22 Alternate Film Endings That Never Made It to Movie Theaters
Almost since the beginning of filmmaking, original endings have ended up on the cutting room floor. Sometimes things even get reconfigured before a project is in production. Whether the result of a director's change of heart, unsuccessful test screenings, suggested studio tweaks, or the desire to set up numerous sequels, here are films that almost had very different outcomes and one classic that rejiggered its opening. Caution: spoilers ahead!
What is arguably the most beloved rags-to-riches rom-com of all time was initially meant to be a grittier tale about Hollywood sex workers, corporate greed, and America’s depressed economy. According to Refinery29, the script was first titled 3,000 (after the amount it would cost to hire protagonist Vivian for a week) and in it, Vivian (Julia Roberts) smoked cracked and Edward (Richard Gere) had a girlfriend he was cheating on. It also ended with Edward kicking Vivian out of the car and sending her back to slumming it and working the streets after showing her how the top 1 percent lives. When the film wound up at Disney, who was dabbling in darker themes and wanted to retain the services of acclaimed Beaches director Garry Marshall, they wanted a happier ending especially because “the chemistry between Julia and Gere is palpable and because they light up with each other, you can’t really see how it could end any other way,” according to a Vanity Fair interview with the screenwriter J.F. Lawton. Marshall didn’t want it to be too rescued-damsel-in-distress though, which is probably why the movie wound up featuring the detail about Edward convincing Vivian to get off the street and get her GED, and the line about Vivian rescuing Edward right back after he scales the fire escape as a grand gesture. The hotel where the couple spends the week is in Beverly Hills—check out other filming locations you can visit in real life.
The 2018 Best Original Screenplay Oscar winner could have gone two ways. The one that made it to theaters shows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) escaping from his girlfriend and her racist and terrifying family who have been experimenting on black people for years. To get out, he kills most of them in self-defense and is strangling his heinous honey Rose (Allison Williams) when his friend Rod shows up in a police car. But the DVD commentary revealed that writer/director Jordan Peele was considering another ending so heavily that he filmed it too. This time white cops show up and arrest him. There’s a flash forward to Chris in jail unable or unwilling to remember details that would clear his name. Peele says, “[Get Out] was meant to call out the fact that racism is still simmering underneath the surface so this ending felt like the gut punch the world needed as something about it rings very true. Cut to six months later and Chris is in prison, the evidence has burnt down, and this is a system that values rich white people and takes their side. My feeling is what would happen is Chris would end up in jail just because of how it looks.” Here are 10 more movies that are thought-provoking about race.
There has always been a camp that felt Michael Douglas’ character Dan wasn’t punished enough for cheating on his wife with sex-starved psycho Alex (Glenn Close). Sure, she stalked him, the bunny was boiled, and his wife and child were threatened, but Anne Archer wasn’t even planning on leaving him. Director Adrian Lyne’s initial plan likely would have pleased that camp more. Alex commits suicide by kitchen knife—a knife that she made sure had Dan’s prints on it—across the throat. Dan is arrested in front of his kid, leaving his future slightly more dubious. Close told Movieline in 1996 that she preferred the suicide/frame storyline as she felt her character would “self-destruct and commit suicide.” She explained, “The original ending was a gorgeous piece of film noir. He knows he didn’t do it, but he’s going to jail anyway. But audiences wanted some kind of cathartic ending so we went back months later and shot the ending that’s in the movie now.”
When this period romance set aboard one of the most famous ships to ever hit the high seas opened, it was a massive hit, a technological triumph, and a megastar-making vehicle for Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Many critics though found the dialogue atrocious, the characters underdeveloped, and the ending unsatisfying. They almost had more to moan about when it was revealed that an extended final scene was planned. In both the final version and the alternate, the old-lady version of Rose (Winslet) had the priceless Heart of the Ocean necklace her evil ex had given her all along and only came aboard Bill Paxton’s treasure-hunting mission in order to throw it into the deep to sleep with the fishes and her long-lost love Jack. Featured as an extra on the 2005 DVD release, the alternate clip adds in a fortune cookie-like teachable moment. Paxton has a chance to stop her from sinking his future. Instead, he holds it briefly and lets her school him on how he doesn’t prioritize the right things in life. “We [Paxton and actress Suzy Amis as Rose’s granddaughter) think she’s going to jump off the stern of the ship and join her lost lover over the wreck site. So we run up and say, ‘Don’t do it!’ I forget what the dialogue was,” Paxton once told Yahoo. “She turns, she’s holding the diamond, and says something about ‘You don’t know what to really value in life.’ I just have an epiphany where I look up and have this crazy laugh.”
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
This hilarious sports film parody originally didn’t have a happy ending for the Vince Vaughn-led Average Joes. In theaters, moviegoers rejoiced as the band of misfits bested the bad guys, the Purple Cobras, at the big showdown and doomed their leader Ben Stiller to a life of obesity by fried chicken. The DVD release revealed that the team behind the comedy thought it would be funnier if they totally turned the cliché on its head. The plan was to have the underdogs practice the gym-class staple and give it their all, but ultimately still come up short. Stiller’s team celebrates wildly and obnoxiously and the film fades to black.
Lilo & Stitch
On some occasions, tragic real-life events are the impetus for plot changes. Such was the case for this lighthearted Disney cartoon about family, friendship, and aliens on the island of Kauai. The climax of the film features the girl with an extraterrestrial BFF getting kidnapped by an evil alien named Gantu. Stitch hops aboard a red, white, and blue spaceship and gives chase around Hawaii’s lush mountainside and volcanoes to save her. But the ending originally called for the creature to commander a passenger plane that bore a striking resemblance to Hawaiian Airlines jet, which Stitch flew through a densely populated cityscape. He even destroyed buildings in an effort to retrieve his pal. It would have likely gone to theaters that way had it not been in production when the horrific events of 9/11 occurred in 2001. Disney subbed the spaceship and scenery to keep the beloved character from being likened to a terrorist. Check out these three things that are never allowed in Disney movies.
Pretty In Pink
Turns out Duckie (Jon Cryer) was done dirty thanks to test audiences. The original ending saw the quirky BFF get the girl. He took her to prom after things with Blaine (Andrew McCarthy) dissipated and they danced to David Bowie’s “Heroes.” But those treated to an early taste of the John Hughes-penned high school love triangle fable fantasized about Andie (Molly Ringwald), the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, reconciling with her preppy and posh paramour. Hence, the film now concludes with Duckie prompting Andie to run after Blaine and their heavy petting at the hood of his BMW. All wasn’t lost for Duckie though as a pretty popular girl waves him to the dancefloor. Cryer told Entertainment Weekly in 2017 that he now believes the “movie is best as is ’cause you invest in that relationship.” But he felt very differently back in the ’80s when he was called back for reshoots. “At the time, I was annoyed because I wanted to be the guy who got the girl. I was very stoic. But that’s the gig.”
Nightmare On Elm Street
Horror-movie mastermind Wes Craven was inspired to create one of the genre’s most iconic supernatural villains after reading about a true story of a group of men whose intense nightmares caused them to die in their sleep. Using the name of a bully from his own youth, Craven birthed Freddy Kruger, a burnt-face baddie with a glove of knives and the ability to enter your dreams. Craven envisioned it as a stand-alone film and thus had Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) defeat him in a final nightmare, realize it was all a dream, and return to standard high-school shenanigans. But the studio head knew a star was born and convinced Craven to rework it into a twist ending with a few extra scares including a possessed car. The final cut left the door open for a return of the striped sweater and fedora, which, of course, was acted on as the character and film turned out to be extremely popular. It spawned seven sequels, a spinoff, and a remake between 1984 and 2010.
Die Hard With A Vengeance
John McClane (Bruce Willis) is a badass who always gets the bad guy. In this 1995 sequel, he takes out villain Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) in a final showdown by shooting an overhead power line so that it falls onto the helicopter his enemy is trying to escape on. It crashes and everyone dies. But an alternate ending surfaced in which Gruber gets away. Or he thinks he does, according to CinemaBlend. Now clean and sober, McClane tracks him down and has one last so-earned face-to-face full of witty repartee and the business end of a rocket launcher.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) has girl problems. The adorkable garage-rock band bassist meets his dream girl Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and spends basically the entire movie fighting off her seven evil exes in order to win her over. So it is understandable that test audiences were thrown for a loop when he chooses to be with an underage love interest named Knives Chau at the end. Especially as the graphic novels the Edgar Wright movie is based on also conclude with Scott sticking with Ramona. “The original ending would divide people,” Wright told MTV News. “I was aware that the ending we had wasn’t quite as satisfying as it should be so we had the chance of shooting something new. When we screened it again, the scores went hugely up.” The change also meant the nerd-verse never got to see Gideon turning into a giant robot which Wright worried “would look like a Transformers’ spoof.”
Rambo: First Blood
David Morrell’s 1972 novel about a Vietnam veteran who violently clashes with a small-town sheriff closes with both characters dead after a manhunt and much bloodshed. When the film was adapted in the 1980s, director Ted Kotcheff decided to make a more political statement. He told Entertainment Weekly he felt survivors of that “very stupid war” were treated so terribly and felt guilty [that] they’d dirtied their souls for absolutely nothing.” It’s why he pictured First Blood as Rambo’s (Sylvester Stallone) “suicide mission.” He wanted Rambo to confront his colonel at the end and plead with him to kill him because he “was the one who made him” and he couldn’t stomach spending his life in a cell. When the officer balked, Rambo grabbed the gun and pulled the trigger himself. Apparently, the hero himself thought better of killing him off. He argued after shooting the death scene, “We put this character through so much. The police abuse him. Dogs are sent. He jumps off cliffs. He’s shot in the arm and sews it up himself. All this, and now we’re gonna kill him?” Stallone’s debate was apparently convincing as they filmed the new ending with both the sheriff and Stallone walking away alive on the same day thus allowing the character to live to fight another day and in four sequels. Here are 18 other movies that were books first.
The Martin Scorsese crime drama about a crooked cop, an undercover agent, and savage mobsters in Boston was a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong thriller called Infernal Affairs, but it took a few detours from the source material. The biggest swerve was the one extra murder at the end, according to the Washington Post. In the original, the mole in the department avoids detection. In the American version, the character now played by Matt Damon escapes when a second mole makes himself known and shoots the undercover agent in an elevator. But his reprieve doesn’t last long as another cop who learns the truth hunts him down and ends him before he can eat his bagel.
The Jungle Book
The man-cub first appeared in stories by Rudyard Kipling and then graced the big screen in a 1967 animated classic and a well-received 2016 live-action retelling directed by Jon Favreau. Perhaps anticipating being successful enough at the box office to get a sequel greenlight, Favreau veered from the original material and the Disney cartoon‘s closer that sent Mowgli back to the man village after encountering a beguiling girl. Instead, 2016 Mowgli returns to his wolf pack a hero after ridding them of the terrible tiger Shere Khan choosing to live among the animals rather than adapt to human life. It turns out the original treatment for the cartoon also featured a long, convoluted alternate ending, which was storyboarded and revealed on the 2014 Blu-ray reissue. Interestingly, it contains some similarities to Favreau’s flick, like the welcome back from the wolves and the accidental burning down of the forest with man’s red flower.
28 Days Later
This zombie thrill ride had not one but three alternative endings on the DVD. Two were actually committed to celluloid including this one where Jim (Cillian Murphy) is rushed to a hospital after being shot by the evil military man. His gal pals (Naomie Harris and Megan Burns) attempt to save him unsuccessfully. In the commentary, director Danny Boyle calls this the “true ending” and says that it brings the Jim character, who wakes from a coma in an empty hospital, “full circle.” Test audiences didn’t love the protagonist dying and also felt that the women’s exit was depressing even though Boyle and screenwriter Alex Garland believed it implied their survival. Even in the ending that never went past the storyboard phase, Jim never makes it out alive. The theatrical version ends on a happier note as somehow the girls manage to save him and are seen trying to flag down a rescue plane with a handmade hello sign.
Little Shop Of Horrors
The cult classic has become one of the most storied examples of how important test screenings are to movie studio suits. The entire 23-minute ending of the 1986 adaptation of an Off-Broadway musical based on a Roger Corman film about a cannibal plant from outer space and featuring music by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman (Beauty and The Beast) was scrapped and reshot after two California test audiences voiced their hatred. In the show, both leads die and Audrey IIs achieve world domination. The film’s finale retained that resolution and featured ferocious floras destroying famous cities. But director Frank Oz told Entertainment Weekly in 2012, “We went to San Jose for the first preview and they loved it until we killed our leads. They felt bereft. Then the theater became an ice box. They hated us killing them. You have to have a 55 percent ‘recommend’ to be released and we got a 13. We got exactly the same reaction [in LA]. I knew what we had to do. We had to cut that and make it a happy or satisfying ending. We didn’t want to, but we understood they couldn’t release it with that kind of reaction. This was the most expensive film Warner Bros. had done at the time.” Instead, Seymour (Rick Moranis) saves Audrey (Ellen Greene) from the gnashing teeth by electrocuting his plant.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Easter eggs and extras were added to DVDs to entice buyers to pony up the cash. Poking fun at the trend, the Pineapple Express team shot a fake finale and billed it as an alternative ending to the film about a process server (Seth Rogan) and his weed dealer (James Franco) on the run from hitmen and dirty cops after witnessing a murder. Instead of concluding with a Pulp Fiction-esque diner breakfast that was pure joy to watch, the duo, having survived the chase, takes a timeout to toke. Dale believes he might see one last bad guy in the distance but before he can convince Saul it is more than pot-induced paranoia they are shot. The bromance is sealed by one last bit of handholding as they take their last breath, a clue that this scenario was likely never a real contender.
The campy so-bad-it’s-good sci-fi satire from 1997 made several changes after getting bad reviews from test audiences. Most revolved around a love triangle between Carmen (Denise Richards), Johnny Rico (Caspar Van Dien), and Carmen’s eventual commanding officer Zander Barcalow (Patrick Muldoon). Before battling bugs, Carmen and Johnny are an item but she breaks it off during basic training. The test groups didn’t look too kindly on her choosing to put her career before commitment. They also really didn’t like that she then turned around and hooked up with her superior. So director Paul Verhoeven seriously scaled back on the romance angle and cut a Carmen/Johnny kiss at the end after Barcalow’s death.
When in the script stages, the 2008 nihilistic superhero movie/ Will Smith vehicle was far bleaker than the version that hit the silver screen. As it is, the Skid Row protector is rude, crude, drinks far too much, and often creates massive collateral damage under the guise of saving the city. But the original incarnation of Hancock was alcoholic, miserable, and suicidal. The script had the lead character murdering police officers, raping a fellow mythical being whose destiny and powers are linked to his, and trying to end it all by committing suicide. Of course, being invincible really puts a kink in any plans to end it all. The final product mellowed out his mean streak, gave him tons of scenes with an adorable moppet, and has him make the ultimate sacrifice and leave town in order to restore the other immortal’s powers and save her life as she lays dying after being attacked by a crook.
Writer/director Kevin Smith’s breakout comedy about two dudes ruminating on life’s big questions while running a convenience store and the video rental shop next door almost ended tragically, according to Rolling Stone. The story goes that Smith was at a loss for how to end the film so he penned a scene in which Dante (Brian O’Halloran) is shot and killed during a robbery of the Quick Stop after closing time. O’Halloran hated it, telling the magazine that he “thought it was too much of a twist.” Smith came around to agreeing and instead had his breakout indie end with Randal (Jeff Anderson) throwing the store’s closed sign at Dante.
A small tweak with big meaning was made to the penultimate scene of the Silence of the Lambs’ sequel, according to ThisIsInsider.com. In both the used and unused sequence, the cannibal (Anthony Hopkins) traps Clarice (Julianne Moore) by her ponytail in the fridge while he sautés the brains of an old nemesis. He asks her to let him run and his plea is punctuated with a kiss. Unlike in the final edit, she does not use the tender and terrifying moment to handcuff him to her in an attempt to slow him down until other agents arrive and thus he does not threaten to cut off her hand or sacrifice his own extremity instead. And while he is shown on a plane sharing his gourmet gray matter with an inquisitive little boy in both options, the one that made it to the silver screen shows his arm in a sling.
The Shawshank Redemption
This 1994 Frank Darabont-directed drama based on a Stephen King novella about two convicts who form a rock-solid bond in the titular prison is consistently ranked on best films of all times lists, but its solid standing in the hearts and minds of critics and movie buffs alike might have been more questionable if the director had chosen to go with the more ambiguous finale he first filmed. Originally, Red (Morgan Freeman) gets paroled after 40 years but the audience never gets to see him reunite with Andy (Tim Robbins), who had escaped earlier through a tunnel he’d dug over two decades and used the money he’d helped the warden launder to get to his happy place in Zihuatanejo. Instead, Darabont decided to specifically show Red retrieving the package Andy buried in a hayfield containing money and a letter asking him to meet him in Mexico. The redemption story is complete when Red violates his parole and finds Andy on the beach in paradise. Both are finally ready to “get busy living” instead of dying. Don’t miss these other great movie lines you will want to quote.
Unlike the other films on this list, this 1950 cautionary tale has an alternate opening instead and it has a raucous test audience in Evanston, Illinois, to thank for it. According to a chapter in Billy Wilder In Hollywood by Maurice Zolotow, the audience was rolling in aisles and laughed so much at the original beginning that the legendary director walked out of the theater and sat, stressed, on the staircase. People started to leave and he asked one woman what she thought. She replied, “I never saw such a pile of sh*t in all my life.” After an even worse reception at a preview in New York, Wilder jettisoned the first scene in which Joe Gillis’ corpse told the other bodies in the morgue about his murder, believing it set too comedic a tone for the film. The release was delayed for six months and a new start—the iconic one featuring police cars barreling down Sunset, a corpse floating facedown in a pool, and an off-screen narrator telling watchers about his death—was culled together, according to Turner Classic Movies. It appears to have been the right move as the film opened to rave reviews and became a classic. Next, read on for the most iconic movie set in every state.
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