15 Most Complicated Movie Endings of the 21st Century

You have to ask a question: what does a complicated ending really be like? Should it be a mystery wrapped in an enigma, or should it be just something that hinges on a word? This article will tackle such questions. Without being self-assuming, we are open to all kinds of endings. Directors are notoriously insane human beings. They like playing with their subjects, which are generally masqueraded as audiences. They experiment on them with mind twisting sub-plots, plots even, which are beyond comprehensible for a general being with an impoverished common sense. David Lynch and Michael Haneke certainly are the vanguards of the movement to keep us up at nights, thinking about what the ending really was. Don’t worry people, I am here to save you. Enjoy the list of the fifteen most complicated movie endings of the 21st Century. They won’t have elaborate explanations.

15. No Country For Old Men (2007)

Prima-facie you wouldn’t think of it being a complicated ending. Llewelyn dies, leaving Carla Jean a widow. Anton makes sure she doesn’t suffers anymore than she already had. Ed Bell gloriously retires, still empty because of his inability to save the former. But the film leaves you in a predicament, whether to continue searching for the meaning of his dream, which doesn’t affect the story in any way, or sit back and reminisce a fine piece of cinema. If you chose the former, you aren’t alone buddy. The film ends with Ed Bell sharing a dream  (or nightmare, your choice) with his wife, which involved his father. The true meaning of it has yet toi surface, with even Tom McCarthy, the original writer of the novel, choosing to keep us guessing. And guess we will.

14. Donnie Darko (2001)

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‘Donnie Darko’ came at a time when the trend of leaving films abruptly at an ambiguous end started. The uninspiring yet thickly talented cast was not expected to pull out anything special, and when they did, everyone gasped for air. It became a big commercial hit, also getting substantially rave reviews from critics. The film has gone on to become a cult film, with many citing it as one of the best sci-fi movies of its time. Was it just a dream? Or did he have an alter ego which prompted him to imagine things? There are no clear answers, but n number of speculations and deliberations. Some believe that the world is a different one than that in which Donnie lived, while some still purport it as Donnie dreaming in his bed, and getting killed in his sleep, was actually another dream he had. Phew.

13. Oldboy (2003)

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Oh, that smile. That damned smile. That is where it all began. Now that we are done with the ’13 Reasons Why’ reference, let’s come to that ending of this fine film. The American remake was blasphemous, almost rendering me on the verge of throwing up with disgust. The original, though, was nothing short of a miracle in terms of the achievements of a Nolan-esque thriller. The layered screenplay certainly stole the show, apart from the maniacal performances. The ending was rather two-sided. We did see Dae-su break away from his wide grin to a state of anguish and agony. It is funny how such a little thing turned tides and made the film’s ending a mystery. We still aren’t clear on whether the hypnosis worked or not, and probably, we’ll never know.

12. Upstream Color (2013)

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Shane Carruth you beauty. All the films he has done till date have been made on fumes, but have successfully managed to ignite fires that won’t cease to burn out. ‘Upstream Color’ is one of the best made films of modern times. I think it all started going awry when the dream-like sequence started. The character of Kris I thought was pivotal in the fortunes of the movie, and the other characters. Whether she really kills Sampler is a matter of discussion, but what is more startling is the end sequence. It has her adoringly and peacefully cradling a baby pig, at peace, for the moment, which is not lucid in the reality or in the dream.

11. American Psycho (2000)

I still have no clue whatsoever who does Patrick Bateman really talk to in the end. Whether he was dreaming, or he was just high, there’s no way of knowing. With an actor so good, and a director who doesn’t hesitate in experimenting, the film’s rather cliff-hanger of an ending left us scratching our heads. After Patrick embarks on his final tirade and spree of brutal murders, he leaves a message for his lawyer Harold, giving him a full-fledged confession of his atrocious crimes. Later, when we see the two meet, he laughs of his mention of his confession, and says that Paul, who was Bateman’s first victim, was alive. The confusing end hasn’t received a definitive answer, yet. Do try to do something in the comments.

10. Cache (2005)

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Michael Haneke and us. The interaction is never absolute, nor imminent at any point. It just springs out of the blue, leaving us dazed and confused, and him, slyly taking joy out of our misery. I am yet to comprehend the doing, or the film as a whole, so please pardon my impoverished knowledge. What I could get to was, that Majid’s and Pierrot’s sons had some vague discussion, which Haneke intentionally left out of the loop. George’s flashback was another point wherein I was lost, and further respect for Haneke was found. That dream too had themes similar to the movie, which makes it a big point of discussion for you all in the comments section.

9. Shutter Island (2010)

This exact scene of the film was its last, also the one that prompted an elaborate discussion among the film fraternity and aficionados. We all know how the conniving pair of Dr Cawley and Dr Chuck set up a realist maze, a real-life role-play, for their most prized patient, Teddy Daniels, to prove the authorities the success of their methods. When finally, Ted realizes all what had happened in his past with his kids and wife, it apparently seems that he has recuperated and is ready to start his new life. The next morning, which is precisely this one, he again refers to Chuck as his detective partner, quashing their hopes of a successful recovery, and therein ending Ted’s chances of leaving. But then comes that quote which I love the most: “Is it worse to live as a monster or die as a good man?”, a question which Ted directs at Chuck. Oh, boy. Is he okay?

8. Birdman (2014)

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I believe this film is a classic masterpiece of the 21st Century. The efforts that were put in to make it, and make it successfully, are both admirable and inspiring. The engaging narrative and the seemingly one-shot film took the Oscars by storm and won a butt-load. But it also bamboozled audiences alike with its peculiar and figurative ending. Riggan is coalescing after his antics the other night in the theater, when he shot himself in the nose. His daughter, with a newfound vanity for her father, visits. As she steps outside to find a vase, Riggan gets up, undoes his bandages, and bids adieu to Birdman sitting on the toilet. When Sam returns, Riggan isn’t there. As she scans the ground below and finds his corpse, she looks up, and smiles in satisfaction.

7. Memento (2000)

It is safe to say that the whole movie is a labyrinth many don’t figure out. Another brazen masterpiece, which by Nolan’s own admission, is an exaggerated version of his own nuances and idiosyncrasies, employed a non-linear narrative that did take some time to understand. The confusing scenes in the end, which don’t elucidate Leonard’s and Teddy’s relationship, fail to shed light on whether the former dies or lives. Even though it moves in a reverse fashion, it still isn’t clear whether Teddy was helping Leonard, or who actually killed Leonard. Or Teddy. Or anyone. It is all just so confusing!

6. The Tree of Life (2011)

Terrence Malick is one underrated individual. His dissection into the human psyche, separating elements of emotions and practicality with the precision of a surgeon is uncontested in the industry. Despite that, the reception to his movies has been rather cold and critical, which doesn’t do justice to his talents. ‘Tree of Life’ is an apotheosis of how people ignorantly disregard his work without even trying to understand it. An introspective take on the existence of life and inter-relationships between human beings, it never ceases to amaze. The end, which many have waived off as abrupt, is actually of deep significance. When Mrs O’Brien expectantly looks up and says: “I give you my son. I give him up.”, it is evidently clear that something isn’t right. The smile that Jack has when he leaves the building, too is suspicious. The mysterious beacon of light that continues flickering in the background is another thing to tackle. Oof.

5. Inception (2010)

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This film is widely considered by the audiences and critics alike to be the best sci-fi film of the 21st Century. Again, with Nolan, you expect a mental stimulation like no other and complex concepts, which are beyond your comprehension. The twirling totem certainly was a distinct concept throughout the movie, and that is where Nolan decided to end it as well. After they have successfully managed to influence Fischer to overturn his decision, Cobb turns towards his personal issues at hand. His troubled relationship with his children is clearly visible in his tensed and frowned expressions, even when relaxing. The movie ends with a totem spinning rapidly in all its beauty, with the screen going black before it stops. Nolan himself has his own explanation, which you can catch on the internet.

4. Black Swan (2011)


Now this one is a bit complex, but the most fun. Nina, played by the brilliant Natalie Portman, is an aspiring ballet dancer, aiming to be the best in the world. Through her hard-work and humility, she makes way through to the top of the pile, the best dancing company in the country. A lifetime opportunity comes up, wherein she has the chance to play the part of her life: the White and the Black Swan. But her virtuous being is considered too docile to play the Black Swan. Through a series of forced changes, she manages to land the part, but suffers in her personal life thereby. In the end, during the performance, the swan jumps off a cliff, ending her life, and so does Nina, who presumably succumbs to her fatal injuries. Before dying, she tells her peers how perfect her performance was. Whether she has died or not, the perfection thing further throws it out that she might have lived to be a great dancer, or died giving one of the best the world has ever seen.

3. There Will Be Blood (2007)

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Personally speaking, this is one of best films of the 2000s. The performance from Daniel Day-Lewis, the direction from PTA, and the chilling score which is so neglected, make this one a treat to remember. The way it dissects human behavior and glorifies the innate human darkness is both shocking and revealing. The ending, again, like ‘Chinatown’, is one of a single sentence. After Daniel Plainview essentially gets the permission to build a pipeline, thanks to his gimmicks in the Third Revelation Church, on Bandy’s tract, he monopolizes the business and makes a fortune. After that, Eli comes begging to him to offer him drilling the Bandy tract, which he doesn’t know to have been had. After mocking him the way he did Daniel before, he starts throwing objects at him, eventually ending his life. After that, he says: “I’m finished.”, when one of his servants arrive. Delve into that now.

2. Enemy (2013)


This is an another movie which has been talked about a lot. The movie employed the graphical images of webs and spiders through out the movie, if you notice closely. Through the whole set-up, the growing conflicts between Adam and Anthony are indicative of a thrilling end, that has some serious action. The web of lies gets broader and thicker with each passing scene, furthering both of the involved parties to a place they won’t come back from. One of the two doesn’t, when he meets an accident. The other one’s fate isn’t decided yet. That is why, the spider comes for him in the end, to decide for the other person of the same physicality. You understand?

1. Mullholand Dr (2001)

Not just the ending, but the whole movie itself is an enigma! We are still trying to figure what all of it means.