A twist can make or break a movie. A great twist, like the one in The Sixth Sense, can immortalize a movie, building word of mouth and encouraging viewers to re-watch it later for clues.
On the other hand, a bad twist, like the one in Signs, can ruin an otherwise good movie.
It’s no surprise then that filmmakers are constantly including, removing, and re-including third-act surprises. In an age where fans are dissecting movies before they’re even released, screenwriters and directors have to work harder to stay a step ahead of audiences.
The science fiction genre tends to focus on major plot twists. Aside from trafficking in tropes like time travel, cutting edge technology, and shape-shifting aliens, these movies frequently introduce audiences to new worlds where nothing is at it seems.
This list looks at some of the worst, most ill-advised twists that filmmakers thought up and had the good sense to ditch, as well as some abandoned ideas that could’ve saved, or at least helped, their movies.
Some entries transcend genres —t hey could also be classified as horror, superhero, or comedy — but every movie features an element of sci-fi in one way or another.
With that said, here are the 10 Canceled Twists That Would’ve Hurt Sci-Fi Movies (And 10 That Would’ve Saved Them).
20 Hurt: Chris never makes it out - Get Out
Sometimes a dark ending seems right, however, other times it may be a bit too much. This was the case for Get Out.
When we see the TSA logo towards the end of the movie, it is a hard-won moment of humor and good news for our protagonist.
However, as Indiewire reported, the original ending featured the police arriving, not Rod.
Chris was then sent to prison, only finding peace in the fact that he stopped the family from harvesting bodies.
However, even this was not the darkest twist.
As writer/director Jordan Peele told the Hollywood Reporter, originally Chris never made it out, and when Howard’s character tracks him down, Chris is no longer Chris.
While these endings have intrigued fans, it’s possible that going darker would’ve hurt Get Out’s success and discouraged repeated viewings.
19 Helped: The wormhole collapses - Interstellar
In years of making movies, TV shows, and conquering Hollywood in the process, the Nolan brothers have shown a great aversion to linear storytelling. Of all of the Nolan's efforts, Interstellar might be the most decisive largely because of the ending.
The final ending manages to be upbeat and optimistic but also overlong, schmaltzy, and complicated.
Cooper goes through the wormhole, turns out to be the ghost from the beginning, and communicates the world-saving information. He then reunites with his daughter and goes off to start a new life.
As Nerdist noted, the original script was a lot darker.
The wormhole collapses on Cooper, and he never knows if the information made it to Earth or not.
While this is darker, it is also simpler. It would’ve also still allowed for Murphy’s arc and made for a shorter, more straightforward movie.
18 Hurt: Jim passes away - 28 Days Later
Even though it begins hopelessly with its main character wandering empty streets alone, 28 Days Later has a happy ending. The main characters escape from the soldiers holding them captive.
This wasn’t always the case, however.
The movie originally ended with Jim passing away, and Serena and Hannah leaving him in the hospital. While the filmmakers expressed favoritism for this ending, it was changed because test audiences found it too sad.
However, a bigger twist was planned and storyboarded. After Hannah’s father is infected, the group finds a medical facility, and Jim agrees to a blood transfusion that will save Hannah’s father and infect him.
This twist was deemed too implausible.
In both cases, the happier ending was the best way to cap off a very bleak journey.
17 Helped: Neville leaves the mutants alone - I Am Legend
I Am Legend is the quintessential example of how changes to a movie's ending can taint the entire project.
While the film’s atmosphere and tension make for a strong first half, the ending is standard, with the hero sacrificing himself.
Will Smith’s character gives his life so that other humans can escape with a cure, telling of his bravery and making him the titular legend.
If this ending felt a little forced, that’s because it was.
As Looper explained, the original ending was truer to the source novel.
Smith’s character realizes that the creatures he’s been experimenting on have emotions. He is their boogeyman. Understanding this, he leaves the mutants in peace.
The alternate ending was not only more insightful, but also more fitting.
Despite being from 1954, the abandoned twist was more original than what made it into the final cut.
16 Hurt: Lowry is driven insane - Brazil
Brazil is the rare example of when a canceled twist does actually hurt a movie.
As the New York Times reported back in 1986, co-writer/director Terry Gilliam and Universal executives feuded over the ending.
In Gilliam’s original ending, Sam Lowry escapes enhanced interrogation and runs off with his lover only for this to be revealed as a fantasy. Lowry has been driven to the brink of insanity.
Wanting a happier ending, Universal cut the final scene, giving Sam his happiness.
This version was released in the U.S. Often referred to as the “Love Conquers All” version, it was widely disparaged and caused a public outcry in support of Gilliam and his vision.
Three decades later, Gilliam’s version is considered an all-too relevant classic and one of the finest dystopian future movies ever.
15 Helped: Deckard might be a replicant -Blade Runner
No alternate edit has sparked as much discussion as Blade Runner’s. At least five different cuts of Blade Runner exist and compete for attention.
As the Hollywood Reporter explored, the biggest departures are between the original 1982 theatrical cut and the Final Cut version released in 2007.
Essentially, the 1982 version added voice-over narration and a happy ending after test audiences found the movie too confusing.
However, it also omitted the unicorn dream that suggested that Deckard was a replicant.
In doing so, it sparked a decades-long debate on Deckard’s true nature, which just goes to show that including the right twist can give fans much needed closure.
Scott’s Final Cut is becoming the definitive version, and since Blade Runner 2049 came out, things are much clearer.
14 Hurt: Logan is captured by Stryker - X-Men: Days of Future Past
Adapting Days of Future Past for the big screen was a momentous task, and many ideas didn’t make the final cut. One of these was the inclusion of Rogue, which resulted in the alternate Rogue cut.
However, more of a twist is the real ending where Logan is fished out of the water by Mystique posing as Stryker.
The filmmakers originally wanted Stryker to capture Wolverine at the end, but, as they told Empire, “it felt like such a downer ending, and there wasn’t any ripple in time.”
It’s a small twist that baffled fans, and it disrupts what would’ve been a nice through line for the franchise.
Still, this ending has a charm that the scripted one doesn’t. It fit with the movie’s theme of change and added a little mystery and hope to a franchise that had been entirely retconned.
13 Helped: Meeting Grandpa Quill - Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy was a smash hit that ended on an almost perfect note. However, there was one twist that would’ve made the movie a little bit better.
The movie ends with a montage showing different characters dealing with the aftermath.
As writer/director James Gunn told Slash Film, one characters omitted from the montage was Grandpa Quill, who is on Earth holding a picture of his daughter and still waiting for Peter to return after being abducted.
According to Gunn, “it was freaking sad so we took it out.”
While it would've been sad, it also fits perfectly with the tone of the series, as Grandpa Quill could’ve provided rich territory for a future storyline where Quill returns to Earth.
Even as a standalone moment, it was a perfect example of Guardians’ ability to combine sweetness and dark humor.
12 Hurt: Sarah doesn't escape - The Descent
Sometimes a twist can be uncanceled and continue to hurt a movie's legacy. Such is the case of The Descent.
In the original ending released internationally, Sarah escapes the cave and reunites with her daughter, but this is revealed to be a fantasy. She is actually still in the cave and a creature is approaching.
As Entertainment Weekly reported, the U.S. version was changed so that she escapes.
While this version includes a final jump scare as she drives away, it is considerably less bleak. It also allowed the studio to make a sequel where Sarah returns to the cave.
Given the sequel’s dismal reviews and the fact that it made no sense for audiences outside the U.S., this was a twist that should’ve stayed canceled, as it dulls the effect of the movie's original ending.
11 Helped: Evan ends his life - The Butterfly Effect
The Butterfly Effect may not have greatly impressed critics, but it resonated with audiences enough to become a small classic and turn Ashton Kutcher into a star.
It also boasts an alternate ending that is more impressive than what was left in.
At the end of the original, Evan goes back in time, scares his friend so that they won’t become friends, and spares everyone a traumatic childhood.
Overall, it’s a sensible end to your standard time-travel thriller.
However, as Screen Crush noted, the director’s cut goes a different route. Evan travels back to the womb and strangles himself to alter his friends’ lives for the better.
While it’s not surprising that the producers would go for the more conventional ending, the alternate one is far more interesting and different.
10 Hurt: Tony Stark denies being Iron Man - Iron Man
Iron Man was the flagship entry for the MCU, and its success is widely attributed to Robert Downey Jr.’s charismatic portrayal of Tony Stark.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the final scene where Stark flips the script on superhero movie tropes and forsakes a secret identity.
However, as MCU head honcho Kevin Feige revealed to Deadline, Stark was originally supposed to deny being Iron Man.
Downey Jr. went off script and Feige and co. decided to stick with it because it seemed true to the character.
With this, the Iron Man franchise was able to forgo many of the tired tropes that define superhero movies, like having to hide the secret identity and balance a personal life, and dive deeper into universe building.
This flexibility has made the MCU into the most ambitious cinematic universe.
9 Helped: The aliens get to Earth - Alien 3
Alien 3 had a famously troubled production. As Den of Geek detailed, it didn’t know how to pick up where Aliens left off.
Alien 3 begins by getting rid of Newt and Hicks, who had been envisaged as main characters in a third instalment. Keeping them alive would have built on the positive response audiences had for Aliens.
Another abandoned twist was to have the aliens come to Earth. This was so hyped that the studio released a trailer for the movie before it was written.
Both or either of these ideas would’ve helped raise the stakes by including a family unit and more personal consequences. Instead, the studio treaded water by turning an exciting, auteur-led franchise into a creature feature.
8 Hurt: Joel and Clementine grow old together - Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of the most acclaimed movies of the century for a reason. Aside from the brilliant script and performances, much of this is the result of editing.
The original script shows Joel and Clementine well into old age. They have been getting together, breaking up, and erasing their memories repeatedly for years.
Unlike some of the other twists on this list, this isn’t a bad twist. It fits the theme of the movie, reinforces the characters’ relationships, and has something to say for how love can be both undeniable and haunting.
Still, in a movie that uses a non-linear storyline and is about scrambled memories, adding more scrambled memories wouldn't have helped.
Given that what hit the screen is roundly considered perfect, the filmmakers made the right choice.
7 Helped: Alex grows out of his violent phase - A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick movies aren’t for everyone, and some of his most vocal critics are the authors whose works he adapted.
Stephen King hated The Shining, but A Clockwork Orange author Anthony Burgess had a legitimate grievance when Kubrick removed the last chapter of his book.
The movie ends with Alex back to his violent, psychopathic ways. The book continues after this and shows him growing out of violence, realizing that he wants more out of life.
Kubrick thought that this was uncinematic, but the movie feels oddly unfinished without it, as if Kubrick lopped off the end of something to make it seem more nihilistic and anarchic than it really was.
Considering that Kubrick personally removed the movie from cinemas after it inspired copycat violence, perhaps the final chapter was more important than he thought.
6 Hurt: The alien takes down Ripley - Alien
Ripley’s sign off at the end of Alien is an iconic movie ending, but it originally wasn’t her who did it.
As Slash Film reported, Ridley Scott planned to have the Alien appear, rip Ripley’s head off, and mimic a human voice.
This twist would’ve hurt the movie for a few reasons. It would’ve meant no more Ripley and thus no Alien. It might have also meant no more Alien movies or accelerated the franchise’s transformation into a series of disposable, misguided entries.
More than any of this, it would’ve robbed perhaps the ultimate sci-fi/horror movie of a rare, well-deserved moment of triumph that shows that going dark isn’t always the answer.
5 Helped: Whiplash takes Pepper Potts hostage - Iron Man 2
As one of the most disparaged entries in the MCU, Iron Man 2 has its share of problems. For example, it's rushed, overstuffed, and underdeveloped.
For these reasons, a deleted scene might’ve helped make the movie much more substantial.
In a clip released on the MCU Phase One box set, Whiplash takes Pepper hostage and demands that Tony surrender his suit.
As Collider notes, it is kind of anticlimactic, but it at least provides Mickey Rourke with actual scenery to chew and gives the main hero and villain a real face off.
Given that the climax that made it into the movie was basically a drone battle, there’s no reason that the film couldn’t have featured both climaxes and even thrown in an extra one for Justin Hammer.
Instead, Iron Man 2 is a reminder that Marvel does make mistakes.
4 Hurt: Quicksilver survives - Avengers: Age of Ultron
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Quicksilver is the one super-powered character who doesn’t make it to the end. However, there were alternate versions where this wasn’t the case.
As writer/director Joss Whedon told Empire, he considered having Quicksilver survive.
They even shot a scene where he appears at the end as part of the new Avengers. However, Whedon knew that he had to go. The twist of having him survive a barrage of gunshots would’ve hurt the movie.
Aside from the fact that surviving so many shots based on super-speed alone would’ve been too much for most viewers to believe, Quicksilver’s fate provides some emotional depth in a movie that didn’t succeed at raising the stakes.
Also, Quicksilver had been the breakout character of the rival X-Men franchise’s last movie, so ditching him made things less confusing for both universes.
3 Helped: Zod is sent back to the Phantom Zone- Man of Steel
The ending of Man of Steel is controversial. Superman and Zod basically destroy Metropolis before Superman snaps Zod’s neck so he won’t turn his heat vision on a family.
This was director Zach Snyder’s idea. Originally, Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer had Zod sent back to the Phantom Zone.
That twist would’ve helped the movie since MoS’ ending generated a lot of ire from fans, as Superman is not supposed to take a life.
While Snyder has been adamant in defending it, Nolan and Goyer’s ending was more tasteful.
MoS was another in a long line of movies that climaxed with the destruction of cities with almost no concern for the scale of that destruction.
Sending Zod back might’ve been away to avoid another generic finale that trafficked in apocalyptic imagery and used violence as shorthand for character development.
2 Hurt: Malkovich is turned into a puppet - Being John Malkovich
Being John Malkovich is a crazily imaginative movie that has a crazy ending.
In the film, puppeteer Craig manages to inhabit the body of John Malkovich for a few months, but he is eventually replaced by a cult and finds himself trapped in the daughter of his former lover and ex-wife.
The original ending was far crazier. Birth Death Movies provides a very thorough description, and while there is too much to describe here, it includes Malkovich being turned into a puppet, a competition for best puppeteer in the world, fire-breathing, Harry Truman, and the devil taking over the world.
While the bizarre audacity of the original ending is fascinating and commendable, the final ending is more down-to-earth and, as a result, more haunting.
Despite taking things down a notch, it is still really bizarre.
1 Helped: Vanessa doesn't come back - Deadpool 2
The demise of Deadpool’s girlfriend Vanessa served as a catalyst for much of Deadpool 2, but this event is prevented in a post-credits scene.
As we reported, Vanessa was originally supposed to stay deceased, and this late stage retconning rubbed fans the wrong way, even if it was the kind of irreverent, meta trick that audiences expect from the franchise.
The writers themselves described it as “we got to have our cake and eat it too.”
This is a shame. In a franchise that prides itself on being different from other superhero movies, Deadpool 2 could’ve set itself apart by actually letting a developed, central character meet a final fate and having a character grow from it.
Instead, the filmmakers went with the worst kind of twist — one that devalues everything that came before it.
Can you think of any other canceled plot twists that would've hurt or saved sci-fi movies? Let us know in the comments!
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