False ending

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A false ending is a device in literature and the arts to suggest to the audience that the work has ended, before continuing.


The presence of a false ending can be anticipated through a number of ways: the medium itself might betray that it isn't the true ending (i.e. it's only halfway into a book or a song, a film's listed running time hasn't fully elapsed, only half the world has been explored in a video game, etc.), making only stories with indeterminate running length or a multi-story structure able to pull this off effectively; another indicator is the feeling that too much of the story is incomplete when the false ending comes, making it feel like 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 , the director keeps using 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]

Examples of false endings in popular music include Guns 'n' Roses' "November Rain", Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You", Foo Fighters' "Come Back", and Beastie Boys' "Sabotage". [4]

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  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. Edwards, Briony (April 10, 2018). "The 10 best false endings in music, as chosen by Haggard Cat". Louder. Retrieved March 3, 2021.