‘Drive’ Ending Explained

Published 4 years ago by

Drive Movie Ending Drive Ending Explained


If you’re reading this, then you’ve already had the chance to watch Nicolas Winding Refn’s pulpy crime-drama Drive, and hopefully enjoyed it as much as we did (be sure to read our Drive review).

Though Drive seems like a standard action/thriller (albeit with some art house style and flare), a lot of movie goers have walked away with questions about the movie’s final moments, which leave a fair amount of ambiguity hanging over the fate of “Driver,” the character played by Ryan Gosling.

In the past with our Shutter Island and Inception Ending Explanations, we here at Screen Rant have had to rely on our prowess as movie aficionados in order to form some logical deductions about what transpired in some of our favorite mind-bending movies, and what filmmakers intended with their ambiguous endings. In the case of Drive, however, we were fortunate enough to snag an explanation right from the primary source: director Nicolas Winding Refn.

When we last see Driver – bleeding out while behind the wheel of his car, before pulling himself together and speeding off into the night – there is a certain amount of lingering doubt about the literalness vs. figurativeness of what we are seeing. When I asked Refn first-hand what the ending of Drive was all about, I expected the typically coy filmmaker to hand me an equally coy answer. However, he was surprisingly straight forward in his response:

Well all my films always have open endings. All of them. Because I believe art is always best when…you talk about it and think about it, so forth. Maybe once in awhile I’ve gone too far, but I always believe in finding the right balance. And in ‘Drive’ he lives on for more and new adventures.

So there you have it – if you were wondering whether or not the ending of the film was to be taken literally, or was some metaphoric death scene, you at least now know how the director sees it.

Drive Starring Ryan Gosling Drive Ending Explained

He will live on to drive another day.

Refn has continuously referred to the film as a modern Grimm fairytale (unlikely hero rises to battle evil king, saves princess) and I for one always saw the ending as the hero saving the girl, while also being denied the “happily ever after” cliche he may want. Indeed, the implications of the film are such that Driver will likely speed off into new adventures, as Refn claims, albeit still stuck in the lonely and isolated existence in which we found him. The only difference is: he now knows what kind of hero he can be.

Do you have any thoughts to share about the ending of the film? Let us know in the comments.

Drive is now playing in theaters.

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  1. I saw the ending being a lot like Shane…

    • Excellent comparison.

  2. The ending seemed pretty clear to me that he lived, he was leaving the money behind and him and Irene would never be together.

  3. How can one “drive off to new adventures” after being viciously stabbed in the abdomen? It seemed to me that he received a mortal wound.

    • I wondered the same thing. He looked like a goner to me.
      Glad he lives on.

  4. People get stabbed and sometimes they survive. The knife was small too so it could have missed his major arteries. In high school a Vietnam vet came in to talk to us about his experiences and he was gutted by a bayonet and walked back to his base while holding his entrails in place and he survived.

  5. fantastic movie. good ending

  6. Peter Pan once said that death is the ultimate adventure.

    • that was hook…

    • creep

  7. I figured it was literal and that driver does in fact live.he’s a stuntdriver for movies.. I’ve been intrigued by the idea (I just sorta made up) that maybe he would wear bloodpacks and such especially since becoming involved in this violent world maybe to fool hitmen or something.obviously im reaching but still as the director said art is supposed to make you think and since leaving the theater like 14 hours ago I have indeed had this movie on my mind.

  8. I figured he would live and leave the girl because he didn’t want her and her child to be subjected to a life of crime.

    Not a bad film but I wouldn’t have given it such grandiose praise; I found some parts to be quite boring.

  9. Ok, the ending I get. Open ended. Where will his next mission be. What I didn’t get was this. For someone so smart. Alert. Observant. Why would he take a chance at the end turning his back on Albert Brooks going into the trunk of his car? He had to think this guy would try something. You just don’t go to the trunk of your car to give a guy a million dollars after killing his partner and think it’s going to go smoothly. It didn’t make sense to me he wasn’t prepared for something being as organized as Ryan’s character was.

    • I think he did expect something to happen, there was no suggestion prior that he had a knife (which i THINK is what he stabbed brooks with, i could be wrong). No matter how he did it he probably expected to die, and if he happened to live, he lived, hence the (mostly) nonchalant drive away and telling the “girlfriend” that he wouldn’t be coming back, he wasn’t expecting to live

    • He needed to get killed so the girl would live. So he left it up to God if he survived, and the lord let him live on to drive into the sunset, hooray!!!

      • God had nothing to do with it bro…

        • God has everything to do with it!!!!!!!!!!!

          • You are stupid.

    • I think that the Driver WAS prepared for Bernie, but made a choice to not strike first, that by allowing Bernie to strike first we see that Driver truly has changed his nature for Irene. He’s not the scorpion any longer, only Bernie is a scorpion now. This is the only sensible explanation I see for an otherwise odd choice of behavior for Driver.

  10. What I took note of immediately was what Ryan’s character told Irene in his his final message, and that was he “probably” will not be coming back.
    Seems to me he would eventually go back since there were no players left alive that knew his involement and the fact he left the money. The “probably” in the message was the fact he thought would not survive but he did!

  11. I agree with Bob G. I thought it was actually kind of weird that he didn’t go back to her since everyone who was after him was dead. Maybe he does. Maybe he wraps himself up at the garage and goes home. That would be nice. It seems like too optimistic an ending but really I don’t see anything standing in the way of it. Regardless, it’s good to see a movie about a hero who saves the day and still have it feel so real and believable.

    • Just attended a Q&A with Refn, he said that Driver knew after the elevator scene that he and Irene could never be together.

  12. Surprising movie. Love personified. As they looked into each other’s soul, words were not necessary. Knew there couldn’t be a “happy” ending after he bonded with her husband. They had one week together, and they’ll both think about it forever. Little curious about the bleed-out and what he did about it, since he should be dead.

  13. Also, he was so careful the entire film, I had a hard time believing he would turn his back to him.

    • He needed to get killed so the girl would live. So he left it up to God if he survived, and the lord let him live on to drive into the sunset, hoorahh!!!!!!!!!!

  14. I think Mr. Refn, the director, is messing with us.

    Brook’s mob boss character knew exactly what he was doing when he killed Driver’s boss at the garage. He knew his unorthodoxed wound would kill with the same self-assurance as a skilled surgeon. “It’s over now, no pain, no pain” says it all. He knew that one slash was enough.

    When he returned that razor blade to the case, there were five or six other knives. With all the knives in the world, why display these knives in such a nice and “out there for all to see” kind of way? I suspect it’s because those other knives represented other significant kills during his career. I further suspect that he displayed them as a warning to others because he never seemed to enjoy the killing. All three times he either does or tries it, he doesn’t seem to enjoy it. More of an unpleasant but necessary part of the career.

    So the stab delivered to Driver wasn’t just a stab in the dark. I worked on a TV show called LAPD, Life on the Beat (basically COPS but we never left LA) and worked more than a few homicide cases. Driver was stabbed in the liver as best I could tell. The liver is a pretty awful place to be wounded. If shot or stabbed there, death is extremely likely if the victim doesn’t get to the hospital. The death is also not a good one as it takes, on average, fifteen minutes to bleed out.

    So I’m not saying that Driver lived, I’m just saying that my take was this. He was a stuntman. As such, he knew more about being injured in various ways than others. I think he knew that if he didn’t seek medical attention he knew he was a goner. If he did seek medical attention, he knew this could be traced to him by the East Coast mob so again, a goner. Knowing he was probably going to die whether he went to the hospital or not, he chose to do the one thing he truly could do, which was drive. I say could because he clearly had some emotional blocks when it came to enjoying any other part of his life.

    Hate to blab on but I also thought of one other possibility. On the side, Driver is helping facilitate large scale crimes. He knows exactly how cops operate including the code/slang on the police radio and how they form perimeters…stuff the average civilian doesn’t know. Nino mentions the nobody mob guy from Philly that stashed the million at the pawn shop with designs on taking over the LA turf.

    Is it possible that Driver is the “nobody” mob guy from Philly? I mean what better way to get close to organized crime than to be an anonymous get-a-way driver for the larger crime guys? What better way to get close to the bosses than let them catch wind of a cool million sitting around.

    To support this theory, I offer a couple of things. First, the man seems to care less about money. Never once is he motivated by cash. Could this be because a million bucks is nothing compared to the insane amounts of money that goes to crime bosses in LA? He’s always looking out the window at the city. It reminded me of Tony Montoya in Scarface looking out over Miami and saying “You have it all” or whatever it was that became his mantra. Finally this, he never reacts to the “girlfriend” in an emotional way even when she puts her hand on his. I mean nothing? Is it possible that he set-up the husband himself? He couldn’t have lived in the building that long if they lived so close but had never really met one another.

    So all I can say is THANK YOU Mr. Refn. Your film is outstanding and definitely a piece of art to me. I agree that art is supposed to make you think and sir, my hat is off because I haven’t stopped thinking about it since I saw it. It really affected me and I really don’t even know why. I have stopped thinking 24/7 about many a great movie but this one just keeps me thinking both inward and outward. I dream of working with you someday and I have been so lucky from time to time to work with true artists in the world of film. Unfortunate not as often as I had hoped I would when I first started my career. But thank you for such a wonderful film to all involved above and below the line.

    • Sorry..The Scarface phrase Tony liked so much was “The World is Yours.” That’s what Driver’s window watching reminded me of. I know when I sit out looking over LA, I used to think that someday I would own the city. Ohhhhh…ignorant youth I miss you so.

    • to Toledo bob: OhMyGOD, What a Fantastic Idea!!! that he Is the “nobody”!! that goes with his remaining unnamed throughout, also!
      [I still Hate this directer not making a Decicion and Expressing it clearly as to weather Driver lives or dies at end (if he lives, with as you say, stabbed liver, Very Shoddy! No Need for that kind of betrayal of reality crap! might as well make his car fly. UNinterresting!)]
      It goes with him Knowing how to Not get killed by Brooks at end, (If such precautions had been Shown, like a book in his tanktop, & sleeves of jacket or something.) doesn’t go with him leaving the money though. gangsters & capitalists don’t ‘leave the money’.
      Director: A+ If serious ending. ~C+ as is. But You,’Bob’! You made Me Think ! Thanks!

  15. just saw Drive , both thumbs up, i think he lived after the knife wound and will drive on to his next adventure as he did when he walked into Shannons garage years before. “came outa nowhere” he said, maybe thats how he rolls, from one lonely existance to the next, i dont think he usually forms relationships and probably surprised himself falling for Irene. anyways, Irene knocking on his door was a sign that she cared and if he did return then there would have been a happy ending :)

  16. One thing that bothered me was the glaring omission of what he did with the body of the guy in the elevator after crushing his face into pulp. I’d imagine his apartment would be crawling with cops a neighbor sees the aftermath (body or no, it would leave an enormous mess).

    And I wish he would have changed jackets, he walked around town and inside ritzy establishments with blood all over himself and no one says a word.

    He was an anti-hero in my book, nothing about the guy was very nice except how he treated the woman and child. He was a big time thief and murderer. Of course he was killing people we didnt like anyway but I could tell that his lust wasnt newfound during the course of the story we see. His character, to me anyway, suggests he’s killed before.

    Anyway, I did like the movie for all the reasons stated in the review on this site. The ending was pretty cut and dry, it never crossed my mind it might be figurative, and glad that it turns out it wasnt.

    • I’d have been happier if the ending had been even Less ‘figurative’ & they answered your retorical jacket question simultaneously: I think that jacket was padded or something. I think the scorpion logo was both figurative And litteral – about people ‘are who they are’,etc., but also, ‘this guy is slight but tough to kill! directer could have shown crustation-like exoskelletal substance In lining of jacket at any point, & the Whole movie would’ve made more sense! maybe it was stunt-car driving material that protected him from getting Deeply stabbed at end. ? If they’d Shown this, and answered our physics & biology questions, (that we shouldn’t have to ask)we could talk more about what a film Should make you think &talk about – like what characters are thinking or planning, or what & where they came from . . . like Philidelphia. (see Toledo Bob above)

  17. He left the money because he didnt want the beef or displease the girl, who at the end he was driving to go and see

  18. He leaved the girl and gone away with money because he didn’t want the kid in the new milionnaire life

  19. Wow… Lot of ideas. I think “Driver” lived. It didn’t appear to be a liver wound. The blood wasn’t dark enough. He just rolled out leaving everything behind. Also, I think the reason he turned his back on Bernie was because he knew he would try something. He was prepared for it and willing to take that risk. He clearly intended to kill Bernie regardless of what was going to happen to himself.

  20. It is an other world like these movies.
    All kind of CSI series are on the tv, and the film almost ignores the other side of the “life” the strict, and law ‘driven’ one.
    So this movie focuses on an infinitely simplified naked and skeletonized story maybe on human values. It is not a kind of movie like others said in this forum, like fake blood and things like that. No _Nick Cage action, no hollywood style CGI. It is as is: a really good old fashioned real MOVIE.

    If the other contemporary movies would be half as straight and actual (in any kind of genre) as Drive, the movie fans value judgement would be more sane.

    Even if it is a fiction, this movie is much more true than most of the movies said to be based on real events.

  21. Could’nt driver have gone to a hospital and claim he was hurt accidently and have the wound treated. Also why didn’t he take some of the money? If say 25% of the money was missing, the “mob” back in philly would probably assume the cops or a local first respondent lifted it. Also, why did Driver turn his back on albert brooks when he reached into the trunk to get the cash, he had to know the guy was dangerous and motivated to get rid of him, and finally I think because of the lapses from asked questions to answered questions the name of the movie should be..”Plentiful Pregnant Pauses”…LOVE “Shawshank Redemption” because of it’s closure…drive to me was just the opposite

  22. I think the scene in the beginning is absolutely awesome! The best one in the movie. Wonderfully intense and full of adrenaline 😀

  23. this movie blows goats

    • As a goat, I find this offensive.

  24. Loved the movie. The Mustang chase reminded me of Bullitt.

    Questions. What happened with all the money? Im guessing he took it with him.

    Now that Refn has said The Driver survived, I do want to see a sequel. Since he as all the money maybe a prequel about what he did 5-6 before he showed up at Shannon’s auto-shop. Though a sequel could work b/c the Driver does not come off as they type of guy to actually keep the money. What I liked about this film was that the Driver was so much more than just a Driver.

    • At the end, he left the bag of money next to the body of Bernie.

  25. The movie was awesome but the ending really spoiled it for me. I hate this art interpretation bull****. The director did a good a job building up the driver’s character only to totally wreck it at the end. As one of the ranters pointed out how could the driver not see what was coming and he could have dealt with the last guy as Nino. Didn’t make any sense. What a shame!!

  26. ok, i enjoyed the film. it all makes good sense to me, except one thing. Yes he’s a hero in terms of protecting the ‘girlfriend’ and her son. However, he’s running off will a MILL!! i mean, fairplay to him n’all, but surely the money, or at least some, would be more useful in the possession of the ‘girlfriend’, the sneaky russian! Am i the only person who is wondering what happens with the dosh??

    • No, he left the bag of money next to the body of Bernie.

  27. I thought this movie was an almost-kinda-sorta a remake of the movie Thief.

  28. I thought he was driving till he died.
    But more importantly why the feck wasn’t anyone wearing seatbelts at any point in this movie?? Even the kid and the girl when he took them for a drive both sitting in the front seat. Guys supposed to be a professional stunt driver. Suppose the director decided seatbelts would be to uncool.

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