The Top 12 Movie Cliffhangers

Captain America The Winter Soldier Sebastian Stan

Most movies have a story, and most stories have an ending. But that's more like a guideline than a rule. With the proliferation of sequels, more and more motion pictures are ending with a big ol' tease for a follow-up instead of a proper conclusion that wraps all the storylines and character development up in a tidy bow. The storytelling device was originally popularized with the old serialized motion pictures that encouraged audiences to come back to the theater every single week, but TV more or less killed that. But hey, most of the blockbuster movies coming out nowadays are just big budget versions of the kind of adolescent fantasies that serials like Commando Cody or, well, Captain America capitalized on in the first place.

But what counts as a "movie cliffhanger" anyhow? It's important to note that there's a big difference between an ambiguous ending and an open-ended finale that clearly implies that there's even more story to come. The conclusions of The Wrestler and Inception may leave audiences guessing, but the finale of Captain America: The Winter Soldier – like the finale of most Marvel movies – tells us that the answers are definitely coming soon. In fact, ending on a cliffhanger is actually a pretty bold statement. It tells the audience that this movie thinks it warrants a sequel before they have even watched it and decided if it's good or not.

Sometimes that bravado backfires. Sometimes a movie tells you flat out there's going to be another follow-up but then doesn't make enough money to actually warrant a sequel. If you've ever wondered what Princess Daisy meant when she told The Super Mario Bros., "You guys gotta come with me! I need your help! You're not gonna believe this!" then you know exactly what I'm talking about. And also you took the Super Mario Bros. movie way too seriously, but of course I digress.

We here at CraveOnline wanted to look back at our favorite movie cliffhangers, whether or not they actually paid off in the end. Some of them led to awesome sequels, some of them led to crappy ones, and some will forever be question marks. (For the sake of variety we're limiting our picks to only one film per franchise.) So here they are, the Top 12 Movie Cliffhangers, as chosen by CraveOnline​.

(SPOILER ALERT​, obviously.)

William Bibbiani is the editor of CraveOnline's Film Channel and co-host of The B-Movies Podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.