The Real Meaning Behind These Confusing Movie Endings

Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s film about a washed-up actor trying to make a comeback on Broadway has the kind of weird ending that puts Inception to shame. Throughout the film, Riggan Thomson is shown as having superpowers, only to have them later be explained as being all in his head. In the final scene, Riggan’s daughter Sam enters his hospital room to find his bed empty and the window open. Sirens and talking can be heard coming from the street below. Initially, Sam looks down, but she slowly turns her head to the sky and she smiles. Some might think this means Riggan actually does have powers, and has flown away.

But…probably not. What really seems to have happened is that Riggan has successfully committed suicide, which he failed to do on the previous day. Sam, for her part, seems to start hallucinating just like her dad. The fact that she has bird tattoos on her arm and that her father played a superhero with bird-based powers suggests the strong connection between the two. Sam seems to leave the real world to enter a fantasy where her father lives, soaring above the clouds. The film is subtitled “The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance,” after all. Here, Sam chooses to ignore reality.

One of Birdman’s four screenwriters, Alexander Dinelaris Jr., hinted during an interview with HuffPost Live that the key to their understanding of the ending lies within Sam’s relationship with her father:

“I think when we found the relationship with the daughter, we started to understand what Riggan’s story was. Once she got down, Emma’s big monologue, in the basement, we started to understand the relationship and what it was. We’re not going to sit around and explain the ending. I guess my thing is, if you can silence the voice of mediocrity, then what is possible?”

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