Scenes in movies are deleted for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they don’t fit structurally, sometimes the movie’s runtime is already too long, but normally these cuts are small and don’t have an overwhelming effect on the plot. Occasionally, however, large, expensive chunks of a movie are gutted entirely and not only alter the movie, but wholly change the storyline.
The deleted scenes listed here fit into the latter category. Not only do the sections removed do away with entire plots, subplots, and actors, but they cost a boat-ton of money, resulting in millions and millions of dollars being virtually thrown away. Often, these lost treasures are relegated to the bonus-features section of a DVD, but on occasion they are lost to the ages with the creators unwilling to acknowledge their existence.
Here are The 11 Most Expensive Deleted Scenes Ever Filmed.
***All figures adjusted for inflation***
11. The Goonies – The Octopus Scene
For years people debated the existence of footage of an Ed Wood-esque monster attacking the children. When The Goonies was released on home video, it did not include this scene. However, when the television rights to the movie were eventually sold, distributors demanded that some of the more “adult” material be removed from the story, which resulted in a lack of footage. Their solution was to re-edit in the lost footage of the octopus attacking the kids back into the third act.
However, the octopus is still mentioned in the theatrical cut of the movie by Data, in the final scene, where he states “The Octopus was very scary.” Little information about the actual cost of the octopus footage exists, but with principle photography lasting 5 months, it is assumed that it took at least two days to capture the footage with the underwater unit, which would have cost the production $550,319.32 when adjusted for inflation.
10. The Wizard of Oz – The Jitterbug Dance
Immediately prior to the monkeys capturing Dorothy, there was supposed to be a scene featuring The Wicked Witch unleashing her “Jitterbug” upon them. This creature was to be a blue and pink mosquito-like creature that, after stinging them, made them break out into a six minute long song and dance number that took 5 weeks to rehearse and film. This was one of the first major pieces cut in the editing room due to the length of the picture.
Although the music to the song exists, and was subsequently released in 1995, no known footage exists other than a cheaply shot home movie by Harold Arlen, the composer of the movie. It has been reported that this scene set production back $1,013,678.57 when adjusted for inflation.
9. Dr. Strangelove – The Pie Fight
The final scene in the movie was supposed to have the world leaders’ conversation break down, resulting in the greatest pie fight ever recorded on film. Although studio executives were not a fan of this, and insisted that Kubrick shoot it in one day, crew members place the actual filming time between one to two weeks. Each day, at least 2,000 Fortnum & Mason pies were brought to the stage, and were subsequently thrown, smashed, and made into sand castles. The footage was dropped after JFK’s assassination due to the dialogue, which included the line “…our President has been struck down by a pie in the prime of his life.”
Many sources incorrectly claim that this footage has been destroyed. Though it has never been screened for the public, Production Designer Ken Adams speaks about watching the footage at the BFI several years prior to his death. This scene took 1-2 weeks to film, so with principle photography taking 3 months, we estimate it set the production back $2,108,153.54 when adjusted for inflation.
8. Gangster Squad – Theater Shooting Scene
On July 20th, 2012 a horrendous tragedy occurred in Aurora, Colorado when a man brought a gun into a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 people and hurting 70 others. Prior to this, an almost finished version of Gangster Squad featured a crucial scene that took place in Grauman’s Chinese Theater, where gangsters attacked the audience with tommy guns. Ruben Fleischer and company agreed that this was no longer in good taste after the shootings in Aurora and pushed the film’s release back four months to make time for reshoots. Glimpses of the footage still exist on the internet in the form of the first released trailer.
This costly move set Warner Bros. back “several million” and forced a large section of the film to be completely retooled at the last second. With inflation, this set production back at least $2,060,313.32.
7. Back to the Future – Eric Stoltz Scenes
It’s not often that a main actor gets replaced once production on a movie has begun, let alone 5 weeks into it, but that was the case with Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly in Back to the Future. From the beginning, creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale had insisted that Michael J. Fox should star in the role, but the head of the Universal, Sid Sheinberg disagreed to such a degree he proclaimed that if he was wrong, he would let them reshoot all his scenes… and that’s exactly what happened after Sheinberg watched the dailies.
Very small bits of this footage can be viewed in bonus content on recent Blu-ray releases. This reportedly cost the studio $4 million at the time, which is now worth $8,984,805.31 when adjusted for inflation.
6. Little Shop of Horrors – The Alternative Ending
When filmmakers screen their movies for test audiences, they fully expect that they may have to re-edit a scene here or there. Occasionally, they may even have to shoot a pickup shot to replace one that’s not well received. Unfortunately for director Frank Oz, two test audiences loved his movie, but despised the original ending, in which a plant not only ate the main character and his girlfriend, but took over the world.
In the end, a fifth of the budget, the work of 50-70 puppeteers, a year of visual effects work, five weeks of shooting, and 12 minutes of footage were relegated to the bonus features section of a Blu-ray that came out in 2012.
5. Superman Returns – Alternate Intro
Another case in which a film lost an entire bookend to the cutting room floor. In this film, however, the footage explains to the audience why Superman’s ship is crashing into Ma and Pa Kent’s farm, again, telling audience the same story they’ve heard many times before. Though the piece is gorgeous, it’s nearly 6 minutes in length and contains no dialogue, something studio execs generally frown upon.
Though the Blu-ray was released in 2006, this footage wouldn’t see the light of day until the Superman Anthology set was released in 2011, essentially turning this into a $12,018,546.74 bonus feature.
4. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote – The Entire Film
In 2000, Terry Gilliam, Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort, and an entire cast and crew traveled to an area just north of Madrid, Spain to film their latest project. The first of many problems was that this area was also the site of a major military base, making it nearly impossible to record sound. Soon afterward, there was a major flood that not only washed away much of their equipment, but wholly changed the color of the landscape. Lastly, after noticing Rochefort wincing each time he was on the horse, it was discovered that he was suffering from a double herniated disc.
It’s not all a loss though. The footage was later retooled and combined with narration from Jeff Bridges and making-of video in the excellent documentary Lost In La Mancha, chronicling the failure of the film. After a lawsuit, the investors were awarded $15 million from the company that insured the film. Gilliam has since claimed he is still making the project.
3. X-Men: Days of Future Past – Rogue’s Scenes
Most of Anna Paquin’s scenes were removed from the theatrical cut of X-Men: Days of Future Past, but don’t feel too bad for her. Not only was she paid a reported $2.8 million for filming, her role was eventually reinserted into her own version of the movie appropriately titled, “The Rogue Cut.” With the standard version of the movie coming in at 2 hours and 12 minutes and the longer cut coming in at 2 hours and 29 minutes, one has to think that it wasn’t only a runtime issue.
In a movie that took place over two separate timelines with dozens of characters from two casts, the standard movie viewer already has a lot to absorb without the addition of yet another subplot.
This exorcism of footage not only cost the movie her $2.8 million , but also sent the film into 2 weeks of reshoots. When you factor in a reported $200 million dollar budget on an initial four month shoot schedule that brings the estimated cost of this deleted scene to $22,580,645.
2. World War Z – Entire Third Act
This movie’s original ending was dark. Like, dark dark. It contained Brad Pitt’s plane landing in Russia, where he was drafted into their anti-zombie army and his wife was forced into a relationship where she was trading sex in return for room and board for her and her daughters. It’s surprising that any executives actually greenlit such a dark ending for a summer blockbuster, but it’s not very surprising that they also decided to scrap it. Thus, Damon Lindelof and Drew Goddard were brought in to write an entire new ending.
According to reports, it cost a whopping $25 million to retool and reshoot the third act, making it the single most expensive piece of deleted material to never see a screen.
1. Cleopatra – 1/3rd of Entire Movie
After Cleopatra debuted, it became the biggest box office success in 1963. Despite that, it never made its enormous budget back. One of the most notoriously rocky movie shoots ever, Cleopatra was plagued by bad luck. The enormous sets were built in their entirety in London, and then again in Rome after production was forced to relocate. Elizabeth Taylor nearly died once on set before receiving a life-saving tracheotomy, of which the scar can be seen in some shots.
The original cut of the film was over 6 hours long, but Fox pressured director Joseph L. Mankiewicz to cut it down to its 3 hour theatrical cut. Eventually, a 4 hour cut was released on home video, and efforts are underway to reconstruct the 6 hour version so that we might see it one day.
Did we miss any crazy deleted scenes that got deleted? Let us know in the comments!