Movies have been ruined by their endings plenty of times. Whether that had to do with a limited production budget, resources, time, or a creative decision, we don’t know. There are other times, however, when more than one ending is filmed and released for a movie. Though the reasons may differ, it is more than likely that because test audiences are left unfulfilled, film production companies decide to re-edit and film an entirely new one(s) to satisfy their respective audiences.
Because the endings of movies such as 28 Days Later and Brazil were deemed “too dark” for American audiences, production companies decided to film alternative endings for them. More notoriously, the ending (and even narrative) of Once Upon a Time in Americawere altered so much that they cut the initial film by 90 minutes.
10 ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch’ (2018)
Black Mirror: Bandersnatch is a stand-alone interactive film where viewers make decisions for the protagonist that will determine the character’s eventual fate in five possible endings — although it is believed that there may be more than that. The film centers around a young programmer, Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead), and a few other characters, including his father (Craig Parkinson), his therapist (Alice Lowe), and a handful of people who work at a video game company (Asim Chaudhry and Will Poulter).
Though the protagonist’s fate entirely relies on the choices made by the viewers: the film has five endings, but according to Variety, the endings and paths you can take to get to them result in one trillion permutations of the story.
9 ‘Unfriended: Dark Web’ (2018)
Unfriended: Dark Web, the stand-alone sequel to 2014’s Unfriended, is a horror film that takes place entirely on the web. Matias (Colin Woodell) decides to bring a laptop he found at the lost-and-found of a cyber café. When making a Skype call to his four other friends, he opens a folder and finds disturbing videos of people in danger. What started as an enjoyable evening soon became something far more sinister than any of them imagined.
The first of two alternate endings show Matias’ girlfriend, Amaya (Stephanie Nogueras), waking up in his apartment and discovering a hole in her skull. Later, we see a poll that votes for Matias getting run over by a white van with his murder pinned on Amaya. The second ending, however, shows Matias buried alive in a coffin and calling Amaya, but the film ends before showing his final fate.
8 ‘1408’ (2007)
Adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name, 1408 is a horror film that follows cynical author Mike Enslin (John Cusack), who debunks supernatural events. Upon receiving an anonymous postcard with a picture of The Dolphin hotel stating, “Don’t enter 1408.” Mike becomes intrigued and decides to pay the hotel a visit. Little did he know that his time before arriving at The Dolphin Hotel would be the last of his cynicism about supernatural phenomena.
While the original ending (the director’s cut) of the film showed Mike being burnt alive inside the hotel room, the ending of the theatrical release showed Mike surviving the experience and believing that everything had been a dream, and later hearing the voice of his dead daughter through the tape recorder he had been using. Though the original ending is now the default version shown on streaming platforms across the US and Canada, other countries such as Holland, Japan, and Australia received the alternative ending.
7 ‘The Descent’ (2005)
The Descent is a British horror film that follows Sarah and her friends who do their annual reunion for an adventure in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. As the group of friends decides to enter a cave in the mountains, they soon discover that bizarre humanoid creatures inhabit the caves.
The original film ends with Sarah escaping the bloodthirsty crawlers, only to wake up in the cave again and revealing that the whole thing had been a dream. But as she sits in the darkened cave, the sound of the crawlers suddenly comes back, and the film cuts to black, leaving the impression that she never made it out of the cave. In the American version, however, Sarah successfully escapes the cave and drives off, but she sees a hallucination of her late daughter Juno next to her, and then the film cuts to black. Although the American ending was still harrowing, it was not as powerful as the chilling end of the original version.
6 ‘28 Days Later’ (2002)
Britain faces a virus called “Rage” after several animal activists freed an infected chimpanzee from a laboratory. Twenty-eight days after the outbreak, bike courier Jim (Cillian Murphy) wakes up from a coma and finds himself in a catastrophic but deserted London. While getting away from the infected humans, who are now zombies, Jim meets a group of survivors and joins them on a treacherous journey to safety.
Three alternate endings were filmed for Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later and are featured in the DVD extras. While the first ending shows Jim dying at the hospital after being shot and losing a large amount of blood, the second ending concludes with an absent Jim (presumably dead) and the two remaining survivors spelling out “HELLO” to catch the attention of a passing plane. However, it is unclear whether they are rescued. The last ending, which some argue is not a proper ending due to being shown in the form of a storyboard, shows Jim sacrificing himself by undergoing a blood transfusion to save Frank (Brendan Gleeson).
5 ‘Fatal Attraction’ (1987)
Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has it all; a loving wife and daughter and a career at a New York law firm. But seeing that those things aren’t enough for him, he starts a casual affair with a book editor named Alex (Glenn Close). Dan, who thought of nothing of it but a simple fling, ends things with Alex. However, Alex becomes upset and eventually obsesses over Dan by stalking and terrorizing him and his family.
The theatrical ending of Fatal Attraction shows Alex suddenly appearing with a kitchen knife and coming close to killing Dan’s wife, Beth (Anne Archer). Dan wrestles Alex to the tub and drowns her, but she reemerges. Luckily, Beth shoots her in the chest and kills her. While this seems like a “hopeful” ending for Dan and his family, the Japanese audience got an alternative one. Earlier in the film, Dan and Alex discuss Madame Butterfly, an opera that ends with a leading character committing suicide. Near the film’s end, Dan is framed for her murder but acquitted when evidence proves he didn’t do it. Then, the final scene flashes back to Alex taking her own life with a knife while listening to Madame Butterfly.
4 ‘Brazil’ (1985)
In a dystopian hyper-consumerist world, Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) escapes his dull day-to-day life by imagining himself as a winged warrior assigned to investigate a wrongful arrest and death of an innocent man, Harry Tuttle (Robert De Niro), who the government mistook for a terrorist. But while doing this, he meets the woman of his dreams, Jill Layton (Kim Greist), and gets sidetracked from completing his mission.
The original ending of Brazil shows Sam escaping the government and happily flying off into the clouds with Jill. In reality, however, Sam has been captured by the government, and everything has actually been part of Sam’s imagination. As Universal Pictures deemed the ending “too dark” for American audiences, they re-edited the film’s ending without director Terry Gilliam‘s permission. But after much to Gilliam’s protest, Universal Pictures eventually succumbed to releasing the original version of the film. Although the re-edited version was never screened in the theaters, it still occasionally pops up on television networks in different parts of the world.
3 ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984)
Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America probably holds the title for the most re-editing ever done to a film. The first difference is the running time of the film itself, with the original European version being 229 minutes long (nearly 4 hours) and the re-edited version shown in the United States being only a little over two hours long. What made the original version of Once Upon a Time in America so well-liked is the non-chronological narrative of the film, which consisted of the going back-and-forth scenes between his childhood and elderly years.
However, in the American version re-arranged by Warner Bros. Studios, the decision to arrange the film chronologically loses the sense of nostalgia altogether. In the original film, the ambiguous ending of Max’s (James Woods) fate leaves a more powerful impression on the audience. However, the American version ends with Max dying after giving his testimony and telling Noodles (Robert De Niro) that he is “a dead man,” which does not have the same impact as the original.
2 ‘Blade Runner’ (1982)
Believe it or not, seven versions of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner have been shown to test audiences and released in theaters. While the original version satisfied most overseas audiences, the original version did poorly among American test audiences and thus prompted Warner Bros. to re-edit the film. A happier ending shows Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) and Rachael (Sean Young) driving off into the sunset and Deckard’s voice-over saying that Rachael doesn’t have a four-year lifespan like other replicants.
Thanks to the modern audiences’ discovery that the initial reaction to the film was mixed, the original version of Blade Runner has since been restored and lived up to Scott’s initial vision for the film.
1 ‘The Sound of Music’ (1965)
The Sound of Music may have been a global sensation and become one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Unfortunately, it did not reciprocate well in Germany. Anyone who has seen The Sound of Music may be aware of the heavy Nazi imagery present in the film. According to The Sound of Music: The Making of America’s Favorite Movie by Julia Antopol Hirsch, 20th Century Fox decided to do a massive re-edit of the ending, which was essentially removing the whole third act of the film.
The original ending, which consisted of the escape to Switzerland, was never shown in the German release of the film. For this reason, The Sound of Music did very poorly at the German box office and did not receive the same response it had received from other parts of the world.
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