Endings can make or break a film, so it’s no surprise that many of Hollywood’s most well-known titles have undergone several different versions before actually hitting the big-screen. Case in point? Some of the most iconic sci-fi movies in history, like Alien and Brazil, were originally envisioned with different conclusions than the ones we are familiar with.
Some of these alternate endings were actually filmed and ended up in a DVD release, while others were only discussed by the director before eventually getting scrapped. Here are 10 famous sci-fi flicks that almost had very different endings.
The 1985 sci-fi flick, which is written and directed by Terry Gilliam, takes place in a retro-future world and follows a bureaucrat as he tries to correct an administrative error and eventually becomes an enemy of the state. The movie’s ending was a source of contention between Gilliam and the then Universal chairman, Sid Sheinberg, who experienced creative differences while working on the project.
In Gilliam’s preferred ending, protagonist Sam only imagines that he escapes the clutches of the Ministry by having one of his daydreams turn into reality and flying away. But the escape is all a product of his imagination and in actuality, he will never be free of the Ministry and is left to rot in his chair. Sheinberg reportedly thought this ending was too depressing and edited parts of it out, making it seem like Sam really did gain the ability to fly and concluding the movie on a happy note.
Thankfully, Gilliam fought tooth and nail to get the ending that he wanted and eventually won. The director leaked his version to the press and his more realistic conclusion earned so much critical acclaim, that Sheinberg was finally convinced to release the movie with the ending that Gilliam originally envisioned.
2. Dr. Strangelove
As it stands, the classic 1964 political sci-fi flick, starring Peter Sellers, ends with a montage of nuclear detonations, set to the tune of Vera Lynn’s recording of “We’ll Meet Again.” But as it turns out, director Stanley Kubrick originally wanted to conclude the film in a very, very different manner — specifically with a giant custard pie fight.
That’s right. Kubrick’s planned alternate ending takes place in the War Room and follows various factions as they “battle” with delicious pastries. The scene was cut after Kubrick reportedly decided it didn’t match the overall tone of the movie. As he said in a 1969 interview, “I decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film.”
This Ridley Scott classic came very close to having a drastically different ending. The 1979 space horror flick’s current ending is one we all know: Ripley blasts an alien into space with the engine and then places herself and Jones into stasis for the voyage home.
But it turns out Scott originally wanted a very different conclusion: to to kill off Ripley. Apparently, the director didn’t see much franchise possibilities in the feature and felt that the character’s death would strike the right balance of disturbing and dramatic. In his planned ending, an alien would kill her and then use her “voice,” to record a message regarding a return to Earth.
Thankfully, the studio saw the opportunity for expansion that Scott didn’t see and Ripley lived on, becoming the center of two more film sequels and a huge media franchise.
4. I Am Legend
The 2007 post-apocalyptic film stars Will Smith as the sole survivor in New York City, who struggles valiantly to find a cure after a plague kills most of humanity and transforms the rest into monsters. In the theatrical version, the movie ends with Smith’s Robert Neville killing a bunch of the zombie-like creatures and eventually sacrificing himself in order to give humanity a chance.
In the DVD’s alternate ending, the infected invaders still attack Neville’s lab, just as in the original release. But instead of having to sacrifice himself, Neville realizes what the attackers want — the release of the female test subject who his character has been examining and who turns out to be the lead zombie’s mate. After Neville sets her free, the lead zombie, who has been stalking Smith’s character, picks up the test subject and the infected all leave.
The film ends with a shot of him, his companion, Anna, and her adopted kid driving of town, with a voiceover from Anna telling any other possible survivors who they are and where they’re going. Apparently, test audiences weren’t happy with this less explosive ending so the studio decided to go the other way and blow everything up.
5. The Abyss
James Cameron’s 1989 sci-fi film, starring Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn, centers on a civilian diving team that is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and faces danger while encountering an alien aquatic species. In the theatrical version, Harris’ character Bud sacrifices himself to stop a nuke from destroying the alien species. The aliens are so touched by his gesture, that they end up saving him and returning everyone to the surface on the hull of their ship.
But the Special Edition DVD showed that the cast actually filmed a vastly different ending, in which the aliens are far less pleasant. They still bring Bud to the ship, but this time for entirely different reasons. They show him news clips of the atrocities committed by mankind throughout history, claiming that it bothers them to see us hurting each other and the only solution is to wipe everyone out with mega-tsunamis. The tsunamis actually start forming on land but eventually recede, with the aliens citing a love letter from Bud’s wife as the reason for them stopping the disaster.
6. The Butterfly Effect
The theatrical version of this 2004 sci-fi psychological thriller ended semi-happily. Ashton Kutcher’s character decides to take the moral route and goes back in time to make sure he never meets the love of his life, in order to spare her from any pain. The two later pass each on the sidewalk and though he sees her and recognizes her, he keeps walking.
But it turns out the movie could’ve had a much darker ending. In the director’s cut, Kutcher’s character travels back to when he is about to be born and commits suicide by strangling himself with his own umbilical cord. Therefore, he was never there to change the timeline in the first place. Who would’ve thought a Kutcher flick could have the potential to turn so brutal and grim?
7. 28 Days Later
This 2002 post-apocalyptic flick chronicles the struggle of three individuals as they cope with the breakdown of society, following the accidental release of a highly contagious virus. In the theatrical ending, the three characters are able to survive the catastrophe and are rescued by a helicopter that’s flying overhead.
But things don’t end as happily in another version of the movie. The DVD offers three alternate endings, all of which see the main character Jim (played by Cillian Murphy) dying in an abandoned hospital.
8. Little Shop of Horrors
Part horror, part comedy, and part sci-fi, this 1960 classic follows a clumsy young man named Seymour who nurtures a plant and discovers that it’s carnivorous, forcing him to kill in order to feed it. In the theatrical version, the movie ends with the killer plant exploding and Seymour marrying his longtime love, Audrey.
In a much grimmer alternate ending, Seymour is forced to feed his beloved, deceased Audrey to the plant. The carnivorous shrub is then duplicated and marketed, eventually taking over the nation.
9. The Thing
The 1982 sci-fi horror film, starring Kurt Russell, follows as a parasitic extraterrestrial lifeform known as The Thing takes the appearance of the researchers that it absorbs, causing paranoia within the group. The movie is known for its ambiguous ending, in which Russell’s MacReady and Childs (Keith David) share a bottle of scotch while facing their impending doom.
But the story almost didn’t end their way. Apparently, editor Todd Ramsay was concerned that the bleak ending would not test well with audiences, so he and director John Carpenter filmed an alternate conclusion, in which MacReady (Kurt Russell) is rescued and given a blood test to determine whether he has been assimilated. He passes the test but the scene was ultimately not used, as Carpenter stood by the movie’s original, more abstruse ending.
10. Blade Runner
The theatrical version of Blade Runner delivered a pretty lackluster ending, as we all know. Even Harrison Ford has spoken against the movie’s “happy ending” (in which Deckard drives off with Rachel) and specifically, the voiceover that was added (against the actor’s wishes) by financiers in post-production.
But that’s hardly the only conclusion that the Blade Runner team contemplated. There are about seven different versions of the film, all with slightly varying endings. The Ridley Scott-approved director’s cut, released in 1992, removes the critically panned voiceovers and adds in a unicorn dream sequence, implying that Deckard’s memories are artificial and that he is therefore a replicant of the same generation as Rachael.
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