In most films containing a mysterious element, the truth behind said mystery is revealed before the end credits roll. But that’s not always the case – indeed, some of the greatest movies of all time conclude with at least one major loose end intentionally left dangling.
While ambiguity in films can be seen as a good thing – it invites viewers to actively engage with the story in order to find answers, and encourages further discussion – it can also be more than a little maddening!
After all, curiosity is huge part of human nature – we desperately want (even need) to know the definitive answers to these cinematic questions, in the same way we crave the secret behind a magic trick. Yet as with a magic trick, should we ever actually uncover conclusive proof that unravels one of these puzzles, deep down, we know we’re bound to wind up disappointed – after all, they’re not really meant to be solved.
Nevertheless, we all still try to decipher these big screen enigmas, and the detective work involved is undeniably fun.
With this in mind, here are 15 Movie Mysteries That Have Never Been Solved.View article on one page
15Pulp Fiction - The Briefcase
The unknown contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction represent something of a paradox, as they constitute a mystery that has been solved, yet at the same, can’t ever be. Director Quentin Tarantino didn’t actually have anything in mind – he just intended whatever was in the case to function as a McGuffin, driving the plot forward.
What matters is that the briefcase stores something precious enough to provide motivation for the characters – indeed, initially, the case was to contain diamonds, This was later deemed too generic and replaced by an unseen, glowing item, leaving audience members to imagine something they prize highly.
This hasn’t stopped fans from coming up with increasingly fanciful theories regarding what the briefcase contains – a popular argument identifies the luminous substance as gangster Marcellus Wallace’s soul – which, while technically not correct, are valid nonethless.
14Blade Runner - Is Deckard A Replicant?
Yes, Ridley Scott remains adamant that former police detective Rick Deckard was really a Replicant in Blade Runner – but the open-ended nature of the film itself still leaves this open for debate!
There’s plenty of evidence to support Scott’s stance that Deckard is a synthetic lifeform – not least of all his recurring unicorn dream, which is heavily implied to be a neural implant. Equally, there’s some noteworthy dissenting arguments, with none other than Deckard's portrayer, Harrison Ford, maintaining that he was portraying a human character.
As with many entries on this list, it’s arguably the question that matters far more than the answer – which is probably why Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up Blade Runner 2049 tactfully avoided explicitly addressing the issue.
Really, it all comes down to whether you side with Scott or with Ford – although it’s worth noting that in Philip K. Dick’s original novel, Rick was categorically human.
13Inception - Is Cobb Awake or Dreaming?
The biggest talking point about Christopher Nolan’s Inception is its unresolved ending. Here, we see dream thief Dom Cobb reunited with his children, while his totem – a top he uses to determine whether he is awake or not – continues to spin on. Before we witness whether the top continues to revolve indefinitely (indicating our guy is dreaming) or not, the screen cuts to black, leaving us guessing.
Nolan himself has been unsurprisingly coy on the matter, maintaining that the truth is somewhat meaningless, given Cobb himself clearly no longer cares (he ignores his totem, after all). That said, there is evidence in the film – everything from the top wobbling slightly to Cobb’s absent wedding ring (typically a clue that he’s awake) – that strongly support one conclusion.
Nevertheless, it’s impossible to prove outright whether the events of the finale are fantasy or fact, and debate rages online to this day.
12Cast Away - FedEx Box
Cast Away sees systems engineer Chuck Noland stranded on a deserted island. Left to fend for himself, Noland develops survival skills that would make Bear Grylls proud – although the Man vs. Wild star would undoubtedly frown on Chuck’s reliance on a stash of FedEx boxes that washed ashore with him.
During his unplanned holiday, Noland tears open all of these parcels save one. He leaves thislone box sealed up as a symbolic promise to himself that he’ll make it home to personally deliver it to its intended recipient.
To his credit, Noland does ultimately make good on this promise, however we still never get to see the box opened, making this another “mystery box” entry on this list!
Director Robert Zemeckis once quipped that the package contained a satellite phone – which would actually have been kind of brilliant.