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The 15 Most Complicated Movie Endings of The 21st Century

21 January 2017 | Features, Film Lists | by Mariam Kasradze

Emma Stone - Birdman

There are a lot of movies with really impressing endings in the history of cinema. The ending must be shocking, unexpected, and breathtaking. It’s one of the criterion movie fans choose their favorite movies. And in actuality, the ending makes us remember and think about the film. “There’s a monster at the end of the books and movies. It’s when the story ends and you’re left alone with yourself and your thoughts.”

Here is a list of 15 movies that have the most complicated endings, and were filmed in the 21st century. There are a lot of discussions about the end of each film and maybe that’s the most amazing moment – when each person has a different view about it, and each of those views is a possible theory.

 

15. Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan (2010)

“Black Swan” is one of the best psychological thriller films of the 21st century, which is directed by Darren Aronofsky and has a quite remarkable cast (Natalie Portman, Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Winona Ryder). The film revolves around the “Swan Lake” ballet by Tchaikovsky.

Nina (Portman) is a fascinating and hard-working ballerina, who is chosen as the lead in the upcoming production of “Swan Lake”, as the white swan as well as the black swan, by ballet director Thomas (Cassel). She is best for the role of the white swan, but not the perfect choice for the black swan, so she starts working hard on the role and fighting with herself.

In the beginning, Nina has a childish soul and she is a dutiful daughter, but for the role of the black swan, she needs to kill the “white swan” in herself. Here we meet the problem of maturity as well; Nina decides not to be a child anymore and chooses another dancer Lily (Kunis) to prove that.

Gradually, Nina starts to see strange things and she cannot understand whether it’s reality or just her imagination.

The end of the film is a bit confusing, because we see how effectively Nina kills Lily in jealousy and hides her body, but she actually cut herself and it reverberates that she needed to kill her dark side to be a “white swan” again, hence why she is bleeding and dies at the end of the film.

Nina’s death metaphorically appoints an artist who has already reached perfection. If a performer reaches perfection, they start dying as an artist. In the end, she whispers: “Perfect. It was perfect.”

 

14. Pieta (2012)

Pieta

Pieta is a South Korean film written and directed by Kim Ki-duk. It may be one of the most breathtaking and mesmerizing films from this director.

The film’s title refers to the depiction of the Virgin Mary with the corpse of Jesus. The film is actually about a miserable mother who wants revenge for the death of her son, and chooses a very strange way to make that happen.

Kang-do is a heartless man whose job is to brutally injure debtors to prevent claiming. His job makes people kill themselves. Kang-do has no family and his life changes when middle-aged woman appears and persuades him that she is his long-lost mom. Little by little, Kang-do feels a motherly love and starts taking care of her as well.

The end of the film is absolutely shocking; we clearly see that the woman is the mother of Kang-do’s victim who committed suicide when we see them laying on the grave. After the death of his beloved “mother”, Kang-do becomes one of the best examples of redemption and catharsis.

It seems that the feeling you’re being loved by someone, and then realizing you are left without that, was the best punishment for his unmerciful character. Kim Ki-duk shows us the nature of the mother and her sacrifice in the best way.

 

13. American Psycho (2000)

Christian Bale in American Psycho

“American Psycho” is a film that perfectly shows us what it means to say everything you feel or think about the people around us; it demonstrates that if we do whatever we want, how can we put up with the inner pain from which we suffer? It is a black comedy-horror film with a great cast (Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Jared Leto and others) and it’s directed by Mary Harron.

Patrick Bateman (Bale) is an investment banker who lives in a luxurious apartment, wears expensive clothes, and hates the wealthy and shallow associates around him. Suddenly he starts behaving strangely, and this is where starts his psychotic and violent life. One of his victims appear, a freaked out woman in the street who is killed by Bateman. He violently kills several people after having sexual relationships with them, and at last kills his co-worker Paul Allen.

The ending of the film is very complicated and suspicious. We clearly see how Bateman calls his lawyer, makes a confession, and admits to killing the people, but the next day Bateman is told that someone has seen Paul Allen in London some days earlier. His lawyer mistakes him for another man and laughs about the confession. Bateman’s secretary also finds his journal filled with the details of each murder.

This is why we can’t say confidently whether Bateman is a serial killer or if everything was just in his imagination. Circumstances made him unknown even for himself, and Bateman doesn’t have an exact answer regarding whether everything was real. The decision is up to viewers and it’s one of the best things about the film.

 

12. Café de Flore (2011)

Jean-Marc Vallée’s “Café de Flore” is a breathtaking and stunningly beautiful film with the most beautiful soundtrack of the 21st century. In the beginning, the film may seem a bit confusing.

We see two different stories in different time periods, which are unrelated. The first story is set in present-day Montreal and is about a successful DJ. Another one is set in 1960’s Paris and is about a single mother of a child with Down syndrome.

The ending of the film is remarkable. We realize that DJ, his ex-wife, and his girlfriend are the subsequent reincarnations of characters that live in 1960’s Paris. The film leaves us with deep feelings and makes us think differently about love in our lives. It makes us see that love transcends time and space and it’s the most beautiful feeling a human can feel.

We can see love between man and woman, parents and children, and love between soulmates in the film. ”If it’s a soulmate, it’s not supposed to end, right? I like the concept that there is somebody who is supposed to be with you forever.” We meet a lot of painful feelings, emotions, and psychology of humanity and other lines.

Is love always unbeaten and eternal? That’s the question “Café De Flore” exclusively answers for each viewer.

 

11. Inception (2010)

Inception ending

“Inception” is a science-fiction thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and is one of the most popular films of the 21st century. It gives viewers an opportunity to travel through dreams and to understand what means to see a “dream” while dreaming. It makes us see impossible and unimaginable things. The film is extremely interesting and twisted, and each viewer needs to follow the plot carefully.

Dominic Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are “extractors” who perform corporate espionage using an experimental military technology to infiltrate the subconscious of their targets, and get valuable information through their dream world.

Their latest target, a Japanese businessman, reveals that he arranged their mission himself to test Cobb for an impossible job: planting an idea into a person’s subconscious. It seems impossible, but Cobb thinks: “Once an idea has taken hold of the brain it’s almost impossible to eradicate. An idea that is fully formed – fully understood – that sticks, right in there somewhere.”

The ending scene of the film is very challenging; we know that Cobb’s totem continues spinning in dreams and stops spinning in reality, but he ignores its result and turns to his children. Nolan gives viewers two choices: one of them reveals that Cobb couldn’t awake from the dream and he’s still dreaming, and another one gives him a chance that the totem may stop spinning and his happiness reveals reality.

We can actually make the decision that Cobb is very tired of struggling and fighting, and he only wants his pain to disappear and be happy with his family. That’s why the spinning totem doesn’t matter for him anymore.

 

10. The Tree Of Life (2011)

“The Tree of Life” is an experimental epic drama film by Terrence Malick. The film is often misunderstood by viewers because of its deeply philosophical, psychological, and somewhat religious meanings. We mostly hear a question: what does it really mean? The film is constructed by stunningly poetic and beautiful visuals, and Malick shows us the time period from the beginning of the world until the end of it. In turn, he made a real hymn for life.

The film is full of symbolism; the trees presented in the film are like an impressionistic meditation on life, and show us perfectly how different parts of life and nature are connected.

Malick symbolically shows us an ordinary family as a part of the global world, which itself contains a lot of micro-identical worlds. The strict father is a symbol of nature, and the flawless mother is a symbol of grace and compassion. She is ready to love her children no matter what they do or who they become.

The ending scene, which shows us reunion of the family on the beach, is perfectly done, but confuses viewers. We have an impression that the reunion is happening in an afterlife, but we can’t say it with certainty, as it depends on each viewer’s vision of life and universe. However, the movie raises more questions than answers.

We start realizing that self-preservation is in our nature and we are capable of loving people and being compassionate. Love transcends each person, time, and each universe, and it’s the highest feeling a human is capable of containing.

 

9. Oldboy (2003)

oldboy ending

“Oldboy” is one of the best examples what it means to watch a great movie. It’s a South Korean mystery-thriller film directed by Park Chan-wook. The film won the Grand Prix award at the 2004 Cannes Festival, and in 2008, voters on CNN named it one of the best Asian films ever made.

The film is about Dae-su, who was imprisoned in a hotel room for 15 years. He doesn’t know who did this to him, or why. While he is free, Dae-su tries to investigate it and discovers the reason for his imprisonment. He also meets a beautiful woman and falls in love with her. The best moment of culmination appears when Dae-su solves the secret and finds out what has happened.

The woman he has fallen in love with is revealed to be his daughter, and both of them were hypnotized to punish Dae-su for the rumors he spread in his childhood about the sister of the man behind his imprisonment. He goes mad and here we see a spectacular and breathtaking acting from Choi Min-sik (Dae-su).

The ending of the film makes everyone burst into tears, when Dae-su asks woman who has already hypnotized him to make him forget about his daughter, and symbolically, another Dae-su disappears in the darkness. “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”

“Oldboy” sends us overwhelming feelings. It’s a film about personal and moral problems existing in human nature, and the methods used to solve them by different personalities.

 

 

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  • sadburbia

    I like to believe Birdman lapses into complete magical realism in the end, with Riggan actually flying. Maybe I’m too much of an optimist.

    • Кирил Тодоров

      No, you’re not. I think this can be kinda another interpretation of the movie, if we put a condition on the magical realism part – this is indeed happening, yet it happens in the world as Birdman sees it, and his daughter just believes in his world as well. So it’s a reality for those who share this world…

  • D Train

    These are mostly just films where the endings were open for interpretation OR the viewer had to pay attention, and not “complicated” per se. A film like The Sting or Primer has a complicated finish where junk like Inception is just a “it was all a dream or was it”-style cop.

    • ttt

      everytime i see your post you’re complaining about Nolan. give it a break, we get it

      • D Train

        And you’re always defending Nolan. Give it a break. We get it.

        • ttt

          you confused me with someone else, i never defended him 🙂

          • This douche is always jumping in being a negative troll. He’s the first person I’ve ever blocked on Disqus

    • ttt

      just for the record i a gree with the rest of your post and im adding Synecdoche, New York to the list

  • Mortimer

    “Undoubtedly, “Shutter Island” is one of the most mesmerizing and complicated films of the 21st century.”
    This is a joke right ? When will ToC stop placing “Shutter Island” on a pedestal just because Scorsese’s name is behind. Movie is a pulpy fun, nothing deep about it.
    Why ‘The Master” isn’t on the list ? It has much more enigmatic and meaningful finale than ‘Shutter Island”. Not even close.

  • FAS

    “The Wailing” (2016), another South Korean film with a complicated ending.

    • Hernan Paz

      My god, yes.

  • Nelsonoca Galvis

    I put films like:

    Mulholland Dr.
    Loong Boonmee raleuk chat
    Ta’m e guilass

  • indianscotsman

    Eternal sunshine doesn’t have the most complicated endings. It can be understood in the second watching itself. Whereas PRIMER is definitely the most confusing film with complicated ending.

  • skainstein

    I agree with most of this list, or at least the movies i’ve seen. In ‘Enemy’ what the hell is that ending?? It feels like we can understand the movie, which goes in a logical direction… but then in the end… WTF??
    Also think ‘Holy Motors’ should be on the list

  • Lucas Corsi

    Cache’s end for me is perfect.
    It’s ambigous,and let the spectator thinking about,with that last frame,showing George’s and Majid sons,talking,what makes the final perfect,because we don’t now what happened,because it’s Hidden.

  • Guy Levinberg

    Cant believe mulholland drive isnt here

  • Ted Wolf

    One of my favorite “complicated” endings is Blow Up and the tennis match. Also Contempt has a great complicated ending

  • Vincent

    Not necessarily complex but i have always wondered whether the ending of “Minority Report” is reality or is it what Tom Cruise’s character is dreaming inside the vessel?