conspiracy theories

Theories on What Bill Murray Whispered at the End of Lost in Translation

Photo: Focus Features

Lost in Translation was released ten years ago today, so it also marks ten years of people asking each other, “What do you think Bill Murray whispered to Scarlett Johansson at the end of Lost in Translation?” It remains one of the biggest mysteries in recent film history, its secrecy enhanced by the fact that no one besides the actors knows for sure what Murray said as Bob. The film’s writer-director Sofia Coppola doesn’t even know, as the scene was improvised by Murray and ended up much different (and much better) than what was originally written. Over the last decade, however, some people with sound equipment and/or imaginations have done their best to crack the code. Below are the best attempts to find the last lost translation.

First, here’s the original scene, the whisper tantalizingly low in the mix:

Below is the most popular video breakdown. It’s hard to know for sure if it’s right, but it definitely has the best production value:

“I have to be leaving, but I won’t let that come between us. Okay?” 

The next one gets credit for at least acknowledging that part of the speech might just be impossible to hear:

“I love you. Is the best thing I can [???]. At some point, he has to tell it to her.”

Like any good conspiracy, this one has its own Truthers. But we use that term in the literal sense, meaning people who think that Murray ends the whisper saying “Tell the truth” or “Tell him the truth,” referring to Giovanni Ribisi’s character, Johansson’s husband. The following three videos make a convincing case. 

“I won’t see you till the next making of Santori. Go to that man and tell him the truth, okay?”

“You’ll always be an independent woman, don’t part mad. Tell the truth. Okay.”

“When John is waiting on the next business trip … go up to that man, and tell him the truth. Okay?”

Beyond the videos, there are plenty of theories around the Internet that are tied less to audio compression and more to wonder:

• One Redditor has a very thorough explanation that involves time travel, of course: Murray is actually Charlotte (ScarJo)’s husband from the future, who’s come back in time because future him realized he neglected her too much. He does the commercial while he’s there, because time travel is expensive. And he doesn’t make a move on her, because he doesn’t want to ruin her present-day marriage with himself. This would mean the woman Murray talks to on the phone was in reality future Charlotte. So the film is actually just Murray’s character seeing “reminders of the hell he puts Charlotte through” and deciding she’s better without him. That’s why at the end, “he whispers to her that John is not good enough for her and that she should live a free and happy life on her own.”  

• Some argue that he didn’t say anything in that whisper…because that whisper never happened! As can be read on this message board post, a theory posits that the entire last scene was just a fantasy. The biggest piece of evidence for this point is that when the two characters say good-bye in the hotel, Charlotte goes up in the elevator, yet when we next see her she is somehow ahead of him. Writes the poster, “It just felt like it was a dream state that Bob happened to look over and see her walking down the street with her back towards him. It almost seems too random for it to be true.” 

• There’s a legend that Bill Murray sometimes sneaks up behind strangers, puts his hands over their eyes, and whispers “Guess who?” When he reveals himself, he whispers, “No one will ever believe you” and walks away. One Redditor proposes that’s exactly what Murray said to ScarJo: “No one will believe you, so tell the truth.” That would work, right? Sorry, we just very much hope this one is true.

What do you think he said? A joke? Did he tell her to come with him? Or that he loved her early aughts haircut? Do we focus too much on the whisper and not enough on the kiss and post-kiss smiles?

Theories on the Lost in Translation Whisper