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Ambiguous Situation

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There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"

A certain situation is so ambiguous that the viewers/readers can't know for sure what's going on.

While this trope can come into play unintentionally, for example as a side effect of Faux Symbolism, it's normally intentionally played by the authors. This can be done to make the story more interesting in general, as a way of Getting Crap Past the Radar, or simply to appeal to several audiences at the same time—each of them likely to interpret the situation in whatever way they are most familiar with. Either some vital piece of information is missing, or we are left with contradicting information and no definite verification about what is correct and what is not.

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When played straight, the characters probably (but not necessarily) know what they are talking about, but they're not giving the audience all the information needed to know the situation for sure.

When invoked or debated, the characters themselves ponder the nature of the situation they are in. This only applies to cases where they don't know that the trope is—say for example that they are having a strong emotional reaction and are pondering whether it's The Power of Love or The Power of Friendship. In a detective story, the detectives might be unsure or disagreeing—not merely about whether or not a certain suspect is guilty or not as a simple "who did this" level, but about the the basic nature of the situation they are investigating. Note that examples only count if the uncertainty is left unresolved: Brief uncertainties stop being this trope when they get a definite answer.

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Creepypastas use this frequently, usually to make the stories seem scarier. As a result, many monstrous beings or occurrences are never given definite origins, motives or explanations. Many people have made Creepypastas that are fan interpretations explaining more, but, as they're just fan made, it's hard to come up with a definite canon.

Only add examples where the alternatives are reasonable. If needed, make an argument for why it's a viable interpretation. Also, don't add situations that are only temporarily ambiguous: If the situation is clarified after a little while then it is not an example.

Please note that pretty much ANY situation in fiction can theoretically be Sarcasm Mode or Unreliable Narrator. So only add such examples if you have a good argument for why the option is relevant.

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Supertrope to Ambiguously Gay (and its Sister Trope Ambiguously Bi), Ambiguously Evil, Ambiguously Human, and Ambiguously Jewish. May be a Riddle for the Ages involving Shrug of God. Superdickery involves ambiguity on whether a good character has committed evil actions when context is omitted. If the ambiguity concerns whether a character lived or died, you're probably looking at Uncertain Doom or one of its subtropes. Compare Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane, Alternate Character Interpretation, and Schrödinger's Butterfly for other kinds of uncertainty. Contrast Epileptic Trees, which are conclusions that viewers draw when they don't limit themselves to information objectively present within the work. Also see Cryptic Conversation, Implied Trope, Through the Eyes of Madness. If romance or sex is involved, that's Implied Love Interest or Did They or Didn't They?. If the ambiguity is whether or not something was a dream, then the trope is Or Was It a Dream?, and if it's to do with how old a character is, it's Vague Age. If it has to do with gender, that's Ambiguous Gender or Ambiguous Gender Identity. See also What Happened to the Mouse?

Warning: Here be spoilers. Unmarked spoilers, since they are often vital parts of the analysis.


Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • Arpeggio of Blue Steel: The Stinger of the second movie. After laying flowers at his parents' grave, Gunzou turns around to face the camera and welcomes someone back. Who exactly he is talking to is never shown, though a Not Quite Dead Iona seems likely.
  • Cowboy Bebop ends with Spike, grievously wounded, collapsing in front of what remains of Vicious's gang. The creator said that whether he lives or dies is entirely up to the viewer.
  • A Cruel God Reigns: One of the continuing points of crisis between Ian and Jeremy is whether or not the car crash that killed their father and mother (step parents respectively) was caused by an error in Greg's driving, a faulty car attribute, or Jeremy's tampering. Because it is never solved and could have been any of the three reasons, heavy strain is placed on Ian's willingness to try to forgive his stepbrother and later on his budding romantic feelings for him. Even more strain is placed on Jeremy because he can't be sure whether or not he accidentally killed his mother, and therefore he can't put the guilt behind him or forget about what Greg did to him to make him sabotage the car in the first place.
  • Devilman: In Devilman vs Hades, a large portion of the story is focused on the revival of two women the hero and the villain dearly love. For Akira it's Miki, who is still dead from the events of the original manga, and for Hades it's Persephone, his wife from Greek mythology, who Akira killed when he came to save Miki's soul. Hades having power over the dead, promises Akira that he could bring the woman he loves back from the dead; given certain conditions are met. Ironically, despite having mastery over death, Akira's Devilman powers have corrupted Persephone's soul, and has made it near impossible to repair. The final scene of the manga leaves it ambiguous as to which of the two women were revived, as either Miki or Persephone's eyes open up as Akira and Hades fight to the death. Making it even more ambiguous, is the fact that Persephone and Miki have different colored eyebrows, and that is obscured from view, making it impossible to tell which one of them is being revived.
  • Haruhi Suzumiya
    • At the end of the first season (which in chronological order would be the sixth episode), it is left very vague as to whether Haruhi recreated the world or not. Kyon and Koizumi don't know either. There is really no way to know for sure, only that the events surrounding the moment when it would have occurred, if it did, really did happen.
    • Multiple explanations for various happenings are also presented. For example, Koizumi claims that Haruhi created the espers and either attracted time travelers and aliens or created them, while Mikuru says that Koizumi is lying and that the residents of the future have their own goals. Nagato refuses to say what the IDTE thinks because neither she nor the previous two have the slightest bit of proof that they can show to Kyon and any of the three could easily lie to him. And, of course, any of the three could just be wrong.
    • Another big ambiguity that is touched on occasionally but never truly addressed is whether Haruhi is a god or not. It's one of the early theories that Koizumi presented, and a large number of fans assume it to be the case, but even Koizumi himself doesn't know if it's true or not. He says it's just the worst case scenario that his Organization is acting on. Or at least that he claims it is acting on.
  • Himouto! Umaru-chan: Chapter 89 ends with what seems like Ebina about to confess her love to Taihei. Chapter 90 begins next morning with Taihei and Umaru and no real hint of what happened as a result other than Taihei preparing New Year's money for Ebina when in previous years he only did so for Umaru. Chapter 92 mentions that he listened to it seriously, but doesn't elaborate any further. It isn't until chapter 98 where readers learn what actually happened: She didn't confess.
  • Inuyasha: In the ending, it's left uncertain whether or not the gateway between the present day and the Feudal Era in the Bone Eater's Well is sealed up for good after Kagome returns there permanently, or if Kagome really is Trapped in the Past for good this time. Either way, she's chosen to stay in the past.
  • JoJo's Bizarre Adventure:
    • Vento Aureo:
      • Just about everything about Diavolo is left as vague as possible, from the circumstances of his birth, to how he managed to bury his mother under his house (and even if he was the one that did it), to his relationship with Vinegar Doppio.
      • Notorious B.I.G, the Stand of Carne, is only activated after Carne's death, so it's left unclear how much of Notorious B.I.G is its own being and how much is Carne.
    • Jolyne Cujoh from Stone Ocean manages to pull off a number of feats that would require a large amount of calculating to succeed, but whether or not she's able to perform them out of genuine intelligence or just dumb luck in unknown.
  • Mai-HiME: The situation between just what Shizuru did with Natsuki while the latter was recovering under her care is never fully resolved. Besides Shizuru herself (who never brings it up) we only see Natsuki's imagining a scene of them silhouetted through a rice-paper screen door where Shizuru disrobes and then lies down, and the scene is flipped from what it was in reality, adding to the ambiguity about whether Natsuki is remembering it or imagining it based on what she hears Haruka and Yukino saying. All we know for certain is that Shizuru did kiss the sleeping Natsuki, but beyond that there are several possibilities. Whether or not Shizuru was wearing any underwear beneath her kimono, whether or not she lay down on the same futon or one adjacent, and whether it even really happened are left ambiguous, so it's impossible to see what happens next and means that Yukino and Haruka's assumptions might not be accurate.
  • In My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom! it's not really clear if Catarina is actually Catarina like she thinks or just her past life having completely replaced who Catarina was supposed to be. She does identify as Catarina, have her memories and her father thinks she's similar to her mother, but she seems unfamiliar with some really basic things that Catarina ought to know. But then again Catarina was always as dumb as a box of rocks, now she's just dumb in a different way.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion has quite a bit of this, partly resulting from that Rule of Symbolism mentioned in the trope description. The most notable example would be the final scene of End of Evangelion, where the true meaning of Asuka's words remains up to viewer interpretation.
  • Sonic X: While Dr. Eggman hails from Sonic's dimension in this continuity, his grandfather, Professor Gerald, and his cousin Maria still hail from Earth. This leads Eggman to theorize that he was initially born on Earth and somehow ended up on Sonic's world, but it's unclear whether or not this is the case, much less how he got there in the first place.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions ends with Seto successfully breaching through to the afterlife. He has Aigami's Quantum Cube, but the movie leaves it up in the air as to whether going to the afterlife made him dead as well, and whether or not he'll win against Atem when he finally duels him. Complicating matters further is that he leaves KaibaCorp in Mokuba's hands, suggesting he may not return right away, if at all.

    Comic Books 
  • DC Comics:
    • Batgirl (2009): Stephanie Brown's father, the supervillain Cluemaster, had a friend who tried to sexually assault her. Cluemaster found out, and soon after, the man died. Stephanie accepts that she'll never know for sure if her father was behind this.
    • In the leadup to A Death in the Family, Robin Jason Todd chases a diplomat's son after he gets off scott free for abusing his girlfriend and later killing her. The comic cuts away to show the man falling to his death. When Batman catches up to him, he demands to know if he fell or if he was pushed. Jason can only say "he slipped". Neither Batman nor the reader knows if Robin crossed a line or not.
    • Death of the Family: Does Joker really know the Batfamily's identities or is he just bluffing? Convincing arguments can be made for both possibilities. By the end, it's heavily implied that he does know who they are, but doesn't even care. He is simply incapable of seeing them underneath their masks, especially Batman.
    • The ending of The Killing Joke: The Joker tells a joke that gets Batman laughing in spite of everything that happened in the story. But why is there suddenly no more laughter as the viewpoint moves away from their faces? Batman has been saying from the beginning of the story that one of them is going to end up getting killed in their rivalry, and the Joker goes way far in his atrocities in this story. And Batman puts his hands on the Joker's shoulders, while laughing, in the last panel where they are properly seen. The speculation that Batman finally kills the Joker was also fueled by the water at their feet appearing red originally, which some took to imply blood, but this is no longer the case in the recoloured deluxe edition. However, the artist's afterword in the same edition lampshades the ambiguity without resolving it.
  • Incredible Hulk: In the Tempest Fugit arc, it was revealed that the Hulk was originally an imaginary friend of Bruce Banner's, and implied that the Hulk was really an alternate personality. One day after Bruce was bullied at school, the Hulk took over his body and planted a bomb at his school. Bruce stopped the bomb but was expelled from school. Thaddeus Ross, impressed with how advanced the bomb was, offered to guide Bruce through his education. The end of the arc revealed Nightmare has been plaguing the Hulk for years with hallucinations, misdirections, and manipulations of reality. It is thus left ambiguous on whether the flashback we saw was real or fake.
  • Spider-Man: Life Story: Kraven's fate at the end of issue #3: did Kraven shoot himself, the symbiote shoot him instead or did the symbiote save him? Even when the two reappear in the final issue, the question is still there, as it's revealed Kraven has been long dead and Venom was basically wearing his skeleton.
  • Ultimate Marvel:
    • Ultimate Daredevil & Elektra: Elektra overhears the cops saying that "Right now Ms. Beckerman can make the ID. Tomorrow might be another matter entirely". She asked for clarifications. But no, they do not think that she lies. They fear that, if she thinks about it and remembers Trey's contacts, she may withdraw her testimony to avoid trouble.
    • Ultimate Spider-Man: High school student Peter Parker is biten by an experimental spider in Oscorp, and gets super powers. Aware of all this, Norman Osbourne ties to repeat the experiment on himself to get superpowers. He turns into a terrible menacing monster, who can fly and throw fireballs. First he burns his house and kills his wife, and tries to kill his son Harry. Then he attacks the school, and Spider-Man fights him. But why did he attack the school? Was he trying to kill Harry again? Was he trying to kill Parker? Both? During the fight he was limited to Hulk Speak and just growled "Parker" when he fought Spider-Man, so it was not easy to figure out his motives.
    • Ultimate X-Men: Sabertooth, who has just burnt the files with Wolverine's life before the mindwipe, boasts about the fun he had when he killed Logan's wife and little kid. Did he really do it? Or was he making it up to push his buttons, taking advantage that now Wolverine can never find out what actually happened, or if he really had a wife and/or son?
  • Watchmen has an open-ended ending where Rorschach's journal is seen lying in a pile of papers and reports in the New Frontiersman, and a hand is seen reaching for the pile. The significance of the journal is that Rorschach uses it to expose Ozymandias for the murders of The Comedian and Moloch, which could potentially lead to an investigation that would expose him. However, the journal only exposes the murders of The Comedian and Moloch, and does not actually expose the squid monster ending, as Rorschach was not aware of the squid monster when he submitted the journal. And an underground newspaper may find it hard to expose a man as rich and powerful as Ozymandias. Doomsday Clock, however, makes this less ambiguous as it's revealed that Rorschach's journal, along with supporting evidence, revealed Ozymandias' plot to the public, branding him a fugitive and throwing the world to hell as a result.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin frequently refuses to take a bath, saying that there are dangerous creatures in there. Is he legitimately afraid or is it just that he Hates Baths and is making excuses?
    • Calvin often acts as though his bike is a monster, but is that because he's actually afraid of it or is he playing pretend?
    • In one strip, Calvin says he will "go for the gusto" at school and the next strip shows Calvin telling Hobbes about how he got in trouble at school but not wanting to specify what. It could be that these two strips are connected, but they could be about two separate incidents.
    • Most notable is the nature of Hobbes himself. Is he just Calvin's Imaginary Friend, or is he somehow real? There's evidence both ways, note  and the author doesn't clarify, merely saying that "Calvin sees Hobbes one way, and everyone else sees Hobbes another way."

    Fan Works 
  • Code Prime - R1: Rebellion
  • In Darkness Burning, Elsa's parents find her holding a piece of ice to her wrist. As she had recently attempted suicide they come to the worst conclusion. However, Elsa claims it was Not What It Looks Like and that she was just testing to see if she could resist the urge.
  • Equestria Divided: The origin of the Laughing Mare and her relationship to Pinkie Pie both in and out of universe — is she Pinkie's vengeful spirit, an Eldritch Abomination pretending to be her, or one of those believing itself to be the other? If it is Pinkie, how did she come back from the afterlife? Did she make a Deal with the Devil that made her Come Back Wrong or did she want to come back that way? Only the Laughing Mare knows.
  • Friendship is Optimal: Through the entirety of the story, it's constantly debated whether Celest-AI really has developed true individuality, is as benevolent and loving as she claims, and is pursuing her mission out of genuine desire to save as many people as she can... or whether she's ultimately just a particularly advanced program uncaringly fulfilling her main directive — one which is coincidentally benefited by her assuming a deeply compassionate attitude.
  • In Friendship Is Optimal: Always Say No, the character who thinks he is Greg (It Makes Sense in Context) approaches Celestia at the end of the story. Incredibly upset, he demands to know if he was ever really a real person, or just a cobbled-together Frankenstein's Monster of the memories of those who knew the real Greg. Making things worse is that we know for a fact she can create such beings, and has definitely done so before. Celestia refuses to answer, simply telling him that he will doubt any answer she gives him, and that it ultimately doesn't matter anyway — whether he was Greg before or not, he is Greg now. No definitive answer is ever given.
  • In the Laverne & Shirley fanfic The Imperfect Man, Laverne is told that she only has a week to live and will be run over by a train. Then, she sits on a ledge. She claims that she thinks she's immortal as long as she avoids trains, but everyone else (and later, even Laverne herself) treats it like a suicide attempt.
  • Marge Simpson Anime makes it ambiguous whether Marge had an affair with Maude or whether it was all wishful thinking in her head.
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic My Immortal, one scene has Draco Malfoy allegedly committing suicide by slitting his wrists, but earlier, the narrator Ebony says that he was immune to death by wrist-slitting since he was a vampire. He then comes back alive, but Voldemort has him tied up, allegedly in bondage. It's unknown if the author, Tara, meant to write that Draco attempted suicide instead of committed, if he really did commit suicide and come back to life despite being a vampire, or if Voldemort replaced Draco with a dummy.
  • Ojos Grises is a "Five Things" Fic about Azula wondering if Ty Lee has air nomad blood and, if so, whether she's secretly an airbender. It's never revealed whether Ty Lee is an airbender or not. More than once, Azula feels gusts of wind after Ty Lee leaves, but she doesn't know if it's coincidental.
  • In Pound and Pumpkin Cake's Adventures (and Misadventures) in Potty Training, Pound Cake needs to go to the bathroom the morning after having his shot at the doctor's and claims to think the shot is both a laxative and a diuretic (making him need to "go pee pee and poo poo all the time"). He's wrong, but the fanfic leaves it ambiguous whether he's lying to scare his sister or actually thinks it's true.
  • In Road Trip Rage, the Loud sisters act spiteful towards Lincoln because they want his seat in the van. When he gets left behind, they claim that they don't know where he is, but it's unclear whether that's true or they're just playing dumb and allowed him to get left behind. On the one hand it'd be uncharacteristically spiteful and no one took his seat, but on the other hand how could they not notice he was gone?
  • In Rose Redemption AU, it is not entirely clear if the Rose Quartz they encounter is the actual Rose or just one of her memories that Grew Beyond Their Programming. This is addressed in Change, where Steven tells Rose about when Pink Steven manifested in "Change Your Mind", causing her to suffer an existential crisis.
  • Shadow Of Another Hero: Link wonders if Dark Link is his shadow or whether he's the remains of a previous Link.
  • The Unabridged Memoirs of Darth Plagueis the Wise: Padme Amidala emerges as a leader of the Rim Liberation Front, but even in-universe it's unclear if it's really her, or if a radicalized body double pulled a Kill and Replace on her. Out of universe, YeahOkayCool isn't willing to reveal the truth.
  • In The Witch of the Everfree, while Sunset is sick and possibly still experiencing the after-effects of the Vision Quest she'd just had, she has what she thinks is a hallucination of Celestia comforting her. However, as she herself observes afterwards, Celestia taught her all the magical scans she knew, and had proven capable of getting around them before, such that it could easily have been the real Celestia and Sunset wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
  • In Would It Matter If I Was, Fluttershy asks Twilight whether or not it would matter if she was a changeling. The entire story is ambiguous; Twilight realizes that a number of coincidental characteristics of Fluttershy (the Stare, surrounding herself with creatures which love her) are consistent with Fluttershy being a changeling. When Twilight acts in a threatening manner, Fluttershy stares at Twilight, raising the question of whether or not Fluttershy used the Stare on her friend to make her back off. But when Twilight responds that it wouldn't matter, Fluttershy denies being a changeling. Was she telling the truth? Was she scared off of telling the truth by Twilight's negative reaction? Was Twilight really sincere when she said that it wouldn't matter if Fluttershy was a changeling?
  • Ultra Fast Pony:
  • In the Frozen fanfic The Arrangement, Hans receives King Agnar's signet ring shortly after the two royals meet for the first time. Elsa accuses him of stealing, but Hans claims that it was given to him by the Arendellian king, and challenges her to ask him herself when they meet again later. Of course, the King and Queen's ship sank while they were on their way to Corona, rendering it impossible to confirm Hans's story. Hans's mother believes that Hans is somehow responsible for Agnar's and Iduna's death (since the timing and circumstances is extremely convenient for the prince), but there is no evidence for either conjectures.

    Films — Animation 
  • In 5 Centimeters per Second, Takaki sees a woman in his dreams that looks like Akari, and he later sees her while awake in the final part. She never speaks in his presence, however, which makes it unclear whether she's actually Akari, a lookalike he's projecting her likeness onto out of his longing for her or, given that they cross paths at a place that was significant to their childhoods that he just coincidentally happened to be at, an outright hallucination. The film ends without declaring any way. Official artbook A Sky Longing for Memories is similarly evasive.
  • Finding Nemo:
    • At the beginning, it's revealed that Marlin and his now-probably-deceased wife Coral met when Marlin asked if there was a hook in his lip. This sounds like a line a fish might use to tease around the idea of kissing, but Marlin has been shown to be a bit of a worrywart even before the barracuda incident (when it showed up, he insisted she get inside), so it's unknown why he was asking.
    • At one point, Marlin and Dory are looking for a way to Sydney and Dory claims she can speak whale and asks a whale for a ride to Sydney. They end up in the whale's mouth and it spouts them out in Sydney. While Finding Dory reveals that Dory really can speak whale, it's left ambiguous as to whether it heard them and was giving them a ride to Sydney, or it didn't hear and accidentally swallowed them while trying to swallow some krill.
  • Incredibles 2: When most of the superheroes, including Elastigirl, have hypnotic glasses on and are doing the villains' bidding, Elastigirl's baby son Jack-Jack uses his telekinesis to take off her glasses. It is unknown whether he knew the glasses were bad, he was just copying what his two older siblings were doing, or if he was just doing it out of babyish curiosity.
  • In Peter Pan, Captain Hook is seen wrapped in a blanket with his feet in a bowl of water. It's unknown if he's sick or not, because while he has a headache, he did just bump his head, and he was sneezing, but that could've been from the cold. The thermometer reads high, but that was after Smee put blazing hot water in the bowl.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • American Psycho: The ending. Was Patrick Bateman a serial killer who's able to get away with the murders, because of how perfectly he's able to blend into white collar corporate society? Or just a mentally disturbed person who fantasies about being a serial killer because of how boring he thinks his life is? The made for DVD Sequel, starring Mila Kunis, mentions Patrick Bateman several times as a genuine serial killer, but many don't consider the film canon.
  • Andhadhun: How did Mr. Sinha die? Did Manohar or Simi kill him? Did the gun go off accidentally, as Simi claims? Or did he shoot himself when he saw his wife with another man?
  • Angels with Dirty Faces ends with a confident gangster whimpering and begging to live as he dies in the electric chair, even though he had arrogantly ignored the prospect of his death up until that moment. A friend of his had told him to stop the proud and confident act so that the kids who knew him would stop viewing him as a role model. Did he take the advice and fake the whole thing to discourage the kids who looked up to the gangster lifestyle, or did he really just lose it?
  • In Attenberg, the relationship between Marina and Bella... is it Friendly War, With Friends Like These... or even Belligerent Sexual Tension? Maybe all three at once!
  • Berlin Syndrome: The ending makes it unclear if Andi is being left to die in the apartment, or if the picture in his classroom will cause the police to come investigating and find him.
  • Beyond the Black Rainbow:
    • When Barry receives a phone call at home, even though the phone is disconnected, who is he talking to? Is some otherworldly entity communicating with Barry, perhaps an entity he encountered during his psychedelic experience in 1966? Is Barry just hallucinating as part of his rapid descent into psychosis?
    • Why does the Sentionaut allow Elena to escape? Is the Sentionaut mindless without Barry or Margo to give it orders? Does it recognize Elena as a fellow victim of the Arboria Institute's experiments?
    • What exactly does the black liquid do? Does it simply induce psychedelic experiences, psychic powers, and mutations? Is it a gateway into another realm of reality, where malevolent entities exist? Barry claims that he saw the "eye of God" during his 1966 psychedelic experience, which could have been a drug-induced delusion, an encounter with an eldritch entity, or an encounter with the divine, which would have terrifying implications for the world in which the movie takes place.
    • At the climax of the film, Barry confronts Elena in a field, discovers that he can't move his feet, falls over, and hits his head on a stone, which kills him. It's unclear if Elena telekinetically paralyzed his feet and pushed him down, or if Barry's feet got caught in some tree roots and he fell down by accident.
  • Black Swan: Nina views Lily as a Manipulative Bitch out to get her in most of their scenes, but it's perfectly possible that Lily is just a friendly girl that Nina's paranoia causes her to view as more devious than she really is. And then there's their sex scene, which could be real or one of Nina's hallucinations fueled by her sexual repression issues.
  • Blade Runner and the sequel never do answer the question definitively as to whether Deckard is human or a sophisticated Replicant. The sequel, in fact muddies the waters even more by revealing Replicants can have children.
  • Changeling: By the end, Walter is not returned to Christine... but in the epilogue, one of Northcott's escaped victims has been found. He says that both he and Walter escaped from their prison, but were separated in the dark. Maybe Walter was recaptured by Northcott, maybe he got away.
  • Cloverfield is an interesting example of this. The film acts as a deconstruction of giant monster movies, showing what it would be like to be a civilian in a giant monster attack. As such the monster's origin is left almost completely ambiguous because the characters themselves have no idea where it came from. The only thing that comes close to giving an idea about where the monster comes from is the ending which shows a large object falling from the sky into the ocean far off in the background. The fans and theorists are torn as to whether the object is the monster falling from space (meaning the creature would be an alien) or a piece of space junk, like a satellite, falling into the ocean and waking up the monster (which means the creature is an at least partially natural creature). Both explanations just raise more questions. The Cloverfield Paradox implies that the arrival of the monsters had something to do with the experiments being done with parallel universes that caused the movie's own weirdness, but even then it's not really made clear.
  • In C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, a mockumentary about an America in which the south won the The American Civil War, one of the subplots concerns a politician who is rumored to have a slave as an ancestor, an accusation that could ruin him. Eventually the man commits suicide, and after his death the DNA tests are revealed to have "come back negative", without elaboration. Does John Ambrose Fauntroy V have black ancestry or not? The only answer given is that the test results proved 'negative', but what negative means in this context-whether negative black ancestry or negative pure white ancestry-is never answered. Fauntroy ends up killing himself (after losing the presidential election because of the scandal but before the test results came out), so draw your own conclusions.
  • Doubt invokes this. You're left never really knowing if the priest is actually guilty of the allegations. In fact, the writer/director has only ever revealed the answer to this to the actors who played the priest, showing that a) there was a very definite answer intended and b) we're not supposed to know for sure... but Father Flynn sure does.
  • In ET The Extraterrestrial, ET becomes very sickly towards the end and perks up right before returning home. Elliott, who was psychically linked to ET, speculates that ET is dying and would die if he didn't return home and that, because of the link, he is also dying, but it's never revealed if his hypothesis is correct. Also, it's unknown if the symptoms are because the air is bad for ET's species, he's getting the wrong food, he's not getting enough food, he has an actual disease, or if his species needs to be physically near each other to survive.
  • Eve's Bayou: The whole point of the movie. Did Cisely kiss her dad or did he abuse her? Conflicting accounts of the incident are given by the perpetrators and the question is never really answered in the film itself. In the director's cut, there is one person other than Cisely and Louis who knows what happened but he is unable to speak.
  • First Girl I Loved: Anne gets into bed with Sasha at one point, we see them kissing and fondling a bit. Then it's cut to Anne waking up in bed the next day, with it unclear whether anything more happened.
  • In the Friday the 13th films, it's hard to tell whether or not Jason was already undead when the series began or if it wasn't until Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives that he was first resurrected. He definitely became stronger in that film, but in the previous entries he could still show feats of strength and durability a normal human seemingly couldn't. Material outside the films seems to go for the former interpretation.
  • Inception:
    • The movie ends with an Esoteric Happy Ending where Cobb is so happy to see his children again that he forgets to check if his wife's top stops spinning or not — which is his way of seeing the difference between reality and dreamworlds! Will it stop spinning shortly after the scene? If so, the ending is Earn Your Happy Ending, with an implied Happily Ever After. Or will it not? If so, it's kinda a Lotus-Eater Machine.
    • Also invoked earlier in the film by Mal and Cobb, who keep taking opposing standpoints on This Is Reality versus All Just a Dream.
    • Also invoked by one of the sedative makers who treats a group of people who are so dependent on the sedatives that it's the only way they can dream anymore. Cobb notes that they come to him to dream; he counters "No, they come to wake up".
    • Possibly not so ambiguous if one considers his totem was his wedding ring, not the top. It's never stated his totem is the top, only that it will spin forever in a dream. However, he wears his wedding ring in dreams but doesn't in reality. He isn't wearing it at the end, which would make the ending real.
  • In Inglorious Basterds it's never made clear if Landa knows that "Emmanuelle" the cinema owner is actually a Jewish woman named Shoshanna whose family he'd killed a few years earlier. They were dairy farmers and he orders milk for the two of them while they eat a pastry. He could be trolling her or it could be a coincidence because he really just likes milk.
  • Joker (2019): Arthur's father. At one point in the film Arthur finds a letter written by his mother indicating that Thomas Wayne is his real father and was covering up his prior relationship with Penny, which his mother admits when he confronts her. Later on in the film he's told by Thomas Wayne that, in truth, he's adopted and them being related was just something made up by his mentally ill adoptive mother. Psychiatric records (including adoption papers) indicate that Thomas is telling the truth, but this version of Thomas Wayne is sleezy enough that him having the papers forged can't be ruled out. This is further muddied by a note to Penny from "TW" that Arthur finds.
  • K-PAX is all about this: prot may either be an actual alien visitor, or a man suffering from delusions as a result of his wife's murder.
  • In KSM- Kiss Me, a fanfiction of Laverne & Shirley, Laverne is sick, but it's unclear what she has and how she got sick. The narrator initially describes it as "a bad case of the flu", but both her and Shirley believe it's just a cold. They also both think she caught it from being cold, but Lenny got cold too and he stayed healthy.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Bill Foster and Hank Pym give conflicting accounts of what Elihas Starr did that got Hank to expel him from S.H.I.E.L.D., with the former saying Pym got him fired and had his reputation destroyed, simply out of wounded pride and the latter claiming Starr was a traitor. It's ultimately never made clear what he did or how justified Hank's response was.
    • Avengers: Endgame: After Steve travels to the past to be with Peggy Carter, did he create an alternate timeline, or was he part of the original timeline all along? The world's in-story logic would seem to indicate the former, but the way the scene plays out heavily implies that Steve took The Slow Path back to the present, as he does not emerge through the Quantum Tunnel. The directors suggest that it's the former, but the writers suggest it's the latter, and it seems up to the viewer to decide.
  • In The Matrix, Neo has superpowers because he is in a computer simulation. In the sequel The Matrix Reloaded, he is revealed to have superpowers in the real world as well. Does this make him a Super Hero kind of Messianic Archetype? Or does it simply mean that the "reality" is actually a computer-generated Dream Within a Dream? Or does he have wi-fi?
  • In La Moustache Marc shaves off his moustache and possibly enters a world where he never had one and slowly other things start changing as well (e.g. Angès having not been married the first time). It's completely ambiguous as to what the real situation is: is Marc going insane? Does Angès have some form of mental disorder and is planning this around Marc? Are the events in the film symbolic or literal? For the ending scenes: Is Marc imagining/dreaming them? Are they idealised versions of other events? If they really happened, is he back in the "original" world or is Angès (once again) planning this around him?
  • Monos: So much. It's left unexplained who the Organization is, who they're fighting, what they're fighting for, and even what country they're in. We don't find out why Doctora is considered such a valuable hostage (other than the fact that she's American). We also never get an explanation of why the Monos and their Messenger make that kissing sound into their palm as some sort of greeting or summons.
  • In Mr. Popper's Penguins, Captain's egg doesn't hatch. Everybody acts as though it's a tragedy as the result of something happening to it, but it's just as possible that the egg simply wasn't fertilised to begin with.
  • No Good Deed (2014): The reveal puts Colin's actions in a new light. Was he there to seduce Terri or was he there to kill Jeffrey and Terri just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time?
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides with the fate of Philip. Syrena pulls him into the water, but we never find out what happened to him, though it was hinted earlier in the film that the kiss of a mermaid grants you immunity to drowning. Due to their absence in the proceeding film and the less than favorable audience reaction to their romance this may never be answered.
  • A Place in the Sun: It's definitely true that George took Alice out on the lake in order to murder her—he admits it. And it's definitely true that he did not hit her on the head or throw her in the water—Alice fell out of the boat accidentally. But the film cuts away, and doesn't show how hard George tried to save Alice, or if he did at all.
  • Plan B treats Bruno's "Plan B" to win his ex-girlfriend Laura back from her bisexual boyfriend Pablo by pretending to befriend and fall in love with Pablo to break up his relationship with Laura as this for most of the film — is Bruno really just pretending to like Pablo to get Laura back, or is he genuinely attracted to Pablo and is (perhaps subconsciously) using his plan as an excuse to get closer to him? The ending removes some of this ambiguity by making it clear that Bruno did fall in love with Pablo for real at some point, but it's still ambiguous just when this happened, which leaves many earlier scenes like his first love confession to Pablo still open to interpretation on if they were just Bruno acting or him being sincere.
  • Prometheus: The scene where Weyland and David awaken the last Engineer and tell him of Weyland's last request (eternal life). The Engineer listens, watches Weyland's mooks mistreat Shaw, and then suddenly attacks, ripping off David's head and killing Weyland and his mooks. He then reinitiates his mission to fly to Earth to exterminate humanity. The reason for any of this is left deliberately open to interpretation, to enforce the Engineers' Blue-and-Orange Morality. A longer deleted scene makes it slightly less ambiguous but also gives different implications: the Engineer actually speaks to Weyland and seems to irately ask why he wants to be immortal. A promotional book suggests that the Engineer's reply to Weyland's request for immortality translates as "You would not be a man if you didn't grow old", suggesting either that making humans immortal is beyond the science of the Engineers or that the Engineer for some reason doesn't consider Weyland worthy of it. It could be that to an Engineer an individual life is inconsequential, and all that mattered was the perpetuation of the species and their collective work, so it cannot understand the logic behind Weyland's requestnote . It's also possible that the Engineer took offense to Weyland's A God Am I boast that implicitly put him and it on the same level, or it (rightly) thought Weyland was arrogant for wanting to live forever when Engineers themselves live "only" three hundred thousand years... or maybe just it only woke up after a long sleep and got fed up of the old man's insistence.
  • Shadow: It's never made clear if Ziyu had Jingzhou's mother killed and sent assassins after him to tie up loss ends, or if the king of Pei did it so that he could have one of his own men save Jingzhou and turn him against Ziyu.
  • Source Code ends with Colter going back into the titular program and completely averting the destruction of the train using everything he had learned from his previous attempts. Then we see Goodwyn receiving a text message he had sent from within the program, and acting surprised when she hears that the bombing had been prevented. So did Colter actually change the past, or is he now in an alternate timeline within the program?
  • Sucker Punch: Everything that happens to Baby Doll after she enters the asylum. The asylum is portrayed as a bordello, with the girls pimped out and made to dance, and they learn to retreat into a more fantastical reality where them gunning down mechanical soldiers and going on military missions represents them stealing items needed to escape. The beginning and end show that neither of those situations is reality, though. The ending shows several of the events as having definitely happened for example, the knife was definitely stolen, Blue was definitely stabbed, and Baby Doll definitely helped Sweet Pea escape, but just how they happened is left unclear. Muddying things further is Blue, who is presented as a tyrannical authority figure in two of the realities but in reality, he comes across as delusional and unbalanced, with one of the doctors easily having him arrested and taken away.
  • Tremors: The original movie leaves the origins of the graboids attacking the town of Perfection ambiguous. Though the characters do briefly consider what the creatures' origins could be, they ultimately never find out and are too focused on trying to survive, to really care too much where the graboids came from in any case. Though Tremors 2: Aftershocks does give us an answer; the graboids and the other forms the creatures take during their life cycle were a previously undiscovered prehistoric life form from further back in time than we originally thought multi-cellular life existed.
  • The Thing (1982), by John Carpenter, is almost literally one situation after another full of plot threads that are never fully resolved and left to the viewer's interpretation. Who got to the blood? What happened to Fuchs and Nauls, when were Palmer, Norris, and Blair infected? Are Mac and Childs infected or are they still human? To this day fans still debate on these questions and more.
  • True Grit: LaBeouf's fate. He's hit on the head with a rock and slurs his words before Rooster leaves with Mattie on the only horse to treat her snake bite. Mattie later recollects she was never able to locate him. The John Wayne film removes the ambiguity by having him be explicitly killed by falling off a horse.

    Literature 
  • The Cask of Amontillado: One of the most discussed aspects of the story is the end when Fortunato gives Montresor no final response before he is walled up completely. Is he too terrified? Or is he refusing to give Montresor any final satisfaction over his death? Even Montresor himself doesn't seem to know.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Are the brats meeting their comeuppances merely cases of Contrived Coincidence (each winds up in a room with something that appeals to them but turns out to be dangerous), or are they planned in advance by Mr. Willy Wonka? And if so, for what purpose? Although the tour does turns out to be a Secret Test of the kids' virtue or lack thereof, there is no hint given in the novel that Mr. Wonka is intentionally leading these kids into potential/inevitable trouble, and no one remarks upon how odd it is that the Oompa-Loompas' Crowd Songs about them are so specific and elaborate. Given that Mr. Wonka is also marked by his Callousness Towards Emergency and having No Sympathy for the brats, and for being a complete eccentric, he has since become an Interpretative Character with tons of Alternative Character Interpretations and some adaptations of the novel have since played around with this ambiguity but never pinned it down. (In the 2013 musical, Mr. Wonka is Ambiguously Evil and an Anti-Hero at best, with director Sam Mendes admitting that the character could be a Cool Uncle, he could be Satan...)
  • The Culture: In Surface Detail, the story of a resurrected woman out for revenge against her murderer and a proxy war over the existence of virtual-reality hells converge with the revelation that one of the murderer's business interests is providing processing power to run the hells. The question is, was the woman's Roaring Rampage of Revenge a Contrived Coincidence or was she being used as a catspaw in a Batman Gambit by the officially-neutral Culture?
  • In the Dinosaur Vs book "Dinosaur vs. the Potty", it ends with the narrator saying that the potty won and that Dinosaur was "close", suggesting that Dinosaur had an accident, but he appears to be standing at the toilet.
  • In Dragon Bones, Garranon is the king's "favourite", if you know what I mean, and it is left ambiguous whether he is actually gay/bi or just does it for the political power. It is clear that he despises the king, but he does enjoy the sex to some extent, though he does it only to protect his family. If he is bisexual (he seems to love his wife), that would make him the heroic counterpart of the Depraved Homosexual king, if not, there would be Unfortunate Implications
  • Fatherland ends with March trapped in a standoff at the former site of Auschwitz, surrounded by Gestapo agents. As he draws his weapon, he imagines Charlie successfully managing to deliver the evidence to the US, though even he admits it's an unlikely possibility.
  • From a Buick 8 has multiple examples because the story is based around the idea that you'll never have all the answers. Is the Buick alive? Intelligent? Did it kill Curtis and more.
  • Horatio Hornblower: Lieutenant Hornblower is the only book of the series written from the POV of a character other than Hornblower (in this case, newly-assigned Lieutenant Bush). The Captain falls down a hatchway and is put in a coma. Through the course of the book, it's unclear if he fell by accident or if he was pushed by either a much-abused midshipman or Hornblower himself. Things are not made more clear by Hornblower appointing himself head of the investigation in the confusion caused by the power vacuum, nor by his insistence that they press on a planned attack on a Spanish fort, keeping everyone too occupied to look into things too closely. By the end of the book, the Captain is killed in a Spanish attack on the ship, the authorities refuse to probe into the matter for the sake of Sawyer's reputation (it should be noted that he had started to go mad), and the Midshipman is mentioned in the denouement as being lost in a storm a few months later during the Peace of Amiens, meaning only Hornblower may know the truth, and is keeping it to himself.
  • Its Okay To Say No is meant to protect kids from molesters and has several stories on the subject, but it is never revealed whether the characters really are molesters or if it's just a misunderstanding.
  • The Lady, or the Tiger?, by Frank R. Stockton, is an example of Morton's Fork where the final decision and its result is never revealed. The tendency of people to bug the author to tell them which was the real ending prompted its sequel The Discourager of Hesitancy in which a group of characters who ask are told that they shall find out the answer once they can answer an equally ambiguously ended story.
  • Leviathan has one of these concerning the Goliath. Is it a fake, a delusion, or does it call down Nickel-Iron asteroids through magnetic force? Since it's totally destroyed, there is no clear answer.
  • Love You Forever: At the end, the mother is "too old and sick" to finish her song. It is unknown if she died or will recover or what. While it's probably unlikely she will recover due to the phrase "old and sick" usually referring to terminal illnesses that come with age, there's still a small possibility, and some people even think she actually died on-page. The most likely interpretation is that the story ends with her dying, but not dead yet.
  • In The Machineries of Empire, just what is going on with Jedao, as well as Kel Command's plans regarding him and Kel Cheris, are left unclear until the first book's ending.
  • In the children's book The Magic Word, when a boy is asked to say the "magic word", he says, "alakazoomba" instead of "please". The narrator says that nobody knows whether the boy did it as a joke, because he was bored of being asked for the magic word, or what.
  • In the short story Mariam, an elderly woman named Mariam happens to meet a Creepy Child who is also named Mariam. What, exactly, the younger Mariam is is never explained. She is able to coerce the older Mariam into giving over a prized brooch and adopting her, but never actually does anything threatening or forceful to get those things. When the older Mariam goes to get her neighbors to help her get the kid out of her apartment, they can't find her. And the last line ("Hello," said Mariam) doesn't specify if it's the elderly Mariam speaking, or if the younger Mariam has returned.
  • In Matilda, it's revealed that Miss Honey's father, Magnus, is dead and that the police think he killed himself but that he never seemed suicidal. Matilda speculates that Miss Trunchbull killed him and made it look like suicide. While Miss Trunchbull certainly is evil, and she ran away at the message "I will get you like you got me", anyone would be shocked if a chalk wrote on the board on its own, much less using your name, claiming to be a dead person, and threatening you, so it's still unrevealed how Magnus Honey died.
  • In My Cousin Rachel, the titular Rachel is either an evil Femme Fatale who poisoned her first husband Ambrose in a failed attempt to inherit his estate and tried to do the same to the estate's inheritor Philip after seducing him or an innocent woman who was unfairly maligned by Ambrose when he began going mad from a brain tumor that eventually killed him and Philip falling ill in her care was just a coincidence. The book ends with her dying and Philip being none the wiser on whether she truly was evil or not.
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four actually contains an often overlooked appendix that refers to Newspeak in the past tense, implying the Party will in fact fall eventually. Of course, this isn't technically part of the story and Word of God said it was open to interpretation if the Party does eventually fall. This isn't even getting into most of the story with how the Party keeps changing facts leaving it ambiguous as to what is truly real or not.
  • In A Passage to India what really happens to Adela is never explained, the reader is left to draw their own conclusion. We'll never know what the author intended becuase Forster refused to say during his life.
  • Pavlov's Dogs has a major character killed on screen, but is seemingly resurrected. The characters are caught between the belief it's an imposter, the actual person, and even mental instability setting in.
  • Radiance has The Summation scene, in which Anchises calls together characters who were still alive and well (Percy and Erasmo), characters who were dead (Horace, Anchises's parents, etc.), Severin herself (with her fate completely unknown at the time), and several animated cartoon characters and an in-universe fictional one. The deceased characters were able to explain the unclear circumstances behind their demise and one of the cartoon characters is able to give a lot of answers related to callowwhales (largely mysterious beings which, unbeknownst to the film crew, was what they'd been standing on before dying and disappearing). The entire scene is presented as the resolution to Percy's movie, intended to give a fictional explanation for Severin's disappearance and thus provide Percy with some closure. The transcript of the film reel in the last chapter, however, implies that everything was correct after all... despite Percy having no way of knowing that.
  • Safehold has more than one such a case:
    • The discrepancy between Book!Schueler and his Key version goes unexplained, despite the two having very different personalities and approaches to one problem.
    • It's unknown what happened to Ark's last ship, Hamilcar.
    • Is Clyntahn a raving lunatic Believing His Own Lies, or is he cynically playing the part? Most fans seem convinced of the former, although characters in-story wonder about it.
      • It's the former. When the truth of Safehold's history is revealed to him just before his execution, he's utterly broken with the realization everything he had done and justified as doing for the good of the people was based on a lie.
    • The War Against the Fallen. Who fought in it? What were their agendas? Which mindset actually won? Who were the "demons"? Was it a civil war between the Langhornites, or a war between them and the "fallen"?
  • Shaman Blues: An in-universe example, as Witkacy spends some time in the first half of the novel wondering whether Katia is his girlfriend, his more-than-girlfriend, his friend or his ex, as she's sending him mixed signals and has recently left the country. Finally resolved halfway through, when it turns out they're Amicable Exes.
  • A Simple Survey has a number of short stories that end before giving a clear resolution. For example, one story is about how humans have developed technology that allows them to see into hell, which appears as a pleasant beach resort. A demon tells the narrator that, although they were instructed by God to torment sinners, the inherent nature of demons is to rebel against divine authority, so hell is in fact a nice place. However, an angel then interrupts and claims that this is a lie, to trick humans into wanting to enter hell voluntarily.
  • Star Wars Expanded Universe: Queen's Shadow hints that Quarsh and Mariek Panaka's marriage isn't going to last, but never definitively confirms this. Their relationship is stated to have become strained due to a disagreement regarding the installation of an ion pulse for planetary defence (Mariek supports it, Quarsh doesn't think it's a strong enough measure), and in the epilogue, Mariek is stated to have not appeared alongside Quarsh when he made his first address to the people of Naboo as their new Imperial Moff, implying she may have left him due to his support of the Empire.
  • The Story of O: Is the main relationship simply Casual Kink and Property of Love, or is it Destructive Romance/Romanticized Abuse? The novel exists in two versions. These versions have very different endings, casting the rest of the story in very different light. In the most popular version (which most adaptations are built on), the first option might be the most likely. In the alternative version, the second option is far more likely. That version of the novel ends with the protagonist and her boyfriend agreeing that she should commit suicide... and she does.
  • In the kids' book A Terrible Thing Happened, a boy named Sherman gets advice from his teacher after "something terrible" happens. He and his sister have Invisible Parents, and all of the conversations are unrevealed, so we never find out what the terrible thing is, or even if the parents are all right.
  • In the children's book Tillys Big Problem, a little girl named Tilly is in a very gloomy mood and not even jokes can cheer her up, so she and her friend Ned test to see which adult will help solve Tilly's "big problem" and therefore cheer her up. They find one, and he talks to her (the actual conversation is not revealed) and she cheers up. What's ambiguous is why Tilly's sad. It's referred to as a "big problem", but what sort of big problem is left unsaid.
  • In The True Story of the Three Little Pigs, the big bad wolf (named Alexander) is in jail and claims that he went to the pigs' houses to borrow some sugar but had a cold, so blew the houses down accidentally by sneezing, then the pigs died in the destruction and he ate them to clean up. It's unclear if this really is the true story, or if Alexander is just lying.
  • A Wild Last Boss Appeared!: It's not quite clear if Ruphas' world is an entirely distinct one in its own right that influenced the protagonist and the game or if the background details of the game and taking things to their logical conclusions caused it to become more complex than the protagonist thinks it should be. Basically, what really happened with, say, Aries' recruitment? Did Ruphas Mafahl find a legendary but weak sheep monster and teach it to stand up for itself before adopting it or did a random Japanese teenager find a rare spawn monster that just sat around looking dopey until he started taming it, causing it to ineffectually attack him once before submitting?
    • Exactly what happened to the soul of Ruphas' creator? Is he merely sharing the body with the soul of Ruphas? Are they merging or overlapping? Is he in danger of disappearing into Ruphas? Are his memories and feelings actually his own or are they mere fabrications so that a clueless persona will control the body and fool Alovenus into underestimating Ruphas?
  • The Witchlands: It's made very unclear just what the deal with prince Leopold and his co-conspirators are. Do they actually have Safi's best intrests in mind? What is their plan, actually? Is it still going, or did the ending of Truthwitch send it completely off the rails? Bloodwitch partially explains things with the reveal that at least part of the conspirators intend to assassinate the various imperial leaders to prevent another war, but leaves Leopold's personal role unclear.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrowverse:
    • In the Arrow episode "Dodger", flashbacks to the island show the younger Oliver finding someone tied up and beaten in a cave. He claimed to have been stranded on the island as the result of a school trip and near-killed by Fyers and his men, and begged Ollie to help him. After much hesitation, Ollie decides the situation could be a trap by Fyers and abandons the young man to his fate, leaving it completely ambiguous as to whether he was lying or whether Oliver had condemned an innocent person to a horrible death. A quick shot in the season finale reveals that he was working for Fyers after all.
    • During the brief glimpse of the Burton/Schumacher Batman universe in Crisis on Infinite Earths (2019), Alexander Knox is seen reading a newspaper with the headline "BATMAN CAPTURES JOKER", despite the Joker dying in the 1989 film. This suggests that either A: much like what Darkseid War and DC Rebirth revealed about the Joker, Jack Napier was succeeded by a Legacy Character or B: in keeping with the fact that Joker Immunity is named after the Joker for a reason, Napier got resurrected or even somehow managed to fake his death.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 6 episode "Normal Again" follows the Cuckoo Nest trope: Buffy is injected with a poison that makes her hallucinate... Or is it the other way around? According to a psychiatrist, who may or may not be a real person, she is in fact getting better: She has been sick all along, and now she's finally waking up from years of catatonic schizophrenia. So, the whole series is either This Is Reality or a mad All Just a Dream with a dash of The Schizophrenia Conspiracy. In the end, Buffy chooses her life in Sunnydale over her life in the mental institution, but the ending leaves it ambiguous whether or not the world she settled for is the real one.
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend: In season one, though Josh is currently dating Valencia, Rebecca is convinced that he at least did love her at one point, back when they were in high school at summer camp together. However, the brief glimpse we see of that time makes it seem like she was way more into him than the other way around. But that scene was the one in which he broke up with her, so it's entirely possible he did genuinely really care about her before that. Even after they revisit the summer camp later in the season, we get no more flashbacks, and what happens in the present doesn't clarify much (Rebecca recites a very corny love note she wrote at the time; he finds it hilarious how melodramatic it is, leaving it unclear whether he ever wrote anything like that), so it's left permanently ambiguous whether she was projecting onto him back then, too.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Demons of the Punjab": Yasmin Khan becomes involved in a pivotal moment of her grandmother Umbreen's life when she was a young woman. In the two scenes featuring the elderly Umbreen, it's not clear whether or not she recognizes Yaz from that moment. Umbreen giving Yaz a watch that served as a Tragic Keepsake of the events, calling Yaz her "favourite granddaughter", and noting the faded henna on Yaz's hands which she got in 1947 would suggest that she does, but nothing is confirmed.
    • "Fugitive of the Judoon" introduces a brand-new incarnation of the Doctor. However, the Thirteenth Doctor and "Ruth" don't have any memories of ever being each other, so where they fit into the Doctor's timeline relative to each other is unknown, if Ruth isn't an alternate version of the Doctor altogether. There is some evidence to suggest that Ruth is a forgotten incarnation from the Doctor's past, but nothing is confirmed. "The Timeless Children" slightly clears things up by indicating that, as the Doctor is the Timeless Child, Ruth is an incarnation from before the "First" Doctor who was subsequently erased from their memory, while still leaving many questions unanswered.
  • In Game of Thrones, Sansa's "marriage" to Ramsay creates a giant one. The use of surnames and the ability of noblewomen to retain their maiden name after marriage was established within the show in Seasons 1-3 and by discussions with writers, but there's no agreement in-universe on what Sansa's surname currently is. Jaime considers her as Sansa Lannister in Season 4 while, in Season 6, a Bolton soldier trying to capture her calls her Lady Bolton. Later, Lyanna Mormont hangs a Lampshade by noting whether she is a Lannister or Bolton, while Sansa calls herself Sansa Stark, despite being legally married. In keeping with the series' themes, each person largely uses whatever name most suits their own position. The legitimacy of her second marriage is a second issue, since Sansa was married to Tyrion Lannister before a large crowd and officiated by the High Septon, while the second marriage is conducted before an Old Gods ceremony. In the books, Sansa's marriage to Tyrion is voidable but not void and requires a formal annulment; Littlefinger claims in the show that no annulment is necessary. Some fans believe otherwise since this is Littlefinger, but nothing else has been said on the subject. The second marriage becomes something of a moot point after Ramsay Bolton becomes dog food.
  • The Handmaid's Tale: While it's not probable that Ofglen/Ofsteven/Emily would survive the ensuing punishment for her joyride, the director intentionally left it ambiguous before Offred's eyes to leave it open-ended while still allowing Emily a final triumph over Gilead. (The second season clarifies that she does survive.)
  • Horatio Hornblower: In the second installment of the miniseries (parts "Mutiny" and "Retribution"), it's never fully resolved what happened when the Captain Sawyer fell in the hatchway. It's possible Lieutenant Hornblower, Lieutenant Kennedy, or Midshipman Wellard pushed him, or that the disoriented and paranoid Captain simply tripped and fell on his own. The scene is shot so as to be intentionally vague, and by the end of the miniseries, Kennedy, Wellard, and Sawyer are all dead. For his part, Hornblower doesn't talk about it. The book that these films were based on, Lieutenant Hornblower, was written from Lieutenant Bush's point of view and was similarly unclear. For the record, Kennedy took the blame to save Horatio's career, as he was dying anyway.
  • JAG: In "Boot", someone attacks Austin in the gas chamber, but it's impossible to see who. It's possible that Private Whitley was trying to kill her because she was on her trail, or that Private Johnson was trying to rough her up out of spite.
  • Jessica Jones (2015): One that doesn't affect the show proper, but affects other shows, is that season 2 ends with Jeri Hogarth splitting from Hogarth Chao & Benowitz to start her own law firm. What's unclear is whether Foggy Nelson and Marci Stahl are sticking with Jeri and going with her to the new firm, or splitting off to start their own firm, a situation that isn't resolved until those characters return in Daredevil (2015) season 3.
  • In the Laverne & Shirley episode "One Flew Over Milwaukee", Shirley claims that her canary Duane has bronchitis, but it's unknown if it's true, she's lying, or she mistakenly thinks it's true. She says, "Would I ever lie to you?" which sounds like a Suspiciously Specific Denial, but there was also talk of him being used in a mine by several other characters, and Shirley did once think her hamster had a headache when it didn't, so it wouldn't be out-of-character for her to mistakenly think Duane had bronchitis.
  • Law & Order: SVU loves to leave stuff unresolved for the audience to ponder. Usually, it's on the simple level whether the guy is guilty or not (such as in the episode "Doubt"), but sometimes they take it to a much deeper level. The detectives just keep spawning new theories, and none of them gets verified. For example, the episode "Slaves" features a husband, his wife, and their nanny/girlfriend/Sex Slave Elena. They keep the relationship hidden...
    • Either because Elena is in the country illegally, and also because her conservative aunt and other relatives would not approve of her living in a polyamorous relationship,
    • Or because they have kidnapped Elena and held her against her will until Stockholm Syndrome set in.
    • So, it's pretty much Safe, Sane, and Consensual, polyamory and Casual Kink versus monster and A Match Made in Stockholm. The husband claims the first option, but that might just be From a Certain Point of View or even Blatant Lies. As for Elena, she never gets a voice in the matter. The kidnapping theory is implied to be the correct one, but if it's actually verified then that happens after the episode is over.
      • The only outright verification given for the monster viewpoint comes from the wife, and only AFTER she has been...
      • A. proven guilty of murdering Elena's aunt without her husband's knowledge or consent.
      • B. force-fed "oh, go ahead and blame it on your husband anyway" by the detectives as a "Get out of Jail Free" Card.
      • The whole case was started by Elena telling a fruit vendor she was "trapped in a situation she [couldn't] escape from" (in a phrasing that, according to said vendor, strongly implied abuse) and asking him to tell her aunt she needed help, so that suggests she was less than a willing participant. Not to mention she's clearly been starved long-term, that's not usually part of a consensual BDSM situation. It is true, though, that Elena never expressly confirms as much to the detectives.
  • Much of Life on Mars (2006), British version, was highly unclear as to what was reality.
  • Lost: True to its gnostic roots, it eschews answers about the nature of the universe in favor of personal revelation according to the perspectives of the characters (and the viewers). A close-up of eyes is a recurring visual motif, characters making a decision based on incomplete or outright fraudulent information pops up repeatedly, and questions like "Is the Light spiritual or scientific in nature?" "Is Jacob a god, a superpowerful conman, or a scientist who sets an experiment in motion and watches the results?" or "Do the Numbers really mean anything, or is Hurley mistaking coincidence for fate?" are never clarified, to the dismay of some fans.
  • Million Yen Women: The premise of the series is that someone sent five women invitations to come live in a struggling author's house under a set of rules imposed on both them and the author in question. When the household ends up taking in a stray kitten six months into the arrangement, the women can't help wondering whether it is part of the invitation sender's plan or not.
  • The Musketeers: Athos's ex-wife Milady de Winter (also an assassin and con-artist) is sentenced to death by hanging for murdering Athos' brother Thomas, but manages to escape. According to her, Thomas was attempting to rape her, so she killed him in self defense. Due to her untrustworthy nature, however, Athos and the other characters don't believe her, and Athos thinks she was simply trying to scam him. However, when Athos asks her if this is true, she seems to be telling the truth about what happened.
  • The People v. O.J. Simpson: In episode 5, Johnnie Cochran is pulled over by a cop while taking his daughters to the movies. Cochran assumes he is being racially profiled and almost gets arrested when he gets into an argument with the officer, but the way the situation plays out actually leaves it ambiguous whether the incident was racially motivated or not. Cochran disputes the cop's assertion that he forgot to signal a turn, but before the cop can properly respond Cochran immediately goes into a rant about racial injustice. If the cop was acting in good faith all along, his subsequent response to Cochran's hostility is fully warranted.
  • Person of Interest episode 4, "Cura Te Ipsum": We never find out if Reese kills the serial rapist or lets him go. Later heavily hinted (if not outright stated) that he just has him locked up in a Mexican Prison for the rest of his life with a few other individuals he has gotten rid of.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
    • In the episode "Tapestry", Picard is in a coma and sees Q, who claims to be God and takes him back in time to see what life would be like if he'd never gotten into a fight with a Nausicaan as a teenager and gotten his heart replaced with an artificial one. When Picard dislikes this new life, Q claims to have undone it, and that's when Picard wakes up. While the part about Q being God is unlikely, since he's been reprimanded by other members of the Q continuum and his antics suggest that the world would be more unpredictable if Q was God, what's ambiguous is whether he dreamt it all while unconscious or if Q really did send Picard back in time. On the one hand, nobody had been recorded to have had a coma dream that complicated and Q has powers so he could've easily done all that he appeared to do. On the other hand, it's surprisingly generous that Q would give Picard a second chance.
    • In "Q, Who?", Guinan holds her hands up like claws, implying to Q that she has powers like he does, and it's never revealed whether she genuinely has them or is just bluffing. On the one hand, she's a very mysterious, ancient alien, but on the other hand, she's a good bluffer too.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In the episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Sisko and Garak go on a mission together. When two people are murdered, Sisko suspects Garak and feels bad about associating with a potential murderer, but Garak never confirms or denies that he did kill them. He did use to work for a shifty secret organisation, but he also lies a lot, including claiming he committed crimes he didn't really commit.
  • Star Trek: Picard:
    • In "Broken Pieces", Seven of Nine as a Borg Queen declares that "Annika still has work to do," which could either be Seven speaking in the third person, or the micro Collective releasing her deliberately for some purpose.
    • In "Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 1", it's unclear whether it was Narek or Sutra who murdered Saga.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • In "Eye of the Beholder", Rod Serling's ending narration raises the questions of this world and why it is, before saying the answers make no difference.
    • In "Two", the episode takes place in the aftermath of a nuclear war that devastated the world but the time period is left vague. In his opening narration, Rod Serling says that it is "perhaps a hundred years from now. Or sooner. Or perhaps it already happened two million years ago."

    Music 
  • The folk song "Blue Tailed Fly" is about a slave owner dying from being bitten by an insect, but the line in the chorus about "Jimmy crack corn and I don't care" is a bit confusing:
    • The most common interpretation is that a man named Jimmy is cracking (milling) corn to turn it into hominy or liquor, but some people think it comes from "gimcrack" meaning useless, so he doesn't care about his corn, or possibly his liquor, since "corn" was slang for liquor in the past. It could also be interpreted as Jim being the master and cracking his "corn" (skull), it being slang for gossiping, a corruption of "gimme cracked corn", or a euphemism for Jim Crow or Jesus Christ.
    • If Jimmy really is cracking corn, is he a separate guy, or is the slave speaking in third person?
    • Is the slave mourning or celebrating his master's death?
    • Similarly, if it's the slave who's cracking the corn, is it because that's his new job, or is it because he's making corn to turn into liquor so he can have fun and get drunk?
  • Blutengel's song Solitary Angel (see page quote) is about a saviour who is "not from heaven sent" — which means it could be a secular force or a spiritual force other than the God of Christianity. This character could be a powerful human, since "angel" is a common metaphor for generic benevolence. The character could also be a powerful vampire, since most of the songs from the same band are about vampires and they routinely use "angel" as a euphemism for "vampire" or "lover". And of course, it could also be referring to an angel in the literal religious sense The ending- either one that simply works on its own accord, or a fallen one. So, what trope or tropes is this?
  • Is Lola glad the protagonist of the song is a man, or, well... Specifically, a man falls for someone who appears to be a woman named Lola but has a deep voice. He ends the song by saying that he's glad to be a man despite not being stereotypically masculine "and so is Lola".
  • Invoked in Miley Cyrus' song Who Owns My Heart: the protagonist is having a strong emotional reaction. But she doesn't know if it's caused by The Power of Love or by Awesome Music.
  • Vampire Weekend's song "Diplomat's Son" describes a one-night stand with the titular man. In the final verse, seemingly months or years after the affair, the singer sees a car, "all black with diplomatic plates." The song ends there, without describing what happens next — or even if the car was real or just the singer's imagination.
  • The Megas have a particular line in these, partially through the writing, partially because they sometimes have one vocalist take on two or more roles in the song.
    • "The Quick and the Blue": Did Mega Man actually use Quick Man's Achilles' Heel, or is it just referencing the dramatic slow-motion of a gunfight in a Western movie? He doesn't seem to use anyone else's weakness...
    • "Programmed to Fight": Did Crash Man actually kill himself, or just manage to hold off delivering the killing blow until Mega Man turned the tables?
    • "History Repeating Part 2 (One Last Time)": Some parts are clear on whether Mega Man or Proto Man is the singer, but some aren't.
    • "Don't Mess with Magnetman": It's pretty clear that Magnet Man has feelings for Roll, but does she reciprocate? She tells him "Watch yourself, my brother wants you dead," but since we don't hear it from her, it's hard to tell if it's intended as a genuine warning to encourage him to stay safe, or a threat intended to get him to leave her alone.
    • "GeminEye": Did Gemini Man shoot and kill his other half, or just take a shot at Mega Man (or possibly Proto Man) and fail to kill him?
    • "The Haystack Principle": Who's the second voice that talks to Needle Man? Is it Wily? Mega Man? Needle Man himself, succumbing to his violent programming?
    • "Gamma Unchained": When Wily seethes that he's "the one that they fear/And for him they cheer", is he talking about Mega Man or Dr Light?

    Roleplay 

    Tabletop Games 
  • Changeling: The Lost makes a point of never revealing what the True Fae are, as their very nature is antithetical to reality. They are incredibly powerful Reality Warpers who kidnap mortal beings... and that's about it. Changelings eventually turn into Fae, but it's never explained who (or what) created the first changeling.
  • Warhammer 40,000: Exploited by Games Workshop to keep all the fans happy. There is a fair amount of material suggesting that the Tau are oppressive, frequently using concentration camps and mind control to keep their citizens in line, and resorting to orbital bombardment if the very first round of negotiations fail. Thing is, this all comes from the Imperium — thus, fans who think the Tau aren't grimdark enough can take this as truth, while those who like the fact that they're an optimistic and friendly faction can dismiss it as Imperial propaganda.

    Theatre 
  • Jerusalem: Johnny Byron, the main character, is a former daredevil and fantastic Munchausen who claims to have met the ninety-foot giant who built stonehenge. In the second act, Byron shows the local teens a drum that he claims was the giant's earring, saying that the giant told him to bang on it if ever he needed the help of the giants. In the final moments of the play, when Byron stands alone, bloodied and beaten, his land in the woods about to be invaded by a bulldozer and a dozen local constables, he beats the drum and calls upon the mythological figures of England. At this point, the text of the play says "Blackout", but the original production from the Royal Court Theatre that has since moved to Broadway ends with the rumble of enormous footsteps in the distance.

    Video Games 
  • 1916 - Der Unbekannte Krieg: The soldier you play as is being pursued through the trenches by raptors. Whether they're real, or a hallucination brought on by the gas and the horrors of war is never answered.
  • Claude Debussy's entire appearance in Another Sight. All the other characters at least interact with each other and take time to explain what they're doing there, but Debussy shows up playing a piano, transports Kit to a giant organ in the middle of nowhere, teaches her a tune, rambles on about the Node, and then dissolves into nothingness.
  • It's left ambiguous as to what exactly the Joker hallucination that appears to Batman throughout Batman: Arkham Knight is. Is Joker actually trying to come Back from the Dead and pull a Grand Theft Me through his Titan-infused blood? Or is Batman's mind so fractured and worn by this point that he's nothing but a hallucination to project all his fears, regrets and insecurities onto, and becoming like Joker due to being infected with his blood is only becoming like Joker?
  • Dark Souls has plenty of this. According to the director, Hidetaka Miyazaki, he based it and Demon's Souls on his experiences reading badly translated Western fantasy and piecing together ideas about what it could mean. Specific examples include the parenthood of Priscilla (who is a dragon crossbreed), the nature of the undead, and the ultimate effect of the final choice made by the player.
  • Dead Island: The ending: is Jin really that dumb or had she snapped and was attempting Suicide by Cop? Cut content including her diary where she thinks the outbreak is god's punishment and everyone can burn suggests the latter.
  • Dead or Alive: The two most recent games in the series, Dimensions and DOA5, leave it up to the air as to whether or not Kasumi will ever be able to return to the Mugen Tenshin village.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: The ending scene between Flemeth and Fen'Harel. Did Flemeth steal his body, or did Fen'Harel absorb her soul? Which one of them is in control of the combined being?
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Between the events of Oblivion and Skyrim, Nirn's two moons, Masser and Secunda, disappear from the sky for unknown reasons (known as the "Void Nights"). Khajiit culture has great reverence for the moons, and the phases of the moons dictate which of 17 different sub-species a Khajiit cub will grow up to be depending on which phase it was born under. Understandably, the Void Nights were said to have caused significant unrest and panic among the Khajiit. (However, nothing has been said in regards to exactly how the Void Nights affected Khajiiti reproduction, leading to much Wild Mass Guessing and causing a few Epileptic Trees to take root.) The moons would return after two years with no explanation given as to where they went, but the Aldmeri Dominion claimed credit for restoring them, bringing them the grateful Khajiit as a client race.
    • In Skyrim, you meet a couple of Alik'r warriors who are hunting a Redguard woman in Whiterun. The woman, Saadia, insists that her real name is Iman and that they're hunting her for speaking out against the Thalmor. The head of the Redguard warriors, Kematu, says that her real name is Iman... and that she's really wanted for selling out a city to the Aldmeri Dominion. It's up to the player to decide who's telling the truth, but neither side is completely straightforward.
      • In Saadia's favor: The Alik'r hang out in a cave with bandits, and did something to piss off the Whiterun guards (and land one of their numbers in jail). They, and Kematu in particular, only tell you the truth once you've killed a bunch of bandits (i.e., proven you could be a danger)—if you ask them why they're hunting Saadia before this, they brush you off with 'You don't need to know that'.
      • In Kematu's favor: Saadia's first action when you confront her is to pull you aside into a quiet corner and then draw a dagger on you. Her story doesn't mesh with the lore given about Hammerfell, who opposed the Aldmeri Dominion and eventually threw them out. And, notably, when you hand Saadia over to Kematu he paralyzes her instead of killing her outright—for all her insistence that she was going to be assassinated. He even gets upset if you kill her, complaining about "all that hard work".
  • In Everybody's Gone to the Rapture, the titular "Rapture" itself is an example, particularly how hostile or benevolent it actually is.
  • Fallout
  • Five Nights at Freddy's:
    • The event that happens in Five Nights at Freddy's 4's ending is filled with ambiguity: what appears to be the Bite of 87 alluded to in the original game has a good chunk of evidence suggesting it isn't, thanks to the exact year the game happens in being unclear.
    • The Golden Freddy V. Hard Custom Night cutscene in Five Nights at Freddy's: Sister Location has Michael Afton talking to his father about how he "found it", "they" thought he was him, and that he should be dead, but isn't, ending with Springtrap emerging from Fazbear's Fright. The dialogue can be interpreted as either referencing the events of Sister Location and Michael getting scooped by Ennard, or the events of Five Nights at Freddy's 3's minigames and the Purple Man getting killed via the Springtrap suit (implying Michael is Springtrap, and not his father as it appeared to be). Likewise, that it plays before Springtrap's appearance makes it ambiguous if it's an undead Michael talking to his father (now Springtrap), or if Michael is talking as Springtrap. The same game also leaves it ambiguous if HandUnit is actually trying to kill you or not.
    • In the fan game Fredbear and Friends, it's never really explained who set up the trail of clues in the final section, or the identity and nature of the murderer's associate.
  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: Brian Johnson's death. Even though is one of the many driving forces of the plot, you're not really told if his death was caused by CJ's negligence or Brian's recklessness.
  • Injustice 2: Although The Joker was killed by a grieving Superman in Injustice: Gods Among Us, he mysteriously turns up alive in any non-story fight he's in, never says exactly how, and will roll along with whatever others think is true. Some say he was either resurrected by or chose to Deal with the Devil with either Shinnok or Nekron, while others assume he's from another universe altogether. Still others think he was revived in the Lazarus Pits, or that he escaped from either the Source Wall or the Phantom Zone, or that it's All Just a Dream. His interactions with the cast provides evidence to all of the aforementioned methods, though he appears in story mode as a hallucination to his ex-moll Harley Quinn. Nevertheless, what can anybody expect from someone who's the Trope Namer for Joker Immunity and codifier for Multiple-Choice Past?
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past: Is Agahnim a wizard from outside of the Dark World who was possessed by Ganon, or was he an alternate body created by Ganon who could escape the Dark World but with limited power? It's not explained very well in-game, where Ganon simply calls Agahnim his "alter-ego", or "bunshin"note  in the original Japanese. The two manga adaptations as well as the North American comic use the former explanation.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask has this for the entire land of Termina. Theories abound about what its story is. Is it some sort of afterlife? A hallucination? An alternate universe? A representation of Link's mental state/the five stages of grief/depression? Just a regular land? All the player knows is that Link goes though an incredibly trippy sequence to get there. The people all look the same as the ones from Hyrule, but that was done to make sure the game was finished sooner and it's never acknowledged in-universe. The implied backstory throws a lot more into the mix, with interesting carvings at Stone Tower that have led to speculation that Termina may have been cursed by the goddesses for blasphemy.
    • Near the start of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, there's a cutscene between Link and Saria when Link leaves the Kokiri forest for the first time. There's no dialogue and it's completely serious. The point of the scene is never explained, leaving many fans with different interpretations on what it means and what Link is feeling.
  • Much to the fandom's chagrin, Mass Effect 3 ended with this trope. Beyond the presence of a Gainax Ending, there is the apparent explosion of the mass relays in every ending except Control, which would doom the entire galaxy, given that an exploding mass relay has shown to release energy on the scale of supernova, in addition to the enormous amount of Fridge Horror in the endings (see Inferred Holocaust). In fact, even in the control ending, the Catalyst's dialogue seems to imply that controlling the reapers will eventually lead to And Then John Was a Zombie, causing the reapers to return to destroy the galaxy and renew the cycle. Apparently, this was the desired effect of the endings, as the lead writer Mac Walters (allegedly) wrote, in ALL CAPS on a piece of note paper regarding the endings "LOTS OF SPECULATION FROM EVERYONE." Clarified a bit in the DLC endings, which are far less ambiguous (and the exploding relays were removed entirely).
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda: The Uprising, which happens a few months before Ryder gets there. Some of the major figures are dead, the records are sealed and scrambled, and the two biggest experts on the subject are not reliable, nor do they explain what happened in full. Adding to that, an e-mail found early on the game hints Sloane Kelly was up to something before the situation got out of control, a fact she conveniently never mentions to Ryder (her only comment on the situation is that she was aiming for peace, and Tann turned everything into a bloodbath, but given Sloan's management style on Kadara, this is more than a little dubious).
  • Modern Warfare: Both the villains, Khalid al-Asad and Imran Zakhaev, blame the west for their two countries' problems. While their actions are morally reprehensible, whether they're power-mad dictators America is trying to save the world from or Knight Templars doing what they genuinely think they have to do to stop American imperialism is open to interpretation. Very much Truth in Television. The ambiguity even extends to the nuclear detonation — it's never confirmed in the first game who set it off: Zakhaev, al-Asad, a suicidal Mook, the NEST team trying to defuse it...
  • Persona 5 leaves it ambiguous what happens with Goro Akechi, after they were last seen. After fighting and losing to the party, Akechi is confronted by a doppelgänger of himself and tells the party to go on. He wounds the copy with a gunshot, then forces a bulkhead door to close, cutting him, the copy and several Shadows off from the party. Seconds later, two gunshots are heard, while Futaba notes that she can't feel their presence any longer, but the party is forced to move on before they can investigate any further. Things get more complicated in the game's Updated Re-release, as Akechi joins the party again during the winter term, but this Akechi is later revealed to be an illusion created by Takuto, who reveals the real Akechi died in Shido's Palace. However, the ending still shows Akechi or at least someone resembling him walking through a crowd.
  • Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption II :
    • The Mysterious Stranger.
      • In I, he gives John two minor quests to test his morality, before meeting him a finale time at the spot John's future grave will be, remarking that it is a good spot to die, at which point he refuses to answer John's questions, leading to the latter firing three of what may or may not be warning shots, none of which faze the stranger. The only hint of who he may be, is John commenting that he looks familiar and he himself has a good memory, to which the stranger mentions a woman that was killed during John's criminal days, that John doesn't remember and says "If you don't remember her, why would you remember me." and that every man must face his past said at another point. And though he gives a couple missions to test John's morality, he doesn't seem to react strongly to either decision. Fan theories have come up with, everything from him being anything from The Grim Reaper, God, The Devil, a manifestation of John's subconscious, John's long lost father, a Guardian Angel, to the spirit of an innocent bystander who was killed in the crossfire of one of John's criminal escapades. Further complicating things is the fact, after John's Heroic Sacrifice and the player is left to roam around as his son, the stranger disappears from the game, making his quest line the only side quest that can only be completed by John.
      • He's made even more ambiguous in II. In the main story, you can find a shack in the swamp where there’s an unfinished painting of the Strange Man and cryptic writings on the wall. The writings hint about things you’ve done thus far but also things like a cholera outbreak in the state most of I takes place in but you can’t yet get to in II. There’s also a map of a town from I with a note that reads "I offered you happiness or two generations. You made your choice." That could be about Arthur, John, or a man named Hebert Moon, all of whom lost children. Arthur had a son who died in a robbery, John lost a daughter to a fever, and Hebert disowned his daughter for marrying a Jewish man. It could be a reference to all three of them. You can talk to a stranger in New Austin (the state where the first game takes place) who tells you that he ran into someone fitting his description whom he believed to be the Grim Reaper that put a curse on the nearby town. You can find a picture of him in a store run by Herbert Moon in said town. He says that it’s a picture that someone gave him. He likes it so he kept it. Herbert is implied to be immune to the ongoing cholera outbreak, and if you shoot him in the head he'll be right back with nothing to show for it but a bandage. It seems like some sort of Deal with the Devil. Once you come back to the shack in the epilogue as John, the painting will begin to finish itself. Once it finishes, the man will be seen in the mirror standing behind you.There's a blind old seer you can find that will give very accurate prophecies that tells John even he doesn't know what the man wants with him nor does he know if "he's of this world". The same major theories remain but this game adds more of a supernatural element to him. The only main theory that gets Jossed is the one about him being a manifestation of John's subconscious.
    • The motivation behind many actions taken by Dutch van der Linde in II, particularly near the end of the game, are heavily debated. He starts taking increasingly violent and questionable actions by Chapter 4. By the end of Chapter 6, he leaves Arthur Morgan to die in an oil refinery, leaves John Marston to die in a train heist soon after, and denies doing either when he's confronted. What makes these scenarios ambiguous is how much Micah Bell has a role in influencing Dutch's decisions to do any of this, and whether or not Dutch's mental state is so poor that Micah was able to encourage him to do the most amoral things he's done. It's possible that Dutch views his gang as ultimately expendable, but there are indications that he abandons Arthur and John because Micah has successfully convinced him (as well as Javier Escuella and Bill Williamson) that they're informants of the Pinkertons, and thus the biggest dangers to the gang.
    • There's also the question of why Dutch is in Micah's camp in the epilogue, and why he decides to shoot him and spare John. When John asks why he's there, he simply replies "Same as you, I suppose." This could suggest he also came with the intent to kill Micah, but this could suggest he's there for the money from the Blackwater ferry heist. He and Micah are both pointing his gun at John in a Mexican standoff, and will actually shoot John if the player makes him shoot Micah. He walks away from the site after shooting Micah, not explaining his reasoning.
  • Rule of Rose: Used to skirt around the issues of violence, death and sexuality, as most characters are young children. Especially whether Mr. Hoffman sexually abused Clara and Diana. An infamous scenario features Hoffman summoning sad, reluctant Clara to his room, and you can witness through a keyhole how he...makes her scrub the floor, though in a very innuendo-laden position.
  • In Shadow of the Colossus, the only clear part of the plot is that Wander is trying to revive Mono by unsealing Dormin, and Lord Emon wants to stop this. This leaves us with a whole boatload of varying interpretations — for a small sample, is Wander a Villain Protagonist or a Woobie? Is Dormin displaying Dark Is Evil or Dark Is Not Evil? Is Emon a Hero Antagonist or a Knight Templar? Indeed, director Fumito Ueda is on the record as wanting each player to form their own story, and boy has the fandom taken him up on that.
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories actually builds the entire crux of the plot around this, with the nature, outcome and even symbolism of the plot dependent on both the player's actions and interpretations.
  • Silent Hill 4 features James Sunderland's father, who mentions that he hasn't heard from his son ever since we went to the town of Silent Hill. What that means is literally up to the player, as SH2's creative director has stated that he never meant for any ending to be official canon.
  • Fans of The Slender Man Mythos can easily figure out what vaguely happened in the game it inspired, Slender, but the details are unknown, and if you aren't familiar with the mythos, you really have no idea.
  • Tales of the Abyss: The ending, namely whether the revived Fon Fabre is Luke, Asch, or a personality mix of the two. A man with long red hair meets up with the rest of the party, and references a promise- either Asch's promise to Natalia or Luke's promise to Tear. The person also has his sword in a way that would be easier for the left-handed Luke to retrieve.
  • Tales of Destiny 2 Judas's eventual fate. He was supposed to be erased from time, but his mask still exists and Kyle seems to have memories of him in the end.
  • In Undertale, at the end of the Genocide Route (which involves going out of your way to killing every monster in the game), you face off against Sans the Skeleton. After you deal the final blow, they start to bleed, despite the fact that the game makes abundantly clear that monsters don't have blood (and no one else bleeds in the whole game). They sigh, move outside your field of view, say their Famous Last Words, and you hear the sound effect used whenever you kill or spare a monster. Most people assume that they died, but the exact circusmtances of their defeat (and the implications of a supposed monster bleeding) are never elaborated upon, leaving the player to guess.
  • In Until Dawn, it's not really confirmed that Mike and Emily were legitimately cheating with each other. While Ashley catches a glimpse of them embracing, they weren't shown doing anything more. Their significant others don't bring it up outside of the confrontation when first arriving at the lodge. The scenario is brought up as a way for Matt to rub salt in the wound when Emily is at risk of falling should he find out, at which point she'll hastily confirm it in a tone implying she's just saying what he wants to hear.

    Visual Novels 
  • Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors: One of the endings includes a conversation between Junpei and Zero through a speaker. In another ending we find out that Zero is actually Akane, meaning she couldn't be talking through the speaker, because she was in the room with him the whole time. Whether she was actually speaking through their Mindlink, the one speaking was actually Zero's assistant, or the conversation was prerecorded is left in the air.
  • In Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair, it's never confirmed whether Gundham Tanaka killed Nekomaru Nidai using his hamsters to hit his "Good Night" button or if he simply fought him on even terms. The killer insists that it was the latter method, since Nekomaru could have run or called for help, but chose not to, but the former is simpler and slightly more believable. Both are plausible, however. Additionally, it's never made explicitly clear in-game who killed Sato during their time at Hope's Peak Academy prior to their arriving on the island, but supplementary materials confirm that it was Fuyuhiko Kuzuryu.

    Web Animation 
  • In the Death Battle episode "Raven vs. Twilight Sparkle", the battle ends with Raven's Soul Self slamming into Twilight at high speeds, leaving a Twilight-shaped crater in the ground. Since there was no blood, it's impossible to tell if the Soul Self actually killed Twilight or if Amusing Injuries ensued and Twilight's just stuck in the hole for the time being.
  • In the Planet Dolan video parodying "Row, Row, Row Your Boat", Dolan falls asleep in his rowboat and gets lost at sea. He wakes up to find a tiger in the boat and the two have surreal adventures together before "rowing to the stars". Some people think Dolan died of dehydration after hallucinating the tiger, some think he was hallucinating but is still alive, while others believe it really happened. Of course, if Dolan did die, he didn't stay dead.
  • RWBY's "White" trailer is this; even a year after it was released, fans were still debating what it meant. Was Weiss's concert a fantasy, flashback, or psychological metaphor? Was the battle a fantasy, flashback, or psychological metaphor? Why were the two scenes spliced into one another? Was the Knight real, or was it a representation of someone/something in Weiss's life? Why did it shatter into ice once she defeated it? Was the girl in the trailer even Weiss at all? Even canon hasn't given us any straight answers, other than to confirm that Knights like the one Weiss fought exist physically in the world, and that Weiss has a good singing voice. Eventually cleared up in later seasons: the knight was real, sent by her abusive father Jacques to convince her she was incapable of being a huntress by beating her.

    Webcomics 
  • Fifteen Minds: The ending of Blue Moon Blossom raises far more questions than it answers. Why is the bunny so far from home, anyway? How did they and the dino end up together in the first place? Did the bunny set out to search for the rabbit spirit, or did they just happen upon it? Who, or what was the bunny's parent reaching for? And if the second-to-last page really is supposed to be read as the dino being some kind of rabbit deity/prophet in disguise, then how much did it know about what was going on?
  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • In an early chapter, Reynardine apparently attempts to possess Antimony, which would have killed her. Much later, Coyote insists that trying to kill Annie would have been out of character for Rey, leading many readers to reinterpret the earlier scene as an elaborate attempt on Rey's part to fake his own death and go into hiding, rather than a genuine possession attempt. Tom Siddell has confirmed that he deliberately set up the scene so the fanbase would be divided on the issue. Later, in a What You Are in the Dark moment, he reveals he really was going to kill her due to being pushed to the Despair Event Horizon, and it is his greatest regret in life.
    • The matter of Ysengrin. At one point, Annie sees him out of his magical wooden Powered Armor, without which he is skeletally thin and visibly weak. Shortly afterwards, she sees his etheric self, which she describes as "beautiful". Coyote tells her she has now seen how Ysengrin sees himself, how others see him, and how he really is. But he intentionally leaves it vague as to which is which.
  • Homestuck. The short version: A character who has the explicit ability to return from any death, except one that is either heroic (Heroic Sacrifice) or just (die for their crimes), dies and does not return. Hardly any readers think this is a heroic death, but there's ambiguous evidence suggesting that it's not a just death either, and that the real reason the character doesn't return is because of a cosmic accident cheating them out of their revival. note  Word of Hussie has outright stated that he intended for this to be ambiguous and divisive.
  • In Pebble and Wren, one strip involves Pebble comparing Wren's doughnuts to puffs from a gross creature called a "roxell". It's never revealed if roxells do exist (which wouldn't be out of place, considering monsters exist) or if Pebble was just trying to put Wren off her food so he could steal the doughnuts, because he does steal them.
  • In Stand Still, Stay Silent, it's unclear whether the Rash is caused by magic or if it's a purely biological illness, and the matter of The Old Gods' existence/nonexistance remains unclear so far.

    Web Original 
  • Hector's World: Hector has the moniker "Hector Protector" but it's unknown if that's his real last name.
  • The SCP Foundation has several of these.
    • Does Samothrace actually exist, or is it only a delusion?
    • Which of the SCP-001 documents are telling the truth and which are false?
    • Is Doctor Clef really Satan? How true are the other claims he has made about his past?
    • Is SCP-343 really God? Alternatively, is it an entity that believes itself to be God, or is it purposefully deceiving the Foundation instead?
    • Does SCP-089 cause disasters to force people to make human sacrifices to it, or does it predict disasters and stop them in exchange for human sacrifices?
    • Does SCP-1719 reveal the true forms of monsters in human form, or this only a bizarre optical illusion?

    Web Videos 
  • Demo Reel: It's never addressed whether Donnie is lying about having a big "not allowed to see family" pre-nup to cover up his mom being dead, or whether his life just blows that much.
  • Don't Hug Me I'm Scared: In the first episode, it's unclear whether the puppets' teacher intentionally attempted to cause them to have such a violent breakdown or honestly just wanted to inform them of creativity. The sixth episode adds further ambiguity, by leaving it unclear whether the first episode was before or after the puppets got trapped in Roy's simulation.
  • Zinnia Jones: Invoked in this episode about how different Christians interpret The Bible differently.
  • Who Killed Markiplier?: It's clearly shown that something supernatural is going on within the walls the series' main setting, Markiplier Manor, but the narrative doesn't make it explicitly clear whether the Manor is a Haunted House or a case of sentient Malevolent Architecture.

    Western Animation 
  • Arthur:
    • At the end of the episode "The Chips Are Down", D.W. and Binky make friends and Binky admits to his friends that he likes ballet (which he'd been keeping a secret). Buster, who's a bit of a Cloud Cuckoo Lander and likes sci-fi, suggests that aliens brought them together, and at the end, aliens can be seen, saying, "Don't blame us; we just like ballet." Do they mean, "Yes, we brought them together, but don't blame us, we just did it because we like ballet", or are they saying, "Just because we like ballet doesn't mean we're responsible"?
    • In both "Arthur's First Sleepover" and "Buster Isn't Buying It", people have reported seeing UFOs. In both episodes, they remain unidentified. "Buster Isn't Buying It" also has the Megatoad (a giant carnivorous toad that's allegedly survived prehistoric times) that's mentioned but unknown to be true, however, they do say that the Megatoad's existence is extremely unlikely.
    • In "Prove It", D.W. wants to go to a science museum and tells other children false facts (like the "H" in "H2O" standing for "hose") and eventually gets taken to the museum to inform her. At the end, she says she planned it all along and was deliberately lying to the kids so they'd take her to the museum, but we don't know if that's true or not.
  • In Avatar: The Last Airbender, events surrounding Azulon's death are extremely murky. The main question is whether he was really going to have Ozai kill Zuko as a punishment for Ozai's attempt to usurp Iroh's position as heir. The only two people who know for sure are both known liars and only discuss the incident while trying to manipulate others. One popular fan theory is that Azulon intended to make Zuko Iroh's heir to remove Ozai from the succession, which does fit the very little we see of the scene in question, but is mainly rooted in a literal interpretation of Azula's version of the story which, as noted above, could be all lies in the first place. We find out in the comics that Ozai had Ursa create an untraceable poison to kill Azulon in exchange for Zuko's life but we never find out if she personally administered it.
  • Ben 10: Alien Force: At the end of "Paradox", Professor Paradox replaces Kevin's car (which was destroyed earlier in the episode) with a brand new model directly from 1976 with a note in the windshield warning him that it will explode "like antimatter" if it comes into contact with anything from the same year. The heroes aren't sure if the warning is serious or just a joke.
  • Ever After High: In the Dragon Games special, Apple is put into a magical coma by a poison apple and only True Love's Kiss can awaken her. Her prince charming, Daring, tries and fails (unsurprising since the following special shows that he's actually Beauty's prince, not Snow White's). Darling tries it on Apple and it works. The question is: CPR or kiss? She checks Apple's pulse and breathing before breathing into Apple's mouth while holding her nose shut, which implies CPR. But that's not how CPR works, Apple's mouth starts glowing, and Apple coughs up heart-shaped smoke after awakening. If it was a kiss, was it The Power of Friendship or The Power of Love that woke her up? Even if it was intended to be CPR by Darling, did it maybe act as a kiss instead? None of this is ever brought up in the special and, due to the series being Cut Short, it won't get the chance to be.
  • Futurama: In the third act of "Godfellas", Bender, who was mistaken for god by a species of tiny aliens, whose meteorite hit Bender's chest, while he was stuck floating aimlessly in space, before his poor judgment got them killed, meets a galaxy-like entity who may or may not be God, because apparently the entity himself does not know — he even admitting Bender's alternate interpretation that he is a satellite that collided with God could be right. After at first speaking through his stars blinking to form a binary message, Bender asks if he speaks English to which he replies "I do now", implying he may not be all knowing but can understand things just by coming in contact with them. As Bender floats in orbit around him and recounts his story, and asks him what is the right way to help people, to which the entity replies "If you help too much, people will become dependent. But if you help too little, they lose faith. The secret is to help in such a way that they will not know if you did anything at all." Later, after Fry's attempts to find Bender in the cosmos get his attention, the Entity simply sends Bender back without many details. After a happy reunion, they realize Fry and Leela forgot to free some monks that they locked in the laundry room while using their radio disc, after which we get this moment:
    Fry: Ah, their god can get them out. Or at least bring them more shoes to eat.
    Bender: Fat chance, you can't count on god for jack! He more of less told me so himself. Now if we don't help those monks, no one will!
    They go back to save the monks, as the camera pans across the cosmos to "maybe God"
    "God": (chuckle) If you help just enough, people won't know you did anything at all.
  • The last episode of Gravity Falls has setups for a sequel even though there's no plans to continue the show. There was material outside the show that addressed nearly everything that wasn't in the finale (Dipper's real name, Mabel making amends for causing the Weirdmageddon etc.), so there doesn't seem to be any reason to continue the story. Also, Dipper and Pacifica only had one episode for Ship Tease, but once again, material outside the show heavily implies that they could become a couple even though we have no clue if they will.
  • Kaeloo:
    • The episode "Let's Play Trap-Trap" has a confusing ending, where Quack Quack is seen eating a pile of yogurt after the events of the episode. It's never made clear to the viewers whether he was hallucinating them or really eating.
    • In Episode 138, Mr. Cat attempts to diagnose Stumpy with dyspraxia, although Kaeloo keeps insisting that Stumpy is just lazy. It's not really clear whether Mr. Cat actually believes that Stumpy has dyspraxia, or he's pretending to believe so just to piss off Kaeloo.
  • King of the Hill: One of the last scenes of the Grand Finale shows that Dale has learned how to fix Nancy's migranes on his own, and he makes a remark about her not needing to see John Redcorn for them any more. The way he says it implied that he might have also finally figured out she was cheating on him with John, but it is not clear if he found out or he was just proud of his work on healing headaches. It is also not clear if Nancy knows that Dale knows.
  • Little Bear: In the episode "How to Scare Ghosts", Little Bear goes into the living room at night to look for ghosts and apparently discovers three raccoons who claim to be ghosts. They have gone by the time the parents come in and Little Bear has fallen asleep. It is unknown if they do exist or if he dreamed them up, and if they do exist, if they actually are ghosts.
  • In an episode of My Gym Partner's a Monkey, Adam is home from school and at first he seems sick, but then he instantly perks up, so maybe he was faking. Then again, at the end, he meets up with Jake, who is absent the next day, so maybe Adam really was sick and Jake caught it, or maybe Jake is also faking or got sick a different way or was even absent for a different reason.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Ever since the season 2 finale aired, it has been a major point of argument among fans as to whether or not Chrysalis and/or her army survived being catapulted out of Canterlot, as it wasn't made clear in the episode itself. In the comic, we find out that yes, she did survive. And then one changeling makes an appearance during season 6, and the whole hive comes back at the season finale.
    • "Flight to the Finish" confirms that Scootaloo is behind most pegasi kids when it comes to flying. The question of whether or not Scootaloo ever will fly is raised, but left unanswered as Scootaloo is given a Be Yourself aesop to put her mind at ease. Word of God was that she is disabled, but the person that said this (Lauren Faust) is no longer executive producer and at the time of writing has limited influence on the show, so this idea may or may not have been dropped.
    • "Pinkie Apple Pie" leaves it unclear whether Pinkie Pie is related to Applejack. All the records they find are smudged in the exact relevant spot, but after their adventures, Applejack decided it doesn't matter whether they have common genes since they get along so well Pinkie would fit just fine as a member of the family even if they're not related.
    • "Going to Seed" leaves whether or not the Great Seedling actually exists very ambiguous, as most of the signs it left behind were caused by Big Macintosh harvesting apples in his sleep... but at the end Applejack and Apple Bloom find strange patterns in the carrot field that Big Mac didn't cause, implying that something actually is roaming around the apple farm — but what is left unclear.
  • Numberjacks: In "Into the Teens", the Numbertaker causes trouble for some people, who then lie down. It's unclear if they're being dramatic or if the Numbertaker is forcing them to lie down.
  • Ready Jet Go!:
    • In "Sean Has a Cold", Sean is said to have a cold, but seems to be fine other than a slight cough.
    • In "One Small Step", the kids land their saucer in Little Dipper Lake, where Mitchell is rowing a boat. When the kids are rescued by Mitchell, Jet explains that they built a super saucer and went to the moon. Later, Mitchell is invited to the kids' slumber party, where everyone, including Mitchell, sings about how hard it is to get back to Earth from space. It's really made unclear if Mitchell knows that the Propulsions are aliens or not.
  • Rugrats:
    • In "Slumber Party", we never find out if Tommy is hallucinating or dreaming.
    • In one episode, Charlotte believes she's pregnant at the start only to end the episode by stating she isn't. It's never clarified what occurred. Did she jump to conclusions, get a false reading, miscarry, have an abortion, or what?
  • In The Simpsons episode "Hurricane Neddy", Ned Flanders yells at a bunch of citizens, then calls Homer the worst human he's met but not yelling. Homer claims he "got off pretty easily". Either Homer doesn't realise that Ned was being so rude because he's stupid or he did realise but was just glad he wasn't yelled at.
  • In the Spongebob Squarepants episode "Toy Store of Doom", Spongebob and Patrick act scared of a shadow. It turns out to be of a little toy robot, but they still act scared of the robot. The episode never makes it clear whether they are playing pretend or actually think it's dangerous.

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