You’ve seen the alternate endings that ended up in the special features of your favourite DVDs – but what of the alternate endings that never even got made in the first place?
They seemed like a good idea on paper, but for various reasons – budget, studio interference, logic – they were binned en route to the big screen.
But would these 10 early alternate endings have ruined these movies… or improved them?
The original ending: Having escaped from the Nostromo before it went boom-boom, Ellen Ripley discovers the titular xenomorph has stowed away on her shuttle. One quick airlock ventilation later, it’s blown into space and Ripley floats towards an uncertain future.
The alternate ending: In Ridley Scott’s original draft, the alien was the one who survived. After emerging on Ripley’s escape pod, the xenomorph proceeds to bite her head off. Then, casual as you like, it sits down in the pod’s control chair and begins a radio communication with Earth… speaking in Ellen Ripley’s voice. Mmm-hmm.
Ruined or improved? We can categorically say that there would have been no ‘Alien’ franchise with this ending. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on your feelings towards ‘Aliens’, ‘Alien 3’ and ‘Alien: Resurrection’.
The original ending: John Doe has the upper hand! Kevin Spacey’s sadistic serial killer reveals his masterplan: the final two seven deadly sins are his own envy when he killed Gwyneth Paltrow, and the wrath of her cop husband Brad Pitt as he shoots him dead in retaliation. It’s one of the all-time greatest downer endings in movie history.
The alternate ending: Slightly less depressing was this storyboarded ending which thankfully didn’t get filmed. With the studio freaking out that their A-list movie was ending in a wrath-fuelled bloodbath, Fincher agreed to test an ending that saw Morgan Freeman’s cop, Pitt’s partner, pull the trigger and kill John Doe, sparing Pitt a life in prison but ensuring he’d spend his last days behind bars. Actually, it’s not that much less depressing.
Ruined or improved? The original ending is too perfect. Fincher got it right.
The original ending: Like most movies written by Quentin Tarantino, it ends in a drug-fuelled shootout. Christian Slater’s chancer Clarence gets shot in the face, but survives – he and Patricia Arquette’s Alabama live to fight another day. Some years later, we catch up with them in Cancun, and their son, Elvis. Aww.
The alternate ending: Tony Scott insisted the movie ended on a high note – it was Tarantino who wanted ‘True Romance’ to end in a break-up. In Quentin’s original draft, Clarence doesn’t recover from getting shot and dies, forcing Alabama to hitchhike in Mexico, presumably having return to her hooking ways.
Ruined or improved? That depends on your definition of ‘romance’ – do you like it traditional or doomed?
The original ending: Richard Gere’s kindly and not-at-all-creepy benefactor bounds from the white horse that is his limousine to ‘rescue’ Julia Roberts’ prostitute princess, the pair of them smooching on the fire escape. You see, kids? Paying someone for sex is totally a legitimate way to find a life partner!
The alternate ending: The first draft of ‘Pretty Woman’ is practically unrecognisable from the shooting script – the entire tone changed from gritty drama to charming romcom. In writer JF Lawton’s script, titled ‘$3,000’, Gere’s butthead businessman ejects Roberts’ weeping, drug-addicted hooker from his car, before bunging her three grand and driving off. She goes to Disneyland. Everybody wins. Sort of.
Ruined or improved? It’s probably a touch more realistic, but hey – this is a romantic comedy, there are rules, man!
'World War Z'
The original ending: If you remember correctly, the ending we got in ‘World War Z’ was a rather underwhelming, sedate affair, which pared down the global scale of the zombie apocalypse to see Brad Pitt navigating corridors full of zombies at the W.H.O. in order to find a cure. That was all thanks to Damon Lindelof, who was drafted in to repair the last act in an emergency. So what did we miss out on?
The alternate ending: The full ‘Battle Of Moscow’, as glimpsed in a few shots towards the end. Says director Marc Forster: “It’s a huge battle with thousands of zombies and multiple other characters in Russia, at night, in a snowstorm.” So why did it get cut out? “We never finished that footage because we all agreed after Israel and the plane crash you’re battle fatigued and you really want the movie to be more quiet and you don’t want it to go into another huge combat situation.”
Ruined or improved? Though the ending we got was tense and exciting in a way, we can’t help but think giant snowstorm zombie massacres have the potential to be more exciting, battle fatigue be damned.
'Dawn Of The Dead'
The original ending: Having survived the zombie hordes in George A Romero’s undead paean to consumerism, heroes Peter and Francine take their chances and board a partially fuelled helicopter, flying to – temporary – safety.
The alternate ending: Just a slightly tweaked alternate, one that almost made it in until the very last minute. Peter and Francine decide they’d rather take their own lives than leave themselves to the mercy of the zombies – Peter shoots himself and Francine sticks her head in the rotating blades of the chopper. During the end credits, we see the rotors slow to a stop, proving that they would have been doomed anyway. Romero didn’t like the ending because it was completely bereft of hope, which he was keen to keep alive.
Ruined or improved? Ignorance is bliss. We kinda like the ending we saw – even if they would eventually run out of fuel, if we don’t see them die, it didn’t happen…
'Thelma & Louise'
The original ending: Outlaws Thelma and Louise achieve immortality by putting the pedal to the metal and driving off a chasm into the big beyond. Their fate surely sealed, we’re spared the grisly details by a well-time Ridley Scott freeze-frame, giving us plenty of time to contemplate a ballsy and memorable ending.
The alternate ending: Subtlety won out in the end, because Scott originally wrote that we’d see the cars tumble down the cliff in a ball of flame, exploding all elements of tact out of the climax. Did we really need it spelled out so needlessly? Anyone with the slightest grasp of gravity and logic would know that Thelma and Louise probably wouldn’t land on their wheels and drive away.
Ruined or improved? As it stands, the ending is iconic. As written, it was moronic.
'Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story'
The original ending: Vince Vaughn’s plucky underdog defeats Ben Stiller’s mulleted douchebag in a thrilling one-on-one dodgeball bout, winning the tournament and receiving a treasure chest of riches to save his gym. Your classic underdog triumphing over adversity, basically, albeit with added jokes about balls.
The alternate ending: Director Rawson Marshall Thurber had planned a great sucker punch ending that would have provided a big laugh but would have stopped the movie dead. While celebrating what they think is a victory, Stiller’s villain White Goodman quickly recovers to tag Vaughn’s hero with a ball, instantly winning the competition. He celebrates. Vaughn looks crestfallen. And then the credits roll. That’s it. Time to go home.
Ruined or improved? We get why they didn’t use it. But we wish they did. Too often movies play it safe. Don’t bad guys deserve to win once in a while?
The original ending: Tippi Hedren and friends escape death-by-pecking when the feathered fiends stop attacking humans as quickly as they started. Leaving the house, they’re startled by what they see: thousands of birds, perched outside, completely and eerily calm. The Brenners escape, leaving us none the wiser as to the avian attacks. Hitchcock, you’ve done it again!
The alternate ending: Only budgetary restrictions stopped us from seeing Hitchcock’s true vision: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, completely enveloped by birds. Alas, Hitch couldn’t amass the funds to film the scene, leaving the movie on an ambiguous note.
Ruined or improved? Imagine the scene in your mind’s eye. We’d kill to see it and we can’t say the movie – a stone-cold classic – would suffer for its addition.
The original ending: It’s easy to forget the first Rambo movie wasn’t about guns and explosions and excessive gore – ‘First Blood’ (it didn’t even have Rambo in the title!) was about the psychological effects of war on just one man. It ends with John Rambo surrendering after his survivalist crusade, taken into custody by Colonel Trautman.
The alternate ending: Much more fitting to the feel and themes of the movie, Sylvester Stallone’s original ending saw Rambo begging with Trautman to kill him (“You trained me, you made me, you kill me!”) before putting his gun in Trautman’s hand and squeezing the trigger, effectively shooting himself in the stomach. Goodnight Rambo.
Ruined or improved? Depressing though it may be, ‘First Blood”s first ending makes way more sense – the whole movie seems fated to have Rambo be the architect of his own destiny. Also, it would have spared the world from three increasingly poor Rambo sequels. What’s not to like?
Image credits: 20th Century Fox/New Line/Warner Bros./Paramount/Anchor Bay/MGM/Universal/Studio Canal