Great Films That Get Away With Not Explaining Things  

Ann Casano
55.1k votes 14.1k voters 2.2M 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 is listed (or ranked) 5 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

Released: 1994

Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

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The Dark Knight is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Great Films That Get Away With Not Explaining Things
Photo:  The Dark Knight
Was the Joker in a serious accident? Did his father disfigure his face? The Joker likes to tell stories, especially conflicting ones about the origin of his badly scarred mug. How did he get so disfigured? It's a question that is asked, several times, but never answered beyond a shadow of a doubt.

Actors: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Heath Ledger, Gary Oldman, Aaron Eckhart, + more

Released: 2008

Directed by: Christopher Nolan

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Cast Away is listed (or ranked) 7 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

Released: 2000

Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

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Edward Scissorhands is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Great Films That Get Away With Not Explaining Things
Photo:  Edward Scissorhands
Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) is a sensitive character. When he needs to let off some steam, he goes to the attic and creates a plethora of breathtaking ice sculptures. But how the heck did he get all that ice up to the attic?

Actors: Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Vincent Price, Anthony Michael Hall, Alan Arkin, + more

Released: 1990

Directed by: Tim Burton

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