Top 10 Movie Mysteries That Are Still Unsolved
VOICE OVER: John Hastings
WRITTEN BY: Garrett Alden
These movie mysteries are borderline cold cases. For this list, we'll be going over the unresolved questions and plot points from films that have yet to be definitively resolved. Our countdown includes "Inception", "Pulp Fiction", "Lost in Translation”, and more!
Top 10 Movie Mysteries That Still Haven’t Been Solved
These movie mysteries are borderline cold cases. Welcome to WatchMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 movie mysteries that still haven’t been solved.
For this list, we’ll be going over the unresolved questions and plot points from films that have yet to be definitively resolved. Naturally, since these involve plot points, there will be spoilers ahead.
#10: How Much Was Real?
“American Psycho” (2000)
Plenty of movies are shown through the lens of an unreliable main character. Although we considered choosing the recent “Joker” as well, “American Psycho” has seniority. The film follows Patrick Bateman, a materialistic psychopath who commits several murders and other crimes throughout the course of the film. However, at the film’s end, Bateman’s lawyer tells him he recently had dinner with one of his victims in London and a realtor tells him that the apartment he killed the man in supposedly doesn’t belong to him. A notebook Bateman’s assistant finds is full of graphic drawings and other disturbing content, possibly leading to the possibility that Bateman is imagining at least some of his violent outbursts. How much and which ones remain ambiguous decades later.
#9: What Was in the FedEx Box?
“Cast Away” (2000)
This film follows Chuck Noland, a FedEx employee who survives a plane crash on a deserted island for several years. While on the island, Chuck makes use of items he finds in the packages he was transporting when the crash occurred. However, he leaves one of these parcels unopened, eventually delivering it to its intended recipient at the film’s end. But we never learn what’s inside the box that Chuck went to such lengths to deliver. A prominent theory is that it contained divorce papers, considering the ranch seen at the beginning and end of the film has one of the names missing from over the entrance. The director, Robert Zemeckis, once joked that it contained a satellite phone. Still, we’ll never know for sure.
#8: Bob’s Whisper
“Lost in Translation” (2003)
Following the brief friendship and romance of two married American strangers in Tokyo, “Lost in Translation” initially sees Bob and Charlotte part ways with an unsatisfactory conclusion to their time together. However, Bob spots Charlotte on his way to the airport and approaches her, whispering something to her, before kissing her goodbye. Was it a bittersweet reflection on their time together? Or maybe he told her to look him up in the States? Whatever he said, the ambiguity allows for many interpretations, all of which can be tailored to our own opinions on how their romance should turn out, which kind of makes it perfect just the way it is.
#7: Who Was V?
“V for Vendetta” (2005)
“V for Vendetta” follows a masked vigilante/freedom fighter/terrorist known only as “V.” While his true identity is a mystery, some things are known about the man. He was once imprisoned, and experiments were performed on him that gave him superhuman strength and endurance. He was kept in “room 5,” denoted by the Roman numeral “V.” A fire there also heavily disfigured him. Some suggest he was once a member of the ruling fascist party. Others suggest he was once a she, at least biologically, citing the story Evey finds in a cell about a lesbian actress named Valerie as being V’s own story. But the end of the movie tells us it doesn’t matter: V is anyone and everyone being oppressed.
#6: How Much of Verbal’s Story Was True?
“The Usual Suspects” (1995)
The bulk of this neo-noir crime film is told in flashback by Verbal Kint, a criminal who describes the circumstances that led him and his colleagues onto a boat where a drug deal went horribly wrong, leaving most of the people there dead. By the film’s end, it’s clear that Verbal changed some of the names and contents of his story, drawing them from words he saw in the room around him, but was he merely changing the surface of what occurred, or did he obscure or lie about everything that happened? Granted, most of what they did in public probably happened, but in private? We’ll never know. It may not be the greatest trick the devil ever pulled, but it’s certainly up there.
#5: The Joker’s Scars
“The Dark Knight” (2008)
“Do you wanna’ know how I got these scars?” Yes, yes we do! The Joker in “The Dark Knight” is a complete mystery to both the characters and the audience. He’s like a storm that drops on Gotham with no concrete goal other than to sow chaos and demonstrate that everyone is just like him. However, the Joker tells several stories about the origin of his facial scars. In one he claims his father gave them to him, in another he claims he did it to himself. The mystery of how he got them will never be resolved, and that’s kind of the point of his character. Batman is defined by his past, which motivates his present, while the Joker doesn’t care where he came from, just like he doesn’t care about anything else.
#4: Is Cobb Still Dreaming?
Sticking with Christopher Nolan’s oeuvre, “Inception” is perhaps the director’s most mind-bending work. It follows a team of criminals who usually extract information from others’ dreams attempting to implant one instead. The team’s leader, Cobb, seeks to perform the job so he can return to his children in the states. At the film’s end he does, but he also sets a top spinning. This top will keep spinning if he’s still dreaming, and while Cobb walks away without seeing it, the top does wobble before the film ends. Many have theorized that Cobb is still dreaming, citing his absent wedding ring and the children still being young, despite his long absence, as evidence, but the ending remains deliberately ambiguous.
#3: Is Deckard a Replicant?
“Blade Runner” franchise (1982-2017)
Rick Deckard is a blade runner – a hunter of rogue synthetic replicants, or androids. That much is clear. But it’s been theorized that Deckard is a replicant himself, having been tasked by humans to hunt his own kind without even being aware of it. This is supported by his recurring unicorn dream and finding an origami unicorn left at his apartment by his partner. You might think Denis Villeneuve’s sequel would clear this up, given that Deckard is still alive and replicants have a limited lifespan, but he also apparently had a child with a replicant, though we suppose they could’ve crossbred. Even the director and star have had disagreements, with Harrison Ford claiming Deckard is human, while Ridley Scott believes him a replicant.
#2: The Photo
“The Shining” (1980)
Although almost everyone knows the plot of “The Shining,” namely that the caretaker of a remote hotel, Jack, goes crazy and tries to murder his family, the movie remains a dense enigma. The film concludes with Jack freezing to death after getting lost in the hotel’s maze. However, a final shot inside the hotel shows a party from the 1920s with Jack front and center. Director Stanley Kubrick stated that Jack was the reincarnation of a previous caretaker. This aligns with the ghost of the previous caretaker telling Jack that Jack has “always” been the caretaker. However, others have theorized that everyone in the photo has been absorbed into the history of the hotel by the dark force that haunts it.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
“Barton Fink” (1991)
Is It a Head? We Feel Like It’s a Head!
What Is the Narrator’s Name?
“Fight Club” (1999)
Sure, Half of Him Is Named Tyler Durden, But What About the Other Half?
What Is the Rabbit’s Foot?
“Mission: Impossible III” (2006)
A Bioweapon, or Just a Red Herring?
What Happened to Riggan?
Did He Fly, or Plummet to His Death?
Is MacReady or Childs the Thing?
“The Thing” (1982)
Sure, It Doesn’t Matter to Them, But We Care!
#1: What’s Inside the Briefcase?
“Pulp Fiction” (1994)
This anthology crime movie follows a group of interconnected criminals. One of the storylines follows Vincent and Jules, two hitmen who work for crime lord Marsellus Wallace who are tasked with retrieving a briefcase. The case is only opened a few times and while its contents are never named or explained, a golden glow appears to emanate from within. Essentially, it’s just a MacGuffin, a plot device. However, that hasn’t stopped much speculation as to what it could be. According to co-writer Roger Avery, it was originally meant to be diamonds, but this was scratched. The theories range from valuable objects like gold, or even radioactive material, to more arcane items like the Holy Grail, or even Marsellus Wallace’s soul. Whatever it is, it’s beautiful.