The OVA of Kujibiki Unbalance represents episodes 1, 21, and 25 of a fictional 26-episode TV series, meaning that we never get to see the conclusion. Just to heighten the annoyance, episode 25 ends with Ritsuko about to announce the conditions for victory in the tournament. (The manga of Genshiken, which featured it as a Show Within a Show, clarifies that the last episode was never aired due to a typhoon, so it is sort of justified.)
The Genshiken manga itself doesn't really have any real ending, the idea being that just because the members graduate doesn't mean that club is going anywhere. More members will join and life (and doujinshi) will go on.
The Xxx HO Li CBeach Episode ends with a ghost girl looking out the window to the protagonists. The issue is never mentioned again.
The whole series apparently ends with Watanuki and Doumeki talking about a dream of Yuuko's. Except that it's Doumeki's grandson and Yuuko's dream is telling Watanuki that he can leave the shop at last. Nothing about the fates of Kohane, Himawari and her husband, the original Doumeki, the unhatched egg that's now a Doumeki family heirloom, and Syaoran.
Dai-Guard doesn't end when all the Heterodynes are destroyed, it ends when all the characters realize that the Heterodyne attacks are simply a fact of life in 2030 Japan the same as earthquakes and hurricanes and the point is not about putting an end to them, but how you deal with them. From protecting the lives AND livelihoods of the civilians and working with the military and your allies (rather than against them) to deal with the situation properly.
The Konjiki No Gash Bell anime ends after Gash and company beats Faudo. Kiyomaro and Gash (whose book is still golden) are about to fight Sherry and Brago in a grassy meadow. No outcome is shown and the anime ends there. The manga took a few cues from the anime near the end, up to the point where the final fight between Gash and Brago is in a grassy meadow. However, expectedly, Gash wins this fight and becomes King of Makai.
Axis Powers Hetalia has a Valentine's Day strip end rather abruptly just as one of the main characters seems to be remembering something about another...
School Rumble. It's not so bad in the anime adaptation, since it ended before the series took a turn for the Tear Jerkingly Serious. The manga leaves the audience hanging in such a bad way that some have debated whether the author was just saying "screw you" to the audience.
One of the last few episodes of Futari wa Pretty Cure focuses on the heroines' class entering a chorus competition. The episode ends immediately after their performance, with absolutely no indication of whether they won.
An earlier episode focuses on the science club entering a competition and, like the chorus episode, ends without revealing the outcome. A full year later, Max Heart finally revealed that Verone won... as part of the discussion on what to do for this year's competition, and once again, the episode ended without indicating how they did.
Episode 13 of Digimon Adventure 02 had two characters encounter the minions of a Big Bad called Dagomon (a thinly-veiled Expy of H.P. Lovecraft's Eldritch Abomination Dagon). While the episode's immediate conflict is resolved, questions like what the heck Dagomon is (or what the heck his Mooks are, for that matter), are never properly resolved. Even more frustrating considering that the end of the episode shows him rising oh-so-ominously from the Dark Ocean (complete with glowing red eyes), strongly implying that he will become the Big Bad (or something comparably important) later on.
It doesn't help that Dagomon was originally planned to have more involvement, but this was scrapped due to meddling from Bandai and disputes among the writing staff.
The final (not counting specials) episode of .hack//SIGN features the buildup to a huge battle... which then doesn't take place because the plug gets pulled.
Technically, the battle did happen, it just happened with different characters in the games that Sign was a prequel to.
Initial D, no need to say! "The challenge continues into the far future."
The ending of Macross Frontier, on the surface, would seem like every good guys live Happily Ever After. However, concerning that the Love Triangle, the center plot of the Macross franchise, is left unresolved even by this point, it should be considered instead that the story has No Ending.
Urusei Yatsura does this almost constantly. Many episodes follow this formula: Lum or one of the other aliens introduces a new device or power. One of the other characters misuses it for selfish reasons. Things rapidly spin out of control until the entire town is engulfed in chaos. And...that's it. The episodes often end just when things are at their craziest, without even considering how the cast will get out of this mess.
Unlike most anime, UY makes it a point to emphasize Rule of Funny over plot.
The series itself ends this way, too. The final storyline is one big lampshading of the fact that after all these years, Ataru still refuses to tell Lum he loves her. He literally is willing to risk the destruction of the world to avoid doing this. When the townsfolk discover this, they form a mob and hunt Ataru down to try to force him to say he loves Lum. He still won't, and the series ends with him about to be beaten to death.
The last line in the He Is My Master manga is "Izumi's debt is still *insert huge amount here*". It doesn't conclude. As a mirror to the Bobobo example above, however, the anime actually has an ending.
In Katekyo Hitman Reborn!, in spite of the final arc ending with the curse being lifted from the Arcobaleno, there is no clear resolution for Tsuna or the other guardians. Tsuna is still failing his way through school and sports, still hasn't confessed to Kyoko, and is still dependent on Reborn for guidance and all of which is lampshaded mercilessly. He still defiantly opposes being the Vongola boss but offers no alternative for his future. The only difference between the beginning and ending of the manga is that he has friends.
Frankly, this is something of a recurring theme in anime. The only real difference here is that Reborn is a long-running Shonen battle manga, which doesn't go for this trope as often.
The anime adaptation of Inuyasha ends with the heroes running off into the sunset, still having yet to defeat the antagonist, but proudly proclaiming that someday they will.
Though this got subverted when the show was Uncancelled to finish out the rest of the series. Though doesn't cover all the manga stories from where the original series left off, just the main conflict with Naraku.
The Kare Kano anime infamously ends (or fails to end) this way, with an episode consisting of a slideshow of drawings that still doesn't resolve anything.
After over a year without a new chapter, this is suspected to be the case for Berserk.
Watchmen provides the page quote, coming from Ozymandias asking the omniscient Dr. Manhattan if his terrible actions to stop World War IIIwill be justified "in the end." Manhattan's response is a warning that history will keep on going, and the future will always have new problems. The real world can't be guaranteed an eventual happy ending. Sure enough, the comic itself ends with Rorschach's journal being considered for publishing, when it contains the truth that Ozymandias orchestrated the current Roman peace.
The Novelization of Knightfall. Alfred is gone and Bruce hasn't decided whether to resume being Batman. The final lines of the book are potent.
"Bruce, is there still a Batman?" Tim asked finally.
"Damned if I know," Bruce said.
Often a case in comic books, especially when a comic ends abruptly. Occasionally the plotline will be picked up again in another book or resolved if a series is brought back into publication. Trade paperbacks are also infamous for this sometimes, as far as leaving storylines unresolved or ending in the middle. Famous examples would be:
X-Men Visionaries: Neal Adams, which ends with Xavier collapsing and near death (in part because the subsequent issue, wasn't drawn by Neal Adams).
Daredevil: Typhoid Mary ends with Typhoid Mary having kicked Daredevil's ass and leaving him in a burning building, as she gloats about having broken his heart and messed with his life.
X-Factor Visionaries: Peter David V4 leaves an entire storyline dangling (X-Factor going to Genosha, after the US decides to deport a bunch of Genoshan mutates seeking asylum) because David left the storyline after the first issue due to executive meddling. Not to mention reprinting the X-Cutioner's Song storyline tie-in issues.
Fans of Jim Lee's X-Men run have suffered this as well, as his last couple of issues of X-Men have never been published, leaving "Mutant Genesis" with major cliff-hangers as far as the Mojo/Longshot storyline.
The Essential Nova and Spider-Woman TPBs have this in spades as well. Essential Spider-Woman V2 omits the issues of Avengers that deal with her final battle with Morgana LeFey and losing her powers, while the Nova TPB not only omits the Fantastic Four issues that wrap up the Sphinx subplot (which ends abruptly in the last page of the TPB, with a proclamation to read Fantastic Four to find out what he's up to), but also the story where Rich Rider loses his powers. Granted the latter's omission is due to the fact that that story takes place in Rom (which can't be reprinted due to copyright problems), but the former is just insane.
Essential Howard the Duck doesn't reprint the last few issues of the original series, most likely because they weren't written by Steve Gerber.
Subverted with the Essential Defenders TPBs; Marvel decided to pad out the Defenders TPBs with guest spots from the members in Marvel Team-Up to ensure storylines don't end abruptly.
Transformers Gen 2 and G.I. Joe both suffered this: Transformers ended with Megatron and Optimus Prime striking a truce/alliance against the "second generation" Transformer Empire, with Liege Maximo (head of the second generation Transformer Empire) gloating on his throne about how the alliance between the two sides won't last and him already plotting his next move against the Autobots and Decepticons. GI Joe ended with Cobra brainwashing Storm Shadow and other turncoat Cobra members, effectively restoring Cobra to full strength after years of decline due to the defections of Storm Shadow, Destro, Baroness, and Zartan. The last issue is a one-off issue where Snake Eyes writes a letter to his army friend's adopted son about life in the military.
A more infamous case would be the Dreamwave Transformer books, in particular "The War Within: The Age of Wrath". Three issues were done but due to Pat Lee running his company into the ground, the remaining issues will never see the light of day.
G.I. Joe has been restarted by IDW, with Larry Hama picking up where he left off, and with time having passed between then and now. The old numbering has even been resurrected for the series. Of course, seeing as Hama is a Vietnam veteran, there might be a question of Author Existence Failure coming into play before he finishes up this time.
Larry Gonick's Cartoon History of the United States ends with a note saying that historians never have to write endings, as history will never truly end. He then trails off abruptly in mid sentence.
The Hush Returns arc of Gotham Knights was left completely unresolved, in a sort of bizarre Mexican Standoff between Batman, Hush, and the Joker armed with a remote-controlled pace maker inside Hush's chest. The resolution of the fight was revealed in Hush's subsequent appearances; turns out Batman left Hush to die and the Joker gave Hush a massive heart attack. He came back, but not without a long recovery.
The X-Wing Series comics, set before the books, end with the Mandatory Retirement arc. Great arc end. Bewildering series end. Apparently it was canceled. Timothy Zahn and Michael Stackpole actually scripted a six-issue arc, The Reenlistment Of Baron Fel, that would transition the X-Wing comics to the X-Wing books and to The Thrawn Trilogy, but cancellation stopped that from being produced. The authors shrugged and turned the script into one of the four-part novellas that they've collaborated on before. ...And this is even now sitting on their hard drives, unsold.
Illustrated novel Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection, positions itself as being the recovered journal of a young doctor who tried to survive the initial stages of the Zombie Apocalypse in 2012. The journal traces his journey from the middle of infected Seattle to The Farm, a safe haven set up by a small group of civilians in Western Canada, and after the destruction of The Farm, his journey to another (far better defended) safe haven in the highly isolated town of Churchill. There he's treated with suspicion from the locals, and his Evil-Detecting Dog reacts badly to the people. In a journal entry, the writing suddenly trails off mid sentence, and there are hints of blood spatters on the edge of the page. An afterward simply says that no one knows what happened to the doctor, and no survivors were found in Churchill.
In the ElfQuest short "The Heart's Way" one of Skywise's three girlfriends (yeah!) is upset with him because she wants commitment rather than just fun. Another character suggests she take her time. The ending shows her standing outside the hut where Skywise and the other two girls are making out, but the ending lampshades the ambiguity of whether she joins them or walks away.
Happens in the old Advanced Dungeons and Dragons comic. A lich had kidnapped one of the characters because he wanted her as a 'wife'. Everything was set for a rescue, but the series was dropped, resulting in just one final unconnected special and a new Spelljammer line.
Marvel Comics' Thor/Loki: Bloodbrothers is a story about Loki having finally taken over Asgard, and now being faced with the decision of whether or not he will execute his brother. The entire story makes it seem as though there will be some big battle between the title characters at the end, but instead all that happens is that Thor escapes his dungeon, and as Loki begs for mercy, Thor strikes his hammer down and that's it. No epilogue, no resolution, no conclusion. Not a satisfying one anyway, at least not at first. Though one could argue that the abrupt ending is more powerful and tragic, it'd still really frustrating and unsatisfying to the reader at the moment.
The Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane series ended up having this type of ending. After spending a lot of time building up the Peter/Mary Jane hook up, the final scene of the series ends with Peter and Mary Jane reaching to hold each others hands. To everyone's annoyence, the follow-up series (which is not written by Sean McKeever) does not follow up on this and establishes M.J. and Peter are still just friends. They have a nice moment in the final issue sharing a Pizza together, though.
I Hate Gallant Girl ends with Tempest having just survived a vicious attack from the title "heroine" and just itching for the chance to get back at her. You'd almost think the book was Cut Short halfway through.
Métal Hurlant / Heavy Metal Magazine married this trope and had kids. Just about every other story in it ends this way.
It is a sad fact of the medium that most Fan Fiction ever written qualifies as this. The writer has an idea, pursues it for four or five (or eight or nine... or fifty or sixty...) chapters, and then suddenly just stops updating for a variety of reasons.
A rare exception is the author Meowth Rocket/Meowth's Toon Dragon. He's said to have made it a point to, in case he can't finish a story, to tell fellow authors the rest so they can continue his work. But even he isn't 100% successful in this.
Done in the purposeful literary sense with In The Service: the character the story was following has completed his arc, even if the war that forms the background for the story isn't over.
The Birds: The titular bird attacks on the town are never explained, nor are they stopped. During one of their "calm" periods, a tense peacefulness which also is unexplained, the protagonists get to their car and evacuate the town. Cue the end of the movie.
The Devil Inside infamously did this. The third act is about to start, our protagonists are driving somewhere- SMASH! Car crash. Everyone's dead. The events of this film have never been fully explained. Visit therossifiles.com for more information on the ongoing investigation. The end.
To make matters even worse, the site is no longer running. Sucks if you bought the movie after the theatrical release
The Cavern infamously did this. Towards the end of the film, the caveman Petr brutally kills one of the remaining survivors and rapes the other, and the film just ends right there.
The Shining, leaving the whole incident unexplained and unsolved.
The Sword Of Doom, a remarkably grim and nihilistic samurai movie, has the (anti)hero cornered, fighting, probably doomed — and then the film ends in mid-slash on a freeze frame. The reason for this: a sequel was intended but never filmed. (But given the general aura of nihilism in the film, this no-ending actually works better than one more definitive.)
The Castle, adapted from the Franz Kafka novel by Michael Haneke, emulates the novel's abrupt ending by cutting to black in mid-narrative and offering no resolution to the story.
The Quiet Earth. Zac Hobson finds himself... somewhere. There's no explanation given, and there's no resolution to anything, just Scenery Porn.
The Mary Tyler Moore movie A Change of Habit famously ends this way, with MTM trying to decide whether she will remain a nun or leave the order to pursue True Love with Elvis Presley.
John Sayles' Limbo ends with the three main characters on an island, waiting for a plane to come and either rescue them or kill them. Before you find out which, it fades to white. According to John Sayles, ending the movie with either a rescue or a killing wouldn't have felt right.
In Lone Star, Pilar and Sam learn they're half-siblings after falling in love and consummated their relationship; Pilar says, "Forget the Alamo", hinting that they will continue even though they know they're related.
At the end of Cross Of Iron, Sgt. Steiner and Capt. Stransky are fighting together for survival during the final Soviet assault. When they cross the railroad tracks, Stransky shoots two Soviets, emptying the magazine of his MP-40. He trips and falls, and Steiner shouts at him to get up. Stransky panicking at his empty gun, begs Steiner to tell him how to reload. A Soviet boy soldier shoots at him and knocks of his helmet as Steiner begins to laugh manically. The screen freezes with a shot of Stransky putting his helmet on backwards, then cuts to the boy soldier trying to fire a jammed MP-40 and shaking his head in disgust, and finally to Steiner limping away laughing hysterically. The film ends rather ambiguously with a shot of an explosion and Steiners maniacal laugh continuing into the credits. This abrupt ending was due to budget issues demanding improvisation and rewrite of the final scene.
In The Italian Job 1969, the films ends with the robbers in a literal Cliff Hanger, with their bus hanging halfway over a cliff. Croker then says, "Hang on, lads. I've got an idea." Then the film ends before we find out what the idea is, if it works, and if anyone survives, much less gets the gold. This was in deference to the production codes of the time, which still would not allow criminals get happy endings. Rather than show them punished, the film simply lets you imagine what happens. Many theories have been floated around as to exactly how they are supposed to get out of their situation and possible theories as to how the plot would continue.
Gamera 3 Awakening Of Irys ends with Gamera missing an arm and severely wounded from his battle with Irys, preparing to go into battle against thousands of Gyaos.
Inner Space ends with nebbish supermarket clerk Jack Putter riding off to rescue his friends... and ends with him in midchase. Of course, the point was that Jack was now heroic, instead of the wimp he used to be, but people really wanted to see if and how he rescued them.
Alien Raiders: The Heroic Sacrifice is revealed to be in vain, because they killed the wrong parasite. And one of the last two hostages is revealed to be infected with the alien king parasite... and then the film ends on a cliffhanger. Normally this would be fine as a Downer Ending. But it was executed in a very abrupt way that made you think the film was cut off.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch ends with Tom Atkins' character calling up the local cable company and demanding they stop showing the "commercial" that would turn the Silver Shamrock masks deadly. He is able to get all but one of the stations blocked, and the film ends with him screaming "Stop It!" over and over into the phone. We never find out if the signal is indeed stopped, or the fate of all the kids watching that night.
The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). The Earth is hurtling towards the Sun, but a series of massive nuclear detonations in Siberia may avert the catastrophe. The last scene shows the journalists waiting in the print room with two next editions ready for printing, one saying WORLD SAVED and the other WORLD DOOMED. The American version of the film ends with church bells ringing, implying the world had been saved.
In The Street Fighter with Sonny Chiba, the Anti-Hero defeats the final villain, stumbles to his feet on the brink of death, lurches off balance, and then the film freezes frame, with no indication whether he lives or dies. Subsequent sequels, however, clear that question up.
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels. Tom decides to dispose of the shotguns that are the only evidence of the crime he and the other protagonists have committed. As he prepares to dump them off a bridge into the Thames, his buddies discover that the weapons are rare antiques, each worth a fortune. The movie ends with Tom hanging over the side of the bridge, poised to drop the guns in the river, and his cell phone clutched between his teeth (put there to avoid it falling into the river while he is hanging over the edge) - and it rings.
Cast Away. At the very end Chuck is literally at a cross-roads in a large open area.
Cthulhu (2007). As Things Fall Apart and the Fish People stagger out of the ocean, the protagonist is offered a chance by his father to sacrifice his lover and become the immortal leader of the cult. Although we see him raising his stone cudgel angrily, the movie ends before showing us whether he kills his father or his lover.
None of the five vignettes in The Great New Wonderful have a definite ending. We also never learn the fate of Charlie Burbage.
Two Lane Blacktop centers around a cross-country road race from the Southwest to Washington D.C., but the movie ends with one driver entering a competition at a speedway in Tennessee while the other takes to the road again. The film stock appears to burn up and the fates of both races and all the characters are left unresolved.
The horrible 1994 Dolph Lundgren sports drama/action thriller Pentathlon stops at his character Erik finally killing his evil former coach Hutch after almost getting shot by him as he finishes first in a footrace.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Just as Arthur and his newly acquired cavalry are about to storm the final castle, they're all arrested in connection with the murder of a historian that occurred earlier on in the picture. There were big plans for this scene- including a full-on war between the French and Arthur's army. Unfortunately, at the end of filming, the budget and time just abruptly ran out and they opted for a joke instead in true Python fashion.
At the end of Jason and the Argonauts Jason has defeated the skeletons and the Argo is about to sail away from Colchis with the Golden Fleece, but even assuming they're not attacked by Thessalian warships they still have to find a way back through the Clashing Rocks, navigate all the way back to Thessaly and kill King Pelias. Zeus says "For Jason there will be other adventures", but they were never filmed. This is probably for the best, because Jason becomes a total Jerk Ass in the original myth.
Skyline, as part of an obvious Sequel Hook, but since the movie bombed, it's probably not happening.
My Dinner With Andre doesn't really resolve the philosophical disagreement between Wallace and Andre or determine a winner, pretty much ending because both men had finished dinner and it was time to go their separate ways.
Charlie Chaplin was fond of this trope. In The Kid we don't really know how the Tramp will fit into the kid's life. City Lights is left hanging. In Modern Times they simply resolve to carry on. And The Great Dictator ends with the Jewish barber in mortal peril (if you don't view the ending of the film as a departure into moral allegory).
The horror movie Creature infamously not only has no ending but no third act either. The film's climax of the main character fighting the creature is done off-screen and the end credits roll after the second act. Critics called out the director (and his Small Name, Big Ego) on this and called it a ripoff to release a film that was basically unfinished.
Blood Debt ends with the main character shooting the villain with some sort of rocket derringer, causing him to explode. The film ends the instant he detonates, with a title card essentially acting as the entire denouement.
In the drama film Safe (1995), the main character develops the mysterious multiple chemical sensitivity disorder and goes through treatment in the second half of the film. The film ends with her having fully embraced the treatment center and being around people who accept her, but it's completely left open whether she is recovering at all or only getting worse.
The finale of They Might Be Giants features the hero, who's convinced he is Sherlock Holmes, and his love interest, who just happens to be named Mildred Watson. After escaping from a mental hospital and a climatic fight in a grocery store, the two end up waiting by a tunnel in Central Park at midnight for the infamous (and supposedly fictitious) Moriarty to emerge. There are hoofbeats, then Fade to Black. That's it.
The 1983 made-for-TV movie Starflight: The Plane That Couldn't Land (aka Starflight One) ends with Josh watching Starflight prepare to make an emergency landing, then it just fades to black, then the credits roll. That's it.
Three novels by Franz Kafka (The Castle, The Trial and America) end abruptly.
Frank Richard Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger" is possibly the earliest use of this trope. Instead of revealing whether the princess has chosen for her lover to marry a stranger or be killed by a tiger, the narrator simply asks the reader what he thinks happened. A popular school assignment is for students to answer the question and write their own ending. Readers were so playfully insistent on getting the official answer out of Stockton that they once tried to trick him into choosing between platters of food shaped like a lady and a tiger. He politely refused.
He later did a lesser-known follow up, The Discourager of Hesitancy. It's essentially the same story with a slightly different twist; instead of two doors that give no clues, there are two women who give different indicators (one smiles, the other frowns) but the hero has no way of knowing which is the "correct" one, or for that matter whether either means anything at all. At the end, the narrator of the story tells to his guests that if they can tell him which woman was the correct one, he will tell them whether the lady or the tiger came through the door. Cue groans and sighs of resignation from the reader.
In Animorphs, Rachel takes the secret of David's fate - whether she killed him or returned him to the island - at book 48's end to her grave.
Also, the entire series ends on a cliffhanger, albeit a kind of tacked-on one.
Additionally, in another book, Jake wakes up as an adult in a Yeerk-controlled future. In the end, it turns out to be All Just a Dream some unknown beings (presumably aliens) put him through in order to study humans. However, it's never revealed what choice he made at the end of the dream (to either save Cassie or save the world; all we know is that the aliens remark on it being an "interesting choice") and it's also never explained who or what the aliens were.
Also, in book 16, the Esplin 9466-secondary's mansion burns down, shortly after Jake and the others threatened to kill him if he ever came out again. What happened to him is never mentioned, and it's purposefully left ambiguous whether it was a random accident, Cassie, or Jake himself who did it.
A Series of Unfortunate Events. The final book is called The End, but it is anything but. While the plot is resolved at its absolute-most-basic, i.e. the fate of the Baudelaries and Count Olaf and who Beatrice was, the numerous questions and plot threads accumulated over the course of the series are pointedly dropped as part of an unconventional "you can never have all the answers" Aesop. The story also ends with the Baudelaires sailing away from the island with Kit Snicket's daughter. Understandably, many readers were frustrated.
Infinite Jest: The novel goes on for over one thousand pages and practically all the main plot points are unresolved at the end. On the other hand, we see one of the main characters after the main events in the first chapter, so...
The Princess Bride ends this way (with explicit reference to "The Lady or the Tiger"), with William Goldman as "the editor" giving his own opinions on how the story ends, continuing to screw with the audience because he wrote the friggin' story himself.
Many years later, he did an updated version which says what happened (basically, Westley's crew ambushes Humperdinck's men, the heroes manage to reach his ship and escape, and a "blood clogger" saves Inigo's life). But then he adds some future snippets, specifically after Westley and Buttercup's child is born. To make a long story short, a bitter rival of Westley's kidnaps the baby, Fezzik confronts him, and the rival tosses the hapless girl off a cliff. Fezzik leaps after her...aaaand, that's it. Not a word since.
Stephen King's novella The Mist "ends" on a very ambiguous note, with the surviving protagonists driving off to... Hartford. Maybe.
The King-approved movie version has a very definitive, very Cruel Twist Ending. Watch at your own risk.
King's also used this kind of ending in several of his works, but the ones that pop to mind immediately are "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" (which the movie gave a definite ending to) and Pet Sematary.
Cell also lacks any definite resolution, ending with Clay dialing 911 on the cell phone he has, then holding it up to his semi-phoner son's ear.
The Butter Battle Book. It was nearly the victim of Executive Meddling, as Geisel was pressured to change the ending to a happy one by his publishers. It is appropriate to the story as a parable about the Cold War, since it, quite thankfully, ended without a definitive resolution.
War and Peace ends right as political unrest is beginning to swell in 1820, and one of the deceased main characters' sons has an ominous dream about taking part in a revolution. It's implied that this revolution divides all the main characters into two camps who will have to fight each other.
The Handmaid's Tale ends with Offred fleeing Gilead with the help of La Résistance, but the reader never finds out whether or not she survives. The epilogue is set many years after Gilead has collapsed, with the main story revealed to be a record she left on audio tape. Historians consider "the Handmaid's Tale" to be a valuable resource, but don't know much more about her than we do.
The Illuminatus! Trilogy ends with the main characters, menaced by a giant undersea monster, deciding to retire from the bridge of their submarine and discuss the literary symbolism of said sea creature. The story then switches perspective to an obscure character who has only been mentioned a handful of times in the entire series, who proceeds to die in an earthquake. The End.
Marianne de Pierres' Parrish Plessis series ends suddenly and abruptly when the titular character commits suicide rather than succumb to The Corruption. Since Parrish is a first-person narrator, we don't find out the resolution to any of the plot threads that she doesn't. If she never sees a character again, then neither do we, no matter how important that character was.
Finnegans Wake by James Joyce: deconstructs all aspects of novel and language, and also lacks an ending. The book opens mid-sentence and ends by beginning that first sentence: "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. ......... A way a lone a last a loved a long the"
Paul Auster's City of Glass also ends abruptly, because the narrative is a reconstruction of events based on Daniel Quinn's notebook, and ends when he runs out of room to write. A short epilogue states that Quinn was never found, and lays a lot of the blame on Auster. It's that kind of book.
Stuart Little ends with zero resolution; Stuart simply affirms his determination to find his friend, roll proverbial credits. Apparently EB White was concerned about his health, and decided to end the book at the best place he could find rather than keep going with it and risk leaving it unfinished at an even less satisfying point.
Pretty much anything written by Neal Stephenson, with varying amounts of success. Snow Crash and The Baroque Cycle both manage to pull this off well, ending in an emotionally satisfying way while still leaving many plot points unresolved. Done not so well in The Diamond Age, which could probably have used another hundred pages or so to treat more fully with all of the characters. Subverted with Cryptonomicon, which does in fact have a suitably epic ending, it's just that by that point, the POV character has lost interest, resulting in a highly condensed treatment of the book's Grand Finale, boiling a month's worth of events into five pages of text.
Which he totally reverses in REAMDE (Stephenson's caps), where the culminating chase after the big bad goes on for 300 pages. The thing is though, by the time this happens, the initial premise that gives the book its name ( REAMDE in case you didn't guess is a deliberately misspelled file name that is the trigger for an ingeneous scam using an MMORPG video game as its vehicle) has been abandoned by the author and we never get know how it ends. A bit of a twist on Artifact Title.
The Star Trek novel I, Q has a subversion; the novel is written by John de Lancie and Peter David, from Q's first-person point of view as he, Picard and Data try to save his family, Lady Q and q, and stop the universe from ending. They progress through several bizarre realms and realize that each is a representation of the universe itself going through the Kubler-Ross stages of grief. In the end, they accomplish basically nothing and stare down the actual vortex sucking the universe, literally, down the drain. Q, at this point, desperate for options and knowing that absolutely none exist, manifests a literal message-in-a-bottle in his hands, containing a copy of the book, declares that he is Loki himself and that the universe isn't allowed to end until he says so before throwing the bottle in. The book cuts off mid-sentence, and the following pages are absolutely blank until, finally, the word "heh" starts appearing in the middle of each page. Normal text soon resumes; the bottle washes up on a beach where a young woman, shown in the novel's beginning to be the being responsible for the end, remembers briefly meeting Q by chance while reading it. The fact that Q, of all people, has learned even before the end of the universe to value life and living, is enough to convince her that the universe should continue, and she undoes the end.
The ending of Robin Hobb's Liveship Traders trilogy resolves very few, if any, of the many outstanding plot threads. They're tied up a little better in the following Tawny Man trilogy.
The Farseer Trilogy before it ended on "Assassin's Quest," where the story arc comes to an end with the Heel-Face Brainwashing of the Big Bad but makes drastic complications and leaves a lot of subplots unresolved, and even introduces a new character in the epilogue. The hero, rather abruptly, gives up his love interest and resolves to spend the rest of his life in obscurity. We also never explore the "white prophet" or The Man Behind the Man, the latter having been introduced in Royal Assassin. This can be Hand Waved as a low-fantasy subversion to Happily Ever After, but it fails to fully explain the half-completed World Building. This leaves Tawny Man not only tying up loose ends, but having to re-introduce the characters after fifteen years have passed. As a result, the last hundred or so pages of Fool's Fate read like one giant, bulbous, quadruple reinforced knot.
The Giver. Was Jonas real and he escaped, or was it all a dream? The sequels give the answer, but the wonderful thing about them is you can accept them as sequels or not, and either interpretation is acceptable. Lois Lowry knew what she was doing.
The Red Pony seems to come to an abrupt stop, at least to tenth grade English students. Jody feels sorry for his grandfather and offers to make him some lemonade.
The Michael Crichton novel Eaters Of The Dead ends ibn Fadlan's account with "Now it happened that" and suddenly cuts off. Footnotes explain that the rest of the account was never found. Since the main narrative (Beowulf in the 10th century) had already concluded at that point, not many readers complained.
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy didn't really end as such, it just ground to an abrupt halt in the middle of the action. Fortunately, Adams got much better at writing endings for the later books. The story goes that when writing that book Adams, who had a legendary ability to miss deadlines, was sufficiently late that the publisher just told him "look, finish up the page you're on and we'll send someone to get it in an hour."
In-universe, Authur reads a Bartledanian novel wherein the main character dies of thirst in the penultimate chapter because of a plumbing issue briefly mentioned in chapter two. The rest of the book talks about road mending until it ends at precisely one hundred thousand words, which is how long novels are on Bartledan.
Robert Silverberg's Up the Line ends with the hero hiding from the Time Service in an obscure era where with any luck they'll never find him. He knows however that his respite is only temporary, since instead of killing him directly they can cause him to never have existed in the first place, and even as he speculates this, his narration — just as he predicted — is cut off short in mid-sentence.
Rachel Preston's Tent Of Blue. While also it leaves you hanging, many questions that are aroused in the reader's mind towards the end are never answered at the end. How did Yvonne get her son, Anton, out of the mental asylum without Harold's consent? Never mentioned. Not once.
Picnic at Hanging Rock ended without a resolutionnote - although one possible interpretation of the differing descriptions of the terrain before and after the disappearance is that a rock fall occurred, completely burying the missing ones. It went unnoticed by the people in the area when it happened, and none of the searchers had the sufficient knowledge of the area to be able to recognise the recent rock fall after the fact. It later received one, in the form of the previously unpublished final chapter, which sees the missing women ending up in Mind Screw land (time warp, Limbo, Dreamtime, you guess), and basically replaces a No Ending with a Gainax Ending.
One of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark collections features the urban legend of the medical students who pull the prank on one of their peers by hanging a cadaver's arm in her closet. The ending was apparently deemed inappropriate for children, so the story ends with the prankster returning and discovering, "The joke had worked. But no one was laughing." End of text.
For the curious, the usual ending to this story is that the students break into her room and discover she has been driven mad and started to eat the arm.
Starship Troopers ends with Rico successfully completing his second crack at Officer Candidate School and taking command of the Roughnecks. What happens from there, including the outcome of the war, is left entirely up to the reader.
The reason is because it's a Coming of Age Story. At the end the protagonist, although still in his 20s, has come of age, and replaced (one of) his father figures. And the war is clearly going well, since they're about to have their second go at taking the enemy's homeworld.
In The Remembering, Steve Cash's third book of The Meq trilogy, most of the characters "cross over" and finally start to age after centuries of immortality in childlike bodies. The previously immortal characters grow up and start having kids. However, questions that remained unanswered throughout the entire series are never explained or resolved, such as the mystery of what the Meq are, where they came from, why they were semi-immortal and possessed strange powers, what their purpose is on Earth in relation to humans, etc. The third book keeps hinting at the resolution of all these questions right up to the end, but they are never answered and by then the characters don't even seem too curious anymore about their origins.
The Brothers Grimm story "The Golden Key" tells a story of a boy who discovers a key in the snow, then discovers a locked wooden box. The boy imagines what wondrous things might be inside the box. He searches the box for a keyhole, finally finds it, and inserts the key... but the reader will have to wait for him to turn the key before finding out what's in the box. End.
One of Orson Scott Card's earliest novels, Hart's Hope, is entirely epistolary, explaining the adventures of main character Orem and his efforts to defeat the Big Bad. However, by doing so, Orem temporarily usurped the rightful king, and the novel is to that king from his wife, begging him (the king) not to execute Orem for treason. The final lines are her asking him what he decided.
David Lodge's novel Changing Places has a deeply lamp-shaded No Ending in which the characters (two of whom are professors of literature so it makes sense) discuss the idea of endings and point out that a film can suddenly end with no warning while a book can't, since the reader can see how many pages remain.
Zadie Smith's White Teeth ends with the author proposing several endings that various demographics might find appealing, but without endorsing any of them. Why yes, it's postmodern.
Subverted inJorge Luis Borges short story "Averroe's Search" ends with all the characters and his surroundings suddenly disappearing, except maybe the Guadalquivir River. Then the author justifies the trope.
Nadine Gordimer's works often end this way. The Late Bourgeois World has the main character still considering her dilemma. July's People, in which the apartheid government collapses amid violence, switches from past tense to present for the short last chapter, in which the main female protagonist is running towards a helicopter that contains either "saviors or murderers".
The Grapes of Wrath doesn't end so much as run out of pages, with Rose of Sharon breastfeeding a sick man, some of the Joads gone from the group or dead, and the rest just weathering the storm.
Ouida Sebestyen's The Girl in the Box is a story of a girl who is abducted and left in a dark cellar, with only a typewriter to entertain her, and regular rations of stale food and water to keep her alive. The book ends with the girl still in the box, and her ultimate fate is never revealed.
Occurs in-universe in John’s Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. The main characters’ favorite book ends mid-sentence, leaving several plot lines unresolved, and one subplot of the novel deals with the characters trying to find out from the author what happened to the characters.
The first and currently only CLAMP's Yumegari ends up with Tatsumi falling victim to her Dream Weaver job, and her partner Kyousuke deciding to go save her from it.
Mary Brown's Master of Many Treasures ends with the heroine being very badly injured. A Distant Epilogue describes two stories told about the aftermath, one where she dies and one where she recovers and lives a long life with the hero. A sequel set many years later, Dragonne's Eg, deliberately does not clarify the outcome.
Dhalgren ends in the middle of a sentence. It starts in the middle of a sentence as well, and grafting the two together Ouroborous-fashion results in a sentence that makes sense grammatically. How much sense it makes in any other way is considerably more ambiguous.
Nova, which is loosely based on the search for the Holy Grail, tells us how many writers have died before finishing tales of the Grail, and then deliberately omits the very last word of the book.
Robert Musil's epic novel The Man Without Qualities. Musil couldn't figure out how to conclude the final volume.
Live Action TV
The Sopranos infamously ended with a simple Smash to Black mid-scene. People who worked at cable companies had to answer hours and hours of angry phone calls because they thought something was wrong with their televisions; news programs even ran segments on it afterward.
An awful lot of episodes ended inconclusively, with The Conspiracy covering their tracks or the Monster of the Week slipping away into the shadows. If they had had conclusive endings, Scully would have become a believer by the end of Season 2.
In the Without a Trace episode, "Two Families", the protagonists were fighting to save the life of someone on death row with new-found evidence (somehow missed in the previous 10 years). The characters spend time talking about the morality of Death Row, while doing their best to uncover what really happened. They find evidence that exonerates the character, and now must race against the clock to work the legal system. Show ends with the clock saying 11:57, and a closeup on a non-ringing phone. Cut to credits.
Without a Trace did this again with their Missing White Woman Syndrome episode, “White Balance." The team investigates the unrelated disappearances of two teenagers, a white female and an African-American male. They are both found: "One alive, one dead." Roll credits.
The episode "Doubt," which was Ripped from the Headlines of the Kobe Bryant rape case, ended with a fadeout before the jury's verdict. On the first airing, viewers were invited to vote on the outcome, but the show has not revisited the subject. (For the record, the poll results showed 20% believed it was rape, 60% believed it was consensual, and 20% felt more information was needed.)
Another from the season eleven episode "Savior." A young prostitute goes into premature labor and her baby is put on life support. The mother then runs away, giving power of attorney to Olivia, effectively giving Olivia the choice of whether the baby lives or dies. The episode ends with the baby needing immediate brain surgery and the doctors hammering Olivia for a decision that she never gives. Neither the mother nor the baby are ever mentioned again.
Another Law & Order example, this time from the original: "Vaya Con Dios," the tenth-season finale, focuses on the prosecution of a Chilean national which for a number of reasons escalates until McCoy is arguing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The episode ends with a court clerk approaching the characters, presumably with a ruling in hand, leaving the matter unresolved.note (There's obviously dramatic license taken, as most SCOTUS decisions come months after oral arguments.)
One being the end of iBelieve In Bigfoot where the gang and some other guys are left stranded when their RV gets stolen.
The end of iThink They Kissed. The trio have been tied up by escaped convicts, and Carly ends up asking if they liked the kiss. Freddie and Sam look at each other for a bit, then Spencer busts in with his banjo, plays a few chords and the show ends.
A MacGyver episode featured Mac unveiling a massive Neo-Nazi conspiracy to infiltrate the government and institutions of five West Coast states to create the "New Aryan Nation". The episode ends with Mac looking at the map featuring the many infiltrated institutions all across the region and the issue is never mentioned again.
The finale of House's second season has an example of this - House is shot just a few minutes in and almost all of the episode is a hallucination. The episode ends with House waking up on a gurney being rushed to the emergency room, but no diagnosis is ever made on the patient the team was dealing with during House's hallucination.
Except, if you only count the prelude before he gets shot as reality, there really was no case. Foreman said as much. House was just amused by the patient's swollen tongue. It's only after the dream begins that the weird symptoms begin.
Also the show itself because it was cancelled. It ends with Veronica standing in the rain after her father has been arrested covering for her.
In NYPD Blue the series ended with a No Ending: rather than some sort of redemption storyline wrap-up or some kind of resolution for all the characters, it was just one more day of solving crimes; the series ended with Sipowicz alone in his office, not because everyone had abandoned him, but because he was still working. The creator did this deliberately to show that no matter how far you grow as a person, there's always tomorrow, and today is just another day.
Although the last episode is also a fitting ending; he had just taken over as squad commander to make sure they weren't abused by the hardass replacement. It was a full circle completion of his life from the first season when he was an alcoholic racist that was two steps from either being corrupt or dead, to married, squad commander, and with a life he never thought he'd have.
Cheers ends more-or-less the way it began, with Sam Malone closing up the bar at the end of the day, turning out the lights, and going home. It was a Book Ends ending - the exact reverse of the first moment of the series.
Farscape had been axed by whichever money-people were in charge. The fans knew this, naturally. Imagine their horror when, at the end of the last episode of the series, which, while it hadn't tied up some of the really big Story Arcs of the show, had at least come to a fairly satisfactory finishing point, showed us the hero and his utterly badass love interest are sharing a passionate kiss in a boat after he'd proposed to her; when a random, unexplained alien starfighter comes tearing out of the sky and shoots them. They shatter into a multitude of tiny plasticy cubes as the words "TO BE CONTINUED..." appear on screen. There was a follow-up, which squeezed a whole series of what was always a fairly confusing show into two hours. (Until the movie, where their bits are fished up and put together.)
There was also a Post Script Season in the form of a comic series, which further answered questions and expanded the universe. Given everything was planned and written by the actual series writers, it was well-received by fans.
The Prisoner ended the series with Number 6 getting home, flash of lightning, wait... it's the opening credits!
In Boston Legal plenty of loose threads are unresolved, such as whether the experimental medicine Denny now had would even work on his Alzheimer's, or whether Alan would get fired from Chang, Poole, and Schmidt, or whether, indeed, the litigations department would even survive.
Lampshaded in an episode of the British Comedy TV Series Mr Don & Mr George in which the titular characters comment on how neatly all the plot elements of the episode were wrapped up; which is immediately followed by an montage of all the other characters asking 'what about...?' with references to the many plot holes.
The original gravedigger episode of Bones ends with the characters being re-united with their friends. Who the gravedigger is and whether he was ever caught is not addressed. This was eventually followed up, but not for another two seasons, making it seem like a classic No Ending for quite some time.
Parodied and played straight on Mash (in the same scene, even): The entire camp shares a murder mystery chapter by chapter. Once they reach the ending, the murderer is revealed to be— nothing, the last page is missing. They go so far as to hunt down and contact the author at her home across the globe to get the answer, with some difficulty (she's so old she has trouble even remembering which novel it is). Then, the kicker: later on Colonel Potter notices and announces that her answer couldn't possibly have been the murderer due to several in-story scenes that contradict that. The episode then ends with Hawkeye humorously declaring himself to be the murderer so that the M*A*S*H unit crew wouldn't think they did all that reading for nothing.
Hancock's Half Hour used a similar plot over a decade earlier. Hancock becomes obsessed with solving a murder mystery with the final page torn out. He tries tracking down the author at home only to find that he died several years earlier; he can't find another copy of the book; every attempt to solve the murder himself ends up failing. Eventually he hits upon the idea of looking up the British Library's file copy... only to discover that the author died before finishing the book, so it was printed with the ending missing.
A number of the Doctor Who Unbound audio series end this way:
"Full Fathom Five" ends with the Doctor's companion standing over the Doctor, preparing to shoot him if he regenerates. Since there's no way out, the ending would be pretty obvious, except that this is more or less exactly the sort of situation the Doctor gets out of at least once a serial.
"Exile" ends with the Doctor under house arrest in the TARDIS, having been told that she'll die if she tries to dematerialize. Then she finds a note from the Time Lords, saying that, off the record, she'll be fine and they'll turn a blind eye on her "escape." But just as she's taking off, it occurs to her, and the audience, that they might have lied to get her out of the way. And then the audio ends. Just like that.
The Department Store episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus ended with one character in the "End Of Show Department", trying out different endings. The salesman demos several endings, such as the "walking into the sunset" ending, before finally suggesting "what about the sudden ending?" Cut to black.
Monty Python was notorious for not ending their sketches or shows. Most of the time, the characters would simply walk off, or the Colonel character would show up and disrupt things, or the sketch would be invaded by another sketch, or things would simply trail off inconclusively as the characters just sort of
Wife (Eric Idle): Oh I don't like that. I think it's silly. It's not a proper sketch without a proper punchline. I mean I don't know much about anything, I'm stupid. I'm muggins. Nobody cares what I think. I'm always the one that has to do everything. Nobody cares about me. Well I'm going to have a lot of bloody babies and they can bloody well care about me. Makes you sick half this television. They never stop talking, he'll be the ruination of her, rhythm method!
Spike Milligan's sketch shows often did the same thing. Often the characters would just pause in mid-action and then all sidle offstage chanting "What are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do now?"
Rather than ending with the hospital closing and everyone moving away/getting new jobs/getting married, ER simply ended much in the way it began. A hectic day at work, first day on the job for a new doctor, and a mass trauma coming in and everyone rolling up their sleeves and getting to work.
Sanctuary has a season two episode in which Magnus and Will crashed the helicopter down a borehole, and when not fighting the monster of the week, exhausted every possible method of escape and communication. At the end, the camera zooms away, with Will saying "Seriously, how are we going to get out of here?" The next episode implies they got out, but the event is not explained or even mentioned.
The Bridge had an episode where two cops get in serious trouble when they disregard protocol in order to save an injured boy. They are supposed to wait for the ambulances but in that neighbourhood ambulances can take hours to arrive so they take the boy to the hospital themselves. They are suspended, get sued and become a bargaining chip in the politics between the police department, city hall and the police union. At the end Frank Leo (the protagonist head of the union) saves them and they are in the clear. However, the episode ends with them back in the same apartment with the boy's mother ODing and the cops asking Frank what they should do
A few episodes of Are You Being Served? have ended this way. One in particular is "The Hold-Up". A couple of burglars have broken into the store and taken Miss Brahms prisoner. Cpt. Peacock and Mr. Spooner pretend to be policemen to rescue her, but are taken prisoner themselves, and Mrs. Slocombe, Mr. Humphries, and Mr. Harman pretend to be gangsters to trick the burglars. At the end of the episode, Mr. Rumbold shows up with some policemen, pretends he doesn't recognize Mrs. Slocombe and Mr. Harman, and they are arrested. Then the burglars show up, and act threateningly towards Mr. Rumbold, and the episode ends there.
Brazil has an unusual version of it for its imported Tokusatsu. It's not that the shows themselves weren't finished; however, the company that was showing them had a 'no ending' rule set up, so that the final episode would never be shown, in order to keep the fans wanting to find out what happened. Sometimes the companies just didn't had the final episode because they ordered the tapes up to a certain quantity of episodes, so if the series had 41 episodes, they would get 40 and the last one would get stuck there.
"Moesha" never revealed whose positive pregnancy test was found in the trash at Moesha's dorm, nor did it reveal what happened to Myles after he was kidnapped by a rival gang that was after Dorian.
The final episode of Benson cuts off just before the results of the climactic governor's election are announced. The makers had actually shot three different endings: one where Benson wins, one where Gatling wins, and one where the third candidate wins. However, test audiences didn't like any of them, so the show ends before the result is announced.
Victorious does it a lot. "Rex Dies" ends with Cat being kept in the mental ward at the hospital. Cat still is in the next episodes, and it's never mentioned again. "Wifi In The Sky" uses it as well.
An episode of Dad's Army begins with Pike getting his head stuck in a gate...and ends with his head still stuck in the gate.
The episode "The Deadliest Man Alive" of Walker, Texas Ranger falls under this category in the greatest manner possible. Walker has just sent an international assassin nicknamed "The Viper" tumbling out of a stadium, keeping him from trying to kill the president attending a football game in Dallas. Walker is about to question his involvement in the J.F.K. assassination, but the Viper immediately tells him that if the truth were revealed, Walker wouldn't live to see Monday. Out of spite, he finally agrees- but gets only two words out when a bullet rockets into his chest and kills him instantly, shot by another sniper in some unknown area of the vast stadium. Walker has no idea where the shot came from, as he heard only a sharp echo resonate through the walls, and it was drowned out by sounds of cheering crowds, meaning Trivette, the security guards, and Secret Service alike couldn't hear the gun go off, letting the culprit slip away virtually unnoticed. Walker never finds the second assassin, as the episode closes out respectively to the way we see Kennedy's murder in real life - riddled with conspiracy theories, and the actual truth behind it never made clear.
The children's TV show Aquila ended on the second season. after introducing us to a brand new character, the boy's falling out over Jeff's new girlfriend and the last thing they show the viewer is the characters finding a cloaked battle-cruiser in orbit. It was based of a book series and 10 years later the author did release a new book but it just ignored the battle-cruiser cliffhanger.
In The Nine Lives of Chloe King, the titular character still has seven of her nine lives and has failed to even remotely attempt to fulfill her prophecy. In addition, her love interest is dying in her arms, and we are left without knowing his ultimate fate.
Dig Dug II is an Endless Game which loops after level 72. The staff apologizes for making Arino play a game that doesn't end and then draw two endings: Taizo eating a banana and Taizo standing over an enemy, sword-drill in hand. Arino prefers the first one.
The Series Goal of Merlin was to see Arthur reinstate magic back into the kingdom. He dies before this ever happens, and though the episode (sans coda) ends with the image of Guinevere taking the throne after having realized that Merlin has magic, we're given no indication whatsoever about how her reign went, whether Merlin returned to Camelot, or how the magic issue was resolved.
In the episode with John Cleese, Gonzo's arm gets longer after catching a cannonball. After getting teased by Fozzie and Floyd throughout the episode, he goes to John Cleese for help, but Cleese ends up stretching his other arm and both his legs. Afterwards, Gonzo isn't seen again for the rest of the episode. In the next episode his arms and legs are the normal size again, without explanation.
In the episode with Kaye Ballard, the orchestra quits the show because they don't like the theme song. Eventually, the band agrees to stay as long as Floyd is allowed to write the new theme. Kermit doesn't like it, and by the end of the episode, only Rowlf is the only musician in the orchestra. It's never shown what makes the band stay, and in the next episode The Electric Mayhem performs in the opening number, as if there hadn't been a conflict.
The L Word... had an ending, it just never happened. Infamously viewership hated Jenny is found dead at Bette and Tina's house during a party, which kicks off the season after an inexplicable scene-for-scene rewind of the last few minutes of the previous season. The remainder of the season ostensibly pivots around the Jenny's murder whodunnit, with slightly larger-than-average arcs for most of the other characters. The show ends with an insanely stylized walk of the cast to the police station to give their statements about Jenny's death. As far as show-only content, THAT'S where the series ends! The whole season's overarching plotline (and to which most every plotline was party to) never even slightly resolved. Showtime released character testimonies weekly to drum up interest, but most of them were a little sparse in terms of details. Series creator Ilene Chaiken planned a spin-off called The Farm where Alice was found guilty of murdering Jenny (with no word on her actual guilt or innocence) and would revolve around Alice serving time. She pitched it to Showtime initially and then other distributors, but no one picked it up, so the end will forever be oddly abrupt, even assuming that Alice either did murder Jenny.
The Boards of Canada album Geogaddi is a dark, twisting, vaguely conceptual nightmare filled with backmasking, references to cults, and eerie songs with evocative names. It reaches its climax with the haunting "You Could Feel the Sky," then suddenly cuts to the peaceful, droning "Corsair," which closes the album. The result is that the album doesn't feel so much like a complete story told through music, but rather a fever dream with scattered chronology and no definite resolution other than "Corsair" being the moment that the fever dream ends. It's done so well that fans wouldn't want it any other way.
Likewise, Radiohead's Hail to the Thief. Based on comments from Thom Yorke, most of the album signifies a nightmare, and "A Wolf at the Door" is the horror of waking up only to find that while you slept, the world has become just as bad as the nightmare. It's all very metaphorical and political.
The grand finale of The Who's Tommy features Tommy's followers rejecting him, followed by a soliloquy on Tommy's part. Listeners and reviewers at the time were divided on what it was supposed to mean, with some opining that Tommy's followers kill him and others believing he reverts back to his self-imposed deaf-blindness. The Movie and the Broadway musical clarify it somewhat, but take two completely different tacks on it.
The Who's Quadrophenia ends with the singer trapped on a rock in the middle of the ocean. He yields himself to love and reconciles his inner nature, or something, but he's still trapped on a rock in the ocean. Then it ends.
Our House, The Madness musical has two possible paths of the protagonist's life leading to two possible endings right from the start, with no indication of which one actually happened. However, after those are both sort-of resolved, halfway through the reprise of the title song, we're treated to a third possibility which, if it was real, would mean that neither of those endings could have happened, and absolutely nothing is resolved, or indeed, actually happened at all.
Rush's 2112 ends with an unidentified, ominous mechanical-sounding voice proclaiming "ATTENTION ALL PLANETS OF THE SOLAR FEDERATION - WE HAVE ASSUMED CONTROL." Whether this is meant to symbolize the triumphant return of the Elder Race as imagined by the protagonist, or the priesthood's spiritual domination of him, is left up to the listener's imagination.
Likewise, Pink Floyd's The Wall ends with the wall coming down, but whether Pink's being "exposed before [his] peers" will be for good or ill is much less certain.
To hear the ending, you need to listen to the song "The Final Cut," which describes Pink having trouble reintegrating with society, unsuccessfully trying to shoot himself, and then his wife reaching out to him during another suicide attempt. It's a bittersweet ending, as the world blows up two songs later...
The song's reference to Pink may be purposely obscured: The line that goes "And if I'm in I'll tell you what's behind the wall" has a gunshot going off after "I'll tell you", suggesting that whoever was trying to say this line was shot.
Or another interpretation is that whoever's saying that shot whoever was trying to reach him.
Not quite: The album actually begins with the ending of the Silmarillion from Morgoth's perspective, namely the War of Wrath, then goes back in time to show the events that lead up to this ending.
Bal-Sagoth tell a lot of original stories in their songs. Many of them end in a To Be Continued. But now, after their sixth album, The Chthonic Chronicles, Bal-Sagoth have threatened to disband...
In a melodic, rather than plot-based, example, a few of P.D.Q. Bach's pieces end just short of the note you know they have to resolve to, such as the Adagio Saccharino from the Schleptet in E Flat Major (5:40-6:25), or the theme from the Tema con Variazione in the Concerto for Horn and Hardart (8:17-9:30).
One of the funnier examples is the "Prelude to Einstein on the Fritz," which, if you listen closely, is a adaptation of the Prelude in C Major from Book One of the Well-Tempered Clavier, which stops short just before reaching the final chord of J.S. Bach's original piece.
"Untitled" by D'Angelo ends like this in the album version, where the song is cut off mid-sentence.
The Beatles did this with both sides of the Abbey Road album. "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" has a lengthy musical outro which abruptly cuts to dead silence in the middle of a riff. "Her Majesty", the last track on the second side, cuts out the last note. The reason for this is that "Her Majesty" was originally supposed to be a part of the medley, between "Mean Mr. Mustard" and "Polythene Pam". Listen to it in that order and it makes perfect sense musically.
The final note for "Her Majesty" was restored in The Beatles: Rock Band.
"Pull Me Under" by Dream Theater ends in the same way, as the band was apparently on a big Beatles spree around the time it was recorded.
"Harold the Barrel" ends with the titular anti-hero stuck on a window ledge above a town square full of people, preparing to jump, and we're not given any clue how the scene is resolved. Except for the way the final "running jump" fades as if the singer is falling away from the listener.
"One For the Vine" is effectively a Möbius-loop song with a never-ending plot; a people who live in mountainous terrain, beset with enemies, have found a saviour-figure to lead them in battle. One of those who don't believe in this hero escapes up the mountain, only to slip and fall onto a plain like the one he calls home, complete with a tribe just like his... who, because of his "miraculous" appearance, hail him as their saviour. At first elated at having landed on his feet (figuratively and literally), he becomes horrified when he realises that he's back in the situation from which he was trying to escape — this time right in the middle. The song (but not the story) ends with him seeing one of his disciples who's lost faith in him flee up a mountain...
What about their magnum opus, the concept double-album The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway? Since it's based on Peter Gabriel's own dreams, it goes without saying that the narrative is odd, to say the least. Basically, a New York street punk named Rael winds up in some bizarre, alternate underground New York City. After going through many increasingly bizarre locales and situations, he finally sees a way back to the real New York. But he's forced to choose between escape and saving his drowing brother John, who in all previous appearances had refused to save him. Rael dives into the water, rescues his brother, pulls him onto dry land, and then, according to the lyrics, "Something's changed, that's not your face! It's mine, it's mine!" And, um, that's it.
The Neil Young classic "Cortez The Killer" becomes a lengthy jam session that fades out abruptly as the band still plays, due to a power outage that led to the rest of the song, as well as a final verse (much of which is still unknown), being lost.
In David Bowie's "Space Oddity", last thing we know is they lose communication, no clue is left as to what happens after that.
Major Tom survives and becomes a junkie, as shown in the song "Ashes To Ashes".
Although that line could just refer to the reasons for his uncommunicative drift off into space in the first place.
Peter Schilling's take on the same story in "Major Tom" assumes that he did survive after losing contact, although it's not clear what happens next.
Type O Negative does this with the majority of their own songs, each of them ending with an abrupt digital cutoff. This is most apparent on the album closers, which stop right in the middle of a climactic buildup. One of them, the final track on World Coming Down, just so happens to be a cover—guess who and what it's a cover of.note The fact that Type O Negative's music has a strong Beatles influence to begin with makes it all the more ironic.
Many, many music videos end this way.
"The Goin' Gets Tough From The Getgo" by Ween. As Dean Ween explains at the end of one performance (lyrics NSFW), "It doesn't have a real ending, it just like... dribbles to a halt."
Dinosaur Jr.'s cover of The Cure's "Just Like Heaven" stops dead just before the second chorus.
Blue Oyster Cult's "Flaming Telepaths" ends mid sentence of the repeated phrase "and the joke's on you"
Schubert's infamous "Unfinished Symphony" No. 8 is probably the Trope Maker in the genre.
Mozart's famous Requiem was this trope, until his student Franz Süssmayr completed it after Mozart's death.
Death Cab for Cutie's "Pity & Fear" builds up into a huge, climactic, distorted repeating riff, and then cuts out halfway into a riff. Apparently, whatever they were using to record the song broke in the middle of the recording, and they just ended up keeping it because it sounded better.
In J.S. Bach's Art of Fugue, the largest and presumably last fugue in the cycle abruptly cuts off mid-passage, as a result of the piece being unfinished before he died.
Alexander Scriabin's late works often seem to vanish into thin air rather than reaching a conventional ending. This is particularly noticeable in his Piano Sonata No. 5 (and in most of the rest of the piano sonatas after it).
This is also a common feature of Franz Liszt's experimental works from near the end of his life, such as Nuages gris and the various La lugubre gondola pieces.
The second movement of Charles Ives's Fourth Symphony ends in a bombastic circus march section, which cuts off in mid-phrase, leaving only a viola line, which trails off after a measure. In his posthumous piano piece The Celestial Railroad, which is essentially the same symphony movement in a condensed form with fewer sections, the ending is even more abrupt.
Although the endings occur more naturally than the above, his Concord Sonata is notable for its various non-resolutions: the second movement ("Hawthorne") has a shocking burst of dissonant notes, while the first ("Emerson") and last ("Thoreau") seem to fade into infinity at the lowest dynamics possible. By contrast the third movement, "The Alcotts", ends on a more conventional C major.
Cunninlynguists' "Falling Down" begins with one singer describing his situation, then going through a mental breakdown and shooting a man. As he heads to the pawn shop to buy more ammunition and "take care of some business," another singer takes over, who due to different circumstances also goes through a breakdown and also winds up headed to the pawn shop with blood on his hands. The third singer's rampage, and the song, end with a declaration that two guys who happen to be walking to the pawn shop are "about to get it too." One can only assume that this will not end well.
"Itsy-Bitsy Teeny-Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini".
Smokie's song Living Next Door To Alice. In the final verse the narrator's other friend Sally tells him that she has been waiting 24 years for him to take an interest in her. His reply is not recorded, as we are just told that the big limousine disappeared.
Elvis Costello's "Night Rally", which cuts off a noisy buildup and a repeating of the title. Some versions of This Year's Model pull a Mood Whiplash by putting Costello's upbeat single "Radio Radio" immediately afterwards.
The last line of La Dispute's "King Park"
I left the hotel behind, don't want to know how it ends.
Frank Zappa's album / play Thing-Fish is about mutated black stereotypes performing an offensive play, then capturing the last two audience members, who are chained up and made to witness audacious and outright bizarre events. The whole thing ends with everyone randomly having anal sex while dwarves spill out of the stage.
Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" could easily be mistaken for having this kind of ending, as many radio stations only play it up to the second verse, which leaves the story hanging. The full song finishes the story and depicts whether or not they actually win the "race" that night.
The last regular episode ended with a brief announcement: "That was it - the last of them." The 1972 reunion show "The Last Goon Show of All" ended just as inconclusively as a regular episode.
The first The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio drama was 6 episodes long, and had a definite ending on ancient Earth. When fans clamored for more, Adams had to invent all sorts of hoops to jump through so that he could un-end the story. He made sure that the second 6-episode radio drama did not have a definitive ending, and left all sorts of dangling loose ends for when the third radio drama got written. Further sequels were created posthumously.
In The Bible, the Book Of Jonah ends with God asking Jonah "Shouldn't I be concerned for that great city [Nineveh]?" While this question may serve as the moral of the story, Jonah's reply is lost to posterity.
In the New Testament, the book of Acts doesn't really have an ending either. The outcome of Paul's trial before Caesar, which he was still awaiting at the end of Acts, is disputed among scholars to this day.
The earliest surviving manuscripts of Mark end not with the resurrected Christ's appearance to his disciples, but with a mysterious, unnamed man telling Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome that Jesus has risen, and that they should tell the apostles and go see him for themselves; however, they don't tell anyone, because they're afraid. The End. Indeed, in the original Greek of those manuscripts, the last verse arguably breaks off in mid-sentence with the word "for," an unusual construction.
The last parts of Book of Judges points out Israel's moral decay and need for a king.
Often the result of the players losing interest, or not finding the time to play.
Luigi Pirandello's Absolutely! (Perhaps) tells the story of a family who become fascinated by their new neighbors, as one of two completely different scandalous stories is true depending on the true identity of one of them. At the end, this person finally appears but refuses to tell them who she is because their attempts to find out have been so intrusive. She leaves with "I am...whoever you believe me to be." The one member of the family who wasn't interested in the mystery at all then turns to the audience and says "Are you satisfied?" before laughing hysterically as the curtain comes down.
John Patrick Shanley's Doubt never tells you either what happened to Donald Muller or whether or not Father Flynn was guilty. The original Sister Aloysius, Cherry Jones, said that the first act was the play itself and the second act was the discussion amongst the audience afterward.
According the IMDB, the only people who know are John Patrick Shanley and the actors who have played Father Flynn. Good luck getting one of them to tell you.
Bertolt Brecht's play, The Good Person of Szechwan ends abruptly, without solving any of the conflicts. An actor steps out, and asks the audience to find a resolution.
UMO Ensemble's adaptation of Les Chants de Maldoror ends with the cast announcing "New arrival!" just as at the start of the play, but it fades to black right there, without us finding out who or what the "new arrival" is.
The libretto for the opera Moses und Aron concludes the story with a third act, but Arnold Schoenberg never composed any music for it, perhaps feeling that the theological conflict between the title characters was unresolvable.
The musical Drood, based on the unfinished mystery by Charles Dickens, lets the audience vote on the ending. Also bringing in a healthy dose of No Fourth Wall.
The Slizers line of LEGO Technic toysnote they were the precursors to BIONICLE, in case you couldn't quite place the name was unceremoniously wrapped up shortly after its twelfth kit was released, without resolving either of the two plot points it had been given. The final lines had something of a Sequel Hook, but after twelve years it's probably a safe bet that we won't be seeing them again.
The follow-up line Robo Riders met a similar fate, as the it ended before the Big Bad's identity could have been revealed. In fact, LEGO was so eager to just cancel Bionicle that the creators, wanting to avoid another No Ending, had to convince their higher-ups to do just one more set and comic-line, so that at least the main plot could see a satisfactory conclusion. They did that, and even allowed the writer to continue the story without the toyline... which then got Left Hanging.
A 1996 Point and click adventure game called Fable (no relation to the other Fable). After an epic adventure full of Scenery Porn, the protagonist learns of a race called the Mecubarz and takes the knowledge for himself using their technology. The ending is then...a cutscene of him reading a book on what happened in a jail you saw earlier in the game (In Hell) with a narrator mentioning something that doesn't make any sense. Supposedly; that was the UK version of the game (which is what you will most commonly find on YouTube). The US version, according to rumours, gave a different ending that was only slightly better, wherein Quickthrope returns to have lunch with his girlfriend. Many people agreed the ending was perhaps one of the biggest screw-yous in gaming history, as absolutely no closure was given to the story at all. This is also a good example of a Gainax Ending gone totally wrong.
Due to its rushed release, Super Double Dragon, gives the player a clearly tacked on text-only epilogue after defeating the final boss instead of the originally planned ending. The Japanese version, Return of Double Dragon, despite being a more complete game in every other aspect, doesn't even bother with such pretense, but instead skips straight to the end credits.
Final Fantasy VII ends during the climax of the game, with nothing more than a vague "500 Years Later" cutscene showing a field of flowers where the city of Midgar once stood and Red XIII in it, implying either a Green Aesop or that humanity at least survived. This has since been remedied by Advent Children and various spin-off games.
Cheetahmen 2, after defeating the Apeman, the game gets stuck on the boss screen (where it was supposed to switch to the next set of levels by swapping the PRG ROM), making the game Unwinnable. If you hack to the last two levels, there's no ending after the Final Boss either.
Fable II. At the end, Big Bad Lucien is shot either by you or your partner Reaver, falling down to his apparent death. Theresa allows you to make a wish, then takes the Spire for herself and teleports you back into the world. The See the Future DLC: Theresa shows you a vision of your character as king/queen, and with a child (the future protagonist of Fable III). She then declares your exploits insignificant compared to your child's, and kicks you out again.
Clive Barker's Jericho ends on a particularly frustrating note. The squad decide to go through the portal to fight the Firstborn, as opposed to sealing it away like all the previous Jericho Squad forerunners, to see if they can kill it for good and stop its efforts to try and break into the human world. They go through, encounter the Firstborn, fight the Firstborn, and... after Church weakens the Firstborn with her magic, Arnold Leach, one of the main villains, turns against his former master (after previously learning the hard way that the Firstborn was merely using him), flies off with him into a portal of light, the remaining Jericho members (after having lost two of their number to the Firstborn's wrath) dive into a nearby water source to escape... and that's it. Not even a little something after the ending credits. No way of finding out if the Firstborn is really dead, no way of finding out the fates of the rest of the squad. A sequel is apparently planned, however...
The first-person-shooter XIII ends up having no real ending. After you killed all the other numbers involved in the conspiracy (besides number one), and after you killed their trusted assassin, Mongoose, you go aboard the ship of William Sheridan - brother of the President who was assassinated. After exploring the ship while a fireworks show is going on, you discover that Sheridan is number one. This revelation was meant to be a Sequel Hook ending, but because Ubisoft decided to abandon the XIII project because of poor reviews and poor sales, players who played the game, never get a real conclusion to the story. In case you want to know the rest of the story, you can check out the acclaimed comic series the game was based upon, also called "XIII" and currently in its 21st volume.
Assassin's Creed I ends with Altair's story mostly wrapped up, but Desmond's is left almost entirely unresolved. The game just rolls to credits as soon as you exhibit Eagle Vision and see the mad scrawlings on the floor and walls from the previous occupant. None of the slowly accumulated foreshadowing in the game becomes relevant until Assassin's Creed II, leaving that particular plotline hanging.
As of 2014, two big plot threads are still hanging: Connor's ultimate fate and what Juno (who was very strongly hinted to be a shady Chessmaster, if not an outright Big Bad) intended to do once she was freed. The last we see of Connor is a melancholy postscript with Davy Crockett, and we don't learn anything new about him in Black Flag. Juno, meanwhile, is now trapped in one of Abstergo's computer networks and needs "more energy" so that she can be "made whole"; in any case, she's not doing anything for a while, if ever.
The ZX Spectrum newsgroup comp.sys.sinclair had this as a local meme; in a parody of the dropout messages provided by ancient Hayes modems, FLGT@:WEV:#l;[;#~@V:W~V@É+++ NO CARRIER +++ was a common way to end a post.
It was/is usually a form of euphemism; and if you don't believe me, you can go fu[NO CARRIER]
The original Japanese computer versions of Snatcher ended with the Snatcher menace still a threat and the Junker agency left without its Chief after he was killed and replaced by a double. The ending could be seen as a cliffhangerto the sequel, but was actually intended to be a cut-off point for the third and final act, which was left out due to time constraints. The proposed ending would later be included in the CD-ROM remakes of the game.
Backyard Football on the Game Boy Advance has no ending at all. Not even a trophy for winning the Cereal Bowl.
Because Knights of the Old Republic 2 got rushed for the Christmas season, most of the final planet was cut out, leaving the final fate of most of your party unknown and with little idea of what the hell just happened. The ending has somewhat been restored with fan-made mods trying to piece together unused material, but it still leaves many unanswered questions.
Chakan The Forever Man seems to have an ending after all, but after the end credits, you're suddenly attacked by some strange HR Giger-ish boss with no explanation why and which you only get one shot at beating. If you DO manage to beat it, the game goes to the hourglass graphic from the beginning of the game...and does nothing else, because the true ending was never programmed in (probably because the developers never expected anyone to get that far.
If you wait around on that screen long enough, the words "Not the end" appear, and the game goes back to the title. Needless to say, no sequel was made.
In the arcade DJ Boy (really obscure beat-'em-up), you play a breakdancing, skating brawler taking on the street gang that swiped your boom box. Even says so right on the cabinet: "DJ BOY'S BEEN RIPPED OFF! HELP HIM GET HIS BOOM BOX BACK." After slugging your way through a multitude of bruisers (and some pretty weird bosses), your final, climactic battle is...a couple of ordinary bosses. Well, okay, a victory is a victory. The ending? 1. DJ Boy does the same fade-to-black dance bit he did at the end of each of the previous levels, just a bit longer. 2. Credit scroll. That's it. You never even find out if he recovered his boom box!
The adventure game Myst rewards you by letting you wander open-endedly around the landscape that you've just thoroughly explored, while the character you've just met to supposedly complete the quest sits at his desk writing, and refuses to talk to you beyond a dismissive comment telling you to go away and leave him alone. This left many players wondering whether they'd actually won or not.
Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil: You fight the final boss, Maledict, win, but lose anyway, perform a heroic sacrifice with The Artifact... and then the screen fades to white. "Welcome home, marine."
In Razing Storm, after completing Stage 4 (the true final stage you get after surviving the third stage boss' attacks), your squad receive a message that Bravo Team (the other team) was intercepted and captured. As your squad gets ready to rescue them, credits roll.
The arcade Battletoads (an action-oriented revamp of the NES and SNES games). After smashing the last boss, Robo Manus, someone, presumably the Dark Queen, hisses "I'll be back!" The heroes crash-land on a lifeless planet and use their portable transporters to instantly zap back to base. Mission accomplished! Meanwhile, the Dark Queen is still alive and plotting, the heroes are still stuck in the forms of overgrown amphibians, and Volkmire is still lurking around somewhere. Issues which will never be resolved, as Rare never produced another Battletoads game. (Mega Man very nearly suffered the same fate and isn't out of the woods yet.) Though according to a prank calling campaign started by Anonymous, there is one coming out for the Xbox 360. You should call your local gamestop and ask for it.
Blue's scenario in SaGa Frontier. Upon dealing enough damage to the final boss, the screen will freeze mid-attack, fade to gray, and send you back to the title.
Arguably X's ending with Zero alive in Mega Man X5, originally intended as the grand finale of the Rockman X story. Though having finally defeated Sigma for good, X lost his best friend, Zero, after both are severely wounded after the fight. After his miraculous recovery by Dr. Right/Light, he continues to fight without Zero.
Well, we were told at the end of X3 that Zero's death would somehow help foster world peace. X4 hints that it's because the Sigma Virus was originally the Zero Virus; X5 confirms this with the Sigma heads representing the virus being replaced by air-dashing Zero "virus ghosts" that poison you twice as fast. With Zero finally destroyed, X stepped up in a leadership position in the Maverick Hunters and helped defend the world against the odd malfunctioning Mechaniloid. Seems like a decent ending to me, and it did to Keiji Inafune; once X6 started getting developed behind his back, though, he had some major scrambling to do, since the above ending was supposed to set up the Mega Man Zero series.
A better example of a Mega Man No Ending would have to be Mega Man X 8. Axl is damaged by a desperation attack, and the crystal in his helmet seems to be corrupted with...something. Given the pattern we've seen in Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10, even if Capcom revisits the X series, don't expect the plot to be resolved or bridged to the next series.
Really, almost all the sub-series are guilty of this. ZX and Legends ended on cliffhangers, and so far neither are getting more entries. Battle Network and Zero (and arguably Star Force) are the only series out of the seven that have proper conclusions.
Remember11 is not only infamous for having no ending, it was also "ends" on a cliffhanger with many plot points left unsolved, leading to much Wild Mass Guessing.
Sentinel Worlds, an old 80's RPG for the Commodore 64 and PC: The reward you get for defeating the final boss is — wait for it — it returns you to the Dos prompt! Ah, sweet, sweet victory....
A wretched ZX Spectrum example is Kraal, where completing the last level loops you back to the start of the game - you don't even get to keep your hard-won points.
The Cursed Crusade ended with Denz and Esteban searching for Denz's dad in Egypt, with the main antagonist still at large and caught up with Denz's dad to steal the last holy relic. Kind of a letdown unless the developers are planning for a sequel...
Shadow Keep: The Search for the PC had this. After defeating The Shadow King, you... kept on playing. You could explore a bit, look around all the various maps, etc. If you'd already defeated all the monsters, there was nothing else to do. And if you quit the game, you were called a coward and a knave — even if you'd already defeated the Shadow King!
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey ends with Zoe falling into a coma, April stabbed and falling off-screen, Kian arrested for treason, and the Big Bad's plan seemingly succeeding. How exactly the latter part happened after Zoe destroyed Eingana, whether April really died, and what fate awaits Kian is left open.
The arcade version of Shinobi actually had an ending, which for some reason was not carried over to the Master System adaptation. Instead, the player is awarded with a blank Game Over screen after defeating the final boss, the same screen the game gives when the player loses all of his lives.
The normal ending of Chrono Cross treats you to a brief animation of the Eldritch Abomination final boss escaping through a portal, then a title card saying 'Fin'. The good ending, meanwhile, is firmly cemented in Gainax Ending territory.
Dwarf Fortress has no winning condition and will just keep going until your fortress colapse.
In Lost In The Static, after you pass the giant, you get a bunch of extremely easy screens. At the last one, the static fuzz which makes up the game's graphics start getting more and more indistinct until you see nothing but a screen full of static (normally, you can discern the various objects in the game by how the static moves in a specific place), then the static starts to fade until you have a white screen, and then the game closes.
Sonic the Hedgehog Chaos simply rolls the credits after the final boss is beaten. If you collect all the Chaos Emeralds as Sonic, the only change is that you see his image running inside them. Chaotix later had it worse. It has a dramatic bad ending if you fail to collect the Chaos Rings, but if you succeed... You just get the title screen with Sonic and Tails slapped to the background for whatever reason!
In Blades of Time, after a lot of nonsense and some eleventh-hour plot twists, the protagonist and two companions finally escape back through the sphere to the other world, where they find themselves locked into a building. Then the Big Bad emerges through the sphere for the final stage of the final boss battle. After finally grinding him down, he stabs your male companion before sort of collapsing into a vortex. You and your female companion cling to the scenery as the vortex pulls your injured friend into it. He's gone. CUT TO BLACK. CREDITS ROLL.
TRON 2.0 had an ending that left more open than it resolved. Sure, Jet was able to rescue his father and the pair of them made it back from cyberspace, their rocky relationship a little smoother now. Ma3a was uploaded to safety, and it was implied that Mercury made it to safety as well. Thorne died, ending the threat of the Z-lot invasion, and the plan to launch a horde of Datawraith mercenaries to conquer the digital world was halted. However, Crown, Popoff, and Baza were stuck on on a hard drive with Alan in no hurry to free them. Their mysterious boss (implied to be Dillinger) is still at large, and Alan cuts him off in mid-threat in the final scene. Encom is still a company in trouble, and still might be taken over by the bad guys from F-Con, and there is absolutely no word at all about what happened to all those Datawraiths already shot in.
During the post-credits cutscene of Jet Set Radio, DJ Professor K suggests that the problems involving Rudie life and street gang wars are essentially perpetual, sharing his belief that another group will wish to gain control of Shibuya once again.
Steam game Dark Matterends abruptly with a text ending that provides absolutely no closure right in the middle of the game because the dev team ran out of money and apparently decided to release the unfinished game anyway.
In the game Bastion, you get to choose between two endings: To revert it back to normal, or to teleport somewhere safe. Either way, when asked, Supergiant Games stated that they left the ending for you to decide.
In Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors, the Coffin Ending is the exact same as the True Ending, except it abruptly ends before you make it to the final room because the characters get stuck at the coffin. You need to see the Safe Ending in order to get the passcode to open it and rescue Snake.
The 'Flower Knight' side story Drowtales, which ends with the titular knight going off into the world to get revenge on the creature that killed his family and kingdom. If he got his revenge, or died is never revealed, because no one knows.
RPG World had a particularly horrendous non-end. The characters reach the final boss, begin fighting the final boss, and then... nothing. As it turns out, the creator just plain got tired of working on the comic and axed it.
Velia Dear ended on a cliffhanger concerning Velia and her dying mother, asking the audience what they thought should happen... to no real avail, as the story was never continued.
Achewood had an arc that involved Ray becoming possessed whenever a note was played on a mystical banjo. The last strip in the arc had Ray telling Pat to say good things about his penis as Pat called him while being dragged down the sidewalk by the banjo come to life, which was followed by a hiatus when Chris Onstad's daughter was born. When the strip resumed, the banjo was never mentioned again.
Though Onstad does promise that before Achewood ever comes to a close, we'll find out what happens to the banjo.
Parodied in one arc of xkcd that was riffing on Firefly. Two characters prepare for all-out combat, then "Final battle canceled by Fox."
ThisPokémon spoof. Just when the Pokémon are about to butt heads in their final strikes, the video cuts to the cast singing the theme song and we never see the outcome.
Improfanfic is notorious for this, due to various factors. (This troper was a prolific and active member of the IFF community from 1999 to 2002.) Among the things that can kill an Impro dead:
- A writer's part is simply too difficult to follow up on, and future writers skip rather than try to tackle it.
- A series of skips and a complete lack of signups when the queue runs dry more or less torpedoes the fic.
- The admin for a given story just stops caring, doesn't prod writers, doesn't run queue signups, and probably leaves IFF entirely.
- The story is in "ending mode" with a fixed final queue, and the last author never bothers writing the last chapter. (This most famously happened to m.t.c.f.f. ULTRA, the original flagship of IFF, which still has not been ended a decade later, and still lists an author who abandoned writing the finale as the final author.)
(To be fair, there are a LOT of reasons this happens—people graduate college and get jobs, people get tired of the hobby, people leave the IFF community over something or other, etc. It isn't just a They Just Didn't Care, because these are real human beings with real lives and IFF is very much a hobby.)
They didn't do themselves any favors with the criticism, which ranged from "somewhat harsh" to "thermonuclear war". In fact, several of the members encouraged relentless brutality. Hard to get writers to stay on board when they're getting ripped to shreds for something they're not even getting paid for.
Spoony pulls this off while he was reviewing a game based on the Dirty Harry series, as the video cuts to black just when Spoony is about to tell what would happen in the second level. (The first level ended just as abruptly, to be noted.)
Most plotlines in NationStates end this way, as posters become uninterested or disconnected and move on to other things. It'll be a cold day in the Rejected Realms, as it were, when you see an actual epilogue. The good ones have sequels, though, so it's not as much of a problem as you might think.
Survival of the Fittest V2 ends with Bryan Calvert receiving a Hannibal Lecture by Danya. Bryan attacks Danya, and... well, nothing. As of v4, people still don't know what happened after that. There was supposed to be a part two, but at this rate we'll never know other than Danya and Wilson got out of the situation alive. A final end may or may not be upcoming, however.
Quarter-Life: Halfway To Destruction ends with an unknown villain ambushing Gordon Freeman, followed by the author telling the reader to decide what happens next, thanking them for reading, and begging them to buy his book.
Danger Mouse had several episodes with anticlimactic (non)endings, including "The Tower of Terror".
Some of the Looney Tunes shorts would just end abruptly with no real ending. An example would be "Golden Yeggs" where after Daffy finds out that he apparantly can lay a golden egg note It took the entire short to do so, with the beginning showing who really laid the first golden egg., he is told by his abductors that he has to lay even more eggs if he has to survive. And the short ends with only his reaction.
The Proud Family once did a Very Special Episode with Penny making friends with a Muslim girl and realizing that several post-September 11th stereotypes about Islam are wrong. After a post-Ramadan dinner that she attended with the family, they come to their house to find it TPed and the phrase GO HOME TOWELHEADS done in spray paint across the roof and front of the house. The episode continues with An Aesop where Penny learns about intolerance and gives a speech, but we never learn who did it or how the family reacts.
The cliffhanger ending of "Haunted" in Teen Titans is an example. The writers — as they have confirmed in interviews — didn't place a high priority on explaining things.
The whole series goes out on a similar note, with Beast Boy rushing towards a fight with a mysterious monster and the screen fading to light, leaving the whole "Terra/Schoolgirl" enigma up in the air without any answers forthcoming. It didn't go over well with many viewers.
That only works if you consider the comics as canon, which many people do not.
Considering the Teen Titans Go! reboot (The cartoon, not the comic). The comic's the closest resolution of the TV show you'll get. So take it or leave it.
The VeggieTales song "The Song of the Cebu" ends this way, to much annoyance on the part of Archibald and the audience in general (Jerry wanted his money back, but the show was free).
Audience:No more song about cebu Need another verse or two Audience is standing, and leaving, Bye-bye moo moo, Bye-bye moo moo, Bye-bye moo moo, moo moo.
The VeggieTales's retelling of the story of Jonah ends extremely abruptly, with Jonah in the middle of a hissy fit after God has rebuked him for wishing death on the repentant city of Nineveh. This follows the original Biblical account, where the story ended equally abruptly.
The Season 12 episode "The Great Money Caper" intentionally leaves the entire story unresolved. Just as Lisa is about to reveal an important plot point (after pointing out that, without this bit of info, the events of the episode would seem "absurd, perhaps even insulting to your intelligence,") Otto bursts into the room and yells "Hey, everybody! SURF'S UP!" The scene then cuts to everyone surfing, and the episode ends there.
Or again when Homer becomes a missionary in Season 11's "Missionary: Impossible", goes to a tropical island, builds a church and then rings the bell so loud a volcano(!) erupts. Just as Homer and a native girl he calls "Lisa Jr." are falling into the lava (presumably to their doom) a PBS-style fundraising pitch cuts in and the episode ends.
This tied in to the start of the episode, where a Britcom he's watching on PBS gets cut short by the announcement of a pledge drive. This episode also qualifies as a Shaggy Dog Story.
"The Computer Wore Menace Shoes" ends with the Simpsons still trapped in The Island.
"Das Bus" has a similar ending, with the audience only knowing the children were saved thanks to a narrator who says they were saved by "well, let's say... Moe".
The episode "We're on the Road to D'ohwhere" plays this even further. At the start of this episode, Homer ends up having to drive Bart to a correctional facility after a prank, all the while annoyed that he's missing a Las Vegas trip with his bar buddies and Marge and Lisa have a garage sale. By the end of the episode, Marge has been arrested, Homer is in prison, and Bart's missing. Lisa says she always knew it'd come down to her and Maggie and that she'll look for work in the morning. The episode ends there.
This trope is played more straight in "The Twisted World of Marge Simpson", where Marge starts a pretzel company, and to one-up her rivals, Homer hires the Mafia to take them down a notch. However her rivals do some tit-for-tat of their own by hiring the Yakuza, which leads to a violent mob war on the Simpsons' front lawn. The episode ends abruptly in the middle of the fight.
According to the audio commentary, the writers decided to Throw It In, as they were stumped for an ending.
"A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again": The family is stranded on Antartica. We then see Bart as an old man but how/when they were rescued is never explained.
"Treehouse of Horror III" ends when Bart's zombie story ends. There's no conclusion to the Halloween party framing scenes.
"E. Pluribus Wiggum" never reveals how Ralph's presidential campaign turned out. We see a fake ad asking the people of Springfield to vote for him and then...credits.
The Chowder episode "Paint the Town" ends with Chowder leaving Mung Daal, Truffles and Shnitzel stuck in an alternate dimension with no way home...then it suddenly goes to black on their cries for help...which Chowder doesn't hear.
An earlier episode, "The Cinnamini Monster," ended with the main characters stuck living with a lonely monster.
Street Sharks. The protagonists are never turned back and the mystery about what happened to their dad is never solved. Apparently the closest there is to a conclusion is the Big Bad being proven guilty but he escapes.
King Arthur & the Knights of Justice ends with only four Keys of Truth having been recovered, and the guys are stuck in the Dark Ages still dealing with Queen Morgana and the Warlords while the real King Arthur and his knights remain stuck in the Cave of Glass.
The Beavis And Butthead episode "Cow Tipping" was about Beavis and Butt-head going cow tipping and it results with Butt-head pushing over a cow that crushes Beavis. Just then the scary farmer appears and calls the cow as good as dead and gets his chainsaw. Beavis tells the farmer to kill the cow and not him...it fades to black and all we hear is Beavis scream, the chainsaw running and the farmer laughing. While this episode is accepted by fans as non-canon (due to it being implied that the farmer kills Beavis), one would think given the series' past with censorship issues, this episode had that problem. That's not true though. The ending to this episode was not so violent or gory it had to be censored...the ending it has is just how it ends!
Adventure Time did this at the end of "The Duke" (which ends with Finn and Jake being attacked by the Marquis of Nuts and an angry squirrel) and "The Chamber of Frozen Blades" (which ends with Finn and Jake punching the Ice King for kidnapping Dr. Princess).
At the end of "Evicted!", Finn and Jake discover their tree house is being flooded with worms, and they get hypnotized by its king. Do they snap out of it and fight him? (cue the end credits)
Although the plot is later resolved in the episode "King Worm."
"Box Prince" just ends with the matter of which cat was the real prince left unresolved and Finn getting licked by a bunch of cats.
SpongeBob SquarePants did this with Gullible Pants. In it, Mr. Krabs going into the Krusty Krab, only to see Spongebob, whom he had left in charge, dancing in front of a crowd that's cowering in fear. Then the episode ends without resolution (only Mr. Krabs being demoted to busboy).
Earlier, in "Krusty Krab Training Video", when the Krabby Patty formula was about to be revealed, the episode just cuts off. It didn't even fade to black, it cut, mid-sentence, to the credits.
In the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Great Indoors", just as Jeremy is about to finally tell Candace what he likes about her, it suddenly cuts to a soccer game and the episode ends, mirroring the earlier subplot with Doofenshmirtz's favorite soap opera being preempted by soccer (However you gotta admit it, that is a funny way to end an episode).
In "Agent Doof", the brothers are turned into babies by an invention of Dr. Doofenshmirtz's, and Doof happened to defect to the good side at the time. While the plot with OWCA ended, the subplot with Candace trying to show their mom that the boys turned into babies stops at where everybody in the room except for Candace being turned into babies (who then hopes things go back to normal by the next episode).
"Max Jets" ends just as Roger was about to explain everything that happened.
"Pulling Double Booty" ends with Hayley about to go into another psychotic rage as Stan desperately tries to explain why he's impersonatedher boyfriend Bill (he's Stan's body double and he dumped Hayley to try to get with Francine).
"Retakes Not Included", possibly the most meta episode of Taz-Mania, has no ending because Buddy Boar literally forgot to include the final scene.
The episode "Ghost Boy" of Teen Titans Go! has the Titans die and end up as ghosts by the end. At first it seems like an Everybody Laughs Ending and a Fade to Black. Then it cuts back to the ghost Titans just floating there with Cyborg wondering what to do now.
Clone High is an exceptionally maddening example of this trope.
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