Lots of movies never make it past the pre-production stages. Whether it’s by failure to secure financing or mysterious delays, some movies are just destined to be pipe dreams. Every so often, however, the stars align and a movie is shot, edited and completed, but for some reason or another never sees the light of day. This most often occurs with small budget features, but every now and again, a hot property with a big budget and an all-star cast is never released.
Join us as we take a look at 13 Completed Films That Were Never Released.
13. Don’s Plum
Before Leonardo DiCaprio was an environmentalist champion or winning Oscars for being really cold, he was part of a group of Hollywood bros dubbed “the Pussy Posse” by an infamous New York Magazine piece. The group, which included other young male stars like Tobey Maguire and Kevin Connelly, had developed a reputation of womanizing, picking fights and generally just being privileged, obnoxious brats.
While these antics are largely forgotten, a black and white independent film called Don’s Plum has documented some of the unsavory characteristics of its young, ensemble cast. The film itself is a mostly improvisational affair, one that paints Leo and company in very negative light.
Given the misogynistic and generally offensive behavior of its stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire feared that the film exposed “personal experiences or tendencies”. With their reputations at stake, DiCaprio and Maguire rallied powerful lawyers and filed a lawsuit that ultimately prevented the film’s release in the United States and Canada. DiCaprio and Maguire maintain that they agreed to be a part of the film as a favor to a friend, but when they saw that the film had been cut in order to feature the two stars, they claimed that they had been deceived.
One of the producers of the film has started a campaign to get the film released in North America, but after almost twenty years, Don’s Plum seems destined to remain buried.
12. The Day the Clown Cried
Something of an urban legend in the film industry, The Day the Clown Cried is a 1972 film starring Jerry Lewis as a clown at a Nazi internment camp. Jerry Lewis, who was known for comedy, was reluctant to take on the role of the clown, but agreed to star and direct the film. He felt that he would be doing something worthwhile by exposing the horrors of the Holocaust.
The film had financing problems from the start, with Lewis financing much of the film out of his own pocket. The problems that would eventually prevent the film from ever being released arose when the film’s writer, Joan O’Brien, disagreed with changes that Lewis had made to the script, chiefly his decision to make the clown more sympathetic, as opposed to the cowardly and selfish character that was written. The rights of the film were entangled by claims of numerous parties; however Lewis himself managed to secure the rough cut of the film.
In the years since its completion, Lewis has gone on record numerous times stating that he is embarrassed by the poor quality of the film, and that he is happy that he was able to suppress its release.
11. The Last Film Festival
Before his death in 2010, Dennis Hopper played an aging Hollywood producer named Nick Twain who is in desperate need of a hit. The Last Film Festival follows Twain as he tries to market his latest flop of a film to the thousands of film festivals around the world, only to find that they all turn him down, except for one in a small backwater town of O’Hi.
This comedy film, which features greedy agents, battling starlets and the polarizing effect Hollywood has on small town values, lampoons the film festival world and the film industry as a whole. It had completed filming when Dennis Hopper succumbed to cancer; however, additional funding was needed to complete post-production.
While director Linda Yellen held a special screening of the unfinished film in New York City in 2013, she has since turned to Kickstarter to secure the money needed to complete it. As of this writing, the campaign is closed, and all updates in regards to the progress being made are exclusive to those who have pledged money towards its completion. Hopefully we will be able to see The Last Film Festival the way it was meant to be seen sometime in the near future.
1o. Black Water Transit
While Tony Kaye, the controversial director once pushed off production of American History X, directed Black Water Transit, his volatile behavior is not the reason why you’ve never heard of it. An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Carsten Stroud, Black Water Transit tells the story of a shipping executive who gets caught up in a federal investigation centering on an illegal firearms dealer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Featuring a cast that included Laurence Fishbourne and Karl Urban, the film was described as a Die Hard-esque thriller.
Black Water Transit was reported to have screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, a seemingly never-ending stream of litigation has kept this one at bay. With lawsuits being thrown left and right, the most recent being in May of 2016, it is unlikely that audiences will see a cut of this film any time soon.
Even if audiences do see this film claw its way out of purgatory, it is unclear what to expect. Kaye has stated numerous times that while the film is tangled up in lawsuits, he has continued to edit and re-edit the film. In an interview with IndieWire, Kaye said, “Movies are made many times — once in the writing, once in preproduction, once again during the shoot, once again in editing, in post, and again when you put it in the marketplace. These things, they change all the time, and that’s what I love about it, the constant reinvention.”
9. Hippie Hippie Shake
Based on the memoir of Australian publisher Richard Neville, Hippie Hippie Shake is a period drama focusing on 1960s counter-culture. Cillian Murphy stars as Neville, and Sienna Miller portrays his girlfriend Louise Ferrier, who are put on trial for publishing an “obscene” issue of their magazine, Oz.
While test screenings have garnered mostly positive reviews, praising the performances despite the somewhat cliché story, the film remains unreleased after almost a decade. The exact reason as to why the film was shelved is up for debate. Some concerns were voiced by some of the real life people being portrayed in the film, with feminist author Germaine Greer, who is depicted in the film, stating “You used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modeling a new version of you.” She even told the actress Emma Booth, who portrayed Greer in the film, to “get an honest job”.
Others have claimed that the media circus surrounding Sienna Miller’s affair with Balthazar Getty, who was married at the time, caused the film to be put on hold indefinitely. Whatever the reason, one thing is certain: Hippie Hippie Shake will never see a theatrical release according to Working Title, its production company.
8. Dark Blood
From George Sluizer, the celebrated director of The Vanishing (the 1988 film, not the Americanized 1993 remake starring Keifer Sutherland and Sandra Bullock), Dark Blood is the story of a young man known only as The Boy, who believes that the end of the world is nigh. The Boy lives in self imposed exile in the desert after his wife dies of radiation poisoning due to nearby nuclear weapons testing, spending his time carving Kachina dolls to appease the Gods. Meanwhile, a man and his wife break down as they are travelling through the desert. Seeking help, the couple meet The Boy, but soon realize that he is not the salvation they hoped for.
Unfortunately, River Phoenix, who portrays The Boy, died suddenly during filming, leaving the fate of the film up in the air. Sluizer estimated that roughly 80% of the film had been completed before Phoenix’s death, and was desperate to complete it. He even approached River’s younger brother Joaquin to fill in, a request that the Phoenix family rejected.
Undeterred, Sluizer assembled a somewhat “complete” cut of the film, simply providing narration over the missing scenes. This version of Dark Blood was screened a handful of times at international film festivals in 2012, nearly twenty years after it was originally filmed.
7. Empires of the Deep
Following the massive success of James Cameron’s live action FernGully remake, China attempted to cash in on the attractive humanoids fighting each other craze, and Empires of the Deep was born. It’s a fantasy epic that, judging by it’s trailer, revolves around mermaids battling giant crocodiles and possibly engaging in interspecies romance with Spartan (?) warriors.
Starring former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and originally slated to be directed by Catwoman auteur “Pitof,” Empires of the Deep had a budget of $130 million USD and went through approximately 40 drafts over the period of five years from eight different screenwriters.
The budget was the largest in Chinese film history, but the production was troubled from the start. Different directors seemed to start work on the film only to be replaced a short time afterward, the cast was made up of largely unknown actors and the special effects heavy feature was beset with rendering delays.
Finally, a trailer was unveiled to industry critics, and was met with universal ridicule. The film, which had been touted as a rival to tent-pole Hollywood releases, looked more like a mockbuster from The Asylum than a $130 million epic. Will we ever see this hilarious mis-step? No one seems to know.
6. The Brave
The Brave was the first and only film to be directed by Johnny Depp. The film was an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Gregory MacDonald, which revolves around a Native American man named Raphael and his young family, who is living in abject poverty.
Raphael is left desolate at his inability to provide for his family. Depressed and seeing no other options, he agrees to star in a snuff film in exchange for a large sum of money. The bleak film explores Raphael’s relationships over the final week of his life, and coming to terms with his fate.
Featuring a truly inspired (read: psychotic) performance by screen legend Marlon Brando and some truly heavy subject matter, The Brave received mixed reviews at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. American reviewers were particularly critical of the film, and lashed out at Depp as his name was all over the credits as star, writer and director. Disgusted by the hostility of the American press, Depp forbade its release in the United States, insinuating that the American press was simply targeting him due to his rise to stardom as a teen idol.
5. My Best Friend’s Birthday
Today, Quentin Tarantino is a household name, known for his uber-violent, black comedy films. Before Tarantino was wining awards and flurries of praise from around the globe, he was working at a small video rental store in California, and taking acting classes in hopes that he would one day become an actor.
Tarantino’s friend and co-worker had written a short script about a man trying to do something nice for his friend’s birthday, only to have his efforts backfire in comical ways. Tarantino helped flesh out the script into a feature length film, and with $5000, the two set out to produce the film. Enlisting the help of friends from his acting class and other co-workers at the video store, Tarantino co-wrote, co-directed and starred in My Best Friend’s Birthday.
The original cut of the film was approximately 70 minutes, however due to a fire in the processing lab, roughly half of the footage was destroyed. The surviving film was re-cut into a 36-minute short film which has been screened at film festivals, but has never been made available commercially. Although it’s more of a curiosity than anything, the good news is that it’s not all that hard to find on the web.
4. All American Massacre
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a highly regarded horror film. Unfortunately, each subsequent film in the series has only served to alienate fans of the original. With tonally different sequels, remakes, prequels and re-imaginings, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films have one of the most confusing chronologies in all of horror.
Back in 1998, the son of franchise creator Tobe Hooper, William Hooper, set out to make a short film that delved into the past of everyone’s favorite family of cannibals. The short transformed into a 60-minute feature, which saw Bill Moseley reprise the role of Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2, and had a soundtrack composed by that guy who wears KFC buckets on his head and was in Guns n’ Roses at one point.
The story was a prequel/sequel that saw Chop Top reminisce about his family’s penchant for blood while orchestrating one final massacre. Supposedly the entire movie was filmed, and a trailer even hit the Internet roughly 15 years ago. Since then, there has been little news surrounding the project. A Kickstarter campaign was launched a few years back to obtain funding for post-production, however it failed to reach its goal. Judging by the quality of the trailer, maybe it’s a good thing that this film remains buried.
3. Cocksucker Blues
A documentary film which chronicled the 1972 Rolling Stones American tour in support of their album Exile on Main Street, Cocksucker Blues has never been released, and never will be. The tour was highly anticipated, since it was the first time the Stones had visited the United States since 1969’s Altamont Free Concert, in which a fan was stabbed and beaten to death by the Hells Angels.
The documentary was shot in an observational manner; numerous cameras were available backstage for anyone to pick up and begin filming. This allowed the cameras to capture backstage parties, drug use, and other examples of debauchery. Fearing the film would tarnish their reputations; the Stones brought the film to court, as they did not want it shown publicly. The film’s director, Robert Frank, felt differently, and fought to prevent the film from being destroyed. Ultimately a judge ordered that the film could not be shown unless Frank was present, and prevented him from screening it more than four times a year in an “archival setting”.
While the film will probably never be released on home media, the film has been shown to the general public, as it was screened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2012 as part of an exhibition called “The Rolling Stones: 50 Years On Film”.
2. Nothing Lasts Forever
A 1984 film that was directed by Saturday Night Live writer Tom Schiller and produced by Lorne Michaels, Nothing Lasts Forever stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and Billy from Gremlins. How have you never heard of this film? Mainly because its premise is downright bizarre.
The film concerns a dystopian New York City where Gremlins star Zach Galligan works a dead-end job, but dreams of being an artist. The totalitarian state makes his dreams impossible, until he learns that there are magical hobos living underneath the city who can grant him his wish of becoming an artist, but first he has to travel to the moon, via a city bus headed by Bill Murray, and charm one of the lunar denizens. Like we said, it’s weird, but bears some similarities with Terry Gilliam’s surreal sci-fi flick Brazil.
MGM canned the film after a disastrous press screening, and Nothing Lasts Forever has sat in relative obscurity ever since. Turner Classic Movies aired the film in its entirety once at 2am, and there have been broadcasts in other countries, but it remains unreleased in any official capacity to this day. Bootleg copies of the film have been floating around for years, and recently even appeared on YouTube before being taken down at the behest of current copyright owner Turner Entertainment.
1. The Fantastic Four
Marvel’s first family has not had much luck in the film industry. Each attempt to bring the Fantastic Four to the screen has been met with criticism and ridicule, especially the troubled 2015 reboot. Way back in 1993 however, B-movie legend Roger Corman and partner Bernd Eichinger were about to release their version of the Fantastic Four, which included the group’s origin story and their first battle with nemesis Dr. Doom.
Trailers were released in theatres and on home video, the cast promoted the film at festivals and Comic-Con and then, nothing. Stan Lee speculated that Eichinger had never intended to release the film, and that it was simply a way for him to retain the rights to the characters while he found funding for a bigger budget adaptation (something he would do in 2007). Eichinger denied these claims, instead saying that Marvel executive Avi Arad was concerned that the B-movie would harm the franchise, and paid the producers to shelve the film.
In 2002 Arad recounted a story in which he met a fan who was excited about the upcoming premiere of Corman and Eichinger’s Fantastic Four, something he was completely unaware of. Fearing that the low budget adaptation would cheapen the FF brand, he paid Corman and Eichinger a “couple of million” in cash and ordered all of the prints destroyed. If only someone had done that with the 2015 iteration.
Do you know of any other movies that never got released? Let us know in the comments!