Jordan Peele followed up his Oscar-winning horror film Get Out with another horror flick that dealt heavily in social commentary: Us. The movie follows a suburban family who goes on vacation only to discover a group of doppelgangers are out to get them. They soon learn there’s an entire world of doppelgangers hiding within an elaborate tunnel system beneath the surface, and it all leads to a shocking finale. If you haven’t been able to stop thinking about the movie since it came out in 2019, don’t worry. We have all your answers right here. Here’s the Us movie ending explained as well as everything else you may have missed.
And of course, spoilers ahead for Us 2019.
THE ENDING OF US EXPLAINED
Can you explain the ending of Us?
The Us film follows Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), a wife and mother to two children who is haunted by an event in her childhood where she found a doppelganger of herself inside a House of Mirrors. As an adult, she travels with her husband Gabe (Winston Duke), daughter Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph), and son Jason (Evan Alex) to their family’s summer home. On the first night, they find four individuals standing in their driveway. The outsiders eventually make their way into the house, revealing themselves to be the family’s doppelgangers.
They refer to themselves as the Tethered. They’ve spent years living under society’s surface and have risen to “untether” themselves from their hosts. Plenty of spooky moments (as well as some pretty hilarious events) occur until we get the big reveal at the end.
The woman we know as Adelaide was actually tethered. She swapped places with the real Adelaide all those years ago.
Adelaide was really Red all along. She shares a glance with her son with him seemingly understanding who his mother actually is. After all, he saw the brutal, tether-like behavior she displayed underground. But he doesn’t say anything. He just puts his mask on… just like his mother has worn a mask for all these years.
We pull back and see tethered have fulfilled their goal of creating their own “Hands Across America.” But as is the case with any good twist ending, there were clues hidden all throughout the film.
For starters, Red is the only tethered who can speak albeit in a raspy, damaged voice. This is due to the fact she’s the original Adelaide who was born and raised in normal society.
Next, you have the flashback scene with Adelaide’s parents speaking with a doctor. They’re concerned because their daughter isn’t speaking anymore. Initially, you assume this is simply due to the trauma she experienced. But with the twist, we realize it’s due to the fact she’s the doppelganger and didn’t know how to speak.
This is again hinted at during the beach scene when the Wilsons are with the Tylers. Adelaide explains to Kitty (Elisabeth Moss) that she’s not much of a talker. Again, the audience assumes this is due to deep-seated trauma, but it’s due to her real nature.
The twist was hiding in plain sight all along. And it plays a crucial role in the central themes of the film.
US MOVIE MEANING
What’s the ultimate Us meaning?
There are plenty of common movie themes that come up frequently, including ones about society at large. That’s where Us 2019 focuses its interest.
The film sets up a society of haves and have-nots. You have two groups of people who are identical in every way, but while one caste gets to enjoy their lives and have agency, the other caste is doomed to wander in tunnels.
There are many ways to interpret this. It serves as commentary between rich vs. poor or whites vs. minorities. Director/writer Jordan Peele has remained tight-lipped about any single Us movie explanation, and that’s part of the fun of reading into the film.
While there are many metaphors to make of this film, it ultimately comes down to who has privilege and who doesn’t. We don’t actually have shadow versions of ourselves wandering around tunnels (or do we… no, we don’t). However, there is someone out there who could have had your life had the circumstances been different.
You may have had opportunities inaccessible to others because your parents are middle-class, because you’re white, or because you’re a man. And the actions the wealthy take don’t just exist in a vacuum. In Us, we see how the tethered recreate actions taken by their counterparts. If people are on a rollercoaster, then the tethered wraith around as though they’re on a ride, too. The actions of those with power impact others even if they’ll never know.
This idea of who has power comes full form with the Adelaide revelation.
THE MOVIE US EXPLAINED
How does Adelaide fall into this theme?
We discover that Adelaide was born a tethered, only to eventually escape and switch places with the real Adelaide. We only learn this in the final few moments of the film, and in the script, the swap is even sadder than what was in the finished film.
Adelaide, the real Adelaide, had her life taken away from her. Even though Red took her spot, she doesn’t seem to have missed a beat. She’s actually done quite well for herself in life.
She was able to become socialized enough to land a husband, who went to Howard University nonetheless. She has two kids. They’re able to take a vacation at a beachfront home and ride around in a boat. Adelaide’s a little quiet, but there’s nothing wrong with that. At first glance, you wouldn’t assume anything is amiss about this all-American family.
And therein lies the true tragedy of the film. There are living, breathing human beings in those tunnels, grunting and lacking any agency. But Adelaide shows us it doesn’t have to be that way. The tethered could also learn how to talk and break free of their connections to their doppelgangers.
Those in power like to think they’re unique. They may want to think they got into a good university due to their own merits. They got a good job because they’re just naturally more skilled than other people. But as Us shows the audience, there’s really not much separating those in power to those without power on a base level.
Chances are, there’s a person living in poverty who could have been the CEO of a company had they been born in better circumstances. Had that person been born to wealthy parents, they could have accomplished a lot more in life. They would have had access to a better education and had the connections necessary to work up the corporate ladder.
Us makes a strong case for nurture over nature. Adelaide’s doppelganger was able to acclimate to normal society even after entering it well into childhood. Similarly, the real Adelaide has transformed into a murderous fiend who leads a tethered uprising. We can surmise the reason she led the revolt was because she was aware of what life was stolen from her.
Disparities in wealth and access to resources is what led to the French Revolution as well as many of the protests we see crop up in modern American society. When the disenfranchised see what life they could have, it’s only natural they get angry.
HOW DOES THE MOVIE US END?
Who’s behind creating the tethered?
In an exposition dump, Red tells us the tethered were created as a government experiment to control their counterparts on the surface. However, the experiment was later abandoned. Now, the doppelgangers merely roam around an intricate set of underground tunnels, copying the actions of their counterparts.
But this opens up a lot of questions. What happens when someone on the surface flies on a plane? Why exactly would the government use clones to control people? Why control people in the first place? Why didn’t the real Adelaide just run up to the surface once she got out of her handcuffs?
These may seem like plot holes, but in actuality, none of them really matter. The film is basically one big allegory for different classes in society. You could spend all day picking apart the logistics of creating the clones, but ultimately, they exist to horrifically highlight what American society does to those who don’t have the resources to excel.
They’re forgotten about. They’re left in the trenches until they finally realize the power of violent revolution.
CAN SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE MOVIE US?
What’s the deal with Hands Across America?
In order to adequately explain the ending of Us, we need to go back to the beginning. The opening scene shows us a commercial for a charity stunt called Hands Across America. We see this idea pop up throughout the film as the tethered begin holding hands in Santa Cruz and eventually (what seems like) the entire country.
For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 1980s, Hands Across America was a charity event where people would hold hands… across America. It was supposed to raise money and awareness for homelessness and hunger, but ultimately, the stunt failed to really do anything to address those prevalent issues.
The goal of Hands Across America was to address some of the issues impacting the underserved in American society. And it didn’t amount to anything more than a cheap stunt. In Us, the original Adelaide looks toward the event with its original intention. She believes such a stunt could really help the tethered find a place in society and not be confined to the tunnels any longer. The opening shot of the film perfectly foreshadows the movie’s ending, and they serve as complements to one another.
US AND JORDAN PEELE EXPLAINED
What other symbolism is found in Us?
The great aspect of Us is that it’s a film that rewards rewatches. Once you know the twist and overarching themes, you can really pay attention to the little details that support ideas raised or are just fun little Easter eggs. Here are some of the finer details to look out for as you rewatch one of the best films of 2019.
The idea of doubles
The entire plot of Us centers around doppelgangers, but doubles come up in more ways than just that. The Tylers have twin daughters. In an early scene with Adelaide at the boardwalk, we see a guy wearing a Black Flag t-shirt. In the present, we see one of the twins wearing a similar Black Flag shirt.
Additionally, there’s a man in a flashback scene with a sign reading “Jeremiah 11:11.” In the future, we get a cut to a clock where the current time reads “11:11.” In regards to the Bible verse in question, it reads:
Therefore thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape; and though they shall cry unto me, I will not hearken unto them.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider
During the flashback sequence, Adelaide whistles the tune of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to herself. Think about the lyrics to that song for a minute. It’s about a spider that “climbed up the water spout,” similar to how Red climbed up through the tunnels.
But “out came the rain and washed the spider out.” Adelaide is the rain, coming to stomp out Red and prevent her from ruining the life she’s made for herself.
In the opening scene, while the commercial for Hands Across America plays, we see several VHS tapes on the shelves. These are just random movies either. They’re all related to Us in some way.
First, we have C.H.U.D., which is about a group of monsters that live in the sewers, not unlike the tethered living underground. The Goonies also deals with traveling underground, hinting at the true nature of the tethered.
The Man With Two Brains is a comedy about a man who falls in love with a woman’s brain. The idea of being connected to someone else’s being is the entire idea behind the tethered, who are linked with those on the surface. There’s also The Right Stuff, a movie about the space race. It’s a subversive choice and no doubt there’s some commentary about how America invested millions of dollars into reaching the moon rather than helping those less fortunate.
Us has a lot on its mind. And it will remain ideal Halloween viewing for horror fans who want something meatier to chew on than your standard monster flick.
The Us film does an excellent job of setting up its themes, iconography, and twist ending. It accomplishes this through foreshadowing, but it’s not the only film to utilize this technique. Plenty of other movies use foreshadowing as a way to clue the audience in. Plus, you can go back to watch the film to see what subtle details you missed the first time around.