The everlasting impact of a movie essentially depends upon how it reaches a conclusion. Though numerous movies are remembered for their heartwarming and satisfying endings, there have been alternative plans taken into serious consideration. From last-minute changes to studio interference, here are some great movies that almost had entirely different endings:
15. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
After spending 40 years at the Shawshank State Penitentiary, Ellis “Red” Redding is finally paroled but he longs to meet with his friend Andy Dufresne again. In order to do so, Red violates his parole by crossing the Mexican border and meets Andy at a beach in Zihuatanejo.
However, the scene was not in the script as the movie would have concluded with Red crossing the Mexican border and leaving it up to the viewers to wonder if the two friends would ever meet each other again. Producer Liz Glotzer heavily campaigned to shoot the scene in which Red and Andy reunite. When the test audience reacted positively to it, director Frank Darabont decided to include it in the movie.
14. Se7en (1995)
The spine-chilling ending of the crime thriller movie Se7en has one of the most memorable plot twists in cinematic history but it almost did not see the light of day. Instead of Detective David Mills shooting murderer John Doe for killing the former’s wife and having her severed head delivered to him inside a box, there were several alternative endings.
One of them even involved Mills shooting both Doe and his own partner William Somerset. Another idea was to have the head of Mills’ dog in the box. Regardless of the options, no ending would have been better than the one that made the final cut.
13. Back to the Future (1985)
According to Two and a Half Men star Jon Cryer, when he auditioned for the role of Marty McFly, the script had a very different ending. Originally, Marty was supposed to get inside a refrigerator to be shot back into 1985 when a bomb goes off at a testing site.
Since shooting that scene would have been way too expensive for Universal Pictures, it was decided to have Marty go back into the future by driving the iconic DeLorean Time Machine and relying on the lightning-struck clock tower.
12. The Thing (1982)
When a group of crew members gets stuck in an Antarctic base, they encounter a shape-shifting alien. Matters get even more complicated when the creature impersonates one of the crew members. The Thing ambiguously culminates with Kurt Russell’s character R.J. MacReady possibly being the creature itself.
One can argue that The Thing would not have been the same without the mysterious ending but director John Carpenter initially had other plans as both MacReady and Childs turn into the Thing and would be later rescued by a helicopter.
11. Joker (2019)
Remember how Joker ends with Arthur Fleck laughing at a joke in his mind and telling the psychiatrist that she would not understand it? As revealed by filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith, that scene would have been followed by a dark flashback.
In the flashback, Arthur would have shot Thomas and Martha dead but when their son Bruce would start crying, he would have shot the traumatized boy as well. Moreover, the horrifying scene would have been immediately followed by the credits sequence. Now you potentially know what Arthur was laughing at.
10. First Blood (1982)
Believe it or not, John Rambo was not originally meant to surrender to Colonel Samuel Trautman and go to prison for his heinous mayhem. Instead, he was intended to snatch Trautman’s gun and shoot himself.
The test audience absolutely loathed the scene of Rambo committing suicide and Sylvester Stallone was forced to rewrite the endings. The decision was indeed a wise one as it paved the way for sequels in the future.
9. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
No one could have predicted that the ending of Spider-Man: Far From Home would feature J. K. Simmons reprising his iconic role of J. Jonah Jameson after twelve long years to reveal to the world that Spider-Man is none other than Peter Parker.
According to screenwriter Chris McKenna, there were a few other endings considered for the movie. One of them involved Peter voluntarily revealing his identity during the final battle whereas another idea proposed the villain Mysterio tricking the web-slinging superhero into doing it.
8. Alien (1979)
The science-fiction horror movie concluded with Ellen Ripley escaping in a life pod from a spaceship that was about to blow up whereas the alien was ejected into space. Though she becomes safe from danger, director Ridley Scott had an immensely depressing ending in his mind.
In the original ending, Ripley harpoons the aliens but it manages to overpower her and then bites her head off. Thankfully, Scott made changes to the script and it paved the way for the highly successful Alien franchise that has six feature films and even a web series.
7. The Shining (1980)
Even after four decades, the enigmatic ending of The Shining is still discussed and debated among movie fans. The closing shot of Jack Torrance appearing in a black and white photograph dating back to 1921 is open to interpretation but the scene was almost not even included in the final cut of the movie.
The movie originally wrapped up with Wendy Torrance in a hospital and the hotel manager Stuart Ullman revealing that her husband Jack’s body was never found and then gives her son Danny a yellow tennis ball, assumed to be the same one that his father had.
Director Stanley Kubrick not only shot the scene but released it as part of the movie. A week after its premiere, he felt unsatisfied with the ending and demanded the theatres to send back his movie’s reels so he could change the scene.
6. The Lion King (1994)
If you thought the scene of Simba being speechless at the sight of the lifeless body of his father Mufasa was traumatizing enough, wait till you get a load of this. Originally, Scar was able to throw Simba off the fiery Pride Rock during their epic battle. However, he has no time to celebrate as he soon gets burnt due to the growing flames around him.
As for Simba, he survives the fall due to a tree. Realizing that the scene would be too much to handle by children, Disney decided to scrap the entire ending and come up with a new one. As a result, Scar becomes the one who falls from Pride Rock and was later mauled to death by a pack of hyenas.
5. Pretty Woman (1990)
We all know how the story goes. Corporate raider Edward Lewis hires the prostitute Vivian Ward so she can accompany him in various social events. Romance gradually develops between the duo and the movie ends with Edward entering Vivian’s apartment through the fire escape with flowers between his teeth so he could propose to her.
As shocking as it may sound, the ending was supposed to be a dark one as Edward would have dropped her at the Hollywood Boulevard, throw a pile of cash at her, and say:
“You’ll regret not taking it. You’ll regret it as soon as I leave.”
When screenwriter J. F. Lawton witnessed that leading stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts have splendid onscreen chemistry, he decided to rewrite the script so the movie could have a cheerful ending.
4. American History X (1998)
After serving three years in prison and learning the error of his ways, Derek Vinyard leaves his neo-Nazi beliefs behind him. Though American History X ends with Derek mourning for his brother Danny after the latter is shot dead by a black student in the school bathroom, there was supposed to be an eerie scene afterward.
As Danny’s mother and sister grieve over their loss, the camera slowly pans inside a bathroom in which Derek has shaved his head again, looks at the swastika tattoo on his left chest, and pulls out a gun; reverting back to his white supremacist lifestyle. The studio rejected the idea since it completely nullified Derek’s inspirational journey to the righteous path.
3. Terminator 2 (1991)
As a drastic contrast to James Cameron’s dark sci-fi action masterpiece, Terminator 2 surprisingly had a joyfully bright ending which is set 30 years into the future. The viewers see that John Connor has become a senator, an aged Sarah Connor is tying her sweet granddaughter’s shoelaces and Judgement Day never happened.
The scene was even shot but director Cameron decided to remove it after realizing that it was entirely out of tune with the rest of the movie. Moreover, the scene chopped any chances of sequels but who would bother watching Terminator Genisys anyways?
2. Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
The slasher movie concluded with Jason Voorhees holding Freddy Krueger’s severed head, implying that the machete-wielding murderer has won the heart-stomping battle. However, the camera zooms at Freddy’s head as he winks at the audience. Though the ending of both slasher icons far from being declared a winner is a thrilling one, there was a much better ending considered for the movie.
One of the proposed conclusions involved Pinhead from the Hellraiser franchise encountering Freddy and Jason in hell and asking them:
“Gentlemen, what seems to be the problem?”
As great as that ending would have been, New Line Cinema backed out as they did not want to go through the hassle of acquiring the rights of the Pinhead character.
1. Birdman (2014)
Remember how the movie begins with the shot of Riggan Thomson hearing the voice of his superhero character Birdman mocking him? As it turns out, director Alejandro G. Iñárritu wanted to create an endless loop by having the movie end with Johnny Depp in a dressing room and Jack Sparrow’s voice asking him,
“What the fuck are we doing here mate?”
As interesting as the ending is, Iñárritu hated it and the idea of the ambiguous ending came in his dream. As a result, the closing shot of Birdman features Riggan’s daughter Sam visiting him in his hospital room but she finds it empty and sees the window opened.
When she quickly gazes outside, she realizes that her father has not committed suicide by jumping out of the window and steadily looks up in the sky with amazement as a smile forms across her face.