With countless movies filmed and released every year, it’s strange to think that one of cinemas greatest achievements could be taking shape at any given moment. But for every movie that makes it to theaters, there are hundreds of others that never get that far. Sometimes, those failed films have so much talent behind and in front of the camera, movie fans have to wonder just what masterpieces could have been created if things had gone differently.
Here are Screenrant’s 10 Best Movies Never Made.
Darren Aronofsky’s Batman: Year One
When the Batman movie series became a laughing stock back in the late 90s, Warner Bros. knew they needed a reboot. But before Christopher Nolan was ever interviewed, the studio turned to an even more unlikely name: Darren Aronofsky, the mind behind the dark drug drama Requiem For a Dream. The director’s plan was to adapt the origin story “Batman: Year One” with the comic’s original writer Frank Miller handling the script. His vision of Bruce Wayne made Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy seem like fantasy, with an orphaned Bruce Wayne relying on acid and chemical bombs instead of high tech gadgets, and a Batmobile built out of a Lincoln Continental. In the end, Aronofsky’s R-Rated, ultra violent story went too far, and he went on to make The Wrestler and Black Swan. But it convinced Warner Bros. that a darker, grounded Batman was the way to go – and the director’s top choice for the role – Christian Bale – was wearing the cape in no time.
Paul Verhoeven’s Crusade
In the early 90s, no action star was more reliable than Arnold Schwarzenegger. So when the actor mentioned to director Paul Verhoeven that he was a history buff on the set of Total Recall, the director realized his dream of a brutal film set in the First Crusade could become a reality. With Arnold hot off of Terminator 2, and Verhoeven off of Robocop, the production of “Crusade” moved ahead quickly. The film cast Arnold as a slave recruited into the war, uncovering the uglier political side to the crusades, making it a smarter film than most audiences would expect, given its extreme violence. The studio doubted the 100 million dollar movie would be a hit, and pulled the plug. Arnold got paid anyway, but his fans were robbed of what might have been one of his most iconic roles.
Frank Herbert’s epic space adventure Dune was a bestselling novel, but the movie version remains one of Hollywood’s most profound duds. But things could have been different. Years before, director Alejandro Jodorowsky had tried to adapt the book to film, crafting one of the most ambitious movie productions of all time. Getting the likes of Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dali on board was hard enough, but the director also had his own son spend two years training in martial arts to play the highly trained young hero. In the end, the studios got cold feet on his outlandish vision – but the assembled talent didn’t disappear. Artist H. R. Giger stuck around to reshape Hollywood horror with Alien, a movie written by Dune‘s screenwriter. The recent documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune revealed just how many fantasy and sci-fi films took inspiration, or entire scenes, right from the director’s vision.
George Miller’s Justice League Mortal
DC comics fans are set to receive a shared Justice League movie universe before long, but things would have been very, very different if WB’s previous plans had worked out. Before director George Miller shocked the world with Mad Max: Fury Road, he was set to introduce a brand new take on the Justice League back in 2007, with special effects and costumes designed by the minds behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Casting Armie Hammer as Batman, Megan Gale as Wonder Woman, Common as Green Lantern and Fury Road’s own villain as the Martian Manhunter, the stars got as far as costume fittings before the Hollywood writers strike brought the movie to a standstill. It never regained momentum, so the plan of seeing a young, sci-fi/fantasy Justice League hit theaters not long after Iron Man just wasn’t meant to be.
Sergio Leone’s Leningrad
What would happen if the director who redefined Westerns decided to tackle a World War II drama? We’ll never know the answer, but after Sergio Leone made Clint Eastwood a household name, his shift into American cinema didn’t go too well. After his American crime drama Once Upon a Time in America was heavily edited by the studio, Leone was determined to work with star Robert De Niro on an even bigger epic. Based on a real life account of the 900-day siege of Leningrad in World War II – “The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad,” De Niro would play an American trapped in the city, with the 100 million dollar film’s opening shot one of the longest continuous scenes in history. Sadly, Leone would die of a heart attack just two days before he would have signed on to direct.
Steven Spielberg’s Night Skies
After Close Encounters of The Third Kind turned out to be a massive success, the studio was begging for a sequel from director Steven Spielberg. But instead of friendly aliens, it was a darker story he had in mind. Based on actual events, Night Skies would have followed a family on a Kentucky farm terrorized by alien invaders. Realizing the story might be too dark for his tastes, Speilberg lined up The Texas Chainsaw Massacre‘s Tobe Hooper, with the aliens designed by effects legend Rick Baker. It seemed a perfect recipe for success, but script problems stalled the film, and Spielberg would eventually work elements of the treatment into E.T. and Poltergeist.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis
It’s hard to believe that the director of films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now could have tried to reach even higher heights, but after those acclaimed dramas, Francis Ford Coppola had his mind set on sci-fi. Set in a future New York City, “Megalopolis” would follow an architect setting out to create a small-scale Utopia – not unlike the ideas behind the similarly claimed BioShock series of video games. The director was so committed to his pet project, he helmed Dracula, Jack and The Rainmaker just so the studio would fund his big budget production. Megalopolis would have been a New York story at its core, but when the 9/11 attacks changed what that would mean for the foreseeable future, Coppola had no choice but to abandon the project.
The Beatles in The Lord of The Rings
We know what you’re thinking: this has to be an idea thought up on a whim that could never have been made, right? Not quite. A decade after J. R. R. Tolkien’s story was published, it was impossible to tell just how famous the series would become, which meant acquiring the rights to a feature film was entirely possible. It just so happened that The Beatles were the hottest property in the world at the time, dominating the box office with Help!, Hard Day’s Night and Yellow Submarine. It was John Lennon who sought the rights to the story, hoping to play Gollum with Paul McCartney starring as Frodo, Ringo Starr as Sam, and George Harrison as Gandalf. The band had even approached Stanley Kubrick to direct, so no matter how against the idea Tolkien turned out to be, it’s impossible to think about the epic film trilogy that might have been…
Alfred Hitchcock’s Kaleidoscope
No matter how good a director may be, their time at the top usually has an expiry date. In the case of Alfred Hitchcock, the mind behind mystery, suspense, and horror films that revolutionized filmmaking was determined to change with the times. With the rise of edgier, realistic films in the 1960s, Hitchcock decided to use his imagination. His brilliant idea: to tell a story from a serial killer’s perspective, with a realistic look at sex, nudity and violence, filmed in real New York locations with handheld cameras. The director was so determined to redefine his style, he wrote the script himself, along with 450 perfectly detailed camera shots, and even filmed test footage to prove his vision. But the studio said it was all too risky, and talked him into sticking with his existing brand. And the movie that could have been Hitchcock’s masterpiece, and years ahead of its time, never came to be.
Tim Burton’s Superman Lives
He may be known for some stranger movies these days, but director Tim Burton beat the odds when he made Batman as famous on film as he was in the comics. So it seemed like a no- brainer to let him tackle a Superman reboot too. Superman Lives was scrapped, but as the years passed, more and more unbelievable details trickled out. It was only when photos of Nicolas Cage wearing a Super-suit appeared that fans realized the movie would have been one for the ages – no matter how it turned out. But with a fragmented script that would have seen Lex Luthor and Brainiac merge into a single being – Lexiac – it might’ve been for the best.
Those are some of our favorite films that never made it to the big screen, but do you have any others you think would have been worthwhile? Be sure to share them in the comments, and subscribe to our channel for more videos like this one!