It is hard to recall a more vocal or stunned reaction at the movies than when my theater echoed with a hundred different gasps in Jordan Peele’s Get Out. You know the scene. Daniel Kaluuya’s Chris Washington has finally realized just how sinister the Armitage family’s designs for him are: the doorway is blocked by snide little brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), the patriarchal Dean (Bradley Whitford) has finally stopped bragging about how he voted for Obama and is now speaking about how white people are gods, and Chris’ white girlfriend, Rose (Allison Williams), is desperately searching her massive purse for the car keys that would be Chris’ salvation.
Peele ratchets up the tension of the sequence like the classic paranoia thrillers that influenced him in his youth. Everyone is out to get Chris. But the character and the audience are only clued into how devastatingly true that is when Rose finally reveals she’s known where her keys were the whole time. She is, in fact, one of them—a white person who’s exoticized Chris’ Blackness with malevolent intent. Some audience members gasped out of shock that the one “good” white person in the movie was in on the conspiracy; others because they knew the she-devil could not be trusted all along. Most just felt the obvious sense of betrayal though. The one person Chris thought he could trust was working to exploit and commodify his Black skin.
This is why the Get Out ending feels so viciously intimate. After learning that Rose’s family intended to trap him in the “sunken place,” where he’d be trapped in a mental limbo while an elderly white man took control of his young Black body, Chris goes on a rampage, killing all of the Armitages, except Rose, in a blood-soaked escape. Only then, at the end of things, while being faced with the woman who manipulated him and her Luciferian smile, does he put his hands around her throat and squeeze… before letting her breathe.
It’s a bleak ending, however, it could have been much grimmer than that! In fact, the ending of Get Out is fairly triumphant as it reveals a feel-good twist. As it turns out, we were watching a bro movie all along when Chris’ pal Rod (Lil Real Howery) shows up to drive Chris home. “I’m TS, motherfucking, A,” Rod says. “We handle shit. That’s what we do. Consider this situation fucking handled.”
The audience I saw Get Out with reacted loudly to that scene too, albeit this time with applause and cheers. It’s the ending we wanted… although it’s about a million miles away from where Peele and Kaluuya originally planned.
The Original Get Out Ending
When the British Kaluuya first began chatting with Peele, who at the time was still best known for his and Keegan-Michael Key’s sketch comedy series Key & Peele, one of the things that most artistically appealed to the actor was the nihilistic ending Peele had concocted for the film. In that original scripted and filmed ending, Chris doesn’t just put his hands around Rose’s throat (as seen in the finished film) but kept squeezing until life leaves her eyes. Only then comes the real horror.
As Rose dies, the red and blue glow of police sirens reflect off Chris’ face. But instead of TS-motherfucking-A it is the actual local police force, and two white cops immediately run at Chris with guns, arresting him on the spot. Flash forward six months, and Kaluuya and Howery have a beautifully acted scene together… between bulletproof glass. Rod is visiting Chris some months after he’s been either charged or convicted with murdering white people in the suburbs. Rod is trying to still make sense of what happened that night and get Chris to answer what was going on in the Armitage household. Chris merely pretends that he doesn’t remember.
Finally, he looks his friend in the eye and says, “I’m good. I stopped it. I stopped it.” Chris knows he’ll never get the system to believe that a white family—one so progressive that they celebrated their daughter dating a Black man—was up to some evil. The system might even be complicit in the conspiracy. What matters to Chris though is they cannot send another Black man to the sunken place, even if he personally must endure the physical manifestation of that.
“I wrote this movie in the Obama era and we were in this post-racial lie,” Peele said of the original ending while discussing it during the Blu-ray commentary for Get Out. “This movie was meant to call out the fact that racism is still simmering underneath the surface, so this ending to the movie felt like it was the gut punch that the world needed, because something about it rings very true. And when something rings true in your core, you have to deal with it.”
That dealing with it meant recognizing the system is brutally and even murderously weighted against Black people in the United States, particularly Black men. With the subtlety of a hammer, Peele wanted an ending to show that the system will, of course, take the side of rich white people, and the reality is Chris would probably end up in prison (or worse) “just because of how it looks.” Peele ultimately concluded that he originally saw Chris as a martyr. “Even though he’s in prison like many Black men are unjustly in, his soul is free.”
Why the Ending Was Changed
Peele intended Get Out to be a metaphor about the soft, insidious racism that continued to percolate during the Obama years within elite power and wealth centers, and even amongst those who nominally supported liberal and progressive causes. However, by the time Peele filmed his screenplay, the simmering racism was reaching a raging boil in 2016 as Donald Trump ascended to the Republican nomination for president on a tidal wave of white grievance and bigotry. So while Get Out was completed before Trump actually won the presidential election that year, the bleakness of Get Out’s original ending was beginning to feel like a truth bomb nobody needed to hear repeated out loud.
More specifically, however, came the issues which occurred when Get Out had its test screenings ahead of release. In a 2018 interview with Vulture, producer Sean McKittrick said, “We tested the movie with the original ‘sad truth’ ending where, when the cops show up, it’s an actual cop and Chris goes to jail. The audience was absolutely loving it, and then it was like we punched everybody in the gut. You could feel the air being sucked out of the room. The country was different. We weren’t in the Obama era. We were in this new world where all the racism crept out from under the rocks again.”
Apparently there was some debate about keeping the ending or changing it, and ultimately reshoots were commenced. In the same Vulture roundtable, Peele reflected, “I think my improv training just put me in the mind frame of, with each problem, there’s not one solution, there’s not two solutions, there’s an infinite amount of great solutions. That includes the ending.”
Six years later, Peele is one of the preeminent filmmakers of his generation, in horror or otherwise. The two subsequent films he made after Get Out—Us (2019) and Nope (2022)—also noticeably refuse to pull their punches the way Get Out does at the end. Us features a bitterly cynical final scene that comments on class, opportunity, and the selfishness of human nature, while Nope pivots on how an industry’s greed can lead to the violent destruction of innocents, including children. It’s fair to wonder if Peele might still prefer his original ending of Get Out. He did, after all, do his commentary with that version of the film’s conclusion.
The original ending is the more truthful conclusion about being Black in America, which is the entire point of Get Out. However, it’s fair to speculate whether Get Out would have had the cultural impact and euphoric reaction it enjoyed if it embraced that level of despair. The entire film is an exercise in getting audiences to recognize often unspoken, ugly truths about society. The original ending is the emotional zenith of that vision; it arguably has a greater artistic integrity. But it also isn’t saying anything audiences did not already know, all while leaving a film that operated on such a heightened level of satire and allegory in the most miserable and nihilistic place.
If you want to make a point, it’s sometimes better to lace that message with some optimism that can win people over. By concluding with Ron driving Chris to freedom, away from the white ‘burbs, Get Out offers a literal and figurative escapism that is exhilarating. It likely encouraged repeat viewings and ecstatic word-of-mouth. It’s less truthful, but it’s a lot more satisfying, and as a consequence Get Out became probably the most influential horror movie of its decade.