Gone Girl ending explained: Why does Amy come back to Nick?
Where did the girl go? We break down the ending to the hit psychological thriller below.
Director David Fincher is no stranger to twisty-turny psychological thrillers - but Gone Girl might just be one of his most surprising films yet.
With the Gone Girl cast featuring names such as Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and even Emily Ratajkowski, it's not surprising the film took the world by storm in 2014, even earning Pike an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
Based on the best-selling book of the same name by Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl follows Nick Dunne (Affleck), a Missouri man who may or may not have been involved in the disappearance of his wife Amy Dunne (Pike) and is subsequently hounded by the police and media.
We do indeed get an answer as to whether Nick killed Amy - reasonably quickly actually, as Gone Girl has plenty more twists and turns to come before the credits roll.
Given the sheer amount of lying, fake evidence and manipulation that takes place throughout the film, it's understandable that a few details may not seem clear - especially with a rather polarising ending that left some viewers baffled.
We're going to dive into the ending below and explain any lingering questions from one of the most convoluted missing person cases ever put to film - so watch out for spoilers below!
Gone Girl ending
After murdering her ex-boyfriend Desi, Amy publicly returns to Nick covered in blood, purposefully hugging Nick in front of the paparazzi cameras. Amy then gives a false account to Detective Boney, framing Desi for her kidnapping and dispelling Nick of suspicion.
More like this
Once at home, Amy takes Nick into the shower to make sure he's not wearing a wire and then admits to killing Desi so that she could return to Nick. Nick threatens to leave her, but Amy points out that leaving his recently kidnapped wife would ruin his reputation. Nick shares this information with Boney, his sister Margot and his lawyer Tanner Bolt, but all agree that without a confession there is no evidence to back him up.
Nick and Amy agree to an exclusive interview with TV host Ellen Abbott, where Nick plans to expose Amy's actions and her real nature. However, Amy reveals that she is pregnant, having inseminated herself with a sperm sample that Nick had provided to a fertility clinic years earlier. Nick reacts angrily, but realises he will have to stay with her in order to be part of his child's life. This devastates Margot, but Nick commits and the couple announces on camera that they are expecting a child. Amy wins, and Nick will spend the rest of his child's life in a dysfunctional relationship with Amy.
Did Nick Dunne really push Amy?
A confusing one here - while we do see a flashback scene showing Nick Dunne pushing Amy, it is then revealed that Amy's diary is an unreliable narrator, telling the true story of their happy early years together before fabricating several allegations of abuse and violence. This suggests that Nick did not actually push Amy, especially as they were supposedly arguing over Nick not wanting to have children - Nick later tells his sister that he did in fact want children and even visited a fertility clinic, which is proven to be true at the end of the film. Amy falsified the event in order to suggest that Nick was capable of violence and she was scared of her, which could then be used as evidence against him in her "murder" case.
However, the film leaves things ambiguous enough that a similar event could have happened. Nick is shown to have a temper throughout the film - shown particularly when he smashes his glass - and he does get physical in his final fight with Amy at the end of the film, suggesting he was capable. The film is not interested in giving a conclusive answer - some of the biggest themes in the film are perspective and narrative, of modern society and the media's obsession with the sensationalist side of the story rather than the factual, often simpler events that actually happened, and this scene, in particular, exemplifies that.
- Watch Gone Girl on Amazon now.
Why does Amy kill Desi?
Desi was not initially part of Amy's plan, but she had no choice but to turn to him after she was robbed, which thwarted her future schemes. However, it soon becomes clear that Desi is controlling and manipulative - keeping her in the house surrounded by cameras, telling her what to do and encouraging her to dye her hair and return to how she used to look. She needed to escape, and make sure he wouldn't reveal that she was still alive.
Secondly, while watching Ben's interview on TV she decides that she wants to be with him after all. However, after framing him for murder she needs a reason to explain her disappearance and the fake crime scene she created, and thus concocts the story that Desi attacked her and held her captive. Desi of course cannot be allowed to refute this and tell the truth, and thus Amy kills him and claims it was self-defence - making sure to spill as much blood as possible to make it look like a struggle and to stage a dramatic return to Nick.
Why does Amy come back to Nick?
One of the most common queries about Gone Girl is why exactly Amy comes back to Nick at the end of the film, despite earlier hating him to the point of framing him for murder so he would receive the death penalty.
However, all that changes when Amy sees Nick's TV interview in which he expresses remorse for not being a better husband. Amy knows he is not being sincere and only acting like this to avoid prison, but Amy is attracted to Nick putting on the appearance of being the perfect husband. This was the charismatic charmer who Amy fell in love with - the Nick who pretended to be someone that Amy would like, while Amy lived up to the "cool girl" fantasy that she outlined in her iconic monologue. It was only after Nick stopped putting on this persona during their marriage that Amy started to hate him, expecting her to still love him while she continued being society's expectation of the ideal wife.
Amy supposedly escaping her kidnapper and returning home gives her story a (fake) fairytale happy ending, and she can then use her pregnancy and the court of public opinion to blackmail Nick into being the picture-perfect husband. In return, she'll pretend to be the ideal sweet, innocent wife and mother and they'll live out their lives as a fantasy pretending to be other people.
How did Amy get pregnant?
After Amy admits to faking her earlier pregnancy, it comes as a surprise when it is revealed that Amy actually is pregnant at the end of the film.
It's clear that Nick does not sleep with Amy once she returns, as he is clearly wary of her and sleeping in a separate room. However, Nick explained earlier in the film that he provided a sperm sample to a fertility clinic a year ago when the couple were trying to conceive, only for Amy to change her mind. Nick later received a letter stating that his samples would be destroyed if they did not get in contact - and after seeing Amy throw away the letter, he assumed his samples were lost.
However, it seems that Amy did indeed claim Nick's samples, and shortly after returning she inseminates herself so she can extort Nick into staying with her for the next 18 years.
Why does Nick stay with Amy?
As it's implied in the movie, Nick stays with Amy primarily for the sake of his unborn child. Nick feels responsible for the child and will not walk away now he is aware of Amy's true colours. Recent events have painted Amy as America's sweetheart while Nick was briefly the most hated man in America, so if Nick leaves her he is unlikely to receive custody - and on top of things Amy has threatened to turn their child against him.
However, it is hinted during Nick's conversation with Margot that he actually wants to stay with Amy really. Amy points out that the only time he has ever liked himself was when he was pretending to be someone else that she might like, that he'd never meet someone else like her and he'd never be happy with a nice, normal girl.
Some interpretations of both the book and film see Nick being a psychopath as well as Amy, and that they are too alike to let each other go. Both are now aware that their relationship is a fantasy but secretly like putting on a performance for each other, and are doomed to carry on playing games with each other in an endless cycle. Nick knows he'll never find someone else who would kill for him - and maybe he even likes that.
Gone Girl book ending
Perhaps the biggest plot twist of all, however, is that the Gone Girl film is a rare film that is actually rather faithful to Gillian Flynn's 2012 book.
There are a few key plot threads that were cut for time, however, with both Amy's parents and Nick's father having bigger roles in the book. Flynn's novel in particular explores Nick's father's hatred of women and Nick's subsequent rough childhood, which leads Nick to struggle with his own misogyny and helps explain why he refuses to abandon his own unborn baby. Nick's father is also a suspect in Amy's disappearance. Amy helps him escape from his nursing home that morning, which is briefly hinted at in the film.
Amy's parents also feature more heavily, as we see Nick desperately try and get them on his side in order to avoid bad press. The book also goes into detail about how Amy's parents often mourn the several miscarriages they have experienced, which to Amy adds yet more pure role models that she will never be able to live up to on top of the Amazing Amy books.
When it comes to the ending there are only a few minor alterations - in the book Amy kills Desi after drugging him rather than during sex, Nick plans to expose Amy by writing a book rather than during an interview, and Amy's pregnancy is never publicly announced.
However, there are a few more differences that mean the book ends with a slight semblance of hope. Desi's mother refuses to believe Amy's version of events and hysterically asserts that she killed Desi, and although the police turn her away this suggests at least one person will continue to fight for justice over Desi's murder.
Amy also thinks she has won, content that Nick has seemingly transformed into the man of her dreams and loves her under her strict conditions. However on the final page of the book, when Amy asks why Nick is being so nice to her he coolly responds: “Because I feel sorry for you... because every morning you have to wake up and be you.” This line clearly unsettles Amy - and suggests that perhaps the Dunnes will not be able to keep up this charade after all...
Movies like Gone Girl
There's been a slowly growing sub-genre of domestic murder mysteries, and although Gone Girl is arguably one of the best, there are plenty more if you're in the mood for more mysterious marriages, or indeed if you just fancy another psychological thriller packed with twists:
- The Girl on the Train - Yet another buzzy book adaptation with the word 'girl' in the title, The Girl on the Train also features a missing persons investigation full of twists.
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo - Director David Fincher sure had a niche in the early 2010s - he also directed this remake of the hit Swedish film, also based on a book, and following the investigation of a missing woman.
- Tell No One - A lesser-known option, this French adaptation of a Harlan Coben novel follows the grieving husband who discovers his murdered wife might actually still be alive. Sound familiar?
- Prisoners - One of the first big hits from Dune director Denis Villeneuve, Prisoners follows a man who takes matters into his own hands after the police fail to find his missing daughter.
- Thoroughbreds - For more morally complex female characters, Thoroughbreds stars Anya Taylor-Joy and Olivia Cooke as two friends with a lack of empathy who begin plotting a murder.
- A Simple Favor - While A Simple Favor is more of a dark comedy than a thriller, the twist-filled murder mystery at the centre has a surprising amount in common with Gone Girl.
Visit our Movies hub for the latest news and features, or find something to watch tonight with our TV Guide. Watch Gone Girl on Amazon now.
The latest issue of Radio Times magazine is on sale now – subscribe now and get the next 12 issues for only £1. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times podcast with Jane Garvey.