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The ending of Clue explained

Basing a film on a board game might seem like a pretty weird idea, but in 1985, Hollywood presented their own spin on Clue, the Hasbro murder mystery board game beloved by families across the country. With a knockout cast of comedic actors that includes Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Lesley Ann Warren, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, and the late, great Madeline Kahn, Clue seemed like a surefire hit, but its road to fame and glory had almost as many twists and turns as the plot of the film itself.

Jonathan Lynn and John Landis' film utilizes Clue's gameplay as a framework for a story wherein Wadsworth the butler (Curry) guides a roomful of confused, blackmailed guests with familiar codenames — Mrs. Peacock (Brennan), Mr. Green (McKean), Colonel Mustard (Mull), Miss Scarlet (Warren), Professor Plum (Lloyd), and Mrs. White (Kahn) — through the mystery of who murdered their host, Mr. Boddy. What ensues is essentially an extremely weird dinner party. Trapped in an elaborate mansion, the guests must piece together the solution — just like Clue players do in the board game — a format that yields some pretty hilarious cinematic results.

The film later became a cult classic on VHS, but Clue flopped at the box office upon its original release; now that its become a beloved comedic staple (which is even getting a huge reboot), critics and audiences alike are left to wonder why it performed so poorly in the first place. Some of that may have to do with the film's three distinct endings, which ultimately created a confusing moviegoing experience. If you're still befuddled after all these years, here's a breakdown of all three endings of Clue.

The three endings of Clue

As the guests try to band together to discover the identity of Mr. Boddy's killer, they start to find out some pretty personal information about each other, including why each person is being blackmailed. Giving the audience this information also helps provide a plausible reason why each dinner guest could be the killer, leading to three different endings with three different murderers. Though theaters chose one ending for each screening, in subsequent releases on home video, Wadsworth leads audiences through each ending. While Ending A and Ending B are suggestions of what may have happened, it's strongly indicated that Ending C is the "real ending."

In Ending A, it turns out that Yvette (Colleen Camp), the mansion's French maid, killed both the cook and Mr. Boddy on the orders of Miss Scarlet, as Yvette once worked for Miss Scarlet as a call girl. From there, Miss Scarlett then kills Yvette to hide her crime and holds everybody hostage before being apprehended by the authorities. Meanwhile, in Ending B, Mrs. Peacock kills all three victims to prevent them from finding out that she took bribes from foreign contacts, and is ultimately brought to justice by a visiting evangelist who turns out to be the undercover police chief.

However, Ending C is much more complex; in this conclusion, every person at the party but one is inculpated in the heinous crime. That lone innocent turns out to be Mr. Green, an undercover FBI agent who reveals himself just in time to bring everybody to justice.

Clue's original release confused viewers

Though all three endings are hilarious when packaged together, Clue's original strategy of releasing different endings in different showings ended up causing problems for the film. As Lynn told Buzzfeed in a comprehensive oral history of the movie, there were originally four endings, but one was ultimately scrapped before release. The failed release plan was an idea from Landis, Lynn's co-writer. Lynn explained, "Landis thought it would be really great box office. He thought that what would happen was that people, having enjoyed the film so much, would then go back and pay again and see the other endings. In reality, what happened is that the audience decided they didn't know which ending to go to, so they didn't go at all."

Happily, after all these years, Clue has become one of the most well-loved movies of its generation and a perfect example of a cult classic, though it's easy to see how this botched theatrical release damaged the film during its initial run. All's well that ends well, but you can definitely imagine that getting Ending A or Ending B, both of which are fairly lackluster and quite short compared to Ending C, might have turned people off from Clue entirely.

Nowadays, you can find Clue for rental on many major streaming platforms — and, happily, you'll be able to see all three endings in order.