Needless to say, film endings are important; whether it be the perfect scene that ties the narrative together or even something unexpected, that end shot has the potential to retroactively warp all your opinions of what you saw before. Sometimes this is good, and sometimes that ending is just so bizarre that it barely fits with the rest of the film. Regardless, there have been many film endings that have left audiences puzzled or surprised. Here is what some of our writers think fits the bill!
Planet of the Apes dir. Tim Burton (2001)
Movie endings don’t really get any comically weirder than the end of Tim Burton’s 2001 dystopic science-fiction film, Planet of the Apes. The director’s take on the well-known and often adapted Pierre Boulle novel of the same name, it’s a strange film by itself; first off, it’s led by leading man Mark Wahlberg, with his *ahem* questionable acting skills (may I remind you of his difficult performance in M. Night Shyamalan’s legendarily terrible flick, The Happening), it has Tim Roth having clearly way too much fun playing a psychotic war-obsessed ape general, and the makeup for the apes is frankly terrifying. You just try and look at Helena Bonham Carter’s face covered in ape-prosthetics without feeling a huge sense of unease and discomfort.
But it’s the ending that is truly the cherry on top for the weirdness of this movie. Spoilers ahead, but long story short, Leo (Wahlberg) escapes this ape-earth alternate reality to return to his own earth where humanity still rules in peaceful bliss (not before kissing ape-Bonham-Carter, of course), crash-landing in present day Washington D.C. But, much to his horror, he looks up, and what does he see? It’s the Lincoln Memorial, but instead of the Abe we all know and love, General Thade (Roth’s psychotic character) sits atop the throne, gazing down at Leo in all his evil-eyed scrutiny. Leo recoils in horror, and is quickly swarmed by a group of police officers and reporters, all apes, and the credits roll.
I understand, or at least I think, that this ending is supposed to be horrific, a warning to humans against the fragility of their reign. But instead, it just comes across as confusing and almost comical. Even Tim Roth and Helena Bonham-Carter themselves said they had no clue what was happening at the end of the film; apparently, Burton left it deliberately ambiguous to leave room for a potential sequel that never came to be. The ridiculousness of the giant ape statue, paired with the creepy makeup of the ape-actors, just makes for a strange, odd ending, rather than the terrifying one I’m sure Burton intended. If anything, it’ll give you a good laugh rather than satisfaction as the pinnacle of a strange plot, and a weird film overall.
Split dir. M. Night Shyamalan (2016)
As a big M. Night Shyamalan fan, Split was one of my must-see films of 2016. Shyamalan is known for his plot twists, think the ending of The Sixth Sense (1999), but it was his psychological horror Split which brought a brilliantly strange movie ending to our screens, shocking us with a revelation that linked the film into the work of the Unbreakable (now) trilogy.
The film follows a man with dissociative identity disorder, slowly introducing us to his 24 different personalities which range from a young boy named Hedwig and a woman named Patricia. The film is unbelievably intense, and as you are drawn into the world of the three captured teenagers, you begin to learn more about what really lurks in the underground facility.
It’s not until the final scene that you learn the truth to the film’s narrative, as Casey (Anna Taylor-Joy) begins to hold a conversation with an off-screen man who is soon revealed to the audience to be the one and only David Dunn (Bruce Willis) from the original Unbreakable (2000) instalment. He then reveals the overarching involvement of Mr Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), leaving the audience on tenterhooks as the film suggests a third part to the series – later known to us as Glass (2019).
Grease dir. Randal Kleiser and Patricia Birch (1978)
Over the years Grease has been met with a lot of warranted criticism, especially regarding the role of Sandy (Olivia Newton-John) who effectively changes her entire identity to be with Danny (John Travolta) and that car scene. However, it has also been widely accepted that the music and dancing is insanely addictive and uplifting. So uplifting however, that the ending literally takes flight?
Sandy gets into Danny’s car with him in the driving seat for the final scene of the film. The end shot of the pair flying into the sky and Sandy waving to her classmates below who are absolutely unfazed by what they have just witnessed is a bizarre ending which is still talked about. Sure, there are fans who have maybe investigated too deeply; some even argue that Sandy was dead all along, something Jim Jacobs – creator of the storyline, characters and lyrics of the 1971 musical Grease – vehemently denies. It is hard to deny regardless that this ending feels incredibly out of the blue.
Of course the most reasonable argument to make is that this ending is simply a metaphor; now that they’re a couple, they are seen riding into the sunset. Many recognise this for the exaggerated and cheesy ending it intends to be (after all, Grease is not known for its grit). Nevertheless, it still makes lists as one of the most abrupt movie endings.