17 Films That Finished with a Question Mark: Endings That Kept Us Guessing

Endings are meant to resolve the film’s themes and bring conclusions to the entire story. But occasionally, there are some movies whose endings are completely vague or ambiguous and leave us asking even more questions than when we started. Here are 20 films that left us debating the ending for days:

The Prestige (2006)

The Prestige Warner Bros
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

The Prestige tells the story of two rival magicians who are obsessed with creating the perfect magic trick. It is later revealed how each is able to perform their tricks, and the audience is left debating: who is the real winner? What is the true cost of magic? What is the difference between a magician and a scientist?

Rashomon (1950)

Photo Credit: Daiei Film.

Rashomon is an Academy Award-winning period drama that shows varying witness accounts of a single crime. These multiple viewpoints make it unclear which, if any, of the accounts are true. This fascinating plot device has become so influential that the term “Rashomon effect” was coined.

Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club 20th Century Studios
Photo Credit: 20th Century Studios.

There’s a flash of brilliance in Fight Club’s revelation that the narrator and Tyler Durden are the same person. The narrator shoots himself at the end of the movie and causes the audience to speculate if he killed his alter ego or himself. This has been the topic of an endless debate among fans.

Memento (2000)

Photo Credit: Summit Productions.

Memento is told in reverse chronological order through the perspective of a man who can’t form new memories. It is built around the idea of ambiguity of memory and of people. The whole truth is never really made clear, leaving viewers to decide for themselves what they want to believe.

No Country for Old Men (2007)

No Country for Old Men Miramax
Photo Credit: Miramax.

No Country for Old Men ends with the hero and his wife dead and the villain escaping with the money. In the final scene, Sheriff Bell recounts two dreams he has, and without explaining their meanings, the scene cuts to black. This absurd ending left a lot of viewers frustrated and unsatisfied.

Tenet (2020)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

At this point, I believe Christopher Nolan enjoys confusing the audience. Tenet has scenes take place in the future, while others go backward in time. Sometimes, the two causalities collide. There’s no clear explanation of how this time loop comes together, so you might need to watch it twice to make sense of it.

Black Swan (2010)

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Black Swan is a subversion of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake,’ incorporating elements from the ballet but offering a different perspective on the tragic tale of transformation and identity. The film deals with themes of mental illness and is deliberately ambiguous, leaving it up to the viewer to decide what is real and what is imagined.

The Shining (1980)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

After attempting to kill his wife and child, we see Jack freeze to death in the maze at the Overlook Hotel. However, the final shot reveals Torrance as one of the revelers at an Overlook party in the 1920s. The ambiguity of the closing shot still has horror buffs debating 40 years later.

Birdman (2014)

Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight.

In the hospital, Riggan Thomson jumps out of a windowsill, believing himself to actually possess the titular Birdman’s superpowers. His daughter, Sam, rushes to the open window, looks into the sky and…smiles? Birdman ends on a note that doesn’t make sense, leaving fans to interpret it however they like.

The Graduate (1967)

Photo Credit: MGM Studios.

After realizing he had been chasing the wrong woman, Benjamin crashes Elaine’s wedding and the pair run away together. In the final shot, we see their smiles fade to a neutral expression as if they’re rethinking the whole thing. This unexpected turn cemented the film as one of the greats in the genre.

Enemy (2013)

Photo Credit: Pathé.

Enemy follows two physically similar men who obsess over each other. In the final scene, Adam walks into the bathroom and finds Anthony’s wife transformed into an enormous tarantula. No definitive interpretation is given to this ending, hereby leaving viewers to come up with theirs.

Inception (2010)

Inception (2010) - Warner Bros
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

At the end of Inception, we see the small top Cobb uses to determine if he’s still in a dream or in the real world continue spinning, before wobbling slightly as the screen cuts to black. We are left uncertain of whether he was in a dream or not.

Shutter Island (2010)

Shutter Island Paramount Pictures
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Through the course of the movie, Teddy Daniels is revealed to be a patient on Shutter Island. His mental state continues to deteriorate, so the doctors are forced to lobotomize him. However, before being taken away, Daniels asks his partner a question that leaves us questioning his true state of mind.

American Psycho (2000)

American Psycho (2000) - Lionsgate Films
Photo Credit: Lionsgate Films.

It follows Wall Street specialist Patrick Bateman as he commits vicious crimes. At the end of the film, Bateman confesses his crimes to two detectives, but it cuts to black before the detectives can respond, leaving the audience to decide for themselves whether Bateman is guilty or it all just happened in his head.

Titanic (1997)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

This multi-award-winning film remains one of the most debated movie endings of all time. On the one hand, there seemed to be room for Jack on the floating transom panel that saved Rose’s life, but on the other hand, his weight might have sunk the panel and killed them both.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

The film explores a wide range of topics and is filled with metaphors and ambiguity. As a result, it is mind-boggling from start to finish, especially the famous climax. No other film has caused debate and wild theories more than 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Taxi Driver (1976)

Taxi Driver Columbia Pictures
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Taxi Driver tells the story of Travis Bickle, an insomniac taxi driver. Bickle hatches a deranged plan to rescue a teenage prostitute. It’s been argued that the ending in which Travis Bickle becomes celebrated for his violent rescue of a teenage prostitute is simply the fantastical delusion of a dying Bickle.