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15 Thrilling Cliffhanger Examples (+ Definitions & Tips)

Simply forward, you’ll discover among the most gripping cliffhanger examples from literature, tv, and movie.

A few of these examples are bursting with edge-of-your-seat motion, and others are shrouded in mind-boggling thriller.

(We’ve even thrown in just a few examples from psychological thrillers to maintain you in your toes).

And to spherical issues out:


We’re revealing our high tips about how you can write a cliffhanger that’ll maintain your followers obsessed together with your story.

So, should you’re hooked on the phrases “… to be continued” otherwise you simply need to know the secrets and techniques behind making a spellbinding cliffhanger, let’s begin the present.

Warning: Spoilers Forward!

cliffhanger examples 700

What’s a Cliffhanger?

A cliffhanger is a fastidiously crafted scene ending that leaves the viewers with extra questions than solutions.


This creates a way of suspense, nervousness, or drama such that you’re compelled to search out out what occurs subsequent.

The extra abrupt or stunning the plot twist is, the extra riveting the story turns into.

Why Use Cliffhangers?

Some of the essential issues for a creator to do is set up a loyal viewers.

And no literary device works more durable to realize that objective than the cliffhanger.


Whether or not we discover our hero hanging from a literal cliff edge or dealing with a metaphorical alternative from which there isn’t a coming again, cliffhangers set off our feelings and maintain us glued to the motion.

Strategically positioned on the finish of a scene, e book chapter, serial episode, or movie, these moments flip a median viewer right into a devoted patron, replaying the cliffhanger again and again for the fun of it.

Realizing how and when to make use of a cliffhanger is a ability each creator can domesticate.  There are cliffhanger examples for each age group and artistic style in the marketplace.

Let’s check out some examples from books, TV, and movies in order that we will see the key sorts of cliffhangers and the way they improve the viewers’s expertise.

Examples of Cliffhangers from Literature

The basic literary instance of cliffhangers comes from One Thousand and One Nights by Muhsin Mahdi, the place a girl should inform a tremendous story each night time to postpone the demise of her queen, and maintain the king coming again for an increasing number of tales.

Now that we’ve gotten the origin story of the cliffhanger coated, let’s dive into some trendy examples.

(We’ll additionally evaluate the important how’s and why’s of this essential inventive machine).

1. The Da Vinci Code

Few authors have a command of the cliffhanger higher than Dan Brown in The Da Vinci Code.

This fast-paced story jumps between competing storylines, every chapter leaving you hanging and the subsequent sending you down a unique path within the story.

The Da Vinci Code is a basic race towards time, with chapters that depart you breathless, and consistently turning the web page – an awesome instance of cliffhangers in motion.

2. Zoo

The top-of-the-world thriller, Zoo, by James Patterson is one other glorious cliffhanger instance as a result of it retains you turning the web page questioning which animal may assault subsequent, or which character goes to die.

Progressively killing off characters leaves the reader with uncertainty over who could be subsequent and what the destiny of survivors will appear to be as they attempt to resolve the upcoming disaster.

3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Six books into the Harry Potter series by J.Ok. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince delivers a wide ranging cliffhanger instance when all of the sudden the beloved Headmaster of Hogwarts is killed.

The sudden lack of a important character on the finish of the e book practically ensures the clamor that may come up as followers await the subsequent e book’s arrival on retailer cabinets.

4. The Silent Affected person

Not all cliffhangers are action-packed endings.

When you’re seeking to expertise a cliffhanger with a psychological afterburn, then look no additional than The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.

The rotating viewpoints between an obsessed therapist and a affected person who refuses to talk spiral into an ending you gained’t quickly neglect.

It’s pure cliffhanger magic!

5. The First Telephone Name From Heaven

Final however not least for our literary cliffhanger examples comes Mitch Albom’s novel, The First Telephone Name From Heaven.

All through this story, you may’t assist however really feel the rising sense of foreboding in your intestine because the plot leads you thru probably the most unthinkable miracle of having the ability to discuss to a useless cherished one.

As actuality and unreality conflict in a small city gripped by a contemporary miracle or a heart-breaking hoax, the cliffhangers maintain you studying till the novel’s intense conclusion.

Cliffhanger Examples from Movie

It ought to come as no shock that The Da Vinci Code, Zoo, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince are additionally films. The cliffhangers in these books lend themselves effectively to visible expression on the massive and small display screen.

From tension-building plot twists to film finales that depart individuals able to binge-watch one other characteristic movie on Netflix, cliffhangers are a creator’s gateway drug to a loyal fanbase.

When you might be able to guess most of my high cliffhanger film examples due to their franchise standing, try my final shock film instance that left us all hanging with out a solution in sight.

6. The Lord of the Rings

The magic of the J.R.R. Tolkien book series comes alive on the massive display screen due to the work of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy.

Within the first film, we discover the wizard Gandalf actually hanging from a cliff within the mines of Moria*.  Simply after we suppose Gandalf has defeated the Balrog, a plot twist finds him clinging for all times on the sting of doom.

His loss will certainly influence the essential mission of the fellowship and the thriller of what occurs to him will not be solved till later within the e book and film sequence.

That is sheer cliffhanger brilliance.

Editor’s Be aware: We all know, we all know. Technically it’s not a cliff, however the Bridge of Khazad-dum. Simply allow us to have our wordplay, okay?

Watch the clip right here:

7. Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Again

One of many best cliffhangers within the Star Wars movie sequence involves us within the second characteristic, The Empire Strikes Back.

When Darth Vader fights Luke Skywalker and tempts him to hitch the “darkish facet”, nobody noticed the well-known Darth Vader line coming, “No, I’m your father.”

The psychological twist of our white-knight hero, Luke, being born of the master-villain, Darth Vader, wraps up the second film and leaves all Star Wars followers thirsting for extra.

Try the scene in all its glory:

8. The Matrix

The Matrix, launched in 1999, was an unprecedented breakthrough in cinematography, animation, and scene transitions for motion films. However, what made the film all of the extra memorable was the cliffhanger ending.

After Neo defeats Agent Smith, the viewers listens to a telephone name Neo makes into the Matrix. The struggle towards the machines is simply simply starting.

The uncertainty of what occurs subsequent for humanity as they battle the machines is sufficient to carry thousands and thousands of followers again to observe the subsequent movie.

Watch the clip right here:

9. The Twilight Saga

Cliffhangers don’t at all times simply contain hero-action and death-defying occasions.

The Twilight Saga highlights a love triangle cliffhanger between the primary characters Bella, Edward, and Jacob that saved viewers coming again for extra.

Being torn between two lovers is a basic cliffhanger plot twist that may assist strengthen any story. And in Twilight’s case, needing to know who Bella really cherished carried followers via three painfully mediocre vampire films.

The ability of cliffhangers, proper?

10. Inception

And right here’s a wrinkle within the cliffhanger approach that’s not used typically sufficient.

Not all cliffhangers get answered by a sequel.

On the finish of the 2010 thriller Inception, creator Christopher Nolan leaves us with Dom Cobb’s spinning high.  We solely know if Cobb is awake or nonetheless dreaming if the highest falls over…and we by no means get to see if it does.

Watch the sensible ending of this sensory masterpiece right here:

Examples of Cliffhangers from TV

Cliffhangers work simply as effectively for producing a loyal following in a TV sequence as they do on the massive display screen.

By crafting scenes that purposefully miss key data, the season finales of TV reveals have thrilled audiences for many years.

Let’s begin with probably the most well-known TV sequence cliffhanger of all time after which discover just a few extra examples of how the cliffhanger plot twists compel viewer devotion.

11. Dallas – “A Home Divided”

The TV sequence that set the trade commonplace for the phrase “cliffhanger” is none aside from Dallas.

In Season 3 – Episode 25, “A House Divided”, the entire world was left questioning:

Who shot J.R. Ewing?

Frantic and fanatic followers had been left dangling for months ready for the subsequent Dallas season to start.

TV viewing was by no means the identical once more.

Watch the best cliffhanger in tv historical past right here:

And as an added bonus, watch the massive reveal to search out out who actually pulled the set off:

12. Recreation of Thrones

The TV sequence, Recreation of Thrones, has many cliffhangers all through the seasons, however Jon Snow’s assassination within the last episode of Season 5, “Mother’s Mercy”, is taken into account among the best.

Leaving a important character wounded within the snow because the season ends is a sure-fire approach to create an viewers desirous to return subsequent season.

The demise of a important character is an sudden cliffhanger plot twist that may propel your work from unusual to extraordinary.

13. Star Trek The Subsequent Era

Principal characters don’t should die to create a cliffhanger impact.

In Season 3 of Star Trek The Subsequent Era, sci-fi followers are left hanging within the last episode “Best of Both Worlds”.

Does the famed starship captain Jean-Luc Picard assimilate to grow to be a Borg?  Tune in subsequent season to search out out if he boldly goes the place nobody has gone earlier than . . . or not.

Try this celebrated sci-fi cliffhanger right here:

14. Gray’s Anatomy

TV dramas may make good use of thrilling season finale cliffhangers.

The long-running medical drama sequence, Gray’s Anatomy, shakes loyal viewers to the core in Season 8 when the lifetime of not one, but six doctors hangs in the balance.

Who would have ever guessed {that a} airplane carrying an entire workforce of life-saving superhero medical doctors would crash?

And who might guess the implications that unfold in Season 9?

15. 24

At this level it could appear prudent to ask, “Can there be too many cliffhangers?”

The TV series 24 proved the reply to this query is an emphatic “No!”

Not solely is every episode of 24 filled with drama and thriller, however each episode ends with a cliffhanger.

Since every season represents in the future – 24 hours – within the lifetime of lead character Jack Bauer, 9 seasons of 24 represents a ticking-clock cliffhanger of epic proportions!

7 Ideas for Writing Cliffhangers That’ll Maintain Readers Hooked For Life

Able to take your inventive work to the subsequent degree with cliffhangers?

Use these tricks to faucet into your viewers’s sense of hysteria, curiosity, and hazard.

1.  Depart a personality twisting within the wind

Channel your internal Luke Skywalker, Jean-Luc Picard or Neo and depart your viewers to guess what’s going to occur subsequent within the lives of your enigmatic hero.

2.  Create unrequited or unsure love pursuits

Bear in mind the facility of the Twilight Saga love triangle in charming a broader viewers for these movies than could be anticipated for a typical vampire story.

3.  Let the clock rely down

Few issues construct pressure sooner than a ticking clock.  The cliffhanger results in 24 and The Da Vinci Code stand as nice templates for including cliffhangers to books, movies and TV sequence.

4.  Throw in a airplane crash

So far as cliffhangers go, the sudden accident twist in a plot can ship your characters into unexpected and unforgettable instructions that your viewers will love. Channel your finest Gray’s Anatomy plot twist to maintain your followers hanging on the sting of their seats.

5.  Unexpectedly kill somebody essential

The lack of a key character unexpectedly has created cliffhanger legends from Dallas and Recreation of Thrones, to Harry Potter and made-for-TV sequence like Zoo. Use this cliffhanger approach to shake up your followers and present them you imply enterprise on the subject of charming their consideration.

6.  Defy actuality by difficult what’s actual

Few cliffhanger methods create an extended afterburn than the psychological mind-tricks of re-defining actuality. Take a web page from Inception, The Silent Affected person, or The First Telephone Name From Heaven to actually mess together with your viewers’s sense of actuality as they enterprise via your work. The inventive rewards of a devoted fanbase are well worth the effort.

7.  Final however not Least, dangle somebody from a Cliff

Even the grasp Tolkien dangled the wizard Gandalf from a cliff. When all else fails, make the cliffhanger literal so there might be no query within the thoughts of your viewers what you had been intending.

To dangle a personality from a cliff is to have interaction within the most interesting type of literary imitation of the best writers of all time.  Use the tactic effectively.

Cliffhanger Examples To A number of Your Success

No author, creator, or movie director begins from scratch.

Utilizing cliffhangers in your work, modeled from inventive rockstars, can propel you from anonymity to fame in a heartbeat.

Finding out the work of those that have gone earlier than you may make your cliffhangers as potent and gripping as doable.

It’s time to go forth and create your individual cliffhanger examples!

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