TL;DR - is there any specific, one-word, film-specific name for films that are feature-length but don't have a specific ending?

Traditionally, films are said to have three parts- a beginning, a middle, and an end. As an art form, or medium, this is of course sometimes changed purposefully to illicit a response from the viewer. Films which do this will have a feature-length duration, but sometimes will end and cut to credits, leaving the viewer impacted by the sudden close. Alternatively there may be films which end but seem to feel there should be some denouement to wrap up what's been seen, but none exist. These films aren't unfinished or incomplete, just stylised and intentionally dramatic. You might cite films such as Inception, A Serious Man, or even No Country For Old Men.

In contrast to this, there are films which are split into multiple parts, and aren't generally structured as a full, whole film with its own resolution - generally they close to credits with lots of unanswered questions and only journeys half-complete. There are lots of examples of this, and many in the more popular sphere of cinema: Harry Potter, The Hobbit, Twilight, The Hunger Games, The Avengers: Infinity War, and recently even the Fantastic Beasts series. The first part to every two-part film here definitely feels like they have a 'soft' ending where lots of plot lines are unfinished, but almost more feel like there's room for an intermission, but not a sequence of credits as though it should feel complete. More films can be found here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_split_into_multiple_parts

Films as part of a sequence, or trilogies for instance, don't fall prey to the feeling that the plot is unfinished, such as Toy Story, Back To The Future, or even Star Wars, the intergalatic family affair. All films are well-contained and can be considered standalone without consideration for the other films in the sequence.

As an addition, I understand some back-to-back stories and works deserve a 6, 9, 12 hour-long total run-time, and I'm aware some Harry Potter fans would love nothing more than each page of each book be meticulously re-created for the screen and imagined word-for-word. To have the final book split in half for a film-adaptation however, seems simply like a shameless cash-grab when the films cannot stand alone, and to see both halves of one film requires two payments.

TL;DR - Apologies for the ramble, but is there any specific, one-word, film-specific name for films that are feature-length but don't have a specific ending? Having the word 'Part 1' in the title should not excuse poor story construction, as in, the final third of a film not focus on completion of plotlines.

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    This is kinda too broad, and TLDR may perfectly apply here. anyway, I never found a official name for first part or second part, TV shows have named 1st episode as pilot episode and last one as finale. but I've never seen an official naming such for movie franchises. For your first paragraph, such films have no satisfactory endings or non-explained plot could have numerous reasons, one being let viewer imagine what will happen.for last paragraph, movie length is decided by production team.I know some old movies were there with like 8 hour long runtime, but later edited to 2-3hours
    – Vishwa
    Nov 21, 2018 at 9:47
  • Thanks for your suggestion of using a TLDR - I've edited my question to feature one. Nov 21, 2018 at 9:59
  • Two-Part Trilogy ?? Movie Multipack ?? Divided For Adaptation ??
    – Ankit Sharma
    Nov 21, 2018 at 11:40
  • I try to explain this idea to people all the time, especially now that we have a lot of stories being told across multiple films, such as The Last Jedi and to some degree, The Crimes of Grindelwald, where there is a lot of supposition. In TV people often refer to these kinds of episodes as "filler" episodes, as they primarily set-up, add to themes, or generate some suspense, but usually the plot is not developed much and/or some mystery may be introduced... Nov 21, 2018 at 13:27
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    The tl;dr should go at the front Nov 22, 2018 at 3:58

2 Answers 2


A serial, film serial, movie serial or chapter play, is a motion picture form popular during the first half of the 20th century, consisting of a series of short subjects exhibited in consecutive order at one theater, generally advancing weekly, until the series is completed. Generally, each serial involves a single set of characters, protagonistic and antagonistic, involved in a single story, which has been edited into chapters after the fashion of serial fiction and the episodes cannot be shown out of order or as a single or a random collection of short subjects.

Source: wikipedia

Although modern films tend to be longer and have longer gaps between episodes, the type is still serial.

  • Is name movie serial ever used in recent time periods? I've never seen it's being used for movies. I've seen movie franchise
    – Vishwa
    Nov 23, 2018 at 4:50
  • No a franchise is just a series of films, possibly only connected by being in a shared universe. A serial is where there is one overall story arc where the order is significant. Nov 24, 2018 at 19:03

I don't think such film have a name. The ending rather have one and it's called "cliff-hanger". In such cases you should not consider a movie as a stand-alone movie but rather as a part of a series.

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