For many people, the ending is the most important part of a movie. A movie’s ending is the final piece of evidence needed to decide whether it was really all worth it to leave the house, spend $12 on a ticket, $15 on a soda and popcorn, and $12 more on an extra ticket so your massive soda and popcorn can sit in the seat next to you. After all that hullabaloo, getting a bad ending is like getting a big ol’ slap in the face.
Because a proper ending is so important, studios often shoot or storyboard alternate endings. Now, we know you can’t please everyone, and popular opinion is a fickle beast. Things are always clearer in hindsight, but surprisingly, a lot of these alternates are actually better than the ones we end up seeing. Here are deleted movie endings that were better than the original endings we got.
James Cameron has done almost every single type of movie ever made, but there’s really only one genre he works in: romance. Think about it, almost all of his films are just romance with some sci-fi (or historical fiction) laid on top. And of all his girl-movies-disguised-as-guy-movies, the one that stands above the rest is … The Abyss. Thought we were gonna say Titanic? Ha! No, we’re going under the sea.
The film is about incredibly technologically advanced creatures at the bottom of the ocean — aliens that can warp water to their will. The original, discarded ending of Abyss had them rise to the surface, with waves that could destroy every city, and tell the human race to disarm their nukes and live in peace, love, and harmony … or else. Which is better than the movie ending we got, which did not involve aliens attempting to get us lousy humans to end war forever.
The Butterfly Effect
In The Butterfly Effect, Ashton Kutcher plays a man who can return to different points in his life as long as there’s a record of them — a recording, a journal entry, anything like that. He constantly tries to go back and make his life, and the lives of his loved ones, better, but messes up. Each time, he just makes life for everyone worse and worse. Finally, he realizes what he must do: he has to go back in time and upset a girl he knew, so she’ll never know him. Wait, what?
This kinda lame conclusion was not the director’s original idea. Originally, in a kind of reverse It’s a Wonderful Life, the main character realizes the only way to avoid causing immense pain to all of his loved ones is to never be born in the first place. So he goes back in time to when he was in his mother’s womb and strangles himself with the umbilical cord. Surprisingly, the studio wasn’t down with an ending that involved fetal murder/suicide, so it was changed to the slightly more feel-good ending that pretty much sucked.
Final Destination is maybe the most direct and succinct horror movie ever. Who’s the bad guy? Death. What do the main characters want to do? Live. That’s it. That’s the whole movie.
It ends with three characters seemingly escaping death, before realizing that the horror hasn’t ended. Death was merely biding its time, and it’s coming for them again. But the movie’s original ending wasn’t so bleak.
Originally, two of the main characters had a child together, and this new life ended the curse of Death. Sweet! This idea was sort of reused for Final Destination 2, but luckily the creators realized that this was a brilliant film series that should never, ever end, and changed it enough so that there could be more sequels. Final Destination? More like We Got Lots of Destinations to Go, Like an Endless Amount, Just Strap Yourselves In, We’ll Be Here For a While.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Doesn’t Terminator 2: Judgment Day end happily? The future remained hopefully uncertain… until the sequels ruined everything. But originally, those sequels wouldn’t have been able to exist.
Early in the movie, we see Sarah Connor dreaming of a bleak future in which the world ends. The original movie ending had a happy reprise of that scene. It’s set well past the original Judgment Day, and an old Sarah Connor sits, watching her grandchild plays as the city shines in the distance. Connor smiles, knowing that she’s finally ended the threat of that dark, sequel-filled future once and for all.
Nightmare on Elm Street
Nightmare on Elm Street is one of the movies that kicked off the "Let’s make a million sequels!" slasher-film franchise craze. It ends with Freddy, the dream-based serial killer, seemingly defeated, as the main character, Nancy, gets into a car, happy as a clam. And then Freddy pops back up and possesses the car, because surprise! Freddy’s not dead! Ha!
But originally, that didn’t happen. In Wes Craven’s originally planned cut (above), Nancy drives into the distance, happy and … that’s it. That’s the end. She conquered the Nightmare, vanquished Freddy. No sudden jump scares. No last-minute turns. But then the studio realized, "Hey, you know what makes money? Sequels!" So they had Craven work in a last minute surprise from Freddy, and then we got nineteen more Nightmare on Elm Street movies, approximately 1.2 of which weren’t brain-bashingly horrible.
Being a horror movie, The Descent ended pretty horrifyingly — after getting trapped in a monster-filled cave and seeing her friends die violently, a woman named Sarah escapes, finds a car, and speeds away. After she stops, she turns and sees a vision of her friend Juno, whom she had left for dead in the cave. She screams, and the movie’s over. That’s pretty scary, but the original plan was just plain creepy.
In the deleted part of the ending (which starts at 4:47 in the above video), Sarah screams and then wakes up, still in the cave and covered in blood. The escape was all a dream. She then crawls toward a figure that turns out to be her daughter, who had died in a car accident a year earlier. She’s still alive, unhurt, happy, and sitting next to her birthday cake. Now, the odds of a little girl faking her own death and moving to an evil cave aren’t very high, so we soon learn that she’s an illusion. The delirious Sarah hallucinated her, and as the camera pans away, we see Sarah, all alone, smiling at nothing while the monsters close in on her. The knowledge that she’s at least going to die with a smile on her face doesn’t make her fate any less bone-chilling.
Army of Darkness
Army of Darkness, the third Evil Dead movie, ends with Ash fighting off a Deadite who’s invaded his store because everything that happens to Ash must, by law, be totally ridiculous. But we almost had an even weirder, more interesting ending, one that truly puts a capper on Ash’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.
In Army, Ash had been traveling through time. While in medieval times, some alchemists give him a potion where each drop lets the drinker sleep for a hundred years. Ash is told to drink six drops if he wants to wake up in his own, modern era. He retreats to a nearby cave, caves in the entrance so nobody can disturb his sleep, then drinks five drops, counting each one. Then a mini-landslide distracts him and screws up his counting; he drinks two more drops for a total of seven. Then he drifts off, only to wake up 100 years later than he intended. Naturally, in the year 2092, things are horrible and apocalyptic because, again, nothing that happens to Ash can be normal. As he yells "I slept too long!" and collapses in a fit of grief, credits roll. Not the happiest of endings, to be sure, but certainly among the most Ash-y.
Sucker Punch is a weird and confusing movie about girls attempting to break out of an insane asylum before they’re all lobotomized. However, their struggle to escape is represented by a bunch of different film genres, like samurai or gangster film. It’s pretty good, but also so weird.
At the end, the main character Baby Doll tells her friend to run off while she confronts the gangsters/guards, who knock her out and then give her a lobotomy. However, there’s an alternate ending that’s much better.
In it, Baby Doll gives herself to the High Roller, played by Jon Hamm, in exchange for her freedom via lobotomy. It’s a really sad and depressing — but completely natural — ending for the movie to have, and helps explain that Baby Doll knew what was happening the whole time.
Plus, after that scene, the idea was originally for there to be a long dance scene, set to "Ooh Child" (y’know, the Guardians of the Galaxy song), featuring her and all of the other girls who died or fell prey to the asylum. Note to Hollywood: more movies should end with funky, undead musical numbers. Thanks!
2010’s Salt starred Angelina Jolie as a CIA agent accused of colluding with Russia. (Ripped from future headlines, obviously.) The ending theatergoers saw involved Salt captured by the CIA and being revealed as a trained-from-childhood Russian sleeper agent, However, she wants nothing to do with them now that she’s all grown up, so Peabody, the CIA agent in charge of her, gives her the go-ahead to escape, invade Russia, and go after the other agents there. That’s where the film ends, because if they ever want to do a sequel, they need material.
The extended ending, however, shows there’s no need for a sequel; all we need is Angelina Jolie coldly killing everyone for a couple minutes. After an alternate escape scene in which she pretends to swallow cyanide in order to escape a CIA-filled hospital, Salt ventures to Russia, finds the lead agent (Orlov), shoots him, ties him to a rock, and tosses him in the water so he drowns. Then, as we pan away from Salt looking down at the water, we see Orlov’s entire facility begin to explode. Salt just blew up the entire place, presumably taking every agent inside, including all the children being trained as spies. There’s cold, then there’s kill-the-children cold. Interestingly, Salt kills Orlov halfway through the film in the theatrical cut, so this ending had to remove the murder so it could happen later. It’s either that or Orlov has Wolverine-like regeneration powers.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is basically a video gamer’s fantasy come to life: Scott’s got a crush on this girl, Ramona, and to win her heart he must defeat all seven of her ex-lovers. Oh, and they all have evil superpowers. Plus, he doesn’t beat them at tiddlywinks or anything — he straight-up murders them. How endearing. Obviously, once he defeats all the exes, he wins Ramona’s heart, even getting the blessing of the girl he was dating before falling for Ramona. Good job, Scott.
There’s an alternate ending, too, and thankfully not one where Scott was actually randomly killing innocent people. Rather, he defeats the exes and Ramona basically reacts with "meh." She dumps Scott, who gets back together with his previous girlfriend and they live happily ever after. It’s a slightly messier ending, but one that shows the love you want isn’t always the love you need. But then, post-filming, the people behind the Scott Pilgrim comics released the series’ final issue, where Scott and Ramona get together. So the movie followed suit because a movie deviating from the source material is simply unheard of.
Die Hard With A Vengeance
The Die Hard With A Vengeance ending we all saw is pure "this guy’s the hero, so he must win" ’90s action popcorn flick: John McClane kills Simon Gruber by shooting his helicopter down. The alternate ending is basically the same — McClane kills Gruber because how could he not — but it takes a different, far more interesting route to get there.
Initially, Gruber gets away. Despite a stellar, terrorist-killing track record, the NYPD fires McClane. With vengeance (get it?) on his mind, McClane travels to Europe to track down Gruber. He eventually finds him in a cafe, and after a friendly catch-up conversation between sworn enemies, McClane offers Gruber a "Christmas present": a Chinese rocket launcher. He then challenges Gruber to a game of "McClane Says" where one wrong answer to McClane’s riddle means Gruber has to turn the launcher on himself. Once he gets one wrong, he’s forced at gunpoint to pull the trigger and rocket-launch himself to death.
It’s less "clear-cut good guy wins in noble fashion" than the theatrical ending, and certainly takes John McClane in a super-dark direction, but that extra dimension to his personality makes him more flawed, more human, more relatable. Besides, the man just lost his job. Desperate men do desperate things.
Clerks. is a dark comedy in which a woman has sex with a corpse, a different corpse is felt up, and there’s a lot of hockey performed on the roof of a convenience store. Somehow it launched Kevin Smith’s career. Go figure.
Throughout the whole film, the main character Dante complains about he’s not supposed to be there that day, as it was his day off. He has maybe a thousand lines, and approximately eighteen hundred of them are "I’m not even supposed to be here today!"
The film ends quite abruptly with his friend giving him a feel-good speech and then leaving, but originally, there was one tiny scene after that. As Dante was closing up, a robber came in, shot Dante in the head, stole the money, and left. While that might seem to be a somewhat dark ending, about ten minutes before that, a woman became catatonic after realizing she had sex with an old man’s corpse in the bathroom, so it wouldn’t really be that far off. Also, it would’ve made all of Dante’s "I’m not even supposed to be here today" seem even more funny/depressing in retrospect. But writer/director Kevin Smith only shot it because he wasn’t sure how to end a movie, and was, unfortunately, talked out of it.
The Blade trilogy ended with, well, not much of an ending. Blade defeats Dracula (called "Drake" as if the name "Dracula" hasn’t been in the public domain for decades), then sets out to kill the remaining vampires using a special bioweapon that, fittingly enough, can kill any vampire. Blade’s fine because he’s a human-vampire hybrid and they need him alive for future sequels.
The alternate ending is kind of the same thing but much more foreboding. See, earlier in the film, "Drake" warned Blade he would eventually give into "The Thirst" like any other vampire. In this ending, that thirst gets teased. Blade wakes up on an operating table and begins to lay waste to every doctor around him. He corners one particularly terrified doc, stares down at her, then the camera fades to black. We don’t know for sure if Blade gave into "The Thirst" and drank her blood, but it sure did look like it. While both this ending and the theatrical one have Blade survive to fight another film, this one teases a far more sinister Blade, one who still wants to eradicate other vampires but now has tasted human blood, loves it, and can’t wait for more. If Wesley Snipes gets his wish and Blade returns, presumably in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, imagine the carnage should they go this route.
28 Days Later
28 Days Later is the film that introduced us to Cillian Murphy’s perfect jaw and to the amazingly fast zombies that dominated the horror landscape until The Walking Dead came out and somehow made slow zombies cool again. After one of the main characters, played by Brendan Gleeson, gets infected, our ragged band of travelers run into a bunch of soldiers who put him down before taking them all to a military base run by, well, basically The Governor from The Walking Dead. The group split up, and the women get sexually harassed. Eventually, Murphy breaks out and saves them, and all of them run away to a cottage in the woods to live happily ever after, the end.
But there was almost an entirely different ending where split when Gleeson’s character was infected. Instead of soldiers, the group finds scientists who found a cure that involves draining a person of all their blood, and putting brand new blood into it. While this is a much cooler, weirder, and more sci-fi take, the writers couldn’t figure out exactly how it would work. So it was set aside in favor of a pseudo-zombie-driven Die Hard-like ending that somehow managed to be nowhere near as cool as it sounds.
Pretty Woman has a beautiful, magical, fairytale ending, but that wasn’t the original idea. In the film, rich dude Richard Gere falls in love with sweetheart prostitute Julia Roberts, and proceeds to rescue her from her depressing apartment and life, pouring so much money on her she basically dies under the weight of all the gold.
But the original ending was much bleaker, as befitting a film about an early ’90s, down-and-out, Los Angeles sex worker. Originally, the movie was going to be much more realistic: Gere and Roberts don’t end up together, and the film ends with Roberts going off with her best friend for a day at Disneyland, despite feeling completely hopeless and dead inside. That’s more like it!
Freddy vs Jason
Freddy vs Jason is one of the most important movies of all time, because it was one of the first films to introduce two characters to each other just to have them fight, something replicated in Aliens vs Predator and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Oh Did We Forget an S in Vs? Oh Whatever.
Throughout the film, the two horror icons attempt to kill the same group of kids, invariably coming into conflict, because they each want to be the one to end some kid’s life? The movie doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s still awesome.
It ends with Jason emerging from a lake, triumphant, holding Freddy’s decapitated head. Which then winks. So Jason won, but so did Freddy. But originally, both of them lost. The original story had them falling to hell together, where the lead Cenobite from the Hellraiser series, Pinhead, was waiting. Which would set up Hellraiser vs Jason vs Freddy, which would’ve have been the best movie ever, and presumably would’ve led to Hellraiser vs Jason vs Freddy vs Chucky and Hellraiser vs Jason vs Freddy vs Chucky vs The Evil Dead and Hellraiser vs Jason vs Freddy vs Chucky vs The Evil Dead Meet Abbott and Costello.
Little Shop of Horrors
The original ending to the Little Shop of Horrors movie ended as you’d expect any Hollywood movie about a murderous talking plant to end: with the human hero killing the murderous talking plant, getting the girl, and living happily ever after. And everyone loves the movie, so that ending doesn’t seem to have hurt matters.
However, they filmed another ending, one far more in tune with the original Horrors musical and also more in tune with the bonkers story of a murderous talking plant: the plant wins. Over an extended, 12-minute musical number, Rick Moranis tries to kill Audrey II, as in the theatrical version, but instead the plant grabs his gun, shoots at him, overwhelms him, then eats him. (That’s what Moranis gets for trying to conquer the good people of Druidia.) The plant’s spores are then sold like adorable toys, only to grow at an alarming rate. Soon, the planet is overrun with Godzilla-sized, man-eating plants that sound exactly like Mother Brain. The final scene shows the plants destroying the U.S. and scaling Lady Liberty. It ends with one of the plants jumping through the screen, intent on eating you, the innocent viewer. Not enough films conclude with nature getting sweet revenge on humanity, so it’s too bad Horrors didn’t either. At least we’ll always have the musical.
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
If you’re a huge Stephen King fan, you might’ve heard of this alternate ending to X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes before, because King writes about how much scarier it is in Danse Macabre. The flick is about a man who gains the ability to — you guessed it — levitate.
Seriously, folks, it’s about a guy who can see through things, of course, but because nothing good is allowed to pass, he starts getting more and more disturbed, and more unable to control his ability. Eventually he begins to see something — something in the distance — a horrifying, Lovecraftian creature and … it can see him, too! It ends with him driving to a revival tent, falling to his knees, and ripping his eyes out, mercifully ending his misery once and for all. Credits.
Except not in the King-preferred alternate ending. In that ending, the credits don’t come. Instead, in a voice full of anguish and misery, the main character screams: "I can still see!" Now that’s horrifying. Sadly this ending has never surfaced and there’s some doubt if it even exists. In his 2001 DVD commentary, Corman claims he did film it, but in more recent interviews he suggests Stephen King made the whole thing up, adding that he likes King’s ending better.
You know what’s cool? Literally everything that happens in Jurassic Park. It’s basically the perfect movie. From the dinosaurs breaking out, to the Jeep chase, to the raptors’ slow, slasher-film-like stalking, it’s all pretty great.
But the movie’s original ending wouldn’t have had the raptors slowly pursuing our heroes through the claustrophobic corridors of the InGen facility. Instead, it would have had our team pursued on their way to the chopper by the T. Rex. Eventually the idea was jettisoned, and instead worked into the Jeep car chase we saw earlier in the film.
But can you imagine how excellent this scene would’ve been? Having the T. rex in full daylight, chasing our heroes through the park — and even attacking the chopper — as they attempt to flee? We love the movie, no doubt, but honestly? We might love it a little more if this had been the ending. If that’s possible.