False ending

A false ending is a device in film and music that can be used to trick the audience into thinking that the work has ended, before it continues.

The presence of a false ending can be anticipated through a number of ways. The medium itself might betray that the story will continue beyond the false ending. A supposed "ending" that occurs when many pages are still left in a book, when a film or song's running time hasn't fully elapsed, or when only half the world has been explored in a video game, is likely to be false. As such, stories with an indeterminate running length or a multi-story structure are much more likely to successfully deceive their audience with this technique. Another indicator is the presence of a large number of incomplete story lines, character arcs, or other unresolved story elements at the time of the false ending. These elements can leave the audience feeling that too much of the story is incomplete and there has to be more.


In L.A. Confidential, it seems like the criminal case that the movie revolves around is completely closed with no loose ends until one of the witnesses admits that she lied about important details to give more importance towards the trial of the people who raped her, exposing a cover-up conspiracy. In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, director Peter Jackson uses editing techniques that are indicative of endings in scenes that could be used as such, but continues until the movie finally ends. Spider-Man 3 has two false endings. Another example is in The Simpsons Movie, where, at a very climactic stage in the film, the screen fades away and says "To be continued", which is then followed by the word "Immediately." Also in The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, at what appears to be a cliffhanger ending, a "The End" sign appears, only for Lucy (voiced by Elizabeth Banks) to break the fourth wall by insisting that the film will have a happy ending; the same sign appears again at the film's actual ending.

Some movies come to a formal ending, followed by the rolling of the credits, which is almost universally used to indicate that the film has ended, only to have the actors reappear in one or more mid-credits scenes. In comedy films, these sequences may be bloopers or outtakes. In other types of films, the mid-credit scenes may continue the narrative set out in the movie. The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have become notorious for this, in some cases featuring a mid-credits scene and an end-credits scene in the same movie.


False endings are a known device in classical music. Josef Haydn was fond of them, for example inducing applause at the wrong place in the finales of his String Quartet, Op. 33 No. 2 (nicknamed "The Joke")[1] and Symphony No. 90.[2] The first movement of Prokoviev's Classical Symphony contains false endings.[3]

False endings are also a common custom in popular music. The Beatles used false endings in many of their songs, including "I'm Only Sleeping", "Get Back", "Hello, Goodbye", "Cry Baby Cry", "Helter Skelter", "Rain", and "Strawberry Fields Forever".[4] Other songs that use false endings include Guns 'n' Roses' "November Rain", Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You", David Bowie's "Suffragette City", Gorillaz' "Dare", Natasha Bedingfield's "Unwritten", Foo Fighters' "Come Back", Alice in Chains' "Rain When I Die", and Beastie Boys' "Sabotage".[5]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Service, Tom (29 May 2009). "Haydn composed existential comedy". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 February 2009.
  2. ^ Hicks, Sarah (16 May 2010). "Haydn's Head Fake". Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  3. ^ Rodda, Richard. "Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 25, "Classical"". Kennedy Center. Retrieved 19 February 2018.
  4. ^ "Readers recommend: songs with false endings – results". the Guardian. 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2022-12-23.
  5. ^ Edwards, Briony (April 10, 2018). "The 10 best false endings in music, as chosen by Haggard Cat". Louder. Retrieved March 3, 2021.