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American Psycho Ending Explained: 3 Most Popular Fan Theories

American Psycho Ending Explained: 3 Most Popular Fan Theories

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American Psycho came out over 20 years ago, helping launch the career of the legendary Christian Bale. But to this day, fans aren’t sure what actually happened in the movie.

If you watched the movie and were also confused by the ending, don’t worry: you’re not alone. The ending is ambiguous, making it unclear if Patrick Bateman really is a murderer or if it was all just in his head.

Is there one true interpretation of American Psycho’s ending? Below, we explore the top theories about what the ending means, and even have some clues from the movies creators.

The End Of American Psycho Explained: Three Theories

After seemingly murdering several people, the end of American Psycho shows that Patrick Bateman finds all the bodies gone and no one is aware of his crimes.

One of Patrick Bateman’s first victims is his co-worker rival, Paul Allen. Bateman kills Allen in Allen’s own apartment, then stashes more bodies there as he continues killing.

However, at the end of the movie, he visits the apartment after confessing his crimes and finds it empty and for sale. There’s no evidence any bodies were there, and Paul Allen is said to be in London.

Patrick Bateman in the final ending scenes of American Psycho (2000)

In addition, Bateman’s confession is taken as a joke. The movie ends with Bateman unsure how much, if any, of what he did was real.

It’s an intentionally ambiguous ending, and there are three theories about what actually happened.

Theory 1: American Psycho Was All A Dream

Possibly the most obvious theory is that the events of American Psycho were all a dream or hallucination of Patrick Bateman.

The movie portrays Bateman as mentally unstable, no matter which interpretation you believe. So, frustrated with the banality and self-absorbed nature of his life, he imagines taking out his anger and dark impulses on those around him.

He believes he’s really killing people, but it’s all part of his psychosis, as he has a mental breakdown.

This explains why there were no bodies in Allen’s apartment. It also explains why Bateman was able to blow up a police car with just a few rounds from a pistol. Cars explode from gunfire in movies all the time, but even Bateman looks confused when it happens, indicating it isn’t real even in the fiction of the movie.

Theory 2: Patrick Bateman Really Killed Everyone

The second most popular theory for American Psycho is that Patrick Bateman really did kill everyone.

Christian Bale actor holding an axe in the American Psycho (2000) movie

It’s possible that Bateman himself cleaned up Allen’s apartment; he just doesn’t remember because he’s mentally unstable. But there’s another idea that fits in with the movie’s critique of capitalist culture.

The realtors are as greedy and uncaring as everyone else in Patrick Bateman’s world. And Allen’s apartment is too good to pass up. So, they’re willing to clean up dead bodies and let a murderer go free just to sell an apartment.

Theory 3: Only Some Of American Psycho Was Real

Patrick Bateman did kill some of the people in American Psycho, but some of it was just in his head. This theory fits what the filmmakers have to say about their ambiguous ending.

It’s possible that Patrick Bateman didn’t really kill Paul Allen. Several characters say that they spoke to or saw Allen in London. One of Bateman’s co-workers even tells Detective Kimball (Willem Dafoe) that he was at lunch with Bateman during one of Bateman’s murders.

However, that doesn’t mean all of his murders didn’t happen. The homeless man he kills, for example, may simply have never been tied to Bateman.

He could have killed people and never actually put them in Allen’s apartment at all. After all, he’s mentally unwell no matter what.

The Filmmakers Won’t Explain The Ending Of American Psycho

The director and co-writer of American Psycho won’t confirm any of the theories about the ending. However, their opinions line up with the third theory that only some of the movie doesn’t really happen.

Patrick Bateman in American Psycho (2000) movie at his desk in his highrise New York office

Co-writer Guinevere Turner, spoke to MovieMaker about how she and the director, Mary Harron, felt about the ending.

“We just decided, together, that we both really disliked movies where the big reveal is that it was all in someone’s head or it was all a dream.”

“We just both find that annoying. We just said we’re going to make a really conscious effort to have it be real, and then at some point… he’s sort of perceiving things differently, but they’re really happening.”

This lines up with the third theory that Bateman does commit some murders or crimes, but some of what he experiences isn’t real.

While Turner says she’ll never say for sure whether or not Bateman killed anyone, she does say that at some point “it becomes less realistic, and that’s the moment when the ATM says ‘Feed Me a Stray Cat’.”

The director also says she’ll never confirm what the ending of American Psycho means. “I would never answer that [question]. As Quentin Tarantino says, ‘If I tell you that, I take this movie away from you,” said Mary Harron.