You already know the ending of a film can make or break the entire flick. Who wants to sit through an incredible film, only to watch a crummy ending? You may not know it, but movie endings are usually well tested before they ever reach real commercial audiences.
Alternative endings are usually scrapped because they lack broad appeal, but sometimes those endings are just as fascinating, unsettling or thought-provoking as the final versions that play in theaters. Which version is better? Check out these fascinating alternate movie endings that would have completely changed your favorite films and decide for yourself. (Tons of spoilers ahead!)
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)
In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) attempts to navigate romance and life woes. He dates high schooler Knives Chau (Ellen Wong) before falling for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). The catch? Before he can date Ramona, he must kill seven of her evil exes — all of whom have supernatural abilities.
To stay true to the Scott Pilgrim novels, the film ends with Knives abandoning her pursuit of Scott and encouraging him to go after Ramona. However, the film originally ended with Scott getting back with Knives after bonding over a video game.
Get Out (2017)
Jordan Peele’s Get Out (2016) had horror fans shaken across the globe. The thriller genre applied a cinematically devastating edge to the issues of race, police and social justice. You couldn’t help but feel relieved when Chris Washington’s (Daniel Kaluuya) friend stepped out of that cop car, right?
Although the ending of the film is fairly positive, a devastating conclusion was originally in the works. The footage has the actual cops arriving after Chris escaped from his girlfriend’s family’s horrifying home. Rather than taking pity on a traumatized Chris, they arrest him for the murders of everyone inside.
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
In The Butterfly Effect (2004), Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher), a college student with violent migraines, finds out he has the ability to time travel. Using his journals as guides, he induces blackouts to return to the past to prevent trauma in his and his friends’ lives.
The film ends with Evan altering the past to ensure he doesn’t become long-term neighbors with his closest childhood friend, Kayleigh, in order to spare her a tragic future. In one unsettling alternate ending, Evan travels back to before his birth and strangles himself in the womb to prevent himself from causing harm in the future. Yikes!
In Rocky (1976), boxing champion Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) agrees to fight the unknown Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) after his opponent for the heavyweight championship is injured. Throughout the film, Rocky trains for the fight of his life and finds love with Adrian (Talia Shire).
Rocky pours his heart and soul into the fight, ultimately surviving 15 rounds in the ring and becoming one of the most beloved movie characters of all time. In an alternate ending, Rocky takes a bribe to throw the fight and uses the money to help Adrian open a pet shop — definitely not an ending for winning the hearts of America.
In Heathers (1988), Jason Dean (Christian Slater) shakes up his high school when he begins murdering fellow students and staging their deaths as suicides. The film centers on the Heathers, including an honorary Heather, Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder), who aids JD’s crime spree. The dramatic conclusion consists of JD blowing himself up on the school’s front lawn.
Later, Veronica asks Martha, a friend she abandoned for the sake of popularity, to hang out during prom. In a dark alternate ending, Martha stabs Veronica while screaming obscenities in a dramatic plot twist. The movie ends with Veronica yelling, “My name’s not Heather!”
Paranormal Activity (2007)
While expectations for Paranormal Activity (2007) were fairly low, the horror film captivated audiences worldwide. The flick comes to a boil when the possessed protagonist, Katie (Katie Featherston), leaves the bedroom and yells for her husband from downstairs — where she’s waiting to kill him.
In the film, Katie murders her husband, drags his body upstairs and chucks him at the camera. Then, she rushes at the lens herself. The alternate ending includes murder, only without the body throw. Instead, Katie approaches the camera alone. Staring at the lens, she slits her own throat with a kitchen knife. Yikes!
Fatal Attraction (1987)
The ending to Fatal Attraction (1987) was pretty intense. The film centers around Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) and the brief affair he has with editor Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). As Dan attempts to protect his family, his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), becomes aware of Dan’s affair and his crazy stalker.
The film ends with Beth shooting Alex in self-defense in her bathroom. However, the original ending consisted of Alex killing herself and framing Dan for her murder. When the script was rewritten, Close was furious, believing that committing suicide to ruin Dan’s life was more like her character (and psychologists agreed).
Titanic (1997) is a love story set in a terrible place, namely aboard a ship doomed to sink. As debutante Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) falls in love with third-class passenger Jack Dawson, the two become entangled in a romance that is doomed to die with the Titanic.
The film ends on an emotional note with Rose dropping the coveted Heart of the Ocean necklace into the sea as she stares out at the waves that swallowed her love. The original ending included a lengthy speech about the pricelessness of life, ending with Rose hurling the necklace into the sea. Not as touching.
Alien (1979) tops the charts of alien flicks. The film features a group of astronauts attempting to kill an alien that has infiltrated their ship, Nostromo. Weaver’s character, Ellen Ripley, eventually escapes the Nostromo in a pod, unaware that the alien has hopped aboard.
In the theatrical conclusion, Ripley overpowers and blasts the alien into space, remaining on course for Earth. However, director Ridley Scott envisioned a more disturbing ending for the film. He wanted the alien to kill Ripley and mimic her voice to communicate with the space station that she was returning.
Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
In Little Shop of Horrors (1986), overzealous Seymour (Rick Moranis) decides to take on the responsibility of a massive, people-eating plant that he names Audrey II (after his gorgeous crush). Throughout the movie-musical, Seymour attempts to win the love of Audrey (Ellen Greene) while feeding Audrey II flesh, blood and people.
At the film’s end, Seymour finds out that Audrey II is an alien lifeform and kills her with electricity. The original ending had Audrey II consuming Seymour alive. After his death, mini-Audrey II’s were distributed across the world, but test audiences found this ending grotesque.
Interstellar (2014) is full of striking visuals and has a killer score and tons of emotional moments as Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) tries to save planet Earth from climate change. After traveling through wormholes, Cooper is able to communicate with his daughter on Earth and send her his data.
At the end of the film, Cooper miraculously survives the collapse of a fifth-dimensional tesseract. He sets off into the multi-dimensional landscape of outer space, hoping to reach his now-elderly daughter on Earth. A profound alternate ending called for the tesseract to collapse around Cooper, sending his data back to Earth while killing him.
The Shining (1980)
Who could forget the iconic final shot of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980)? The thriller ends when Danny escapes to safety with his mother, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and Jack freezes to death in the maze. The final shot focuses on Jack’s smiling face featured in a photograph in the hotel — taken in 1921. Spooky.
The original ending packed a less powerful punch. Two additional minutes were devoted to a hospital scene where audiences were assured that Danny and Wendy had, in fact, survived The Overlook. Kubrick realized the scene lessened the impact of the closing and scrapped it.
Stephen King’s 1408 (2007) is one of the best book-to-screen adaptations. In the film, author Mike Enslin (John Cusack) hunkers down in a paranormal hotel room (#1408) in a notoriously haunted hotel. Despite warnings from staffers not to rent the room, Mike insists, hoping to debunk the tales of the room’s ghostly activity.
Of course, the room is haunted, and at the end, a desperate Mike burns the room to the ground. He is saved by firefighters and reunited with his wife. However, in an alternate version, Mike tragically burns in the room and joins his deceased daughter in the afterlife.
The Lion King (1994)
The Lion King (1994) is based on William Shakespeare’s beloved tragedy Hamlet — only with lions instead of people. In the movie, Simba loses his father because of his scheming uncle, runs away with a warthog and a meerkat for several years and then returns to reclaim his kingdom with Nala at his side.
In the film, Scar is killed by his followers (the hyenas) after betraying them. Simba’s and Nala’s cub is presented to the kingdom, restarting the circle of life. In the original ending, the former circle ended with Scar falling into the flames of the fire and burning to death.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) follows the adventures of a stranded alien in suburban California and his new friend, a child named Elliott (Henry Thomas). When E.T. becomes sick on Earth, Elliott must help him return to his ship to go home.
The final scene consists of E.T. saying his goodbyes to Elliott before walking on to his ship and jetting off into space in an array of colors. The original concept for the conclusion would have provided more closure for Elliott by showing scenes of him playing with friends and adapting to life after E.T.
A Quiet Place (2018)
The haunting premise of John Krasinski’s A Quiet Place (2018) took audiences by storm. The film follows parents Lee and Evelyn Abbott (John Krasinski and Emily Blunt) as they try to protect their children, Regan (Millicent Simmonds) and Marcus (Noah Jupe) from noise-hungry creatures who hunt their prey using sound.
Throughout the film, the Abbotts employ creative tactics to survive. After Lee sacrifices himself, Evelyn successfully lures, shoots and kills one monster, bringing an end to their terror. Krasinski originally wanted a more gruesome, less happy ending, but he, fortunately, saved that for his mind.
I Am Legend (2007)
In I Am Legend (2007), esteemed scientist Robert Neville (Will Smith) is attempting to find a cure for an infection that has turned humans into killer mutants. Using his plague-resistant blood as a baseline for his research, Neville also searches for fellow survivors.
In the end, he passes his cure off to two survivors and blows himself up to kill a batch of invading mutants. One proposed ending had Neville realize the mutants view him as the monster and are really civil creatures desiring peace. The thought-provoking ending didn’t make the cut.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
The refreshing humor, quirky characters, stellar soundtrack and epic cast make Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) a universal hit. At the end of the film, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and the Guardians are successful in saving the universe, and the gang montages to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.”
In the final scene, Quill opens a gift from his mother — a new mixtape of her favorite songs. Director James Gunn admits that he cut out Quill’s grandfather to keep the ending happy. The original conclusion showed that Quill’s grandfather was still waiting for him to come home.
National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)
In National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983), the Griswolds head across the country to spend a fun-filled day at Walley World. Unfortunately, when they arrive — after a disaster-filled car trip — the park is closed for repairs. At the end, Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) holds the Walley World security guard at BB gunpoint and demands he open the rides.
They all — including the guard — end up having a blast. In the original script, Clark tracks down the address of Ron Walley himself and holds him at gunpoint, demanding he open the park for his family. Way too dark for a comedy, right?
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1983)
Return of the Jedi’s jolly conclusion included the explosion of the Death Star, the rebels celebrating with the Ewoks and Luke receiving spiritual visits from his former mentors. Many fans felt the uplifting ending too starkly contrasted with the former films in the trilogy.
Maybe unhappy fans would have preferred Lucas’ original conclusion that included Han Solo (Harrison Ford) dying at the end of the film. This would have led Leia to become an independent leader and left Luke to deal with his traumas alone. Although Ford was thrilled to play out the tragic ending, Lucas decided to go with an optimistic ending.
Pretty Woman (1990)
In this Cinderella story, hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) captures the attention of Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) on one of his business trips. After hiring her for the weekend, Edward starts to develop a real connection with Vivian, ultimately cultivating a romance that runs far deeper than either of them expected.
This wasn’t the narrative in the original script. At the end of the original draft, Vivian simply receives payment for her services and ends up back on the streets doing drugs, while Edward remains a lonely businessman. Love couldn’t save either of them.
Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Dawn of the Dead is an OG zombie apocalypse film set in Pennsylvania. A group of ragtag citizens attempts to survive and fight the undead (and a biker gang) from inside a local shopping mall.
At the film’s end, the two protagonists, Francine (Gaylen Ross) and Peter (Ken Foree), flee the infested mall in a partially fueled helicopter. It was actually far more optimistic than one of the alternate endings, which called for a desperate Francine and Peter to take their own lives rather than succumb to the zombie hoard.
Pretty in Pink (1986)
In John Hughes’ Pretty in Pink (1986), wallflower student Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) is stunned when popular Blane McDonagh (Andrew McCarthy) asks her out. As she falls head over heels and leaves her nerdy best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) behind, she faces the challenges of dating the socially elite.
At the end of the film, Andie must choose between Duckie or Blane, and she ultimately ditches Duckie in the friend zone — breaking his young heart. The original ending had Andie choosing Duckie, which would have pleased many fans who thought he should get his chance with the girl of his dreams.
In Orphan, Kate (Vera Farmiga) and John (Peter Sarsgaard) decide to adopt a child after losing an unborn baby. After adopting an orphan named Esther, the couple discovers she is actually a middle-aged woman with hypopituitarism, giving her a youthful appearance.
Once Esther is found out, she attempts to slaughter the family. A bitter fight with Kate leads to Esther drowning in a freezing lake. In an alternate ending, Kate and her kids flee the house before Esther can kill them, and Esther tricks the police into believing she’s an innocent little girl who needs help.
In the 1995 mystery Seven, Detective William Somerset (Morgan Freeman) and David Mills (Brad Pitt) are on the hunt for a serial killer (Kevin Spacey) who chooses his victims based on the seven deadly sins. David’s wife, Tracy, (Gwyneth Paltrow) becomes an unlikely target.
At the end of the movie, the killer puts Tracy’s head in a cardboard box for the detectives to unpack. After realizing the killer murdered Tracy, David shoots him — just as the killer wanted him to do. The studio found this conclusion atrocious and pushed for an alternate ending with a family dog in the box instead.
My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997)
In My Best Friend’s Wedding (1997), Julianne (Julia Roberts) attempts to wreck the wedding of her childhood best buddy, Michael (Dermot Mulroney) after she realizes she’s in love with him. She spends the movie trying (and failing) to put a stop to his wedding.
In the end, she fails and dances with her gay friend, George (Rupert Everett), at the reception. This ending was only written after test audiences complained about the original conclusion. The original cast a glimmer of hope on Julianne’s future by pairing her with an attractive wedding guest for the dance — but the audience wanted her to suffer.
The Birds (1963)
In The Birds (1963), Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) pursues Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor) by gifting him two lovebirds. Ironically, San Francisco is soon swarmed by a hoard of vicious birds. The citizens try to survive the terrifying attacks, unsure what caused them.
At the end of the original flick, a swarm of birds breaks into Melanie’s house and mortally wounds her. Mitch insists they take her to the hospital, but to reach help, they must drive through a terrifying landscape filled with birds. An alternate final shot showed the Golden Gate Bridge completely covered in birds.
Donnie Darko (2001)
In Donnie Darko (2001), teenager Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) is greeted in his quasi-dreamscape by a massive, demonic rabbit who claims the world is ending in 28 days. The oddball film follows Donnie’s 28-day descent into madness.
In the end, he wakes up in his room on October 2nd (the day the film began) and gets crushed by a jet engine. This film is dark, with or without an alternative ending. Could it have been darker? Absolutely. An original cut showed Donnie getting impaled by a piece of the plane in an unnecessarily graphic scene.
The Princess Diaries (2001)
In The Princess Diaries (2001), San Francisco high schooler Mia Thermopolis (Anne Hathaway) finds out that she is heir to the throne of Genovia. Her grandmother, Queen Clarisse Renaldi (Julie Andrews), attempts to turn the geeky American girl into princess material.
This film’s final theatrical ending is a pretty sweet story. It ended with Mia agreeing to become a princess. However, when director Garry Marshall watched the film with his five-year-old granddaughter, she was disappointed that she didn’t get to see Mia’s castle. Marshall talked to Disney and got them to add the castle into the final film in an alternate ending.
Clue (1985) was meant to mirror the board game of the same name: multiple possibilities for killers, weapons, crime scenes and motives. As a result, the filmmakers filmed and released multiple endings with different killers and victims defining each conclusion.
Originally, audiences weren’t sure what ending they would be seeing when they went to the theater. There were three possibilities for solving the crime at the end of each version of the film. Fortunately, theaters began to clarify which ending (A, B, or C) they would be showing in order to save their audiences some money.