The way a movie concludes can have a tremendous impact on how we remember it. However, filmmakers don’t always stick to their original plan when it comes to wrapping things up. Sometimes, before the movie hits the big screen, studios or test audiences have a say in the ending, or the filmmaker themselves realize a more fantastic option.
In some instances, changing the ending could have completely transformed the entire vibe of the film, while in other cases, it would have only made small tweaks. Either way, these alternate endings would have likely left audiences feeling a tad more blue. Interestingly, a few of these gloomy endings were actually filmed but were later swapped out after being shown to audiences or even after the movie was already out. Additionally, there were endings that were tossed aside during the creative process.
The way these changes came about isn’t really important. What truly matters is appreciating and celebrating the happier endings that were ultimately chosen. So, if you believe there are any somber endings that are best left untold, go ahead and share your thoughts.
1. Get Out’ – Chris Is Arrested
Jordan Peele’s 2017 Oscar-winning horror flick comes to a gripping conclusion. Throughout the movie, we follow Chris, played by Daniel Kaluuya, as he embarks on a visit to his white girlfriend’s family. Little does he know, he gets entangled in a sinister scheme that aims to imprison his mind in the eerie “Sunken Place,” while his body becomes a mere vessel.
In a thrilling turn of events, Chris manages to escape and takes down most of the family members in the process. Just as things seem to calm down, flashing lights emerge on the horizon, leaving us with an overwhelming sense of dread. Is Chris about to face arrest or even worse, get shot by the police? But hold on, in the theatrical version, the lights reveal themselves to be none other than Chris’s TSA buddy, Rod, coming to the rescue, not a law enforcement officer.
Interestingly, the film didn’t always conclude on such an uplifting note. In its original ending, the flashing lights indeed belonged to the police. They not only apprehended Chris but also threw him behind bars for the murders. In that version, Chris appears resigned to his fate, expressing relief that at least he managed to put an end to the madness.
All in all, Peele’s masterful film keeps viewers on the edge of their seats until the very end, toying with our expectations and delivering a surprise twist.
2. Clerks’ – Dante Is Killed In A Robbery
Kevin Smith’s 1994 indie film debut quickly gained a devoted following for its relatable characters and humorous style. However, the original ending of this black-and-white flick took a much darker turn.
In the well-known version, the movie concludes with Randal leaving the scene, playfully hurling Dante’s homemade sign, which humorously reads, “I assure you, we’re open,” at him while declaring, “You’re closed.”
But in the film’s initial cut, the sequence extended a bit further, leaving Dante alone behind the counter as a new customer entered. Unfortunately, this customer had sinister intentions – he planned to rob the store. In a shocking turn of events, he shoots Dante and proceeds to empty the cash register. The film’s final shot depicts Dante lying on the floor, injured and helpless.
Reflecting on this alternate ending, Kevin Smith described it as “something very out of the ordinary and out of character for this film” during a bonus feature. He agreed that it was a wise decision to remove it from the final version, consigning it to the cutting room floor.
3. Army of Darkness’ – Ash At The End Of Time
There have been numerous home-video releases of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy, resulting in a variety of different edits being available.
One notable release of 1992’s Army of Darkness includes a bonus feature showcasing the film’s original ending. In this version, our protagonist Ash mistakenly messes up the ritual and instead of returning to his own time, he finds himself in a post-apocalyptic future where human civilization has been devastated.
However, the studio deemed this ending too bleak and decided to film a happier alternative for the theatrical release. In this version, Ash does manage to return to his own time and even gets his old job back. Unfortunately, he still messes up the ritual, resulting in some unpleasant consequences for the world.
4. Seven’ – Mills Shoots Somerset Before His Own Arrest
David Fincher’s iconic 1995 neo-noir film has a well-known gloomy conclusion. In the story, detectives Mills and Somerset, portrayed by Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, finally track down the cunning John Doe. They discover that Doe has intricately planned to murder individuals representing the Seven Deadly Sins. At this point, only two sins remain – Envy and Wrath.
Ironically, Doe himself embodies Envy as he becomes envious of Mills and his beautiful wife. In a shocking turn of events, Doe beheads Mills’ wife and sends her head to Mills in a box. Doe’s twisted intention is to provoke Mills into a state of Wrath, leading him to kill Doe.
The version of the movie that audiences are familiar with ends exactly as described above. However, the studio felt uneasy about such a bleak conclusion and proposed several alternative endings. One of these proposed endings was even darker, depicting Mills shooting Somerset in the shoulder before murdering Doe and ultimately being apprehended by the authorities.
5. Return of the Jedi’ – Luke Becomes The New Darth Vader
Back in 2017, when The Last Jedi hit the screens, quite a few Star Wars fans were not pleased with how Luke Skywalker was portrayed in the film. But if we rewind all the way back to 1983, when Return of the Jedi wrapped up the original trilogy, imagine how furious they would have been if screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan had his way.
In the version we all know, Luke’s father, Darth Vader, sacrifices himself to defeat the evil Emperor Palpatine. However, Kasdan had a different idea. He believed that the story shouldn’t conclude there. Instead, he suggested an ending where Luke would embrace the Darth Vader persona and go on to destroy the Rebel fleet, ultimately “ruling the universe.”
Considering the uproar caused by The Last Jedi, it’s probably a good thing that George Lucas opted for the happier ending we all witnessed.
6. The Birds’ – An Apocalyptic Car Chase
Alfred Hitchcock’s 1963 classic, although loosely based on Daphne du Maurier’s story, shares a common thread with its source material: both focus on a small area under siege by an overwhelming onslaught of birds.
In the original short story, there are mentions of naval bombardments and airplane attacks by the birds, hinting at a larger scope of destruction. The film also concludes in a chilling and apocalyptic manner, mirroring the story’s tone.
Interestingly, the screenwriter for Hitchcock’s adaptation, Evan Hunter, had envisioned a different ending. In the final cut, the surviving characters flee while the birds ominously observe. However, Hunter’s original script included further scenes where the car is attacked by flocks of birds.
Presumably, these additional sequences were discarded due to their high production cost and technical challenges.
7. The Shining’ – The Cycle Will Continue
When The Shining premiered in 1980, it had a different ending than what we are familiar with today. The original version included a scene where hotel manager Stuart Ullman visits Wendy and Danny in the hospital. In this short moment, we learn that Jack’s body was never found, and Ullman suggests that Wendy might have imagined most of the traumatic events at the hotel. The film also hints that Ullman was aware of the hotel’s supernatural nature from the beginning. A title card then indicates that the Overlook Hotel remained open, implying that similar tragedies could occur again.
After the film’s release, however, this sequence was physically removed because it was considered too confusing for audiences. This decision was supported by critic Roger Ebert, who agreed that the epilogue was unnecessary. According to Ebert, “Kubrick was wise to remove that epilogue. It pulled one rug too many out from under the story.”
8. World War Z’ – Gerry’s Wife Suffers A Much Worse Fate
The 2013 film adaptation of Max Brooks’s 2006 novel encountered significant production issues, causing major changes to the ending through last-minute script rewrites and reshoots. Consequently, the version shown in theaters differed greatly from the original story.
In the final film, the protagonist, Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt), managed to find a solution to the zombie problem, though not a complete cure. The story concluded with Lane reuniting with his wife and children, providing some closure.
However, the original script took a different path. Lane transformed into a seasoned zombie fighter and moved to Moscow. There, he uncovered a distressing revelation that a soldier in the United States had sold his wife into sex slavery. This twist set the stage for a proposed sequel, where Lane would embark on a mission to rescue his wife, specifically targeting the Oregon coast.
Overall, the movie’s production challenges led to a significant departure from the original script, resulting in a different ending and potentially setting up a sequel with an entirely new storyline.
9. Carrie’ – Sue Gives Birth To Carrie
Brian De Palma’s 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, Carrie, is known for its iconic ending in horror-movie history. After surviving Carrie’s rampage, Sue Snell visits the remains of Carrie’s home and places flowers, only to be startled by a hand emerging from the rubble.
Although it was revealed to be a dream, this twist still managed to shock audiences in 1976.
In Kimberly Peirce’s 2013 remake, the ending had a slight deviation, but not by much. Interestingly, there was an alternate ending originally planned for the film’s Blu-ray release, which took a more significant departure. In this version, pregnant Sue goes into labor, but something is terribly wrong as Carrie’s bloody hand replaces the baby.
Similar to the original film, this alternate ending is also revealed to be a dream sequence. Yet, even as Sue’s mother comforts her, a subliminal frame is inserted into the room, showing a bloodied Carrie holding Sue’s baby.
10. Paranormal Activity’ – Several Grim Alternatives
According to reports, it was none other than Steven Spielberg who suggested the ultimate theatrical ending for this incredibly low-budget spooky flick that had a massive impact on theaters in 2007. In the ending that most of us are familiar with, we are left uncertain about the whereabouts of Katie, one half of the film’s central couple, who has just killed her boyfriend, Micah.
But before settling on this ambiguous ending, the filmmakers considered and even filmed several more gruesome alternatives. One of these endings, which was shown to audiences at least once, depicted the police gunning down Katie. Another ending showed her slitting her own throat.
There was also a third ending that involved Katie bludgeoning Micah with the camera itself. However, this ending was deemed too complicated to actually shoot.
11. World War Z’ – Gerry’s Wife Suffers A Much Worse Fate