Even though we’ve seen the horror of what the Overlook Hotel can do to people, we’re still not prepared for the ending that Stanley Kubrick gives us. While in the novel, Jack is blown up with the hotel when the boilers explode, in the movie, he dies, frozen in the snow after chasing his family through the hedge maze.
Then, the very last shot of the film shows us a photo in the Overlook’s hallway that shows Jack, very much alive in a photo dated July 4th, 1921 – 60 years before the events of the film. Does this mean he’s a ghost and will always be a part of the hotel – past and future? Or is that just someone else who looks like Jack? Even Stanley Kubrick wasn’t 100% sure, but the ambiguity is the most chilling part of the film.
The original version had a pretty messed up ending. You don’t really expect to leave a Schwarzenegger film with a lot of really interesting questions and debates, but this one is ambiguous enough that you look at your buddies and wonder if you watched the same movie. The entire flick plays with our perceptions of reality with Quaid being unsure if his memories of being a spy are real or not.
What makes it confusing is that when Quaid is at Rekall getting the false memories implanted, a Rekall worker mentions something about a blue sky on Mars. Then Quaid goes through all the the shit that he does, and ends up causing a blue sky on Mars. So was all of the film his ‘Secret Agent on Mars’ dream that was implanted, or not?
Based off of a really amazing novel, Shutter Island is a twisty piece of film that has a gut punch of a conclusion. DiCaprio’s portrayal of a U.S. Marshall who’s investigating a psychiatric facility on Shutter Island, and the dark things that he uncovers, is compelling.
You find out in the end that the man he’s trying to find, is himself – he’s the patient who killed his wife. The whole ‘investigation’ was a therapeutic intervention, playing into his delusions to see if he’d own up to his guilt or regress. When he regresses, they decide to give him a lobotomy, but not before he utters the chilling line “Which would be worse – to live as a monster, or to die as a good man?” This leaves the audience wondering if he truly remembers what he did and is choosing to permanently forget.
I’ve seen this film countless times and it’s still revealing all of its secrets to me. It’s got a cult following and constantly leads to a deep discussion about timelines, time travel, parallel universes and destiny.
In the end, when Donnie realizes that his 28 days are up and the world is going to end, he lays down in bed, waiting for the jet engine. The next morning, two characters that shouldn’t know each other, wave as if they recognize each other, but don’t know from where. No one knows what it all means.
Generally, comedies are pretty cut and dried when it comes to their endings, but this one is a bit of a thinker, especially because the ending is a little unclear. The film has Dustin Hoffman as Benjamin, a recent graduate, who’s seduced by an older woman, but instead falls in love with her daughter, Elaine.
When we get to the ending, you see the very famous scene where he crashes Elaine’s wedding by banging on the glass at the church. The two escape by flagging down a bus, but the last shot of the film has both Elaine and Ben, sitting there with a shocked and uncertain look on their face. Some say it’s a look of regret and “What did we just do?” Others say that they’re just relaxing and relieved that they’re going to get away with it.
Another film in the dream/reality category, Taxi Driver is a violent look at what happens to veterans. Travis Bickle can’t escape what he saw in Vietnam and can’t sleep, so he drives a cab instead. After trying to assassinate a senator and rescue a teen prostitute, he gets involved in a shootout and is hailed a hero. But is he?
Some think that the end scene depicting Travis as a hero are his dying thoughts. Whether it’s during the shootout, or when he puts his index finger against his head and pulls the trigger, is up for debate. But there’s no way he gets a happy ending like he does in the end. It doesn’t make sense.
Blade Runner: The Directors Cut
There are a lot of different versions out there, but it’s The Directors Cut that leads to the most debate, because there’s some scenes in there that suggest that Harrison Ford’s character might be more than we think.
Whether or not you believe he’s a replicant, the ending has Deckard finding an origami unicorn left by Gaff, that suggests that perhaps he knows what Deckard is dreaming about and is therefore, a machine. Or maybe not.
One of my favourite films of all time, I love it because no one will reveal the truth about the ending. When it’s all said and done and the parasitic, shape-changing alien had laid waste to the entire arctic station, we’re left with two men – Macready and Childs.
As they share a bottle of whisky and wait for death, we don’t know which one of them is the alien. Some look to the fact that one of them doesn’t exhale any breath in the cold air, while others try to watch the film and track where the alien goes and when it could have replaced either men. The director isn’t talking, neither is Kurt Russel, leaving the ending up for debate and the audience unsettled.
This is probably one of the most talked about films in recent times, due to how ambiguous the ending was. The entire film about dreams within dreams is such a great concept and this is easily one of Nolan’s best films (though I’m partial to Insomnia as my all time fav).
The famous ending has DiCaprio’s Cobb spinning his totem which never falls in his dreams, and going to play with his kids. We see the top continue to spin, and start to wobble, but never fall. So is he dreaming? Is it real? Was the top really his totem – Nolan will never tell.
Considered one of the best films of all time and an influential narrative on today’s filmmakers, Rashomon is a fascinating period film. Made in 1950, it’s one of the first examples of telling a story from multiple points of view, but each point conflicts. Dubbed the “Rashomon Effect,” everybody uses it at one point or another, and when the film hits its conclusion, we really don’t know what the right answer is.
2001: A Space Odyssey
This one is probably the most confusing film out of all the ones on the list, but it’s also intriguing and brilliant. While Kubrick’s depiction of future technology was spot on, and his murderous AI was terrifying, it’s the ending when the astronaut Bowman travels through a vortex of lights and finds an older version of himself with the monolith. Then he’s turned into a fetus enclosed in a bubble of light and floats over the earth.
So, what does it all mean? No one really knows, but it’s inspired a great deal of debates and wild theories.