Movies rarely make it out of post-production without losing a chunk of footage to the cutting room floor. Often times, these shaves are necessary. Dumping irrelevant sub plots and long-winded speeches generally produces sharper narratives, and maintaining a trim, engaging run time is key. Some filmmakers are loose with their extra footage while others are wildly protective: both Woody Allen and Stanley Kubrick are famously coy when it comes to sharing omitted sequences.
Still, deleted scenes have a way of leaking, whether it be through an online slip or on an intentional special edition release. Regardless of how they get out, it’s always fascinating to examine what producers clipped and why, and hunting down their discards sometimes offers depth to truncated storylines. The advent of the internet makes modern films an easier get, but you’d be hard-pressed to find firsthand cuts from older projects. Here are 15 Classic Movies You Didn’t Realize Had Deleted Scenes.
15 Star Wars
George Lucas’ first Star Wars installment was the launch pad for a legendary franchise. The 1977 film found young Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamil) eager to leave his home planet of Tattoine and join his friend Biggs (Garrik Hagon) at the Imperial Academy, despite his uncle’s disapproval. Later in life, the long-lost pals join together as Rebel allies during the Battle of Yavin, but the reunion is short lived: Biggs is immediately shot down and killed. Luke is devastated, but with only a small glimpse at their friendship, the emotional resonance is lost on the audience.
A deleted scene, however, told a deeper story. As seen in a special edition of the film, an omitted sequence showed Luke and Biggs reconvening before the Rebel pilots embark on their mission. An elated Luke promises his former companion he’ll regale him with the details of his adventures, but alas, he never gets the chance. It’s a small bit, but it made Biggs’ death just a little more heartbreaking.
Now considered pivotal to shaping the Hollywood landscape, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws carved out quite the lasting legacy. It established summer as the prime season for studios’ biggest box office contenders, spawned a short-lived shark panic, and has served as a springboard for countless subsequent horror films. Robert Shaw’s performance as quirky shark hunter Quint was particularly iconic, most notably for his Indianapolis speech.
His short temper was also central to his character, a trait even more pronounced in a deleted scene. During a trip to the local music store to purchase wire for the takedown of the titular monster, Quint begins toying with a kid trying to play “Ode to Joy” on the clarinet. He hums along joyfully, but grows increasingly irritated as the boy continuously jumbles the notes. He eventually erupts into a full on outburst as he begins to sing the “proper” tune. As it wasn’t key to the plot, it’s easy to see why it was cut, but it was nonetheless a telling anecdote.
13 There's Something About Mary
The Farrelly brothers’ There’s Something About Mary was a certified sleeper hit in 1998, steadily climbing the box office ranks and kickstarting the careers of Cameron Diaz and Ben Stiller. In the film, an array of men become infatuated with a beautiful Miami surgeon named Mary (Diaz), and spend the movie wrestling for her affection.
The only character who isn’t enamored with Mary is Sully (Jeffrey Tambor), the cop friend of private detective-turned-stalker Pat Healy (Matt Dillon). Instead, he seems to disappear from the plot altogether, but a deleted scene explains his sudden departure. According to the original screenplay, Sulley is a recovering cocaine addict who slips back into the habit after Pat pressures him to drink a beer. Eventually, his giant pet python—who he hasn’t been feeding—swallows him alive, a tidbit that reveals why his apartment was such a mess when Pat, Ted (Stiller), and Tucker/Norm (Lee Evans) convene there later on.
12 Pretty Woman
Garry Marshall’s 1990 rom-com was met with mixed reviews but hit big at the theater, and has nonetheless bloomed into a bona fide classic. Pretty Woman lent grit to a Cinderella fairytale, following corporate honcho Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) as he woos Hollywood hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) over the course of one week.
What resulted was an unlikely love story, but Marshall had initially conceptualized something grimmer: a cautionary tale about sex work in 1980s Los Angeles. In the original screenplay, titled $3000, Vivian had a coke addiction, resulting in a string of deleted scenes and reworks. Remember when Edward hounds Vivian about what she’s holding behind her back in the penthouse suite, and it turns out to just be dental floss? In the script, she propositioned him for drug money. She claims to be sober in the finished film, but there are fingerprints from the movie’s past. Vivian is portrayed as so overly talkative and restless that Edward repeatedly asks her to stop fidgeting, and manic energy is a common sign of cocaine use.
11 King Kong (1933)
Even eight decades after its debut, King Kong stands as a cinematic keystone. The 1933 film has given way to a myriad of sequels, remakes, spin-offs, parodies, cartoons, video games, and even a Broadway musical. The monster ape most recently resurfaced for Kong: Skull Island, a forthcoming action-adventure flick starring some of Hollywood’s biggest names.
In the original movie’s heyday, changing censorship standards forced several deleted scenes into the open in the years after its release. Its most elusive is a sequence cut before its theatrical debut. In it, the titular antagonist shakes a log bridge holding four sailors. They fall into a ravine rife with giant spiders who subsequently devour them.
The scene was shown to precisely one audience at a preview screening in San Bernardino, California. Co-director Merian C. Cooper recalled that it stopped the picture cold, and he personally removed the clip at the studio the very next day. King Kong remake director Peter Jackson later recreated it for the 2005 version’s special edition DVD, but the original 1933 scene remains lost.
10 Dr. Strangelove
Stanley Kubrick’s scathing Cold War satire parodied the panic surrounding nuclear conflict between the USSR and U.S. It focused on Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), a deranged American general who orders a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union without permission, and the aftermath that trails the president and his advisers as they scramble to stop him.
In one of its more absurdist scenes, the 1964 movie filmed an 11-minute War Room pie fight that never made it into the final cut. Explanations vary as to why it was ultimately removed. Kubrick and screenwriter Terry Southern claimed the sequence was excessive and inconsistent with the project’s tone, while co-star George C. Scott (General Buck Turgidson) argued a key line (“Gentlemen, our gallant young president has been struck down in the prime of life!”) was distasteful in the shadow of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which occurred on the first day of Dr. Strangelove’s press screening.
9 Dawn of the Dead
Following the meteoric success of Night Of the Living Dead in 1968, breakout filmmaker George Romero returned to the zombie underworld for 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. His second run took a pointed stab at American consumer culture, setting the flesh-eaters’ gruesome uprising against the backdrop of a suburban shopping mall. After a vicious face-off, Stephen Andrews (David Emge) and Francine Parker (Gaylen Ross) are the only ones left standing, and they fly off in a helicopter in search of a new sanctuary.
Romero, however, had initially devised a more macabre finish. In the original script, Peter and Fran succumb to the hopelessness of life on the run and commit suicide quite brutally. Fran decapitates herself with the helicopter’s blades while Peter shoots himself. A final scene was meant to reveal they wouldn’t have had enough fuel to escape anyway, but Romero deemed the ending too morbid and axed it.
8 Fatal Attraction
Fatal Attraction’s dangerous tale of psycho stalkers and illicit affairs earned it $150 million, six Oscar nominations, and a place in pop culture history. Glenn Close starred as Alex Forrest, a New York City publisher who flies off the handle when her fling with married attorney Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) goes south. She spends weeks tormenting his family before turning up for a final showdown, in which she attacks Dan’s wife, Beth (Anne Archer), only to be shot and killed by Dan during the struggle.
Alex also dies in the original ending, but by her own accord. She slashes her throat with a knife Dan left on the counter in an attempt to set him up for murder. He’s dragged away by police, but Beth finds a cassette tape that foreshadows Alex’s plan, leading to Dan’s acquittal of the crime. Though it didn’t make it to the final, theatrical cut, the initial finish appeared on a 1992 special edition VHS and laserdisc, and was later featured on the film’s DVD.
7 Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Continuing his reign over ‘80s cinema, John Hughes released Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to big money and widespread praise in 1986. Its simple, lighthearted premise followed the titular character, a slacker teen who recruits his best friend Cameron and girlfriend Sloane for the ultimate high school skip day.
Still in the early stages of his career, Charlie Sheen popped up for a very brief cameo during Ferris’ sister Jeannie’s (Jennifer Grey) trip to the police station. He plays a stoner kid named Garth who tells her not too stress about Ferris, and the two make out. But in an earlier version the script, Sheen had a meatier backstory. Toward the beginning of the movie, Ferris goes on a spiel about a friend he tried and failed to help in eighth grade. He says the guy came from a troubled family, and despite his best efforts, eventually dropped out of high school. The speech served as a lead-up to Sheen’s introduction, as he reveals himself to be Ferris’ former pal.
6 Annie Hall
Woody Allen’s Annie Hall is heralded as one of cinema’s most inventive and influential romantic comedies. The film’s 1977 debut was met with extensive critical acclaim, later winning director/co-writer Allen his first two Oscars. But the movie that exists today is much different than Allen initially envisioned it. Its sleek but schmaltzy 93-minute run time was trimmed from a rambling, subplot-heavy, 140-minute take that centered around Alvy (Allen) and his inner psyche.
The change gave rise to an abundance of deleted scenes, most of which Allen has kept fervently out of public view. In one particular sequence, the devil takes Alvy, Annie (Diane Keaton), and Rob (Tony Roberts) on a guided tour of hell. According to the New York Times, “The four enter an elevator, which goes down. At each level, some of Mr. Allen’s favorite enemies get on: C.I.A. assassins, F.B.I. informers, fast-food servers,” and then, at the sixth level: Richard Nixon. Allen felt it detracted from the final film, but later repurposed it for 1997’s Deconstructing Harry, updating his adversaries to aggressive panhandlers, book critics, TV evangelists, right-wing extremists, lawyers who appear on television, the media, and the NRA.
5 First Blood
The first installment in Rambo’s violent, high-octane action series, First Blood solidified Sylvester Stallone’s success outside of Rocky. The film scored $125 million on a $14 million budget, breeding three sequels, numerous video games, and even a forthcoming TV show. But if the team had stuck with the original ending, the franchise would’ve been cut short.
In the theatrical version, Rambo is about to kill Sheriff Will Teasle (Brian Dennehey), who forced him into a savage uproar, when Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) arrives and corners him at the police station. Rambo has a PTSD-triggered breakdown, surrenders, and is taken into custody alive and well. But the first ending found Rambo pleading with Trautman to shoot him. He grabs the colonel’s hand and forces the trigger, and Trautman leaves him to die alone. Stallone thought viewers would find the finish too dark and suggested they film a second option. Test audiences ultimately agreed, though the deleted ending can be found on Rambo—The Complete Collection DVD and Blu-ray set.
4 Little Shop of Horrors
Ascending from low-budget B-movie to extravagant, multi-million dollar rock opera, Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors serves up campy fun, catchy tunes, and a genuinely freaky premise. Rick Moranis stars as Seymour, a geeky florist who jumps on his chance at fame when he uncovers a giant, man-eating plant and nicknames it the Audrey II. In the end, Seymour destroys it after learning Audrey is actually a manipulative alien from outer space, and he settles down in the suburbs with his newlywed wife.
The film’s original ending, however, was downright cataclysmic. The 23-minute sequence sees the bloodthirsty martian devour Seymour and the original, human Audrey, overtake New York City, and demolish everything in its wake. Test audiences didn’t respond well to the violent finish, and the final chapter was rewritten with a more hopeful spin. The footage has been circulating online for years, and was updated in color for the 2012 director’s cut.
3 The Shining
Though initially snubbed, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 Stephen King adaption has since aged into a timeless staple. Jack Nicholson led as Jack Torrance, a family man who ventures to an isolated hotel for the winter with his wife, Wendy, and son, Danny. He’s eventually driven mad by an evil presence haunting the establishment, and Wendy and Danny narrowly escape after a violent encounter, leaving Jack to freeze to death in the hotel’s hedge maze.
Kubrick actively kept deleted scenes out of the public eye, but he oddly altered the movie after its official release, giving a handful of audiences a bonus glimpse. Three days after the film’s opening, distributor Warner Bros. called on projectionists to excise a two-minute sequence at the end of the film. In it, hotel manager Stuart Ullman visits Wendy in the hospital and informs her the authorities have been unable to locate Jack’s body, making its finish even eerier. The extended ending was removed by theaters, and hasn’t been seen since.
2 American Beauty
A dark, satirical examination of the American middle class’ notions of beauty, satisfaction, and meaning, American Beauty was so affecting that it brought home five Academy Awards at the 2000 ceremony, including the coveted Best Picture. The 1999 film, which marked Sam Mendes’ directorial debut, recounts the life of Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a restless family man who becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend, leaves his dead-end ad job, implodes his thinning marriage, and succumbs to a full blown mid-life crisis.
By now it’s common knowledge that Lester ends up dead, but an extended ending shows an even bleaker finish. In the original movie, the Burnham’s homophobic neighbor Colonel Frank Fitts confronts Lester and attempts to kiss him. When his advances are spurned, he comes back to shoot him. However, the initial footage also included a scene in which Lester’s daughter Jane and her filmmaker boyfriend Ricky are on trial for the murder, having been framed by the Colonel. He uncovers a videotape of the pair discussing why they should kill Lester, leading to their wrongful conviction. Mendes discusses the sequence on the film’s DVD, but chose not to include the scenes as a bonus.
1 Return of the Jedi
The Empire Strikes Back features the most famous twist in Star Wars’ history: On Yoda’s deathbed, the sage Jedi reveals that Darth Vader (David Prowse), Luke Skywalker’s sworn enemy, is actually his father. Skywalker is shaken, and spends a good deal of time questioning why his mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alex Guinness), refused to tell him the truth. Later, in Return of the Jedi, Kenobi argues he was honest “from a certain point of view,” but a deleted scene gleans further insight.
Though it was never filmed, the original script includes dialogue indicating Yoda was the one who told Kenobi to lie. In the narrative, the wise Grand Master explains he was concerned Luke wouldn’t be able to conquer the Sith if he was conflicted about his feelings. Both Yoda and Kenobi believed Luke was the galaxy’s last hope, making him the only one able to lead the Jedi to victory. As Yoda says during his final breaths, “Unexpected this is, and unfortunate.”
Do you think these movies are stronger with or without their deleted scenes? Let us know in the comments.