We Explain the 15 Movie Endings You’ve Probably Misunderstood

Movie endings often remain a mystery to their viewers and cause a lot of arguments among them. We may have no idea what the director meant by the final scene or we may misunderstand the thought of the creator, especially if they used metaphors and allegories. And our final impression of the film is directly linked to how we understand the final scenes.

Bright Side decided to shed some light on the most hard-to-understand movie endings. Maybe, it will help you see some of these stories from a completely new angle.

Arrival, 2016

While the story of Denis Villeneuve’s film is progressing, it gives the viewers a lot of hints, but the main idea isn’t described until the very end. This sci-fi drama completely consists of closed cycles, in other words the story ends where it begins and begins where it ends. The viewers might think that the film starts with the past of the main character, linguist Louise Banks, but in the end we realize that these episodes were from her future. After Amy Adams’s character learned to understand the non-linear language of heptapods, time became a circle for her.

The flashbacks about her dead daughter and divorce with her husband that we saw in the beginning of the film haven’t happened to her yet. Louise got a glimpse of her future and even though she knew she was going to lose her child and her love, she decided to not change anything. This is the main idea of the film: time is not just a straight line. If you see time the way heptapods do, it looks completely different. And every person defines their own destiny.

mother!, 2017

“They are delighted. They understood everything but in different ways.” Javier Bardem’s character says about the reaction of readers to his book. The same could be said about the people who watched this film. After the release of Darren Aronofsky’s psychological thriller, the internet was full of different perceptions of the events and interpretations of the ending of this film. Almost all the films from this director are filled with symbolism and mother! is no exception. At the core of the story is the idea of how violent humanity is toward nature and the film itself is sort of a biblical fable.

In his interview for Variety, Darren Aronofsky explained that Javier Bardem portrayed God in the film and Jennifer Lawrence is nature, and the house is Earth. Nature is tortured, it is used. And the apocalypse at the end of the film (when the house is burned) is the result of our violence toward our planet.

Us, 2019

The main characters of the film, the Wilson family, are attacked by their insane doppelgangers. Soon, the viewers find out that the attackers are part of an entire clone army called shadows that live underground. In the final scenes of the film, Lupita Nyong’o’s character follows her scary doppelganger into a mirror maze that leads into a dungeon we saw glimpses of during the entire film. After the fight between the characters, we see a flashback from Adelaide’s childhood and realize that in fact, she was a doppelganger. When she was a child, she managed to come up to the surface and the real girl stayed underground.

This story twist explains why the main character and her fears changed so much. Now, it is clear why the adult Adelaide was scared of going to the beach: she knew that the entrance to the dungeon was still there and she didn’t want to return there. Also, we understand why the real Adelaide becomes the leader of doppelgangers: she was the only army member that could speak.

Birdman, 2014

The ending of Alejandro Iñárritu’s film, about an actor that lost his mind, is pretty difficult to understand. In the final scene, we see Riggan’s daughter coming into an empty hospital ward and seeing an open window with voices and sirens coming from the outside. Emma Stone’s character looks down, slowly raises her head up and smiles. Some viewers must have thought that it was a happy ending and a hint that Riggan could actually fly. But most likely, the main character actually committed suicide and his daughter is just hallucinating.

Sam loses her connection with the real world and dives into a world of fantasy where her father is still alive. Riggan’s relationship with his daughter is the key to understanding this film.

Vanilla Sky, 2001

With every passing minute, Cameron Crowe’s psychological film becomes more and more twisted and by the end of the film, viewers have no idea what happened. The director himself gave us a hint that we should look for the answers in the final 20 minutes. Tom Cruise’s character is haunted by nightmares where he sees Julianna, who died in a car crash and his mutilated face, and a psychologist is trying to figure out which part of the suspect’s story is true and which part is not.

David remembers that he went to the Life Extension company that saves the lives of hopeless patients by freezing them. The employees of the company also make patients experience lucid dreams. David then realizes that he is not satisfied with the world of dreams. And the ending of the film is the main character’s choice: does he want to wake up and live in the real world or does he want to continue to live in the world of dreams? David chooses the real world without any doubts.

A Cure for Wellness, 2017

At the end of Gore Verbinski’s thriller, Lockhart finds out that the head of the sinister health center is Heinrich Vollmer, a Swiss baron and crazy scientist, who was born 200 years before the events of the film and who conducted bloody experiments there. Vollmer was able to create the elixir of eternal life by using a special liquid produced by eels.

Lockhart manages to beat the crazy man and together, with Hannah and Vollmer’s daughter, he leaves the sanatorium and is finally free, but his unnatural smile tells us that his psychological health is totally ruined. Lockhart seems to understand that it is impossible to fight the system and go against it in the modern world.

Black Swan, 2010

In the epilogue of the film, Nina (Natalie Portman) falls during the first act of the performance and while crying, leaves to change clothes for the second act. In the dressing room, she sees Lily (Mila Kunis) who is totally ready to replace her on the stage. The girls start to fight and Nina kills her competitor by piercing her with a piece of glass. She then hides her body in the bathroom and nails the second act.

After that, in the dressing room, Lily, who is totally alive and well visits Nina and tells her that she did a great job. Natalie Portman’s character realizes that she had been fighting herself this whole time and has a bleeding wound in her stomach. At the end of the 3rd act, Nina falls into the hands of the director, bleeding to death and we realize that the dancer wounded herself by trying to become perfect.

Bird Box, 2018

When the main character with 2 children finally reaches the sanctuary, it turns out to be a school for blind people. And this is very symbolic. It was this blind faith that Mallory had that made her travel through the river rapids totally blindfolded. The film makes you think about what a weakness is and what a strength is. In the real world, blindness is a limitation, but in the film, it was a protection against monsters.

Mallory was able to save her children only when she opened herself to love. When in the final scene, the main character gives her son and daughter names and lets the birds out, she destroys the walls she had previously built around herself. The epilogue is the metaphor of hope and faith that it will all be alright and the bird box is the cage that Mallory kept her feelings in.

Nocturnal Animals, 2016

Susan, the owner of an art gallery, receives a manuscript from her ex-husband Edward. She had never believed in his writing talent before that. In his novel, Nocturnal Animals, he shows her the world inside his head. Edward compares the pain of losing Susan, to the pain of the main character in the book, Tony Hastings, whose wife and daughter were killed by criminals. The novel captures Susan’s attention and she realizes: Edward is a really talented writer. Under his spell, she asks to meet her ex-husband and he instantly agrees.

She chooses an expensive restaurant to meet him in, because it now suits her status. But Edward never shows up and Susan then realizes that he was never going to show up. The brilliant novel and the meeting that was never going to happen are Edward’s revenge on his wife. He proved to her that his inner world is far richer than the real world she exists in. Revenge is the central topic of this film. Tony avenges the murders and Edward avenges Susan.

Donnie Darko, 2001

Even though this film was released 18 years ago, people are still having debates about its ending. According to the idea of director Richard Kelly, the main character is a guide whose mission is to save the world. Donnie is supposed to return the artifact, which is a jet engine that fell from the sky in Middlesex, or a black hole will appear which will lead to the apocalypse. In the end, Jake Gyllenhaal’s character lets the jet engine fall on his house, even though he knew he would die. On the plane were his mom and sister.

Donnie deliberately sacrifices his life. His hysterical laugh in one of the final scenes is a clear indication of that. The fact that he gets rid of the responsibility for the world makes him more calm. Donnie Darko is a complex film that is hard to understand after only watching it once, but every next time you watch it, more and more questions will be answered.

The Dark Knight Rises, 2012

At the end of the film, Bruce Wayne tries to save Gotham from a nuclear explosion. He loads the bomb on his plane and flies fast into the ocean where it explodes. The city is saved and the grateful inhabitants mourn their hero and erect a monument of Batman. Alfred goes to Venice where he meets Bruce who is perfectly healthy sitting at a table with Selina (Catwoman).

Many viewers thought this part was Alfred’s dream. But as you might remember, in Batman’s lab the character said that the plane was on autopilot. Most likely, Bruce programmed the plane to get the bomb as far from the city as possible and faked his own death. Besides, in the Venice scene, you can see a necklace on Selina that belonged to Wayne’s mother. She tried to steal it at the very beginning of the film. Alfred didn’t know about it, so this couldn’t be in his dream.

Shutter Island, 2010

In one of the final scenes of the film, Marshal Edward Daniels appears in the lighthouse, where, as he thought, Dr. Cawley was conducting terrible experiments on people. This is where we find out that the main character, Andrew Laeddis, is actually a patient of the psychiatric hospital and all the events were staged by the doctors to help him understand what happened and avoid a lobotomy. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character seems to remember that he had killed his wife, but then he starts the whole conspiracy thing again. We understand that the experiment failed and Andrew is going to have the lobotomy.

But the last look from Laeddis, and his words, let us know that he is going to have the surgery because he wants it. He understands what he is doing and he realizes that the therapy actually worked, but he doesn’t want to keep living with the thought that he couldn’t save his wife and his children. This is why the character pretends to act like he is Edward Daniels and the doctor decides to do the surgery.

Velvet Buzzsaw, 2019

In the epilogue of the film, the artist, whose name is Vetril Deas, kills 3 main characters at the same time. Morf is attacked by a robot Hoboman that he first saw in a Miami gallery. Josephina mysteriously turns into part of the building art when the paintings melt around her and cover her skin. Deas didn’t manage to kill Rhodora with a piece of art: she avoids the falling sculpture in the back of her house.

Even though he got rid of all the paintings, the dead artist still wants to avenge the people that wanted to earn money using his work. The buzzsaw tattoo on Rhodora’s neck comes to life and kills her. From the film, we know that Velvet Buzzsaw is the name of the punk band the character was a part of in her youth. Since then, she has been a boring and greedy art gallery owner. So, Rhodora was killed by a symbol of the time when she was a creator.

Perfect Strangers, 2016

In Paolo Genovese’s drama, a group of friends comes together to have dinner, enjoy the full moon eclipse, and just have a good time. When they start talking about mobile phones, one of the characters suggests they play a game: put all of their phones on the table and accept all the calls on speaker and read all their texts out loud. During this seemingly simple and funny game, the friends realize that they don’t know anything about each other. This is the main point of the film: all of us, just like the moon, have 2 sides: the brightly-lit one and the side that nobody sees.

But the ending of the film confused many people. The characters leave the house, laughing and holding hands, as if nothing had happened. This is how the evening would have ended if they hadn’t played the game. No disappointment, no resentment, no shame. All the problems are there, on the dark side of the Moon. You have the right to decide which is better — the bitter truth or ignorant bliss.

Ad Astra, 2019

When Roy goes on a mission to find a spaceship that disappeared, he was also going to put an end to Project Lima and save his father. When they finally reunite, the young McBride realizes that his father is not the hero he thought he was. Clifford escaped to the space abyss because he knew there was nothing left for him on Earth. The most symbolic scene happens when the cord that connects the father and the son is broken.

When Roy returned home, he finally understood and accepted his place in the universe. He gets rid of the emotional and physical loneliness, he doesn’t have the burden of finding his father anymore, and he is ready to reunite with his ex-wife. Ad Astra is a film about self-knowledge and the important changes of the human soul.

Were you able to understand the endings of these films? Which other films do you know of that had very cryptic final scenes?

Preview photo credit Bird Box / Netflix
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