10 lost endings of blockbuster movies

Feature Simon Brew Ryan Lambie 16 Jul 2013 - 07:16

World War Z. Jurassic Park III. Seven. The Lion King. How were these and others originally planned to end?

The path from screenplay page to cinema screen is seldom a straight one, and it's frequently the case that a movie can change quite a lot during the process of production. Now and again, though, history throws out examples of movies that could have ended very differently.

For numerous reasons, the films featured here were all rewritten or reworked before they arrived in cinemas. Some endings were changed due to budget constraints. Others were down to the concerns of studio bosses.

In this selection, we've gone for endings that were written or storyboarded, but never shot in their entirety - last year, Nick brought us an exhaustive tour through 50 alternate endings, many of which were actually put before a camera.

With this in mind, here's our pick of 10 lost blockbuster endings. We will also be talking about the original endings to the films concerned, so be warned that there are lots of spoilers...


The actual ending:

Rocky Balboa loses on split points decision to a man a couple of decades younger than him, Mason Dixon. He heads back to Adrian's grave to say thanks to her one more time.

The proposed ending:

In the original script for the film, the points decision went the other way. Thus, while Dixon starts celebrating, expecting his name to be called, the crowd erupts as Rocky's name is announced. He heads back to Adrian's grave to say thanks to her one more time.

So what happened?

Common sense prevailed. There have been rumoured alternate endings to previous Rocky films before, and the character was supposed to die at the end of the pretty disastrous Rocky V. For the character to emerge victorious in the boxing ring at the end of Rocky Balboa would have been daft, and wouldn't have tied it so closely to the original film. In truth, they were pushing their luck just having Dixon and Balboa fighting in the first place...


The actual ending:

Having been led to a remote location by ruthless serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey), agents Mills (Brad Pitt) and Somerset (Morgan Freeman) are given a box by a delivery driver. Somerset nervously peeks inside, and discovers the severed head of Mills' beloved wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow). Urging Mills to "Become wrath", John Doe goads the agent into shooting him, thus completing his murderous exploration of the seven deadly sins.

The proposed ending:

In one version of the ending, Somerset intervenes at the last moment and shoots John Doe instead - knowing that he only has a few days left until he's up for retirement in any case, he decides to avenge Tracy's death on Mills' behalf.

So what happened?

The exceedingly dark tone of Seven made studio executives nervous from the beginning, and that (slightly) less depressing conclusion above was actively pushed for. People in suits also suggested that there could be a dog's head in the box instead of Tracy's, which is an utterly bizarre idea. Fortunately, director David Fincher pushed back, and eventually got the ending he wanted - the proposed ending never got past the storyboarding stage.


The actual ending:

Having fled from the self-destructing Nostromo in an escape vessel, Ripley quickly realises there's a stowaway on board. Quietly slipping on a space suit, she manages to evict the alien from its hiding place by letting off a few jets of steam, before blasting it out of the airlock with a perfectly-timed shot from a grappling gun.

The proposed ending:

One alternate ending, as storyboarded by Ridley Scott, shows Ripley and the Alien both sucked out into space, and both clinging for dear life onto a safety line. Ripley starts to crawl hand over hand back to the escape vessel, with the Alien in pursuit. It's here that Ripley uses the grappling gun to shoot the alien, which then falls into the craft's thruster and finally expires.

So what happened?

Given that the budget on Alien was relatively tight, it's likely that Ridley Scott decided to go for a cheaper, simpler and more elegant ending. Fortunately, the proposed conclusion that would have seen the Alien bite off Ripley's head and then talk into a communicator with a human voice was also dropped. It's almost too bizarre to believe.


The actual ending:

In a final confrontation, heroes Tommy and Megan are pursued by the masked nightmare Jason Voorhees. Between them, Tommy and Megan manage to wrap a chain around Jason's neck, which is also attached to a boulder. The killer's then dragged down into the series' infamous lake, where he promptly expires after his neck is snapped on a motorboat rotor.

The proposed ending:

The ending originally planned was actually a bit more complex. In this version of the movie, Martin the Caretaker would have survived, and after the scene where Jason's dragged to the bottom of the lake, the film would have cut to Martin in his cemetery. There, Jason Voorhees' father, Elias, shows up and pays Martin for looking after the graves of his son and wife - apparently knowing full well that Jason hasn't been in his resting place for quite some time. We would have seen Elias give an evil look to the camera, after which we would have cut back to the lake, where Jason rises from the water to kill yet again.

So what happened?

Director Tom McLoughlin repeatedly butted heads with studio bosses over the tone Jason Lives should take, with the men in suits keen on boosting the body count and scenes of gore to appease audiences. During various script rewrites, Martin the Caretaker was killed earlier in the story, rendering the originally-proposed ending useless. Fortunately, you can get a flavour of how it could have looked in the storyboard artwork captured above, courtesy of artist Crash Cunningham.


The actual ending:

Using his extra life, Scott Pilgrim revives himself and defeats Gideon with the Power of Self-Respect sword - plus a little help from Knives Chau. Knives encourages Scott to go after Ramona, and the film ends with Scott and Ramona finally together.

The proposed ending:

According to The Playlist, director Edgar Wright originally had another ending in mind - one where it's revealed that the film's events are all a dream. In this version, the story would have concluded with a news report stating that a Toronto teenager had murdered seven people - a decidedly black note to end the film on. Admittedly, it was never intended for the theatrical cut, but as a fun extra for the DVD - but even so, it's included here since it could have been an entertaining additional morsel for fans.

So what happened?

Wright had originally intended to film the scene during the final days of Scott Pilgrim's reshoots, but he simply couldn't find the time.

"Yeah, we nearly shot that on video during the reshoots," Wright told The Playlist, "but dammit, we only had six hours of night and no time to do it - [it] would have been funny."


The actual ending:

With the nest of a race of giant killer cockroaches located in the sewers of Manhattan, Dr Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) succeeds in blowing it up with a ruptured gas main. Meanwhile, his partner Dr Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) lures the last remaining bug into the path of a moving train.

The proposed ending:

Mimic's original script had a much more apocalyptic tone, which director Guillermo del Toro once described as "God saying, 'I'm done with you guys" - and the ending as written would have strongly implied that the mutant cockroaches were about to inherit the Earth.

The final cockroach would have survived the encounter with the train, and confronted Doctor Tyler. As the creature stands up, we realise it's a more evolved specimen that we haven't seen before. Its wings and shell closes up around it, and forms the perfect mimic of a human being - a far cry from the eerily crude impressions the creatures in the rest of the film pulled off.

The disguised cockroach would have pointed a fleshy finger at the doctor, and in a human voice said, "Leave."

So what happened?

Del Toro's difficulties on the set of Mimic are well-documented, and the impact of studio meddling was felt from the very beginning. That bleak proposed ending was ejected early on, and even del Toro's more subtly grim conclusion - where Doctor Tyler and the little boy, Chuy, are surrounded by disguised mutant insects in Grand Central Station, was rejected after a negative reaction from test audiences.


The actual ending:

Chased by dinosaurs, the survivors emerge onto the beach of the island, where the military are turning up in full force. Cut to the plane, with a flock of pteranodons flying away from the island (in a tip of the hat to the first Jurassic Park).

The proposed ending:

We were supposed to have the shootout. Jurassic Park III is notorious for how it stops rather than ends, and the original plan was reportedly a full-on shoot-out between the might of the military and the might of nature.

So what happened?

Think that proposed ending sounds expensive? So, reportedly, did the folks at Universal, who apparently curtailed it to keep the budget under control. That also accounts for the fact that Jurassic Park III is the shortest movie in the series to date. It's a shame they pulled back, though. Jurassic Park III finished abruptly, and for all its merits, it doesn't feel like a complete film for that reason.


The actual ending:

Simba discovers just how nasty his Uncle Scar is, and eventually thows him off a cliff, where hyenas are waiting to devour him. Simba takes his place on Pride Rock, and the land is green once more. A sing song is had.

The proposed ending:

Simba still would have taken his place on Pride Rock, and the grass would once more have grown. But the original sequence, that was never fully animated, would have seen Scar die in a different way. In this version, Scar would have beaten Simba in a fight, only to be eaten up by the fire than subsequently consumes Pride Rock. Scar cackles like a loon as he dies. Lots of children in the audience begin to cry and ask for their mum. The full sequence is here is in that clip just above.

So what happened?

We suspect that the parameters of a family friendly movie kicked in here. In truth, this is one of those cases where the ending they went with seems to fit the tone of the material a little better. Don't worry though - the darker shades of storytelling made it into Disney's The Hunchback Of Notre Dame in abundance...


The actual ending:

World War Z is, to date, the only blockbuster movie where mankind is saved by a bunch of people heading off to a near-abandoned site in Wales. In this case, Brad Pitt's Gerry and his team of cohorts are on the hunt for diseases, in what turns out to be a surprisingly quiet game of cat and mouse, around a facility drenched in white paint. It's quite an upbeat ending too, with Gerry discovering the way to beat the zombies, seeming leaving humanity with the upper-hand, before a quick speech reveals that there's a lot more yet to do.

The proposed ending:

Far, far darker. The original screenplay for World War Z - the one that was greenlit - would have seen Gerry spending a good chunk of the third act of the film in Russia. He'd have spent a lot of time there becoming a zombie killing expert, with the tools and facial hair to match, before discovering that his wife have paid a heavy price for survival in a refugee camp. That price? That she's had to shack up with Matthew Fox's character. Gerry begins a long, long journey back to her, across the snowy landscapes of Russia, arriving back at the shores of America just in time for the credits to roll. Unlike the film's used ending, he's not back with his family this time.

So What Happened?

A lot. When watching an early cut of the film, Paramount Pictures realised it was in trouble, and thus brought in Damon Lindelof to take a look. He gave the studio a softer option (to work with what it had), or a more dramatic one, which involved junking some of the already-shot Russian footage, and shaping a whole new ending. Paramount delayed the film, and went with the latter. It's a brighter ending that we got, but a strong last act. And it's paving the way for another chapter, too. It's also an ending, it should be noted, that drifts still further away from Max Brooks' original text.


The actual ending:

John Connor survives. He's almost fatally wounded in taking down a Skynet base, but Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) gives him his heart. It's basically the sacrificing yourself to save the hero move. John Connor thus gets to tell everyone that they may have won one battle, but there's a war, and future sequels, ahead. Only, er, the sequels didn't happen.

The proposed ending:

As director McG told Entertainment Weekly back in 2009, Terminator: Salvation originally concluded with a much, much darker ending. In it, John Connor would have died, and they'd have taken his exterior and put it over Marcus Wright's machine body.

Then? As McG recalled, "all of the characters we care about are brought into the room to see him and they think it's Connor. And Connor gets up and then there's a small flicker of red in his eyes and he shoots Kate, he shoots Kyle, he shoots everybody in the room. Fade to black. End of movie. Skynet wins. Fuck you!"

So What Happened?

Interestingly, news of a flavour of the original ending leaked online several months before Terminator: Salvation into cinemas. And as a result? The third act of the film changed, reportedly as a direct consequence of the web leak.

It's a much blander ending that we eventually got, and yet the Terminator franchise has proven we can deal with dark endings before. Say what you like about Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines, but there's a bold, bold finale for a blockbuster sequel. Had they gone with McG's outline of the original Terminator: Salvation finale, you can't help but feel that the film would still be being talked actively about now...

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And that (Terminator Salvation) is why web leaks are ruining the movie/TV industry. That darker ending sounds MUCH better.

its the first I've heard of it and it sounds very good, much better than what we got.

The other alternate Scott Pilgrim ending, of course, was the one where he ends up with Knives rather than Ramona. On the one hand it kind of makes sense with the way the film plays the two relationships (I think if you didn't know the comic, it's a resolution you'd actively expect), but on the other hand, it would have been BLOODY WEIRD AND STRANGE.

How many countless people would have whinged about it though

"Jeeze. That sucks. Why don't you make it so that Lardass goes home, an' he shoots his father. An' he runs away. An' - an' he joins the Texas-Rangers.
How about that? Something good like that."

I completely agree here - for some reason that Knives ending just fits with the film a lot than him going off with Ramona.

Yes, Scott ending with Knives is him basically becoming a man and stopping chasing dreams/ manic pixie dream girls. Scott ending with Ramona is basically him being given leeway to stay an immature douchebag because hey, fairytales are kewl, right?

11. Pretty Woman. The only Disney film to date that opens with a blowjob scene was due to end with Julia Roberts getting ditched by Richard Gere and then killed by a 'John'. Gere races to find her after changing his mind but is too late. Miserable, but perhaps they thought it was more Academy friendly.

it would have taken a lot more than a different ending to make that film watchable

Would the 1986 musical comedy Little Shop of Horrors, with its more apocalyptic, monster movie style lost ending, count as a "blockbuster"?

And no love for the original, better ending of Will Smith's I Am Legend?

12. Shawshank Redemption ends with Freeman and Robbins on the beach with a man hug. Original ending cut off when Freeman was on the bus. I think we all needed that hug.

Yeah, I WANTED him to end up with Ramona, but it doesn't make a lot of sense. Plus, the film doesn't give her a chance to prove why she's worth all the fuss (other than, you know, being Mary Elizabeth Winstead. Which is a pretty good reason, now that I think of it...)

Oh lordy, how much better was the original ending? You know, the one that actually made sense of all the hard work the screenplay put into making us think the creatures were intelligent? (And featured the best shot of the movie!) I knew that the ending had been changed the first time I watched that...

Don't forget the original ending to 'Die Hard with a Vengeance' where John McClane plays Russian roulette with Simon Gruber... with a rocket launcher of all things!

The studio nixed it because they thought it too cruel and vindictive on McClane's part, a decision I (and the movie's writer Jonathan Hensleigh) strongly disagree with, that movie successfully (IMHO) played with the 'Die Hard' formula and the original ending was just a continuation of that approach; an unexpectedly out-of-the-box finale that would have divided audiences right down the middle and which would still engender debate and fanboy flame wars to this day... everything a good ending should, in other words!

And if they'd ended the whole 'Die Hard' enterprise right there (original ending included) - which they should - it would've went down as the greatest action movie trilogy of all time... as it stands now, the Bourne trilogy holds that prestigious honor!

I'm one of those whingers. I
like dark endings, but when it is part of an established mythology, to
completely re-write the ending just for shock value is not on. Remember
that Kyle told Sarah in the first movie that using the time travel
assassin move was one of desperation for Skynet, since humanity had just
beaten them. So I feel like McG is saying "f- you" to all the fans
of the Terminator movies. That is not smart and clever. What if JJ had
killed Kirk right at the start of Star Trek? What if Amazing
Spider-Man had only featured Peter Parker for the first half hour?
There are some things you just don't mess with when you are writing or
re-booting a franchise, and after several movies of being told about the
great leader of mankind John Connor, and how he saved the human race in
a war against the machine menace, this was supposed to be the movie
where we saw it happen. Way to screw that up McG. F- you.

The original ending of Clerks was removed entirely, and Kevin Smith has stated that it completely changed the tone of the movie - for the poorer. It is on dvd extras though: After the hilarious hijinks of the movie and Dante finally realising who he wants to be with (the girl who brings him lasagne at work) Dante is closing the shop when a guy walks in with a gun, shoots Dante dead and robs the store.

The original ending made the movie poorer, not it's removal.

Shawshank wasn't a blockbuster, but it damn well should have been!

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