As great as any movie is as a whole, the part that’s most likely to stick in your mind when it’s all said and done is the ending, either cementing a film’s greatness or blowing it all at the last minute. An iconic ending will give a great movie what it needs to live on in cinema history forever more, whether shocking, hilarious, or simply just dramatically potent.
Sometimes, however, a film’s ending can simply leave you scratching your head in confusion. But walking out of a theatre and thinking, “What the hell just happened?” is hardly the worst thing that can happen to you after watching a movie. (The worst thing that can happen to you is walking out of a theater and thinking, “Well, I just paid $12 to see The Cobbler.”)
With that, we are going to be looking at 10 recent films from the last year or so that left us quite bewildered with their final moments.
10. Curse Of Chucky
The Movie: The sixth installment in the Child’s Play series sees the return to the franchise’s source material and bringing back the straightforward horror elements found in the first three films. After the events of Seed Of Chucky, Nica (Fiona Dourif), a young woman forced to a wheelchair since birth, has to regroup her sister, Barb (Danielle Bisutti) and her brother-in-law, Ian (Brennan Elliott) for a funeral after the death of her mother. While dealing with Barb, Ian, along with their 5-year-old daughter, Alice (Summer H. Howell); Nica receives an odd package – a creepy doll. After people start showing up dead, Nica soon suspects that the doll is much more than what it appears.
The Ending: At the end of Curse we see Chucky playing “hide the soul” with young Alice. He is apparently still trying to transfer his soul into another (even though the rules established in the first movie should prevent such a thing). The movie rolls to credits after Chucky begins his chant.
Why It’s Confusing: In a post credit scene we see Chucky visit an old friend. His soul is still clearly in the doll. Why didn’t Chucky possess Alice? Maybe he realized how awkward becoming a prepubescent little girl would be.
9. Under The Skin
The Movie: Aggressively oblique, Under The Skin feels just as alien as its protagonist, a woman named “Laura” (Scarlett Johansson) who’s not actually a woman. Laura is an alien inhabiting the body of a stunning woman. She speaks with an English accent and drives around Glasgow, Scotland, in an inconspicuous white van luring men to something that’s certainly death but also a strange kind of erotic transference.
The Ending: After a botched attempt at sex, the woman, confused, wanders in a forest and takes shelter in a bothy. She is woken by a commercial logger molesting her. After she runs into the forest, he catches her and attempts to rape her. In the struggle, he tears skin from her back, revealing a black, featureless body. As the woman extricates herself from her artificial skin, the logger douses her in fuel and burns her alive.
Why It’s Confusing: Many interpretations have been presented for this film’s ending. Some say there is a link drawn here between sexual assault and death, showing that sexual perversion can strip one of their humanity. Others say the film is just a muck of nonsense and anyone can interpret whatever they want out of it (we don’t necessarily agree with this, but the point is dully noted).
The Movie: Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a somewhat naive girl who gets caught up in an international drug smuggling ring. After the bad guys knock her out, a weird substance that resembles fancy detergent crystals is inserted into her stomach. But before she can “mule” it overseas, she’s kicked in the abdomen by an obligatory goon and the drug – a synthetic version of the compound that instigates bone growth in a fetus – enters her blood stream. Instantaneously, she can now access a larger percentage of her brain – essentially giving her superpowers.
The Ending: At the end of the movie, Lucy’s brain power reaches 100%, causing her body to disappear and be replaced with a black matter supercomputer which eventually transforms into a flash drive that Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) takes hold of. When police captain Del Rio (Amr Waked) asks where Lucy is, he receives a text reading, “I AM EVERYWHERE.”
Why It’s Confusing: So, Lucy turns into a USB flash drive? Umm, alright. We’ll get our laptop out.
The Movie: This usual tale follows Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who is under the grip of a mysterious new cult called Faults. Desperate to be reunited with their daughter, Claire’s parents recruit one of the world’s foremost experts on mind control, Ansel Roth (Leland Orser). After some coaxing, Ansel ultimately kidnaps Claire, locks her into a motel room and begins the process of bringing her back to reality.
The Ending: With Ansel under enormous stress he soon becomes susceptible to the (perhaps supernatural) charm of Claire as she slowly begins to turn the tables on their makeshift deprogrammer/patient relationship. Soon enough, Claire is in full control. She convinces Ansel to murder his manager (whom he owed a boatload of money) and the ending of the film shows the two driving from the motel. However, right before she leaves, Claire heads over to her “parents” room, kisses them both on the mouth, gives them each a pill, promises them that they’re headed to the “final level,” and we watch them lie in their bed and happily drift off to their death.
Why It’s Confusing: The ending suggests that Claire took Ansel back to the cult, but why did she ask her “parents” to lie to trap Ansel? Were they even her parents to begin with? If they actually were her parents, then this means that she was able to brainwash and recruit her own mother and father into this cult. And that would be pretty impressive.
6. Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
The Movie: Based around the urban legend surrounding the death of Takako Konishi, this story follows Tokyo native Kumiko (Rinko Kikuchi) who one day gets her hands on Joel & Ethan Coen’s cult-classic crime drama Fargo on VHS. Believing the film is pure fact, she becomes inspired to head to wintry North Dakota to try and find the suitcase full of money that Steve Buscemi’s doomed character buries.
The Ending: The film ends with Kumiko actually finding the buried money. But after a quick shot of her pet bunny Bunzo (who she left back in Tokyo), we quickly realize this is not the case.
Why It’s Confusing: It’s probably safe to assume that Kumiko has perished. After all, the real life motivation for the character died under similar circumstances. However, the real life person committed suicide and Kumiko, as portrayed in film, doesn’t seem like the type. So, did she simply pass away due to the harsh weather? Probably, but we’d like to think that in an alternative universe she’s alive and well, living on a tropical island with all her new-found wealth.
5. The Homesman
The Movie: Based on the 1988 novel of the same name by Glendon Swarthout, The Homesman tells the dream-like tale of rugged claim jumper George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) and spinster Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) who set out to transport three insane women to a sanctuary in Hebron, Iowa.
The Ending: After Cuddy inexplicably decides to hang herself, Briggs reluctantly continues on with the trip and delivers the three women as promised. He then makes a headstone for Mary’s grave. The film ends with Briggs boarding a barge. He meets a group of musicians and begins taunting the men on the far bank as he drunkenly dances and fires his weapons.
Why It’s Confusing: It’s hard to deny that this sequence is downright bizarre and one can only wonder what emotion the director was trying to provoke in the film’s final moments. Perhaps there is no meaning except that once Briggs reaches the shore he will find that his quest to honor Mary’s grave has been replaced, and it’s up to the viewer to imagine if it will be with the ruthless vengeance we know he’s capable of, or if the small thread of redemption he now aspires to will overcome his hardened heart and hair-trigger temper.
4. The Babadook
The Movie: The Babadook centers on single mother Amelia (Essie Davis) as she attempts to raise her troubled son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), following the unexpected death of her husband. She does her best to care for her child but when a mysterious book, titled Mister Babadook, arrives on the family doorstep, Samuel becomes terrified of (and obsessed with) the titular monster – causing his already challenging behavior to become unbearable.
The Ending: When the monster finally reveals himself (or itself?) we soon learn that the monster is really Amelia in effect going mad. The end of the film finds Amelia feeding The Babadook worms to apparently keep it at bay.
Why It’s Confusing: Why does she feed it worms, exactly? The story seems to start out as a psychological thriller (and the ambiguity of the Babadook being real or not definitely marks the film’s greatness), and takes a literal turn towards the end.
3. It Follows
The Movie: After a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe) finds herself plagued by strange visions and the unavoidable feeling that someone – or something – is following her. She ultimately learns that she’s essentially been given a sexually transmitted entity, one that takes the form of various people only the inflicted person can see. You’re dead if the creature catches up to you.
The Ending: After, perhaps, an unsuccessful attempt to kill the being at the local pool, Jay reluctantly decides to have sex with – and pass her troubles onto – her all too willing friend Paul (Keir Gilchrist). We then see Paul drive past some prostitutes in a seedy part of town. Sometime later, Jay and Paul hold hands and walk down the street while someone follows close behind. Cut to the end credits.
Why It’s Confusing: So, did they actually succeed in killing the entity at the swimming pool? Did Paul pass his troubles onto those prostitutes? Is the person seen walking behind the couple someone (or something) they should be worried about? Also, why are they holding hands, exactly? Are they actually a couple now? And what’s with them both being decked out in white? Is there any significance to that? So many questions!
The Movie: Interstellar sees the Earth utterly ravaged by famine and dust clouds, leading NASA, now underground, to face the fact that our future lies in the stars. They intend to use a wormhole to travel to a far off galaxy and find a new habitable world, coming up with two convoluted schemes; Plan A has the population of Earth transported to this new world; Plan B leaves those on Earth abandoned, with a new colony based on pre-made embryos forming the basis of a new humanity. Through the film Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) and Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway) scout out three potential planets orbiting a black hole that could hold life.
The Ending: With the first two planets clearly uninhabitable and the third almost impossible to reach, Cooper and Brand come up with a crazy plan. They’re going to slingshot the Endurance, their space ship, around the black hole. It transpires and Cooper has to jettison himself and robot TARS to provide the necessary thrust. He flies through the singularity, some crazy stuff involving the fifth dimension goes down and he wakes up in an new human colony. Reuniting with his daughter briefly, he sets out to find Brand and the new world.
Why It’s Confusing: The entire third act of this film is a visually dazzling and altogether bonkers attempt to represent a complex theoretical concept that also makes almost zero dramatic sense. The end result is some time travel meddling that would get Doc Brown flustered.
The Movie: Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) was once one of the biggest stars in the world thanks to his starring role as comic book hero Birdman on the big-screen. Fast forward two decades and Thomson is no longer a hot Hollywood commodity. Broke, separated from his wife (Amy Ryan), estranged from his rebellious daughter (Emma Stone), and forgotten by his once adoring fans, Thomson sets out to prove that he’s not just a washed-up hack – opting to write, direct, and star in a Broadway show based on the Raymond Carver story What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.
The Ending: When Riggan uses a real gun for the final scene of his Broadway play and shoots his nose off on stage, it turns out to be the best thing that could have happened to him. In the hospital, Riggan learns that the play has gotten rave reviews. and he seems (reasonably) happy about it. After a brief visit with his daughter Sam, Riggan sees birds flying outside and climbs onto the window ledge. When Sam returns, he is gone; she looks out at the sky and smiles.
Why It’s Confusing: So, what exactly happened? Is he dead? Is he alive? Can Birdman really fly? Does he really have superpowers? If he did jump to his death, why is his daughter smiling about it? Many theories and explanations have been thrown around but this will surely go down in the cinematic history books – along films like Inception and Mulholland Drive – as one of the most confusing/frustrating movie endings of all time.
What’s the most confusing movie ending in recent history? Let us know in the comment section below.