Hollywood writers wrack their brains to put together the best ending for audiences. Check out these endings that almost made it to the big screen.
At the end of Titanic, the Rose reveals she had the Heart Of The Ocean necklace the whole time. Alone on deck, she releases the jewel into the ocean. In an alternative ending, Rose is in front of the team, and has to convince them of the value of life over material things, and they reluctantly let her toss the Heart into the ocean.
Pretty In Pink
In the love triangle between Andie, Duckie, and Blane, you expect the nice guy to eventually triumph and get the girl. Instead, Pretty In Pink ends with Andie and Blane sharing a kiss in the parking lot. In the original ending, though, Duckie did not see Blane’s good side. The film ended initially with Duckie and Andie dancing at prom to David Bowie’s “Heroes,” implying they end up dating. Preview screenings showed, though, that audiences did not like that ending, so it was nixed.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
The end of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial is literally heartwarming, as E.T.’s heart glows as he says goodbye to Elliot as he boards his ship. Then his finger glows, and he tells Elliot he will always exist on earth – through his brain and memory. Robert MacNaughton, who played Michael, Elliot’s brother, says the ending was supposed to be different. MacNaughton relates that in the original ending, you see E.T.’s communicator still on the roof, implying the alien and Elliot keep in direct contact.
Return Of The Jedi
The end of Return Of The Jedi shows the rebels celebrating on various planets, including on Endor, where Ewoks and droids cheered the destruction of the death star. George Lucas picked this triumphantly happy ending, while producer Gary Kurtz wanted a more emotional subtlety, leading to a darker ending where the audience is left somewhat conflicted. Part of Kurtz’s vision was that Han Solo would die in the middle of the film, but Lucas feared this would affect merchandising sales. Cash is king, so the happy ending triumphed.
John Rambo is against a metaphorical wall at the end of First Blood. He breaks down and cries, recalling in horror the gore of Vietnam to his former commanding officer Colonel Sam Trautman. After giving him some solace, Trautman convinces Rambo to give up his fight with the Sherriff’s Department, and escorts him into their custody. In the alternative ending, Rambo all but forces Trautman to euthanize him, essentially ending in Rambo’s suicide. Hollywood executives realized though that that would mean no sequels, and scrapped that storyline.
Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, has become of the most popular neo-noir sci-fi films. A sequel starring Ford with Ryan Gosling was released in 2017. An alternative ending shows Ford’s character Deckard and love-interest Rachael driving in a futuristic car in the mountains, talking about how they are lovers. The bright, earthy images were scrapped, in favor of a much more on-tone, dark, industrial ending, where the couple goes into an elevator after receiving an enigmatic message in the form of an origami bird.
The theatrical version of Terminator 2 includes Sarah Connor’s nightmarish vision of Judgement Day; children frolicking in a playground are turned to crumbling ash as the shockwave of a nuclear explosion hits them. At the end of the theatrical version, we never see if her vision came true. However, in an alternative ending, you can see Sarah at a playground, on the August 29th, 2029, with all-grown-up Senator John Connor, and his daughter, safe and sound. Removing this scene allowed the plot to continue in Terminator 3.
Little Shop Of Horrors
The ending of Little Shop Of Horrors that ended up being shown in theatres fulfilled the wishes in Audrey’s pining song “Somewhere That’s Green.” Audrey and Seymour end up in their little suburban happy place, with the chorus girls playing bridesmaids at their wedding. However, the original ending was much darker, where Audrey II spreads across the planet, and destroys cities as the army fails to contain the plant. This twenty-three minute, expensive, special-effects-heavy chunk was all cut out in favor of the happy ending.
The original script of Seven was not as dark as you would expect from a David Fincher film. When Brad Pitt’s character screamed and pleaded, “what’s in the box?!” the original script answered that his pet dog’s head in it, rather than his pregnant wife’s head. Also, the original script had Morgan Freeman’s character as the final triggerman. Upon reading the first version, Pitt provided the studio with an ultimatum. He agreed to do the movie only if it was the wife’s head and his character shot John Doe.
The Princess Diaries
At the end of The Princess Diaries, Anne Hathaway’s character finally accepts her place on the throne of Genovia, making the transformation from awkward high schooler to royalty. The original cut of the ending just included Hathaway’s character verbally stating she’d like to be the Princess. When Director Garry Marshall showed this to his granddaughter, the five-year-old said she wanted to see Hathaway’s new palace. Marshall took the criticism to heart and added a view of a castle with the Genovian flag in the final cut.
The Bourne Identity
At the theatrical end of The Bourne Identity, Jason finds Marie in her hideout: a scooter shop in Mykonos. They reunite with a coy, understated exchange. Unlike many Hollywood endings, the main characters do not kiss, but share a relatively austere embrace, with the audience left to imagine the specifics of their relationship. In the alternate ending, the pair has a cheesy makeout session on a beach at sunset, which was eventually seen as too tacky for a daredevil spy like Jason Bourne.
At the end of Alien, Ripley realizes she is not alone on her shuttle. In the ensuing battle with the alien, Ripley jettisons the creature out into space by opening the airlock. The alien hangs onto the engine, but Ripley puts it on full blast, burning the alien to a crisp. She finally relaxes and eventually records a log entry. The original ending was much darker: the alien manages to bite Ripley’s head off. Then, it records a log entry, creepily using the deceased Ripley’s voice.
National Lampoon’s Vacation
Chevy Chase’s character and his family are desperate for some fun at the amusement park Walley World after experiencing hell on their road trip to get there. When they finally arrive and the park is closed, they snap. Using a sidearm, they force security to let them in the park under duress, where the family rides the rollercoasters. Originally, the ending was Chase using the sidearm to threaten the owner of Walley World in his home. This tested very poorly with audiences, so director Harold Ramis cut it out.
The Lion King
At the end of The Lion King, Simba finally learns the truth of the matter of who murdered Mufasa from Scar. To escape punishment, Scar blames the hyenas, and Simba exiles Scar. Karma kicks in, and Scar is engulfed and slayed by the hyenas. In the original story, Scar seemingly wins his battle with Simba, throwing him off a cliff. However, the fall is broken by a tree, and Scar is engulfed by the flames of the burning Pride Rock.
The Butterfly Effect
This film, which involved multiple, branching storylines, almost beckons for alternative endings. Ashton Kutcher plays the protagonist in the dark psychological thriller, a far cry from his role as the ditzy Michael Kelso on That ’70s Show. Many endings were proposed where Kutcher somehow breaks off relations with his friend Kayleigh, as his addition into her life seems to bring only pain. The director’s cut, though, provides the darkest version of their friendship ending: Kutcher’s character goes back into the womb, and strangles himself with his umbilical cord.
Alfred Hitchcock was known as the “master of suspense,” and the ending of The Birds shows a perfect example of that. Thousands of ominous, creepy, perching birds surround the main characters as they get into a car. The military is called in, and the unresolved nature of the bird problem gives the audience a feeling of suspense. Originally, Hitchcock wanted an even more heightened image: birds completely engulfing the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Although more powerful image-wise, this shot was too expensive to carry out.
Kevin Smith’s Clerks follows “Quick Stop” convenience store employee Dante and his friend Randal as they chat about life, and talk through romantic relationships. The black-and-white indie film has developed a cult following. At the end of the day, Dante and Randal make plans to hang out again, and laugh as Randal shimmies out the door of the store. In the original ending, a dark scene followed where Dante is shot and killed by a robber. Smith eventually opted for the happier ending, pleasing audiences.
The 2008 stoner-comedy Pineapple Express follows a perma-high dealer and his client played by James Franco and Seth Rogan, respectively. The pair finds themselves mixed up in a dangerous gang war, and end up somehow making it of the final gunfight alive- bruised, bleeding, and burned – but alive. At the end, the pair talk over their friendship, and eventually Franco’s grandmother, drives them to the hospital. In a darker alternate ending, the bromance is cut short as they both perish in the gunfight.
I Am Legend
In I Am Legend, Will Smith is isolated from humans, and surrounded by malicious darkseekers, a sort of vampire-zombie hybrid, as he tries to engineer a way to turn them back into humans. Finally, at the end of the film, he discovers the cure and hands it off to Anna. In the process, though, Smith’s character pays the ultimate price defending Anna against a horde of darkseekers. In an alternate cut, the darkseekers are peaceful, and they come to Smith’s lab only to collect one of their comrades.
Hannibal Lecter was originally portrayed in the film Silence Of The Lambs, which famously won Anthony Hopkins an Oscar after only appearing on screen for only 16 minutes! A sequel was inevitable after such a success. At the end of the movie, Agent Starling handcuffs herself to Lecter. It’s implied that he cuts his hand off to escape in a cut to the next scene. In the alternative ending, there are no handcuffs, but a fruitless chase scene instead. Both versions end with Hannibal escaping.
DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story
At the end of DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, you think that the Average Joes have lost to the Globo Gym bad guys, and Average Joe gym is out of business. In a plot twist, it turns out that through smart sports betting, the Average Joes have the money to buy Globo Gym, putting them out of business. However, this is not, a “true underdog story” as the title purports. In the original ending, the bad guys win, but that version tested so poorly producers chose the happy ending.
Gone With The Wind
The end of Gone With The Wind boasts the top movie line ever spoken, according to a vote by the American Film Institute. When Scarlett O’Hara asks, misty-eyed, “Where shall I go? What shall I do?”, Rhett Butler famously answers resoundingly, “frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” O’Hara, in the original ending, is crying, yet optimistic declaring, “tomorrow is another day.” In an alternate ending, she makes a last-ditch attempt to get Rhett back by pleading, “you’ll come back! I know you will!”
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
Scott Pilgrim Vs The World is an extremely inventive film, which creates a universe where romantic comedy meets arcade gaming. Scott spends the movie trying to win over Ramona Flowers. To get her, Scott has to fight seven of her ex-boyfriends, in a fantastical video game style. In the original ending, Scott ends up with Ramona as he defeats all the ex-boyfriends. In an alternative ending, he ends up with loyal ex-girlfriend Knives Chau, and they go to the arcade together.
Donnie Darko is a confusing film that requires a couple of viewings (at least) to fully comprehend the storyline. It includes images of violence, and creepy imagery that is more psychological thriller than science fiction. At the end of the film, it’s implied that Donnie is killed by a plane engine that accidentally gets loose and falls on his house. In the original ending, all the carnage is shown, with the camera panning past the loose, sparking wires of the broken roof to show Donnie impaled through the chest.
28 Days Later
This zombie movie shows post-apocalyptic London through the eyes of Jim, who wakes up from a coma in the hospital to discover that society has collapsed. In the original ending, Jim and friends hide in a remote cottage, and it’s implied they will be rescued by a helicopter. In what director Danny Boyle calls the real ending, Jim dies after he is shot, dying in a hospital, bringing him back full circle to a hospital bed. There was another alternative ending proposed, but it never got filmed.
Men In Black II
At the end of Men In Black II, Laura needs to leave Earth on a transport ship. In hot pursuit, though, is the Medusa-inspired Selena, who flies above the Manhattan skies, only to be shot by plasma guns in plain sight of millions of New Yorkers. The original scene also had the skies dotted with spacecraft around the city’s skyscrapers, including swarming near the World Trade Center. After September 11th, 2001, this now distasteful ending had to be re-shot for the 2002 release.
The main characters of this film are highway cops. They are trying hard to prevent the shutdown of their laid-back highway cop station by the more professional-minded local cops. You are led to believe that the end is disappointing, as the highway cops do lose their jobs. In the original ending, the gang gets new jobs as delivery people, when suddenly, a plot twist reveals they’re actually undercover cops! The alternative ending has a similar plot twist, but they masquerade as meat-packers rather than deliverymen.
The plot behind Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film, featuring Jack Nicholson’s performance as the possessed guest of the Overlook Hotel, was originally the brainchild of horror writer Stephen King. At the end of the book, the hotel burns down, with Nicholson’s character perishing inside. Kubrick believed this ending was too clichéd; after all, many movies do end with the whole building exploding. A hospital scene was also in the original film ending. Kubrick saw that it was unnecessary and chose Jack to freeze and the menacing hotel to stand.
Thelma And Louise
As Thelma and Louise find themselves on the cliff overlooking the Grand Canyon, they stop for a moment to consider the beauty of the view. Suddenly, an army of rifle-wielding police come out of nowhere, surrounding them. The iconic ending shows the partners-in-crime deciding to, “keep going,” meaning drive off the cliff, which is what they do. The original ending shows the car landing in all its gore. The final cut had a fade to white as the car fell, sparing the audience the graphic imagery.
The classic romantic comedy Pretty Woman ends with Richard Gere’s character riding in his white limousine, symbolizing the knight on a white horse that Julia Roberts’ character dreamed of. The original ending shows how both grew and changed due to their relationship. The original ending, though, is depressing and dark: Gere simply pays Roberts for their time together, as originally agreed upon. They go their separate ways, and nobody learns any lessons. It’s doubtful that the film would have grossed $463 million if they stuck with the sad ending.