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Another Top 10 Movie Endings That Don't Mean What You Think

VO: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
What can we say? There are a lot of ambiguous endings out there. Join as we count down another top ten movie endings that don’t mean what you think. For this list, we’ll be looking at ten more movies whose endings are often misinterpreted or misunderstood by audiences. If you don’t see an ending you think should have been on this list, be sure to check out the original top ten movie endings that don’t mean what you think. Watch the video at

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Another Top 10 Movie Endings That Don’t Mean What You Think

What can we say? There are a lot of ambiguous endings out there. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down another top ten movie endings that don’t mean what you think.

For this list, we’ll be looking at ten more movies whose endings are often misinterpreted or misunderstood by audiences. If you don’t see an ending you think should have been on this list, be sure to check out the original top ten movie endings that don’t mean what you think.

#10: “Scarface” (1983)

People still celebrate Tony Montana as some sort of folk hero. To them, Tony represents the American Dream, and he went out in a respectable and badass blaze of glory. But the ending isn’t to commend Tony’s path in life – it’s to criticize it. Tony had this elaborate mansion, yet he mainly stayed in one room, utterly paranoid and snorting literal mountains of cocaine. His best friend was dead, his mother hated him, and his sister went mad and tried to kill him. He sacrificed his sanity and hurt those closest to him to obtain power and material success – the twisted embodiment of the American Dream. It’s telling that the final shot is Tony’s corpse floating underneath an ironic “the world is yours” globe.

#9: “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004)

This film ends with Joel and Clementine skeptically getting back together, despite knowing that it will likely end in pain. The final shot sees the two playing on the beach as the screen fades to white – but we see it three times. This doesn’t really affect the overall theme of the movie, but it’s interesting to note that Joel and Clem have repeated this process on numerous occasions. The movie is suggesting that the fleeting moments of happiness in life and love are worth the endless suffering. But it could also be suggesting that Clem and Joel are stuck in an incompatible relationship – they simply aren’t meant to be.

#8: “Birdman” (2014)

The ending of “Birdman” is divisive and ambiguous. It sees Riggans saying goodbye to Birdman, opening a window, and climbing onto the ledge. A distraught Sam then looks at the pavement below before glancing skyward and smiling. Some have suggested that Riggan actually killed himself onstage. Others suggest that Sam’s skyward glance represents her mental break; she has chosen to ignore reality and embrace the virtues of ignorance by pretending that her father has flown. But perhaps the simplest explanation is the most rewarding –Sam is happy that her father is now free and unburdened, and she looks skyward to recognize his metaphorical ascension. Either way, dude is dead.

#7: “No Country for Old Men” (2007)

Audiences were expecting a Wild West showdown. They got a monologue about dreams.The first dream likely represents Bell’s frustration – he was entrusted with a job and he failed. He was overmatched by the cold, dark world that is represented in the second dream. This dream saw his father holding fire in the darkness, a symbol of safety and comfort. But it’s telling that Bell wakes up, only to be back in the real world. A world of clearly-defined boundaries between coldness and warmth doesn’t exist. As Ellis states, “What [Bell’s] got ain’t nothing new,” meaning his feelings of being overmatched and living in an unjust world have always been universal.

#6: “The Shining” (1980)

“The Shining” certainly has an ambiguous ending. After we are treated to the indelible image of Jack’s frozen face, the camera slowly zooms into a picture of partygoers from 1921. Standing front and center is Jack. So, he’s, like, a time traveler or something? Was his spirit absorbed by the Overlook? Nope. As Grady said, “[Jack has] always been the caretaker.” Both Jack and Grady seem to have been reincarnated and brought back to the hotel to fulfill some sort of evil purpose. This is backed up by both Stanley Kubrick and Diane Johnson, each of whom have said that the photo represents Jack’s reincarnation. Now WHY he and Grady were reincarnated is a different question altogether.

#5: “The Thing” (1982)

Alright, let’s put this to bed once and for all – Childs is not The Thing. Oh, Childs’ breath isn’t visible? No. Childs’ breath IS visible, and on numerous occasions. Yes, it’s very subtle when compared to MacReady’s, but it is there. Childs drinks gasoline? Absolutely not. There’s nothing at all to suggest this, and why would MacReady go for a drink before Childs even shows up? And if Childs was The Thing, why does he toy with MacReady? This theory was also put to rest by Kurt Russell himself, who said that he worked on the ending’s conception with John Carpenter. Nope, it’s just two guys making the ultimate sacrifice and sharing a bottle of scotch before they freeze to death.

#4: “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012)

“The Dark Knight Rises” was certainly more ambiguous than what audiences were expecting from a Batman film. Batman flies the neutron bomb over the bay and is presumed dead after it detonates. But Alfred later sees Bruce and Selina at a café in Florence. So, what gives? Was this some sort of wish fulfillment by a grief-stricken Alfred? Maybe, but probably not. Nothing really suggests that it’s a hallucination, and Christian Bale has stated his belief that it was in fact real. According to him, Alfred was “delighted that [Bruce] had freed himself from the burden of being Bruce Wayne.” But as for how Bruce escaped the nuclear blast? We can’t help you there.

#3: “First Blood” (1982)

Unfortunately, the sequels made Rambo into a blockbuster action hero. But “First Blood,” and the novel it was based on, portrayed him in a much harsher light. Yes, he was severely mistreated, but that doesn’t give him the right to spark a manhunt and destroy an entire town. Like Trautman says, “You did everything to make this private war happen.” He was even more problematic in the original script, as he directly killed sixteen people. In fact, Rambo was only made more sympathetic due to Sylvester Stallone’s reputation as the kind-hearted Rocky. The ending doesn’t represent the capture of a defensive man – it’s the quelling of a troubled and ultimately dangerous threat. Rambo is a sympathetic and tragic figure, but he’s not a hero.

#2: “The Graduate” (1967)

“The Graduate” has one of the most famous endings in movie history. Benjamin and Elaine happily reunite and run out on all the uppity old people before boarding a bus and contemplating the unknown future. And we are left to contemplate as well. It’s arguable that Ben pined after Elaine not out of love, but defiance. He wanted her because it was the rebellious thing to do. But when he got her, he got her. There was no more excitement to it – they were just another couple on a bus. Perhaps the changing faces don’t represent anxious deliberation, but the distressing realization that they are destined for a life of boring conformity.Even the counterculture kids grew up and had families of their own.

#1: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

If there’s one ending more famous than “The Graduate’s,” it’s “2001’s.” It goes like this –Bowman is pulled into the trippy Star Gate, gets old, sees an enigmatic Monolith, and transforms into the Star Child. If we’re looking at it objectively, we would say that Bowman traversed the Jupiter Monolith, ascended human knowledge, was kept under observation by the Firstborns, and took the next step in human evolution via the final Monolith. The Star Child is not a physical entity, but a representation of Bowman’s ascended consciousness as he observes mankind as a Firstborn. But therein lies the problem – this movie isn’t meant to have an objective meaning. As Kubrick states, “The film becomes anything the viewer sees in it.”

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