While blockbuster cinema is often about bombast and spectacle, sometimes, it’s more effective to leave a little mystery too. A major death or event happening off-screen can be more intriguing than showing everything, and it allows the audience to engage with the film on another level.
An infamous recent example came in 2014’s Godzilla, where after a lengthy tease, the title monster finally appears and is about to fight another giant monster. Then the movie cuts away at the crucial moment, leaving the epic battle to be shown in glimpses on a small television in the next scene. It was a great joke, though it definitely divided opinion.
While leaving major events up to the imagination can be a great storytelling device, some of them sound so epic, viewers can’t help feeling a little disappointed when they’re not shown. It could be the demise of an iconic character or a legendary battle scene, and the more these events are described, the more people want to see them.
For some of the 15 Major Off-Screen Events We’d Love To See featured here, a few of them are probably best left to the imagination, but years of fan art and online discussion shows that there’s still a desire to see all the gory details.
15. The Destruction Of The Engineer Base – Prometheus
Prometheus began life as Alien: Engineers, a direct prequel that set up the events of the 1979 original film and explained where The Space Jockey came from. Writer Damon Lindelof was then brought on board to retool the script, making it more of a standalone movie that was vaguely tied to Alien instead.
Since Lindelof is a writer who loves a good mystery, he peppered the film with numerous unanswered questions, like why did the Engineers want to wipe out humanity, and why did they invite the human race to their weapons testing planet? One of the biggest mysteries revolves around what exactly caused the base to be destroyed, which the finished film only hints at.
There’s holographic footage of the Engineers being chased by something and there are fossilized bodies everywhere, but outside of the black goo acting up, it’s never revealed what actually killed them. It would have been nice to get a clearer image of what went down on LV-223, and have gotten a look at the monster that wiped them out.
14. The Alpha Wolf Fight – The Grey
The Grey partially sold itself on the thrill of watching Liam Neeson punching killer wolfs, which isn’t really what the movie is about. It’s ultimately an existential drama about a doomed group of men reflecting on their lives in the face of impending death at the hand of nature itself, which is a harder sell.
Despite being a more cerebral experience than audiences were expecting, The Grey received strong reviews and did well at the box-office, and had viewers buzzing about the ambiguous ending. The film leads to a climactic battle between Neeson and the Alpha Wolf, and the final scene has them ready to battle before abruptly cutting to credits.
Some audiences were furious with this, while others loved to speculate on what happens next. It turns out that director Joe Carnahan actually did film the fight, but decided that the film was stronger without it. This might be true, but it would be great to actually see this deleted scene to see how the fight would have played out.
13. Max’s Fog Ambush – Mad Mad: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road spent so long in development hell that it’s a miracle it even got made, and it’s an even greater miracle it turned out to be an instant classic. It’s a relentless ride full of breathless action and iconic characters, and it’s arguably the best entry in the series.
The film hardly skimps on the action — considering the story is essentially one long car chase — but it decides to pull back in one key scene. When Furiosa and Max are being chased by The Bullet Farmer through the fog, Max decides to turn back and deal with the trigger happy madman and his crew.
After some gunfire and explosions, Max walks back covered in blood, hauling weapons and ammunition. It’s a badass moment for the character, but viewers can’t help but wonder exactly what happened when Max disappeared, and how he managed to take down The Bullet Farmer’s crew single-handedly.
12. The Heist – Reservoir Dogs
Tarantino is a master of dialogue and often stages intense conversational scenes like action sequences themselves. This can be seen in the opening of Inglourious Basterds or Major Warren’s flashback in The Hateful Eight, in which the dialogue becomes unbearably tense before any bullets are fired.
The Hateful Eight feels like a thematic sequel of sorts to Tarantino’s debut Reservoir Dogs, which deals with the aftermath of a heist gone wrong. The crew tries to figure out what happened and who might be a traitor, but the audience never gets to see the actual heist, and it’s only talked about in vague terms.
That’s how Tarantino intended it to be, and what was ultimately always going to have to be the case with the film’s low-budget. That said, it would be kind of fascinating to see how it all went down, including the death of Mr. Blue and seeing Mr. Blonde go crazy when the cops arrive. There was a mediocre game of the movie released in 2006 that actually showed the heist, but that one is best forgotten.
11. What Happened To The Ship’s Crew? – The Lost World: Jurassic Park
The T-Rex rampaging through San Diego was a late addition to The Lost World, which Steven Spielberg intended as an ode to old monster movies. While the sequence feels a little bolted on, it’s still a lot of fun, but one element of the scene has left viewers baffled ever since.
The ship carrying the T-Rex crashes into the harbor, and people board it to find dead bodies and severed limbs scattered everywhere. Since the enormous killing machine is in the cargo hold, though, it couldn’t have been responsible for the crew’s death, but the movie never addresses this.
A scene showing what happened onboard would help fill in this odd plot hole, since it makes little sense in the final cut. Apparently, there was supposed to be a scene showing a Velociraptor sneaking onto the ship, and even if Spielberg wanted to leave the attack a mystery, at least a shot of the raptor would have helped clear up the confusion.
10. The Washington Battle – Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Resident Evil: Retribution ended with the heroes – Alice, Ada, Leon, etc – assembled on the roof of the White House, ready to face an endless sea of zombies and monsters coming for them. This moment promised an epic battle, but the next movie – The Final Chapter – instead opens with Alice in the battle’s aftermath, and no mention is made of what actually happened, or if any of the other characters survived.
Since the latter film was intended to be the last entry in the series, it’s odd that it wouldn’t address the fate of the other characters in one way or another. Plus, that battle scene looked pretty epic, so a glimpse of what went down and how Alice survived would have been nice.
The novelization added a chapter detailing the whole thing, with the horde eventually mutating into a giant blob creature that kills Leon, Ada, and Jill, and Alice barely survives before it dissolves. Since the film series isn’t going to answer the question (especially with a reboot somehow already in the works), this explanation will need to do.
9. Billy’s Last Stand – Predator
While the final fight in Predator was always going to come down to Arnold Schwarzenegger and the title alien, the other members of the squad at least put up a good fight. In fact, Billy – the group’s tracker – seems to be aware of what’s happening much sooner than his squad, and when he gets sick of running, he ditches his equipment and decides to face the silent enemy head on.
He pulls out his machete and prepares for a fight, and his piercing scream is later heard by his squad mates. While this scene was staged for maximum suspense, the film feels like it’s building to a showdown between Billy and the alien, and it’s a shame we don’t get to see him in action.
There are rumors that a fight was filmed but cut because it was too gory, but his death was always meant to take place off-screen to heighten the drama. Hopefully, he got a couple of decent blows in before the Predator won.
8. The Death Of Nauls – The Thing
The Thing is well-known for its eye-popping special effects, where the title monster is able to morph and shape bodies at will. Most of the cast meet a gory end this way, but there are a couple of characters who meet their deaths off-screen.
Geeky scientist Fuchs disappears and his burnt body is later found, with the team guessing he killed himself rather than let the alien take him. This mystery adds another chilling element to the story, and viewers never learn what truly happened. The other mystery death is Nauls, who hears a noise in the finale and wonders off into the dark, never to be seen again.
A scene was actually shot showing Nauls stumbling across the mutating alien, which grabs and consumes him from behind a crate. Director John Carpenter was unhappy with the effect, so it was cut, leaving Nauls’ fate up to the imagination. It’s an unsatisfying end for the character, and some clue to his fate may have worked better.
7. The Motel Shootout – No Country For Old Men
No Country For Old Men is about as close to a conventional action movie as The Coen Brothers will ever make, and it follows a man who comes across a bag of drug money and takes it for himself, only for a demonic hitman to come after him.
The movie’s violence is hard-hitting and there’s almost no music score, which ratchets up the tension. The protagonist Llewelyn Moss narrowly escapes any number of attempts on his life, and he always manages to get away. This makes it majorly shocking when he’s killed at the start of the third act and that it happens completely off-screen, with Tommy Lee Jones’ sheriff discovering his body.
Keeping his death off-screen has the intended effect of unsettling the audience, but it feels like an underwhelming end for a character who managed to survive so much. If the film had shown at least part of the motel shootout that leads to his demise, it might have made for a stronger ending, but then again, the film is all about toying with expectations.
6. The Sentinel War – X-Men: Days Of Future Past
Fox studio executive Tom Rothman famously had a problem with putting large robots in his films, feeling audiences would find them too silly. This is why the Sentinels didn’t appear in the initial X-Men movies, outside of a cameo of a destroyed Sentinel head in The Last Stand. It’s also the reason why Galactus appeared as a giant cloud in Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, and we all know how that went over with audiences.
The Sentinels were well worth the long wait when they finally showed up in Days Of Future Past, where they’re shown as silent, near unstoppable killing machines that love to rip mutants to pieces. The film starts in a post-apocalyptic world where the robots have all but wiped out mankind, and the team has to go back in time to stop them from being created at all.
The film gives us plenty of Sentinel action, but a glimpse at this apocalyptic battle would be the cherry on top. We see the aftermath, but a look at how the devastating initial battle went down would have been awesome.
5. The Tannhauser Gate Battle – Blade Runner
Perhaps the most iconic scene in Blade Runner – and there are many to choose from – takes place towards the end, when the Replicant Roy Batty realizes he’s about to die and departs with a speech about all he’s seen in his short life. It’s a beautiful scene, made all the more haunting by Rutger Hauer’s spot-on delivery.
Batty mentions the Tannhauser Gate during his monologue, which is apparently a warp station where a large battle took place. From the way he describes it, the battle was a quite epic, almost indescribable. The 1998 Kurt Russell action flick Soldier is described as a side-quel to Blade Runner, since it takes place in the same universe but doesn’t feature any returning characters. The trailer featured a space battle many assume to be Tannhauser Gate, and Russell’s lead character Todd is said to be a veteran of the conflict. Sadly, no such scene happens in the movie, so it will have to live on in the minds of the fanbase.
Unless Blade Runner 2049 depicts it, that is.
4. The Death Of The Kraken – Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End
While Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a tad bloated and overlong, it’s still the best sequel in the franchise, and it introduced iconic elements like Davy Jones and his fearsome pet, The Kraken. This beast is a gigantic squid capable of destroying ships and claiming souls for his master, and it even manages to (briefly) kill Jack Sparrow himself.
It would presumably take a lot to take down this mythic beast, which is why it’s so disappointing that The Kraken is revealed to have been killed off-screen in the next movie. The evil Lord Beckett commanded Jones to kill the beast, and its body is later found by the crew of The Black Pearl.
It’s not even revealed how the monster was killed, and while you can’t help feel a little twinge of sympathy for the monster, it would have been a more fitting end if it had died after a vicious fight. At World’s End was disappointing for many reasons, but the unceremonious death of The Kraken is near the top of the list.
3. The Hadley’s Hope Siege – Aliens
Most of Aliens takes place from Ripley’s point of view, so viewers experience the story as she does. The brief exception is a scene in the director’s cut showing life on the Hadley’s Hope colony prior to the alien outbreak, which gives the later scenes showing the empty, deserted colony more bite.
The Marines explore the base, which is covered in debris, broken barricades, and acid stains, with one marine commenting “It must have been one hell of a fight.” It’s a slightly haunting visual, and what the actual last stand looked like has been the subject of various spin-off comics and novels. A comic dubbed Newt’s Tale shows the encounter from Newt’s perspective, and the battle is shown to be suitably hellish and terrifying.
2. The Westchester Incident – Logan
Logan was a pitch perfect send-off for both Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X, with the story finding the two mutants aged and alone in a future where mutants are near extinct. It was surprisingly dark and emotional, and it proved that R-rated comic book movies can actually tell mature stories.
The movie keeps the fate of the X-Men somewhat ambiguous, revealing that Professor X lost control of his powers and caused the deaths of several members of the team — an event dubbed “The Westchester Incident.” The audience never learns who died or how it all went down, but director James Mangold actually considered opening Logan with this scene, and it was scripted in an early draft.
He eventually decided against filming it, feeling it would overwhelm the rest of the story. While he was probably right, it still would have been interesting to see an extended cut where The Westchester Incident takes place, and viewers can see for themselves why it haunted Logan and Xavier so much.
1. Ben Solo Turns To The Dark Side – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
The Force Awakens successfully managed to keep most of its secrets under wraps before release, despite the intense amount of speculation. There were many rumors floating around about the identity of Kylo Ren, ranging from him being a clone of Darth Vader to being Luke Skywalker in disguise.
The not-so-surprising reveal that he is the son of Han and Leia is intentionally underwhelming in the film, and it makes his later confrontation with his father all the more dramatic. We learn that Kylo – aka Ben Solo – turned to the dark side during his training with Luke, betraying his uncle and burning his Jedi temple to the ground. This heartache led to his parents splitting up and Luke heading into exile in search of the first Jedi Temple.
It’s an epic backstory, but viewers have only seen a tiny glimpse of it. Hopefully, The Last Jedi will shed more light on this period, showing how Ben turned and the aftermath of his actions. It’s too juicy of a story to be left up to viewers’ imagination alone, right?
What other off-screen cinematic events do you wish would have been depicted on the big screen? Let us know in the comments!
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