18 Film Mysteries That Baffle Audiences to This Day

Rob Leung

Movies often play tricks on us, leaving us hanging with questions that burn long after the screen goes dark. It’s like filmmakers toss out these mysteries, sparking endless debates and fan theories but rarely giving us the answers we crave. Here are 18 cinematic puzzles that still have us guessing and grasping for answers.

American Psycho (2000)

Photo Credit: Lionsgate Films

In American Psycho, the line between reality and the deranged fantasies of its protagonist blurs, leaving us questioning the authenticity of his violent escapades. Was it all in his head, or was Patrick Bateman really the monster he seemed to be?

V for Vendetta (2005)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros

The 2005 film V for Vendetta revolves around the enigmatic character of “V,” a freedom fighter/ terrorist who triggers an uprising against a fictional fascist government in the U.K. V’s true identity remains concealed throughout the movie, leading to various theories from fans.

The Entity (1982)

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

The Entity tells the tale of Carla Moran, a woman who is repeatedly raped and assaulted by a mysterious demon. What’s interesting about this film is that it is supposedly based on a true story. However, just like the real woman the character is based on, we never get to the root of what was truly happening to Carla and how.

Demolition Man (1993)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros

One fascinating sci-fi technology incorporated into Demolition Man is the three seashells that have replaced toilet paper in the movie’s conception of the future. The film doesn’t share any further details of this technology, and it remains a mystery how these seashells are supposed to work.

Blade Runner (1982)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros

A primary premise of Blade Runner is the existence of synthetic humans known as replicants. The film’s protagonist, Deckard, is a former cop who has to track down some rogue replicants. However, we are not quite sure whether Deckard is a replicant himself. Director Ridley Scott says he is one, but Harrison Ford has stated that he’s human.

Inception (2010)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros

Inception follows Cobb, a dream infiltrator who’s able to tell dreams from reality by checking for the perpetual spin of a totem top (which won’t occur in the real world). However, as Cobb reunites with his children at the end of the movie, the camera pans to his top, which is still spinning on the table, leaving viewers wondering if Cobb is still dreaming.

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Photo Credit: Miramax

In Quentin Tarantino’s 1994 crime film Pulp Fiction, two hit men are tasked with retrieving a briefcase for their gangster boss. While we witness a bunch of fighting and killing over this briefcase, we never get to see its contents, with the only hint of what’s inside being the golden glow that appears whenever the briefcase is opened.

Cast Away (2000)

Photo Credit: DreamWorks Pictures & 20th Century Studios

Cast Away is about a FedEx employee, Chuck, who finds himself on a deserted island after a plane crash and must rely on items in the packages he was transporting to survive. However, he leaves one box untouched and eventually delivers it at the end of the film. It’s hard to judge Chuck’s motivations, as what was inside the box remains a mystery.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros

One of the most intriguing parts of The Dark Knight for me is how the Joker tells conflicting stories about how he got his scars. First, he tells Gambol that he got them from his abusive father, and then he tells Rachel that he did it to himself. For all we know, both stories may have been made up by the enigmatic character.

The Shining (1980)

Photo Credit: Warner Bros

The Shining is a horror film about a hotel caretaker, Jack Torrance, who slowly loses his mind. While the movie ends with Jack freezing to death, we see a picture of Jack in the hotel hallway from 1921. This photo has been given various interpretations, with one theory being that Jack is a reincarnation of someone from the hotel’s past.

Lost in Translation (2003)

Photo Credit: Focus Features

After their affair in Tokyo, Bob and Charlotte must part ways and return to their spouses. However, just as Bob kisses Charlotte goodbye, he whispers something to her, but director Sofia Coppola opts to make what is said inaudible, leaving audiences to rely on their imagination.

Children of Men (2006)

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures

The biggest mystery in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is the premise of its entire plot. The film is set in a dystopian future where the human species faces extinction due to 20 years of infertility. What led to such mass infertility? Children of Men doesn’t exactly tell us.

Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004)

Photo Credit: Miramax Films

In Kill Bill: Volume 2, Budd leaves the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad and turns his back on his brother, Bill. However, while we understand that this drastic decision was due to some falling out between the brothers, the film conveniently leaves out the source of the conflict.

Barton Fink (1991)

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

In Barton Fink’s final scene, the titular character sits on a beach with a box beside him. When he is asked about the contents of the box, Fink responds by saying he doesn’t know. Many fans have theorized that the mysterious box likely contained a severed head, which seems plausible considering it was handed to Fink by a serial killer.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Photo Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The monoliths in 2001: A Space Odyssey are a major plot device. Supposedly created by an unknown alien species, these monoliths seem to have catalyzed human evolution in the movie. However, the mystery of these strange items is left mostly unraveled, and we never find out anything concrete about the alien civilization responsible for them.

Zodiac (2007)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Zodiac’s ending really leaves a bad taste. The film, which is based on true-life events, follows a serial killer who terrorized Northern California in the ‘60s. However, just like the real-life killer he was based on, the Zodiac killer’s identity never comes to light, and he’s never brought to justice.

Planet Terror (2007)

Photo Credit: Dimension Films

Director Robert Rodriguez decided to insert a ‘missing reel’ in Planet Terror, simulating the experience of seeing a film in a ‘70s grindhouse theater. However, as the film resumes after the missing reel, we discover that major plot points have been skipped, leaving viewers to fill in the gaps themselves.

The Road (2009)

Photo Credit: 2929 Productions

Like many of the movies on this list, The Road doesn’t explain some of the critical parts of its world-building. While we see that The Road’s earth has been devastated by a catastrophic event, the exact nature of the disaster remains elusive throughout the film.