‘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. He left the money because he wanted to part himself from the crime he’d been led into and to abide my the deal . His real interests were at heart with the girl. The ending is so called bittersweet- I interpreted a getaway from the town to confirm protection of the girl ,although it’s harsh :) We can’t always have a happy ending! AND in an ideal world he’ll drive back in a few years and they’ll go for coffee, fall in love again then get married. :)

  2. Sorry if this post comes up twice, pc is acting up a little. To those that are annoyed at me giving my opinion, it is just that an (informed opinion). I recall a similar reaction to another film with a strange ending, No Country For Old Men. Films have become far more sophisticated the last 50 or so years. Anyone that has seen Rob Ager’s videos on youtube will know that far more can lie below the surface to a films narritve. SO it is with Drive, I believe. I personally lay money on Refn being playful when he says that driver lives on. He does….in driver’s head. Much the same as Inception was basically a movie about a film maker making a movie (look it up folks) Drive is a movie about an individual imagining his life as if he were the star of his own movie. The lines of what’s real and what are imagined in Driver’s head are blurred and so they should be, the majority of hollywood films are set at the lowest common intellectual denominator, so to have a thoughtful and smart film like this, I’m delighted.

    • your views and translations r retarded, the guy who made it told u that he lived and u still come up with nonesence , shadows and sun???? the film looks like it doesnt have a big budget so maybe it was a editing mistake.
      ps if the ending is all in his head then dont u think he would of gone back 4 the girl. think before u comment dummy

  3. there’s no way the ‘driver’ could have lived through that stabbing.. so that goes right out the window.. making this ending a stretch.. so I guess the director is telling us that the scene never really took place.. which makes no sense, because we saw it take place? But if it really didn’t take place then what did take place.. I think I know the answer.. it has to do with the spiritual war of the bible- of Salvation. The evil man dies as he will die the second death. But the ‘Driver’ will be Saved, and Live.. Eternally- The final song’s lyrics support this completely-

    “A planet on a cold, cold morn’ (morning)
    155 people or more
    All safe and all rescued
    From the slowly sinking ship
    What are warmer than
    His head so cool
    And type “I knew what to do”

    “Safe (Salvation) and all rescued (Redeemed)”.


    • What song are you quoting from?

      • The song is called: A real Hero by College. It’s the same song played previously when driver asked Irene while giving her a ride home, “Hey, do you want to see something?”

      • The song is called A real Hero by College. It’s the same song played previously when driver asked Irene while giving her a ride home, “Hey, do you want to see something?”

      • When we first see Driver “stabbed” in the parking lot, we all see him flashback to when the offer was made to him to hand over the money and his girlfriend would live. What we were actually seeing in the parking lot was Driver imaging the sort of fate that awaited him if he took the deal. He was never stabbed and the reason there was so much blood on his shirt was because of the wound he inflicted on the mobster.

    • but Driver showed zero religious leanrings, so this is just you putting that spin on it. You are corect, in so far as the piece is about redemtion. Driver is living his life as if it wre a film, it’s as clear as day. In ‘real life’ he dies along with the bad guy. similar to The Last Temptation Of Christ, where the temptation is a reverie in the mind of Jesus, the final scene where driver is driving in the night, that is all in drivers head, one last reverie before his lights go out.

      • I think some people are reading way too much into this film. The pulp, almost noir-ish theme would tend to suggest simplicity to the narrative.

        Both the director and the book have him living through the stabbing (as I mention in another comment stabbings are only fatal in less than one in six cases).

        As for leaving the money, mentioned elsewhere, a simple explanation would seem to be that there would be nothing to link him to the money so if it’s real owners found it with a rival gangster that would seem to draw a line under things while if it vanished they would go on searching.

  4. i see it as a sci-fi ending, ala terminator. driver sent here to save individuals from tragic endings. hence, the miraculous healing at the end.

  5. I am stunned that he lived. The long, long shot of him with his eyes unblinking looked very much like he was dead.

  6. Idk why people can’t grasp that a stab wound to the abdomen is not a fatal stab. I like to think that the “bad guy” f***** up when he went for his body Ryan ended up getting him in the neck which quickly ended him. Also the movie is supposed to leave you hanging. I like when a filmmaker lets the people decide how the story ends

    • …and why are you finding it so hard to believe this filmic take on ‘magic realism’? Driver dies, he bleeds to death. Lots of scenes in the film are not ‘real’, but in the mind of Driver. The last scene is in the guy’s head. There are lots of unanounced reveries in the film, the final scene is one such reverie.

      • This movie was based on the book and in the book, he lives, moves to Arizona, where we find him years later…only to find the mafia he thought he has escaped has found him…Drive 2 is coming!

      • I think you need to do your research on magical realism. To quote the ending as such is a total fallacy. Try reading some Spanish novellas of the theme. If anything it was a dream like sequence.

  7. Does anybody else see the directors comment as the possibility of another “Drive” movie? And who else sees kind of a “Punisher”/”The Transporter” thing happening with the next movie?

  8. Great film, right up until the end. Then it bombs :(

    First, not anticipating an attack seems naive, but after Driver triumphs (albeit wounded) he leave a million untraceable dollars the ground! No way. At least give it to the girl if he didn’t want the girl, but he certainly seemed to! Sorry, the ending made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

    • Yeah, giving the money to the girl would make sense but the girl didn’t want it. I think it was evident in their conversation in the elevator, when she slapped him.

    • Driver has principles. He doesn’t want your stinking money, bud.

  9. I agree with the frog and scorpion analysis, and after having read what others have said, have a new interpretation of it.

    I believe, that the scorpion represents both the other characters (villians) in the movie as well as the driver. Remember his five minute rule, it is similar to the promise the scorpion makes to the frog. The scorpion knows it is in his best interest not to sting the frog, just as Gosling knows it is not in his best interest to get involved for anymore than five minutes. Remember, the scorpion stings because it is in its nature to do so. The same way that it is human nature to be more involved than a simple cold callous unyielding five minutes of time. Thus Gosling as the scorpion betrays his self imposed rule of isolation (in his daily life) and in his dealings (5 minute rule) that he has promised himself. Thus, he returns to his human nature of protection, empathy, and love; to make a decision that ultimately causes him his demise; at the very least in everything he has established, and potentially his life as well (depending on your interpretation, however, the scorpion does die in the fable).

    Furthermore, If Gosling had not drove, and standard had gone alone with Blanche, the dummy heist would have been a success and although standard would have died, there would have been no loose ends. Meaning, Gosling as the scorpion, if he had chosen not to break his self imposed rules (and not help standard), would have literally “made it to the other side” and not have been stabbed/ lost Irene/ have to leave town.

    Who is the frog? All the people he interacts with, or more accurately does not interact with. He is making a silent promise to every person he sees not to sting, to not get involved in their lives. It is why he waits with hesitation, as the camera lingers on him, having seen Irene with car trouble. He is contemplating whether or not to sting, to bring his poisonous life into contact with her more pure and innocent one. Interesting enough, as Gosling contemplates his potential action, the camera lingers over the “Big 6 Market” a number just to the other side of 5.

    Here is the real twister, The market is number 6, his first step of extra involvement with Irene, the Stock car number is 47, his extra step of involvement with shannon, The apartment where standard lives? 408, his extra step of involvement with standard and benecio. 5 minutes is the rule, and Gosling is in room 405. Thus the trend should be evident. from 5 to 6 to 7 to 8 he is getting farther and farther away from his rules.

    Another interesting note, Shannon has a horseshoe tattoo on his neck, but the horseshoe is upside down, it is bad luck for a horseshoe to hang heels down because all the luck drains out; just as Bernie says it is not bad news, but rather, bad luck. And in the conversation with Gosling, Bernie also says that Shannon has never had a lot of luck. The story is in the details of this movie.

    Just as the scorpion cannot resist its own nature, Gosling cannot resist his own human nature. Even if it means it might sink him.

    • Interesting about the scorpion, but if the driver didn’t help irenes man out the mob would have killed irene anyway, as stated

  10. Stomach wounds are bad, very bad. If he didn’t go straight to the hospital (and he didn’t) he wouldnt/won’t last long.

    • Maybe thats where he was going…stomach wounds arent instantly fatal he had time

    • Not necessarily. Yes, in cowboy films if someone is gut shot it’s usually fatal. Stabbings aren’t necessarily though. In fact statistics show that only around 16% of people who are stabbed, die, and the bulk of them are related to arterial bleeding. Biggest problems with stabbing injuries to the abdomen are internal bleeding, gangrene or sepsis. Unless there was arterial bleeding involved all of these would potentially take some time to be fatal.

  11. It would have been way better if the ending was just a figurative in the sense that he is finally free of all the run-about, and he could just do what he really wants–drive–even if it is in the after life. Tragic ending, but more believable.

    It’s just a bit hard to believe that with the wound he sustained, he would just drive off as if he we was some superhero.

    • YOu are right fella. Don’t mind what anyone else is saying about the film. People forget that movies are not real life. They don’t have to follow the laws of physics the way you or I do living our lives. WHy people can go and watch UP and accept that a house can fly if yuo attach enough ballons, despite knowing that’s near impossible and not accept ‘magic realism’ in a regular film like Drive or No Country For Old Men is beyond me.

  12. It came off like a solid B movie. Some scenes, intended to show him as a man of few words (such as some of his first scenes with the girl) lacked any semblance of reality and almost felt like the movie had come to a complete stop. Other long sections of the film were ruined by the intrusive pop female vocals that sounded like they were from the 80s. A shame because it had an otherwise nice electronic score, much like an old Tangerine Dream soundtrack.

    The end was ridiculous, as was his going into the brothel unarmed and shoving the bullet down the guys throat. Not likely.

    You can’t compare a film like this, which aspires to be serious and realistic…to a kids film like “Up.” If the film is supposed to be hard edged and realistic, then so be it…he can’t turn into Superman in the last two minutes. Can’t have it both ways.


  13. One idea I don’t really see here is the idea that Driver was comitting a form of suicide. Just before Bernie stabs him, they cut back to Gosling smiling at the table, the first really relaxed smile of the whole film. I think living as a zombie is no longer acceptable now that he has felt love, but he realized in the elevator that he is too damaged/rageful to be fully human. The only way he can be redeemed is to sacrifice himself for Irene, so he lets Bernie stab him — but then stabs him back to protect Irene.
    Then, in the car, he dies (the long pause) and the smile that follows is the joyful relief of no longer having to live such a miserable life.
    Finally, you have to remember that even the director or a writer can have ambiguity about the meaning of a scene or the fate of their characters. There is no “true” ending, only the branching possibilities/interpretations.
    I understand the frustration of the open ending but it seems pretty clear that any happy boy-gets-girl ending would have made the rest of the film a total fraud — and the message would be nihlist; that you can kill and maim and steal your way to a fantasy Camelot life.

  14. what about the scene where the kid was in the garage while driver was working on the car and he blinked first…i think at the end of the movie you all blinked.

  15. I have watched this movie more than once, and I believe there will be a drive 2. I think he was day dreaming about stabbing the guy, he left the money, and just started driving, and the bad guy is after him, or he got stabbed, but had something under his jacket that saved his life.

  16. I did not like how this movie ended at all. Not sure what to think of it. Stomach wounds are not fatal unless u dont seek help. I think he left town and didn’t go get the girl. He already asked her to keep the money and leave with him and he would protect her. She said nothing when he called her to tell her more or less goodbye. I really wish he could of got the girl.

  17. Well, I think that the Driver decided to die. He did not went to the Hospital.. so there is no way he survived this stabbing. Moreover I think that he knows he is a dangerous man, and killing is part of his identity. Just like a scorpion, which would explain the jacket. That’s why he decides to die in order not to harm other people with his “dirty hands”.
    He also know he had to die, when he told the story about the scorpion and the frog. In this story the scorpion attacks the frog, but also dies in the end because of drowning in the river.

  18. @Julien

    Your explanation makes a lot of sense.

    However, a beautifull movie like this deserves a good (happy) closing. It makes no sense that “driver” would leave the people he actually cares about.

    Nor would it make any sense he would drive out to new adventures with his injuries.

    So that which makes most sense is that he will keep on driving untill he dies on the road which he loves. Pretty sad… and tbh, I don’t like movies with a sad ending, they totally take the magic away.

    So for me personally the ending is a big downer for a great movie. Weird director..

    • You missed the point of the movie then.

  19. Did anybody notice that he never slept?

    I’d say the final drive was all in his head, and he finally got to rest.

    • Kind of hard to sleep when that crazy mess called a life is being thrown at you. I did notice also though.

    • Did they show anybody else sleeping??? Just because you did not see him sleep in the film, does not mean he did not sleep. We did not see anybody use the restroom or take a shower, but unless they are bionic, they most likely did. Just because you did not see something happen, does not indicate that it did not happen.

  20. After watching the movie I thought that when he went into the stunt trailer he had grabbed some extra stunt material or something like that. Which seemed reasonable considering that stab was pretty fatal and he was able to drive away like nothing happened. This movie was pretty successful because after your done watching it, you have something to talk about. That is the best quality in a good film. It’s not over when it’s over if conversation can be struck up about it.

  21. the driver is an archangel, or something like that. he is not human. the closing sceans show us. he gets stabbed by a professional killer specializing in knives. then he stabs his asailant in the neck with his knife and holds it in his neck until he’s dead. we then see the driver’s wound, high in the abdomen, swollen and bloody. we see his face pale and stunned.
    then we see him in the car. no breathing, no breathing, and still no breathing. no blinking of the eyes. the color in his face is like nothing happened. then he blinks and he breathes and he drives off the the next town.
    humans, even our greatest film heroes dont do that.
    whatever he is, I cant wait to see him again.
    according to the rumors, next time he’ll be up against someone with similar powers.

  22. I loved this movie and it really developed a great character that has brought me back to the early Clinton eastwood films. The driver like Clinton eastwood was a man of few words but could hold his own. Also he never respected higher authority and represented the common man. His morals were that of somone who did what they believed was right. He was not good guy nor a bad guy. As for the ending it symbolizes the driver walking away in to sunset with life threatening wounds like an old western would after getting in a Mexican stand off like scene in which the the “good guy” kills the “bad guy” but inevitably gets in the cross fire. The ending is not about whether he lives on or gets the girl. It is about him doing somthing that is bigger then him. The driver succeeded in saving the girl and the boy from evil and what the movie symbolizes is he has gone to the greatest length to do so. Why this is so important is because he has never done anything like this before and had or would have sacrificed himself for somthing for the first time in his life. He lives on in the sence that his character is not like the rest of us and that he probably will survive from his wounds because he is “the driver”. The director made this ending because it would seem frustrating if the driver keeled over after all the things he has survived through. THE DRIVER LIVES ON.

  23. In a way the director decided the ending in such a way is giving all of us a chance to decide what ever ending that we wish… whether is sad ending or the good one or even we prefer to have a Drive 2… it’s all depends on what is on our mind… In a way, this director is leading a new trend by ending this way… We seldom get this kind of new ideas these few years… It’s a good movie, let’s appreciate the works from the director and ryan gosling..

  24. This is just a bad movie. No story, end of story, period, Explanations won’t help.

  25. I thought that ‘Drive’ was an enjoyable film. Aside from that, the following has to be said…based on my personal opinion.

    I searched up on google the ending of Drive straight after finishing the movie so i could see what other viewers interpreted the ending as. Simply put, my fear was that the director intended the ending to be as straight forward and tacky as my first impression of it was.

    And as Refn’s said, “in Drive he lives on for more and new adventures”. WTF ! I laughed because it would have been the last response I would have expected. Is this guy just gunning for a sequel ? Kinda ruins the whole thing for me. It would almost be have been better if it was just a cut scene and blank before the ending.

    Oops, the film cut of, go with it.

  26. First of all, if someone got paid for this original critique then I think it’s quite obvious that it’s not what you know it’s who you know that gets you anywhere in life. No actual critic would quote fairy tales in their review of a film. Second of all, using the director’s quotes word for word in your explanation is pitiful; use your own vision. And stop using the thesaurus to make smaller words sound bigger it’s quite obvious throughout the article. A lot of big words thrown together doesn’t make you sound any more intelligent it’s just ramble. I’m no English major or professional movie critic but I felt obliged to express my opinion. I also realize that I have yet to explain how I felt about the film. “Drive” was an extraordinary adventure that captivated us all and left us with a mysterious ending. What bothers me is that everyone focuses on the ending for their answers or else they won’t be able to live with themselves. What about the cinematography? What about the picture perfect soundtrack? Of course the driver lives on, but make his future you’re own imagination, not a fairy tales.

  27. First of all, if someone got paid for this original critique then I think it’s quite obvious that it’s not what you know it’s who you know that gets you anywhere in life. No actual critic would quote fairy tales in their review of a film. Second of all, using the director’s quotes word for word in your explanation is pitiful; use your own vision. And stop using the thesaurus to make smaller words sound bigger it’s quite obvious throughout the article. A lot of big words thrown together doesn’t make you sound more intelligent it just becomes mindless ramble at a certain point. I’m no English major or professional movie critic but I felt obliged to express my opinion. I also realize that I have yet to explain how I felt about the film. “Drive” was an extraordinary action thriller that didn’t have cheesey acting or over-the-top taglines. What bothers me is that everyone focuses on the ending for their answers or else they won’t be able to live with themselves. What about the cinematography? What about the picture perfect soundtrack? Of course the driver lives on, that is made quite evident when you see him driving away, but make his future you’re own imagination, not a fairy tales

  28. Been waiting to watch Drive since as I enjoy film noir and don’t mind a vague ending…but so frustrated I wasted my time! Gorgeous and great actors wasted on script seeking to be word thrifty but just lacked depth and character development which could have been achieved with tiny bit more careful dialog. Wait-for-it pace was simply taken too far (i.e. the ending dead moment in car). Story OK but some of it plain as mud as well as rediculously unrealistic (strip club) which didn’t make it more interesting – why did he bother using the rubber mask if he was just going to sacrifice himself anyway? Same question as to why he stabbed Rose. Why leave the $ to be stolen? Seems “family” might not appreciate either and could retaliate against Irene. Uber graphic violence simply unnecessary. Frog and scorpion analogy lost in wtf?? translation. Hot (or should I say too cool) mess.

    • He put the mask on so he cld grab a peek through the door w/out detection. The mask is symbolic to his dark side. And Idk what u mean by “sacrifice.” I don’t see that he sacrificed himself in any way. The fool lived man.

  29. I didn’t read all the posts, but I feel confident in the fact that the ending’s pretty clear. Just as most “films,” there are things throughout the movie that hold answers/explanations to later parts throughout. The whole staring bit at the end was a reference to earlier in the film when the driver was staring with/@ the kid in the shop. The fool’s distant, and judging by his isolation and sense of detachment from reality, combined w/the fact that he’s obviously familiar w/violence, shows us that this is really nothing new to him. I personally have no doubt that he’d left something similar prior to showing up at the guy’s shop the 5-6 yrs back., though he made it clear that the feelings he generated from being w/the girl and kid gave him something new. Dude’s a violent cat, w/violent urges that he tries to keep bottled. There are a lot of subliminal messages throughout, and that main song goes hand-in-hand w/him wanting to be a “real human being.” Simple. ;)