14 Biggest Movie Mysteries In Cinema History That Never Get Solved

In most mystery/thriller movies, the final explanation is unfolded before the credits start to roll. However, that's not always the case; in fact, some of the best films of all time have endings that purposefully leave at least one significant loose end hanging.
Although ambiguity in movies can be considered a positive thing because it inspires viewers to actively engage with the tale in order to find solutions and promotes additional conversation, it can also be quite annoying!
After all, curiosity is a fundamental aspect of human nature, and just as we yearn to learn the secret to a magic trick, we are compelled to discover the conclusive answers to these cinematic questions.
When it comes to mystery films, the huge payoff when there is a big reveal at the end of the movie is just as important as the adventure itself. Without a climax, cinematic twists and turns of a movie can either leave an audience dissatisfied or enable them to make exciting theories and discussions. Here are 14 unsolved movie mysteries that leave you hanging and desperate for the ultimate reveal.

#1 Who Abducted John's Son In 'Minority Report'

Source: 20th Century Fox

Steven Spielberg's Minority Report, which is based on a short tale by Philip K. Dick, addresses the well-known sci-fi themes of free will and the ethical ramifications of advanced technology. The Precrime Unit, a division of law enforcement that makes use of media to foresee potential crimes and so prevent them, was established by the US government in 2054. After his little son Sean vanished, John Anderton (Tom Cruise), the program's director, joined the police. Anderton is convinced that the crime would not have taken place if Precrime had been around when the boy was kidnapped. He firmly believes in the strategy... until the squad learns that he will kill a stranger named Leo Crow himself within a few days. Anderton learns that Crow might be to blame for Sean's disappearance as he scrambles to establish his innocence. Even though Crow admits to the crime and has plenty of evidence to support it, Anderton recognizes it's a setup and refuses to execute Crow, defying the Precrime prediction. He never learns what happened to his son in the end.
Anderton embarks on a protracted path of grief and acceptance as a result of the mystery surrounding Sean's abduction. At first, Anderton holds unwaveringly to the notion that Precrime can shield other parents from suffering the same horrors. However, when he is set up to kill Crow, the notion that mediums can accurately foretell the future is called into question. Anderton is motivated by this uncertainty to investigate the murkiness at the heart of crime and the fatal secrets kept by its creator (Max Von Sydow). By doing this, he can accept the heartbreaking reality that not all crimes can be understood, much less foreseen, and that he will never know what happened to his kid.

#2 The Murderer In 'Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri'

Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Frances McDormand, an Oscar winner, plays Mildred in Martin McDonagh's 2017 tragicomedy Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Mildred is a bereaved mother seeking retribution for the rape and murder of her teenage daughter. When Mildred discovers that seven months have passed and there are still no suspects, she places the blame on the neighborhood police force and hires three billboards to be painted with a challenge to the chief of police (Woody Harrelson). How come, Chief Willoughby?, "Raped While Dying," "And Still No Arrests," etc. Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell), a virulently racist police officer who is devoted to the chief, is furious about this. The story shifts from being about a murder mystery to about the moral ambiguity of retaliation and the destructive nature of anger as Mildred's actions become more destructive and Willoughby is revealed to be a diligent officer dying of cancer. His callous response initially seems to support Mildred's belief that the authorities have failed due to negligence.
In the end, Dixon makes an effort to keep Mildred from harming herself. He assists in obtaining the DNA evidence necessary to establish the suspect's guilt after overhearing a stranger confess to the rape and murder of a teenager. Even though it turns out that the man is not guilty of the crime, Mildred is still set on killing him. She and Dixon have loaded a rifle into the back of her station wagon and are on the road in search of him towards the conclusion of the film. Mildred has given up on the idea of catching the person who killed her daughter, but she is still committed to getting even. The conclusion is unclear. Mildred and Dixon acknowledge having reservations about the assignment just before the credits start to roll, but the audience is never informed of their decision to carry out the murder. The film depicts a vengeance story without a specific victim, exposing the moral ambiguity of making heroes out of people who use violence to express their sadness.

#3 The Identity Of The Killer In 'The Pledge'

Source: Warner Bros.

The Pledge, Sean Penn's third film as a director, is structured in the manner of a traditional "find the killer" story along the lines of The Fugitive or Mystic River. However, there is no showdown between the detective and the murderer. Instead, the spectator is left with the heartbreaking realization that the protagonist will never locate the man he's looking for—or understand why. The narrative centers on Jerry Black (Jack Nicholson), a police detective who is about to retire but is persuaded to return to work by the mother of a murdered child. Black commits himself to the investigation and becomes consumed by it, refusing to accept his colleagues' quick fixes and shoddy detective work. Black is certain the offender is still alive despite the case being resolved. He puts up his girlfriend's child as bait after learning that a man known to his young targets as "the wizard" had done similar crimes. The magician is murdered in a vehicle accident en route to the prearranged meeting, though. Black is oblivious to this turn of events and believes the murderer has once more evaded capture. The former detective is shown in the final scene sitting outside by himself, intoxicated and murmuring to himself.
Rarely, like in The Pledge, do the characters not know the truth but the spectator does. Black will never be aware that the bad person is no longer alive. He will undoubtedly believe that the man is still out there committing terrible crimes for the rest of his life. This not only adds a tragic depth to an already painful story but also injects some realism. Even in the world of focused detective novels, natural forces are constantly at work. Black is a man whose obsession is so strong that he would never consider that something as unimportant as a vehicle accident may end the mystery. Black is doomed to be tormented by his preoccupation until it consumes him in the film since he is never given information about the killer's fate, making him oblivious that the case has already been solved.

#4 What Happened To Percy Fawcett In 'The Lost City of Z'

Source: Amazon Studios

The tragic Amazonian explorations of the real-life British explorer Percy Fawcett are chronicled in The Lost City of Z. Fawcett spent several years searching for the lost civilization he believed to exist somewhere in the Brazilian bush. He and his oldest son, Jack, vanished in 1925. Numerous rescuers were dispatched to look for them, but despite numerous ideas and claims, no one has ever found their bodies or any indication of what happened to them. Some think they were killed, while others think they joined one of the native tribes. Nina Fawcett, Fawcett's wife, thought they had discovered the fabled city.
James Gray, the film's writer and director, made the decision to embrace the story's inherent ambiguity. He utilizes the conclusion to commemorate Fawcett and Nina's commitment to pursuing the unknown rather than providing a definitive solution to the riddle. In the version of the disappearance depicted in the film, Indians capture Percy (Charlie Hunnam) and Jack (Tom Holland). The Indians decided to "find a place for his spirit" after determining that Fawcett is neither a member of the tribe nor a part of the outside world. The men are drugged and carried on their shoulders through the pitch-blackness in the direction of a sea of glistening lights. A massive plume of smoke can be seen off in the distance, suggesting a sizable settlement. In a flashback that cuts between one event and another, Nina implores Fawcett to remember the poet Robert Browning's famous words, "A man's reach should transcend his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" Several decades after her abduction, Nina is seen leaving the conservative Royal Geographic Society in London in the film's last frame. She seems to step right into the lush Amazon in the hallway mirror's reflection. The movie honors the spirit of Fawcett's adventurousness and Nina's yearning to join him by asserting its version of events as fantasy rather than history by presenting such a surreal final image.

#5 What Happened To The Girls In 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'

Source: Atlantic Releasing Corporation

The Robin Williams movie Dead Poets Society or Harrison Ford's nuanced action-hero performance in Witness are arguably what Australian filmmaker Peter Weir is most recognized for among international audiences. However, before making it big in Hollywood, Weir was a trailblazing figure in the Australian New Wave, producing lyrical and enigmatic films that contributed to bringing the creative sensibilities of the continent to a wider audience. The leisurely 1975 mystery Picnic at Hanging Rock, based on the book by Joan Lindsay, follows an all-girls school's St. Valentine's Day picnic that results in the disappearance of six students and a chaperone. One student returns a week later, but he or she has no memory of what happened. Despite the fact that this mystery permeates the majority of the movie, it serves more as a mood piece than as a setup for a third-act revelation.
Picnic at Hanging Rock is probably a frustrating movie to watch for anyone who likes simple mysteries. Even while the headmistress of the students says there must be a plausible explanation, its emphasis on gauzy images and cryptic reflections on the natural world offer no opportunity for a rational deduction. Since the mystery has never been solved, there are many possible explanations, including the likelihood that nothing happened or that a supernatural force is responsible for everything. Some see the film as a metaphor for the alienation that white European settlers of Australia feel toward the strange, foreign land they live in. Weir was enthralled by the concept of what it meant to vanish, to "be neither alive nor dead." He says that certain riddles are not meant to be answered.

#6 The Whole Truth About The Slain Samurai In 'Rashomon'

Source: RKO Radio Pictures

Rashomon, a 1950 psychological thriller by Akira Kurosawa, was the first instance of a credible flashback in a movie. The story revolves around the rape of a young bride by a bandit and the subsequent killing of her samurai husband. It is based on the testimony of four conflicting witnesses. The story of the samurai's demise is told in turn by the bandit (Toshirô Mifune), the wife (Machiko Kyô), the samurai (Masayuki Mori), and a woodcutter who found the body (Takashi Shimura). The bandit recalls winning a fair duel with him with pride. The bride sobs as she remembers pleading with her husband to murder her, passing out in agony and shame, and waking up to discover him dead by an unidentified hand. Speaking via a medium, the warrior asserts that he committed suicide as a sign of respect for himself. The woodcutter recalls the bandit and samurai artlessly tussling till the robber stabbed the terrified samurai. The bride had provoked the men into fighting. The woodcutter's account should be the most reliable because he was a presumably objective witness, but when it is later discovered that he lied about a crucial aspect (the existence of a dagger), his account is also called into question.
Before the movie's filming started, Kurosawa's three assistant directors contacted him, upset by the script's ambiguity and curious as to who had conveyed the truth about the samurai's dying. If they thoroughly read it, they would understand, Kurosawa retorted. He was saying that the character traits that the many stories of the events convey about each participant, not who killed the samurai, were the key to solving the mystery. A more exact truth is shown by the four eyewitness accounts of the incident than by a mere retelling of the events.

#7 The Identity Of The Zodiac Killer In 'Zodiac'

Source: Paramount Pictures

While there are moral difficulties when adapting true crime stories, David Fincher's 2007 mystery Zodiac avoids them by concentrating on the search for an unnamed serial killer rather than the victims. The self-described Zodiac Killer killed at least five people in Northern California in the late 1960s while taunting police and the media with coded messages. The film chronicles the haphazard investigation undertaken by cartoonist Robert Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) of the San Francisco Chronicle, who spent 13 years trying to identify the murderer. Due to his fixation with the case, Graysmith loses his job, his spouse, and nearly his sanity, but DNA evidence ultimately clears the man he singles out as a strong suspect.
In large part in response to the Clint Eastwood film, Dirty Harry, which is also based on the case, Fincher was keen to make Zodiac historically correct. Fincher believed that the Zodiac Perpetrator's simplicity and dread were oversimplified in Eastwood's film, undermining the efforts of the real-life investigators who worked on the unsolved case. Fincher was "[a]ppalled" by how simply the killer is identified in the film. Zodiac isn't a tight whodunit; instead, it focuses on Graysmith's growing fixation with the unanswered question and the lingering impact of one of the most notorious serial killers in American history.

#8 The Actual Biological Father In 'Mamma Mia!'

Source: Universal Pictures

Which of the three men Donna slept with over three weeks 20 years ago is Sophie's dad? is the most pressing of all the movie mysteries, according to Mamma Mia! The ideal moment for Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) to respond to this query is just before her wedding on a Greek island since she needs a bridesmaid. She thinks there is no need for paternity tests since she is confident in her intuitive abilities and will recognize her father when she sees him. Sophie is unaware of the differences between the personalities of Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Stellan Skarsgard until she ultimately spends time with each of them. However, it is actually a blessing in disguise.
Sophie believes she needs her father to convince her to walk down the aisle, but while looking for him, she discovers issues with her mother that needs to be worked out. Sophie gains four new parents, not one: In addition to finding loving father figures in the three men, she rekindles her relationship with her mother, who finally receives the distinction of leading her daughter down the aisle. In the end, they all agree that a paternity test would be detrimental rather than helpful. All three guys can be equally loving and valuable in Sophie's life as long as the question is left unanswered. Mamma Mia! evolves into a mother/daughter love story that considers the broader definition of family from what appears to be a basic rom-com with a predictable ending.

#9 Anna's Disappearance In 'L’avventura'

Source: Janus Films

Unsolved disappearances frequently haunt the people who are left behind. The only character that appears to be haunted in L'Avventura, a 1960 mystery/romance directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, is the one who vanishes. Anna (Lea Massari) is unsure about her goals. She ultimately says that she wants to be on her own for a bit since she is desperate for Sandro (Gabriele Ferzetti), her carelessly absent boyfriend, to love her. They are on a multi-day yachting excursion with pals when she makes this statement, and they are on an island in the Mediterranean. After their chat, Anna vanishes. Her closest friend, Claudia (Monica Vitti), notices her absence first and immediately starts a frantic hunt. There are no solutions despite searching for days. Nobody thinks Anna fell into the water or lost her balance, and there's a rumor that they heard a boat engine just before they realized she was gone. The rest of the novel chronicles Sandro and Claudia's developing romance while they make waning attempts to find the missing woman. By the film's conclusion, Claudia, who had previously been the only person who appeared genuinely upset by her friend's departure, admits that she is scared that Anna may show up again and take Sandro from her. She quickly learns that Sandro is already involved in a relationship with another person.
Anna's disappearance is used by L'Avventura to highlight the disregard for those who are left behind. It's a very beautiful exposé of self-involvement. The protagonists' lovely features and their opulent surroundings contrast sharply with the nothingness at the center of their universe. The attention shift, which obscures the mystery surrounding Anna's mysterious absence in favor of the drama between Sandro and Claudia, is as detrimental to the audience as it is to the characters. As the film goes on, Anna's dissatisfaction with her privileged life is increasingly comprehensible. She came out as spoiled and disrespectful at first. By the time the story is over, she seems to be the only one still aware of the self-inflicted suffering they are all experiencing.

#10 Who Wrote Don The Letter In 'Broken Flowers'

Source: Focus Features

Broken Flowers, a 2005 film by Jim Jarmusch, opens with a puzzle. An anonymous pink paper letter informs aging philanderer Don Johnston (Bill Murray) that his son, who is 19 years old, may be looking for him. The unmoved Don is persuaded to visit the four ladies (a fifth has passed away) who might be the mother of his neighbor Winston (Jeffrey Wright), despite his lack of reaction to this information. His adventure immerses him in a wide variety of life experiences. Dora (Frances Conroy) and her real estate agent husband reside in a suburban model home. Sharon Stone's character Laura and her barely clad daughter Lolita reside in a dilapidated area. Animal psychologist Carmen (Jessica Lange) has a wealthy clientele.  Additionally, Penny (Tilda Swinton) shares a trailer with two aggressive bikers who are around 20 years her junior. When Don gets home, he has no idea who his son is. He complains that his trip was "a farce" and a waste of time when he recounts it to Winston.
But it's obvious that this isn't the case. An unpleasant encounter between Don and a teenage hitchhiker exposes how devoted he is to be a father and gives Don optimism that he has at last met his son. At the end of the film, Don stands by himself in the middle of the street, starting over. But as opposed to the emotionlessness he displayed at first, the look on his face is more indicative of remorse and regret. Don hasn't found the answer to the riddle of the anonymous letter, but in trying to learn the truth, he's changed from being uncaring to having a sense of longing.

#11 The Identity Of The Killer In 'Memories of Murder'

Source: Palm Pictures

Memories of Murder, a 2003 thriller by Bong Joon-ho, is based on the true account of a string of murders that terrorized a South Korean small town from 1986 to 1991. It chronicles the clumsy but tenacious efforts of two police officers to find the murderer. Song Kang-character, ho's local cop Park Doo-man, is ill-prepared to handle the situation. Everyone involved is unprepared for the series of nearly identical deaths that occur after the initial crime scene is handled carelessly, evidence is destroyed, and the crime scene is treated carelessly. Park is certain he will recognize the murderer simply by looking him in the eyes, but he is unable to come up with a solid suspect. Seo Tae-yoon (Kim Sang-kyung), a city investigator who is more accustomed to violent crime, eventually joins him. Seo Tae-yoon is similarly hampered by the South Korean autocratic government's antiquated structure and technology. Despite disagreements between the police, the inquiry reveals clues, including the fact that all the victims are female, wearing red, and that the same song is played over the local radio station just before each murder. Although the detectives have plenty of clues to pursue, the killer is never caught, as any audience member who was aware of the true story at the time would have realized.
The film's concluding shot adds bold, unexpected punctuation to the ambiguous conclusion. Over ten years after failing to solve the case, Park, who is now a salesman, goes back to the unassuming scene of the first incident in 2003. A young girl approaches and remarks that another man had just left while remembering something he had done there decades earlier. In order to look straight into the audience and break the fourth wall, Park turns his head toward the camera. He is still looking for the precise moment of eye contact that, in his opinion, will reveal the offender. The fact that the genuine serial killer was found in 2019 does little to lessen the impact of this ultimate blow. Memories of Murder emphasizes the immediacy and proximity of the past by focusing on how the two cops' failed inquiry haunts them. Some wounds never heal, even if they just exist in memory, whether they are the result of a cold case or an authoritarian administration.

#12 The Goy's Teeth In 'A Serious Man'

Source: Focus Features

Michael Stuhlbarg's character, Larry Gopnik, a physics professor, is having issues. His brother has a gambling problem, his kids are out of control, one of his students is attempting to blackmail him, and his wife is leaving him for an excruciatingly kind man. He seeks the advice of numerous rabbis in an attempt to find some spiritual significance behind all of this bad luck. The first instructs him to approach situations differently, as though he were an extraterrestrial first observing a parking lot. He is told the tale of the goy's teeth by the second (George Wyner). The local dentist reportedly found Hebrew characters etched into a non-Jewish patient's lower incisors that read, "Help me, save me," according to the rabbi. He searched the mouths of the other patients but came up empty. When he converted the letters into digits, he realized it was a supermarket's phone number. To finally find out what it all meant, he went to the rabbi. The dentist eventually gave up on it because the rabbi was unable to provide any solutions.
This story looks to be another case of Larry receiving poor spiritual counsel. However, in actuality, it serves as an example of the philosophical premise of the entire film. The Torah's teaching to "Receive with simplicity all that happens to you" serves as the movie's epigraph. Physics professor Larry explains the Uncertainty Principle, a formula that demonstrates that "we can't really actually know what's going on," as the mathematical counterpart of this adage. But as the misfortune mounts, Larry becomes more and more adamant that there is no meaning to his suffering. The goy's teeth tale serves as an example of how certain mysteries—even those that must have an answer—cannot be resolved and how contentment comes from embracing the state of unresolvedness. The Uncertainty Principle and the value of giving up curiosity in favor of acceptance are both reinforced just when Larry seems to have finally assimilated this lesson.

#13 Who Was Sending The Video Tapes In 'Caché'

Source: Sony Pictures Classics

Michael Haneke, an Austrian filmmaker, excels at frightening audiences by transforming familiar environments into sinister ones. A wealthy Parisian family named Georges and Anne (Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche) reside in Caché, the French word for "hidden," where they have a son named Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). When they receive an unidentified VHS video containing surveillance footage of their home, their lives are upended. At first, dismissing it as a funny joke, they get concerned when a second video shows up, this time with a cartoon illustration of someone spitting blood. Georges starts to have suspicions about Majid, an Algerian man who grew up with his family. Georges lied to his parents after Majid's parents perished in the notorious 1961 Paris police massacre of French Algerians so that they would send the 6-year-old orphan away rather than adopt him.
The recordings expose Georges' shame and secrecy that he has endured since lying about Majid. His growing paranoia and attempts to reveal the man end up acting more like retaliation than like repentance, which causes yet another disaster. Even though the identity of the person who made the tapes remains unknown by the film's conclusion, Georges is unable to continue to live happily in his middle-class bubble. A meeting between Pierrot and Majid's son is depicted in the film's closing frame, which some viewers have deduced to be the solution to the puzzle. Haneke contends that anyone who questions who sent the tapes after watching the film has missed the point, though. He maintains that "how we treat our conscience and our remorse and reconcile ourselves to living with our deeds" is the essential challenge. By keeping the sender of the tapes a secret, the film keeps Georges in a constant state of anxiety and upholds his position as the only character with unmet responsibility for his actions.

#14 The Identity Of The Killer In 'Black Christmas'

Source: Warner Bros.

Bob Clark's 1974 slasher film Black Christmas, which came out before more well-known masterpieces like John Carpenter's Halloween and Wes Craven's Scream, was the first in a new wave of horror films featuring adolescent females being stalked by psychopaths. The plot centers on a group of sorority sisters who are brutally murdered by a masked killer who has moved into their attic just before Christmas break. He murders one girl using a unicorn Christmas ornament, while a chorus of carolers on the door drowns out the horrifying death of another. He calls the remaining ladies in an obscenity-filled, deranged manner after each murder. When the police finally become involved, they begin to suspect Peter (Keir Dullea), Jess's (Olivia Hussey) boyfriend. They believe the investigation is over until they discover Peter's bloody body in the basement with Jess wailing next to him. Jess is given a sedative, put to bed, and then left alone in the house. The killer's voice can be heard in the final image as the attic door opens and the phone begins to ring.
The horror genre is filled with murderers whose physical appearances are as horrifying as their horrible actions, from Leatherface to Pennywise the Clown. However, by keeping the murderer a secret in Black Christmas, Clark not only permits the threat posed by the character to persist unabatedly but also forces every viewer to put their anxieties onto him. The slasher can assume an infinite variety of terrible forms because they never have a face or a backstory, making them potentially even more terrifying than Freddy Krueger or Michael Myers.
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