It used to be that when a scene was deleted from a film that was it; if it didn't make it to cinemas, it would literally be left on the cutting room floor, never to be seen again. Thanks to home video and the internet, however, over the past twenty years that’s become a thing of the past; studios regularly bundle unused scenes onto the Blu-Ray and online communities are able to track down other long-lost clips.
Despite all that, there’s still some deleted scenes that, no matter how much you wish for them, audiences will never, ever get to see. Some are lost forever, others too scandalous for release, but all are massive gaps in the history of cinema (regardless of if they'd have actually been any good or not).
Naturally, there’s reams of unreleased footage from all manner of movies that has yet to see the light of day, but for this list we’re only going to be discussing what will be with some degree of certainty never seen – for example, there’s nothing to suggest we won’t eventually get more of Jared Leto’s performance from Suicide Squad, so (his) Joker isn’t on here. Here are 15 Deleted Scenes That Were Shot - But You'll Never See.
15 Luke Taking On Wampas - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars deleted scenes used to be the thing of legend, sequences extrapolated from grainy production stills discussed in hushed whispers with a great deal of conjecture; few had ever been released, so fans had no choice but to imagine Anchorhead, the Wampas in Echo Base, Luke building his new lightsaber et al.
That all changed with the release of The Complete Saga on Blu-Ray in 2011, which brought together a vast wealth of unused footage from all six films. Now the only film with an oddly slight set of deleted scenes is The Force Awakens, and you can bet they’re just being held back for a later re-release.
However, there are still a few mysterious scenes from the original films yet to emerge. One of the most curious is the one shown in a couple of stills of Luke manning a laser speeder on Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back to take on encroaching Wampas, which hasn’t been seen in any other form. Given how comprehensive the deleted scene releases are otherwise, it would be strange for Lucasfilm to be holding back on this one moment, so it seems probable that somewhere along the line it was lost.
14 The Even More Confusing Original Ending - The Shining
The Shining ending is a masterfully chilling cap to a movie built on mounting tension; axe-wielding Jack Nicholson gets frozen alive in a labyrinthian hedge maze after being tricked by his son Danny, who escapes with mother Wendy in a snowcat. Then, one final shot reveals Jack in a photo of the July 4th Ball, 1921, suggesting his soul's trapped in the hotel forever (alternate interpretations on a postcard).
However, just before that reveal, there was originally one other scene that saw Wendy and Danny recovering from their ordeal in hospital. Overlook Hotel manager Ullmann visits them ostensibly to console them, but then gives Danny the same tennis ball used by the ghosts to ensnare him, alluding to him being part of the bigger plot. Stanley Kubrick decided he didn’t like the scene, but only after the film had been released for a weekend, so he sent editors all over the country to manually cut out and destroy every copy. All that remains now is two grainy stills.
Curiously, although Kubrick is treated as a mascot of auteur theory, allegedly imbuing every single frame with untold meaning, he didn’t remove the sequence for any artistic reason; instead, he got cold feet after test audiences found it confusing.
13 Katy Perry's Cameo - Get Him To The Greek
A great lesson of why you shouldn’t always get what you want, Get Him To The Greek took Russell Brand’s standout Forgetting Sarah Marshall rock star Aldous Snow and made him the slightly insipid lead; the film only really worked on the back of its myriad star cameos.
One such cameo scene would show Snow make out with Katy Perry, a joke at the character’s playboy nature and the extent of his star power. Except off-screen antics changes the meaning massively; following the shoot, Perry and Brand became an item and by the time the film’s release rolled around were engaged to be married. Now the cameo went from being a commentary on the pop industry to an unexpectedly meta gag that would pull anybody up to date on gossip columns out of the movie.
That was the reason it was cut, but the reason it will never emerge is a very different one; Perry and Brand broke up in 2012 after being married for only 14 months, so the whole thing became a painfully pointed reminder.
12 Happy Ending - The Thing
The Thing has one of the most sublimely ambiguous endings of all time; after blowing up the Antarctic research facility and presumably the shape-shifting alien with it, Kurt Russell’s MacReady kicks back and shares a drink with a recently emerged Childs (Keith David). Is Childs The Thing? Is MacReady? Are they both? Does the other suspect? There’s a myriad of theories jumping from coat colour to the presence of breath against the cold air, but it all boils down to an acceptance of uncertainty.
Of course, studios don’t like ambiguity and so as a backup John Carpenter shot a more resolute conclusion in case his original ending didn’t go down too well. It showed MacReady back on the mainland where his blood is tested and he’s resolutely confirmed to be human. Because the studio were happy with the original idea, the scene was never actually used in any version of the film, and thus has never been seen and presumed lost.
There is actually a second alternate ending that shows a husky dog – the alien’s original form - leaving the base the morning after, which conversely points towards The Thing’s survival. This has featured as the end of some TV versions, but was never officially intended to be used by Carpenter; it’s actually made up of unused footage from the opening.
11 The Scouring of the Shire - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
While Peter Jackson may have reincorporated hours of unused footage from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy to create the Extended Editions (which run at over 11 hours long), there were still reams of film that didn’t even make it into those. Most of the scenes cut were due to story changes across development making them needless or confusing – Arwen was originally intended to fight at Helm’s Deep – which is fair enough, although it's curious that despite multi-disc Blu-Rays full of extras some of these are yet to come to light.
The most noteworthy is the Scouring of the Shire: at the end of Tolkien’s story, the Hobbit’s return home to find it decimated by Saruman, a resolute representation of how things will never be the same again, but when Jackson chose to have his version resolve at Mount Doom he made the journey to Hobbiton calmer. He still shot the scene, though, and even used it as part of Frodo’s vision in The Fellowship of the Ring, although that’s the only footage of it ever released. It's thus very possible that the idea of the sequence was ditched before Jackson got around to editing it, meaning it only exists in raw form.
This isn’t the only bit of unused footage from the trilogy not released. The end of The Return of the King was intended to see Sauron take on his humanoid form to take on Aragorn man-to-monster, but this was deemed too silly and replaced with a more standard troll.
10 The Lost Premiere Footage - Metropolis
Metropolis is widely regarded as one of the finest sci-fi films ever made, a game-changing epic whose stylistic and narrative impact can still be felt today. And yet, unless you were in Germany in 1927, you haven’t actually seen the full movie.
Fritz Lang’s original cut of the movie came in at 153 minutes, but it only ever screened at its premiere in Berlin; a two-and-a-half hour runtime may be standard for modern blockbusters, but at the time was unwieldyy, so for wide US release the distributors Paramount and MGM chose to slice it to a more audience-friendly length of 115 minutes. Back in Germany, the film was separately edited to remove communist themes (which is most of the film really), to the point that when it was rereleased in 1936 it ran at only 91 minutes.
All of this meant that a large amount of Metropolis was lost as overzealous editors didn’t keep the original negatives. Over the years bits and pieces of the film has been found, giving a better idea of Lang’s original vision, but even after a major unexpected find of a 16mm negative in an Argentinian attic in 2008, there’s still around five minutes missing, and at this point that’s unlikely to ever surface again.
9 Kim Jong Un's Original Death - The Interview
In fantasizing the fictional assassination of famous horse rider Kim Jong Un, The Interview was always going to court controversy, although James Franco and Seth Rogen probably weren’t quite ready for the hell its release unleashed. The Sony email hack is now legendary in film circles, revealing a studio in crisis and eventually forcing the Marvel/Sony Spider-Man deal, and it all came from North Korea’s negative reaction to an American movie about killing their head of state.
Those emails revealed the film had already been the source of some controversy at Sony, with particular reference to the dictator’s death scene. In the film eventually released, Kim is blown up in his helicopter with a slow-motion shot showing the flames wrapping around him (scored to, what else, "Wrecking Ball"), but it was originally much more extreme, with the blast searing his face and his head exploding in a graphic way (it’s obscured in the finished version). One leaked email between Sony CEO Kaz Hirai and Entertainment Chair Amy Pascal discussed the objections and the thus far unsuccessful attempts to negotiate the filmmakers down. It seems that the hack forced everyone’s hand though, with the studio getting their tempered way.
Despite it being redone, there were still hopes for the original death making it onto home video as an extra. That was unforthcoming, and given the tense situation surrounding the sanitized version, it’s unlikely it ever will.
8 The Fantasti-Car - Fantastic 4
There are disasters, then there’s Fantastic Four (or, as Fox would have you to call it, Fant-four-stic). The 2015 reboot was dogged with problems throughout production, from rumours of Josh Trank’s violent behaviour on location to the studio quashing his creative vision, leading to the director basically being pushed out; when the unanimously negative reviews came out he tweeted angrily about his lack of control (an action that reportedly cost the film $10 million at the box office).
Little is known of what actually went wrong, nor what the director’s original vision was, but the film’s B-roll has given fans a taste of what they missed out on. One of the most striking elements, thanks in part to being so out-there compared to the film we got, is the Fantasti-Car; a '60s-era flying vehicle created by Reed Richards to transport the group that suggests the film was originally conceived as a straighter gritty update of the classic comics.
With so much uncertainty on what exactly went wrong on Fant4stic, there’s a lot of hope we’ll eventually see a documentary in the style of The Death of Superman Lives that breaks down the entire doomed production, but even if we did it's unlikely Fox would approve a lot of this footage to be used.
7 The Spider Pit - King Kong
King Kong isn’t light on 1933 creature thrills. Aside from the big ape himself who tackles with beauty and loses, Skull Island is inhabited by all manner of anachronistic dinosaurs - Tyrannosaurus, Brontosaurus and Stegosaurus - alongside more modern lizards. You’d think that given each one of these monsters was created using the time-consuming process of stop-motion that co-directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack would be loathe to cut any of their lovingly crafted creations, yet there were several creature moments left on the cutting room floor.
The most famous is the spider pit sequence, which saw the human sailors coming up against giant monsters that would make any arachnophobe's skin crawl after being hurled down a canyon by Kong. The scene screened a grand total one time, for a test audience who reportedly responded with screams, faintings and walk-outs, although it was ultimately cut when the directors simply deemed it wasn’t necessary to the story.
The legend of this scene fascinated Peter Jackson, who not only included a skin-crawling version of it in his 2005 remake, but also attempted to restore the scene with traditional stop-motion effects. Of course, we’ll regrettably never know how close he got to the true version.
6 The Joker Leaves The Party - The Dark Knight
Christopher Nolan films are notorious for their lack of deleted scenes, testament to his meticulous planning and tightly ran productions, although that doesn’t mean some don’t exist. The Dark Knight Trilogy in particular is full of unused moments evidenced in various behind-the-scenes features.
The most fascinating are, naturally, those pertaining to Heath Ledger’s dominating performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight; there were several extended scenes that showed him bribing a woman on the street in the opening, leaving Bruce’s apartment and vowing to “kill the Bat” after the failed attempt on Harvey’s life and a no-makeup shootout following Gordon’s “assassination”. Obviously there’s no need for these within the film’s narrative, but the prospect of more Joker is a fascinating one. Sadly, none of these have been seen beyond stray images, and likely never will be out of respect for the actor’s memory.
One rumoured “deleted scene” that there’s no truth to, however, is the Joker’s cell from The Dark Knight Rises’ prison break, which would explain his absence from the chaos Bane unleashes; this is present in the novelization, but was never intended for the film.
5 Decapitation Alternate Ending - Friday the 13th Part III
By the time the third Friday the 13th rolled around the series had become defined by jump-scare dream sequence finales, so for the 3D threequel Paramount tried to up the ante.
The movie eventually released ended on a bonkers dream-within-a-dream (or rather, vision-within-a-dream) sequence – final girl Chris escapes out onto Crystal Lake, sees Jason on the shore, tries to escape, realise she’s imagined it, only to be attacked by the decomposing corpse of Jason’s mother, before waking up safe in the back of a police car – but the original version was even more out-there; Chris was going to be lured back on land by the sound of one of her companions, but is ambushed by Jason who straight up decapitates her before she wakes up in the car.
It was decided decapitation of the hero was just too much, so the less logical dead mother idea came in. Today the scene is widely presumed to have been destroyed at some point along the years, which based off the few stills that exist is probably for the best.
4 Gangster Squad - Theatre Shooting
Gangster Squad is known interchangeably as a poor man's The Untouchables and the weakest Emma Stone/Ryan Gosling pair up, but what makes it really noteworthy, and not just a rather forgotten entry in the American crime genre, is what isn’t in the film.
The original version of the movie involved a shootout in Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, something that featured prominently in the first trailer. However, this cut was thrown into disarray in the wake of the Aurora cinema shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises; Warner Bros. immediately pulled the trailer, postponed the movie by four months and set about finding a way to remove the theatre scene, with reshoots galore.
Because of the sensitivity of the scene, it’s never been seen beyond what was glimpsed in that first trailer, and as interest in the film since release is so low there’s no impetuous for it to surface. Would it have made the film better? As a single scene it’s hard to say, although less meddling and not having to cut around it would have no doubt made for a more focused movie.
3 Khan's Baby Son - Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is otherwise known as the only one nobody dislikes, managing to balance the ethos of the TV series with cinematic scale and a show-stopping villain. It's unclear if it would maintain that reputation is a perplexing subplot had been kept in. Presumably to show that Khan and his supermen have been reproducing, Chekov was to come across a baby when first entering the Botany Bay. The baby was Khan's son, and would reappear at the end when his father activated the Genesis Device, crawling towards its bright lights before it detonated.
It’s not hard to see why this didn’t make it into the finished version and to this day remains a rather little-known element of the even in Trek circles; aside from being rather flippant and perfunctory, killing a child so explicitly (yes, he’d have died regardless of where he was on the ship, but putting him next to the device is rather dark) is not really what the film wants or needed.
The scene is long lost, with only a couple of grainy, behind-the-scenes shots serving as proof it actually exists and isn’t just an urban legend.
2 The Full Crew Tapes - Event Horizon
Interstellar, but with violence instead of love, Event Horizon was a resounding dud when it was released in 1996, bombing spectacularly at the box office and garnering across the board bad reviews. Although, based on the production, it was hardly a surprise; Paul W.S. Anderson had been given an incredibly short editing window to put the film together, a process that was further complicated when Paramount discovered much too late just how horrifically gory his vision was.
None of the studio execs had seen any of the violent footage before (they stopped looking at dailies before any blood was shot) and, not too pleased with what they’d paid for, drastically set about reducing the impact. They made Anderson recut the film, losing over a half an hour from his rushed edit, predominantly the more violent scenes. Chief among them was the “bloody orgy”; the torturous recordings where the ship’s crew were raped and cannibalised in horrific fashion ran much, much longer, but as it provoked the strongest negative reaction at test screenings it had to go.
Because they had no interest in ever using any of the footage, Paramount ditched most of these negatives, and while several bits have been resourced since, there’s still a lot of the original cut missing.
1 Adrien Brody's "Lead Role" - The Thin Red Line
Few stories sum up reclusive director Terrence Malick better than Adrien Brody’s experience at The Thin Red Line premiere. The actor turned up expecting to see himself the lead in the brutal World War II drama, only to discover that the scenes he spent an exhausting six months shooting had all but been removed, leaving him as a supporting player to Jim Caviezel.
Malick is known for films built around free-flowing character movements removed from conventional narratives, and that he was able to totally redefine the film’s focus in the edit is a perfect example of that. Indeed, Sean Penn, who starred in The Thin Red Line, would himself suffer a similar fate with The Tree of Life when his modern-day scenes were superseded by sequences showing Brad Pitt's domineering father and the origins of the universe.
Only a handful of Brody’s unused scenes have ever been released, although given Malick’s propensity to keep mum on his films that alone is something of a miracle; we’re unlikely to ever get more. Unsurprisingly, the actor still remains pretty frustrated about the experience, although perhaps he should share a thought for Billy Bob Thornton, whose three-hour voice over was cut out completely.