When you think of it, it’s a miracle that any movie ever gets made. So much thought, preparation, and planning goes into every single movie. From scripting to casting to production to editing, there is so much room for error every step of the way. Obviously, there are tons of features that never get to make it to the big screen because of issues along the way.
There are a million different reasons why a movie could be canceled. A lead actor they were banking on might die, natural disasters could ravage shooting locations, or the script may have called for something that pushed the envelope a bit too far. Heck, sometimes the movie is just flat out terrible and needs to be locked away in a safe, never to see the light of day.
Throughout the list, we’re going to examine some of the most shocking and interesting movies that were abandoned. Some of these films showed a lot of potential and could have been groundbreaking works that we wish we could see, while others sound so awful that we still want to see them, purely out of morbid curiosity.
Without further ado, here are the 15 Movies Canceled During Production For Mind-Blowing Reasons.
15 The Alien
Satyajit Ray was one of the most influential Indian filmmakers of all time. Between features, documentaries, and shorts, Ray had 36 directorial credits to his name.
In 1967, Ray had written the script entitled The Alien and was all set to begin production. It was going to be an Indian-American co-production with Columbia Pictures helping to foot the bill.
They had even secured both Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando for acting roles.
This would never come to fruition, however. Ray found out that his Hollywood representative Mike Wilson had copyrighted the script and added his name as co-writer despite not writing contributing a single word. Next, Brando dropped out and Ray became disenchanted with American cinema.
The Alien would have told the story of an extraterrestrial who crash lands on earth and befriends a young boy. When E.T. came out over a decade later, Ray couldn’t help but notice the similarities.
14 Midnight Rider
Midnight Rider is perhaps the most upsetting entry on this list. The attempted Gregg Allman biopic was only one day into filming when it had to be shut down.
The crew was shooting on an active railroad in Wayne County, Georgia when camera assistant Sarah Jones was struck and killed by a freight train. Seven other members were injured.
The production crew had no business being there. They had previously been denied entry to the location where the accident happened.
The director, first assistant director, producer, and production manager were all charged with involuntary manslaughter and criminal trespass. It was a black eye on the industry and a wakeup call for stricter safety regulations when it came to making movies.
13 Star Trek: The God Thing
Star Trek may have been canceled after only three seasons, but the fan base was definitely still out there. For years following the show’s end, droves of fans ventured to sci-fi conventions to show their love and support for the space opera. This led to creator Gene Roddenberry wishing to continue the story-- this time through a movie.
Although there would eventually be a Star Trek motion picture in 1979, and 12 more after that, Roddenberry had a difficult time getting the franchise to take off once again.
Roddenberry's first script, entitled Star Trek: The God Thing, was outright rejected.
The script attempted to push boundaries and, in some eyes, came off as anti-religious. A particular scene involving Spock questioning whether earthling’s gods are insecure really worried studio executives.
Novelization rights were bought for the screenplay. However, like the movie, it remains unproduced.
12 At The Mountains of Madness
Guillermo del Toro has been attached to direct The Hobbit, Harry Potter, and a plethora of superhero movies, all of which could have their own entry on this list. However, we’re going to focus on the one that seemed closest to the director’s heart.
In 2006, del Toro and Matthew Robbins wrote a screenplay based on the H.P. Lovecraft horror novella At the Mountains of Madness. It seemed to be the perfect flick for the visually stunning filmmaker.
Then the studio got involved. Apparently, they disliked the movie being a hard-R, having no love story, and a real downer of an ending. However, they should have known this since it was a del Toro movie based on Lovecraft.
Had del Toro made some changes and went for a PG-13 rating, the movie would have been made. Alas, he stuck to his guns and eventually made the Lovecraft-inspired Crimson Peak instead.
11 The Day The Clown Cried
Jerry Lewis was one the most believed comedians to ever grace the silver screen. In the early ‘70s, he tried to branch out by directing and starring in the Holocaust drama The Day the Clown Cried.
The movie would tell the story of a German clown sent to a concentration camp where he entertains Jewish children at a nearby death camp. The dark film’s finale was to involve Lewis leading the children to a gas chamber.
The movie was nearly completed before the plug was pulled.
In addition to financial woes (Lewis went $2,000,000 out of pocket), The Day the Clown Cried was deemed an outright failure.
Lewis, believing he was the wrong person for the role, went on to say that the movie was an embarrassment. Before he passed away, he donated a print to the Library of Congress, with the condition that it can’t be screened until 2024.
In the mid-1960s, Alfred Hitchcock’s career had seen better days. His latest movie were failures, and the Master of Suspense needed something that would bring him back into the public eye.
In hopes of shocking the audience like he had at the beginning of the decade with Psycho, Hitchcock commissioned Kaleidoscope to be written.
The script centered around a handsome bodybuilding serial killer who hunts women. When producers at Universal got their eyes on the pages, they were a little too shocked. The movie was to be filled with death, assault, and intimate moments with dead bodies-- motifs that were definitely too jarring for the time.
Despite promising that he could make the movie for less than $1 million, the upsetting subject matter was still too taboo to be produced.
In 2008, Disney announced that the next surefire hit from Pixar was to be a film called Newt. The animated feature was to follow the last two blue-footed newts in existence are forced by scientists to save their species.
It seemed like another incredibly solid idea from the usually stellar company. Pixar seemed all in for the upcoming movie, even including an Easter egg for it in 2010’s Toy Story 3. With Newt scheduled to be released the following year, this seemed like the perfect teaser.
Then came Rio. Created by Blue Sky Studios, the company behind Ice Age, Rio featured two macaws, the last of their species, needing to mate.
The similarities between the two movies, in addition to pre-production issues, was enough to halt the feature.
After finally passing on Newt, Pixar would move forward with another project: Inside Out. Seems kind of like an upgrade if you ask us.
8 The Man Who Killed Don Quixote
To dream the impossible dream-- to film the unfilmable film.
Director Terry Gilliam was definitely channeling his inner Don Quixote when he set out to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. It is one of the most legendary movies to never make it through production.
Where to begin? On the second day of filming, a flash flood washed away equipment and altered scenery. Then, there was the issue with military jets overhead that rendered audio unusable.
To top it all off, the movie’s Don Quixote, Jean Rochefort, was diagnosed with a double herniated disc.
The attempt wasn’t for naught, however, as the terrific documentary Lost in La Mancha chronicled the heartbreaking disaster that was Gilliam’s attempt at The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. His first attempt at least.
In 2017, determined to finish what he started, the director shot and completed an updated version with far fewer hiccups.
If somebody told you they could make a feature-length movie for $5,000, they’d be borderline crazy. Five-grand is nothing in the world of cinema. Even in 1967, it was a measly sum.
However, that’s all Steven Spielberg thought he would need to complete the movie Slipstream.
The movie about bicycle racers was all set to be the future Academy Award winner’s second feature.
While attempting to film the beginning and ending set pieces, the two largest scenes in the movie, a monsoon happened, putting the film way behind schedule. This major setback led to the movie quickly running out of money.
Thankfully, Spielberg didn’t let this failure define his career. He was able to get himself on track and become one of the most prolific directors of all time.
6 Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales
Movies often run out of money, are effected natural disasters have struck, and occasionally studios even get cold feet. However, Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales was abandoned out of spite.
The legend goes that Richard Pryor, the star of the movie, had gotten into a heated argument with his wife about how much time he was spending on set.
To instantly squash the debate, the comedian lit the film’s negatives on fire. The movie would remain unfinished.
However, that wasn’t the only negative. At a career retrospective for Pryor, clips of the movie were screened. This enraged Pryor’s wife Jennifer Lee-Pryor (not the same woman from the burning). She filed a still-pending lawsuit against Pryor’s daughter and the movie’s director Penelope Spheeris for stealing the footage.
5 The Rainbow Road To Oz
Even before MGM’s monumental classic The Wizard of Oz, there had been many different interpretations of the L. Frank Baum story. The very first being 1908’s The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays.
In 1954, Walt Disney Studios bought the rights for and were ready to produce their own works set in the wonderful world of Oz.
The plan was for the movie to star some of Disney’s famous Mouseketeers.
They even shot a sneak peek starring Disney himself where the cast of youngsters begged and pleaded with Ol’ Walt to allow them to create the movie. The segment involved concept art, story ideas, and even a song and dance with the Scarecrow and the Patchwork Girl.
Alas, The Rainbow Road to Oz never came to be. Many folks attribute this to the popularity the MGM version was seeing through repeated television showings and Disney not wanting to put out an inferior product.
4 The Other Side Of The Wind
Between 1970 and his death in 1985, Orsen Welles was hellbent on making The Other Side of the Wind. The movie had a lot of trouble finding proper funding.
Welles’ 1972 tax audit, in particular, held up production. Thing’s seemed to be back on track until the government of Ayatollah Khomeini had the movie impounded. This was because a large portion of the budget came from the brother-in-law of the Shah of Iran, who Khomeini had recently overthrown.
After securing the footage, it was revealed that over ten hours of raw footage had been compiled. The movie was still missing a key scene, opening narration, music, and a final edit.
It seems like the movie may actually see the light of day in 2018. According to Variety, “Netflix acquired global rights… and is financing the completion of the movie.”
3 Something’s Got To Give
As soon as Marilyn Monroe signed on to star in Something’s Got To Give (not to be confused with 2003’s Something’s Gotta Give), things were off to a rocky start. She disliked the script, was recovering from gallbladder surgery, requested time off to sing for the president, and contracted a sinus infection right before shooting was to begin.
The infection turned out to be way worse than anyone expected, and the shooting schedule was reworked around Monroe.
Monroe would only appear on set a third of her scheduled days, severely disrupting production.
Despite inviting press to witness a swimming scene that drummed up publicity for the film, Monroe was fired from the movie.
Her friend and co-star Dean Martin would successfully protest her release and she would be rehired. Tragically, Monroe pass away due to an overdose before production could resume.
2 Who Killed Bambi?
Aiming to be a punk rock version of the Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, Who Killed Bambi? was slated for a 1978 release. Hoping to turn movies on their head as they had music a few years prior, the Sex Pistols had lofty goals for this feature.
They even hired a familiar name to pen the script: Roger Ebert. Prior to thumbs upping and downing movies, Ebert had written a few movies with partner Russ Meyer, including Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.
The movie only shot for about a day and a half before the studio put the kibosh on production. Apparently, 20th Century Fox failed to actually read the script and were horrified at some of the appalling scenes they had originally greenlit. The only footage that exists features drummer Paul Cook being assaulted.
1 My Best Friend’s Birthday
Way before he was attempting to make Star Trek movies, Quentin Tarantino was trying his hand at comedies. The future Pulp Fiction auteur’s first effort as a director was with My Best Friend’s Birthday, a project that he worked on for over four years.
The extremely amateur-looking black a white movie was originally set to be a 70-minute feature and had been completed.
Unfortunately, before the movie was able to be released, a fire at the processing lab broke out. The blaze destroyed roughly half of the finished product. It would be five years before Tarantino would finally have a feature in theaters-- Reservoir Dogs was released in 1992.
Die-hard Tarantino fans can watch a truncated, 36-minute version online that was only ever screened at film festivals.
Can you think of any other movies that were canceled midproduction due to shocking reasons? Sound off in the comments!