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Ambiguous Situation

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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.


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.


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.

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.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • The Stinger of the second Arpeggio of Blue Steel 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.
  • One of the continuing points of crisis between Ian and Jeremy in A Cruel God Reigns 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.
  • In Destruction Flag Otome it's not really clear if Katarina is actually Katarina like she thinks or just her past life having completely replaced who Katarina was supposed to be. She does identify as Katarina, have her memories and her father thinks she's similar to her mother, but she seems unfamiliar with some really basic things that Katarina ought to know. But then again Katarina was always as dumb as a box of rocks, now she's just dumb in a different way.
  • 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • 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.
  • In the ending of InuYasha, 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.
  • In the "I Am an Alien" arc of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable, Josuke and Okuyasu come across a strange young man named Mikitaka Hazekura claiming to be an alien, but could possibly just be a Stand-using prankster who doesn't know how to end a joke. It is never made clear which is the truth, and Araki has never offered an answer.
    • In favor of him being an alien: He has pointy, almost elf-like ears and in the manga he has long abnormally-silver hair. The Stand-granting Arrow grazed his neck, causing him to pass out, and when Josuke and Okuyasu found him he was asleep in the middle of a crop circle. Despite his shape-shifting powers he is unable to see Stands, and whenever he hears sirens he breaks out into hives and starts sweating and screaming in agony. In addition, he talks about and uses his powers as if he's had them his entire life as opposed to just receiving them the previous day. He also claims that he can't use his powers to mimic human appearances because they all look the same to him.
    • In favor of him being a human: The Arrow only grazed him as opposed to passing through him like it did with the others, which led to some believing that was the reason for his inability to see the Stands of others. In addition, characters with stranger appearances than his have been established to be human (such as Shigechi, who lacks hair and instead has small spikes covering his scalp). Josuke met his mother who asked him if Mikitaka was tricking people into thinking he was an alien again, but Mikitaka then claimed that he had brainwashed her into thinking he was her son.
  • The situation between just what Shizuru did with Natsuki while the latter was recovering under her care is never fully resolved in Mai-HiME. 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.
  • 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 
  • 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? So far, 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.
  • 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.
  • Ultimate Marvel
    • 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 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Through the entirety of Friendship is Optimal, it is 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.
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Film - Animated 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • The ending of American Psycho. Was Patrick Bateman a serial killer whose 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. Though 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?
  • 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.
  • 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!
  • 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.
  • The movie 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.
  • 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.
  • The 2008 movie 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.
  • The whole point of Eve's Bayou. 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.
  • Inception 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.
  • 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 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?
  • 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?
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Everything that happens to Baby Doll after she enters the asylum in Sucker Punch. 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.
  • The original Tremors left 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.
  • John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) 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.
  • LaBeouf's fate in True Grit. 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.

  • 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...)
  • In the Culture novel 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 Hornblower 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.
  • The book It's Okay to Say "No" is meant to protect kids from molesters and has several stories, however, 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.
  • 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.
  • 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"?
  • In-universe example in Shaman Blues, 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.
  • Is the main relationship in the novel The Story of O 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 Tilly's 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 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?

    Live-Action TV 
  • Arrow: In "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.
  • 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: In "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.
  • Game of Thrones:
    • Sandor Clegane is left crippled and grievously wounded many miles from help, but his death is not confirmed. The ambiguity is increased by the actor's absence from a round-table interview featuring those whose characters had been killed in Season 4. Then in Season 6, it turns out that the Hound survived from his wounds after being found and healed by a septon. The end of Season 6 has another instance, as it's left open whether he'll join the Brotherhood Without Banners, or go off on his own again. Season 7 confirmed that he has joined them.
    • Ser Alliser Thorne takes a serious wound and is dragged away in "The Watchers on the Wall", leaving it unclear whether he survives until the Season 5 premiere, "The Wars to Come".
    • The abductor at the end of "High Sparrow" doesn't specify which queen he's taking his captive to, which is a matter of life and death.
    • "Sons of the Harpy" ends with two characters collapsing from their wounds, but not necessarily dead. Unfortunately, Trailers Always Spoil.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Much of Life on Mars, 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 - 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...
  • 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.


    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.
  • Exploited by Games Workshop to keep all fans of Warhammer 40,000 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.

  • Johnny Byron, the main character of Jerusalem, 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 
  • 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.
  • The ending to Dead Island: 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 above series' fangame Fazbear 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.
  • Brian Johnson's death in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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....
  • 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.
  • Persona 5 leaves it ambiguous what happens with the traitor, after they were last seen. After fighting and losing to the protagonist, the traitor is confronted by a doppelgänger of themselves and tells the party to go on. Nothing is mentioned beyond a minor note of one of your party member's not feeling their presence any longer.
  • The Mysterious Stranger from Red Dead Redemption and its Prequel, Red Dead Redemption II.
    • 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.
  • Used to skirt around the issues of violence, death and sexuality in Rule of Rose, where 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.
  • In Super Danganronpa 2, it's never confirmed whether Gundam 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, but the former is simpler and slightly more believable. Both are plausible, however.
    • Additionally, it's never made explicitly clear in-game who killed Satou/E-ko during their time at Hope's Peak Academy prior to their arriving on the island - it could've been Fuyuhiko Kuzuryuu or Peko Pekoyama (acting under orders from Kuzuryuu). Official supplementary materials, however, confirm that it was Kuzuryuu.
  • The ending of Tales of the Abyss, namely, whether the revived Fon Fabre is Luke, Asch, or a personality mix of the two.
  • Judas's eventual fate in Tales of Destiny 2. 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 Skelleton. 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.

  • The ending of Blue Moon Blossom, a Fifteen Minds comic, 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 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 
  • Creepypastas use this all the time, usually done to make the stories all the scarier. Many monstrous beings or occurrences are never given a definite origin. 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.
  • 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.
  • It's never addressed whether Donnie from Demo Reel 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.
  • In the first episode of Don't Hug Me I'm Scared, 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.
  • The denouement of "Hard Times in the Big Easy", set in the Global Guardians universe, involved the death of the Big Bad, a Criminal Mastermind called Baron Samedi. The story began with the villain being thrown off the roof of his own building... and ended with at least three of the heroes being implicated in the crime. But who actually threw Samedi off the roof, and under what circumstances, was never revealed.
  • Hector's World: Hector has the moniker "Hector Protector" but it's unknown if that's his real last name.
  • RWBY's White trailer is this; even a year after it was released, fans are 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.
  • 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?
    • 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?
  • In the Abridged Series Ultra Fast Pony, Twilight Sparkle runs into a pony that is exactly like her, claiming to be her in the future, comes to tell her something really important. But, after present(?) Twilight assumes it has to do with her hoof tremor problem, future(?) Twilight reveals she didn't even know that was a thing, let alone that it was a condition she herself would've had. When present(?) Twilight calls her on this, she simply brushes it off by saying she's from "The Future", not psychic. On top of that, she seemed unsure what her past self's middle name was, before saying it was secret, which may have been a lucky guess. But just as present(?) Twilight is starting to become suspicious, future(?) Twilight tries to tell her the secret to solving her problem of being cut off as she is about to say something important, before disappearing as she was about to reveal this information. After she disappears, nothing else is revealed about her and the episode's plot line about defining the meaning of time continues, before going unanswered as well, ending with no real resolution for anything, beyond confirming Rainbow Dash's suspicion that the doughnut corporations are some how involved in and possibly even in control of the very concept of time.
    • To a lesser extent, in "Peger Please" the ponies go to confront a dragon that Twilight wants to reason with it, but Applejack just wants to kill it. By the end of the episode, Fluttershy manages to get the dragon to back down, but we cut to Twilight telling Spike what happened, before we could see how they resolve things with the dragon with Twilight never making it clear if they killed him or resolved the situation peacefully, just that he's Dra-gone.
  • Invoked in this episode of Zinnia Jones, about how different Christians interpret The Bible differently.

    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"?
      • Speaking of aliens, in both "Arthur's First Sleepover" and "Buster Isn't Buying It", people have reported seeing U.F.O.'s. 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.
  • In the Dragon Games special of Ever After High, 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.
  • In the third act of the Futurama episode "God Fellows", Bender who was mistaken for god by a species of tiny aliens, who's 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 of may not be God, because apparently the entity himself does not know. 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 after a moment of pondering, simply states, "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." And after, Fry's attempts to finding Bender in the cosmos get his attention, the Entity simply sends Bender back without much details. After a happy reunion, they realize Fry and Lela forgot to free some monks, they locked in the laundry room while using their radio disc, we get this moment:
    Fry: Ah, their god can get them out. Or at least bring them more shoes to eat.
    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.
  • 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.
  • Martha Speaks: In the episode "Martha Takes the Cake", Martha the dog is suspected of eating a bite and a candle off of Alice Boxwood's birthday cake because there were cake crumbs next to her. Eventually, Nelson the cat is revealed to be the real perp after he throws up due to the candle having disagreed with him, but this doesn't solve the mystery of why there were crumbs next to Martha. T.D. suggests that Nelson is a genius cat and made a machine to frame Martha, but the thing is, Nelson can't have built it because he doesn't have thumbs so we still don't know how the cake crumbs ended up next to Martha.
  • 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.
    • The episode "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.
  • Rugrats:
    • In "Slumber Party", we never find out if Tommy is hallucinating or dreaming.
    • In the movie, Angelica sings really loudly at Didi's baby shower and then Didi goes into labor. Loud noises sometimes trigger labor, as can surprises, but normally it would take more than just a loud-mouthed three-year-old and Didi has had another premature baby before (Tommy) so we never know if Angelica inadvertently caused Didi to go into labor or if it was just a coincidence.
    • 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 Ready Jet Go! episode "Sean Has a Cold", Sean is said to have a cold, but seems to be fine other than a slight cough.


Example of: