8 Movies Where You’re Not Supposed To Work Out The Ending

No interpretation is invalid.

Blair Witch Project
Haxan Films

Unless a movie has franchise-building duties to contend with, they usually end in one of two ways: with a final, definitive conclusion or on an ambiguous note, and it's the latter films that tend to spark the most watercooler chatter.

While some movies leave behind cryptic clues and challenge the viewer to solve the mysteries for themselves, in many cases, there's nothing to 'figure out'. The audience is invited to draw their own conclusions and no interpretation is invalid.

Although filmmakers like the Coen Brothers make it look effortless, an effective ambiguous ending is tough to pull off. There's a fine line between one of those and a non-ending, where the curtain simply drops with the story unfinished.

When a movie gets this just right, its conclusion and overarching themes can be debated and dissected for eternity and the fate of its characters becomes the subject of a thousand different fan theories, none of which are necessarily right or wrong.

Some films just never intended to have an unequivocal conclusion, but inspired scores of fans to search desperately for one anyway...

8. No Country For Old Men

Blair Witch Project

No Country For Old Men, a neo-western drama about bounty hunters and psychotic killers, ends not with a bloody shootout or an explosive set piece, but with a scene depicting an old man murmuring into an increasingly cold cup of coffee.

Most of the movie's character arcs have been wrapped up by this point, though not in your typical Hollywood way. Josh Brolin's Llewelyn Moss dies off screen, Javier Bardem's Anton Chigurh is injured in a car crash but limps off over the horizon, never to be seen again, and Woody Harrelson perishes moments after his introduction.

This leaves Tommy Lee Jones's Sheriff Ed Tom Bell to bring the curtain down with a nuanced monologue about the dreams he had the night before. In one of them, he lost money given to him by his late father, while in the other he passed his dear old dad, who he has now outlived by 20 years, on horseback on a mountain pass.

Jones's dream descriptions are cryptic and open to interpretation, with some fans insisting they're a rumination on masculinity and aging, while others believe they're a eulogy for simpler times. Either way, there are no definitive conclusions to draw, other than the stone cold fact that No Country For Old Men ends with an old man talking.


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