How Nightmare Alley Secretly Spoiled Its Ending | Screen Rant

Nightmare Alley is full of mysticism, but the scene with the hanged man tarot card actually spoils the movie's ending. Nightmare Alley is Guillermo del Toro's new genre-bending neo-noir film following down on his luck Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) as he enters the world of carnivals and mentalism. After finding success with his wife Molly (Rooney Mara), things go downhill for Stanton upon meeting Dr. Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett) and attempting to swindle powerful people in New York City.

At one point in Guillermo del Toro's Nightmare Alley, after Stanton has found success in New York City as a mentalist, Molly invites some of her old friends from the carnival to their house. Zeena and Stanton catch up for a moment, and Zeena tells him to do a three-card tarot reading. While Stanton doesn't believe in the cards, Zeena assures him that it'll be insightful. The last card he draws is the reversed hanged man, and Zeena warns him he needs to return to the right path. Stanton, in response, turns the card to its upright position, and tells her it'll all be okay. While this seems like a friendly warning from Zeena, an understanding of tarot cards and their meanings reveals that the cards spoil Nightmare Alley's ending with that card.

Related: Nightmare Alley Cast & Character Guide

A reversed hanged man in tarot generally means that the time for action is now. Zeena tells Stanton this, telling him it's not too late to make the right decision, but he has to do it now. Stanton doesn't follow Zeena's advice, and his life takes a downhill turn when he forges ahead. The card, however, also has other meanings that predict the rest of the movie. The reversed hanged man also means that the sacrifices being made for a person's career aren't worth it and won't turn out how they're expected to turn out. Sometimes it also means someone is stalling for more time. While these meanings aren't mentioned in the movie, they're equally as important as spoiling the ending.

Nightmare Alley turns into a horror movie as Stanton's sacrifices end up not being worth it for his career and don't turn out the way he's expecting. When he includes Molly in his plan to swindle Grindle, it seems like that's the only way to keep up the facade. Molly agrees to the plan but not before finding out Stanton has been cheating with Lilith. Stanton is forced to sacrifice his romantic relationship with Molly to succeed with Grindle. However, his plan backfires, and Stanton is forced to sacrifice his financial success to keep himself alive and out of trouble. He murders Grindle and his bodyguard and goes on the run from the police. After sacrificing everything, Stanton ends up with less than when he started, proving the hanged man card right.

Ironically enough, when Stanton turns the card around from reversed to upright, he may have been sealing his fate at the end of possible oscar contender Nightmare Alley. Upright and reversed cards in tarot have different meanings, and the upright hanged man means that one understands they have to sacrifice in order to move forward. Often, this is in repentance for past wrongdoings. Stanton, by flipping the card, unknowingly recognizes he must repent. His list is long. He kills his father, Pete, Grindle, and his bodyguard, attempts to murder Lilith, swindles thousands of dollars from unsuspecting people, cheats on and hurts Molly, and more. He has a lot to repent for, and the only way to right those wrongs in his new life is by becoming the Geek.

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