We have mixed feelings about movie cliffhangers. On one hand, they can feel like cheap cop-outs, forcing us to accept storylines that feel half-baked or incomplete. But on the other hand, brilliantly done cliffhangers will *literally* keep us up at night sometimes. They tell us what we need to know, but then challenge us to explore and create our own endings. They invite us to let our imaginations run wild. And while there’s no guaranteed “happily ever after” for our favorite characters, those ambiguous closing scenes have a funny way of sticking with us. Whether it be weeks, months, or even decades after we’ve seen them.
See which major movie cliffhangers we’re still thinking about to this day (warning: spoilers ahead!):
17. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
At the end of the movie, after the Wachati Princess wed the Wachootoo Prince to form peace between the tribes, everyone found out that the princess was no longer a virgin. Ace (not so subtly) revealed that he was to blame for it, and as a result, both tribes joined forces to angrily chase after the poor guy… And it ends there.
As hilarious as that scene was, we did fear for Ace’s life. Like, did he really get ambushed? Did they capture him and force him to do even more humiliating challenges? Or did he escape to freedom? It bugs us that we’ll never know!
16. Deep Rising
Before Finnegan, Trillian, and Joey could actually catch their breaths from surviving the first monster, a second threat presented itself on the island. At the end, they all heard a loud roar coming from the forest, and then something giant charged right at them from the trees. This was when Finnegan said his go-to catchphrase, “Now what?” And then, the audience got to see that the island they were on looked ancient… This ending was the perfect set-up for a sequel, but we’re kind of bummed that there is none.
15. Godzilla 1997
It’s safe to say that the movie’s protagonists started celebrating way too soon. After Godzilla got captured and defeated, the citizens were understandably relieved. But back at Madison Square Garden, viewers could see that there was a surviving egg. It hatched and the creature roared, which suggested that the remaining citizens wouldn’t be safe for long. HOW CAN THEY DO US LIKE THAT?!
14. The Thing
After a group of scientists stumble upon a dangerous creature who can assume the identity of its victims, they work together to defeat the “Thing.” By the end, Childs tries to pursue it after he realizes that it took on the identity of their biologist, Blair. But then he returns to R. J. MacReady, saying that he failed to catch Blair because he got lost in the storm.
At that point, no one knew for sure if the Thing got to Childs and then returned, assuming his form. Or if perhaps, while Childs searched, the Thing got to R.J. and waited there, pretending to be him. All we were left with was the image of these two guys sharing a bottle of scotch and that was just terrifying.
13. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
At the end of this crime comedy, Tom was sent out to dispose of the weapons that linked him and his crew to the case. But then the guys got a gun catalog and learned that those antique guns were worth a lot of money. Right as they called Tom to scrap the plan, the last scene showed him preparing to drop all the shotguns into the river while his ringing phone was in his mouth. And get this: The director actually went with this freeze-frame cliffhanger and got rid of the ending. We’ll never know if Tom ended up tossing the guns or if he answered his phone!
12. The Italian Job
Charlie Croker was fresh out of prison and ready to do a “big job.” He recruited a team to help him steal a huge shipment of gold, but the plan doesn’t go so smoothly. By the end, as they drove away with it, the driver lost control of the bus. It spiraled out of control and stopped on the edge of an actual cliff, with the back teetering off the edge. The gold slid towards the back doors, but when Charlie tried to get them, they slid even further. Then he ended the film with a *literal* cliffhanger when he said he had an idea… And that was it.
11. The Graduate
It seemed like Elaine and Benjamin had a huge victory when they reunited at the end of the film. But after stopping Elaine’s wedding and escaping a crowd of angry guests, they settled down at the back of a bus and, slowly, their joy visibly faded. It suddenly dawned on them that they had no idea what this meant for their future. And as the credits began to roll, everyone was left with the question: “Well, what now?” It’s been decades since this movie came out and we’re still asking that same question.
10. Basic Instinct
Nick, a homicide detective, essentially fell for a gorgeous blonde woman (Catherine) who also happens to be a killer. She’s a crime novelist who wrote a book about a murder that mirrored her late boyfriend’s real-life murder. But despite Nick’s efforts to get her to cooperate as a suspect, she does the complete opposite. The two eventually start an affair and Nick soon discovers that Catherine is using him as inspiration for her new book.
By the end, there’s been another murder, and of course, it mirrors the one described in Catherine’s new crime book. But Nick tells no one about this. Instead, he lets someone else get framed for the crime and he returns to Catherine – not knowing that she’s hiding a weapon under her bed. The end. (!!!!!)
9. Dawn of the Dead
When Francine and Peter escaped from the zombies at the mall, they made it to the roof and stole a helicopter. Before the flesh-eaters could get to them, they flew away in the partially-fueled helicopter, but their destination was uncertain and so was their future. We never found out if they made it to a safe location or if they stumbled upon another group of zombies. We’ll never know if that helicopter took them very far or if they eventually turned into zombies themselves. But hey, on the bright side, we can at least make up our own happy ending (they found a perfectly normal community in a faraway land and then lived happily ever after).
8. The Dark Knight Rises
Not long after Batman was presumed dead, Officer John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovered the Bat Cave. That clearly hinted at the possibility of him taking over as Gotham’s next famous hero, and fans were really excited that this could mean another sequel. But according to JGL, this is the actual end of the trilogy… Which means we’ll never get to see Officer Blake in action (we’re still not over it).
Here’s what Joseph had to say: “I think Nolan very much thought of that movie as a conclusion, and there’s a theme that runs through all three of those movies that begins in the first movie, runs through the second movie and it concludes in that moment where he says that Batman is more than a man, Batman is a symbol. And so to have another man other than Bruce Wayne kind of becoming Batman at the end of that trilogy, I think that’s the perfect ending to that story.”
7. Lost in Translation
It was interesting to see this budding friendship between a college graduate and a middle-aged movie star. Bob Harris was going through a mid-life crisis and struggling with his marriage while Charlotte felt uncertain about her relationship with her partner, John. Throughout the film, they bonded over their struggles and become close friends while staying temporarily in Tokyo.
But by the end, we simply saw them part ways and… that was it. Bob whispered something in Charlotte’s ear (we haven’t the slightest idea what it was, by the way) and then they said goodbye. Was that for good? Did they ever reconnect? Did Charlotte decide to leave John? And did Bob work things out with his wife? We really want to know these things.
This is actually a classic example of a cliffhanger that can give grown adults nightmares. The film was entirely made up of “found” recorded footage from a camcorder, which was recovered by the United States Department of Defense. The video includes recordings of a giant monster that attacked New York City not too long ago. Plus, there were smaller parasite-like creatures that fell off its body and attacked civilians.
These recordings were made by Rob and Beth (a couple who’d intended to use their camcorder for personal memories). But by the end, as they tried to share details of the day’s events, the camera got knocked out of their hands. While the camera got covered in rubble, we heard bombings, screams, and the monster roaring. So it’s safe to assume that the couple didn’t make it. But, after the credits rolled, there was some radio chatter that sounded like “help us” and when it got played backwards, it simply said, “It’s still alive.” UM. WHAT?!
5. 28 Weeks Later
This was the kind of ending where you could put two and two together to figure out what happened. But still, it raised so many questions. In the sci-fi horror flick, we saw NATO try to establish safe zones for people who weren’t infected by the highly contagious Rage Virus. However, their efforts only went so far, because people within their safe zones got infected and it even spread to another country.
By the end, two survivors were flown to France, but little did they know that one of them was a symptom-free carrier of the Rage Virus. Flash forward 28 days later and their helicopter is shown empty and abandoned while someone calls for help on the radio. But did anyone on that helicopter manage to escape without getting infected? Did they all leave the chopper with the virus? Do safe zones still even exist at this point?
4. The Happening
The Happening, aka “revenge of the killer plants,” followed a small group of people who tried to survive a natural disaster. The plants began releasing a neurotoxin that caused people to commit suicide, and so Elliot and Alma, along with Elliot’s friend and his young daughter, tried to flee to safety.
When Julian separated from the group to go find his wife, he got infected and took his own life. But by some miracle, the rest of the gang managed to stay alive throughout the film. Or at least, so it seems. Three months passed and the outbreak seemed to have ended. But just when Elliot, Alma, and Jess started to adjust to their new lives, we saw that the plants were at it again. Does this mean that the neurotoxin got to them? Does it mean that the trio never really got their happily ever after? We’ll never know.
3. The Wrestler
Incase you’re unfamiliar with the plot, the film is about an aging professional wrestler named Randy “The Ram” Robinson. Despite his heart problems, he continued to practice wrestling because he wanted to regain his stardom. But as a result, he had a heart attack, so he was forced to retire.
However, his time off was only temporary because life in the outside world wasn’t going too well. Figuring that he had nothing left to lose, he returned to wrestling. And as for his highly-anticipated match at the end of the film, we never got to see how that ended. At the very last moment, he performed an extremely risky signature move called the “Ram Jam,” but after he leaped off the ropes… The credits began to roll. We’ll never know if he actually survived that move.
2. American Psycho
Was it all in Patrick’s head? Did he really kill people, or was he just losing his mind? The ending was definitely a major twist. But at the same time, it still makes us wonder: Did the fact that he “got away with it” actually drive him to do more? It’s only a matter of time before hallucinations start to impact reality. And since Patrick was a creepy psychopath, it’s safe to assume that no one around him was truly safe… Call us paranoid.
After infiltrating several minds and dreams to complete his mission, Dom returned to his family in Los Angeles. But before the widowed father went to join his two children, he used a totem (a spinning top that dreamers used to distinguish reality from the dream world) to make sure he wasn’t dreaming. But then he suddenly got up while it kept spinning and he went to his kids, ignoring the result. Meanwhile, the totem continued to spin, tilting ever so slightly but not exactly falling over.
To this day, we wonder if he was really in a dream. And furthermore, we wonder if he ever bothered to find out.