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View Full Version : Movies with ambiguous endings?


OldBoy
05-19-12, 11:00 AM
so recently i saw two movies back to back with these "open to interpretation" endings: Rampart and Shame.
Both ok movies with that ambiguous ending that leaves it open to more than one finality.

i think more and more movies, well, indie, art house movies, with some mainstream dabbled in there are ending this way and i think it is fascinating.

so what are some other movies with these types of endings that you like or dislike and why?

Living Dead
05-19-12, 03:30 PM
Take Shelter was an amazing movie with an ambiguous ending. Was he crazy? Did he really foretell disaster? What is the storm... is it the end of the world? Lot of questions left unanswered, but not in an annoying way.

Also Inception. Did the spinning top fall over or not?

Dr. DVD
05-19-12, 04:00 PM
American Psycho

Mulholland Drive

Patriot Games-okay it's answered in the sequel, and not much of a cliffhanger, but you don't find out if it's a boy or a girl until then

islandclaws
05-19-12, 04:09 PM
The Thing

Shannon Nutt
05-19-12, 04:54 PM
Mystic River
No Country For Old Men
Inception
Total Recall

godzilla rules
05-19-12, 04:58 PM
The Wrestler

wishbone
05-19-12, 05:12 PM
<iframe width="480" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/w2hnfTqQKO0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The Quiet Earth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quiet_Earth_(film))

PopcornTreeCt
05-19-12, 05:30 PM
Martha Marcy May Marlene -- Won't spoil it for you but I just didn't really care for the ending. Superb movie though.

Also, I didn't think there was anything ambiguous about Inception's ending. Take Shelter is up for small debate but I think the director leans heavily towards a specific direction.

The best use of an ambiguous ending goes to Another Earth. It's the perfect ending, and definitely leaves room for discussion.

RocShemp
05-19-12, 05:53 PM
American Psycho

I read an interview with the director where she laments that the ending comes across as ambiguous. She was trying to be playfull with the narrative and ultimately muddled the fact that he did kill all those people.

Troy Stiffler
05-19-12, 07:30 PM
Mulholland Drive

Wrong! But that's for another thread.

bluetoast
05-19-12, 07:45 PM
Broken Flowers

godzilla rules
05-19-12, 09:28 PM
I just watched The Grey and that ending was very ambiguous.

RocShemp
05-19-12, 09:34 PM
Highlander

The ending of the movie left me with the impression that Connor was the last and won the Prize. But then all these sequels turned up... :confused:

Hokeyboy
05-19-12, 10:16 PM
Mulholland Dr had the LEAST ambiguous ending imaginable, given its story. Everything was pretty much wrapped up succinctly. :shrug:

My vote is for Cache... that particular ending frustrated me to no end.

SkipKassidy
05-19-12, 10:44 PM
Sound of My Voice

JumpCutz
05-19-12, 10:56 PM
My vote is for Cache... that particular ending frustrated me to no end.


Great choice Hokeyboy. I was definitely taken aback once the credits rolled. A fantastic film though and thoroughly riveting.

This is an interesting interpretation of the final sequences...

http://vanessa-appassamy.suite101.com/michael-haneke-s-cache--hidden-2005-a210383

dom56
05-19-12, 11:15 PM
Dogtooth

Quatermass
05-20-12, 10:44 AM
Limbo
:mad2:

Troy Stiffler
05-20-12, 10:47 AM
<iframe width="480" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/w2hnfTqQKO0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The Quiet Earth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Quiet_Earth_(film))

Love that movie. Not many people saw it. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants an end of world movie, told on a personal scale.

I really liked how the ending felt. But it made absolutely no narrative sense to me.

Solid Snake
05-20-12, 11:00 AM
I've never seen Quiet Earth....I'll look into it.

inri222
05-20-12, 11:44 AM
Cruising
Stalker
Lost Highway

dugan
05-20-12, 12:27 PM
A surprising number of the anime movies that got popular here:


End of Evangelion
Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell 2
Akira (it's not, but it comes across this way in the Streamline dub)
Perfect Blue (IIRC)

Dr. DVD
05-20-12, 12:58 PM
Cast Away

lizard
05-20-12, 04:01 PM
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Love the ambiguous ending but can't say I really understand it.

kd5
05-20-12, 04:16 PM
Too many unanswered questions left behind at the end of The Lost Room. They should've made a follow-up movie. -kd5-

Robert
05-20-12, 04:56 PM
<b>Basic Instinct</b>

Shannon Nutt
05-20-12, 05:00 PM
The ending to Basic Instinct isn't really ambigious unless you're wondering if Michael Douglas gets offed or not...if you're wondering who the killer was, you're just not paying attention

Rampart is another...watched it this weekend.

Dr Mabuse
05-20-12, 05:28 PM
Some good ones mentioned already.

'Cache' was wonderful, it ended perfectly.

'Memories of Murder' - A type of ambiguity, anyway one of the best endings to film I've ever seen, so rare a conclusion adds so much to what you just watched.
'Local Hero' - Love it
'Shane' - arguably the greatest western ever made
'Pale Rider' - Eastwood's homage to Shane
'A Serious Man'
'Monsters'
'Zodiac'
'Meeks' Cutoff' - excellence in every way, including the ending
'Children of Men'

Spottedfeather
05-20-12, 05:59 PM
The Thing

The original movie wasn't ambiguous. The alien had to be destroyed so that two remaining humans had to stay behind to make sure it was done. And the recent prequel wasn't ambiguous, either. It ended with the beginning of the original movie.

PopcornTreeCt
05-20-12, 06:03 PM
The original movie wasn't ambiguous. The alien had to be destroyed so that two remaining humans had to stay behind to make sure it was done. And the recent prequel wasn't ambiguous, either. It ended with the beginning of the original movie.

The 1982 movie isn't the original. And it ended with one of them being the alien.

Spottedfeather
05-20-12, 06:03 PM
Highlander

The ending of the movie left me with the impression that Connor was the last and won the Prize. But then all these sequels turned up... :confused:

Even considering the other 3 movies and the two tv series, Connor had won the prize. If you recall, the third movie had an immortal trapped in a cave. I've always thought that if one of the immortals was trapped or shut off from the others, he wasn't participating in the fight and therefore didn't count. That was even the whole idea behind the 4th movie. There was a group of Watchers that kept a bunch of immortals in a coma and restrained so that they couldn't fight, keeping the ultimate prize from just one person.

Spottedfeather
05-20-12, 06:05 PM
The 1982 movie isn't the original. And it ended with one of them being the alien.

The so called original 50s version was so far off from the story, I don't really count it as the same story. Where was it said that one of them at the end was the alien ?

PopcornTreeCt
05-20-12, 07:00 PM
The so called original 50s version was so far off from the story, I don't really count it as the same story. Where was it said that one of them at the end was the alien ?

I think it was heavily implied.

Dr. DVD
05-20-12, 07:10 PM
I think it was heavily implied.

Which one do you think it is?

Troy Stiffler
05-20-12, 07:19 PM
I think it was heavily implied.

Kurt Russell passively accuses Keith David of being the alien. Then they swig some booze and presumably die. That's all there really is to it.

The Bus
05-20-12, 10:38 PM
Limbo
:mad2:

Came in to post this.

PopcornTreeCt
05-20-12, 10:54 PM
Kurt Russell passively accuses Keith David of being the alien. Then they swig some booze and presumably die. That's all there really is to it.

I thought it was purposely ambiguous to everyone?? I decided to google it and here's a thing I found about the Carpenter commentary track (http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/features/the-36-things-we-learned-from-john-carpenters-the-thing-commentary-track.php) Most notably:

"Carpenter still doesn’t know whether one, both, or neither of the men at the end are the Thing."

Time Warrior
05-20-12, 11:00 PM
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961)

Shane (1953) - Most people watching it do not understand why it is ambigous, but it is.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - At the time the ending was very ambigous indeed but of course the sequels removed any such ambiguity. The ending to this one is great.

dvdjunkie32
05-21-12, 09:17 AM
I would include Inception with that spinning top ending.

TV shows with these type of endings would be The Shield. In the final scene, Vic grabs his gun, and the viewer is left wondering what Vic does next. Lost's ending is also highly open to interpretation.

conscience
05-21-12, 09:33 AM
Dogtooth
Cruising
Cast Away
Cache

Excellent choices.

I'll throw in Ghost World and The Door in the Floor.

RocShemp
05-21-12, 09:48 AM
Even considering the other 3 movies and the two tv series, Connor had won the prize. If you recall, the third movie had an immortal trapped in a cave. I've always thought that if one of the immortals was trapped or shut off from the others, he wasn't participating in the fight and therefore didn't count. That was even the whole idea behind the 4th movie. There was a group of Watchers that kept a bunch of immortals in a coma and restrained so that they couldn't fight, keeping the ultimate prize from just one person.

Except that idea of 4 (keeping a group of immortals out of the Game in order for no one to win the Prize) goes against 3's concept that the Prize could be won (albeit temporarily) even if a group of immortals was kept out of the Game.

cliffzig
05-21-12, 10:00 AM
My vote goes to 25th Hour.

godzilla rules
05-21-12, 11:37 AM
If we are talking about tv shows too then I have to bring up The Sopranos.

GreenVulture
05-21-12, 12:25 PM
My vote goes to 25th Hour.
I haven't seen this since it was in theaters, but if I recall correctly, there was nothing remotely ambiguous about the ending.

argh923
05-21-12, 02:08 PM
Lost's ending is also highly open to interpretation.

How? It's pretty cut and dry.

RocShemp
05-21-12, 02:23 PM
How? It's pretty cut and dry.

Well they didn't actually explain who the other Others were. :shrug:

Why So Blu?
05-22-12, 10:35 AM
Rampart

TheMadMonk
05-22-12, 04:52 PM
A Clockwork Orange (was he really cured, or was he saying that sarcastically? I feel he was being sarcastic in the movie, but the novel tells a different story.)

whoopdido
05-22-12, 06:23 PM
'Monsters'


God I hated this piece of crap. I thought it was very clear what happened at the end though. I just wish I would have watched the first two minutes and the last two minutes and skipped everything in between.

whoopdido
05-22-12, 06:27 PM
Shutter Island's ending is ambiguous. There's only 2 possibilities but there seems to be decent evidence for either one.

Chadm
05-22-12, 09:18 PM
http://www.traileraddict.com/content/columbia-pictures/taxi_driver-2.jpg

Jim Patterson
05-23-12, 01:03 AM
Mass Effect 3.

OldBoy
05-27-12, 10:58 AM
I just watched The Grey and that ending was very ambiguous.

just saw this too. and i have to agree wholeheartedly. great ending!!

PopcornTreeCt
05-27-12, 12:27 PM
http://www.traileraddict.com/content/columbia-pictures/taxi_driver-2.jpg

How is this ambiguous?

Some people got some 'splaining to do cause there's nothing ambiguous about a few movies that have been posted here.

Jules Winfield
05-27-12, 02:05 PM
How is this ambiguous?

It's ambiguous because who was De Niro's reflection talking to? The question is asked but never answered.:(

Michael Corvin
05-27-12, 05:22 PM
Memento

The fact that Nolan tosses in that shot of Pearce with his tattoos and his wife alive just mucks it all up. :lol:

Solid Snake
05-27-12, 06:19 PM
Shutter Island's ending is ambiguous. There's only 2 possibilities but there seems to be decent evidence for either one.

....I thought it was obvious what was going to happen?

Hokeyboy
05-27-12, 07:14 PM
The Departed. What the heck did that rat mean??!!!?!?!!!11!!!1

printerati
05-27-12, 09:09 PM
Limbo
:mad2:

Came in to post this.

Me too. Also, Oldboy.


'Memories of Murder' - A type of ambiguity, anyway one of the best endings to film I've ever seen, so rare a conclusion adds so much to what you just watched.

I agree completely, just a haunting ending that is pitch perfect in every way. I have watched it no less than a dozen times, and the look on his face, coupled with Taro Iwashiro's score (which, in my opinion, is a masterpiece in its own right) still sends chills through me every time.

RocShemp
05-27-12, 10:45 PM
....I thought it was obvious what was going to happen?

Yeah, Shutter Island had the least ambiguous ending I've ever seen. :shrug:

Rypro 525
05-27-12, 11:13 PM
Attack The Block (to a degree)

asianxcore
05-27-12, 11:29 PM
Swimming Pool

whoopdido
05-28-12, 12:17 AM
Yeah, Shutter Island had the least ambiguous ending I've ever seen. :shrug:

Of course we know what happened.

He was lobotomized. That was obvious. What wasn't quite as obvious was whether or not Leo knew what was happening and allowed himself to be lobotomized. One possibility is that he just went nuts again and believed that he was the Marshall and just reverted back to the fantasy that he created. The other possibility, is that once he found out what REALLY happened he couldn't live with knowing the truth and chose to wipe it from his memory. He may have just pretended to revert back to his fantasy knowing that he'd get lobotomized and never have to live with the truth. That's why he said that line to Mark Ruffalo about living as a monster or dying as a good man. It's possible he chose to be lobotomized (die) so he didn't have to live with the knowledge of what really happened in his life.

RocShemp
05-28-12, 12:47 AM
Of course we know what happened.

He was lobotomized. That was obvious. What wasn't quite as obvious was whether or not Leo knew what was happening and allowed himself to be lobotomized. One possibility is that he just went nuts again and believed that he was the Marshall and just reverted back to the fantasy that he created. The other possibility, is that once he found out what REALLY happened he couldn't live with knowing the truth and chose to wipe it from his memory. He may have just pretended to revert back to his fantasy knowing that he'd get lobotomized and never have to live with the truth. That's why he said that line to Mark Ruffalo about living as a monster or dying as a good man. It's possible he chose to be lobotomized (die) so he didn't have to live with the knowledge of what really happened in his life.

Except it really doesn't come across as a posibility at all. Just a simple fact. That line really cements it as a willfull choice.

Solid Snake
05-28-12, 02:25 AM
Yeah. And that is why he did it. It's not ambigious of all. He's just telling Ruffalo his reasoning for the decision. Which stumps Ruffalo based in his formal position but not w/ DiCaprio. He's ending it like a man.

Groucho
05-28-12, 02:45 AM
Oldboy:hscratch:

Paul1957
05-28-12, 03:03 AM
The Candidate

Matthew Chmiel
05-28-12, 03:26 AM
just saw this too. and i have to agree wholeheartedly. great ending!!
It's a shitty ending.

Imagine if Spielberg cut to black after Brody shouts out, "Smile you son of a bitch!"

That's the ending for The Grey.

whoopdido
05-28-12, 08:03 AM
Yeah. And that is why he did it. It's not ambigious of all. He's just telling Ruffalo his reasoning for the decision. Which stumps Ruffalo based in his formal position but not w/ DiCaprio. He's ending it like a man.

Really guys...there are countless discussions and opinions on the Internet about the ending of this movie. You guys obviously have your opinion, which I actually agree with, but it's not nearly as cut and dry as you're making it out to be. Is it one of the biggest head scratchers of all time? No, but there are 2 possible explanations, there is evidence for both and a TON of discussion has gone on about that ending.

bluetoast
05-28-12, 08:16 AM
Except The Grey had a post credits scene where he was on top of the dead wolf. Although he could have still been severely injured. Yeah kind of a weird movie to have a post credits scene.

bjh_18
05-28-12, 08:21 AM
I just watched The Grey and that ending was very ambiguous.

Did you watch until after the credits? It becomes far less ambiguous then.

printerati
05-28-12, 08:32 AM
:hscratch:

Not sure if serious Groucho.

OldBoy
05-28-12, 10:44 AM
It's a shitty ending.

Imagine if Spielberg cut to black after Brody shouts out, "Smile you son of a bitch!"

That's the ending for The Grey.

post credits notwithstanding, i guess you just didn't get the point of the movie.

hasslein
05-28-12, 12:17 PM
The Italian Job (original)
The French Connection - (who fired the last shot?)
I think Reservior Dogs as well, my friends & I were having a debate about the ending

OldBoy
05-28-12, 12:18 PM
Beginners was a little ambiguous.

Solid Snake
05-28-12, 12:28 PM
The Italian Job (original)
The French Connection - (who fired the last shot?)
I think Reservior Dogs as well, my friends & I were having a debate about the ending

I've never seen TFC2 but...from what I've read that ending makes no sense if both characters are in TFC2. Which only leads to tFC2 making no sense as a sequel to TFC.

TheySentYou
05-28-12, 04:19 PM
The Sound of My Voice

Shannon Nutt
05-28-12, 06:20 PM
Did you watch until after the credits? It becomes far less ambiguous then.

Actually it's the last shot after the credits that makes it ambiguous. You can CLEARLY come to two different conclusions with that shot:

The wolf is breathing, but Liam's head isn't moving at all...did he kill the wolf and it's taking its last few breaths (as the first wolf in the movie he killed did), or did the wolf kill him and is now enjoying its prey? Totally ambigious final shot.

JANK
05-28-12, 06:44 PM
Cast Away

I second that. To follow the girl with the pickup truck or ...?

Shannon Nutt
05-29-12, 06:47 AM
I think some people in this thread are confusing ambigious with open-ended. An ambigious ending is one where you can deduce multiple interpretations from what happened on screen. Open-ended is just where there is no resolution. Many of these movies mentioned are just open-ended and not ambigious.

conscience
05-29-12, 07:03 AM
I think some people in this thread are confusing ambigious with open-ended. An ambigious ending is one where you can deduce multiple interpretations from what happened on screen. Open-ended is just where there is no resolution. Many of these movies mentioned are just open-ended and not ambigious.

But aren't ambiguous endings open-ended anyway? That's a pretty fine line to cross isn't it?

coli
05-29-12, 07:08 AM
Not sure if anyone mentioned this: Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. I haven't seen it in about 10 years, so I forgot much of the movie, but I remember the ending being a bit confusing.

hasslein
05-29-12, 10:52 AM
I've never seen TFC2 but...from what I've read that ending makes no sense if both characters are in TFC2. Which only leads to tFC2 making no sense as a sequel to TFC.

Well, you know the frog got away, and Doyle was transferred by the end tag. But did Doyle shoot another cop? WF said he put the gunshot in to make it ambiguous.

Solid Snake
05-29-12, 11:03 AM
yeah but he had nothing to do w/ TFC2.

hasslein
05-29-12, 12:05 PM
yeah but he had nothing to do w/ TFC2.

My point was, TFC end tag tells you both are alive, and ruins a real ambiguity. I think it may have been better without the tag.

RichC2
05-29-12, 12:21 PM
Not sure if anyone mentioned this: Vanilla Sky with Tom Cruise. I haven't seen it in about 10 years, so I forgot much of the movie, but I remember the ending being a bit confusing.

Maybe it's because I saw Abres Los Ojos first, but I never could figure out what people found confusing about Vanilla Sky.

whoopdido
05-29-12, 01:49 PM
Maybe it's because I saw Abres Los Ojos first, but I never could figure out what people found confusing about Vanilla Sky.

I didn't find Vanilla Sky confusing at all. Maybe I would have if that tech support dude didn't make a 5 minute speech that explained the entire movie like we were 5 year olds. I'm not saying the explanation was bad or wasn't needed, but I thought it explained everything very clearly and very matter of factly.

RichC2
05-29-12, 02:09 PM
As did I, it actually explained more than Abres Los Ojos did, excessively so.

Solid Snake
05-29-12, 02:19 PM
My point was, TFC end tag tells you both are alive, and ruins a real ambiguity. I think it may have been better without the tag.

yeah, TFC would've done better w/o it. Still a great movie just..kind of pointless. Cuz the shot is very impactful and leaves you wondering.

Jules Winfield
05-29-12, 02:21 PM
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring ends very ambiguously. We never find out what happens to the ring at the end of the movie. Sam doesn't leave Frodo's side...are they gay? There's all kinds of unanswered questions by the end of this movie. Very brave.

Shannon Nutt
05-29-12, 02:41 PM
But aren't ambiguous endings open-ended anyway? That's a pretty fine line to cross isn't it?

All ambigous endings are open-ended. Not all open-ended endings are ambigious.

Movies that just have unanswered questions are not (necessarily) ambigious. Movies which have scenes in which two (or more) interpretations can be made are ambigious.

Example 1: The spinning top in Inception is an example of an ambigious movie ending.

Example 2: Han Solo frozen in carbonite is an example of an open-ended movie ending.

Thank you for playing. :)

JANK
05-29-12, 08:34 PM
I think some people in this thread are confusing ambigious with open-ended. An ambigious ending is one where you can deduce multiple interpretations from what happened on screen. Open-ended is just where there is no resolution. Many of these movies mentioned are just open-ended and not ambigious.

Interesting argument and a you draw a fine line that I can appreciate. But I could go either way with your definition. To me, ambiguous IS open-endedn the end.

whoopdido
05-29-12, 10:11 PM
I think open ended is when the viewer is pretty much free to make up whatever ending he or she wants. The Sopranos is a good example of an open ended ending. Sure, people have their opinions about what happened and some people are adamant that their ending is correct, but really ANYTHING could have happened at the end of the Sopranos. The viewer can make up pretty much anything.

Ambiguous is when the filmmaker more or less presents 2 or more different options as to how the movie ends and the viewer is free to choose one of the options that were presented. The viewer can't make up anything he or she wants, but can only choose one of the options that the movie presents.

I know I had a bit of a disagreement with a couple posters regarding Shutter Island, but in my opinion there are 2 possibilites for the ending of that movie. There are only 2 ways the movie could have ended and the viewer has to choose one of them, therefore the ending of that movie is ambiguous. There are many, many different ways that the Sopranos could have ended...basically it could have ended any way YOU wanted it to end, therefore that ending was open ended.

Why So Blu?
05-30-12, 12:01 AM
Layer Cake