10 Movie Endings You Definitely Misunderstood The First Time

No, they weren't aliens at the end of A.I.

American Psycho Christian Bale

Generally speaking a movie ending is supposed to send audiences home happy, satisfied, and above all else entertained, with the villain vanquished, the hero unambiguously triumphing, and so on.

But not all filmmakers are quite so content to just give viewers what they want - or rather, what they think they want - and prefer instead to offer up something a little more challenging.

That's certainly true in the case of these 10 movies, all of which delivered endings which begged the audience to think, read between the lines, and ultimately figure things out for themselves.

As a result, it's little surprise that some of these endings were misinterpreted by viewers at large on an initial viewing. Only on a repeat watch did the filmmaker's intent fully crystallise.

And that's certainly not a bad thing - it's a common sign of a great movie if it opens up on later viewings, the full extent of its story becoming ever-clearer.

But if there's a lesson here, it's to be open-minded, and appreciate that your first impression of a movie's ending might not be the wholly "correct" one...

10. American Psycho

American Psycho Christian Bale

American Psycho's twisted ending seemingly leaves audiences to consider whether yuppie psychopath Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) actually killed everyone throughout the movie, or it was merely an elaborate delusion in his twisted mind.

After all, the third act of the movie becomes increasingly outlandish, to the point that the audience may understandably surmise we're watching the unreliable fantasy of a psychotic individual.

But throughout the years, director Mary Harron and the novel's author Bret Easton Ellis have both reiterated that the ending isn't nearly as tricky as many like to think it is.

According to them, Patrick's murderous actions did indeed happen, but the more surreal affectations in the film - such as the ATM instructing him to feed it a stray cat - are heightened exaggerations in his mind.

Co-writer Guinevere Turner stated in a 2020 interview with Moviemaker that she and Harron made a conscious effort to avoid an "it was all in his head" ending.

As such, while the prism through which we experience the movie is an increasingly surreal one, the particulars of Bateman's killing spree are very real.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.