The 10 Most Shocking Endings and WTF-Cliffhangers in Film and Literature

Inspired by Sherlock’s “unhappy ending” in the last episode of season 2, I decided to collect the most shocking endings in film, literature, and Television. Endings which left us astonished, in awe, and downright confused.

1. Atonement by Ian McEwan

When I was finished reading that novel, I simply had to read it again because the ending changes everything that you have believed in and let’s you see the world of the Tallis sisters with other eyes. This is a happily ever after gone bad.

2. Fight Club

Sigmund Freud would enjoy himself gloriously watching that movie. You can picture him lying on couch, giggling with amusement because he would understand what’s going on here. The unconscious strikes back!

3. The Grey’s Anatomy Season Finales

Is there anything in the world that you can trust more thoroughly than the creative genius of series creator Shonda Rhimes when it comes to scripting a finale? Every year, Grey’s Anatomy blows my mind and it leads its characters into situations which suddenly leave them hanging in the air not knowing where to go. The only catastrophe that has not (yet) taken place is probably dinosaurs taking over Seattle.

4. The Sixth Sense

No need to talk about that. You all know the ending, don’t you?

5. Se7en

When this movie starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman hit the cinemas, it was not yet known who the villain would be. So imagine sitting in a cinema and expecting to watch a Brad Pitt-flick and then there is… No, I’m not gonna tell who plays the villain just let me add that I met him personally, twice.

Plus, the overall plot of the movie is just genius, I think. “What is in the booooox?”

6. Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days

You knew they were gonna make it, but then they didn’t and you thought “Oh, no!”? Well a nice twist in the end can turn losers into heroes!

7. The Life of David Gale

Maybe for some of you, the ending was not a surprise but I clearly couldn’t get my head around it. It was surprising, smart, and moving… Plus: The movie offers a sequence of Kevin Spacey explaining Lacanian psychoanalysis. This does render it a must-see!

8. Shutter Island

I mean… let’s admit it. Was any of us really sure what had happened on that island? Really, really sure? If so… would you please explain it to me??

9. The Prestige

This movie is about the competition between two magicians. Just when you thought that the one of them now finally triumphed over the other you have a look at your watch and see that the movie goes on for one more hour. Then the game begins. You are never quite sure when this movie will end because you constantly think “Now, that’s it! He won.” and then the other magician comes back with a vengeance. Great popcorn cinema.

10. Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber

Angela Carter is a feminist writer who re-writes fairytales. Her stories are so uncanny and twisted that somehow you anticipate the outcome but somehow you are still a bit shocked in the end.

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And my special prize goes to….

John Rambo

The ending of John Rambo is surprising because after having watched it, you will wonder how you could actually watch the whole movie. This movie earns the pole position on my “Why the hell did I watch that?”-list.

And yes, I do own this movie on DVD but just to force others to watch it, too.

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I know that there are a lot more twisted movies for me to see and this page list the 50 Best and Worst Twist Endings in Movies. Some of which I like are rated fairly low by them but I stick to my list. I like a good twist in a story and could babble on for ages about the genius of Atonement. What are your WTF-moments in TV, film or literature?

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Sherlock – How I Think He Did It

In Germany the last episode of the UK series Sherlock has just been broadcast and I there are so many wild thoughts on my mind that I can’t possibly go to bed now but need to share them with you.

Attention: If you have not watched Sherlock “The Reichenbach Fall” then please do not read on! No really: Don’t!

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Ok, so Sherlock jumped off the roof, except that I don’t think it was Sherlock and most of you won’t either. It can’t have been Sherlock because he’s alive.

So, here’s what I think happened:

Sherlock definitely asked Molly for help and Sherlock was the one who proposed the rooftop of the hospital as a meeting point to his nemesis Moriarty. My theory is that Molly has been there all along. It might even be that the text message shown (“I’m waiting. JM”) was from Molly? M would fit, what’s her surname? (Ok…. I know, it’s rather awkward to put the initials in the reverse order, but hey! Allow me some creative freedom!)

I think Sherlock was prepared all along, too. In the German translation, Moriarty says “Ich schulde Ihnen einen Fall.” (“I owe you a fall.”) Is this just a happy coincidence in translation or an intended pun? Maybe some of you could help me by telling me what the English original is saying? So, according to the German translation, Sherlock might have anticipated his fall.

Now, when Moriarty shot himself Sherlock could quickly sprint down the stairs and… get on a bicycle! On the rooftop, Molly dresses dead Moriarty in Sherlock’s signature coat and Sherlock (already on the streets) places Watson in a position where he cannot really see the person on the roof. Molly pushes Moriarty off the roof, Sherlock (on the bicycle) knocks over Watson and rushes to Moriarty on the pavement. If Molly and Sherlock are really, really quick and have a car ready, they could get rid of Moriarty’s body, Sherlock can lay down on the pavement and as soon as Watson is conscious again, he catches a quick glance at Sherlock which is enough to convince him that he is actually dead.

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These are only my initial thoughts and there is a great chance that I will wake up tomorrow and feel really ashamed for this post because it just doesn’t add up. I myself can see a lot of problems with this thesis but some of it’s aspects might maybe turn out to be true.

This is nothing more than my humble attempt at understanding the genius mind of Sherlock Holmes.

You Can Find Me At Downton Abbey

I am not a big fan of costume dramas. It took me ages to watch all the parts of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice. This is why I was hesitating when everyone in England was talking about the latest episodes of a show called Downton Abbey. 

Yet, with a long weekend to come I decided to take the DVD home with me from university and to have a look at what all this fuzz is about… Well, what can I say except for: Can I please rent a room at Downton Abbey!?

I. Am. Addicted!

This weekend I watched each episode of the first two seasons: I was laughing, I was nervously biting my nails, and I was crying… crying a lot.

Downton Abbey is the country estate of the Earl of Grantham (played by Hugh Bonneville whom some of you might remember as Bernie from Notting Hill), his wife and his three daughters. The first episode is set in 1912 and begins with the sinking of the Titanic and thus the death of the heir of Downton Abbey, the Earl of Grantham’s nephew. This changes the whole family and it is soon revealed that a lawyer from Manchester will be the next heir of Downton. A middle-class lawyer, who is received by the aristocratic and slightly snobbish family with a good portion of skepticism. However, they soon learn that the new heir is not a nasty upstart, but a very lovable, good-natured young man and wait for the eldest daughter, Mary, to fall in love with him. This is the beginning of an epic love story between Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley, future heir of Downton Abbey.

What gives the show its twist is that – unlike in all the Austen movies and typical heritage films – you also get a closer look at the servants who inhabit the attics and cellars of Downton Abbey. Some of them are loyal, some of them recognize that aristocracy is an outdated model and rebel against their status in society. By means of eavesdropping, open doors, and gossip, the problems of the aristocracy and the servants are caught up with each other and the perfect surrounding for intrigues and love stories is created.

In the beginning, I told you that I do not like costume drama. What I find upsetting and also problematic about it is that all the Austen adaptations etc. advertise an image of the English past that has never actually existed. There is no war, no working class, and in the end all the couples are neatly brought together according to their social status. Yet, while Austen’s novel do criticize this with a certain amount of irony and thus create awareness for the injustices in society, the film adaptations often gloss over Austen’s irony by foregrounding the (commercially attractive) love story and thus exploit the audience’s nostalgia.

Downton Abbey does not do this! The plots in Downton Abbey are so absurd that you do not conceive of it as an honest image of the past. While the writers include historical events like the sinking of the Titanic or WW-I, the stories are exaggerated and you can hardly belief what the characters are forced to endure in only one lifetime. Downton Abbey entails a huge cast and what is so exciting is that the characters all have their good and bad traits. Of course, you can tell apart the good guys from the villains but you are invited to feel for each of them. They all get their ups and downs in this Regency roller coaster.

The series is very fast paced and there are huge time jumps which allows the audience to experience a time of groundbreaking changes and alterations in society. While the aristocracy is not amused about all the footmen being sent to war (I mean… You cannot have maids in the dining rooms, so who is serving you food??), the servants are slowly realizing that there might be other paths in life for them and that war – if only for a short time – dissolves social boundaries. And while some members of the Earl of Grantham’s family also feel the change and the need to change, you will always get a snappy comment from his mother (gloriously played by Maggie Smith), who considers the telephone an invention of the devil and thinks that electric light will be a trend that won’t survive for long.

This mixture of (melo)drama and an ironic and simultaneously nostalgic glance at the “glorious” past makes Downton Abbey my new favourite TV show.

The Casaubon Factor

In George Eliot’s novel Middlemarch, female protagonist Dorothea Brooke marries Mr. Casaubon. The twist is that this Casaubon is far from being your typical darcyesk, attractive hero but an elderly man who is feverishly pursuing his scholarly ambitions. The other characters cannot understand Dorothea, who rejected another young gentleman’s proposal in order to be with Casaubon. I can understand her a bit and I would define his attraction as follows:

Casaubon Factor: The uncanny sexappeal of intellect.

I think that the Casaubon factor is currently very in fashion and you can see it everywhere. Just have a look at my favourite example: Mr. Sherlock Holmes, a. k. a. Benedict Cumberbatch. I’d argue that with Cumberbatch it is less his actual physical appearance but rather his snobbish, self-sufficient, self-confident, intellectual attractiveness that enters the dreams of the masses of fangirls out there. Holmes is sexy. His incorporation of the sophistication of the British gentleman and his ability to solve riddles and always to be a step ahead of everyone else function as a stimulative cocktail.

The same is true for German Tatort forensic pathologist, K. F. Boerne, played by Jan-Joseph Liefers. He is not George Clooney or Brad Pitt, but still he has this attractive aura that keeps me wanting more of him.

I would even go so far as to argue that The Big Bang Theory’s No. 1 nerd, Dr. Sheldon Cooper, is also a member of the Casaubon society. We like Sheldon and we are fascinated by Sheldon. We acknowledge his strangeness and his hyper-intelligence but that might be exactly what is so uncannily sexy… in a nerdy way.

Maybe this new breed of man is on its way to rid us of our dreams of manly Marlboro cowboys, shirtless Diet-Coke-men, and footballers in tight pants. We want men, who are mysterious, smart, and hard to get. All of my three examples are men who hide their emotions: Sherlock considers feelings a weakness, Boerne has no problem dissecting the corpse of a former lover, and Sheldon is completely asexual. Yet, we want them!

But, girls, here’s a thought: Maybe we can have all of them. Maybe monogamy is out-dated (wow… I feel a little bit Carrie Bradshawish typing that). Last week I talked to a friend who has been happily married for two and a half years… but not living monogamously. She allowed me to share the following anecdote with you but out of respect (and because I’m a bit afraid of her Judo-abilities) I will use the pseudonyms Mrs. Poppins and Mr. Mayonnaise. The two are sharing a small one-room-flat and last week Mr. Mayonnaise brought a girl home. Mrs. Poppins was home as well and – as a good wife – she respectfully climbed onto the upper mattress of their bunk bed and allowed Mr. Mayonnaise and the girl to get it on on the lower one. When I asked her whether the girl knew she was there, she replied something like that: “Duh… ‘Course I said hello. I’m not rude!”

If this is a trend, and if monogamy really goes out of style, then I want to officially call dibs on Jude Law (for the sexiness), José Mourinho (for the snobbish intelligence), and Chandler Bing (for the laughs)…. I know that the latter is fictional, but – come on! Let a girl dream!

Episodes – How You Smellin’?

Sorry for the unusually long absence but I had some important things to do… such as watching Episodes.

Episodes is a British-American sitcom starring Matt LeBlanc who is playing “Matt LeBlanc” who used to play “Joey Tribbiani” on a famous TV-Sitcom called Friends.

While many people considered actor Matt LeBlanc very “last season” and had little good things to say about his Friends-Sequel Joey, which brought LeBlanc a lot of money but very little fame, LeBlanc is back with a vengeance. His endeavor of incorporating a once-famous actor, who is always associated with a single role but who struggles for success nowadays, would have been daring even if he hadn’t named the protagonist after himself. The show could have been a huge failure and LeBlanc the target of ridicule… but instead it is an instant success and LeBlanc went home with a Golden Globe early this year.

In interviews LeBlanc tries hard to make clear that his new sitcom is far from being ultimately autobiographic. Nevertheless he acknowledges that there are a lot of similarities between LeBlanc and “LeBlanc”: both seem to be condemned to hear Joey’s former catchphrase “How You Doin’?” over and over again, both have to fight against being mistaken for Joey and thus considered fairly simple (LeBlanc mentioned in interviews that while playing Joey on Friends, people used to speak to him very slowly), and thanks to Joey’s reputation both are frequently thought to be extremely good in bed…

This balancing the nuances of reality, fiction, and metafiction is exactly what makes Episodes so attractive. In articles it is often applauded for its up to date, postmodernist irony and the viewer indulges in a constant train of thought on where the real Matt LeBlanc ends and where fictional “Matt LeBlanc” starts. Episodes allows you to get to know the real man behind our beloved “Joey Tribbiani” but just when you thought you were really getting to know him it deconstructs this intimate audience-actor-relationship by humorously pointing out that the “Matt LeBlanc” you just got to know is again just a character.

Here’s an example: Episodes’ “Matt LeBlanc” is a real ladies man because all the fangirls still remember Joey Tribbiani’s outstanding performances as lead actor in bedroom scenes, who can pop a bra open just by looking at it. While this is fairly realistic and you can imagine female fans trying to score with actor Matt LeBlanc, Episodes takes this issue of supposed hypersexuality over the top by equipping their fictional “Matt LeBlanc” with a ridiculously gigantic penis which is compared to “a sea creature from a Jules Verne novel.” Fictional “Matt LeBlanc” is here probably more “Joey Tribbiani” than real-life actor Matt LeBlanc.

Confusing, isn’t it? But also highly entertaining and intelligent.

In season one’s last episode, “Matt LeBlanc” shows female protagonist Beverly (played by Tamsin Greig from Britain’s cult-sitcom Black Books) his own perfume called “Joey… How You Smellin’?“. Due to a series of unfortunate events (to avoid spoilers) some bottles get smashed and there’s a lot of Joey in the air. To me, this is the core scene of the show. If an actor has played a famous character for a long time, this character sticks to him like a bad fragrance.

Instead of trying to cover up this fragrance with other perfumes, LeBlanc distributes it as freely as one of those annoying perfume promoters in shopping malls. Yet, he secretly added a hint of postmodernism, a sprizz of realism, and a good portion of self-irony… to me, this new creation smells like a hit!

Click here for the trailer: Episodes starring Matt LeBlanc