Who doesn’t enjoy a good mystery? In most films containing a mysterious element, the truth behind said mystery is revealed before the end credits roll. It’s often in genre films that we get the most tangible of mysteries, in horror, crime, sci-fi, or maybe a hardboiled noir setting. True crime and fact-based narratives also provide ample intrigue. But, as with real life, sometimes there are no easy answers, clues have been covered, tip-offs withheld, witnesses vanish, lies told, the truth fractured, obscured, or altogether invisible. After all, curiosity is huge part of human nature – we desperately want (even need) to know the definitive answers to these cinematic questions, in the same way we crave the secret behind a magic trick. Yet as with a magic trick, should we ever actually uncover conclusive proof that unravels one of these puzzles, deep down, we know we’re bound to wind up disappointed – after all, they’re not really meant to be solved. Nevertheless, we all still try to decipher these big screen enigmas, and the detective work involved is undeniably fun.
With this in mind, here are 7 Movie Mysteries That Have Never Been Solved.
1. LOST IN TRANSLATION – THE WHISPER
Somewhat ironically for a film that succeeds largely due to its sparkling dialogue, the big mystery in Lost in Translation surrounds several lines that can’t be heard. When fading film star Bob Harris bids a heartfelt farewell to college grad Charlotte on the streets of Tokyo, he whispers part of his goodbye in her ear. Director Sophia Coppola deliberately left this ad-lobbed dialogue inaudible to audiences, but that hasn’t stopped eager fans from trying to suss out what’s being said. Indeed, a quick online search will return videos where editing software has been used to amplify Bob’s voice, supposedly revealing his message to Charlotte. However, given the dreadful audio quality involved, and as the dialogue was unscripted, we’ll never be 100% certain of the exact wording. Even if we could be, frankly, this scene stands as a further reminder that some things are best left to the imagination.
2. Willow Creek
Despite the fact that Bobcat Goldthwait has reinvented himself in earnest as an established indie auteur in recent years (Sleeping Dogs Lie, World’s Greatest Dad, God Bless America) people still tend to think of him as the hyperventilating/half-choking-sounding comedic actor from Police Academy, and other mediocre 80s fare. So it’s all the more shocking that Willow Creek is as far removed from that side of Goldthwait as can be. After vaulting that hurdle the next obstacle for the viewer is probably going to come in the form of the question: “WTF is Bobcat doing a found footage horror film about young people venturing into murky woods in the still dark hours? From this familiar angle the deck is stacked wholly against Goldthwait and yet, with Willow Creek, he plays a monstrously winning hand.
When Jim (Bryce Johnson), bristling with enthusiasm, drags his doubtful but supportive girlfriend, Kelly (Alexie Gilmore), with him on a sojourn to Northern California in search for signs of the legendary Sasquatch, the stereotypical stage is set. Jim’s obsession with the famed Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film is palpable, though at first, more laughable. And maybe it’s our lopsided expectations as an audience that helps the whole “power of suggestion” notion take hold.Soon, as suspected, the woods get lovely, dark, and deep, as Goldthwait and his charismatic cast play it all with utter conviction and sinking fear. Things build to a tizzy and it’s impressive how much is accomplished within the strict confines of the found footage motif.
3. THE DARK KNIGHT – THE JOKER’S SCARS
Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight is rightly regarded as one of the most iconic villains in film history. While much of this is due to Ledger’s phenomenal acting skills, at least some credit should go to director Christopher Nolan and his co-writer, sibling Jonathan. In order to craft a truly chilling baddie, the Nolans opted not to serve up a definitive origin for the Clown Prince of Crime. Instead, in nod to graphic novel The Killing Joke, their Joker prefers to take a multiple choice approach to his backstory, relaying two conflicting accounts of how he received his distinctive facial scars. We never find out whether either story is true – or if he was going to come clean to the Dark Knight prior to being interrupted during the finale – but knowing the Joker, we wouldn’t count on it.
4. BLADE RUNNER
Yes, Ridley Scott remains adamant that former police detective Rick Deckard was really a Replicant in Blade Runner – but the open-ended nature of the film itself still leaves this open for debate! There’s plenty of evidence to support Scott’s stance that Deckard is a synthetic lifeform – not least of all his recurring unicorn dream, which is heavily implied to be a neural implant. Equally, there’s some noteworthy dissenting arguments, with none other than Deckard’s portrayer, Harrison Ford, maintaining that he was portraying a human character. As with many entries on this list, it’s arguably the question that matters far more than the answer – which is probably why Denis Villeneuve’s follow-up Blade Runner 2049 tactfully avoided explicitly addressing the issue.
Really, it all comes down to whether you side with Scott or with Ford – although it’s worth noting that in Philip K. Dick’s original novel, Rick was categorically human.