Movies

12 Movie Endings That Were More Confusing Than Intriguing

12 Movie Endings That Were More Confusing Than Intriguing
Image credit: Legion-Media, globallookpress.com

Just how many of these left you scratching your head and muttering, "What in the world did I just watch"?

While some endings are intended to leave us intrigued and pondering life's mysteries, others seem hell-bent on confusing us to the point of existential crisis - these 12 being the prime example.

1. Inception (2010)

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The first entry on our list is the famous Christopher Nolan 's piece, Inception. This movie tells the story of a team of thieves who can infiltrate dreams to steal or plant ideas, utilizing a technology that's as unexplained as the movie's ending. After an intense journey through layered dreams, the movie ends with the main character, Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio ), spinning a top, a device used throughout the film to differentiate between dream and reality. As he reunites with his children, the camera cuts to the top, still spinning, and the movie ends. Was he in a dream or reality? Nolan leaves us with a cliffhanger, and a headache, although he was considerate enough to talk about how "what really happened?" actually doesn't matter at all.

"The ambiguity is not an emotional ambiguity. It's an intellectual one for the audience," in Nolan's own words.

2. Mulholland Drive (2001)

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In David Lynch's neo-noir mystery thriller, Mulholland Drive, an amnesiac woman (Laura Harring) and an aspiring actress (Naomi Watts) navigate a dream-like—and sometimes nightmarish—version of Los Angeles. The narrative abruptly switches in the last third of the movie, changing character identities and presenting a much darker reality. The abrupt transition and the abstract elements make the ending a puzzling, mind-boggling experience. This masterpiece leaves most viewers with one question: "What just happened?"

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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Next up is Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie considered a milestone in the sci-fi genre. The film is about a voyage to Jupiter with the sentient computer HAL after the discovery of a mysterious black monolith affecting human evolution. However, the final sequences, where astronaut Dave Bowman (Keir Dullea) travels through a psychedelic light show to end up in a baroque suite and then transforms into a space-baby...yeah. It's trippy, profound, and very, very confusing.

4. Primer (2004)

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Primer is a low-budget indie sci-fi film about a group of engineers who accidentally invent a time-travel device. What starts as a smart and intriguing concept quickly turns into a labyrinth of timelines and versions of characters that are nearly impossible to follow. The ending, where a version of Aaron (Shane Carruth) seems to be building a massive version of the device in an undisclosed location, adds to the overall mystery. Even with diagrams and flowcharts, you'll struggle to make heads or tails of this film.

5. Donnie Darko (2001)

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Dabbling in the realm of time-travel and alternate realities, Donnie Darko tells the tale of a troubled teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal ) who starts seeing a giant creepy bunny that foretells the end of the world. In the climax, Donnie rips a jet engine off a plane using his mind (?), sends it back in time (?), and lets it crash into his bedroom (?). Talk about a confusing turn of events! It's a rabbit hole of an ending, one that even the most dedicated viewers struggle to decipher.

6. Enemy (2013)

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Another Gyllenhaal gem, Enemy is the story of a man who discovers his exact look-alike, and things take a turn for the bizarre. The movie's conclusion features, of all things, a massive spider in the protagonist's room. There's symbolism, and then there's a giant arachnid occupying your living space. It's an ending that's provoked countless theories, with none quite managing to explain what director Denis Villeneuve had in mind.

7. The Tree of Life (2011)

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The Tree of Life is a visually stunning movie from Terrence Malick that reflects on life, death, and the nature of the universe. However, the ending sees Sean Penn wandering around on a beach with some random people and his younger self. As thought-provoking as it may be, the shift to this ethereal, afterlife-esque sequence leaves many scratching their heads. It's less a tree of life and more a bush of befuddlement.

8. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

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In this mind-bending film, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a theater director who builds a life-size replica of New York City inside a warehouse for his magnum opus. The ending sees his character growing old as the line between his play and real life blurs, finally ending with a cryptic instruction from an unseen director. The movie, much like its title, is a symbolic representation of...something? Exactly what that is, remains as elusive as a New York parking spot.

9. Eraserhead (1977)

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David Lynch's debut film, Eraserhead, is a fever dream of nightmarish, surreal imagery and sound design. The narrative is centered around Henry Spencer, who must care for his grossly deformed child in a dystopian world. The climax involves Henry being pursued by the child, after which he finds himself in a white void with the Lady in the Radiator. How does it all tie together? Well, if you ever crack the code, be sure to drop us a line.

10. The Lobster (2015)

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The Lobster is a dystopian comedy-drama where singles are forced to find a romantic partner within 45 days or be turned into animals. Sounds simple enough, right? But the ending leaves us on a cliffhanger when David (Colin Farrell ) is faced with the choice of blinding himself to join his now-blind love interest in the wilderness. As David lifts the knife, the screen cuts to black. Did he do it? Didn't he? It's a maddening ending, as unclear as a lobster's understanding of dating apps.

11. Under the Skin (2013)

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Under the Skin is a sci-fi horror film starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien who seduces men in Scotland to harvest their bodies. The film culminates with the alien's true form being revealed under its human skin, but there's no clear explanation as to what her purpose was or what was happening during her bizarre harvesting process. As such, it leaves you with more questions than answers. You know, kind of like when you try to understand why haggis is considered a delicacy.

12. Nocturnal Animals (2016)

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Last but not least, we have Nocturnal Animals, a movie that blurs the line between a novel's plot and real life. Amy Adams' character reads a book written by her ex-husband, with the violent plot playing out on screen. But when the narrative ends abruptly, Adams' character, Susan, is stood up at a dinner by her ex, leaving the audience wondering how the book's plot ties to Susan's reality. It's an ending as clear as a foggy night in London.