for never explaining that one thing. Downvote the films where the lack of explanation doesn't really work.

There are generally two types of movie fans in the world. The first type needs to have every single loose end tied up. Just the mere thought of a film concluding with an open-ending or any lack of closure, gives these kinds of people cold chills and bad dreams. Then, there are the types of movie fans that don’t necessarily need a neat and tidy explanation for every detail. They are fine with the idea of a cliffhanger or tiny plot hole. Many filmmakers hope for the latter type of audience. This list features great films that get away with not explaining things.

There are many types of movies with unexplained parts. We often do not see a complete explanation in a suspense or mystery. M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t necessarily worry about the giant plot hole in The Sixth Sense, because he trusts that audiences will be able to suspend their disbelief, and accept the film's amazing twist ending. I mean, it is a film about a little boy who is able to see dead people, so we’re already being asked to buy into the dream world of the film.

Then, there are those pesky MacGuffins - these narrative devices are used to incite a plot point, but are then never referenced again in the story. Think about the glowing briefcase from Pulp Fiction. Do we ever find out what's inside? No, it’s a MacGuffin; it doesn’t matter. That is, it doesn’t matter if you’re one of those types of people who watch movies that don't explain big parts.

So whether the items on this list are plot holes, MacGuffins, or simply just films with unexplained moments, most of these stories thrive without tying up every loose end. Of course, some films on this list could use a little exposition or narrative tightening. Be sure to vote up the films that are actually better off not explaining every detail, and vote down the films where an explanation would improve the story.
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Pulp Fiction

Pulp Fiction is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Great Films That Get Away with Not Explaining Things
Photo:  Pulp Fiction
Vincent Vega (John Travolta) and Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) go through a lot of trouble, and almost die, in order to retrieve a briefcase for their gangster boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames.) At one point, Vega opens the briefcase to a clear glow. We see this glow again during the diner scene robbery.  

What is inside the case? We never find out. There are a thousand theories to this famous Pulp Fiction mystery, including that it's Wallace's soul. However, it's more likely that the briefcase is simply a MacGuffin, a narrative device used to start a plot line, but then is never referenced again, because it is ultimately irrelevant to the outcome of the story.

Actors: John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Uma Thurman, Samuel L. Jackson, Christopher Walken, + more

Initial Release: 1994

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Genres (Film): Indie film, Crime Fiction, Thriller, Drama, Comedy

Also Ranked

#1 on The Best Suspense Movies on Amazon Prime

#4 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

#76 on The Greatest Movie Themes

#18 on The Most Rewatchable Movies

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Cast Away

Cast Away is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Great Films That Get Away with Not Explaining Things
Photo:  Cast Away
Chuck (Tom Hanks), a FedEx employee, crash lands on a remote island. He learns to survive on his own for four years. He finally saves himself by building a raft and making it home. After seeing his girlfriend (Helen Hunt), who is now married and has a daughter because she thought Chuck would be gone forever, he makes it his priority to deliver the one FedEx package that he refused to open while on the island. Chuck travels to Texas and leaves the package at the door with a note explaining the situation and admitting that his desire to deliver the package kept him alive all those lonely years. So what was in the package? We'll never know.

Actors: Tom Hanks, Helen Hunt, Chris Noth, Frederick W. Smith, Jenifer Lewis, + more

Initial Release: 2000

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Genres (Film): Airplanes and airports, Adventure Film, Drama, Action/Adventure

Also Ranked

#35 on The Best Adventure Movies

#40 on The Best Epic Movies

#6 on The Biggest Tearjerker Movies of All Time

#20 on The Top Tearjerker Movies That Make Men Cry

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The Sixth Sense

The Sixth Sense is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Great Films That Get Away with Not Explaining Things
Photo:  The Sixth Sense
M. Night Shyamalan's first big movie features one of the best plot twists in film history.

Spoiler alert!

Dr. Crowe (Bruce Willis) is dead the whole time and doesn't know it. But that doesn't make much sense. How could Crowe go about his day as a psychologist and a person just living his life and not realize that no one is interacting with him? It's a giant plot hole for sure, but does that really matter?

Actors: Bruce Willis, Mischa Barton, Haley Joel Osment, Toni Collette, M. Night Shyamalan, + more

Initial Release: 1999

Directed by: M. Night Shyamalan

Genres (Film): Horror, Suspense, Thriller, Supernatural, Drama, + more

Also Ranked

#3 on The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time

#79 on The Most Rewatchable Movies

#7 on List of Movies Like Inception

#53 on The Most Nausea-Inducing Great Films

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Back to the Future

Back to the Future is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Great Films That Get Away with Not Explaining Things
Photo:  Back to the Future
Trying to explain all the various plot hole issues that arise in film about time travel can be exhausting. But this one from Back to the Future cannot be totally ignored. Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) goes back in time and befriends both of his parents in an effort to make sure they fall in love. But then they don't remember him? Is there no point after Marty is born and grows up, where Mr. and Mrs. McFly say to each other, "My, our boy looks exactly like that Calvin Klein we met when we were in high school, who suddenly disappeared."

Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover, Billy Zane, + more

Initial Release: 1985

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

Genres (Film): Science Fiction, Family, Adventure Film, Comedy

Also Ranked

#11 on The Greatest Film Scores of All Time

#22 on The Greatest Soundtracks of All Time

#10 on The Greatest Movie Themes

#77 on The Best Movies for Kids

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