The biggest unanswered questions in movies that will never be resolved

Everyone loves a mystery, but with one big caveat: most people like answers, too. And yet, some movies don't provide them. Sometimes, crucial scenes end up on the cutting room floor, leaving a mystery unresolved. Occasionally, a writer or director purposely leaves a question unanswered, encouraging the audience to reach their own conclusions. Maybe that dangling plot thread is just sloppy filmmaking, or maybe the answer just isn't important.

None of that is going to stop audiences from wondering. The following questions have been bugging cinephiles for years, but don't spend too long looking for solutions. If they haven't been resolved by now, they never will be. Don't waste your time.

What's in the briefcase?

Let's get the big one out of the way first: we'll never know what Vincent and Jules find inside Pulp Fiction's mysterious briefcase. Obviously, the contents are important. Otherwise, crime boss Marcellus Wallace wouldn't have sent two of his best men to retrieve the case and what's inside. It might even be supernatural. After all, the combination that unlocks the suitcase is 666, a number commonly known as the "mark of the beast." When Vincent opens the case, whatever is inside glows.

But the audience never actually sees inside the case, leaving its contents a mystery. Pulp Fiction's cast and crew don't what's inside, either. On set, director Quentin Tarantino told John Travolta that the object inside the briefcase is "Whatever you want it to be." In an interview, Tarantino admitted that there's no official answer.

That hasn't stopped fans from trying to crack the case. The internet is full of wild fan theories about what's inside. Many viewers think that the suitcase contains Marcellus Wallace's soul. After all, Wallace has a band-aid on the back of his neck, which is allegedly where the devil sucks a person's soul out of their body, although actor Phil LaMarr credits that to a shaving mishap. Others argue that the case holds a nuclear device, a la the classic film noir Kiss Me Deadly, or a pile of diamonds. Like any of those interpretations? Good. That's as close to an answer as you're ever going to get.

Who is Supreme Leader Snoke?

In the aftermath of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the fan community latched on to two seemingly important mysteries: who are Rey's parents, and what's the deal with Supreme Leader Snoke, the disfigured warlord who guides the First Order from the shadows?

Two years and hundreds of fan theories later, The Last Jedi arrived and provided resolution—but not all of the answers. Rey's parents turned out to be booze-addled scavengers (i.e. no one important), while Kylo Ren slices Snoke into pieces halfway through the movie, bringing the Supreme Leader's reign to an abrupt and unexpected end. Kylo takes control of the First Order himself, and the Imperial revival group spends the rest of the movie under his command. By the time the credits roll, Snoke—and his unknown history—are largely forgotten.

Of course, this is Star Wars. No character is too minor for a wild, convoluted backstory (heck, even R5-D4—the red droid that malfunctions in A New Hope, forcing Luke to buy R2-D2 instead—ends up a war hero). Still, if Snoke's heritage is ever explained, it'll probably happen in a comic book or novel. You won't see it onscreen. As far as the Star Wars films are concerned, Snoke isn't important. He was a plot device, and once he stopped being useful, the powers that be got rid of him. End of story.

Is Cobb still dreaming?

Have you ever woken up from a nightmare, only to realize later that you're still dreaming? That's Inception's big mystery in a nutshell. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a high-end thief who steals information from people's dreams. In order to pull off his psychological heists, Cobb layers dream upon dream upon dream, drilling down into a person's subconscious until he can find (or plant) the ideas he wants.

But there's a catch: if Cobb isn't careful, he may not realize that he's still dreaming, and may end up stuck there forever. That's why Cobb and the other dream-thieves carry totems, or objects that act one way in the real world and a different way inside dreams. Cobb's (implied) totem is a top, which stops spinning in reality, but turns forever when Cobb's still stuck in his or someone else's subconscious.

Of course, at the end of the movie, Cobb gets what he wants—a lifted murder charge and a happy reunion with his children—but he's not sure if it's real. Cobb spins the top, but wanders away before he sees what happens. Ultimately, he's with his kids. He doesn't care about the answer. The audience does care, however, which is why Inception's ending is so famously infuriating: the top wobbles, but doesn't stop, right before the movie cuts to the credits. Maybe it was about to fall. Maybe it wasn't. Writer and director Christopher Nolan tells Wired he knows the answer, but he's not going to share. He'd rather leave it up to the audience to decide, he says, letting people come to the conclusion that's most satisfying for them personally.

What happened to Dennis Nedry's stolen embryos?

Remember Jurassic Park's crime story sublot? Let us refresh your memory. Early in the film, Jurassic Park programmer Dennis Nedry (played by Seinfeld's Wayne Knight) and a shady man named Dodgson hatch a plan to steal man-made dinosaur embryos from Jurassic Park. Later, as a storm ravages Isla Nublar, Nedry uses a computer virus to shut down the park's security systems, stashes some embryos in a fake can of shaving cream, and heads to the docks to escape.

Unfortunately, Nedry crashes his car in the rain. While trying to get back on the road, he runs afoul of a dilophosaurus, which spits on Nedry and eats him. The shaving cream can tumbles into the jungle, where it's covered with mud and presumably forgotten.

Nedry's misadventures explain how the dinosaurs got out of their cages and went on an island-wide feeding frenzy, but Jurassic Park devotes an awful lot of time to a subplot that ultimately goes nowhere. Dodgson's big plan isn't ever revealed, and he's never seen onscreen again (Michael Crichton's sequel novel The Lost World features the character, but he's replaced by a new villain in the film adaptation). The lost embryos seem like a good jumping off point for a sequel, but so far, they've only ever been referenced in a non-canonical video game. As far as the main Jurassic Park and Jurassic World franchises are concerned, the embryos are long gone, and probably won't resurface again.

Why did the birds go crazy?

It's been over half a century since Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds hit theaters, and it remains one of the very best horror movies ever made. Sure, some of the special effects look dopey by today's standards, but Hitchcock knows how to put together a tense action scene—they don't call him the master of suspense for nothing—and the film's final image, in which hundreds of birds watch, waiting to strike, as the heroes drive off into the distance, is still one of the most haunting visuals in film history.

Of course, The Birds isn't just scary because of the killer wildlife and surprisingly violent-for-the-time set pieces. It's scary because the root cause of the attacks is a mystery. Neither Hitchcock nor screenwriter Ed McBain seem to have any interest in explaining why the world's birds decided to team up and take on the human race, and both men have been dead for years. If there's not an explanation out there now, there never will be.

At least, not in the movies. The Birds is based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier, but Hitchcock was also inspired by a "rain of birds" that plagued Santa Cruz, California. On August 18, 1961, a flock of crazed sooty shearwaters attacked houses and other buildings in the small seaside town, killing themselves as they collided with sturdy structures. Thirty years later, experts surmised that the birds were high on poisonous algae. That doesn't explain why birds went wild in the movie, but it does imply that a similar attack might occur in real life—and if it does, the movie argues, we're all screwed.

How did the Joker get his scars?

The Joker doesn't need a backstory. He's simply the Joker, Batman's arch-nemesis and an agent of pure chaos. That's all you really need to know.

Director Christopher Nolan and co-writer Jonathan Nolan understand this, and in The Dark Knight, the filmmakers poked fun at superhero movies' obsession with origin stories. At one point during the film, the Joker asks mafia boss Gambol, "Wanna know how I got these scars?" before launching into a story about his abusive father, who carved a smile onto his face. Later, he asks Rachel Dawes the same question, but tells a very different tale: his wife was cut up by goons after failing to pay some gambling debts, and Joker inflicted his own wounds to make her feel better. Joker has a third version of the story, too, but Batman beats him up before he can tell it.

Is one of these stories true? Are any of them? We'll never know. Joker is a psychopath and a liar, after all, and The Dark Knight makes a point of concealing his true identity. That's fine. The Joker works best as Batman's twisted counterpart, who rises from Gotham's shadows like a force of nature. After all, he's the Joker, plain and simple. No explanation necessary.

What did Bob whisper to Charlotte?

In Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, two strangers—the aging actor Bob Harris and the young newlywed Charlotte—strike up an unusual friendship in Tokyo, where they spend a week hanging out, talking, and listening to each other's problems. At the movie's climax, Bob pulls Charlotte close on a busy Tokyo street and whispers something in her ear, but it's too noisy for the audience to hear.

Presumably, Bob offered Charlotte some kind of encouragement or life-changing advice, but only two people know for sure: Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson, who played Bob and Charlotte. There's a line in the script, but apparently that's just a placeholder. Lots of the movie was improvised, including that final moment, and Coppola says Murray wants to keep the moment between himself and Johansson (for his part, Murray promises that he'll never tell).

On one hand, you don't really need to know what Bob whispers—the movie is about Bob and Charlotte's relationship, and as long as you believe Bob said the right thing, that's all that matters. On the other, people like answers. Audio experts have used post-processing software to try and decipher what Murray says, but the results are far from conclusive. The best-produced attempt at digital eavesdropping argues that the line is "I have to be leaving, but I won't let that come between us. Okay?," but other investigations contend that Bob is advising Charlotte to stand up to her husband, or to believe in herself, or to "tell the truth," whatever that means.

Who is the Thing?

The villain in John Carpenter's The Thing isn't your run-of-the-mill space alien. It's a shapeshifter that can take the form of anyone or anything. That sled dog lurking nearby, or your teammate who went missing for a couple of hours? They may not be who you think they are. Anyone could be the attacker, and everyone is a suspect.

And so, the surviving occupants of The Thing's Antarctic research station decide that the only solution is to blow up the whole complex, killing the Thing or, at the very least, leaving it stranded in the ice. They succeed, but only kind of. As the research station burns, the two survivors, Kurt Russell's MacReady and Keith David's Childs, eye each other suspiciously while sharing a bottle of whiskey. Maybe the Thing died in the flames. Maybe it's Childs in disguise. Maybe it's MacReady. The film leaves every possibility open.

A popular fan theory argues that MacReady gave Childs gasoline, not alcohol, proving that Childs is actually the monster, but Kurt Russell denies that outright. In a commentary track, the movie's cinematographer hints that Childs is the Thing, although he admits Carpenter wanted to leave the ending ambiguous. Meanwhile, the non-canonical video game sequel implies that neither man is the creature, and the only official cinematic follow-up, 2011's The Thing, is actually a prequel, so don't go looking for answers there. You won't find any.

Did Croker's gang survive—and did they get the gold?

The Italian Job didn't invent the cliffhanger—apparently, the word comes from A Pair of Blue Eyes, an 1873 novel by Thomas Hardy—but it does take the term to its logical extreme. After stealing four million dollars worth of gold, a band of crooks led by Michael Caine's Croker find themselves in a precarious position: the bus that they're escaping in runs off the road, stopping halfway over a cliff. The thieves are on the side closer to land. The gold is on the other side, and any attempts to retrieve it will send the bus teetering over the edge.

"I've got a great idea," Caine quips, and then the movie ends. The Italian Job never got a sequel, and the mystery remains unsolved. According to Caine, a more conclusive ending was filmed in which Corker frees his friends but loses the gold, setting up a potential follow-up, but it wasn't used, so it's not canon.

Besides, in cases like this, speculation is more fun than a real conclusion. In 2009, the Royal Society of Chemistry held a contest to see if anyone could come up with a creative, elegant, and scientifically sound solution to Croker's dilemma—without using a helicopter. Over 2000 people entered, and while the winning entry isn't too dramatic (it involves smashing windows to redistribute weight, emptying the tires and the gas tank, and filling the front of the bus with rocks), it works. John Godwin, who came up with the winning solution, has the math to prove it.

Who killed Uncle Ben?

You remember Uncle Ben. Nice older man, talks a lot about power and responsibility, dies after his nephew decides not to use his superpowers to stop a thief and that thief goes on to kill Uncle Ben? Yeah, that's the guy.

Uncle Ben's death is a pivotal moment in the history of every single Spider-Man incarnation. Ultimately, it's why Peter Parker puts on the red and blue long johns and does his thing. The fate of the murderer, however, isn't as consistent. The comic book version of the burglar dies of a heart attack in Amazing Spider-Man #200. In the Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man trilogy, the thief falls out of a window and dies. Spider-Man 3 retcons the story, making Flint Marko, a.k.a. the Sandman, the real killer.

And in The Amazing Spider-Man, the burglar is never identified nor found. That could be fine. Ben's death and the lesson Peter learns is what's important, not the attacker's fate. But The Amazing Spider-Man makes the thief's identity into a major plot point. Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker begins his one-man war on crime by tracking down crooks who look like the thief, hoping to bring his uncle's murderer to justice.

He never does. Eventually, the Lizard and Peter's new girlfriend, Gwen Stacy, distract Spidey from his original mission, and he never returns. As far as we know, the guy is still out there, offing helpless uncles and spurring a whole new generation of superheroes into action.