Nope Ending Explained: What Is The UFO In The Jordan Peele Sci-Fi Horror Movie?

Some of the cast of Nope in the trailer.
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

 SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains massive spoilers for Nope. If you have not yet seen the film, proceed at your own risk!

Writer/director Jordan Peele stunned audiences around the world in 2017 with the release of Get Out, proved that it wasn’t a fluke when he made Us in 2019, and in 2022, Peele has proven himself a modern master of horror with Nope, as well as many other great movies and shows. The new movie is a very different kind of genre endeavor for the filmmaker than his previous projects – taking a page out of Steven Spielberg’s book by creating a Western hybrid of Jaws and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind – but it’s another powerful win for Peele, and it packs one hell of a third act.

If you’ve come out of seeing the latest Jordan Peele film and have questions about the Nope ending, then you are very much in the right place. We’ve designed this feature to both recap what it is that happens at the conclusion of the new sci-fi/horror film, and dig into the larger themes and meaning of the work. To start, let’s reflect back on what it is that happens in the final 20-30 minutes or so of the new movie:

One of the cast members of Nope.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

 What Happens At The End Of Nope 

As O.J. (Daniel Kaluuya), Emerald (Keke Palmer), Angel (Brandon Perea), and Antlers (Michael Wincott) work together to try and get their much desired “Oprah Shot” of the shapeshifting alien, setting a trap involving a series of sky dancers to track the extraterrestrial’s movement, things start to go very wrong. It kicks off with the unexpected appearance of a TMZ cameraman who is hoping to get some footage following the mysterious disaster at Jupiter’s Claim, and things get dangerous quickly as the protagonists realize that they may have slightly overestimated their ability to rein the alien in and get the photo/footage that they desire.

When Angel and Antlers’ camera setup on the side of a nearby hill gets obliterated, and O.J. seemingly sacrifices himself so that his sister can make an escape, Emerald gets on the TMZ reporter’s bike and speeds off to Jupiter’s Claim – hoping that she will be pursued by the otherworldly creature, which has begun taking on a more jellyfish-like appearance in the sky. Upon her arrival at the Western-themed tourist trap, she begins to untether a series of flag-covered ropes, and we eventually realize that what she is doing is freeing the giant inflatable Jupe mascot and allowing it to fly into the sky.

Satisfying Emerald’s plan, the alien begins to go for the bait, but the heroine’s job still isn’t done: she still needs that “Oprah Shot.” In order to do this, she needs a camera that doesn’t use electricity – and thankfully that’s something that Jupiter’s Claim provides via a souvenir photo opportunity in the middle of the ranch. The hand-cranked machine is at the bottom of a well and designed to take photos of kids who peer over the stone walls, but for Emerald’s purposes the most important thing is that it takes pictures of the sky.

Emerald turns the crank and takes multiple photos, hoping for a perfect moment – and then she gets one, and just in the nick of time. The inflatable mascot turns out to be impossible for the alien to digest, and when the balloon pops while it’s inside the extraterrestrial’s system, it causes the creature to pop as well. In celebration, Emerald exclaims,

Nobody fucks with Haywood, bitch!

 Fortunately, it’s not a joyous moment of victory that she needs to celebrate alone. As the photo is printed and developed, Emerald take a look to the exit of Jupiter’s Claim, and in a cloud of dust she can see a man on a horse. When the air clears, we see that it’s O.J., who is alive and ready to help his sister launch a brand new era for Haywood Hollywood Horses. 

Something in Nope.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

 What Exactly Is The UFO In Nope? 

As the marketing for Jordan Peele’s Nope ramped up in the last few months, speculation ran rampant regarding the mystery in the new film. The main trailer for the movie very much sold the idea of aliens, featuring clips of a round, silver object flying around in the clouds, but there was still lingering doubt that audiences could actually trust what they were seeing, and there was suspicion that the idea of it being a spaceship was all just a misdirect. 

It turns out that those anticipating the film were right to not fully trust the suggestions of the advertisements. The sci-fi/horror feature does include a new kind of extraterrestrial species, but they aren’t aboard some kind of spacecraft that looks straight out of a 1950s B-movie. Instead, what’s confused as a ship is actually the alien itself that is nicknamed Jean Jacket – and it turns out that it is very territorial and very, very hungry.

While we don’t get a full-on scientific explanation about the nature of the alien in Nope, we do find out quite a lot about it thanks to observing its behavior. We know that it’s a shapeshifter and it seems to take on its most compact form when it is between hunts. It also seems to have some kind of ability to generate a cloud that it uses for camouflage in the sky. It’s a carnivore that doesn’t seem too picky about the kind of meat that it eats, be it horse or human, and it eats by creating a kind of wind tunnel that is used to suck up its food (which looks quite a lot like an alien abduction).

Not actually looking directly at the monster proves to be an effective way at avoiding its attention, as it seems to take eye contact as a kind of aggression, but it has another weakness in that it doesn’t exactly have a perfect digestive system. Unlike a shark, which can eat just about anything and just keep swimming, Jean Jacket apparently has an inability to digest inorganic matter – which is what causes the rain of metal objects at the start of the film that ends up killing O.J and Emerald’s father. The protagonists start to understand this when the otherworldly monster tries to eat the decoy horse and spits it out

It’s this fact that gives Emerald the inspiration that ends up letting her kill Jean Jacket. She gets a proper hunch at the end of the film that the creature will attack the giant inflatable Jupiter’s Claim mascot, and she knows that it cannot digest it. The big bonus is that it winds up exploding inside the alien and killing it – a la the oxygen tank in Jaws

Steven Yeun in Nope.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

 What Does The Future Hold For O.J., Emerald And Angel?

Nope features what could definitely be called a happy ending. The trio of lovable protagonists all manage to survive their experience with Jean Jacket, and the threat that has been literally hanging over their heads for months is destroyed. But what happens to O.J., Emerald and Angel following the conclusion of this story?

If we're choosing to be super optimistic, then one could look at the circumstances and say that there is a bright future ahead for the characters. They have the first real proof of an extraterrestrial lifeform on Earth with the photo that they took, and it wouldn't be too surprising if it kicked off a media storm – if not especially because it could inform exactly what it is that happened during the mysterious disaster at Jupiter's Claim where the alien went on a feeding frenzy. The heroes could become media sensations, and obviously that kind of publicity could do wonders for Haywood Hollywood Horses as a business.

But will things actually be that bright and shiny? Perfect as the photo of the alien may be, the world is full of skeptics, and actually convincing everyone that their "Oprah Shot" is authentic may be an impossible task. One also can't dismiss the reaction by the United States government, which might not be overly inclined to let the world know that there are potentially dangerous aliens hiding behind the clouds. As alluded to by Angel earlier in Nope in the discussion of UFOs vs. UAP situation, the whole situation may end up being tampered down and dismissed. 

Jordan Peele doesn't really give the audience any kind of specific explanation for what the the future will hold for the characters, so it's really left up to audience interpretation. Perhaps one day we'll get a Nope 2 that ties up the loose ends (after all, Peele hasn't totally dismissed the idea of making sequels to his films)

Featuring a killer cast including Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun, Brandon Perea, Michael Wincott and Keith David, Nope is now playing in theaters everywhere and riding high on a wave of positive buzz and solid albeit somewhat mixed reviews. Even if you've already seen it on a normal screen, it's an experience that every movie-goer should have in IMAX.

To learn about all of the films set to hit theaters and streaming in what remains of the year, check out our 2022 Movie Release Calendar.

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.