Few things are as important to a movie as its ending. The ideal ending not only wraps up the film’s plot points, but can also drive home the movie’s main themes and is a chance for filmmakers to give one last powerful emotional punch before their audience leaves the theater and goes home.
However, sometimes, the best ending isn’t the one that actually ends up in the movie. Whether it's due to studio interference, script rewrites, or test audience feedback, there are times where the perfect ending is replaced by something a little more standard and lackluster. That better ending becomes an alternate ending, and is usually banished to the DVD special features menu – or worse yet, is never filmed at all.
Unfortunately, this happens quite a bit in Hollywood, and even some of the most iconic movies have alternate endings that wide audiences never get the chance to see.
This list includes alternate endings belonging to films ranging from today’s blockbusters to beloved classics. Whether these alternate endings are darker, more tragic, or just plain bizarre in comparison to the original conclusions of their respective movies, these unused endings all have one special thing in common: they’re far more entertaining than the ones we all know.
Here are the 16 Alternate Movie Endings That Are WAY Better Than the Originals.
The ending to Christopher Nolan’s 2014 sci-fi Interstellar might be the filmmaker’s most contentious ending ever. Even amongst Nolan’s fan-base, there’s intense debate over whether or not the ending of the film is deeply moving or overly sentimental.
Many are dissatisfied by the film’s emotional message of “love is the one thing that transcends time and space," something that is heavily emphasized by Interstellar’s ending in which Cooper successfully completes his mission to save humanity and is able to return to Earth and reunite with his now-elderly daughter. However, an alternate ending changes all of this.
According to an interview with co-writer Jonathan Nolan, the alternate ending had the black hole that allowed Cooper to send a message back in time to his daughter collapse on him, effectively killing him. This ends the movie on a more tragic note, limiting Cooper’s "reunion" with his daughter to a moment in the past while having Cooper sacrifice himself for the mission to save Earth.
Still, this ending is more nuanced in its message and probably would have appeased those who claim the original ending is far too sappy.
15 Paranormal Activity
Shot on a home video camera with a budget of only $15,000, Paranormal Activity wasn’t expected to be a huge phenomenon. However, the buzz around the original film resulted in an entire franchise.
Still, its ending is a disappointing one: its last scene is completely reliant on a “jump scare," one of the cheapest scare tactics in the genre.
The theatrical release ends when the possessed Katie wanders out of her bedroom, screams, and causes her husband to rush downstairs to help her. A bloodied Katie then returns to the bedroom, flings her husband’s dead body at the camera, and then rushes at the camera herself before it cuts to black.
The alternate ending has minor changes, but is far more terrifying. Katie still wanders downstairs and lures her husband into a trap to kill him, but never flings his body at the camera. Instead, she slowly wanders up to the camera and, while making eye contact with the audience, slits her throat with a kitchen knife.
The scene is completely unnerving, unexpected, and far more memorable than a conventional jump scare.
14 Die Hard with a Vengeance
The last in this original trilogy, Die Hard with a Vengeance, had John McClane go up against Peter Gruber , brother of the original Die Hard villain, Hans Gruber. It’s no real surprise when McClane successfully saves the day and kills Peter Gruber at the end of the third Die Hard, but the alternate ending explores what would happen if McClane actually lost for once.
Gruber gets away, and some time passes before McClane successfully hunts him down abroad. McClane forces Gruber to play Russian roulette, and the villain dies during the game, leaving McClane to relish his death.
Not only does the movie’s alternate ending offer a peek into a darker side of McClane that has never been seen before, but it also reverses all of the conventions of the action genre and doesn’t allow the hero to enjoy a bright and happy ending.
This alternate ending would’ve been a refreshing change of pace, and complicates McClane’s character in the best way possible.
13 The Butterfly Effect
Probably one of the strangest movies to come out of the early 2000s was The Butterfly Effect. Ashton Kutcher plays Evan, a college student can travel back in time through his memories written down in a set of journals. He is then able alter past events, which has serious ramifications on the present and those he loves.
The film’s theatrical ending has Evan burn his journals, turning his back on his time traveling abilities in order to save the people he cares for from any more pain he might cause them.
However, an alternate ending presented in the film’s director’s cut offers a drastically different conclusion. In the director’s cut, Evan travels all the way back to when he is an infant in the womb and ends up strangling himself with the umbilical cord to prevent all of the film’s events.
Interestingly, this ending also has in-film evidence to support it: earlier on in the movie, it’s referenced that Evan’s mom had several still-born babies before Evan, possibly hinting that those children also had Evan’s abilities and chose similar deaths for themselves.
It’s a wild ending for an equally wild movie.
Orphan might not be the best horror movie ever made, but to give credit where credit is due, it does have a rather unique concept.
When Kate and Joel adopt a Russian orphan named Esther, all seems well at first. But after things start going very wrong, it’s revealed that Esther is actually a grown woman with hypopituitarism, which has stunted her growth and allowed her to pose as a young girl for years.
After Esther realizes she’s been found out, she tries to kill her adoptive family, and the movie ends with Kate leaving Esther to drown in an icy lake after a tense battle. Orphan has an alternate ending that never gets this far, though: instead, Kate takes her children and flees the house, leaving Esther behind.
Police swarm the home, but Esther simply styles herself to look like a little girl and fools the police by sweetly introducing herself when they arrive. Not only is this a more disturbing and less conventional ending, it also could have left open the possibility for sequels.
11 True Romance
Remembered for Quentin Tarantino’s sharp dialogue, Gary Oldman’s performance as Drexl, and that “Sicilian scene” between Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper, True Romance is largely considered to be one of the best films to come out of the 1990s.
Following oddball couple Alabama and Clarence, the two get wrapped up with the mob, cops, and cocaine, all of which eventually ends in a shoot-out scene that injures Clarence. He’s saved by Alabama, and the two are able to ride happily off into the sunset in her convertible.
However, Tarantino isn’t known for his happy endings, and his original script provides an alternate ending that is more tragic. Clarence dies in the shootout, leaving Alabama to hitchhike to Mexico alone, daydreaming about the life she could have had with him.
Tarantino swore by his original ending, and it was even filmed, but director Tony Scott eventually overrode his screenwriter and swapped out Tarantino’s ending for a happier one.
The theatrical ending is a sweet one, but Tarantino’s ending is emotional for entirely different reasons and is an interesting end in its own right.
10 Little Shop of Horrors
One of the most famous alternate endings is the one belonging to Little Shop of Horrors. The movie, based on a musical of the same name, follows flower shop workers Audrey and Seymour and their talking Venus fly trap plant, Audrey II. Audrey II grows larger (and hungrier for humans) as the film goes on.
The movie ends with Audrey II turning on Seymour and attempting to kill him by destroying the flower shop, but Seymour successfully stops the plant by electrocuting it to death. Seymour and Audrey then get married and move to the suburbs.
The alternate ending to this movie is far more sinister, but true to its source material. Seymour and Audrey both die, leaving Audrey II and a swarm of other monster Venus fly traps free to rampage across the city and attack the human race.
Director Frank Oz prefers the alternate ending to this day, but test audiences back in the 1980s hated the fact that Audrey and Seymour died, so producers forced Oz to change the ending to something happier.
Though a bit horrific, the alternate ending includes a very impressive musical sequence – and it’s a bit more fitting, if only going by the film’s title.
9 Terminator Salvation
Many were excited at the prospect of a Terminator movie that finally showed an adult John Connor in the midst of the human rebellion against the machines. Terminator Salvation didn’t exactly live up to fan expectations though, and its theatrical ending is a big reason why.
The film’s climax results in John Connor being seriously wounded, and the cyborg/human Marcus offers his heart to be transplanted into Connor to save his life. It's a disappointing ending to an already disappointing movie.
Meanwhile, in the alternate ending, Connor actually dies, and Marcus offers up his body so that Connor’s physical features can be transplanted on to his in order to fool the rest of the human resistance that Connor is still alive.
After the operation is completed, Marcus actually turns on the remaining leaders of the resistance and kills them all, later making Skynet the final winner in the human-machine struggle. Christian Bale and McG, director of Terminator Salvation, actually prefer this version to what ended up in the movie.
The alternate ending certainly doesn’t solve the movie’s core issues, and it’s actually more absurd than the theatrical ending – but at the very least, it’s way more entertaining.
8 Guardians of the Galaxy
Following the trend of dark and gritty superhero films, James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a refreshing change of pace with its bright visuals, humor, and incredibly catchy soundtrack.
After Star Lord and friends save the day and get their ship back, the film ends with an upbeat montage set to Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”.
The ending already has a bittersweet element to it, as Quill finally opens his mother’s last gift and reads her letter. The alternate ending is similar and includes the same montage, but adds in yet another tragic twist on top of Quill’s gift from his mom.
Star Lord’s Grandpa Quill is shown with a photo of Peter as a boy, staring up at the stars. This footage reveals that Grandpa Quill saw Peter’s abduction and is still waiting for him to return.
Writer/director James Gunn said in one interview that he liked the emotional significance of the scene, but that “it was freaking sad, so we took it out.” The alternate ending adds another tragic element to balance out the humor of the concluding montage and Star Lord’s story as a whole, making the ending more bittersweet and impactful.
7 Blade: Trinity
Despite enjoying an original concept, the Blade trilogy fizzled out with a conventional ending in Blade: Trinity. The movie ends with Blade stabbing Drake with the Daystar arrow, which then causes the release of the Daystar virus that kills the rest of the vampires.
Conveniently, the virus doesn’t kill Blade, as the human half of his heart was not affected and kept beating. He later wakes from his virus-caused coma and goes on to continue his fight against the vampires.
This rather standard ending is completely overshadowed by the film’s alternate ending, which offers a darker and more interesting conclusion to the trilogy.
The alternate ending has Blade wake up in the hospital after his fight with Drake, and he begins to attack the doctors who were trying to save his life. He corners a cowering nurse, and the camera cuts to black before her fate is decided.
This alternate ending has Blade possibly succumbing to “the Thirst," something that Drake explicitly warned him about towards the end of the film.
This ending is significantly more entertaining and not only complicates Blade’s character, but the trilogy as a whole.
This 2007 movie based on Stephen King’s short story of the same name proved itself to be one of the more successful adaptations of King’s work. The movie follows Mike Enslin, an author who rents the hotel room 1408 despite a slew of warnings and begins to encounter supernatural events.
Mike becomes desperate to escape, and the theatrical ending has him burn down the room. He’s saved by firefighters and later reconciles with his wife, who later believes his tales of room 1408’s supernatural horrors when she stumbles upon tapes recorded in 1408 of Mike talking to the ghost of their dead daughter.
The alternate ending puts a bittersweet twist on Mike’s fate, having him perish in the fire, meaning he never reconciles with his wife. However, Mike later reunites with his daughter in the afterlife. Producers thought this alternate ending was far too dark and swapped it out for the theatrical ending.
However, Mike’s death in 1408 is far creepier than him getting to live through the events of the hotel room, and the fact that he never reconciles with his wife but is allowed to see his daughter again after his death packs a more emotional punch.
5 Dawn of the Dead
George A. Romero’s classic horror Dawn of the Dead is largely considered to be one of the best zombie films ever made. Focusing on a group of people thrown together that must then work together to survive, Dawn of the Dead explores the large-scale effects of a zombie apocalypse.
The movie ends with characters Francine and Peter successfully escaping an encroaching zombie hoard and flying away in a half-fueled helicopter, fate uncertain. It’s a rather optimistic ending to an otherwise pessimistic film. But this iconic horror movie almost had an entirely different ending.
An alternate ending had Francine and Peter hopelessly trapped, with the two eventually turning to suicide as their solution. This is obviously a much bleaker ending than the theatrical cut’s conclusion to the film.
Nevertheless, it does fit better with the tone and themes of Dawn of the Dead as a whole, and might have been a more fitting ending as a result.
Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley is considered one of the best female protagonists of all time and proved to be a benchmark for all future female action heroes. However, director Ridley Scott didn’t always want Ripley to survive the events of Alien.
The theatrical cut of the seminal sci-fi has Ripley successfully escape the Nostromo in the knick of time and takes off in an escape shuttle. Thinking she has killed the alien, she readies herself for her return home, only to be attacked by the alien once again. She successfully kills the creature by blasting it out into space and is finally able to return to Earth in peace.
Ridley Scott, however, wanted a different, far crazier conclusion. In the alternate ending, the alien would triumph and eat Ridley in the escape pod. It would then mimic Ridley’s voice in a message back to Earth telling the company to expect “Ridely’s” return. Producers balked at Scott’s preferred ending and pressed the director to change it into something more conventional.
Scott’s alternate ending is wild and would drastically change the type of movie Alien is, but it would still be a cool and unexpected twist.
3 Kong: Skull Island
Kong: Skull Island answered the question none of us knew we needed answered: what would happen if King Kong met Apocalypse Now?
The film ended up being a pretty solid summer action flick, and set the stage well for Kong and Godzilla’s eventual clash in later films with a post-credits scene that had Conrad and Weaver briefed on other monsters that exist on Earth, with the two being shown cave paintings of Godzilla and other beasts.
It’s a cool hint at what’s to come, but the alternate ending was even better. This had Conrad and Weaver on a boat with Brooks out in the arctic. Conrad and Weaver grow frustrated, not knowing why they’re there, and Brooks tells them to be patient – just as Godzilla appears and slowly rises out of the water.
Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts ended up scrapping this ending after realizing it wouldn’t exactly match up with 2014 Godzilla’s plot point that Godzilla went into hiding following the nuclear tests in the 50’s, but it still would have been amazing to catch an actual Godzilla sighting in Kong: Skull Island instead of some cave paintings.
2 Get Out
Jordan Peele’s Get Out was one of the biggest movies of 2016, expertly blending social and political commentary with the horror and thriller genres. Its ending is undeniably satisfying – after watching Chris endure the house of horrors that was his weekend, it’s great to see his friend finally show up to rescue him and take him home.
The film’s alternate ending is far more bleak, but might be more fitting. After Chris kills his captors and sets out to flee, the cops arrive and arrest him for all of the murders.
Peele said that he debated on which ending he should use for the theatrical cut, and eventually landed on the happy ending because he wanted to give the audience some kind of relief and hope after such a twisted storyline.
The director explained, “It was very clear that the ending needed to transform into something that gives us a hero, that gives us an escape, gives us a positive feeling when we leave this movie.”
Though it’s a supremely depressing end to an already disturbing film, Chris’ arrest would have been more in line with the film’s themes and the politics it works to critique.
1 Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
When talking about the original Star Wars trilogy, Return of the Jedi is probably the most divisive of the three films. Some fans enjoy the ewoks and the happy tone of the ending, while others are frustrated at the sudden switch in tone by the film that follows the darker The Empire Strikes Back. But Return of the Jedi wasn’t always meant to be the happy bookend to the original trilogy.
An alternate ending to Return of the Jedi actually had Han Solo die (a move that Harrison Ford himself supported) and Luke traumatized from his encounter with Palpatine and his father.
Leia would have to go on with the Alliance on her own, ending the trilogy with the splintering of the three main characters. George Lucas eventually cut this ending and went with something happier, mainly because he wanted to avoid killing such a popular character with Han Solo.
It's an ending that's way darker than even The Empire Strikes Back, but it would have been a bold move on Lucas' part that could've really ended the series with an emotional bang.
Which alternate ending do you wish had made it into the final cut? Let us know in the comments!
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