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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 unclear writing or Faux Symbolism, it's normally intentionally played by the authors. This can be done to make the story more interesting in general, 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 what 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 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.

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 ambiguity of the situation is implied in-universe (for out-of-universe examples, you may be looking for Alternative Character Interpretation, Alternative Joke Interpretation, Delusion Conclusion, Diagnosed by the Audience, Trans Audience Interpretation, or Wild Mass Guessing). 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.

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

Super-Trope to:

  • Ambiguous Clone Ending: It's left ambiguous whether a person is the real deal or if they've been replaced by a duplicate.
  • Ambiguous Criminal History: A character is implied to have done something illegal in the past, but we don't know what it is.
  • Ambiguous Ending: When the ambiguous situation happens at the very end of the story.
  • Ambiguous Family Ties: Spouses assume a distant relative comes from each other's family.
  • Ambiguous Gender: It is difficult to determine a character's gender.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: A character may or may not be transgender and not fully transitioned.
  • Ambiguously Absent Parent: When a character has one known parent, with little to no mention of their other parent.
  • Ambiguously Bi: A character is explicitly attracted to the opposite gender but is sometimes hinted to also be attracted to the same gender (or, more rarely, vice versa).
  • Ambiguously Brown: When a character has darker skin, but it’s unclear what ethnicity they’re supposed to be.
  • Ambiguously Christian: A character celebrates holidays like Christmas and Easter, talks about the "Man Upstairs", etc., but never does anything explicitly religious that would confirm them as Christian.
  • Ambiguously Evil: It's unclear if a character is malicious or not.
  • Ambiguously Jewish: A character has some traits associated with Jews (a large nose, being a bookworm, etc) but isn't confirmed or denied to be Jewish.
  • Ambiguously Gay: A character isn't shown attracted to the opposite gender, and either exhibits gay stereotypes, is implied to be attracted to the same gender, or both, indicating they may be gay.
  • Ambiguously Human: A character appears to be human, but has certain traits and quirks hinting that they're a quite different sapient species.
  • Ambiguously Related: Certain characters look alike and may have a tendency to appear together, but it isn't clear if they're family or not.
  • Ambiguously Sentient Object: An inanimate object shows signs of possibly being sentient, but not enough to prove that they are.
  • Cartoon Creature: A non-human species that doesn’t seem to be any real-world creature and said species doesn’t have a name and/or isn’t specified.
  • Diagnosed by the Audience: When a character shows signs of having a mental disorder that is never directly confirmed, so the audience diagnoses them themselves.
  • Did They or Didn't They?: It's unknown whether the couple have consummated their relationship.
  • Gender Nonconforming Equals Gay: In cases of Ambiguously Gay or Ambiguously Bi characters, there will usually be some reliance on this trope.
  • Implied Love Interest: There are hints that someone is dating or has a crush on another character, but it's never confirmed.
  • Maybe Ever After: The work leaves the final relationship status of two love interests inconclusive.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: A supposedly supernatural event has logical explanations for it, but there are also hints that the supernatural situation was for real.
  • Noodle Incident: Something is said to have happened in the past, and it's left deliberately unclear what happened or why the thing happened.
  • Or Was It a Dream?: It appears the character only dreamed about what happened to them, but it is subsequently hinted that what they allegedly dreamed about had actually happened.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The work presents a mystery that's never solved.
  • Santa Ambiguity: The work makes it unclear whether Santa Claus exists in the setting.
  • Schrödinger's Butterfly: The world may be a dream, a Lotus-Eater Machine, or similar.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: It's uncertain as to whether the protagonist, whose point of view we're seeing things from, is delusional or not.
  • Uncertain Doom: A character is last seen in a situation where they might have been killed, but it isn't made clear whether they survived or not.
  • Unreliable Narrator: It is hinted that the narrator's account of their story might have certain details omitted or fabricated, if the story isn't entirely an outright lie.
  • Vague Age: It's not clear how old a character is supposed to be, often because of the evidence suggesting what age group they belong to being contradictory and inconsistent.
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: When a work takes place in an unspecified location.


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  • The Partnership to End Addiction ad "Final Lesson" implies that the main character, Susie, has died from drug abuse ("Susie's parents never taught her that drugs maim; drugs kill. So Susie learned one final lesson on her own."). However, at the end there is an ambulance taking her away, meaning that there's a chance she's still alive.

  • Las Meninas is one of the most ambiguous paintings in Western art history. The way the subjects in the painting are positioned and perspective is utilized lend themselves to multiple situations, neither of which are a perfect fit for what is depicted.
    • One interpretation is that Velázquez is painting a portrait of the Infanta through a mirror, as is occasionally done for portraiture, the mirror is located where the fourth wall is, and the king and queen have dropped by the studio.
    • Another is that Velázquez is painting a portrait of the king and queen, who are standing near or at where the viewers would be, and their daughter is hanging out (maybe she's keeping them company, or the ladies are trying to get her to pose for the portrait).

  • Josh Wolf has a bit about coming home from vacation to find a $200 porn bill. The only ones who were home during the time were his son Jacob and Josh's parents, so Josh naturally assumes his son was responsible. However, Josh's son denies responsibility and outright dares his dad to call his parents and ask if they watched "Anal Party 3" even if it's just for confirmation. As Josh is slowly and reluctantly dialing his parents' number, his son stops him at the last second and offers to pay the bill anyway (he claims it's only not to embarrass grandma and grandpa), but still denies responsibility even when Josh offers to cover the bill and give him $200. The question has remained unanswered even years later - originally, Josh refused to call his parents and ask, but even in later interviews and podcasts, not only has Jacob continued to deny responsibility, but when Josh eventually did ask his dad what happened, he refused to clear the ambiguity for as long as Jacob didn't.

    Comic Books 
  • Defenders (2021): Watching the primordial hero Lifebringer One defeat the primordial evil Anti-All, Doctor Strange speculates that Anti-All's fragments survived and became any number of darkness-related monsters the Marvel Universe has running around it. An irritated Betty Ross points out he's using the word "if" a lot.
    Betty: Just say you don't know. It makes you sound smarter.
  • The DCU:
    • Robin (1993): 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.
    • Batman: In the leadup to Batman: A Death in the Family, Robin Jason Todd chases a diplomat's son after he gets off scot-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.
    • 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.
    • Superman: In the storyline The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, villainess Lesla-Lar kidnaps, brainwashes and poses as Lena Thorul. Was it part of a larger scheme, or did Lesla simply want to hurt Supergirl through her friend? It's not known because Lesla got killed off shortly later, before having the opportunity to carry out the next stage of her plan.
    • Detective Comics #1000 introduced a version of the Condiment King from Batman: The Animated Series who's Truer to the Text than the one first introduced in Birds of Prey, vol. 1, #37, including name (Buddy Standler vs. Mitchell Mayo), age (being an adult vs. a teen like Mayo), build {stocky vs. Mayo being Lean and Mean) and color scheme (wearing blue and white vs. being Red and Black and Evil All Over like Mayo).  However, two aspects are unclear: Standler's job (the original character in B: TAS was a comedian, whereas Mayo worked in fast food), and if he's Brainwashed and Crazy like the original Standler or another case of Adaptational Villainy like Mayo was.
  • The Department of Truth: The man who runs the Department of Truth says that he is Lee Harvey Oswald, the man who (allegedly) assassinated President John F. Kennedy. It is brought up multiple times whether or not he's the real Oswald, a belief-based manifestation or if this is just a codename, but a real answer is never given.
  • The 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.
  • Loki: Agent of Asgard: In the final arc, tying in with the events of Secret Wars (2015), Those Who Sit Above In Shadow supposedly return in the face of the Final Incursion. However, they also borrow a few phrases from The Beyonder, so in the final issue Loki wonders whether they are Those Who Sit Above, or merely a bunch of Beyonders running away from Doctor Doom. Loki being Loki, they simply shrug their shoulders and refuse to give a definite answer, merely calling the Beyonder theory "a nice explanation for the science crowd".
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Played for laughs when Splinter gives a deliberately vague answer to Billy Cranston's question about whether he was a human mutated into a rat or a rat who became part-human after his mutation in this version of the Turtles' history.
  • 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.
  • The Transformers: More than Meets the Eye:
    • Whirl's first appearance in MTMTE has him standing atop a pile of mutilated Sweep corpses that he's doused in highly flammable fuel. It's not entirely clear whether he's planning to simply dispose of the corpses by burning them or if this is a slightly more direct suicide attempt than usual.
    • An accidental one: in Lost Light, the writing of the crew's departure from an alternate universe leaves it unclear whether the incorrect coordinates given to Megatron were the work of Roller or Terminus. Word of God would later clarify that it was supposed to be Terminus, noting that Roller's portrayal hadn't exactly made a great case for him as The Chessmaster so far.
  • 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 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 of the fact that now Wolverine can never find out what actually happened, or if he really had a wife and/or son?
      • Xavier has no qualms about using his powers to pursue his plans, but when he actually used them and when he didn't is sometimes left ambiguous, for either the characters or the reader according to circumstances. For example, he openly used his powers when Cyclops was about to leave the team and join the Brotherhood, and when he discovered that Iceman outed the X-Men secrets to impress a girl. In another case, David claimed that Storm only loved Beast because Xavier influenced him to do so, so that he'd stay with the team, but it was eventually revealed that he was not involved in that.
      • What is the Phoenix? Some kind of cosmic force? Just a mental disorder of Jean? It's the first
    • The Ultimates initially kept it ambiguous whether Thor was genuinely one of the Norse Gods or just a super-soldier experimental subject suffering from severe mental illness. The ambiguity rather goes away when Asgard turns out to be entirely real.
  • Watchmen: The series 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. They actually do an interesting Parallel stories where in the Doomsday Clock, 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. whiles in the Watchmen its revealed the Plan worked and the world got decades of peace as a result.
  • Wolverine: Origin:
    • Did John, Jr claw his mother on purpose, or was it an accident? Likewise, the way he died is unknown.
    • Whether John, Jr was the legitimate son of John, Sr or the illegitimate spawn of Thomas Logan isn't made clear.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: The nature of Hobbes. In the presence of Calvin, Hobbes is a large, humanoid tiger who can move and talk; in the presence of other people he is just an inanimate stuffed animal. Is he just Calvin's Imaginary Friend, or does he somehow "become real" when no one else is around? 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."

    Films — Animation 
  • The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad: In the "Sleepy Hollow" segement, is the Headless Horseman a genuine evil spirit, or Bram Bones in disguise? And does he/it actually kill Ichabod?
  • Brave: At the end, did Elinor transform back to a human because the sunlight had to shine on the tapestry before it'd work ("mend the bond" literally), or did she transform because Merida finally acknowledged that she was the cause of her mother's predicament and tearfully told her she loved her ("mend the bond" metaphorically?) Or were both needed?
  • Charlotte's Web: Are Wilbur and his friends Nearly Normal Animals that only Fern can hear talking, or Talking Animals that Masquerade as normal animals around everyone except Fern?
  • Coraline: Mr. Bobinski behaves very erratically and the reason is never determined. Mrs. Jones suggests that he's insane, then that he's a drunk, but Coraline thinks he's just eccentric, and the film never leads one way or the other.
  • Encanto: The main character Mirabel is the only member of her magical family to receive no "gift" or special power when she comes of age, and the movie never explains why. Popular Fanon is that she's meant to inherit her likewise-magicless grandmother's position as family matriarch, but nothing in the actual film suggests this, and it's left to the audience to draw their own conclusions.
  • The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part: Is Rex Dangervest really from an alternate future and legitimately travelled back in time to change his past, or is he just another part of Finn's imagination along with his growing-up brought to life in the LEGO Universe? You be the judge.
  • Pocahontas: Was Pocahontas just pretending she doesn't speak English when she first met John Smith, or did she really not know English despite speaking it fluently with her tribe?

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Absolute Power (1997): At the end, it's unclear if Walter Sullivan murdered Richmond and made this look like suicide, or talked him into it.
  • All My Friends Hate Me: What is wrong with Pete? Is he mentally ill? Why does he have such trouble remembering things? Does the final scene with Sonia even happen for real? It's never made clear.
  • 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!
  • The Batman (2022): The possibility that Thomas and Martha Wayne's murder was a hit and not just a chance encounter with a mugger comes up, with both Salvatore Maroni and Carmine Falcone being presented as suspects with motivation. But neither are confirmed to have been involved and as Alfred notes, it could still have just been a random mugger who panicked. And as it's now been twenty years, the true culprit will probably never be found.
  • 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.
  • Born in the Maelstrom: It's left unexplained what the community is about, why it formed and even its location.
  • 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.
  • Daredevil (2003): Matt finds Elektra's necklace, one that features brail, on a rooftop. The film suggests she left it for him, and it's the same one she wore when she fought Daredevil that fell off her. But when exactly did she leave it for him? If it's the same necklace, it can't be before then, especially since she didn't know at the time he's Daredevil. It's unlikely to have been after her fight with Bullseye given she was dead at the time before her resurrection. Considering the film never establishes how long it had been since said fight, and her own film never establishes when Stick paid her a visit or how long she had been brought back to life, one could make the argument she left it for him herself.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fatal Attraction: Did Alex really become pregnant as a result of her affair with Dan, or is she lying to force him to continue his extramarital relationship with her? The film does not definitively confirm this either way.
  • 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.
  • In Freaks (2018), it's never made clear whether the destruction of Dallas was caused by malice on the part of the abnormal children or an inability to control their powers.
  • While nothing is confirmed, it's implied that the Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Gigan Rex is actually an older version of Godzilla Jr. from the Heisei series. The short opens with Junior's lullaby from Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, the film is bookended with shots recreating Godzilla Jr.'s resurrection at the end of Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, the opening features narration from Megumi Odaka (who played Miki Saegusa, a major character in the Heisei filmsnote ), said narration states it's been around a quarter of a century since Godzilla was last seennote , Godzilla uses the Nuclear Pulse (an ability that saw frequent use in the Heisei series), and he even enters a white-colored and non-fatal (for him) Super Mode similar to the "Burning" mode that killed Junior's father, the Heisei Godzilla.
  • The Driving Question of Hollywoodland is whether George Reeves killed himself or was murdered, something that's never definitively answered, and each claim is backed by solid evidence. For what it's worth, the film leans towards the former, as in Louis' Imagine Spots of his death, the one where George commits suicide is much clearer and more drawn-out than his other two imaginings where he was murdered. It should be noted that in Real Life, Reeves' death is still a debated subject, and while he was officially declared as having died by suicide, it's commonly believed that he really was murdered.
  • 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.
  • In Jurassic Park, Nedry's financial situation. Hammond claims that he is not responsible for Nedry's money problem while Nedry complains that the automated system required to run Jurassic Park is far more expensive and difficult than what he bid for. While it's easy to see Nedry as being greedy, there are several indications throughout the film that Hammond has been cutting corners contrary to his catchphrase "Spare no expense."
  • 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 Madame Web (2024), given how Cassie's powers are established to work at that point, it's not clear whether her vision of meeting Ezekiel in the diner is her vision of what would have happened had she tried to leave the girls as she'd intended, or whether Ezekiel is somehow communing with her psychically through their shared Spider-powers.
  • 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. A deleted opening scene supports Hank's version of events being the truth but there's otherwise no proof in the actual film who is telling the truth.
    • 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.
  • Murder by Decree: How much involvement the Prime Minister and the Royal Family have in the Ripper murders. The Prime Minister is adamant that Queen Victoria was not involved in any way, and Holmes doesn't want to believe she was involved. As for the Government, Holmes doesn't know how directly they were involved - only that their anti-Catholic prejudices egged Dr. Spivey on.
  • My Animal: Jonny cuts contact with Heather after they have sex, but it's left up in the air as to whether or not Heather showed traits of her lycanthropy and freaked Jonny out or if Jonny is just conflicted about the relationship, if not both.
  • 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.
  • Poison (2023): The end of the short reveals that there is no snake on Harry's stomach. It's unclear if it slithered off to elsewhere in the room/house at some point, or if there was ever a snake at all.
  • 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 (2018): 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.
  • In Shredder Orpheus, Linus spins a story of Orpheus's wedding gift being one of three prototypes created by Jimi Hendrix and a guy named Paisley Pattern, who worked to create the ultimate power-chord machine to elevate human consciousness until they either died or went missing. Whether any of this is true is never addressed, though Orpheus seems skeptical.
  • 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?
  • Stranger Than Fiction: It's never really clear whether or not Harold is a fictional character that manifested into the real world or if he's a real person who was affected by the author.
  • 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? Why did Blair destroy all means of communication and escape? 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.
  • Wolves: One version of Cayden's conception is that his mother Lucinda was raped by Connor Slaughter. She ended up pregnant, had Cayden in secret before giving him up and killing herself. However, as he lies bleeding after their fight, Connor tells Cayden that it wasn't rape: they were secretly in love, until Lucinda's parents found out and threatened to kill her, so he lied to protect her. It's not clear if this is true, how Connor remembers it, or just what Connor wants him to think.

  • 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 milling corn to turn into liquor so he can have fun and get drunk?
  • Blutengel's song Solitary Angel 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". The line "Girls will be boys and boys will be girls" has also led some listeners to interpret Lola as a trans woman, but it could also mean she(?) is a drag queen or simply that her deep voice is unusual for a woman.
  • 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?
    • "Make Your Choice": There are three singers - Mega Man, Proto Man, and Gamma. During the verses, it can be a little hard to tell which is which - for example, "If you side with me/I will show you the way" is nicely unclear on whether it's Mega Man offering Proto Man a path back from the edge, Gamma trying to recruit him for the apocalypse or both at once (especially since the next line is unambiguously Gamma saying "THERE WILL BE PEACE").
  • Taylor Swift's Love Triangle trilogy from folklore (2020):
    • Does Betty take James back?
    • Were Betty and James actually together together when James hooked up with "August"? Or was it a miscommunication? Perhaps James didn't think they were in a committed relationship while Betty did so in his mind, it wasn't cheating. Either way, it's never made clear.
  • Origami Angel: Is Somewhere City a real place? It's suggested in "Welcome to...", but "The Title Track" saying that "the secret is it's in your brain" and "the city's never far away" could suggest that it's not a physical location, but rather a mindset the singer has. Furthering this, an early song, "666 Flags", has a mention of the singer taking medication to calm his nerves.


    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.
  • Eberron: Used along with Multiple-Choice Past to maintain the Grey-and-Grey Morality of the setting and allow for adventures. Is the Lord of Blades a Well-Intentioned Extremist or just a Knight Templar? Is King Kaius of Karrnath a Tragic Monster or a Fully-Embraced Fiend? Has the Silver Flame been corrupted by the fiends it has sealed, is the Draconic Prophecy predicting the end of the world, are the demonic Overlords not as bad as they seem... The setting is careful to make sure there are at least two answers to every interesting question to make sure players and DMs can make their own story. This is also why there's a setting-wide Have You Seen My God? in play.

  • Cross Road: What are the consequences if Niccolo Paganini breaks the terms of his contract with the devil Amduscias? Amduscias tells him, "You're breaking your contract" twice, and warns him against it once. Did Amduscias kill Niccolo's mother as punishment for breaking the contract? It isn't clear how much time passes between the scene where he speaks to her, and when Niccolo receives the news of her death. She got back to Genoa from Paris before she died, which would have taken a while. Did the contract kill her without Amduscias needing to take any action himself? Or did she die of natural causes?
  • 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.
  • The Visit: The Dying Town of Güllen has been offered a life-saving payout to murder Alfred Ill, one of the citizens. When Alfred tries to leave town, all the citizens show up at the train station to "say goodbye", and he collapses in fear. It's ambiguous whether they actually would have stopped him from leaving or wanted him away and the temptation of the offer gone.

    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.
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Trials and Tribulations, it's never explained what Luke Atmey used to kill Kane Bullard. Only that it was something hard enough to cause blunt-force trauma.
    • The Great Ace Attorney has several of this, coupled with an Ambiguous Ending. Why Brett killed John H. Watson/Wilson? It's never explained. What Kazuma wanted to tell Ryunosuke? He never tells him. The two mysterious men arguing in Case 4? They appear only in that scene. Why Susato knows about an unreleased story that should have been known only to Iris and Sherlock/Herlock? She never reveals it. All of this is explained in the sequel, The Great Ace Attorney 2.
    • Also, in the sequel, it might come to mind how exactly William Shamspeare was able to survive poisoning without being treated for hours. Unfortunately, it's never explained.
    • It's left ambiguous if at the end of the sequel, Iris had overheard Mikotoba's confession that her real father was Klint van Zieks. The timing of her interruption, her insistence to invite Barok/ her uncle for tea and her later request for Gina to drop her promise of finding her father suggest that Iris found out and was merely feigning ignorance afterwards.
  • 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.
  • The whole premise of Slay the Princess runs on this. How and why was the Princess was locked away? Why does her death supposedly prevent The End of the World as We Know It? Why does the Narrator have so much power over you? If the Narrator can change things around based on what you do, why is he having you slay the Princess? Should you trust the Princess, the Narrator, or neither of them? Talking with them doesn't provide any real answers, due to the Princess being unable or unwilling to give the answers, and the Narrator stubbornly telling you to remain focused on the task at hand.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY: The Volume 2 Stinger scene doesn't fit into the rest of the volume. Team RWBY's final act is to go to bed, with Yang stating that she's looking forward to sleeping. The scene starts with Yang walking down the promenade from the entrance to Beacon towards its central statue. There she finds a mysterious woman who wants to talk. The entire scene has an eerie, dreamlike quality that creates an air of unreality, which helps to emphasise that Yang was last seen stating she wanted to sleep. It cuts away before anything is revealed, and closes the volume on a surreal note.

  • Everything is Fine: It's not entirely clear how aware, if at all, the neighborhood's residents and Sam and Maggie in particular are. Sam and Maggie act like Winston is alive, but Sam giving his body to the starving homeless person in Mom's Spaghetti suggests they know he's dead and just pretend. The cameras seen everywhere suggest that they're under surveillance and therefore forced to act this way, but there are no cameras in the house (that we can see). The fact that Charlie was papering his basement with foil to block out surveillance signals and that this is an offense worthy of Unpersoning suggests that the insides of the houses are also bugged.
  • 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.
  • Neko: The Cat: What exactly befell Michiko's father isn't certain. Was he really a werewolf-like monster, transformed by the stepmother? Or was he merely held captive in the woods, and the stepmother made Michiko see him as a monster? The fact that the comic empathizes that the stepmother told her that she had no choice but to kill him and that the he's described as "screaming in agony" when she finds him implies that it's not as black and white as she'd like Michiko to believe.
  • Sleepless Domain: The exact nature of the fusion of Tessa and Goops is something of a mystery; is she a legitimate Fusion Dance of Goops and Tessa, Goops pulling a Demonic Possession on Tessa, or something in between? Not helping matters that she initially refers to herself using "we", but soon switches to "I", plus the Alt Text doesn't vanish when she's around as it did around Goops. Even Anemone actually questions how much of Tessa is left in her, and she "answers" evasively.
  • 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.
  • In Weak Hero, it's undeniable that Oswald and his gang are responsible for Stephen falling off the school roof and ending up comatose. However, it's left ambiguous as to whether they physically pushed him off, whether Stephen was forced past the Despair Event Horizon and fell off himself, or whether it was a genuine accident that none of them predicted. Their complete lack of remorse over what happened, however, means that their subsequent beating at Gray's hands is well-deserved regardless of what actually went down.

    Web Original 
  • Hector's World: Hector has the moniker "Hector Protector" but it's unknown if that's his real last name.
  • Neopets: In one April Fools' prank, the Shop Wizard is dizzy, has hypno-eyes, and can't do his job properly. He claims it's because he ate some expired swill pudding, but one of the prizes given out that day was a Neggitus injection, suggesting that he had Neggitus. While dizziness is a symptom of Neggitus, hypno-swirls usually aren't, and neither of them are usually a symptom of food poisoning.
  • 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?
    • SCP-377 and Jonathan Ball's proposal both correspond to new events whenever examined. However, it is unclear whether these items cause or merely predict the events in question.

    Web Videos 
  • David Near: In "Jason the Toymaker (Original Voice)", it's intentionally left "open to interpretation what he's doing to the kid." Besides Jason complaining about his captive wanting to leave, mimicking their crying, and describing how he'll turn the child into a toy, what he's doing to his prisoner during the conversation is unclear.
    Jason: I'll give you something you can really be afraid of (chuckles)... hold still... Ngh! I didn't want to do this, but you leave me with no choice.
  • 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.
  • Kid Time Storytime: In the video reading The Bear Ate Your Sandwich, Eileen/Storyteller actually does have a missing sandwich. In the story itself, the bear is said to have eaten the girl's sandwich, but the dog narrator is acting shifty, implying he ate it, and in the video, Eileen/Storyteller is acting as though the story applies to her, hinting that either the bear or the dog ate her sandwich. However, the two elder Bear brothers (Red Bear and Pink Bear) claim that the story is true but "bear colours have been changed to protect the innocent and possibly the guilty" and were quick to blame the dog, hinting that one or both of them ate it. Abuela Bear apparently knows who ate the sandwich, but she doesn't say.
  • Kyutie: In the video "Excuses for Not Finishing Homework", one of them concerns a boy who claimed he forgot a room in his house due to having had brain surgery, and whose mother and sister backed him up. Ellen notes that it's unclear whether the family was lying or telling the truth.
  • 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.
  • Wormwood Institute: Does Anya really care about the students' well-being? Or was she a trap set up by Wormwood's Principal to weed out those who rebel against the system?
  • Zinnia Jones: Invoked in this episode about how different Christians interpret The Bible differently.

    Western Animation 
  • Amphibia: While King Andrias mentions that his ancestors were proud conquerors and that he plans to continue that legacy, he either didn't have that ambition in the past before his friends' betrayal, or something held him back from performing his conquests. Notably, Newtopia in his story is depicted as thriving with technology and robots, yet there is no sign that Andrias is performing mass conquest, despite him ruling Newtopia for centuries, which would be odd given how he had everything he needed to commit massive conquests for a long time, yet showed no signs of doing so. "The Core & The King" ultimately clarifies that invasions were happening at the time of each king's rule and Andrias was meant to spearhead Earth's invasion per orders from his father, and it was Leif seeing the future consequences of the misuse of the Calamity Box and the conquests that led to her betraying Andrias and unintentionally making him far worse than he already was set to be.
  • Arthur:
    • 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.
    • What happened to D.W.'s snowball is a recurring mystery. It was in the freezer, so probably Mr. or Mrs. Read threw it away while cleaning the freezer, but Buster thinks it was aliens—- and occasionally we see aliens who imply they took it, but both times it was different aliens and they had a different excuse. Francine and D.W. also both accuse Arthur of stealing it, but D.W. is four years old and both like to tease Arthur.
  • 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.
  • Batman Beyond: In "Out Of The Past", it's revealed that Ra's Al Ghul survived his previous battle with Bruce Wayne's Batman by transplanting his consciousness into his daughter Talia's body, but it's unclear as to whether Talia was a willing participant or not.
  • 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 (since Paradox is the type of guy who would do that).
  • Blue Eye Samurai: It is never made clear who actually sold Mizu out to her enemies: her husband (who grows terrified of her due to her insane combat skills and lust for battle), her mother (who is addicted to opium and wasn't her mother anyway if Fowler is to be believed), both, or neither. We will likely never know and it does not really matter, as both are dead as doornails by the conclusion of the episode.
  • 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 (or so he claims) — he even admits Bender's alternate interpretation that he is a satellite that collided with God is also plausible. 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 any 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.
  • Gravity Falls: The last episode has setups for a sequel even though there're 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.
  • Lex Luthor spends most of the last season on Justice League Unlimited seeing Brainiac everywhere after doing a Fusion Dance with him in the penultimate season, but it's unclear if Brainiac really did reside in Luthor's mind now or if Luthor suffered psychological damage from the merger and is just hallucinating him.
  • 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 Gribble 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. Mother Bear hears a laugh, but that could have just been the wind or someone else laughing.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • "Magical Mystery Cure":
      • It's never made clear how Starswirl's incomplete spell worked. It seemed like it gave the Mane Six sans Twilight Fake Memories of their swapped cutie marks and jobs, but Twilight stated it was their "true selves" not memories altered when explaining why she can't cure them with a Memory Spell. But if it instead worked by Retconjuration, that seemingly contradicts how Ponyville only started to fall apart as a result after they swapped as opposed to having retroactively already done so. It's also unclear if or to what extent everyone besides the Mane Six were effected; Spike seemed unaffected but everyone else in town despite being upset at the swapped ponies ineptitude seemingly never noticed what was wrong or questioned why.
      • It's unclear what precisely was the mechanism that turned Twilight into an alicorn. Whether it was a direct result of Starswirl's completed spell, an effect of being in the strange astral plane, or a spell that Celestia cast is never clarified.
    • "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. In "Growing Up is Hard to Do", Scootaloo still has child-sized wings, but even that isn't a definitive statement, since Bulk Biceps can fly despite his child-sized wings.
    • "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.
  • Peg + Cat:
    • In "The Big Gig Problem", Peg feels afraid and has forgotten what twenty-three plus one is. She herself doesn't know whether she forgot the number due to stage fright or "chicken fright", or if she forgot of her own accord and is experiencing "counting fright" as a result.
    • In "The Sushi Problem", some fish that Peg, Cat, and Aki planned to make into sashimi gets stolen. They follow the Pig to the thief, but they never find out whether he intended to lead them to the thief or was just wandering around aimlessly coincidentally in the right direction.
  • 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.
  • Rick and Morty: A whole lot of these appear about Beth Smith and her true character in "The ABC's of Beth". It doesn't help that on both sides of the issue, you have Unreliable Expositors, with Rick tendencies to twist the truth and Beth attempts to protect her pride by lying.
    • Was she as much of a violently deranged child as Rick thinks she was? According to her, she only asked for dangerous weapons in a desperate attempt to get Rick's attention, while Rick believes she had full intention of using them for dangerous acts of violence.
    • Beth vehemently denies pushing Tommy into the honey swamp and leaving him to die in Froopyland, the world her father built for her as a child. As a grown woman, she has no recollection of it, even believing that Froopyland was a figment of her imagination. In her mind, she believes that Tommy got lost and she invented Froopyland to cope with Tommy's death. Tommy swears he was pushed into the swamp — but he is not a trustworthy source, starting and perpetuating a cannibalistic and incestuous cycle to survive and clearly losing his mind afterwards. Rick believes on the spot that Beth did it though, and she denies it through the episode.
    • At the end of the episode, is Beth still the real Beth? As she comes to terms with how similar she is to her father in a bad sense, Rick offers her to create a clone that will care for her children and go to her work and do everything she needs, while Beth herself gets to go to adventures and explore her newfound dark side free of consequences. Rick states that, whichever she chooses, she will finally be happy to have chosen a life for herself. At the end of the episode, she is nice to her kids and chirpy about ordering pizza, but it's not clear and never stated whether that is Beth finally happy and at peace with herself or her clone in a "perfect mom" mode.
      • Even then, there's also the question of if she took the clone, does she intends to come back? Rick said the clone can take over for how long she wants. She can leave forever or come back in a few days, at which point, Rick will simply turn the clone off and she can take her life on earth from there, and even then, it would be possible for her to leave and make another clone at any given time. There's no way to know when Beth is there or isn't.
    • "Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri" reveals that there is another Beth that went to space and became a freedom fighter against the Galactic Federation. Once she sees the Beth on Earth, she goes back to kill her, only for events to have the two befriend each other. Also, it's revealed that Beth in "The ABCs of Beth" gave Rick the choice to clone her as she did not want to make the hard truth. However, it's later revealed that Rick mixed the clone up with the real Beth (intentionally it seems), so even he doesn't know who the real Beth is anymore.
  • The Owl House
    • Is the Collector we see in "Knock Knock Knockin' On Hooty's Door" the same Collector we see later as a shadow and then freed in "King's Tide"? The former is tall and sounds more mature and sadistic, while the latter is more playful and childish and in his physical form looks slightly taller than a toddler. Could the former simply be the distorted perception the Owl Beast had because of its traumatic capture, or was it actually one of the Archivists?
    • The boiling rain that melts Belos into his sludge form appears to be magically or supernaturally induced, but it's unclear if it was caused by Luz, the Titan, or both of them.
  • The Simpsons: In "Bart Sells His Soul", Bart sells his soul to Milhouse in an attempt to prove that souls don't actually exist. Afterwards, things start becoming a bit odd for soulless Bart, such as not laughing at "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoons, not being able to open automatic doors, his pets hissing wildly at him, and not being able to breathe on glass. But it's never firmly established if he really did lose his soul.
  • In the South Park episode “Towelie” near the end Kenny dies when he slips out of Kyle’s hand and falls into a vat of molten lava, it’s not made entirely clear if Kyle lost his grip or intentionally let go of him, seeing as he was far more concerned about the Gamesphere getting broken, completely ignored his death, and was often depicted as a mean, selfish jerk in the earlier seasons, it wouldn’t have been entirely out of character for him to do that.
  • In the Star Trek: Lower Decks episode "Empathalogical Fallicies", the source of the Hate Plague that hits the Cerritos is revealed to be coming from T'Lyn. T'Lyn believes that her symptoms are similar to that of Bendii Syndrome, the "Vulcan Alzheimer's" that Ambassador Sarek was inflicted with so long ago. However, Mariner believes that she's just suffering from a "quarter-life crisis" as T'Lyn was stressed out over being transferred to the Cerritos and wanted to go back to her old ship. The effect goes away once Mariner reassures T'Lyn and the crisis is resolved, but it's never firmly established if she truly is suffering from either suggestion.
  • Star vs. the Forces of Evil: At the end of "The Battle for Mewni" Star Butterfly is trapped inside Ludo's wand fragment and Toffee shatters it with her still inside. Shortly after this happens, Star has a conversation with Glossaryck (who was also recently killed) in an empty black void before rediscovering her magic and popping back into existence. It is hard to tell whether Star died and was talking to Glossaryck from beyond the grave or if she was put in some sort of limbo after the fragment was destroyed. "Deep Dive" reveals that it was actually neither. Star was in a place called "The Realm of Magic" which is apparently where all magic in the universe comes from. Glossaryck's ambiguous status still holds true, though.


Video Example(s):


Fairytale Ending

The episode Fairytale ends with Bandit finally having his curse lifted, by a girl who bares an uncanny resemblance to Chili. While Bandit claims that it was indeed her, Chili refutes his by saying while her family used to go on holiday around that same era, she was no memory of this encounter. It's left up to the viewer to decide who's right.

How well does it match the trope?

4.92 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / AmbiguousSituation

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