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Lucy shares our sentiments.
Reporter: The book ends on an ambiguous note. We don't know—do you think [the young lovers] get back together in six months like they promised each other?
Jesse: I think how you answer that is a good test if you're a romantic or a cynic. You think they get back together; you don't, for sure; and you hope they do, but you're not sure.
Before Sunset, commenting in-universe on the ending of Before Sunrise
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Sometimes the resolution isn't clear-cut. There's a lot left unexplained and the audience is still asking questions. Usually done so that different people can come to different conclusions.

Compare Gainax Ending, which is just plain confusing, and No Ending, in which there's no resolution, period. If there are two possible outcomes, one reasonable and one magical, it's Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane. In a horror context, see Nothing Is Scarier. When fans wish this would have happened, but it didn't, then it is a case of Fan-Disliked Explanation. When an armed force is involved, see Bolivian Army Ending.

Contrast Happy Ending and Downer Ending, where the conclusion is obvious, Bittersweet Ending, which is ambiguous about the happiness of the resolution, but not on the events themselves, and Esoteric Happy Ending, which seems happy until the audience actually thinks about it.

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An ambiguous ending can lead to Wild Mass Guessing among the fanbase about the specific details. It may even turn the work into a Fanfic Fuel for fans that try to fill the gaps of the ending and provide more clear explanations.

Super-Trope to Ambiguous Clone Ending. Sub-Trope of Ambiguous Situation. If a negative ambiguous ending is subverted, see Shock-and-Switch Ending.

Since this is an Ending Trope, beware of spoilers.


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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Baccano! the old man and granddaughter decide the story is better off with no ending, so the audience can imagine what happens next.
  • Captain Earth: Do Daichi and Hana survive the destruction of the Blume, or do they die?
  • One of the most classic examples is the ending of Cowboy Bebop, where after his final fight with Vicious, Spike limps down the stairs to find an armed guard surrounding him, only to raise his hand in a gun shape and say "Bang," before collapsing. The series director, Shinichirō Watanabe, purposefully keeps the ambiguous tone in interviews, saying that Spike was "probably just sleeping."
  • In the finale of the second season of Code Geass, Lelouch is apparently killed by his friend, Suzaku, dressed in the infamous Zero outfit, after having planned to make the world hate him, so as to unite in peace after his assassination. This is all well and good, until at the very end C.C. is being pulled along in a wagon driven by a man with hidden features, during which time she talks about how she was wrong about the isolating nature of Geass, addressing Lelouch as though he may be alive. This is further supported by Nunnally receiving visions of Lelouch's memories upon touching him after his assassination, encouraging the theory that Lelouch absorbed his father's Code during his final confrontation with him, becoming immortal upon getting impaled rather than dying.
  • Count Cain: A grown-up Merryweather sees the Hargreaves ring next to a teacup and thinks Cain kept his promise of having tea with her. It turns out that Cleahadol was the one to leave the ring there, and flashes back to what seems to be moments after the series' climax. He finds the skeletal remains of Riff with glass shards in his back, draped around Cain. Cain has his eyes closed, but no blood on him. Cleahadol himself mentions that he isn't sure if he really did hear Cain talk or it was his ability as a medium letting him speak to Cain's spirit, but he was told to leave the ring with Merryweather eventually. It's not made clear if Cain was dead or simply chose to remain with his dead servant. Kaori Yuuki said she felt this ending was perfect for the series, as it went well with the overall feeling and leaving this mystery open.
  • The conclusion of A Cruel God Reigns. It's not really clear whether Jeremy and Ian become a couple, or where their relationship will go from there.
  • Doraemon: Occurs in "A World Without Sound". Noby and Doraemon speak to the "What if? Box" and tell it to take away the sound from the world. They plan to later tell the device to turn the world back to normal. However, the way Noby and Doraemon get home is left up to the reader's interpretation. They can't tell the "What if?" Box to bring the sound back because they can't speak to it. Some readers think the "What if?" Box can detect their handwriting, though this isn't stated anywhere in the comic.
  • Fireworks: The bauble is destroyed by the drunkard firework craftsman firing it, and Norimichi grabs one of the shards showing glimpses of possible futures. He dives into the sea to be with Nazuna and they kiss and converse a bit more before she swims away. The next day, Nazuna's seat in class is empty and Norimichi is absent. Did they successfully elope? Did they drown in the sea? Was everything that happened in between Nazuna getting dragged off by her mother and the next day scene merely Norimichi's fantasy like in the original short? Is there some other explanation for the couple's absence? We never find out.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: The Conqueror of Shamballa ends with Alphonse and Edward together but on the wrong side of the Gate. What happens on the right side is a mystery and it's unknown if they ever reunite with their friends. If they don't then what are their lives like after?. Somewhat addressed in the Kids OVA. It shows Ed's grandchildren in our world, coming to visit an aged version of him, ending with text saying that somewhere in our world Ed turned one hundred in 2005. Though, in this case it was stated by Word of God that it was merely a What If? scenario and not intended to be taken as the final ending of the series.
  • The 88th Shogakukan Short Manga Contest Winner Giant Tortoise Killing ends with the titular rampaging monster being successfully defeated by Makoto with her spear, fists and her best friend's cheering for her. The final panel shows Makoto lying on the defeated giant tortoise with her eyes closed. The author confirms that they intended to leave it to the audiences' interpretation whether she's dead for good (likely because she swore revenge on it after it killed her family in the middle of the story), or she's survived/only passed out after defeating the giant tortoise.
  • Granbelm: The story ends with a transfer student joining the class Shingetsu is sitting in and the ethereal glow on Shingetsu due to being doomed to live forever but never exist disappears. While her narration and reaction hints that it may be Mangetsu reborn, the episode ends before showing the girl's face or if people can see Shingetsu.
  • Odd Taxi; the series ends with Sakura Wadagaki, the girl who performed a Kill and Replace on up and coming idol Yuki Mitsuya, hopping in the back of Odokawa's taxi. Sakura knows that Odokawa was the one who drove her to the place where she murdered Yuki, but why she's back is left unanswered- is she here to tie up one last loose end and murder Odokawa? Is she trying to get out of town before the truth of her crimes comes up? The show leaves this question hanging, though Odokawa most likely knows he may be in danger with her in the back.
  • In Oyaji, while the story makes it clear the titular Oyaji is actually terminally ill, his impending death is never shown or alluded to, at the end Oyaji simply disappears after making sure to pass all the knowledge of life and love his wife and children needed before his time was up; all is framed as if Oyaji was a force of nature who appeared to do his job and then left when it was done.
  • Storm Thief is probably the best example: the golem is floating randomly in the ocean, unable to control himself; the flotilla trying to escape the island has got away, but what they'll find on land (assuming they reach it) is totally uncertain; and the entire city is in the grip of the mother of all probability storms, meaning pretty much anything is possible there.
  • Suicide Club ends with Kyoko surviving the mass suicide perpetuated by her friend Saya, who has been possessed by a malevolent spirit called "Mitsuko". Kyoko is crying for Saya in the same way that Saya, who survived a previous mass suicide, was crying for Mitsuko, and posts from a BBS on the last page strongly imply that Kyoko has or will become the next "Mitsuko", although it's not clear when those posts were made so it's not for certain whether or not the cycle really has continued.
  • The result of the duel between Yugi and Jonouchi in the final episode of the Battle City arc of Yu-Gi-Oh! is never shown. Many fans actually beleive that Jonouchi won, seeing as it's the most likely reason why he got his Red Eyes B. Dragon card back (which he told Yugi to keep in an early episode of the arc, but which he has in the next arc; since Yugi and Jonouchi were still playing by Battle City rules, the ante rule presumably still stood). In fact, that was the biggest reason why he told Yugi to hold onto it; he didn't think he deserved to use it until he was a strong enough duelist to prove it.
  • Likewise, the ending to Yu-Gi-Oh! GX was left deliberately ambiguous. The final episode consisted of a duel between Judai and Yugi, and although there was no official ending, it can be implied that Yugi won.

    Audio Play 
  • 36 Questions ends with Jase and Judith finishing the 36 questions in person after spending years apart, but there is no explanation as to if they got back together eventually.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman: Damned: Zatanna sends Batman and Constantine back in time to the night Thomas and Martha Wayne was murdered. The Enchantress attempts to seal her deal with Bruce, but Constantine shoots and kills the young Bruce and the Enchantress. Constantine explains that he merely killed Batman's past and encourages him to let it go. In the present, the Spectre reveals to Batman that he let the Joker fall to his death. Batman, regretting his decision, visits the morgue to see the Joker's corpse, only to find his own, his spirit subsequently dissipating. A living Joker then emerges from the river underneath the bridge.
  • Convergence:
    • Convergence: Crime Syndicate #2. While some of the Crime Syndicate is shown in the main Convergence title, the ending of the second issue leaves it unclear as to who won the battle, Superwoman or the Justice Legion's Wonder Woman. For that matter, the fates of the rest of the Justice Legion is left unclear.
    • The ending of Convergence: World's Finest Comics #2. Is the Vigilante dead? Will the Crimson Avenger survive? And what exactly happens to Scribbly and the Shining Knight?
  • Deadpool Killsthe Marvel Universe Again ends with Deadpool killing the Red Skull for using him as a weapon against the heroes — only for the Skull's decapitated head to mock him and state that Wade's mind was so screwed up that he can't tell what's real or a delusion at this point.
  • In "Wolf Bait!" in The Haunt of Fear #13 a sleigh full of people with sympathetic backstories is being chased by ravenous wolves through the Russian countryside. After the guard runs out of bullets they decide to sacrifice one of the passengers so the rest can escape. The chosen victim is deliberately not specified.
  • From Justice League Adventures, No. 24, "Alien Like Me". note 
    Flash: I don't get it. Are they humans, powered by alien energies, or aliens, wearing human bodies?
    Superman: It doesn't matter. They're happy.
  • The Killing Joke has one of the most famous examples in comics. Batman pleas with Joker to put aside their conflict before one of them kills the other, and offers to help rehabilitate him. The Joker ruefully remarks that it's too late for him, and tells a joke which prompts him, and surprisingly enough, Batman, to laugh. Batman puts his hands on the Joker's shoulders, and the panels gradually pan down to their silhouettes in a puddle, where it appears Joker's head is jerking back, either from laughing so hard or because Batman's hands are now gripped around his neck. Or he could still just be holding onto his shoulders. Either way, it ends with the two of them still laughing, as their silhouettes in the puddle are broken up by raindrops, and the red and blue lights of approaching police cars. To this day, fans still debate whether or not Batman finally killed the Joker at the end of this story.
  • At the end of The Long Halloween it is unclear who the Holiday Killer is. Alberto Falcone confesses to the killings, but Harvey Dent is suspected to be to be the real killer. However at the very end Gilda Dent confesses in an inner monologue to some of the murders while believing Harvey Dent is responsible for the rest of the murders. Not mention Batman repeatedly suspects Calendar Man is the killer. There is plenty of evidence supporting and disproving all four suspects for one, some, or all of the murders.
  • Shakara: Shakara stops his evil counterpart Brenneka's plan to destroy reality in time by trapping both of them inside the God Engine's implosion. The evil Hierarchy collapses and peace mostly returns to the cosmos. Then a yellow Shakara (Shakara #1 was red and Brenneka was blue) emerges from a crashed ship in another reality, leaving it ambiguous whether this is a reincarnation of the main Shakara, some combination of him and Brenneka, or a new entity altogether.
  • Ultimate X-Men: The team ceased to exist, along with all the Ultimate Marvel universe, during an incursion in Secret Wars (2015). The universe was restored at the end of Spider-Men II, and we saw Parker back as Spider-Man and a new line-up of the Ultimates, but the fate of the X-Men is not elaborated.
  • Watchmen: Probably the mother of them all as far as comics are concerned. Adrian's plan of saving the world from World War III at the expense of half the population of New York worked, but was it the right thing to do? And because Rorschach's journal is floating around out there, will the newfound peace last? Will The New Frontiersman, a rather fringe right-wing newspaper, publish the diary (since they'd refused to do so at first), and if they do, will anyone take them seriously? Dr. Manhattan rather effectively (and somewhat ironically) sums up the situation before taking his leave of Earth.
    Adrian Veidt: I did the right thing, didn't I? It all worked out in the end.
    Dr. Manhattan: "In the end?" Nothing ends, Adrian. Nothing ever ends.

    Comic Strips 
  • In Peanuts it was a Running Gag that Lucy never lets Charlie Brown kick the football, always pulling it away from him at the last minute. In the last strip featuring this, Lucy is called by her mother for lunch, so she lets her little brother Rerun hold the ball for her. Charlie Brown charges at the football, and... AND... cut to later, at the Van Pelt house:
    Lucy: What happened? Did you pull the ball away? Did he kick it? What happened?
    Rerun: You'll never know..
    Lucy: AAUGH!

    Fan Works 
  • The Bridge had a special called "Rise and Fall of C.C.I" covering the events of the Amalgam Universe's version of Godzilla 2000. In it the end, Mitsuo Katagiri and Godzilla Junior come face to face again for the first time in years. Katagiri had tortured Junior in his toddler days with a shock collar and it's clear the now adult Godzilla remembers him. Junior walks up to the building Katagiri was standing on and they stare each other down for a time with Katagiri calmly speculating how Godzilla will take his revenge. However Godzilla turns and walks off, but his tails brushes up against the building and Katagiri goes over the edge to fall to his death. Whether or not Junior intentionally caused the fall, if he was just weary from the fight with Orga and it was an clumsy accident, or if Katagiri jumped by his own volition is left unanswered.
  • homesick (if it helps you breathe) follows an alternate ending of season 2 of Amphibia, where Anne, Sasha and Marcy end up trapped in Amphibia indefinitely when Sasha destroys the Calamity Box in order to thwart the Big Bad. After several years of adjusting to living in Amphibia and dealing with their emotional fallout in different ways, Sasha is ultimately able to recreate the Box after all, but when opening a portal to Earth, the girls initially find themselves uncertain where home truly is for them, before coming to mutual agreement that is left unspoken.
  • My Little Animaniacs: Due to the author not having any ideas for the climax in the final chapter, he had to take a suggestion from a reader, and virtually nothing about the Big Bad is explained, including the method the ponies and Animaniacs use to defeat it.
  • Pony Pals Dirk Strider Edition ends with Pawnee making her choice as to whether the book should be destroyed to what it used to be. It's not stated which choice she makes.
  • The The Loud House fanfic Requiem for a Loud ends in this manner. The story is about Lincoln being diagnosed with an incurable disease that will kill him in a matter of weeks. During the story, the characters come to terms with Lincoln's fate, but Lisa tries her best to find a cure for her brother. Her attempts to cure him during the story fail and at one point Lincoln even tells her to stop since she's obviously neglecting her own health, but at the end of the final chapter Lincoln is still alive (with even him not knowing how much time he has left) and he knows there's always a chance that Lisa might continue her attempts to cure him.
  • To Love Ru The ending of To-Love-DEATH ends with several characters escaping the school by helicopter, but the city has already succumbed to a zombie invasion. The story leaves them still in the chopper.
  • Who We Are ends with the changeling among the Mane Six finally revealing herself to the others but it's never revealed who it is.

    Films — Animation 
  • Invoked in Soul: At the very end of the movie, Joe is returned to his body for a second chance and is asked what he's going to do with his life now. He himself states that doesn't know for sure, but whatever he does, he'll make sure to make the most of it. The movie's ending is open-ended enough that it seems to purposely invite viewers to draw their own conclusions for what Joe did next (whether it was going back to being a music teacher at school, going back to join Dorothea William's band, or something else entirely).

    Films — Live-Action 
  • (500) Days of Summer ends on this note. While it is known from the beginning that Summer and Tom don't make it, this still occurs with the final scene. When Tom is going for a new job interview, he meets Autumn and they have a pleasant first interaction. But there is nothing to suggest this relationship will be any better than the last.
  • Alice: The film ends much like how Alice's Adventures in Wonderland did, with Alice waking up in her room from the dream. However, Alice notices that the glass case that contained the White Rabbit is still broken and the Rabbit missing. This makes it unclear if the dream is actually over or if she's still in Wonderland.
  • American Psycho ends with Patrick Bateman confessing his crimes to his lawyer, only for it all to be brushed off as a joke. It's left completely ambiguous whether Patrick was actually a murderer or just hallucinating violent imagery.
  • As You Are: It's never revealed if Mark was killed by Jack or Mark killed himself. All we know is that Mark is dead and that a gun did go off. It's left up to the viewer to decide.
  • The end of 2011 British horror The Awakening leaves the viewer uncertain as to whether the heroine (Florence Cathcart) survived the poisoning attempt and is alive or whether she's a ghost who's haunting Robert. On one hand, many assumed she was dead because she walked past people without them even seeing her (even when she was very, very close) and in the background you can hear the headmaster talking about her as though she's dead ("Yes, she always was a bit strange, that Cathcart girl"). On the other hand, some thought her alive because she tells Robert she's working on a manuscript for a new book and asks him to get her a taxi back to London, which isn't an activity most ghosts engage in. The film's ending is purposefully contradictory to add suspense and unease.
  • Bagdad Cafe: The film ends on Rudi proposing to Jasmin, and not getting an answer.
  • Before Sunrise: The film ends with Jesse and Celine promising to meet again in six months, with no way of getting in contact before then. Not until the sequel (nine years later) do viewers find out what happened next: they never made the meet.
    • The two sequels also end on this note. In the second, they appear to get together, but with little idea how it will end given that they developed different lives in the aftermath of the first film. The third film is similarly ambiguous, though they are now married, it is less than perfect and it ends with them questioning whether they will stay together but leaning towards yes.
  • Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) has what could be called two ambiguous endings, depending on a person's interpretation.
    • One theory is that Riggan did in fact successfully commit suicide onstage, and everything afterwards is a hallucination/afterlife sequence.
    • Assuming the previous theory to be false, the final ending of the movie leaves Riggan standing, optimistic outside his hospital room window, at a height certainly high enough to kill him should he fall. The camera pans away to see his daughter, Sam, enter the room, and, once worriedly looking down from the window to see if he had jumped, slowly looks upwards towards the sky, as her expression changes to jubilant excitement. Throughout the film, it has been hinted that Riggan does in fact have superpowers, that nobody but himself can see; this theory says that, instead of simply dying after falling out of the window, after telling Birdman, "Goodbye, and fuck you," he frees himself of the restraints of his former life, and his daughter can now see him flying.
  • Every version of Blade Runner ends with Deckard returning to his apartment to find that Rachael is still alive (despite being near the end of her four-year lifespan), and subsequently finding an origami unicorn left behind by Gaff, who's apparently spying on Deckard and Rachael. Deckard then remembers Gaff's ambiguous final words to him ("It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?"), seemingly hinting that Rachael doesn't have much time left to live. In the original theatrical cut, Deckard's narration clarifies that Gaff chose to spare Rachael's life, and that Tyrell built Rachael without the customary four-year lifespan for Replicants—but it's still left ambiguous why he spared her, and it's unclear what the future holds for either of them. In the Director's Cut and the Final Cut (which omit the narration), even this isn't clear, and the film abruptly ends after Deckard finds the unicorn. Adding to the confusion: the Director's Cut and Final Cut also include an additional scene where Deckard has a dream about a unicorn—possibly suggesting that Deckard is a Replicant himself, and Gaff leaves the unicorn as a secret message indicating that he knows. ...Huh?
  • The Break-Up ends with the titular couple meeting up on the street months after their break-up and exchanging pleasantries. It's left ambiguous if they will just go their separate ways or have another try at their relationship. An alternate deleted scene shows them meeting up with their new boy/girlfriends, who happen to look very similar to their exes, showing that they're not completely over one another.
  • The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Is the story Francis tells about Dr. Caligari and Cesare true or just the ravings of a madman?
  • What exactly does happen at the end of Christmas Evil? Does Harry really fly off into the air in his van or does he drive off the bridge and die with the flying only happening in his mind?
  • Cure: The film ends with Takabe seemingly inciting a waitress to commit murder, suggesting that he has been hypnotized by Mamiya into continuing his work. However, it is unclear whether this is in fact the case.
  • There are a few different ways The Dead Center can play out. Does Dr. Forrester succeed in stopping the demon by killing Michael? Or did Michael even die? And if he did, what's stopping the demon from reviving him a third time? Is the demon just laying low and waiting for Dr. Forrester to leave, so it can be discovered by the cops? Or can the demon Body Surf and transferred itself into Dr. Forrester, thus giving it a newer, healthier host? The lines growing on his face certainly imply something is happening to him. The movie ends without resolving any of these.
  • Dogtooth ends on a shot of the father's car outside the factory, with the eldest daughter hiding in the trunk. What happens afterwards is up in the air.
  • Eagles Gathered closes with Silver's death, but never makes it clear what actually happens when you die in the underworld, nor what happened to Gold: successfully rescued, dead, or never existed at all.
  • Envy: After Vapoorize is recalled from market and it results on Nick and Tim no longer being rich, they come up with a new invention: pocket flan. The movie ends with them using an infomercial to advertise it but it's never shown how much they make from that.
  • Giant Little Ones: The movie ends with Franky starting to find some level of inner peace with his sexuality and starting to repair his relationships with both his father and Ballas. There's a slight hint that Franky and Ballas could come to acknowledge their feelings for one another but the movie's ending very much feels like a prologue to that larger story.
  • The Girl From Monday: Did Nobody make it? Will the resistance succeed? Is Cecile doomed to live out her life on the moon? What will happen to Jack? The film never says.
  • While the main character of Girl, Interrupted is released, it's never explicitly stated if Lisa ever got out. Susanna claims that she saw some of the girls from the hospital later in life, but doesn't say which.
  • The Graduate ends with a famous Maybe Ever After / "What Now?" Ending. Ben whisks Elaine away from her wedding to some other dude, but their uncertain stares and pensive expressions as they ride away indicate uncertainty as to whether they will repeat the mistakes of their parents.
  • The Green Knight ends with Gawain deciding to Face Death with Dignity, removing the supposedly-enchanted green belt and kneeling before the Green Knight, after receiving a vision of what will happen otherwise. The Knight, who has promised to cut off his head, then draws a finger across his neck, and says "Now, off with your head." Cut to credits. In the original story, it's revealed that the whole thing was a trick, with the Knight giving Gawain a shallow cut, explaining the whole thing, and letting him go. Here, it's left rather deliberately unclear whether the Knight actually killed Gawain, or, as in the original story, decided that him having proven his courage was enough, with the line "off with your head" being a joke.
  • The Hand: Just how real is the hand? While the film initially seems to indicate that the hand wasn't real and was just a delusion of Joe's broken mind, at the climax it suddenly reappears to kill his psychologist and free him from the asylum. Only the film goes to black-and-white, as it had during his blackouts, implying this might just be another delusion.
  • Hard Boiled has the fate of Alan, in the end as he shoots himself in the guts (so his partner Tequila can execute the main villain, Wong). Did Alan die in the end? He's last seen sailing away, which can be interpreted as his survival or an Imagine Spot of Tequila, that Alan is now "symbolically free".
  • The Short Film The Happiness Salesman initially appears to have the clear cut ending of Karen rejecting the salesman's offer upon discovering that the payment was her first born child, but after leaving The Salesman comes back to give her the free gift he promised — a steak knife. The music starts to become intense as Karen stares down at the knife while listening to her baby crying, implying that Karen may have changed her mind about the offer.
  • Horse Girl: After being released from the hospital, Sarah reaches a state of clarity, perhaps about being literally a time-traveled version of her grandmother, and enters a state of resolve, though her goal is not quite clear. The film ends with Sarah being beamed into space, and doesn't resolve the question of which (if any) of her delusions are real. This could be interpreted as Sarah time travelling into the past, being abducted by aliens once again, or a metaphorical depiction of her suicide, but the film doesn't give clear answers.
  • In Bruges: The film ends with Ray being carried into an ambulance after getting shot multiple times, however, we never find out whether he survives or not. But he really, really hoped he wouldn't die.
  • Inception ends with Cobb returning home to his children after a successful heist. Just to be sure, he spins his totem top one more time (certain objects could act as reality checks to help the owner tell if he was dreaming or not; for Cobb, if the top eventually falls over, he's in real life), but runs off to see his kids before it stops. The screen cuts to black before the audience knows as well, leaving it up in the air if Cobb is still dreaming or not. Even though, according to most viewers, seeing as the top was his wife's totem, his wedding ring is his totem. If that theory can be trusted, then every time that he was wearing his ring, he was asleep (because in the dream world his projection of his wife was alive), and every time he wasn't he was awake. In the final scene, he isn't wearing it. Therefore, if this theory is true, then he was awake and with his children at the end of the film.
    • However, Christopher Nolan has pointed out that the point of the scene was that Cobb cares more about seeing his children again than he does about determining whether it is a dream or reality: he is content with his current reality, whether it's "real" or not because he is reunited with his family. The ending was intended as a commentary on the ability of humans to shape their own reality with their choices and convictions. The ambiguity is intentional, and not the point of the scene, though debate concerning whether it was a dream or not came to dominate discussions about the film.
  • The Jacket ends with the screen going black and the spoken question "How much time do we have?", leaving the audience wondering if the last scene was for real or not.
  • Joker (2019) ends with Arthur Fleck institutionalised in Arkham Asylum, but the circumstances of this are ambiguous:
    • Arthur became the Joker and did everything we saw on screen, the murder of the three wealthy office workers, stalking the Wayne family, killing his own mother and a coworker that threw him under the bus, caused several protesters to savagely beat two detectives that were chasing him and murdered the talk show host he once idolised, which incited a riot. Once it was quelled, he was apprehended, and managed to murder the psychiatrist that was talking with him and had to be chased down the asylum's corridor.
    • Maybe Arthur used the gun his coworker gave him to kill the three office workers, but was apprehended soon afterward, and after being declared legally insane, he was institutionalised and everything else was just him telling his delusional fantasy as fact to the psychiatrist, and being chased around the hospital was not because he killed her, but because he imagined he killed her and she was trying to get him back after he stormed out his session.
    • Perhaps Arthur was so off due to his medications being cut off, that he was apprehended for some other reason, and everything in the movie was just a figment of his imagination, from the murder of the three office workers, all the way to him escaping the psychiatrist's office.
  • In Knives Out, the movie ends with Marta standing at the balcony of the manor, silently looking down at the others. It is vague as to what the former plans to do, after all the events in the movie.
  • K-PAX: Throughout the film the viewer is challenged to decide if prot is an alien or a mentally ill human being. The ending gives the answer as a "definitely maybe".
  • Let Me In shows Owen leaving town with Abby to start a new life. In the last scene of the film he is sitting on the train and is still human. The film ends ambiguously about Owen's ultimate fate. It's possible that Abby really loves him, and will turn him into a vampire soon after. But it could also be that he has now become her new caretaker. The director Matt Reeves himself said that the viewer should interpret for themselves what the future relationship of Abby and Owen is. However, it should be noted that there is foreshadowing several times throughout the film, which implies that Owen's future fate is to be a vampire.
  • The ending of Little Women (2019) is left open to interpretation about whether or not Jo actually got married due to its unconventional narrative structure. She could have chased down her Love Interest, Friedrich, and opened the school with him, or it could have just been a concession she gave her editor to get her book published in the Story Within a Story.
  • The Lost Daughter: After being stabbed with a hatpin and collapsing on a beach, Leda awakens the next morning to a phone call from both her daughters, with whom she chats happily. Leda also looks down at her hands to find a ripe orange that she peels in the way her daughters like. Given the orange as an Arc Symbol for her relationship with her daughters, with whom she did not have the best time raising, it's ambiguous if the ending is happening in reality or in her head.
  • Monster's Ball: Leticia eventually finds out that Hank is the former prison guard who executed her husband, but she doesn't confront him over it and as the credits roll it's left ambiguous whether their relationship will survive this revelation.
  • One Hour Photo. The final photograph of Sy with the Yorkins is this for some viewers. Is it just an Imagine Spot, or is it a kind of "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue showing that the Yorkins eventually forgave Sy for what he did, and accepted him back into their good graces?
  • Parasite (2019): The last shot left viewers wondering if Ki-woo would one day work hard, buy the house and then free and reunite with his father or not.
  • Save Yourselves!: While protagonists Su and Jack are wandering through the woods, Su notices some sort of strange, translucent, bubble-like structure. The couple goes up to inspect it, with their phones mysteriously regaining signal. They immediately check their phones for information, and while distracted by their devices, the structure reforms itself to envelop them and the baby within it. The couple attempts to break out as the structure begins to float up high into the sky. As they leave Earth's atmosphere, the couple notices many other bubbles carrying people within them. Not knowing what's happening, they laugh and ask if they've been saved, but their tone and faces indicate uncertainty about their ultimate fate.
  • A Serious Man: After having played the part of The Woobie for most of the film, things finally begin to look up for protagonist Larry Gopnick. After having been concerned about his job security throughout much of the film, Larry is informed he'll indeed make tenure. And while it's never specifically stated that Larry is reunited with his wife Judith (who had sought to divorce Larry and marry an older man until he died in a car crash), the two are seen smiling and holding hands at their son Danny's bar mitzvah, implying as much. Danny even manages to get his transistor radio back after having it taken away during Hebrew School. However just as the movie seems to take an upbeat turn, Larry receives a phone call from his doctor, telling him that the results from his physical are in and that he needs to see him in his office; while we are not told what the problem is, we can imply it is most likely a serious medical condition. The movie ends with Danny at Hebrew School when it's announced there is a tornado and the students must be evacuated for shelter. The last shot is Danny staring at the rapidly approaching tornado as the teacher struggles to open the door of the shelter.
  • Shadow: The film ends before it's revealed whether or not Xiao Ai will reveal Jingzhou is an imposter to the officials.
  • The Shining: Before the credits, the very last scene of the film is a zoom in close-up of a photograph in the Overlook Hotel...showing Jack Torrance, seemingly in his 20s or 30s in the photo, at the front of a ball room crowd smiling with the caption saying in cursive, "OVERLOOK HOTEL, JULY 4TH, 1921". The film takes place 60 years after the photograph was taken. No proper explanation has ever been given as to what the ending means.
    • One common interpretation is that Jack has been absorbed into the hotel.
  • The film and the play of Six Degrees of Separation end with the audience not knowing what really happened to Con Man Paul, and it's unclear whether Flan and Ouisa's marriage is over for good, or if they're just having a fight.
  • Sound of My Voice: Was she really from the future or not? There's evidence on both sides. Law enforcement claims that she's a con artist, but were they really law enforcement? How does she know the girl's ("her mother's") secret handshake?
  • The made-for-TV movie Special Report Journey To Mars ends with the crew of the first manned mission to Mars overcoming the obstacles (mostly caused by a powerful corporation having a vested interest in the mission failing) and landing on the red planet. A crew member then exits the craft, starts saying her first words, then her eyes go wide, she utters "Oh my God...", and the transmission cuts off. The space agency sends a satellite in orbit to scan the area, followed by shots of the planet... and then credits. We're left to wonder what the astronauts encountered on Mars and whether they're alive at all.
  • Stiletto ends with Raina leaving both Virgil and Beck lying wounded on the floor with a gun in-between them. Both of them look at the gun, and then each other, and then both dive for the gun. The screen goes black and there is a moment's silence, followed by a single gunshot.
  • Swimming Pool: At the end of the film, when Sarah returns to England and visits her publisher John, her daughter also shows up just as Sarah is leaving, but is revealed to be a completely different person than Julie, the girl that the viewer was introduced to as John's daughter. Which Julie is the real one and which is the imaginary one? If the young one is real, was she with Sarah at the French house doing all those things? Or did Sarah just invent the crazy stuff? Alternatively, was Julie even there at all? Is Franck actually dead? Did he even ever come to the house? Lots of questions, to be sure... these are just a few.
  • Lampshaded by Thelma & Louise stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon. When appearing as guests at the Academy Awards Geena Davis (Thelma) said she loved the ambiguous ending; Susan Sarandon (Louise) pointed out they drove over a cliff.
    Geena Davis: Maybe we got a lucky bounce.
    Susan Sarandon: It was the Grand Canyon!
    Geena Davis: (sotto vocie) If we die, there's no sequel.
  • The Thing (1982) ends with Childs and Mac in a destroyed Antarctic camp, with no hope of rescue. it's also left ambiguous as to whether Nauls died (although it is strongly implied he did) or even if Childs himself is a thing.
  • Titanic (1997): In the end, is Rose just dreaming of Jack and all the others who died in the disaster? Or has she died in her sleep and really reunited with them in the afterlife? It's up to the viewer to decide.
  • Unknown (2006): Depending on what Jean Jacket chooses to do about the final revelation, the ending may turn out to be anything from a fairly decent Bittersweet to a rather bleak Downer.
  • Urn: The most likely ending of the movie is that the ghost of the woman's deceased mother possessed her and made her finish her suicide. However, the way that the ending is filmed doesn't make that apparent.
  • The Vanishing: The film's opening text makes it clear that the three main characters disappeared without trace. The ending, however, only makes the fate of two of them clear. Whether Thomas joined them in the sea, or made off alone with the gold, is left ambiguous.

    Literature 
  • Afternoon of the Elves has an unusually ambiguous ending for a children's book. Was Sara-Kate just lying about the elves the whole time? Despite all the evidence in support of this conclusion, the finale still leaves you with a whisper of doubt. Maybe, just maybe...
  • In The Bell Jar, Esther undergoes shock treatment for her depression. The book ends just as she's about to meet with the consultant to see if she has recovered and can be discharged. The final line is the ambiguous "I stepped into the room."
  • The book version of Brooklyn has an ambiguous ending. Eilish breaks it off with Jim and gets back on the boat to America. She's not sure if she's done the right thing and the book ends with her trying not to think about it. The film changes this to a more direct happy ending, where Eilish is seen reuniting happily with Tony in New York.
  • Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 ends with the secret of the titular property, and at least the beginning of the solution to the novel's mysteries, about to be revealed.
  • Dinosaur Vs: The ending to "Dinosaur vs. the Potty" shows Dinosaur standing in front of the toilet with the words "The potty wins. Close, one, Dinosaur; real close". It's unclear whether the potty won because Dinosaur wet himself, or if it won by him giving in and using the bathroom despite not wanting to.
  • The Fault in Our Stars, it is left unclear how much longer Hazel (who has terminal cancer) will live, if at all. In-universe, she is frustrated that her favorite book, in which the protagonist also has cancer, ends on an ambiguous note. She travels to Amsterdam to ask the author what happens after the book ends, but he has no answer for her. Later, he feels guilty and reaches out to her to say he now has an answer, but at that point Hazel no longer cares.
  • In A Fine and Private Place, Rebeck's plan to help the ghostly couple Michael and Laura requires him to leave the cemetery, in the process ending whatever it was that allowed him to interact with ghosts. The steps of the plan are carried out successfully, but he, and thus the audience, is left with no way of learning whether it actually had the intended effect.
  • Nadine Gordimer's novel July's People, an imagination of the violent collapse of South African apartheid centered around one white family and their black servant (the title characters) as they try to keep themselves together while fleeing, has this. The last chapter reverts to the present tense, and ends with the mother running toward a just-landed helicopter, unsure whether the occupants could be "saviours or murderers."
    • An earlier, shorter novel of hers, The Late Bourgeois World, also ends with the protagonist undecided over whether or not to take an action that would reveal a disturbing family secret.
  • Before the Distant Finale which reveals the entire story is a narrative being presented at an academic conference decades later, revealing its historical validity is not conclusively established, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale ends with its protagonist, Offred, being taken away in custody from the estate she lives at by a fellow servant. She believes she's being smuggled out of Gilead, and he's a member of the resistance posing as an undercover member of the secret police. However, it is entirely possible that Offred is actually being arrested.
  • I Had That Same Dream Again ends with Nanoka and Kiryu in an art gallery. What's said between them in the last page isn't revealed, but they apparently left together and it's implied that he asked her to at least be his girlfriend, if not full-on proposed to her.
  • The short story "The Lady or the Tiger," written in 1882 by Frank R. Stockton, has an ending that is purposely left ambiguous, with the author saying that he is in no position to reveal how it ended, letting the reader make his own opinion, based on what he believed one of the characters - the princess - would do. The plot of the story is a no-win situation where someone faces a Sadistic Choice, and it is up to the reader to decide just which choice she made.
  • Sarah Waters' The Little Stranger never reveals whether there was anything supernatural at Hundreds Hall and ends with the protagonist futilely searching for a ghost. The Film of the Book, however, makes its stance in the Science Versus Magic debate clear.
  • Somewhat subverted with The Princess Bride. It has a Bolivian Army Ending which leaves it questionable whether the heroes where able to escape and survive. However, William Goldman commented that they did make it, and seeing as he's the author, you can probably take his word on that. The film adaptation (also written by Goldman) makes the happy ending more explicit.
  • Safehold: Throughout much of the series, the protagonists seeking to restore lost technology to Safehold and reveal its history as a Lost Colony have had hanging over their heads the promised return of the "Archangels" who locked Safehold in its Medieval Stasis to begin with. Not knowing if they could stand up to any Archangels that decide to show up, how they would appear, or if they are going to do so at all, their chosen course is to bring advanced technology back as far and as widely as they can to make it impossible for the Archangels to hit a Reset Button without having to destroy the very human race they had adopted their God Guise to protect. At the end of the tenth book, the first of two possible deadlines for their arrival passes without apparent incident, prompting the protagonists to begin the next stage of their plans. The final scene of the book ends in a distant cathedral of the disgraced Order of Schueler, whose leader had been the previous Big Bad, where an image of the Archangel Schueler himself appears and begins to tell the assembled congregants the truth about Safehold. It's left unexplained whether this is the next stage the protagonists had discussed or the Archangel arrival that the protagonists had so worried about.
  • Scarlet Sister Mary: Mary is an Ethical Slut who simply refuses to follow the conventional morality of her early 20th century African American community, and as a consequence has a whole brood of illegitimate children over twenty years. But after her oldest son dies and she has a dream telling her that it was punishment for her sexually liberated ways, she has a religious conversion. She repents her sins, rejoins the church, and gets re-baptized. However, at the very end of the book the Witch Doctor asks for the love-charm back, assuming that Mary won't need it. She refuses, and in the very last line says "I couldn' gi way my love-charm. E's all I got now to keep me young." So, did Mary repent of her Ethical Slut ways, or not?
  • At the end of SD Gundam The Last World, Gundam The Gold is beaten and realizes that the G-Souls were his allies all along. He then decides to take all of G-Souls with him to his world in order to prevent its destruction. At that point the story stops, not showing whether he succeeded or not.
  • The ending of Shutter Island is unclear as to which "reality" is true. It is unclear whether Teddy has truly regressed, or if he wishes to "die" (at the very least, lose his ability for conscious thought, through lobotomy) in order to avoid living with the knowledge that his wife murdered their children and he is her murderer. The ending of the film is less ambiguous, and indicates that Teddy has made a conscious choice.
  • The Southern Reach Trilogy ends with Control having died, but his death triggers a change in the Crawler. Grace and Ghost Bird leave the Crawler's tunnel and go past the remains of the Southern Reach. It's unknown whether there is a doorway out of Area X anymore and if the terraforming has extended to the rest of the Earth or if Control's death has made the Crawler realize that its mission was pointless.
  • In Becky Chambers' novella To Be Taught If Fortunate, our astronauts are fourteen light-years away from an Earth that they learn has been deeply changed by a massive geomagnetic storm. As they come to the end of their scientific mission, they are unsure whether to return to Earth or, as they could be the last astronauts, travel a further thirteen light-years to a planet that might have intelligent life (which would be a one-way trip). They decide that as everything they achieved in space was on the shoulders of others, they cannot make that decision themselves. So they enter a deep sleep, and if they receive a 'Yes', they will awake and travel to the alien planet, 'No' and they will return to Earth, and if nothing, they will simply sleep until old age or equipment failure takes them.
  • The Venus Prime series ends with Sparta and Blake going off in the world-ship, never to be seen again by the other characters.
  • Charlotte Bronte's Villette ends with the narrator refusing to tell the reader whether or not her Love Interest survived his trip to the West Indies and returned to her. She says that the reader can believe so if s/he likes. It comes across as a Snicket Warning Label without what comes after the label - something akin to a Bolivian Army Ending.
  • Japanese picture book ''Yasashii Lion'' (meaning "The Kindly Lion"/The Gentle Lion") by Takashi Yanase ends with Buru-buru (a lion) and Muku-muku (a female dog and adopted mother) getting killed by group of policemen. However, the story states that both characters managed to survivie (as evident by Buru-buru bloody footprints in the snow) and left as far away as possible. The final illustration even shows both character flying off into the moon.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The next-to-last episode of Blindspot has Jane receive a new dose of Zip during her pursuit of the villain. It's then established that Jane will die if she doesn't receive the antidote, but she continues trying to prevent the villain's plan from succeeding. During her mission, she repeatedly hallucinates characters who died over the course of the series and ideal situations for her friends. After she thwarts the villain's plan, she collapses from her Zip infection. We then cut to her alive and well and going with Kurt to a family dinner. There, she has a vision that she actually died from the infection and everything since then has been a Dying Dream. The episode and series then end without confirming which is correct.
  • Being Human (UK) ends its final season this way. Did Tom, Hal and Alex really become human again and have their happy ending? Or are they still stuck in one of the Devil's dream worlds?
  • In the Bunk'd episode "My Fairy Lady", it is left ambiguous who (or what) lit up the fairy houses that Matteo put up as an apology for being so adamant to prove Gwen and Willow wrong about fairies.
  • The Series Finale of Chuck ends with Sarah, still having lost her memory, with Chuck on the same beach that was seen at the end of the pilot. Chuck tells Sarah that Morgan had a crazy idea that True Love's Kiss could restore her memory. The series ends with Sarah and Chuck kissing. While it was hinted that some flashes of her memories were returning, it is not made clear whether or not the kiss worked.
  • In season 2 of Forbrydelsen, the killer confesses to all the murders attributed to him except one, which he claims, without evidence, was committed by Raben, telling the mentally ill man that he doesn't know of his own guilt because he blocked out the incident. Lund shoots the killer dead moments later, and it's never revealed whether or not he was telling the truth.
  • The two-part Series Finale of Frasier ends somewhat ambiguously. After all his friends and family have gone on to start new chapters in their lives, the viewers are led to believe Frasier has accepted a new job in San Francisco, and assume the plane he is on (where he has been relating the story to a fellow passenger) is going there. However, the final scene shows it landing in Chicago, where Charlotte has moved. Frasier asks the other passenger to wish him luck, and the episode, along with the series, ends. Presumably, he wants to get back together with Charlotte, and it's up to the viewers to decide whether or not he's successful, and whether or not they live happily ever after.
  • Jejak Suara Adzan: While the main story ends unambiguously, the romance subplot is "resolved" in The Stinger, when five years later, Zahra's husband is said to be bringing her some fruits. Dimas and Putra do it at the same time and the finale ends with no explanation about which one is the husband.
  • The Canadian Made-for-TV Movie Radio Silence - (or if you saw it as a Lifetime Movie of the Week, When Murder Calls) or as it called elsewhere, The Chat Show Killer, ends with Dr. Jill Peterman alone in her studio with the murderer (who blames Dr. Jill for her daughter's suicide) holding her at gunpoint live on air ...The screen goes to black and we hear a gunshot, roll credits Before this we flashback to her very first show. implying...well you know. Although the film's established that Jill's armed, leaving it to the viewer to decide what happened. This not go down well with the movie's IMDb reviewers.
  • The Sopranos has one of the most infamous ambiguous endings in "Made in America". After disposing of his arch-nemesis Phil Leotardo, Tony is seen taking his wife Carmela and son AJ to a diner, later to be joined by their daughter Meadow. It's seemingly an upbeat scene, with the exception of Tony discussing potential legal troubles on the horizon. Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" starts playing in the background, and you begin to see curious shots of seemingly random persons in the diner mixed in with shots of Tony and his family happily chomping down on onion rings. The music swells, an unseen person enters the restaurant, Tony looks up, and suddenly—cut to black, series over. Was Tony suddenly shot as the screen cut to black (perhaps by the man in the Member's Only jacket?), or no? This was left a mystery for years. However, in 2021, over ten years after the series' end, creator David Chase finally confirmed that Tony is indeed killed shortly after.
  • In Tatort, the run of the Berlin team Ritter and Stark. Till Ritter was Put on a Bus an episode before, so Felix Stark faces his last case alone, and it's left open if he survives being shot.
  • The mini-series Watchmen (2019) ends with protagonist Angela finding an egg that her husband, Cal/Jon Osterman/Dr. Manhattan (who'd just died) left her, with a voiceover of them talking about whether or not he can transfer his powers. He says that, theoretically, he could put his sub-atomic components into some sort of organic matter and if someone were to consume it, they could get his powers. She says that if she ate it she'd be able to "walk on water" and he says more than likely, yes. She takes the egg, goes outside to the pool, takes her shoes off, cracks the egg, and consumes the contents. The final shot of the show is her foot hovering about an inch off the surface of the pool's water while a cover of "I am the Walrus" by The Beatles plays.

    Music 
  • The Devil Comes Back to Georgia, a sequel of sorts to the famous Devil Went Down to Georgia by the Charlie Daniels Band. The Devil challenges Johnny to a fiddle-playing rematch. Johnny mentions that he's out of practice, since he's been focusing on fatherhood. The lyrics imply that he's too rusty to actually beat the devil again, but Johnny delivers a Badass Boast and a truly epic violin solo on par with the one he used to win the first contest. Unlike the first song, this one ends without saying who won the contest, leaving it ambiguous. The music video confirms the winner: Johnny once again defeats the Devil.
  • "A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers" by Van Der Graaf Generator is about a lighthouse keeper who is filled with guilt about all the shipwrecks he's seen over the years and been unable to prevent. The last section has deliberately vague, ambiguous lyrics, and it's up to the listener whether he resolves to commit suicide or to rationalize the deaths as a natural risk and go on living in peace.
  • Paul Kelly's "To Her Door" is about a marriage that starts to fall apart due to the man's alcoholism, ending in divorce and his wife and children moving to another town. In the last verse, his wife agrees to let him see her and the children and sends him a bus fare. Whether or not the meeting ever ends up taking place, let alone if it leads to a reconciliation, is left up in the air.
  • Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" is about a prisoner sitting in the electric chair, and the unbearable anxiety of waiting for the executioner to finally throw the switch. The final lines (before one last repetition of the chorus), however, raise the possibility that it was All Just a Dream and that the protagonist wakes up safe and sound from his nightmare; alternatively, they can be read as the chair finally being powered on, with the protagonist screaming in pain as he's electrocuted.
    Wakened by horrid scream
    Freed from this frightening dream

    Podcasts 
  • Within the Wires:
    • Season 1 ends with "Cassette #10: Horopito," which medical prison staff member Hester will mail to a cottage, meant to be a safe house for friend and escaped patient Oleta. We have no way of knowing if Oleta ever receives it (though between Side A and Side B, we hear sounds of the ocean, suggesting that she does) or if she will wait there for Hester. We are unsure if Hester will be able to successfully wipe the Institute's records to facilitate her own escape, or if they will be able to track down Oleta again.
    • The Patreon-only season "Black Box" ends with the pilot reunited with his daughter, and he's letting her decide whether they register her with the Society or strike out on their own. Her decision is unstated.

    Theatre 
  • Anna Christie ends with a superficial Happy Ending, as Anna has agreed to marry Mat and her father Chris is finally OK with the wedding. But that resolution is promptly followed by anxiousness and melancholy, as the characters worry about the future.
  • The opera Così Fan Tutte, by composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, is about two men who try to seduce each other's fiancées while in disguise. At the end, after the deception is revealed, the four leads reconcile and decide to get married, but neither the libretto nor the score indicate which man ends up marrying which woman - which has left directors free to choose any pairing they want, or to leave it unresolved.
  • Hamilton: In the filmed version of "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story", Eliza comes out to deliver her closing lines, the song draws to a close... and out of nowhere Eliza gives a sudden gasp. There have been multiple speculations on what this gasp means, including that it symbolizes Eliza's final breath (and with it, the end of the last person involved with the play's events) or that Eliza sees through the audience and realizes that their story lives on.
  • Pilot Program ends without Abigail coming to any firm decisions about her new life. She's not content and settled in the new polygamous marriage, but neither is she thinking of divorce. The author has commented that this is because it's not a play about the long-term outcomes of polygamy, it's about the start, and that any long-term conclusion would retroactively color the beginning.
    Melissa Leilani Larson: I feel like that it ends where it ends because answering those questions about where the marriage goes changes what the play is. And there's nothing wrong with that—it's just, what I wanted to do with this play is explore the possibility of it happening to start.

    Video Games 
  • BioShock Infinite: The ending explains a great many things, but the final fate of Booker, Elizabeth and Anna are left unanswered.
    • The DLC Burial at Sea shows that Elizabeth survived in some form or fashion, only to somehow get killed/lose her powers and then later die for real.
  • Dark Souls: Both endings only show what happens immediately after the player makes his or her decision, leaving the long-term consequences completely undefined. Linking the Fire has the player sacrifice him/herself and burn forever. The Age of Fire and the Lords' rule will continue... but the Lords were ambiguous at best and most of them are now dead. The Dark Lord ending has the player refuse to burn and instead become the Dark Lord of the new Age of Dark. This may be the Death of the Old Gods and a golden age for man... or The End of the World as We Know It for gods and men alike.
  • Dark Souls II: It originally only has one ending, but it's just as ambiguous. After all of the trials the Undead Hero endured, they finally claim the Throne of Want. Then...that's it. The game ends with no indication of whether the Undead Hero claiming the Throne changed anything or simply perpetuated the cycle from the previous game. The Scholar of the First Sin update added a second ending in which the Undead Hero abandons the Throne, choosing to forsake the cycle in favor of trying to find another way to break the curse. It's left ambiguous as to whether or not another way even exists, so whether this spitting in defiance of fate was praiseworthy, fruitless, or both is left unknown. Especially given that the third game indicates that whether they broke the curse for themselves or not, the Vicious Cycle continued regardless.
  • Dark Souls III: Three endings this time. Again the long-term consequences of each ending are left vague. The player may Link the Fire as so many have done before them, burning for an Age and extending what little life the Fire has left to allow the world to limp on. Another option is to allow the End of Fire, finally ushering in the Age of Dark. But, as everything goes black, it ends on a tiny note of hope, that one day new light may be kindled somewhere. Finally, the player may choose to Usurp the Fire, stealing what's left of the Fire's power for themselves, and channeling that strength into becoming the Lord of Hollows, and ruling over whatever comes next... for good or ill.
  • In Disco Elysium, this happens regardless of what ending the player gets and their choices throughout the game. It always ends with a lot of loose ends and a very uncertain future for both the protagonist, the city of Revachol and the various characters they've met. It is, however, possible to get something resembling a Golden Ending, if you manage to solve the case with flying colors by catching the true murderer and determining their motive.
  • Doom 3: Resurrection of Evil. Did the Marine and McNeil both die at the end and are living in the afterlife to honor their sacrifices?
  • In The Empty Turnabout, a person is found guilty of Ian Arts's murder, but it's not that clear that person actually did it due to the vagueness of the crime. Then Apollo approaches Athena and tells her that the police are checking a man's blood to determine whether he's the real killer, but his name is never mentioned. Even the author himself admits the ending is ambiguous.
  • Final Fantasy VII famously ended with a sequence so ambiguous that for years it was a subject of much speculation whether or not humanity was wiped out by Holy, Meteor, and the Lifestream all crashing into each other. Holy is summoned to counteract Meteor, although some fear that it will destroy humanity as well as Metor, but proves unable to stop Meteor until the Lifestream augments its power. The post-credits scene then shows Red XIII and his children looking at the long-abandoned ruins of Midgar 500 years later. The sequels eventually cleared up the ambiguity by revealing that no, humanity wasn't wiped out.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics: It's unclear about whether the main characters survived the final battle; the ship they're fighting on explodes, and a funeral is held for Alma (Ramza is denied the honor since he's a heretic), but Olan thinks he sees Ramza and Alma riding away together. There's also some confusion about whether Delita and/or Ovelia live or die after Ovelia stabs him, since immediately afterward, Delita knocks Ovelia to the ground, and is last seen falling to his knees.
  • Fire Emblem: Three Houses has some characters receiving epilogues that leave ambiguity behind, with one of the more notable examples being Felix. Most of his non-Azure Moon route epilogues involve him becoming a wandering mercenary immediately after the war, but generally notes that he has "vanished from recorded history, save for several unsubstantiated rumors". His paired epilogue with Sylvain on any non-Azure Moon route leads to Sylvain using Felix as a hired sword at one point, only for the two to not meet again, only for Sylvain to eventually receive Felix's sword delivered to his doorstep. It's unclear if this means Felix had died or given up his sword — metaphorically or literally.
  • Something of a series trait for Frictional Games' line of Survival Horror games:
    • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, depending on your actions in the final chamber, you can get either one of two of these: If you topple the pillars and disrupt the ritual, Alexander is devoured by the Shadow and Daniel is allowed to go free... with no hints as to whether this is a good thing or not. If you send Agrippa's head through the portal instead, Alexander is devoured and Daniel is enveloped in shadow — but it's implied Agrippa and Weyer rescue Daniel and bring him to their new dimension. The third ending is a straight-forward Downer Ending, with Daniel being Swallowed Whole and condemned to eternity inside the pitch-black darkness of the Shadow's guts.
      • Meanwhile, in the official expansion pack Amnesia: Justine, your player character turns out to be the titular sadistic monster, and despite her stated goals about her "test", you've apparently learned nothing: even if you save all three men, you just lock them up in your Torture Cellar and go on your merry way, with the only difference being dialogue between Justine and her maid.
    • In SOMA, Simon Jarrett ultimately learns that the Brain Uploading works by creating perfect copies, rather than transferring consciousness. So, even though a copy of Simon is living a blissful existence on the ARK, at least one and possibly two other Simons are left aboard the ruined remains of PATHOS-II, leaving him/then buried alive in a decaying aqua-station on the bottom of the ocean of a dead planet, trapped, possibly alone, for all eternity.
  • The secret good(?) ending of Doki Doki Literature Club! It would be a potential Esoteric Happy Ending, except that it's a Bittersweet Ending anyway and quite possibly intentionally meant to make the player wonder. Basically, it involves the threat being vanquished and almost everyone getting to live on happily. Except... since it has become a plot point that this is all a video game, what is going to happen to the characters when the game ends? The best-case scenario seems to be that they somehow live on in their own world outside the game, which seems a bit far-fetched in the light of all the stuff related to it being a video game in-story but is supported by how Monika previously spoke of what happened to her before the game. Or maybe they just effectively cease to exist, since although their character files are intact, nothing's being done with them while the game is not running. This would mean it amounts to about the same thing as the normal ending where everyone gets deleted. Or, worst case, are they going to be tormented like Monika describes happening to her when the game wasn't running?note  This would actually mean that the normal Mercy Kill 'Em All ending was better.

    In a further bit of ambiguity, who exactly in-universe deletes the game's assets in this ending and why? The Doylist explanation is obvious, since there's nothing left to play without resetting the game so the game needs to stop letting you play, but unlike in the normal ending, there's no explanation in-story.
  • The ending of God of War III is pretty conclusive, but the end leaves Kratos' ultimate fate a little unclear. He commits suicide to empower humanity with the same violent, god-killing hope that he's been using all along, and then left dying on what's left of the mountain by Athena. However, a post-credits scene shows his body missing and a trail of blood leading to the sea, making his true fate unknown.
  • Saying that the final ending of Hellsinker is ambiguous is putting it lightly. While most of the endings are somewhat comprehensible ranging from bittersweet to flat-out downers, the last one is deliberately unclear on what exactly happened.
  • The Last of Us Part II, the story ends with Ellie returning to the farmhouse where she lived with Dina and her son to find it empty. If you assume that it takes place immediately after Ellie's return from Santa Barbara, this would suggest that Ellie ended up alone as a result of her quest for revenge. However, Ellie doesn't react to Dina and J.J.'s absence or suggest that she expected to find them there, is wearing Dina's bracelet and appears to have gained some weight, so it's possible that she's returned by herself, since Jesse's parents had tried to convince Dina to return to Jackson. Those hints raise the possibility that Ellie and Dina got back together in the end, but nothing is conclusively confirmed or refuted.
  • Left 4 Dead 2 ends the chronologically last episode "The Parish" just like what you expect. However, the survivors on their way to the bridge discovers the fact that the military shooting asymptomatic carriers of the Green Flu, in which the immune survivors maybe being carriers too. Furthermore, the Interquel update The Sacrifice has a comic tie-in that confirms, yes, the immune survivors are carriers and they're on the risk of, as Nick said "they just line us up at the wall and shoot at us". However, as of now, nothing further shown on the game after the survivors escape the bridge on board a military helicopter, and the military helicopter is willing to wait for the survivors...
  • Marathon, specifically Infinity. People are STILL CONFUSED, almost 20 years later!
  • You gotta admit, Mother 3 has such a strange one that you can make up whether it is either a Happy Ending, Bittersweet Ending or just a downright Downer Ending. The worst part about it is that you never really find out the fate of everyone. It is to sure haunt players for years to come.
  • Not counting the various endings of Papers, Please where you are killed or jailed for life, there are effectively three outcomes in the game: EZIC brings down the wall and rises to power with you becoming an agent of theirs, EZIC is foiled and a deal is reached with Kolechia with you remaining a loyal inspector, or you and some or all of your family escape to Obristan. It's left completely ambiguous whether any of these are good or bad endings, or which are better outcomes than the others.
  • Tales of the Abyss
    • It resolves the issue with the Big Bad, but what — or rather, who — the red-haired man in the ending is has not been answered; Asch is killed near the end of the game, while his replica Luke seemingly vanishes as a result of freeing Lorelei. He references a promise, but is it Luke's promise to Tear or Asch's promise to Natalia? Fans are still debating.
    • There's also the fact that the party had to stop the Planet Storm at the Absorption and Radiation Gates, which was said to cause all of their fonic artes and technology to stop functioning and was a big topic of discussion, before it was done. The ending takes place only three years after the final battle. Have fonic artes and their technology weakened? Stopped completely? What were their plans on preventing or prolonging the fall's occurence? What other technology could they create to replace it?
  • In Vacation Story, at least one of the endings has the surviving players appear in a bedroom, where their mother is telling them to prepare for their vacation flight. It's unknown if this is a "Groundhog Day" Loop or if the events were All Just a Dream, but the characters themselves end up panicking regardless.
  • Wolfenstein: The New Order. At the end of the game, did B.J. die from his wounds sustained by Deathshead's grenade, or from the bomb dropped on the compound by La Résistance, or was rescued at the end in a helicopter as heard in The Stinger?
  • In Xenoblade Chronicles 2, one of the last scenes is a close-up of Pyra or Mythra speaking, but without any audio or subtitles to clarify what was said, leaving it up in the air if they're starting over with wiped memories or still remember everything they've been through.
  • Year Walk revolves around a man, Daniel Svensson, who embarks on an Årsgång, a Year Walk, an ancient Swedish tradition steeped in folklore meant to be done during midnight of New Year's Eve which allows the walker a glimpse of the future, in order to find out if Stina, the girl he loves, is going to pick him or a different suitor. After having overcome trials that The Fair Folk task him with, he gets his answer: She doesn't love Daniel anymore. Furthermore he has a vision of Stina lying bleeding in a field... Cue the second act of the game where the player learns about the work of current-day folklore researcher Theodor Almsten who is reading about Year Walking and learns about the fate of Daniel who, according to historical documents, was executed after having stabbed Stina to death in accordance with a vision he had while year walking. Theodor quickly gets obsessed with the case and, convinced that it must be possible to save at least Stina's life, is soon contacted by the Fair Folk. Through signs they provide him, he learns of a way to open a box that can connect the future and the past during a Year Walk and, hoping that Daniel will understand, he sends an Ominous Message from the Future: A document detailing Daniel's trial and execution; his last words, "I should have killed myself"; a plead for Daniel to save Stina along with a knife that the Fair Folk left him, hoping that if Daniel kills himself, he'll be unable to harm the girl... The game does not reveal if Daniel ultimately does kill himself with the knife or if Theodor succeeded with nothing except providing Daniel with the knife he would murder Stina with.
  • Yume Nikki ends with Madotsuki jumping off the balcony of her apartment. However, some players have interpreted this as a happy ending, assuming that everything in the game is all part of a dream, and that her "reality" is in itself a series of false awakenings.
    • The remake interprets that the event above is a dream within a dream, as Madotsuki starts the game by walking out from a convenience store and awakens from shock by seeing her own bloodstain caused by the event above on her way home.
  • Zero Time Dilemma
    • The ending of Zero Time Dilemma is this. Did Carlos shoot Delta? Or did he let him live?
    • The Golden Ending of Zero Time Dilemma has all of the cast escaping to an Alternate Timeline where they never had to play through the Decision Game, and set on eliminating a dangerous fantatic that will start a nuclear war. However, at the same time the Big Bad gets everything he wanted, and there's no way to convict him for all his crimes, including the torment he put the rest of the cast through and the release of a deadly virus, because all of it happened in other timelines, and all the evidence has been disposed of in the current timeline. However, he gives Carlos a handgun and offers a chance to shoot him. The game ends with Carlos taking aim, but leaves out whether he decided to fire for the player to decide.

    Web Animation 
  • The Camp Camp episode "Quarter Master Appreciation Day" has The Quarter Master reuniting and making up with his "Quarter Sister" in a very squicky way, before going into the mess hall that was coincidentally just set on fire. We then witness of sudden bright flash that leaves behind nothing but The Quarter Master... who's hook hand has switched to the side that his sister's was on and she's no where to be seen. When questioned on what happened to her, The Quarter Master cryptically says she might be dead or might be more alive than ever, before muttering a line that implies he might have murdered her and walking away with both the characters and the audience, unsure of what the heck just happened.
  • Season 5 of DEATH BATTLE! actually contains the first instance of an ambiguous ending to a fight. "Raven vs Twilight Sparkle" ended with Raven claiming victory, using her Soul Self to slam into Twilight with enough force to form a pony-shaped Impact Silhouette. We never see Twilight's body afterwards, so it's uncertain whether or not she's truly dead.
  • Reversal of the Heart ends with The Prince being engulfed by the Mother Dragon's flames, but when the flames die down, a baby dragon is in his place. It's in the spitting image of the one the prince killed at the beginning of the film, except with the prince's eye color. The baby dragon yawns before looking up at its "mother" and hunkering down in confusion. The Mother Dragon picks him up, only giving the others a brief glance and knocking away the Prince's helmet, before she flies away with the baby in toll. The Wizard and The Princess give each other a smile. Whether they pursue a relationship, and whether the baby dragon was a transformed Prince or the original brought back in exchange for the Prince's life, is left unanswered.

    Webcomics 
  • Alice Grove finished in a rapidly paced ending, with Alice casually murdering Pate in one of her rage states, Gavia and Ardent learning that their reality is a Matrix-like simulation, Sedna losing an arm, and the fact that humanity is about to have a intellectual and technological awakening to advance it back to its pre-war state. Despite that, in the course of three pages Gavia and Ardent are told they cannot return home, Sedna is given a new arm, and Alice decides to get in a ship and fly off into the unknown. Case closed. No explanation for the cause of the war, what Alice, Church or the rest of their kind did in the war, or what The Walker did to the moon with Gavia's nanotech. The result is a bitter fandom towards Jeph.
  • Best Friends Forever was discontinued in Chapter 24, resulting in a Bittersweet Ending, and tons of questions unanswered, like: Are Vincent and Teddy really okay with being Just Friends or are there still unresolved issues? Will Vincent and Louis get together? Will John ever redeem himself in Teddy's eyes?
  • Homestuck ends with a beautiful nine-minute hand-drawn animated movie that answers almost no questions and leaves a million plot threads hanging. Was Lord English defeated? Did he get destroyed by the black hole? What did the "weapon" actually do? Do the events that result in the kids' souls being trapped inside it happen sometime after the end of the game, or was that actually a different set of kids from a different timeline? If it is the same group of kids, are they ever freed from the juju? Hussie has hinted some of these questions might be answered later in an epilogue...only for said epilogue(s) to also end ambiguously.

    Web Original 
  • Finding Hope ends with Nobody deciding on whether or not he should become the new town sheriff. Whether he agrees to that offer is left up to the reader's imaginations.

    Web Videos 
  • CollegeHumor:
  • The Cry of Mann: Tank Mann returns and solves the conflict almost instantly, which leads the callers to question in his subsequent faux-Q&A whether they did the right thing at all. Tank dodges every question posed to him, including those calling him out for not being there for his family, and the whole thing ends with a bright white light followed by several minutes of ocean noise.

    Western Animation 
  • The Amazing World of Gumball has a lot of episodes that end with threats that do not get resolved on-screen. Due to Status Quo Is God, things are usually back to normal by the next episode. But the series finale "The Inquisition" ends with Rob falling into the void while a Dark Reprise of the theme song plays. Until we get the Big Damn Movie, we do not know what happens.
  • The Animaniacs song "Hello Nurse" song brags about the nurse and all her spectacular achievements. At the end, Yakko and Wakko state that if what Wakko said in the song isn't true, then let "lightning strike us dead". Lightning strikes them afterwards, implying Wakko's boasting isn't accurate. However, it didn't kill them, so it could still be correct. At least one fact is confirmed. In Wakko's Wish, Hello Nurse reveals she has an IQ of 192 (not 157 as the song claims).
  • Arthur: "Is There a Doctor in the House?" ends with Arthur sneezing and fearing that he's caught his parents' cold, but the episode ends before it's revealed if he did.
  • Justified in the "Atalanta" animation from the Free to Be... You and Me TV special (and book), since a main theme of the film was to challenge gender stereotypes. Rather than the hero and heroine getting married at the end, as in the original legend, they instead merely spent the afternoon together. They then went off separately to pursue their own desires: namely, travelling the world. The story concludes that they may or may not be married eventually. But,
    "...it is certain that they are living happily ever after."
  • Last episode of Cybersix ends ambiguously. Cybersix was so close to the exit, did she make it? The Big Bad is dead but Jose is shown to have survived and the very last shot is of Lucas wondering the streets, looking up and seeing light in Adrian/Cybersix's window. Since the show was cancelled so we will likely never know what happened.
  • The "Unknown Mystery Killer" episode of Celebrity Deathmatch ended with an intentional loose end. The killer - who had murdered Drew Barrymore, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Jennifer Love Hewitt, having the gall to do it outside the Deathmatch ring - simply called Nick and Johnny one last time to taunt them, but was never identified, saying Johnny catchphrase ("Good fight, good night") for him in an evil-sounding voice right before the credits rolled. (Of course, this was likely intentional.)
  • The twist ending of Will Vinton's Closed Mondays. Was the Drunken Man an ordinary person who was turned into a statue? Or, as it's heavily implied by his reaction to the plight of the Scrubbing Woman, was he originally a sculpture that managed to escape the gallery? And if he was a statue, was he trying to escape again as he stumbled for the door, or did he willingly go back to his plinth and become a statue again?
  • Futurama: The episode "Murder on the Planet Express" has the main characters go on a Corporate Trust Exercise led by a business consultant Dan McMasters. As part of the trust exercise, they pick up a seemingly random hitchhiker that turns out to be a murderous shapeshifter that eats the characters one by one. At the end of the episode, Dan McMasters claims to Fry and Bender that the whole situation with the shapeshifter was the trust exercise and no one really died, but Fry and Bender don't believe him (since the shapeshifter claimed the same thing earlier to get the drop on them) and promptly murder him, only for it to be revealed that he was telling the truth. Fry and Bender swear each other to secrecy, but a large reward is offered for the identity of Dan McMasters' killer (and in the case that there were two killers, double the reward and total immunity if one of the killers turns in the other), which prompts Fry and Bender to eye both each other and the phone before the episode ends. Since this show rarely has actual continuity, it's never revealed if they ratted on each other or not.
  • Little Princess:
    • At the end of "I Don't Want a Cold", the Princess recovers from her cold and everyone tries to have the picnic again. However, when the adults all sneeze, the Princess immediately assumes they've caught her cold and cancels the picnic. It's left unclear whether the adults really have caught her cold.
    • "I Don't Want Nits" ends with Puss and several of the adults scratching themselves. It's unclear whether the humans caught the Princess's lice and Puss caught Scruff's fleas, or if they're imagining an itch due to their already-established fear of the insects. At the end, it's rendered moot, since they get shampooed anyway.
  • The South Park episode "Tweek x Craig". The titular pair end up Mistaken for Gay by the whole town due to some Yaoi Fangirls making fanart of them. They fake a break-up which ends up making the whole town sad, so at the end they pretend to get back together for the town's sake. However, there are possible implications in the episode (as well as future material and from Word of God) that they might actually have feelings for each other for real.
  • Teen Titans goes out on this note, with its final episode having both its main and side stories somewhat unresolved. But fans could care less about the B-plot concerning the mysterious, seemingly undefeatable monster. It's the question the A-plot raised of whether or not the school girl that Beast Boy has been talking to was Terra or not. Clues are sprinkled throughout the episode for either possibility, with additional clues for whether or not she's faking amnesia if she is actually Terra.


 
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Krampus

The snow globe ending in Krampus.

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