Whether it’s because of low audience test scores, meddlesome studio execs, or simply a last-minute creative change of heart, it’s more common than you might think for a movie to get a different ending than the one the screenwriters originally planned. They may not have made the final cut, but they live on as bonus material, and we’ve rounded up some of the best for your enjoyment. Pass the popcorn, because these endings will absolutely change how you look at some of your favorite movies.
Army of Darkness (1992)
Sam Raimi’s third entry in the Evil Dead series is filled with Ash’s trademark bragging badassery and the franchise’s kooky, over-the-top awesomeness. In the film’s U.S. theatrical cut (and on subsequent home video releases), a time-traveling Ash ends up returning to his own era. As he’s recalling the film’s events to a co-worker (and a bodacious eavesdropper), the store where he works is attacked by a witch that Ash beats in ridiculous/hilarious fashion while spouting one-liners—a pretty bright way to end a dark, but funny, trilogy.
The original ending is much grimmer and more in tune with the franchise’s overall tone. Given a potion that’ll put him to sleep in order to wake up in his time, Ash miscounts the number of drops he was supposed to drink and wakes up in a nightmarish future, realizing he slept for far too long. This ending is just as good (and preferred by both actor Bruce Campbell and director Sam Raimi), and underscores how Ash has always been equal parts hero and unlucky fool. The theatrical witch-in-the-store ending seems like a proper way to end Army of Darkness, but Ash getting tortured one last time feels like an even better way to end the Evil Dead trilogy. At least now we have Ash vs. Evil Dead to continue the story, even if the series acts like Army of Darkness never happened.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
In Edgar Wright’s video game-referencing action-comedy, Scott Pilgrim defeats Ramona Flowers’ seven evil exes, resulting in the two finally being able to pursue a relationship together. This ending closes things on a whimper for Knives, Scott’s clingy ex-girlfriend, who realizes they weren’t meant to be and tells Scott to go for Ramona if that’s who he wants. Ramona and Scott getting back together matches the conclusion of the Bryan Lee O’Malley comics that inspired the film, but it wasn’t what Wright originally had in mind.
The film’s original ending, written before the release of the final Scott Pilgrim comic, finds Ramona moving on, with Scott getting back together with Knives. This alternate ending’s last scene, which shows Scott and Knives playing a faux Dance Dance Revolution game together, reminds us that, despite their contrasting personalities, they’re a good fit as a couple.
Paranormal Activity (2009)
For a movie that was only made with a $15,000 budget, Paranormal Activity did an impressive job of revamping the supernatural horror genre—yet its story could have ended differently. After Paramount and DreamWorks acquired the rights to the fright flick from creator Orin Peli, his original ending was scrapped in favor of the final act familiar to fans of the theatrical cut.
Most people saw the standard ending, in which Katie throws Micah’s corpse at the stationary bedroom camera before looking into it and grinning. The studio also released an alternate ending, which shows Katie waking up in the middle of the night, going downstairs, and screaming. Micah then runs down the stairs and presumably is killed. A possessed Katie then walks up to the camera, bloodied knife in hand, and slits her own throat for all to see. Peli’s original ending, meanwhile, is a bit stranger. In this version, Micah runs downstairs, and Katie returns to the bedroom with a bloodied knife. She sits by the bed and rocks back and forth for many hours. Her friend Amber calls the house phone, to no answer. Upon entering the house that night, Amber screams after discovering Micah’s body. Shortly thereafter, the police enter the house. With guns drawn, the cops come across a bloodied and confused Katie still holding the murder weapon. They tell her to drop the knife, and a nearby door slams shut (by the spirit haunting the place), resulting in one of the surprised cops accidentally killing Katie. Whichever ending you prefer, it’s obvious why the studio went with the official version: Katie surviving is the only conclusion that allows for Paranormal Activity’s numerous sequels to happen, as she appears multiple times throughout the series.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
Frank Oz’s history with puppets and Muppets played a big role in his big-screen adaptation of the musical horror comedy Little Shop of Horrors. The film ends with Seymour destroying his singing, man-eating plant before getting married and moving to the ‘burbs with Audrey, but Oz’s original ending was a lot more in tune with the musical source material.
In the scrapped final act, Rick Moranis’ Seymour fails to destroy his killer plant and is eaten while trying. Ultimately, Audrey II is reproduced, grown, and sold on a mass scale, and as a result, the killer plant’s offspring take over the world. The film ends with a musical bit and all kinds of whimsical but disastrous scenes of Audrey II overpowering the United States, closing with a scene of its buds ascending the Statue of Liberty. Just as the original ending is about to finish, another plant bursts through the screen, intent on eating the audience.
I Am Legend (2007)
I Am Legend is the third movie based on Richard Matheson’s groundbreaking 1954 novel of the same name, so it makes sense that it’d take some liberties with the source material in order to stand out from its predecessors, The Last Man on Earth and The Omega Man. Its plot revolves around Will Smith’s Robert Neville trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic New York where vampire-like mutants roam the streets at night and hide in the darker areas of the city during the day. The film ends with a group of mutants raiding Neville’s home, and just as all heck breaks loose, he realizes he’s developed an effective cure for the vampire infection. He dies blowing up his vamp-filled home/lab in order to protect two survivors who saved him the night before—but not before passing them a vial of the cure. Thanks to Neville’s sacrifice, the duo who helped him are able to make it to a survivor’s camp in Vermont, handing off the cure to the military for further research.
The film’s original ending was more in tune with the novel. As the mutants raid his home, Neville finds out that the male leader of the pack is there to rescue an infected female that was being used as his test subject for the cure. Neville decides to give the female mutant back, showing remorse. He then looks around his laboratory and at the pictures of all the dozens of mutant test subjects he’s experimented on over the years, realizing how much pain and suffering he has caused. Chastened, Neville decides to abandon New York with the duo that helped him in search of the same survivor’s camp in Vermont. In the book, Neville realizes that mankind’s day is over, and that in the eyes of earth’s new civilization, he’s the bad guy. Just as humans told tales about vampires coming in the night, the vampires are scared of the human who comes during the day (hence the title I Am Legend).
The Descent (2005)
The premise of The Descent seems like your typical monsters-living-in-a-secluded-area-that-a-group-of-20-somethings-shouldn’t-visit-but-do-it-anyway film, but it’s surprisingly good, largely thanks to an atypical amount of genuine character development. The story begins as a group of women go cave spelunking a year after the protagonist, Sarah, loses her husband and daughter in a car crash. After being misled into climbing down an uncharted cave, the group encounters a pack of blind subterranean monsters that hunt using sound. In the film’s U.S. theatrical cut, The Descent ends with Sarah falling, regaining consciousness, and finally reaching the surface after seeing most of her friends die. She runs through the woods, makes it to her car, and speeds away. Upon reaching the highway, she pulls over and finally cries for the horrors she’s seen and the loss of her friends. The film closes with the bloody ghost/corpse of Sarah’s daughter popping up next to her in the car.
In the original ending, things happen pretty much the same way, but after Sarah screams upon seeing her dead daughter, she wakes up, still covered in blood. That’s right: the entire sequence of Sarah climbing to the surface, getting in her car, and speeding away—only to get the crap scared out of her by her daughter’s corpse—was all a dream. A bloodied Sarah, getting up from the fall that caused her to lose consciousness in the first place, looks up to see a birthday cake in front of her with her daughter’s name on it. Behind that candle-lit cake is Sarah’s daughter, grinning at her mother and looking normal. The film’s camera zooms out, revealing that Sarah (and the daughter she’s hallucinating to see) is actually still in the cave. The Descent ends with the howls of the monsters closing in as Sarah just stares at her daughter who isn’t really there, presumably until she’s eaten. While it’s only an additional minute or so of content, it makes a world of difference and is ultimately a much sadder and more poignant ending than the jump scare we were ultimately given.
First Blood (1982)
Sylvester Stallone may have stolen everyone’s hearts with the first two Rocky films, but it was his depiction of the broken Vietnam War vet John Rambo that cemented him as an action star. First Blood is loosely based on the 1972 David Morrell novel of the same name, and as you’d expect, the movie takes a lot of liberties with the source material, but it still focuses on Rambo hitchhiking to a small rural town, only to be harassed by the local police chief. Both the movie and the novel find Rambo getting arrested, suffering POW flashbacks from Vietnam, breaking out of jail, and hiding in the mountains surrounding the town as the police and National Guard try to hunt him down.The book and film start to diverge toward the end, especially when it comes down to the final showdown between Rambo, Sheriff Teasle, and Rambo’s mentor, Colonel Sam Trautman. In the film, Trautman convinces Rambo not to deal the killing blow to Teasle after shooting him with his machine gun. Rambo then has an emotional breakdown in front of the Colonel and turns himself in.
First Blood’s alternate ending starts after the teary, PTSD-fueled breakdown we see in the final cut. But instead of turning himself in, Rambo says he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life in a cell and would rather have Trautman kill him instead, as he’s the person who trained him before sending him off to war. At first, Trautman refuses, but Rambo redirects his pistol and the gun shoots Rambo in the stomach, killing him on the spot. While this ending is bleak, it’s a callback to the novel, in which Rambo is shot in the torso (but by Teasle), and is ultimately killed by Trautman. This alternate ending obviously prevents any sequels from happening—which would have kept Stallone from returning for three more Rambo tours of duty.
Inspired by the classic murder mystery board game of the same name, 1985’s Clue honored its source material with multiple alternate endings. During its theatrical release, theaters were shipped prints containing one of three possible endings; if you wanted to see all the possible results, you had to contact the theater to find out which of the endings—A, B, or C—they were screening. These days, it’s much easier; all three endings were included on Clue‘s home video version.
In this 2001 crime drama, Stanley (Hugh Jackman) is an expert computer hacker recruited by a crime boss (John Travolta) to help him steal several billion dollars from the government. The ending of the film (which we won’t spoil) reveals a tangled web of deception and misdirection from just about every main character. On the DVD release, however, there’s an alternate ending: Stanley double-crosses everyone and takes the money for himself, and you later see him driving around the country in an RV with his daughter. He’s not all bad, though—we also see him transferring big chunks of his ill-gotten gains to various charities.
The sci-fi classic Blade Runner has undergone a number of changes since its 1982 theatrical run. The original cut, now referred to as the "Workprint" version, was followed by the "Director’s Cut"—and then the appropriately named "Final Cut." The original Workprint ended on an ambiguous note, cutting to black when Deckard enters the elevator, but the U.S. edit added a "happy ending" with a voiceover from Harrison Ford. The 1992 Director’s Cut removes the happy ending, as does the 2007 Final Cut—which also includes two alternate endings, one with the original voiceover and another with a conversation between Deckard and Rachael.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, several other endings were storyboarded and written out in earlier versions of the script. In an early draft, Deckard shoots Rachael in the head after spending a happy day with her. In a later version, Rachael begs Deckard to shoot her, which he does. He then contemplates his similarities to the Replicants, and wonders "who designed me?" In yet another ending, Deckard and Rachael escape to the car, and he reveals that he’s a Replicant too. The scene ends with the two realizing Gaff’s spinner is chasing them.
Bourne Identity fans should be extremely glad that the studio decided to change endings prior to the film’s theatrical release. On the DVD release of the movie, you can watch what might have been—including a scene in which Bourne wakes up in his room and sees Abbot, who tries to persuade him to come back to the CIA as a "volunteer." Bourne then meets up with Marie and the pair have a steamy make-out session on the beach under the setting sun while a cheesy love song plays on the soundtrack.
Men in Black II
The second installment of the Men in Black franchise also dodged a bullet by switching up its final act. In the alternate ending, Will Smith’s character is given a chance to explore space; he blasts off from Earth, landing on what appears to be another planet where he’s confronted with some very familiar-looking aliens. He quickly realizes he isn’t on another planet at all—he’s stuck inside his locker with its tiny alien residents.
A third ending was filmed, but never released. This version involved aliens swarming out of the doors of the World Trade Center in New York City, but had to be cut from the film after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The producers also chose to digitally edit out all appearances of the towers from the film.
Legend has it there were a number of behind-the-scenes battles over the planned ending for the 1995 crime thriller Seven. Executives weren’t happy with the extremely dark "what’s in the box?" ending, and before filming started, several people—including Brad Pitt—had to threaten to leave the production to keep the script intact. The studio’s preferred ending would have kept the delivery man and the box, but toned down the finale of the film considerably; in this version, which was storyboarded and can be found on the DVD release, we never learn exactly what’s in the box—and Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) kills John Doe (Kevin Spacey) instead of Detective Mills (Brad Pitt), telling Mills, "I’m retiring."
In the 1998 spy thriller Ronin, starring an ensemble fronted by Robert De Niro, Jean Reno, and Natascha McElhone, we never really learn the final outcome for McElhone’s character, Deirdre. It seems bad—in a final cafe scene, Reno’s character gently reminds De Niro’s that McElhone won’t be coming back—but in the DVD release, the studio included an alternate ending that reveals the rest of Deirdre’s depressing fate. We see Deirdre briefly consider joining the others at the cafe, but as she walks, she’s attacked and kidnapped by IRA members, who call her a traitor and throw her into a van before speeding away.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Fans who went to the theater to catch the 1991 sci-fi action hit Terminator 2: Judgment Day saw things end on a hopeful note for Sarah Connor—but originally, the studio didn’t think it went far enough, and an epilogue "happy ending" was shot and discarded before the theatrical release.
This epilogue, later restored for an "Extended Edition" DVD release in 2015, shows Connor as an elderly woman in the year 2029, happily watching her now-adult son—a United States Senator—playing in a Washington park with his young daughter. Sarah explains via voiceover that because of their actions, Judgment Day never happened—although it still exists in Sarah’s mind "like the traces of a dream."
In the 2010 action thriller Salt, the title character (Angelina Jolie) is a CIA agent accused of being a Russian sleeper agent. She has to go on the run to clear her name, and she experiences a series of flashbacks in which she recalls her youth being trained in a Russian facility with other children. In the end, Salt manages to convince the CIA that she isn’t a traitor, and they allow her to escape so she can hunt down the rest of the Russian sleeper agents. The movie ends with Salt jumping out of a helicopter to freedom.
In an extremely dark alternate ending, found on the extended cut DVD release, the film makes no secret of Salt’s first target on her killing spree: she travels to Russia and blows up the sleeper agent training facility, presumably killing everyone inside—including hundreds of children.
A fitting finale is a daunting task for any storyteller, but that pressure is perhaps never greater than it is with a long-awaited sequel. 2018’s Halloween had the task of bringing closure to questions left lingering by a forty-year-old classic, catching up with Laurie Strode as she dealt with the lingering trauma of her 1978 encounter with "The Shape" (a.k.a. Michael Myers). The movie was a hit with audiences and critics, garnering praise for the way its script (from Danny McBride and David Gordon Green) balanced slasher thrills with the Strode family’s generational drama.
Halloween gave Laurie a triumphant ending, escaping mostly unscathed with her family, while the Shape burned (seemingly) to death in her booby-trapped house. However, McBride and Green initially envisioned a more ambiguous conclusion, as revealed by some leaked script pages. Fans who caught an early cut of the movie at test screenings confirmed seeing this version and registering their dissatisfaction, leading to a reshoot before release.
This ending would have left both Laurie and Michael’s lives hanging in the balance after a knife fight to near-death. While Laurie’s daughter and granddaughter rush her to the hospital, the Shape wanders into the woods and collapses among the shattered remnants of Laurie’s shooting range, taking his last breath…or maybe not. The open-ended finale would have echoed that of John Carpenter’s original Halloween, but it’s understandable that fans craved closure to Laurie’s saga.