5k voters

Movies That Completely Changed Their Endings After Everyone Freaked Out

Updated August 5, 2021 21.7k votes 5k voters 563.4k views16 items

List RulesVote up the movies that should have stuck with the original ending.

Many films go through a testing process where audiences are shown a rough cut and then asked to give feedback. Depending on what viewers say, the filmmakers might make alterations, especially if there's an element those audiences are strongly critical of. That can include the big finale.

Quite a few blockbusters, and even classics, received extreme adjustments because test audiences had intensely negative reactions to the way filmmakers wrapped up the plot. In some cases, the originally conceived endings made sense from a narrative or thematic point of view, yet viewers left without the catharsis they desperately wanted. Other times, the endings were just poorly conceived, and it took an audience to point it out. Regardless of the reason, one could reasonably argue these movies were helped by audience input.

You might be surprised by some of the movies that changed endings. A few, like Fatal Attraction, provide well-known examples, yet others - such as The Shawshank Redemption and Election - have not had their story publicized as much. In each of the following examples, we'll break down what was in the original finale and what freaked everyone out so much that it had to be altered.

  • Deep Blue Sea is about a team of scientists performing experiments on sharks with the hope of finding a cure for Alzheimer's disease. No, it doesn't make a lot of sense. Things predictably go awry, and the sharks begin a rampage of terror. The story was supposed to end with three characters safely making it out of the research facility. One was Dr. Susan McAlester (Saffron Burrows), the scientist who masterminded the entire enterprise. Test audiences were not having that.

    Director Renny Harlin said, "Basically what had happened was that the audience felt so deeply that the scientist character, the woman who was behind the whole experiment with the sharks, that it was all her fault. In their minds, she was the bad guy, and in our minds, she was the heroine and we thought saving her was the key. Basically, we had test cards that said, 'Kill the b*tch.' It was an amazing revelation."

    There wasn't a lot of time to fix the issue, but Harlin convened a one-day reshoot to film a new ending.

    • Actors: Samuel L. Jackson, LL Cool J, Thomas Jane, Saffron Burrows, Stellan Skarsgård
    • Released: 1999
    • Directed by: Renny Harlin
    Did they overthink it?

    #6 of 78 The Scariest Animal Horror Movies Ever Made#63 of 102 The Best 1990s Action Movies#199 of 315 Movies with the Best Soundtracks

  • Edgar Wright's Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is such a fan favorite that it's hard to believe there was a point at which viewers clashed over it. Wright told Entertainment Weekly that test audiences fought over the ending, in which hero Scott (Michael Cera) ends up with original girlfriend Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) rather than Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Some were strongly Team Knives, while others were firmly Team Ramona. 

    As it turned out, the divide reinforced to the director that he'd botched the finale. "The way that we’d originally written it, which wasn’t quite right, is we were trying to do a Graduate or Heartbreak Kid-style ending," Wright said, referring to two films in which the male protagonist gets the girl yet appears unfulfilled anyway. "To tell the honest truth, Ellen Wong was so lovely and so charming that it just made me feel horrible even doing that ending. So the ending we did have was neither here nor there.”

    Along with co-writer Michael Bacall and Scott Pilgrim creator Bryan Lee O'Malley, Wright came up with a new ending that finds Scott and Ramona happily walking off together. The original ending can be seen as a bonus feature on the Blu-ray.

    • Actors: Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Aubrey Plaza, Michael Cera
    • Released: 2010
    • Directed by: Edgar Wright
    Did they overthink it?

    20 'Scott Pilgrim vs. The World' Memes That Even Casual Fans Will Enjoy#338 of 1,506 The Most Rewatchable Movies#76 of 272 The Greatest Soundtracks Of All Time

  • By all accounts, 28 Days Later is a pretty bleak film. After all, it's about a virus that wipes out most of the UK, turning targets into zombie-like creatures. For that reason, Danny Boyle and writer Alex Garland chose to end the movie on a quasi-optimistic note, so as not to send audiences away completely bummed out.

    They also shot a second, darker ending that was included as a bonus feature on the British DVD release. This finale ended with protagonist Jim (Cillian Murphy) succumbing to his wounds in a deserted hospital; it only offered hope for two characters, Selena (Naomie Harris) and Hannah (Megan Burns) - although some test audiences didn't perceive it that way and believed it implied both women were doomed. When it came time to release 28 Days Later in America, distributor Fox Searchlight decided to offer both. The "happy" ending plays first. Then, after the credits, the words "what if..." appear on screen, followed by the "dark" ending. The inclusion of the alternate ending spurred internet debate as to which was preferable. Writer Garland and director Boyle have stated they consider the darker ending the "true" ending.

    • Actors: Cillian Murphy, Christopher Eccleston, Naomie Harris, Brendan Gleeson, Luke Mably
    • Released: 2002
    • Directed by: Danny Boyle
    Did they overthink it?

    #33 of 245 The Best Psychological Thrillers of All Time#27 of 743 The Best Horror Movies Of All Time#247 of 549 The Greatest Epic Movies Ever Made

  • The only reason we have footage of Election's alternate ending is because an unlabeled work print of the film on VHS wound up for sale at a flea market. It contained the original wrap-up, in which ex-teacher Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is working at a car dealership and receives a visit from former student/nemesis Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon). They have a heart-to-heart talk in which the university-bound young woman expresses a softer side, including some anxiety about college. In other words, it's kind of a betrayal of who the character was for the entire movie.

    People who saw Election during the testing phase apparently picked up on that. Broderick explained the situation to Vulture, suggesting that conflict among the filmmakers was to blame. "What they originally shot was not the ending they originally wrote," he said. "They had an argument. So whatever got leaked is not quite the original script ending. I remember it pretty well, but it was written, not shot. The original ending that they shot, it was sadder, and I guess when they showed it to an audience, they got bummed out. So they made it more upbeat."

    The image quality is incredibly poor, but you can find the original, unused ending on YouTube.

    • Actors: Reese Witherspoon, Matthew Broderick, Chris Klein, Colleen Camp, Nicholas D'Agosto
    • Released: 1999
    • Directed by: Alexander Payne
    Did they overthink it?

    The Best Quotes About Election#157 of 252 The Funniest '90s Movies#219 of 440 The Best Movies Of The 1990s