Virtually every film ever made generated at least some unused footage that wound up on the cutting room floor. In many cases, these deleted scenes were excised after filming wrapped and effects work had started. They were often very much complete prior to being deleted.
Other times, however, directors make the decision to abandon a scene much earlier in the filmmaking pipeline, with the end result that this material is left in very rough state. Why does this happen?
Maybe the script changes dramatically between drafts, so expending further pre-production effort on certain plot elements would be a pointless exercise. Or perhaps what was filmed doesn’t live up to the director’s vision for the scene – either because of unforeseen circumstances on set, or limitations with the special effects technology involved.
Conversely, the director’s expectations may’ve been realized, but the film itself might have shifted after the fact. This obviously necessitates the replacement of the scene with a new one that more closely aligns with their revised take on the project.
And then there are those instances where studio executives interfere with the production, demanding that work-in-progress material be cut to make way for changes they believe will make the movie more commercially viable.
What this ultimately means is that – regardless of the underlying rationale involved – cinema history is filled with examples of movie moments that were tossed onto the trash heap half-done. Sadly, because these sequences went so unfinished, we’ll never fully appreciate just how awesome they could have been – which is insanely frustrating!
Here are 20 Amazing Abandoned Scenes We’ll Never Get To See.
20 Aragorn Vs Sauron – The Return Of The King
In The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, chief baddie Sauron never directly confronts our heroes – instead, he’s a disembodied spirit who manifests himself as a malicious, fiery eyeball. However, director Peter Jackson nearly deviated wildly from author J.R.R. Tolkien’s original novel, and planned to include a physical showdown between would-be king Aragorn and the Dark Lord.
In the end, Jackson decided that this would be too significant a departure from the source material, and Sauron was replaced by a CGI cave troll in the final cut.
While this was undeniably the right call, the concept artwork – which included the villain first appearing in an angelic guise – looks undeniably interesting.
19 The Origin Of Bane – The Dark Knight Rises
Most directors are happy to share unused material from their films – but then, Christopher Nolan isn’t most directors. The celebrated auteur tends not to bundle deleted scenes in with the home releases of his films, and this unfortunately includes The Dark Knight trilogy.
Easily the most notable unseen footage showcases Bane’s origins, with the villain’s training intended to mirror Batman’s own.
Costume designer Lindy Hemming has made it clear that a proto-version of Bane’s costume was indeed produced, and Nolan apparently filmed the scripted scenes.
Given Nolan’s stance on deleted scenes, we won’t hold our breath waiting for him to polish what was shot (presumably some minor effects work is still needed), much less make it publicly available!
18 Yoda Communes With Qui-Gon – Revenge Of The Sith
The “Force Ghost” sub-plot is one of the more half-baked elements of the Star Wars prequel trilogy.
This almost wasn’t the case, however. As seen in the published screenplay and comic book adaptation of Revenge of the Sith, writer-director George Lucas planned to have deceased Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn properly explain the secrets of immortality to Yoda.
A partially finished version of this scene does exist and was included with the Blu-ray release. Sadly, not only is the CGI rough, but crucially, Liam Neeson wasn’t available to record Qui-Gon’s dialogue.
Without Neeson’s distinctive vocals, it’s hard to get a true sense of how this moment would have played out – although it still fills in several storytelling gaps, at least.
17 Gun Vs Whip Fight – Raiders Of The Lost Ark
When Indiana Jones guns down his sword-wielding opponent in Raiders of the Lost Ark, not only does it play with our expectations – we expect a big fight between the pair – but it also firmly establishes Indy’s status as a less conventional hero.
Funnily enough, though, that big fight was actually supposed to happen – and we’d kinda like to see how it went down.
Originally, Indy and the swordsman engaged in an elaborately choreographed duel that pitted our hero’s whip against his enemy’s blade.
Star Harrison Ford fell ill the day of shooting. Ford and director Steven Spielberg quickly improvised the less physically-intensive version of the scene – leaving only photos from rehearsals to suggest what might have been.
16 The Kryptonian Criminals Conquer The World Montage – Superman II
Richard Donner was infamously ejected from the director’s chair on Superman II after 75% of the film was already in the can, after tensions between himself and the producers finally spilled over.
Fortunately for fans, Donner’s original vision for the Man of Steel’s second big screen adventure was largely restored in 2006 with the release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut. Yet this version of the film is missing scenes that Donner’s replacement, Richard Lester, decided not to film.
This includes a montage where the evil General Zod and his cronies destroy famous monuments around the globe – which would have been considerably more impressive than the Idaho-based havoc caused by the trio in the theatrical release!
15 T-Rex At The Lagoon – Jurassic Park
As with pretty much every book-to-screen adaptation, the Jurassic Park film omits several memorable moments from its source material.
One scene that never made it to the big screen revolved around Doctor Alan Grant and kids Lex and Tim being terrorized by a T-Rex while attempting to navigate a lagoon!
Director Steven Spielberg certainly seemed set on keeping the sequence in the movie – visual effects wizard Phil Tippett even drafted extensive storyboards which depict a suitably thrilling chase. But by the time the cameras rolled, the scene had been dropped, so we’re once again left to ponder over what might have been.
14 Steppenwolf Speaks To The Mother Box – Justice League
When Joss Whedon took the reins on Justice League from Zack Snyder, he supervised extensive re-shoots. There’s plenty of incomplete footage (the visual effects weren’t 100% done yet) locked away in the Warner Bros. vaults that fans are clamoring to see.
It’s hard to pick just one scene we’d like to view most, but we’re going to settle on the moment where antagonist Steppenwolf speaks to the mystical Mother Box, outlying his plan and motivations more fully. As presented in the theatrical release, Steppenwolf is a generic, one-dimensional villain, so we’d love for this material – which adds greater intellectual and emotional sophistication to his goals and agenda – to see the light of day!
13 Old Kirk's Cameo – Star Trek (2009)
When J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek reboot hit cinemas back in 2009, many fans were disappointed that William Shatner didn’t cameo as the older version of his character, Captain James T. Kirk.
After all, fellow original cast member Leonard Nimoy appeared as an elderly Spock – so why not Kirk, too?
As it turns out, Abrams did strongly consider incorporating Shatner’s incarnation of Kirk in the story. Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman reportedly even penned a brief yet emotional scene where Old Kirk would have appeared via video hologram.
Ultimately, this was scuttled well in advance of principal photography, after Shatner publicly expressed disinterest in starring in a minor role and concerns that it would cause continuity issues, anyway.
12 Orcs Attack The Fellowship Outside Lothlórien – The Fellowship Of The Ring
Here's another abandoned scene from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, this time from The Fellowship of the Ring. Here, our heroes’ entry into Lothlórien saw them pursued by a horde of Orcs, before being rescued by their Elvish hosts.
This sequence made it rather far along before being culled from the final cut. It appears in the shooting script by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson, was storyboarded, and was at least partially filmed.
Despite this, as director, Jackson opted to jettison the scene, reportedly feeling that a more subdued, psychologically-driven introduction to the Lady Galadriel and her realm was more appropriate.
11 Robin's Origin – Batman (1989)
Chris O’Donnell's debut as Robin in Batman Forever was actually the third attempt at getting Batman’s crime fighting partner into the franchise.
Plans to feature Robin went as back as far as Tim Burton’s original Batman, where the Joker would be responsible for making the young hero an orphan!
Set during the climactic parade set piece, this scene was scripted and storyboarded, so we have a general sense of how it would have played out. But as the decision was made to hold over Robin’s inclusion for a future installment, the idea was abandoned and the material was never filmed.
10 Scott Harmony And Calvin Candie Play Cards – Django Unchained
Like many brilliant filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino has written several amazing scenes that went unfilmed. Take the 10-page flashback he drafted for Western Django Unchained, which revealed additional elements of Django’s wife Broomhilda’s backstory.
The scene included Broomhilda’s original slave owner, Scott Harmony, and depicts how Harmony lost ownership of Broomhilda (and his life) following a game of cards with main antagonist Calvin Candie.
Filled with Tarantino’s signature dialogue, this would have been a sight to behold. However, Tarantino eventually abandoned the sequence late in the game – Jonah Hill and Sacha Baron Cohen were even attached to play Harmony, at different points – and it wasn’t filmed.
9 Luke Vs A Pack Of Wampas – The Empire Strikes Back
At this point, pretty much every classic Star Wars deleted scene has been shared with fans, thanks to the original trilogy’s countless number of re-releases on home media. However, there are still a few moments that have gone unseen – such as when Luke Skywalker took on a pack of Wampa snow monsters in The Empire Strikes Back.
Photos taken on set suggest that the scene of Luke manning a laser cannon to defend Echo Base from its furry attackers was filmed, but the actual footage itself has never surfaced.
It appears the sequence was cut early in the editing process (we suspect the special effects weren’t even started yet), and its possible not even Lucasfilm knows where the negatives ended up!
8 The Original Opening – The Incredibles
Brad Bird’s animated superhero joint The Incredibles kicks off with an amazing intro that juxtaposes our heroes’ colorful exploits with their more mundane personal lives. It’s fun, efficient, and clever storytelling, but Bird nearly opened the movie very differently.
As seen in storyboards and animatics based off early drafts of the screenplay, The Incredibles was set to open with a different flashback, where Mr. Incredible and wife Elastigirl try to fit in with their new civilian neighbours at a cook-out, to hilariously mixed results.
Things soon take a darker turn, though, when baddie Syndrome invades their home that evening, in an effort to kidnap Jack-Jack – an idea partially recycled for the finale of the finished film!
7 The Extended Future War –Terminator 2: Judgment Day
James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day opens with a prologue set in the near future, offering us a glimpse at the valiant struggle by the Human Resistance against Skynet’s ruthless machines.
As originally conceived, however, this sequence was going to be much more in-depth – as illustrated by the first draft and early storyboards for T2.
Realizing that the costs involved of shooting the sequence weren’t really justified by its narrative merits, Cameron excised it from subsequent drafts.
The director has also since acknowledged that the scene – which showed the hero of the first film, Kyle Reese, being sent back in time, as well as Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “good” Terminator – had the potential to confuse audiences, as well.
6 Evil Elsa – Frozen
Much has been made of the fact that Elsa, one of the heroes of Disney’s crazy-popular Frozen, started out as a villain, in the vein of the original Snow Queen fairytale. The story was later re-tooled to make Elsa a more sympathetic character, who spends part of the film as an unintentional antagonist, as depicted in the final cut.
While this portrayal makes for a more interesting and emotionally satisfying film, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit that we’re intrigued by the alternate version of Frozen we never got. Indeed, it’s almost too bad that the scenes with “Evil Elsa” never made it past early concept art.
5 The Danger Room – X-Men 2
The Danger Room – the high-tech, holographic training gymnasium the X-Men use to hone their mutant powers – memorably appeared in Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. This was actually a “third time lucky” scenario, though: Bryan Singer had tried to include the Danger Room in X-Men and X2: X-Men United.
From the sounds of things, we missed out on something really special when X2's version of the Danger Room was derailed.
Production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas developed an incredibly cool take on the space’s architecture – with the main control room situated atop a gigantic propeller.
4 The Spider Pit – King Kong (1933)
One of the most famous “lost” deleted scenes of all time was slated to appear in King Kong (the original 1933 version): the Spider Pit. In this sequence, Jack Driscoll and the crew of the Venture are menaced by a swarm of overgrown arachnids, one of several monstrous species that inhabit Skull Island.
The live-action footage was shot and the stop-motion effects work underway (it’s quite possible it was even finished), before the scene was scrapped.
Reports vary as to why the Spider Pit was removed – some say studio executives at RKO were uneasy over the violence in the scene, others that director Merian C. Cooper cut it for pacing – but either way the negatives have vanished forever.
3 The Jitterbug – The Wizard Of Oz
1939 family favorite The Wizard of Oz didn’t exactly have the smoothest production, so it’s hardly surprising that material was conceived and then promptly abandoned throughout the shoot. One such sequence was the “Jitterbug” scene, where Dorothy and her friends find themselves forced to dance at ever-increasing speed by the Wicked Witch of the West’s enchanted insects!
The scene was omitted mostly to tighten the film’s pacing - although the Witch still makes an oblique reference to it, resulting in a continuity error.
Some grainy, behind-the-scenes footage of the Jitterbug scene has survived, but otherwise, all we have left are the cast audio recordings.
2 The Pie Fight – Doctor Strangelove
Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War satire Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb concludes on a bleakly whimsical note, as nuclear war breaks out to the romantic tune of “We’ll Meet Again”.
Things almost panned out very differently, though. As originally shot, Doctor Strangelove wrapped up with a massive custard pie fight between the government and military officials gathered in the Pentagon’s War Room. Upon reviewing the scene, Kubrick quickly became dissatisfied with it, declaring its overtly farcical nature was tonally jarring.
As with nearly all unused footage from the legendary auteur’s career, the original negative was destroyed – so we’ll never be able to judge whether Kubrick made the right call here.
1 The Don Appears At His Birthday Party – The Godfather Part II
Actor Marlon Brando was as famous for his acting skills as he was infamous for being difficult to work with – and his conspicuous absence from the Godfather Part II is a prime example of this. Originally, Brando was set to reprise the role of Mafia Don Vito Corleone during the flashback sequence towards the end of the movie.
The problem was, Brando was feuding with studio executives at Paramount Pictures, and on the day the scene was scheduled to be shot, he didn’t turn up!
This left director Francis Ford Coppola in a tight spot, forcing him to hastily rewrite the scene so that the Don doesn’t actually appear on-screen.
Did we miss out any other amazing abandoned scenes? Let us know in the comments!