Top 50 alternate movie endings

Odd List NP Horton 7 Sep 2012 - 08:17

From unexpected deaths to last-minute twists, here’s our pick of 50 alternate movie endings that never made it to the big screen…

Alternate endings often shed a different light on a film we thought we knew well. They reveal fascinating insights into the creative process, the chance to look at how a great film is often just a happy accident, and also a chance to see just how mental and awful most filmmakers’ ideas are.

Alternate endings are nothing new nor a product of film – Ernest Hemingway wrote an alternate ending to A Farewell To Arms (they all fight off a zombie plague in the end, then high-five), but it’s with film that you have the opportunity to actually see the alternatives, or find out the most about them – after all, filmmaking is one of the most collaborative processes around, with everyone wanting their input.

I’ve tried to list the most interesting endings I could find, both good and bad, but I’m sure there’s some I may have missed, so please chip in below.

Inevitably, there are spoilers ahead.

50. Blade

Having helped kick-start the current cycle of superhero films, Blade initially ended with Wesley Snipes coolly kicking a needle filled with vampire poison (that’s its technical name) into the forehead of Stephen Dorff’s ultra bad vamp Deacon Frost, making him explode. In this somewhat lamer ending, complete with awful low-budget CGI, Dorff instead becomes some sort of blood monster whirlwind with Dorff’s face on it, which eventually succumbs to the vampire poison and gets stabbed by Blade. 

49. Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid

Here’s an example of less being definitely more. In the iconic original, Butch and Sundance decide to go out in a blaze of glory, and the film freeze-frames on them as they run into a certain hail of bullets. It was cinematic immortality. In the alternate version, we don’t get the freeze-frame, and instead see our heroes cut down, and then their lifeless bodies, just a couple of wannabes…

48. Salt 

This 2010 Angelina Jolie action thriller is blessed with not just one, but two alternate endings, both explicitly setting up a sequel only hinted at in the original version, which has Peabody release Salt at the end of her film, in order for her to continue hunting down sleeper agents. In the Director’s Cut, an earlier scene showing the US President getting knocked out is changed to show him being killed instead – and a final report hinting that the new US President is a sleeper agent. In the Extended Cut, Salt escapes from the CIA and travels to Russia in order to blow up the sleeper agent training facility, and seemingly murdering hundreds of children in the process… 

47. Tsotsi

At the end of Gavin Hood’s brilliant Tsotsi, our eponymous lead ambiguously puts up his hands after surrendering the stolen baby and being surrounded by police. It’s a perfect ending to a film which shows both right and wrong in people, often in the same scene. In one alternate ending, Tsotsi is shot in the shoulder by the police, but escapes in the ensuing mayhem, while in the other, he is shot in the chest and killed to the horror of witnesses. 

Director Hood explained the choosing of the ambiguous ending in the following way. “In terms of choosing which ending to use, the big thing was which ending made people talk more. The process of the alternate endings on the film, both the one where he gets shot and the one where he gets away, is that neither of those led to the same debate, believe it or not, as the ending that we finally ended up with. Because the ending that we ended up with leaves it open where you go, ‘Well, what is going to happen to him?’ Then the natural question is, ‘Well, what do you think should happen?’ And that question kept people talking for far longer after screenings than either of the other endings.’’ 

46. Hannibal

One of the more creepier alternate endings, the ending of Hannibal doesn’t involve Clarice Starling handcuffing Lecter, and his extreme self-mutilation to escape. Instead, what we get is an uninterrupted ‘kiss’ between the two of them (with Lecter running his tongue over Starling’s lips) before escaping. Instead of cutting to the plane, we see Lecter walk casually to a van, as though this was all part of his plan, before waving to some mothers and their children and then driving off.

When on the plane, and after the boy has asked for some of Lecter’s food (implied to be brain), the serial killer asks if the boy’s mother had ever warned him about strangers, before saying it doesn’t matter as she’s asleep and feeding the boy himself. Director Ridley Scott has stated this is meant to show the symbolic corruption of the boy. 

45. 1408

One of the most talked-about film endings on the internet, 1408 occupies a space in the movie world where it doesn’t seem to have an ‘official’ ending. In the US release, the film ends with Mike (John Cusack) successfully surviving the fire he started to destroy the haunted room 1408 and reconciling with his estranged wife, before they both hear a recording of their ghostly daughter talking to Mike in the hotel room.

However, in the UK and Australian version, as well as the US iTunes and FX network version, they use the original ending, swapped out for being too much of a downer. This has Mike dying during the destructive fire, and hotel manager Olin being the one to hear the recording, before ghost Mike reunites with his ghost daughter. How sweet.

44. Ronin

An ending to debate over, this one. In the original ending of this underrated crime classic, Sam (Robert De Niro) and Vincent (Jean Reno) talk together in a café while the radio announces peace between Sinn Fein and the British Government. Deirdre (Natasha McElhone), the IRA girl Sam had begun to have feelings for and revealed his undercover CIA nature to in order for her to escape, is meant to show but doesn’t, leaving Sam to get in a car and leave. 

However, in this alternate ending, she does show up, only to not enter the café and leave instead, before a van pulls up beside her and snatches her away. It’s brutal, realistic and leaves you with questions – was this the IRA getting revenge, or the CIA tying up loose ends?

43. In The Mood For Love

The ending of In The Mood for Love is beautiful, elegiac, and heartrending. Almost removed from the rest of the film, a heartbroken Chow goes to Angkor Wat to lay to rest the memories of his ephemeral affair with his neighbour Su Li-zhen. It’s never stated in the film if this affair was ever consummated, and their goodbye is unresolved and truly sad. In this alternate and impossible ending, Chow bumps into her while in Angkor Wat. It’s a sad scene, with nothing more to add for the pair, and questions unanswered. You could almost view this alternate ending as an imagined dream of Chow’s, desperate to see the woman he loved one more time, in the unlikeliest of scenarios.

42. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

A subtle change this one, and one that was in the end jettisoned for the more magical, and somewhat uncertain ending for Elliot, but one that ultimately rewards both his and the audiences faith in the film. In the conceived original ending, though, as Elliot would have provided a more downbeat and in some ways more resolving monologue to an unnamed adult, stating, “We come in peace. We've been on this journey for many days. We are adventurous, searching for experience, and if we don't got any, then we're not going to be able to survive in this world. Goodbye, E.T.”

The next scene shows a happy Elliot playing with other children. It gives the film far more closure, and shows Elliot adapting and getting on with his life, but in doing so sacrifices the sense of wonder that the real ending engenders in us.

41. Boiler Room

In this taut and excellent tale of financial skulduggery in the brokerage world (ha, these films and their crazy plots), the climax sees an FBI raid on the firm after Giovanni Ribisi’s Seth helps set them up in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He is also able to help out a client he swindled for the firm and warn his buddy Vin Diesel to get out. However, in the slightly more homicidal alternate ending, the swindled client (Harry) decides to get a little revenge on the firm, including his chief tormentor Seth, by packing a gun and heading on down to their offices. On his way in, he bumps into Seth and drops his stuff, including his gun, only for Seth to help him and go on his way – the two had never met face to face, sparing Seth the oncoming shoot-out.

40. X-Men: The Last Stand

X-Men: The Last Stand had a number of different endings. While two made it into the finished film, detailing Magneto regaining his powers and Professor X returning (thereby pretty much undoing anything of consequence in the film itself), they also had a new year starting at the X-Men school, with Beast in charge (rather than just Storm), Rogue returning back to campus with full powers, and Logan/Wolverine returning to Canada, and in fact having a beer in the original film’s bar. They’re messy, don’t resolve anything, don’t serve any real purpose, and seem like no full thought process went into them – providing a glimpse into the creative chaos that characterised the final film.

39. Donnie Darko 

The theatrical cut of Donnie Darko is an ace film, which leaves things unanswered in an entirely satisfactory way, as well as showing restraint in its often beautiful imagery. Case in point is the film’s original ending, which shows Donnie accepting his fate as a camera sweeps around the wreckage of his room. The destruction says it all – Donnie has put right the timeline in a poignant sacrifice. What we don’t really need to see is his twitching dead body, speared through the chest with a pole. But that’s what we could have had if they’d gone with this rather more graphic ending…

38. Alien

One of more mental proposed endings out there – in Ridley Scott’s original vision, Ripley would make good her escape from the exploding Nostromo, only for the xenomorph to reappear on her shuttle, bite her head off, and start communicating with Earth using her voice. Yes, you’ve read that correctly.

37. Thelma & Louise

Similar to the above Butch Cassidy ending, the iconic finale for this film was nearly ruined by showing just a little too much. Instead of their death dive off the cliff being cut off in glorious flight, instead we would have seen the car crash down the mountain in a fiery blaze, confirming their deaths. It’s much better the way it is now, with the iconography of flight and freedom.

36. Game Of Death

Not surprisingly, considering its troubled production history, Game Of Death features a couple of alternate endings. Originally shot in the early 70s, but interrupted by Bruce Lee leaving to make Enter The Dragon and then his tragic death, the 1978 second version of Game Of Death was pieced together using footage from the earlier filming, stand-ins, and other footage of Lee. In the international ending, Lee defeats the evil Dr Land, and rescues Ann. In one alternative ending, the emergency services arrive after, with the police arresting Lee, and the ambulance taking away Dr Land, while in a more poignant ending, Lee takes Ann to the harbour to say goodbye to her, and the final scene is a boat sailing away and a picture of the great man. 

35. Paranormal Activity

One of the most famous recent alternate endings, this had a much trumped new finale filmed and inserted on the suggestion of Steven Spielberg, which despite the hype, amounted to a cheap scare of a demon flying at the camera. In the two alternate, and I think far more horrifying endings, Katie kills Michah and then returns to her room, where she proceeds to sit and rock for days on end, before her sister calls round and discovers Micah’s body. When the police arrive, they eventually shoot a spaced out knife wielding Katie. In another twist, Katie again kills Micah downstairs, before returning to the room, walking up to the camera and slitting her own throat. Brutal.

34. Suspicion

Proof here that focus groups and studios bowing to the wishes of the mainstream audience aren’t new concepts. In the original ending of this Hitchcock classic, Cary Grant’s Johnnie would indeed be revealed as the killer his wife (Joan Fontaine) had suspected him to be all along. However, the studio RKO were conscious of the public’s perception of Grant as a hero, and in the outcry over his potentially devious ways, made Hitchcock change the ending to a happy one where he intended to do no harm to his wife, something which he complained about for many years after.

33. Infernal Affairs

In this Hong Kong crime classic, Triad mole Andy Lau is able to waltz away scot-free from his crimes (such as murder and being a mole), thereby providing a moral dilemma for the audience as well as a gut punch for their expectations, and setting up Lau for the sequel Infernal Affairs III. However, thanks to the Chinese censors, a version was made where Lau was caught and arrested for his crimes, ensuring that the bad guy didn’t get away with it. It feels pretty tacked on and sudden, yet interestingly this was the ending that Martin Scorsese’s remake chose to use, after a fashion, with Mark Wahlberg killing Matt Damon’s bent cop.

32. Dawn Of The Dead

A really interesting one this, from Romero’s original zombie film. Written into the script, and only changed at the last minute, instead of our heroes Peter and Francine deciding not to kill themselves and instead fly off into the sky in a partially fuelled helicopter, they actually do commit suicide – Peter by shooting himself, and Francine by putting her head into the helicopter blades. The end credits would then show the blades slowly shutting down, as the helicopter ran out of fuel, showing that they would have been doomed anyway. A bleak ending to a already bleak film, there remains much foreshadowing of their potential fate left in the movie, but perhaps Romero felt it would leave the audience feeling there was no hope at all for humanity?

31. 2012

So rather than the nice happy ending of the finished film, where everyone sails off into the sunset at the conclusion of 2012’s apocalyptic events, in this alternate ending, we instead have it made clear that the entire African continent was spared the global flooding, and now the ark’s built and populated by the world’s elite are now on their way there to forcibly conquer and take over. Okay, so it’s not explicitly spelled out, but there’s no other conclusion you could possibly derive from this ending…

30. The Bourne Identity 

An ending here which would have put a different spin on the entire trilogy, The Bourne Identity could have had an amazingly cheesy Hollywood ending, where instead of sharing a quiet embrace after reuniting with Marie, Bourne instead goes full on teen romance with a huge make-out session beneath a beach sunset and romantic backing track. Although it helps explain why Bourne is so devastated by her death in the next film, it’s out of place with the rest of the film, and serves to show just why the Bourne films were so consistently better than the usual Hollywood action flick, by avoiding clichés like this. 

29. Rocky Balboa

Rocky Balboa really was a triumphant endnote to both an incredible film series, and for Rocky’s fictional career. Sure, he didn’t single-handedly stop the Cold War or magically procure a robot servant in this one, but he did come out of retirement to face an impossible foe, and really battling against the odds was what Rocky was all about. That’s why his defeat to Mason Dixon was ultimately meaningless; Rocky had already won by being in the fight and going the distance, and his defeat let the Rocky films go full circle.

With his victory in the alternate ending, you don’t get that – instead, you are rewarded with a brief high, and feel-good factor of Rocky once again being the champion, but it ultimately seems false. Kudos to Stallone for choosing the right path.

28. Sweet Home Alabama

I place this in here as an example of the utter insanity that exists in Hollywood. How could anyone genuinely think this would have been a good idea to put on screen? In the original ending of the not very good rom-com about Reese Witherspoon hiding her Southern roots, she eventually declares she’s still in love with her old hometown flame, and during the kiss, the town sheriff interrupts and brings the pair back up to celebrate with their friends.

However, what we could have got was the kiss being interrupted by a lightning storm, with Josh Lucas bringing Reese Witherspoon’s seemingly lifeless body back to the party and announcing her death, only for it to be, wait for it, all a big joke to symbolise her renouncing her assumed identity. They then ask for a slow dance and everyone lives happily ever after. Bonkers. 

27. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

The original ending of Dodgeball was darkly hilarious. The scene is set for a triumphant victory for the Average Joes, only for White Goodman to spoil the party at the last second and win it for GloboGym. Cue anguished shots of the defeated Vince Vaughn, and a slo-mo homoerotic close-up of the celebrating victors, and then bam, straight into the credits. Test audiences didn’t like this ending, and so a new happier one was put in, as referenced by the fat White Goodman in the great post-credits sequence: “Yeah, hope you’re all happy now. Good guy wins, bad guy loses”.

26. Pineapple Express

Quite simply, this is the ending that should have happened.

25. The Terminator 

An interesting one this, as I always thought the alternate ending was the genuine ending, and then while watching The Terminator on TV recently, became confused as to why it wasn’t shown. Setting up the sequels, and leading directly on to the barnstorming Terminator 2, the alternate ending has a group of company suits hiding the Terminator remains from the police during the clean-up at the factory. The film ends by showing the camera panning out from the factory to show it was owned by none other than Cyberdyne Systems. The temporal shenanigans make my head hurt.

24. True Romance

The late, great Tony Scott has left us with this classic amongst many others. He also overruled a young writer named Quentin Tarantino in order to get the ending he wanted - Christian Slater’s Clarence is shot in the face during the epic shoot-out finale, only to be found alive by girlfriend Alabama and taken out to safety. Cut to them years later on the beach in Cancun with a son, Elvis, Alabama’s powerful final monologue, and Slater rocking an eye-patch. If Tarantino had got his way, Clarence would have indeed died after being shot, another wasted life caught up in crime, and Alabama would have been seen at the end hitchhiking in Mexico, dreaming of a life that could have been.

23. Orphan

Once again a bleak ending, from the 2009 thriller about a little girl from an orphanage who definitely isn’t what she seems. In the final film, nine-year-old old Esther is revealed to be a 33-year-old serial killer who is finally killed by Vera Farmiga’s ‘Mommy’ on a frozen lake after potentially murdering her adoptive father Peter Sarsgaard. In this version however, Esther escapes the film alive and well. Returning to her room with a bloody face full of cuts, she applies her make-up and prosthetics which helped her pass for a child, and greets the police at the door before leaving, apparently to freedom.

While the previously unknown fate of Sarsgaard is confirmed (his dead body lies on the floor), there is no indication of what happened to Farmiga and her other daughter, leaving something of a cliff hanger. 

22. Election

Proof here that even the greats don’t get it right all the time, and that sometimes, it takes a little while to make a great film. Sticking closer to Tom Perrot’s original novel, instead of an ending where Tracy Flick leaves Nebraska to begin manipulating politicians instead of teachers, and where Matthew Broderick’s McAllister ends up as a guide at the Museum of Natural History in New York, taking revenge by ignoring know-all swots like Tracy on tours, we instead get a far more downbeat ending where McAllister is working as a car salesman. Tracy comes to visit him in order to test drive a car. Both offer an apology for their actions, before Tracy asks her former teacher to sign her empty yearbook. It’s testament to director Alexander Payne that he knew this wasn’t the right ending, and sat on it for a year before working out his movie should end.

21. The Birds

I love The Birds. Like all of Hitchcock’s work, it’s a superbly made film, offering endless iconic shots and great performances. However, what always ruins it for me is the ending, where the birds just stop attacking people and sit around instead while the Brenners escape. Much more fitting was Hitchcock’s original plan, which would have seen the ending possibly go down in history as one of the greatest made – an image of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, swarming with birds.

20. The Butterfly Effect 

Who’d have thought one of the most hard-hitting and brutal alternate endings would come from an Ashton Kutcher film? After realising his time-travel misadventures are only causing harm to himself and everyone he loves in the future, Kutcher originally decides to go back and make sure he never meets the love of his life, in order to spare her from any pain. However, in the directors cut, Kutcher goes one stage further and travels back to inside his mother’s womb, where he strangles himself with the umbilical cord. Yep. It then repeats his mother’s line about her previous stillbirths, suggesting that Kutcher’s character had several brothers and sisters with the same time travel ability who all chose this way out. 

19. The Abyss 

Alternate endings often subtly change the meaning of a film, or cast a new light on characters’ back stories. Sometimes, they can completely change the film and everything you’ve seen. Take James Cameron’s aquatic adventure The Abyss, for example – a film where a team of oil drillers and Navy SEALs attempt to salvage a crashed nuclear submarine and then discover aliens. Arguing over how to treat them (hostile or friendly) the SEALs send a timed nuke down to destroy them, which is stopped by Ed Harris sacrificing himself to stop it. However, it is this sacrifice that moves the aliens to save him, and return everyone to the surface.

In the vastly different ending, though, the aliens take Ed Harris on-board and decide to tear him a new one about all of humanity’s crimes, shown via video, claiming that it bothers them to see us hurting each other, and the only solution is to wipe us all out with mega-tsunamis. Which makes no sense. Luckily, Ed Harris’ love letter to his wife convinces them to spare us, and everyone goes home happy. 

18. First Blood

How I personally wish the film had ended this way. Not so that we would be spared the Rambo sequels of diminishing returns, but that First Blood would ultimately get the finale it had been building towards all the way. Unlike its war adventure sequels, First Blood was a psychological action thriller more concerned with the effects of the Vietnam War on the minds of returning soldiers than it was with blowing things up and a gruesome body count. To this end, instead of Rambo and Colonel Trautman leaving the police station together after Rambo’s surrender (an ending Sly Stallone put in to please audiences, who he felt would have sympathised too much with Rambo by then not to have him survive), Rambo pleads for Trautman to kill him. 

“Sometimes you get so mad you feel crazy”, and “You trained me, you made me”, before killing himself with Trautman’s gun.

17. Die Hard With A Vengeance

One of the more tonally different alternate endings is this one from the third Die Hard movie. Set some time after the events of the film, we find a triumphant Simon Gruber hiding out in Hungary (and not being shot down and killed by John McClane while attempting to escape in a helicopter). After successfully smuggling out the gold and double crossing all his partners, Simon is tracked down by a bitter and jaded McClane, who has been blamed for the crimes committed by Simon and forced out of the NYPD.

He then forces Simon to play a game of Russian Roulette called McClane says, using a rocket launcher with the sights and targeting arrows removed. After winning the game and forcing Simon to shoot himself in the chest with a rocket, it’s revealed that McClane was wearing a flak jacket, meaning he would have most likely survived the rocket and killed Simon anyway. Completely different in both tone and motivation to the rest of the Die Hard series, it shows a what might have happened if any of the villains’ plots had succeeded – a John McClane with nothing to lose.

16. The Descent

So what is in actual fact the official ‘alternate ending’ is most likely the ending you’re familiar with – Sarah escaping from the underground cavern and making it to her car, only to find that she’s hallucinating, and is still trapped underground. It’s a bleak, take-no-prisoners ending which was totally unexpected. I thought at least one of them would make it out alive after all we’d invested. But then I thought it was amazing, and a real brave choice. So after I found out the American version had a ‘happy’ ending with Sarah escaping, I was a bit disappointed, even more so when The Descent 2 came along and made that one the official ending! Here’s the original and best. 

15. Clerks

So Clerks, hey? Kevin Smith’s legendary debut about life as a slacker, and the ensuing pitfalls of working in a convenience store on the day you’re not supposed to be there. At one time it had a very different conclusion, which would have seen Dante brutally gunned down by a robber, who casually steps over his dead body while taking money from the till. For a shocking twist, this would have been hard to beat, and added yet another barb on disposable culture that the film so mercilessly takes apart, but at the same time it kind of feels like a cheap shot (pun almost intended) and jarring to the rest of the film. Smith wisely chose to leave it out, but it remains a fascinating hint at what might have been.

14. 28 Days Later

Although featuring a pretty satisfying conclusion, it appears that Danny Boyle had several other ideas for his rage virus opus. All of these involved poor Jim dying. In the first, which Boyle considers the ‘true’ ending, he’s taken to the hospital after suffering a gunshot wound, except this time dies – bringing the film full circle to him waking alone in the hospital. Selena and Hannah then leave, with the hospital doors swinging behind them and an ominous fade to black.

In the second alternate ending, designed to follow this, we see the girls being rescued from the cottage, except without Jim by their side. Instead, Selena talks to a chicken. In the final alternate ending, dubbed the ‘Radical Alternative Ending’, the film dramatically departs from its plot – after Frank is infected there is no trip to the soldier’s country house – instead, the survivors discover the medical base from the beginning of the movie, where the virus was created. Inside they find a scientist, who tells them the only way to save Frank is to do a complete blood transfusion on him, and that Jim is the only match. Cue Jim sacrificing himself and being left strapped to a table full of rage virus. Luckily however, Boyle realised how stupid this idea was and scrapped it… 

13. Seven

A scene that was storyboarded but never shot, the alternate ending of Se7en has Morgan Freeman’s Somerset killing John Doe instead of Brad Pitt’s Mills. I rate it so highly because, while it would have been a perfectly acceptable ending, and would have left Seven as a great film, it serves to illustrate how right the ending they chose to use is, and how it in fact makes Seven one of the best films of not just the 90s, but of the last several decades. Everyone always remembers the ending to Seven – of course, mainly for the shock value of Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box, but I believe, subconsciously, for the pain and anguish that Mill’s feels. His torment over what to do, and his eventual giving in to Doe’s wishes and completing the sin cycle, is note-perfect, and it would have been lost if Somerset had taken the fateful shot to spare him.

12. I Am Legend

I Am Legend is an underrated movie, with a powerful first half let down by awful CGI and a crappy ending, where Will Smith murders a load of vampire creatures and sacrifices himself to give humanity a chance. But what if the filmmakers had decided to use this smart and compelling alternate ending instead? In it, the creatures attack the lab as before, but rather than in a mindless fashion, it’s revealed that they’ve come for the female creature Dr Robert Neville has been experimenting on.

The alpha-male and Neville share a realisation that neither is the monster the other believed, giving the true meaning to the title – Dr Neville was the legend amongst the creatures for the death and slaughter he had wreaked. The film now ends with Neville driving out of New York in order to find other survivors, and spread the word that not all is lost.

11. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

I’ve read elsewhere online that James Cameron was just one bad decision away from making terrible movies, and with the evidence of the next two entries, it’s a compelling argument. How else do you explain this happy ending to Terminator 2, which seemingly comes out of nowhere and features Linda Hamilton in old lady make-up explaining how Judgment Day never happened, and instead she got drunk and Michael Jackson turned 40? Yep, that’s in there. Then she reveals that John Connor became a Senator. But how could he even be alive without Judgment Day happening? The End.

10. Titanic

Easily my favourite alternate ending on the list, James Cameron actually filmed this travesty. Gone is the original ending of old Rose tossing the diamond into the ocean and dying in her sleep (to be reunited with Leo again). Instead, and looking like a distinctly dodgy cheap soap opera, we have old Rose climbing up on the rails and being spotted by Bill Paxton and old Rose’s daughter. Fearing the worst, they rush to her, only to be given a speech about how she had the diamond all along, and that Paxton should realise that, “Only life is priceless, and making each day count” (Yep, the dialogue is that bad).

Meanwhile, the rest of the crew have stepped out to see what the fuss is, and then to watch old Rose throw the diamond into the sea, prompting the fat bearded crew member to shout in her face, in my favourite line, “That really sucks, lady!” before Bill Paxton laughs maniacally at the sky. Then they remember they’re on a boat which is designed only to look for things in the ocean and they all know where the diamond was dropped. The End.

9. Pretty Woman

A much-loved romantic classic that teaches us to look for love in the most unlikely of places? Well not if they’d gone with the original and horribly misogynistic script, entitled $3,000. In it, Edward is a complete and utter horrible bastard, while Vivian is a crack-addicted prostitute. In the end, he decides to push a crying Vivian out into the street and then throws $3,000 at her before driving off. She then goes to Disneyland.

Here’s an example of the delightful prose…

EDWARD

Don’t make me regret ever picking you up. Now please, get out of the car. I have to go.

Edward grabs her by the hand and starts to pull her from the car. Vivian explodes again and starts hitting and kicking him. Edward forcibly drags her from the car and then throws her to the ground. He slams the door shut. As Vivian hits the ground she begins to cry again, too weak to fight anymore.

Edward looks down at her. He takes the money envelope from his jacket and holds it out to her.

EDWARD

Here, take it. It’s your money.

VIVIAN

(sobbing in fits)

I don’t want it. Just go away. 

There’s more of that right here, it’s quite the read.

8. Scott Pilgrim Vs The World

A movie that divided many upon release (I loved it), one thing most people can agree on is the seemingly rushed nature of the ending. Partly due to the comic book series remaining unfinished while they were shooting, the reveal of a completely different ending reveals that director Edgar Wright was in two minds himself – rather than win the fight against Gideon Graves with the help of Knives Chau, but then end up with Ramona after all, Scott decides that Knives is actually his one true love, and the two reunite to play arcade games. 

It suits the build-up better, rewards one of the more likeable and sweet-natured characters in the film, and generally feels more satisfying. However, even better is the alternate ending Wright didn’t have time to film – a news report covering the story of a serial killer who’d murdered seven people, and then claimed he was in a videogame… 

7. Dr Strangelove

One of the more bizarre alternate endings out there, instead of the classic image of Slim Pickens riding the bomb down to the strains of Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again, the film ends with a giant custard pie fight in the war room. Do I need to say more? It also features Dr Strangelove wriggling around on the floor, before unsuccessfully attempting to shoot himself, then suggesting that the US President and the Russian Ambassador (who have stopped throwing pies in order to build sandcastles) should be institutionalised. Hmm.

6. Brazil 

Terry Gilliam has never exactly been a fan of the studios, nor they him, but it was perhaps the torturous wrangling over the ending of his masterpiece Brazil that made sure he’d never work within the system. An Orwellian tale of a future dystopia and one man fighting against an oppressive state, the film seemingly takes a turn for the ridiculous by having our protagonist Sam escape the clutches of the Ministry by use of one of his daydreams turned real, giving him the power of flight and enabling the film to end on a happy note. It’s in no way in keeping with the rest of the movie, and leaves the viewer a bit baffled and a bit angry.

Then you see the alternate ending, Gilliam’s original vision and one he fought tooth and nail to keep, even putting out a full page ad in Variety. In this ending, Sam’s escape is all a product of his imagination – he will never be free of the Ministry, and is in fact declared a lost cause and left to rot in his chair. Only after Gilliam conducted unauthorised screenings and won awards did the studio relent and allow this ending out. 

5. Little Shop Of Horrors

One of the most famous of alternate endings, Little Shop Of Horrors certainly wasn’t meant to end with Seymour and Audrey surviving their fight with Audrey II, and living happily ever after. Instead, the plot was to follow the original musical, with Audrey II killing first Audrey and devouring her, and then eating Seymour too (pausing to spit out his glasses). Audrey II buds would then be distributed all across the country as the nation’s must-have consumer good, before rising up as the invading alien army they were always meant to be, culminating in the Audrey II buds attacking New York, fighting off the US Army and scaling the Statue of Liberty. Finally, they’d break the fourth wall, seemingly crashing through the cinema screen to attack the audience.

This ending was the preferred option of director Frank Oz, as well as Rick Moranis, and it’s not hard to see why – it’s big, fun, goofy and plays on all the monster movie and sci-fi B-movie tropes, which is exactly what the rest of the film does. 

4. Fatal Attraction

The original, and in my opinion, superior ending to the 80s Glenn Close/Michael Douglas bunny boiler classic, it sadly fell victim to negative test audiences, and in the style of so many 80s films, had its bleak finale changed to something far more happy and positive. In this case, the weirdly out-of-place action scene in the bathtub resulting in Michael Douglas’s wife shooting Close’s Alex Forrest, and then the adulterous Douglas getting to play happy families with no consequences.

In director Adrian Lynne’s initial version, Alex instead takes her own life and frames Douglas for the murder, resulting in him being carted off by the police. While his wife finds a tape where Alex states her intention to kill herself, it is by no means clear cut, resulting in a film where everybody loses. Far more realistic and true towards Alex then the newer ending, it also gives the last frames over to Glenn Close, proving that this most definitely a film about her and her psychosis, rather than Michael Douglas and getting away with his infidelity.

3. Army Of Darkness

I can’t quite make up my mind whether this alternate ending is completely stupid and ruins the fun of The Evil Dead films, or is a completely brilliant missed opportunity. In the original US release, our hero Ash survives fighting Deadites in Medieval times, and then uses the Necronomicon to return home to the S-Mart to kill another possessed demon with the use of a shotgun, a trampoline and killer lines. In the international version however, Ash instead is given a magic potion that allows him to sleep one century for every drop he takes.

Of course, Ash being Ash, he messes it up and wakes up in a future apocalypse overrun with Deadite hordes. Then he screams with anguish and the movie ends. I kind of love the concept, and totally buy the idea that he’d wreck his chance of getting home, but it’s so bleak, and out of place with the tone of the film – which is probably why it’s the alternate ending (although one that’s pretty wide-spread).

2. Clue

There are three endings for the price of one in this whodunnit classic. Not content with wrapping up the mystery in an ordinary fashion, Clue was sent out to theatres with one of three endings attached, and the audience wouldn’t know which one they would get. One revealed Miss Scarlet as the culprit, the other Mr Peacock, while the third (and true ending) showed it was a variety of different people committing different murders. An ingenious ploy to create a bit of hype and mystery, it’s brilliantly in keeping with the tone of the film, and a great use of the alternate ending format – even the DVD release kept up the fun, with an option to give you a random ending out of the three.

1. Blade Runner

An alternate ending so superior that chances are, if you’ve seen Blade Runner in the last few years, or weren’t born during its theatrical release, then you will have only been able to see this one – the ambiguous ending where Deckard leaves with Rachael to an uncertain future, and the elevator doors close. It fits the film perfectly, leaves the door open to debate the ‘is Deckard a replicant or not?’ question, and doesn’t feel like a tacked on studio ending. Which is exactly what the original ending was.

Nervous that they (and the audience) didn’t understand the film, the financiers decided to use the previously abandoned idea of voiceover narration to give them a happy ending, and then spliced that over unused helicopter footage Stanley Kubrick had shot for The Shining. It’s terrible, has Harrison Ford giving the worst line reading known to man, and completely detracts from the masterpiece that’s gone before. If alternate endings didn’t exist, we’d have been stuck with it.

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Two of my favourite films ever are featured here; Clue and Little Shop of Horrors! It is good to see the original 'Little Shop' ending is coming to Blu-ray very soon!

The Terminator alternate ending is contained in the novelisation by Sean Hutson

The Beach had an alternative ending where not facing the idea of leaving the island, Tilda Swinton takes the gun and shoots herself.
Neither this nor the ending that was used where anything like as good as what happened in the novel.....but that's another story I guess.
Good read this list.

Brilliant list, Nick (all hail the High Lord of Top 50 Lists!). Another interesting case: the couple of extra-bleak alternate endings to Aussie animation Mary and Max definitely jar as extreme meaning-and-tone changers. Normally I prefer the bleak, depressing ending so for Army of Darkness I think I side with the dystopian vision of Ash waking up in a post-apocalyptic nightmare and not S-Mart...

Fantastic article, uncovered some unknown (to me) gems here. Thank you!

Great list, though I'd disagree with your interpretation of Pretty Woman. I'd argue that the concept is pretty misogynistic no matter how you sugar-coat it.
A complete and utter bastard taking advantage of a crack-addicted prostitute might have been bleaker, but at least the script would have been more honest and easier to justify.

Much better than the rather offensive message that if you're pretty enough, head to the big city, become prostitute and get yourself married to a charming millionaire.

But with the original alternate ending for Blade Runner, Deckard picks up the paper unicorn and nods at it knowlingly. Theres no reason for him to be taunted with the unicorn, other than the authorities knew that he had an implanted dream about them. Theres no doubt with this ending that he is indeed a replicant. It closes the door on the debate, not opens it.

I swear I saw that Abyss ending in one version of the film and always thought that was the real ending, maybe I saw it on the special features or something when I watched it on DVD years ago and it stuck with me.

Great article.

The only thing ET engendered in me was a stomach ache.

ok I just checked IMDB and in 1992 they put out a special edition of the film with 28 minutes of previously cut stuff, according to IMDB - it contained that ending. I must of watched that version of the film.

Return of the Jedi with the Millenium Falcon being destroyed?

I'm so glad there's a version of Scott Pilgrim where he ends up with Knives - it was meant to be :-)

Seem to remember 'Withnail and I' was originally intended to end with Withnail committing suicide.

Missed Dumb and Dumber. Director wanted the boys to get on the bus with the models. Jim however wouldn't film it saying it went against the characters instinct.

Great list! Personally, though, I find Election's alternate ending more emotionally meaningful and satisfying than the real one. And right on, Caligula!

You make the point of "if there's no judgement day, how is John alive?" yeah that still stands even if there's no 20 years in the future ending. People argue that T3 wasn't necessary, but if John Connor exists, then judgement days happens.

The Abyss one is so much better. You actually understand what the hell the aliens have done/are doing and they arnt just a last-minute deus ex for Harris to survive. Also dont like the Knives ending for Pilgrim. As 'nice' as she is in the film (I find her type of perosn annoying IRL so never got attached) she very much represents Scott's immature life and choices. Going back to her and his old ways after an entire film fighting for someone else and self respect is just stupid to me.

You could also do a list of movies that had endings changed for TV. I remember seeing a bizarre alternate ending for David Cronenberg's Videodrome. In the original (spoiler alert), James Woods is seen holding a gun to his head and saying the last line with a cut to black. The TV ending goes onto a bizarre series of drawings of the cast as lines of dialogue are replayed from earlier in the film. I thought I'd dreamed this bizarro (and stupid) alternate ending, but I just confirmed its existence on YouTube.

Good list, but I'm pretty sure the Dodgeball one was a joke alternate ending, made specially for the DVD...

Clue also had another ending filmed - which was much bleaker, and cut because the director thought it "wasn't very good". To quote wiki...

Wadsworth, after pretending to be dead, says that he killed Boddy as well as the other victims, and then reveals to the guests that he has poisoned them all so that there will be no witnesses and he will have committed the perfect crime. As he runs through the house to disable the phones and lock the doors, the chief detective – who had earlier been posing as an evangelist (Howard Hesseman) – returns, followed by the police, who disarm Wadsworth. Wadsworth then repeats the confession that he had given earlier to the guests, physically acting out each scene himself. When he arrives at the part about meeting Colonel Mustard at the door, he steps through the door, closes it, and locks it, leaving all the guests trapped inside. The police and guests escape through a window, while Wadsworth attempts to make a getaway in a police squad car, only to hear the growling of a Doberman Pinscher from the backseat.

I like the idea of Scott Pilgrim ending up with Knives. It makes sense as Knives, by the end of the film, was no longer the little school girl he wasn't very keen on but a stronger female companion who was more his equal.

For T2, it's no coincidence that the T-800 had a damaged arm and cpu and that those two exact items were what was left of the original. One of the early script endings, which I don't believe was actually filmed, had John visiting Sarah and Kyle's graves, going home, reading the paper (dated after JD) over a lonely dinner, watching some TV, then going to bed. As he lays down, he says "Goodnight." The camera then moves downstairs to reveal the T-800 standing watch at the front window like it had at the gas station. "Goodnight."

That proper ending to Dodgeball so should have happened. It's brilliant.

Does anyone know where the original ending of 'Immortality' otherwise known as 'Wisdom of Crocodiles' went? I can't find anything written about it. There are some amazing scenes that are missing from the DVD that make it a much deeper and more textured movie, and the original ending I saw was much more satisfying!

where is butterfly effect

At the theater I saw the alternate ending for Ghostbusters. When we watched it again we saw the "Official" ending. I told people about this and until the special edition came out every one thought me mad.

Godzilla 1998 had a deleted scene at the end also. The "evil" reporter got arrested by the Army for having a "Top Secret" tape, because he was the one that took credit for it. I have never been able to find it any where else though.

That is the one my friend saw in Canada. He thought that it was censored out in the US for some reason.

The I Am Legend alternate ending is the one that's now shown on TV I believe. Also, for Army of Darkness, the one where he goes too far forward is the one on the UK DVD release, and the S Mart one is the alternate

I have the Evil Dead trilogy boxset and the S-mart ending doesn't even appear on it as an extra. I prefer the darker ending, and consider it the real ending - as that is the one Raimi wanted anyway.

It happened also to me! i tried to find that different ending one time but couldn't find it, I made a new search and there it was,, I felt relief

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