The 16 Most Fascinating Alternate Endings to Famous Movies Films

The 16 Most Fascinating Alternate Endings to Famous Movies

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Fair warning: Since this article is about movie endings, there are going to be spoilers for every movie listed. Obviously.

A movie’s ending is one of the most important parts of the story, so it’s no wonder that we constantly hear stories about writers and directors fighting with studio executives to preserve their artistic vision. Below are the most interesting stories I could dig up about movie endings that were almost changed, shouldn’t have been changed, and a few in-between options that are unlike anything you’d normally consider.

These are some of the best alternate endings to popular films out there. The alternate ending sometimes adds to the movie, but sometimes the alternate ending changes the plot so entirely that it's good that it was removed to begin with. These alternate endings to famous films are some that could have easily changed the course of the film completely. These movies range from Fatal Attraction to Clerks. to Little Shop of Horrors.


List Photo: uploaded by JF Sargent
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    Theatrical Ending 
    Clerks concludes its meandering narrative on a high note: Protagonist Dante (Brian O’Halloran) gets direction in his life after Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) outrightly states the moral of the film directly to his face. He prepares to close-up shop for the day and the future actually begins to look bright for the guy. 
    Alternate Ending 
    The ending Smith originally came up with (the one attached to the earliest screenings of the film) went a little differently. After Dante reconciles with Randal and Randal leaves, a new customer enters the shop and abruptly shoots Dante, killing him in cold blood for the money in the cash register. 
    It’s certainly a bolder take on the story’s conclusion, but Smith himself admitted that he only wrote this ending because he didn’t know how to end a film. After receiving encouragement from some mentors, Smith re-edited the film to end just before the killer’s appearance, transforming the conclusion from abrupt tragedy to hopeful optimism.
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    Theatrical Ending
    After Audrey 2 reveals that she’s actually an alien from outer-space and tries to bury Seymour (Rick Moranis) beneath the rubble of the destroyed plant shop, Seymour retaliates by electrocuting the plant until she explodes. He and Audrey are promptly married, and the movie ends on a high note.


    Alternate Ending
    The alternate original ending, finally released to the general public for the first time on October 9th, takes the conclusion in an entirely different direction. Audrey 2 attacks and kills Audrey, who before dying, tells Seymour that he should feed her to the plant so that he can be famous. Then Audrey 2 eats Audrey, then Seymour, and spreads her buds across the country, taking over all major cities and presumably, the world.
    The reason for the change is one of the more fascinating back-stories in film history. Though the original ending, running a rumored $1 million to shoot, was included in the first test-screenings of the film, the creators found that the ultra-downer turned the theater into an “icebox.” Director Frank Oz speculated that “in a stage play, you kill the leads and they come out for a bow — in a movie, they don't come out for a bow, they're dead. They’re gone and so the audience lost the people they loved... and they hated us for it.” He stands by the idea that the changed ending is the better ending, because it gives the audience the story they want.
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    Theatrical Ending
    It’s probably worth noting that there are seven different versions of Ridley Scott’s neo-noir film Blade Runner. But the ending originally shown in theaters is also pretty universally considered one of the worst: After defeating the rogue replicant and escaping with his replicant girlfriend, Deckard drives through a forest strikingly similar to the one seen at the beginning of The Shining and casually tells the audience in a voice-over that even though Replicants have a four-year lifespan, Rachael (Sean Young) is “special” and will live an indeterminate length of time.
    Alternate Ending

    There are two others that are worth talking about. One includes a terrible voice-over that ruins the message of the film, and one that actually fits with the tone and direction of the film. While the theatrical version is annoyingly sappy and the voice-over makes Deckard seem like kind of an idiot (what do you mean you “don’t know why” Roy let you live? He literally just told you!) this ending keeps things uncertain and tragic without insulting the audience’s intelligence.
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    Theatrical Ending
    As is rarely the case, the theatrical ending of Brazil is actually the superior one, due to director Terry Gilliam’s steadfast refusal to accommodate the studio’s wishes. The ending of Brazil that most people have seen is the dark, tragic version where hero Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) is driven insane after being tortured to near-death by an insanely bureaucratic dystopian future government.
     Alternate Ending

    The ending the studio wanted was a little different: instead of slipping into an escapist fantasy to avoid the tragic situation he’s found himself trapped in, Lowry slips into an escapist fantasy for no reason: his life is actually okay, and love has conquered all evil, and he can live happily ever after. Not only is this unbelievably corny, but it makes absolutely no sense in the context of the story.
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    Theatrical Ending

    Vampires invade Will Smith’s house so he suicide bombs them.

    Alternate Ending
     

    The original ending filmed for the movie more closely follows the themes of the book on which the story is based: The audience discovers that they have been misled as to the nature of the vampire monsters, and that they’re actually sentient, civilized creatures. The twist is that instead of being a plucky survivor struggling to find a cure, Robert Neville (Will Smith) has been brutally murdering sentient creatures, making him the accidental villain of the story.

    Basically, it’s a nuanced, intelligent, and thought-provoking conclusion. So of course they didn’t use it.
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    Theatrical Ending

    After saving the princess and protecting a medieval castle from the titular army of darkness led by a dark-clone of himself, Ash (Bruce Campbell) returns to present time and fights a zombie in the mall. Hail to the king, baby.
    Alternate Ending

    In Sam Raimi’s original ending, things get a little darker. Ash screws up the magic spell that’s supposed to send him back to his own time, and ends up in a terrible post-apocalyptic future. He’s not too happy about it.
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    The Butterfly Effect


    Theatrical Ending

    After irresponsibly messing with the space-time for an hour and a half, Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) finally resolves all the problems in his and his true-love’s life by going back to his childhood and threatening to murder her family. It’s kind of a hail-mary, but it works out for him because he’s Ashton Kutcher and everything manages to work out for that guy.

    Alternate Endings

    There are actually three, and they’re all available in that video, but the most interesting has to be the one where he travels back to the moment of his own birth and strangles himself in the womb with his own umbilical cord.
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    Theatrical Ending

    In the American release of The Descent, the film ends with the protagonist Sarah (Shauna McDonald) leaving Juno (Natalie Mendoza) to be eaten by underground cave-monsters because she slept with her husband back when he was alive. Sarah then crawls out of the cave, finds her car, and drives as fast as she can until she breaks down crying – only to discover that the ghost of Juno has followed her.

    Alternate Ending

    The ending shown in the UK and other countries adds a bit on to that – after screaming at the appearance of Juno’s ghost, Sarah “wakes up” and finds herself back in the cave, with only her torch and hallucinations of her dead daughter to keep her company. As the screams of the monsters echo in the distance, the camera goes black – leaving her doomed. The difference between the two endings is just where you cut to the credits.
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    The Lion King
    Photo: Freebase/Public domain

    Theatrical Ending

    After discovering that Scar’s irresponsible management of Pride Rock has somehow caused apocalyptic climate-change, Simba throws him off a cliff to be eaten by hyenas. Street justice.

    Alternate Ending

    Though it was never fully animated, the original ending of the film sees Scar tricking and defeating Simba, throwing him off Pride Rock only to be consumed by the flames himself while he laughs hysterically. I’m gonna go ahead and assume the reason they didn’t go with this ending is because it’s completely insane.
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    Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World
    Photo: Freebase/Fair use

    Theatrical Ending

    Scott becomes friends with Nega-Scott, ditches Knives, and hooks up with Ramona Flowers, and they walk into the romantic Canadian evening together.

    Alternate Ending

    The problem with that ending is that it doesn’t really make any sense. Scott’s relationship with Ramona is super unhealthy, being built entirely off of insecurities instead of common interests or experience. His relationship with Knives isn’t super healthy either, but it does make a lot more sense that he’d end up with her, narratively, because his character arc involves rearranging his priorities. Ending up with Ramona shows that he hasn’t really learned anything, whereas hooking up Knives again in this alternate ending shows that he... um, kinda learned something?
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    Theatrical Ending
    After two hours of tense psychological intrigue and Michael Douglas/Glenn Close sex scenes, Fatal Attraction finally explodes with Alex (Close) attacking Dan (Douglas) and his wife Beth (Anne Archer) in their home and getting drowned and shot for her trouble.
    Alternate Ending
    If you’ve seen the movie, you probably noticed that the new ending is kind of a cop-out: there’s a lot of moral ambiguity here, with the “hero” of our story being a man who cheats on his wife and the “villain” being the woman he sleeps with. Concluding the movie with a scene that makes the evil seductress into a supernatural entity (She can’t drown? What is she, a witch?) that violently attacks someone in their home kinda makes her irredeemable. 
    The original ending tackled the ambiguity a little more head-on: Instead of attacking anyone, Alex just kills herself with the knife Dan gave her, and the film ends with Dan being taken away by the police and Beth finding exonerating evidence in the attic. After test audiences were confused by a movie with anything more complicated than a simple good vs. evil dichotomy, the studio reshot the ending – replacing a thoughtful exploration into the destructive nature of emotional manipulation with generic jump-scares.
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    Star Trek: Generations


    Theatrical Ending
    In order to shoehorn an interesting ending onto such a bland movie, the makers of Star Trek Generations decided to kill Captain James T. Kirk by dropping a bridge on him. The manner of his death is so ridiculous that TVTropes has named the practice of killing off major characters in lame ways after this scene.
    Alternate Ending
    The original ending of Generations didn’t show Kirk killed by a bridge – it showed him being shot in the back by Malcolm McDowell. The change came after test audiences reported that this death wasn’t heroic enough. The decision seems to come from that idea that being crushed under a bridge for no reason is more heroic than being shot in the back for no reason, proving that all the test-audiences in the world can’t save your movie if you’re a f**king idiot.
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    Theatrical Ending
    The “protagonist” of the film – the woman responsible for everything terrible that’s happened so far, including Samuel L. Jackson getting eaten by a shark – is killed, and LL Cool J survives, despite being black. Despite trying their best to not repeat Jaws, Deep Blue Sea still manages to end with a shark blowing up for scientifically implausible reasons.
    Alternate Ending
    In the original ending, thus far not released on DVD and only shown to test audiences, switched things: Susan (Saffron Burrows) survived, and Preacher (LL Cool J) was killed. The testers didn’t like this, and reportedly they made the decision to completely redo the ending because people in the audience were shouting “die, bitch!” and we all know that someone who shouts that in public is the kind of person that needs to be taken seriously.
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    Theatrical Ending

    Mike gets a call from the "hotel operator," after the clock resets, informing him that he can relive the hour over and over again, or alternately, use the "fast checkout policy." He makes a molotov cocktail, setting the his hotel room on fire. The hotel is evacuated, with Mike getting pulled to safety by firemen. Olin says to him, "Well done, Enslin. Well done." Mike explains to Lily while recovering in bed about Katie, but she's doubtful. He moves back in with Lily when she finds a box from the rubble of 1408, which contained Mike's tape recorder. He plays the conversation he and Katie had; Lily, shocked, drops the boxes she's carrying and stares at him in horror. The scene fades to black.

    Alternate Endings

    The original ending was never used for theatrical release, as it was found to be too much of a downer during the viewings for test audiences. There are two additional endings, however, the most interesting being the original, with Mike setting the room one fire, dying happily inside of it. This ending is the default on the Blu-ray release as well as the two-disc collector's edition. Additionally, it's been shown on on networks such as FX, The Movie Network, and the Canadian network, Space.
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    The Whole Deal Since the board game, Clue, functions like a pulp-novel murder mystery, it makes sense the film adaptation would fit in that genre. The problem is that the fun in playing Clue is that you never know who the murderer is – it’s different every time. To preserve that mystery, the makers of Clue the movie filmed three separate endings with different culprits and, during its initial theatrical run, played different endings in different theaters.  Unfortunately, all three aren’t available online, but you can watch the “cannonical” third ending right here.
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