55 Unfortunately Unfinished Films

This week, John Green looks at 55 films that never made it to the silver screen.

Don't miss an episode—subscribe here! Images and footage provided by our friends at Shutterstock. Here's a transcript courtesy of Nerdfighteria Wiki: 

Hi, I'm John Green. Welcome to my salon. I think my brother is about to get eaten by an anglerfish.

1. This is mental_floss on YouTube, and did you know that Martin Scorsese wanted The Clash to star in Gangs of New York before Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day Lewis came along?

So The Clash are like "Ugh, should I stay or should I go?" and then they went, or alternately, The Clash were like "I'm sorry Martin Scorsese, but London is calling." Those are both terrible jokes.

Anyway, that's the first of many tragically unfinished films that I'm going to tell you about today.

2. Both David Lynch and David Cronenberg were in consideration to make a Star Wars film, although they both claim they were only approached and nothing further.

3. And speaking of David Lynch films that were never made, Ronnie Rocket was going to be his follow up to Eraserhead. The film is about a three-foot tall man who runs on electricity. In a 2013 interview, Lynch said that he's still open to making the film actually but fears not being able to find the industrial-looking locations that he needs. He claimed, quote, "Cheap storm windows and graffiti have ruined the world for Ronnie Rocket."

4. There are a couple films that couldn't be completed because a star died halfway through the shooting process, like the 1962 movie Something's Got to Give which would have starred Marilyn Monroe.

5. Then there's the famously cursed adaptation of the great comic novel A Confederacy of Dunces, like when John Belushi was cast in 1982 and then died. The role was given to John Candy in 1994 and then he died. The same thing happened to Chris Farley in 1997. What is this?! And then, a few years later, Will Ferrell hoped to star in the film but it still looks like it's not going to get made. I-I-I-I … just don't die Will Ferrell. I need you in Anchor Man 5.

6. In 1989, Sergio Leone, the director of The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, had secured 100 million dollars in financing for his war epic Leningrad, which he wanted to star Robert De Niro, but Leone died mere months before they were going to start production.

7. And then there's the Disney version of The Little Prince, which was written by none other than Orson Welles and storyboarded in the 1930s, but then never made.

8., 9., 10. There have been a few other Disney movies that weren't ever made, including an adaption of Roald Dahl's The Gremlins, a 2009 remake of Yellow Submarine, and Uncle Stiltskin, the story of Rumplestiltskin.

11., 12. Orson Welles also tried to adapt Heart of Darkness into a film before it was rejected by his studio, RKO, for being too costly. He then attempted to take on an adaption of The Smiler With a Knife starring Lucille Ball which RKO also rejected. The film he then made? Citizen Kane.

13. When Orson Welles died, by the way, he left behind 300,000 feet of his film for Don Quixote which, if you've ever actually read Don Quixote, is kind of hilarious … but also tragic. Like the book! He made several films for the sole purpose of financing Don Quixote and he spent, like, 30 years trying to shoot and complete the project in locations like Mexico and Spain and Italy, but then he died.

14. The 1990s saw the development of a Tim Burton-directed and Kevin Smith-written film titled Superman Lives starring none other than Nic Cage as Superman and also, presumably, Clark Kent. Luckily for our imaginations, photos of Cage as Superman have leaked online; unluckily, copyright law prevents us from showing them to you.

15., 16. The were a bunch of Spider-Man movies that were never made, like a fourth film in the Tobey Maguire series which started and stopped production, and also a 1991 film written and directed by James Cameron in which Spider-Man lives on an ocean liner and is 8 feet 6 inches tall and blue.

17., 18., 19., 20., 21., 22. Other abandoned superhero movies that made it into various stages of production and planning include Plastic ManThe FlashGreen ArrowDazzler, and Silver Surfer, which I would still like to see, but that's nothing compared to a 1965 Batman versus Godzilla movie that was never made. I mean, how can you not revive that project, Hollywood? You made the movie Battleship. Please, if not that, at least 1964's Godzilla versus Frankenstein. Here are some other A-number-1 ideas, Hollywood: Batman versus Duckie, Batman versus Boba Fett, and Batman versus Dwight Eisenhower.

23. Bradley Cooper was supposed to play Lucifer in an adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost but the special effects budget was too large for Legendary Pictures to handle. I mean, there are a lot of flying angels in that book, so production stopped in 2012.

24. Francis Ford Coppola spent almost 20 years planning a science fiction film titled Megalopolis. He even had 30 hours of footage filmed, specifically sequences of New York pre- and post-9/11. A major part of the film's plot involved rebuilding New York, so after 9/11, Coppola stated, "I feel as though history has come to my doorstep." But then production got too expensive and stopped later in 2001, so … so much for history at your doorstep, dude.

25. Before David Lynch adapted Dune, Alejandro Jodorowsky wanted to make the film in the 1970s starring some people you might have heard of, like Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, and Salvador Dali. He also wanted Pink Floyd to provide the soundtrack. Again, finances made the film impossible, which makes sense because apparently Dali insisted to be paid 100,000 dollars per hour. Ridley Scott was later hired to make Dune but had to drop out so we got David Lynch, which, you know, not so bad.

26. Mel Gibson was preparing to make an adaption of Fahrenheit 451 in 2006 but you may remember that there were other things going on in Mel Gibson's life in 2006 so, yeah, no.

27. In 1971, Stanley Kubrick wrote to a colleague, "It's impossible to tell you what I'm going to do except to say that I expect to make the best movie ever made." We'll never know if he was right because Napoleon never went into production. The budget was around 5.2 million dollars, which is like 33 million dollars in today's terms, and the Romanian Army had even agreed to be in the battle scenes because, you know, this was pre-CGI, but Kubrick couldn't get the money together. He continued to work on the movie until his death in 1999, collecting one of the world's largest and most comprehensive archives about Napoleon inside of his own house, and the saga isn't over yet because Steven Spielberg hopes to make a miniseries from Kubrick's script.

28. Ridley Scott planned to adapt Cormac McCarthy's violent novel Blood Meridian but later stated, "I think it's a really tricky one, and maybe it's something that should be left as a novel," which, by the way, is what many hundreds of movie producers have said about my book, Looking for Alaska, in the last ten years.

29. David Fincher worked for a long time on a remake of the film Heavy Metal but he couldn't get it made because it was impossible to get a studio to sign on to an R-rated cartoon. Even after famous directors agreed to join the project like James Cameron, Zack Snyder, who directed 300, and Gore Verbinski, who directed Pirates of the Caribbean, Fincher still couldn't get the project going.

30. Peter Jackson hired Neill Blomkamp to direct a movie based on the Halo video game series, but the movie stopped production in 2006, and then Jackson and his partner felt really bad for Blomkamp so they helped him get 30 million dollars for his passion project which would become the Oscar-nominated District 9. Moral of the story? Get Peter Jackson to feel bad for you because then he'll find you 30 million dollars.

31. In the 1960s, John Lennon desperately wanted to play the role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings. Paul McCartney would be Frodo, Ringo Starr would be Sam, and George Harrison would be Gandalf and no, I am not making this up. Stanley Kubrick was approached to direct the movie but J. R. R. Tolkien owned the movie rights to his book and wouldn't allow the project to happen. You monster! I'm just going to put this out there right now: If the boys from One Direction want to star in a movie version of An Abundance of Katherines, I'm in.

32. You guys remember when I compared One Direction to the Beatles? Sometimes movies do get made but then they're lost, which is what happened to Quentin Tarantino's 1987 film My Best Friend's Birthday. Only 36 out of 70 minutes of the film survived due to an unfortunate fire.

33. What?! They're both boy bands! Alright, another example of an apparently lost film is Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales, one of Richard Pryor's first movies. For years, it was rumored that Pryor's wife destroyed the film's negatives, never to be seen again, but then in 2005, a Director's Guild film retrospective apparently featured clips from the movie, so is it gone forever? We still don't know.

34. One of the biggest mysteries to film fans is The Day the Clown Cried from 1972. Jerry Lewis directed and starred in his first serious film about a clown entertaining children in a Nazi concentration camp. The film was finished but Lewis never allowed it to be released for still unknown reasons.

35. In 1977, the great Roger Ebert wrote a screenplay for Who Killed Bambi? which would have been similar to the Beatles' films but starred the Sex Pistols. Two days into filming, production stopped due to financial problems but Ebert posted the screenplay on his blog in 2010.

36. Before Martin Scorsese made the Oscar-nominated film The Aviator starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Christopher Nolan wanted to make a Howard Hughes biopic starring Jim Carrey. After the fact, the director said, "Luckily, I managed to find another wealthy, quirky character who is orphaned at a young age." That character was, of course, Batman.

37., 38.  Sylvester Stallone has been trying to direct a movie about Edgar Allan Poe for like, forever; he envisions Robert Downey, Jr. in the lead role, but if they can't pull that together, might I suggest that they revive the unfilmed script Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula. I mean, imagine the possibilities, and also the GIFs, and further, the GIFs.

39-55. And we return to the salon to finish up with some movie sequels which were in various stages of planning and production before they were canceled, like E.T. 2: Nocturnal FearsAirplane IIIGladiator 2Mrs. Doubtfire 2Elf 2: Buddy Saves ChristmasChinatown, which was supposed to be the start of a trilogy, The Breakfast Club sequel, Forrest Gump 2: Gump and Co.Brazzaville, the sequel to CasablancaBasic Instinct 3, directed by—who else?—Sharon Stone, Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?—Mark, that one isn't real, is it? Seriously Dude, Where's My Car? How did that not get made? We just gotta put that one on Kickstarter and it'll get done like that. Then there's Kill Bill: Volume 3Twister 3DGremlins 3DThe Matrix 4Napoleon Dynamite 2, and Beetlejuice 2: Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian.

Thanks for watching mental_floss here on YouTube, which is made with the help of all of these nice people. Every week, we endeavor to answer one of your mind-blowing questions. This week's question comes from James Whiteford who asks, "Can sharks really smell blood a mile away?" Yes. In fact, according to National Geographic, great white sharks can smell blood from 3 miles away and that, my friends, is why you don't swim in the ocean—well, and also because it contains a lot of mussel sperm, as you'll no doubt remember from that video. You can submit your mind-blowing questions and comments. Also, let us know which of these films you would most like to have seen. I know already, it's Seriously Dude, Where's My Car?

Thank you for watching and as we say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
The 10 Wildest Movie Plot Twists
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Laura Harring in Mulholland Drive (2001)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

An ending often makes or breaks a movie. There’s nothing quite as satisfying as having the rug pulled out from under you, particularly in a thriller. But too many flicks that try to shock can’t stick the landing—they’re outlandish and illogical, or signal where the plot is headed. Not all of these films are entirely successful, but they have one important attribute in common: From the classic to the cultishly beloved, they involve hard-to-predict twists that really do blow viewers’ minds, then linger there for days, if not life. (Warning: Massive spoilers below.)

1. PSYCHO (1960)

Alfred Hitchcock often constructed his movies like neat games that manipulated the audience. The Master of Suspense delved headfirst into horror with Psycho, which follows a secretary (Janet Leigh) who sneaks off with $40,000 and hides in a motel. The ensuing jolt depends on Leigh’s fame at the time: No one expected the ostensible star and protagonist to die in a gory (for the time) shower butchering only a third of the way into the running time. Hitchcock outdid that feat with the last-act revelation that Anthony Perkins’s supremely creepy Norman Bates is embodying his dead mother.

2. PLANET OF THE APES (1968)

No, not the botched Tim Burton remake that tweaked the original movie’s famous reveal in a way that left everyone scratching their heads. The Charlton Heston-starring sci-fi gem continues to stupefy anyone who comes into its orbit. Heston, of course, plays an astronaut who travels to a strange land where advanced apes lord over human slaves. It becomes clear once he finds the decrepit remains of the Statue of Liberty that he’s in fact on a future Earth. The anti-violence message, especially during the political tumult of 1968, shook people up as much as the time warp.

3. DEEP RED (1975)

It’s not rare for a horror movie to flip the script when it comes to unmasking its killer, but it’s much rarer that such a film causes a viewer to question their own perception of the world around them. Such is the case for Deep Red, Italian director Dario Argento’s (Suspiria) slasher masterpiece. A pianist living in Rome (David Hemmings) comes upon the murder of a woman in her apartment and teams up with a female reporter to find the person responsible. Argento’s whodunit is filled to the brim with gorgeous photography, ghastly sights, and delirious twists. But best of all is the final sequence, in which the pianist retraces his steps to discover that the killer had been hiding in plain sight all along. Rewind to the beginning and you’ll discover that you caught an unknowing glimpse, too.

4. SLEEPAWAY CAMP (1983)

Sleepaway Camp is notorious among horror fans for a number of reasons: the bizarre, stilted acting and dialogue; hilariously amateurish special effects; and ‘80s-to-their-core fashions. But it’s best known for the mind-bending ending, which—full disclosure—reads as possibly transphobic today, though it’s really hard to say what writer-director Robert Hiltzik had in mind. Years after a boating accident that leaves one of two siblings dead, Angela is raised by her aunt and sent to a summer camp with her cousin, where a killer wreaks havoc. In the lurid climax, we see that moody Angela is not only the murderer—she’s actually a boy. Her aunt, who always wanted a daughter, raised her as if she were her late brother. The final animalistic shot prompts as many gasps as cackles.

5. THE USUAL SUSPECTS (1995)

The Usual Suspects has left everyone who watches it breathless by the time they get to the fakeout conclusion. Roger "Verbal" Kint (Kevin Spacey), a criminal with cerebral palsy, regales an interrogator in the stories of his exploits with a band of fellow crooks, seen in flashback. Hovering over this is the mysterious villainous figure Keyser Söze. It’s not until Verbal leaves and jumps into a car that customs agent David Kujan realizes that the man fabricated details, tricking the law and the viewer into his fake reality, and is in fact the fabled Söze.

6. PRIMAL FEAR (1996)

No courtroom movie can surpass Primal Fear’s discombobulating effect. Richard Gere’s defense attorney becomes strongly convinced that his altar boy client Aaron (Edward Norton) didn’t commit the murder of an archbishop with which he’s charged. The meek, stuttering Aaron has sudden violent outbursts in which he becomes "Roy" and is diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, leading to a not guilty ruling. Gere’s lawyer visits Aaron about the news, and as he’s leaving, a wonderfully maniacal Norton reveals that he faked the multiple personalities.

7. FIGHT CLUB (1999)

Edward Norton is no stranger to taking on extremely disparate personalities in his roles, from Primal Fear to American History X. The unassuming actor can quickly turn vicious, which led to ideal casting for Fight Club, director David Fincher’s adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel. Fincher cleverly keeps the audience in the dark about the connections between Norton’s timid, unnamed narrator and Brad Pitt’s hunky, aggressive Tyler Durden. After the two start the titular bruising group, the plot significantly increases the stakes, with the club turning into a sort of anarchist terrorist organization. The narrator eventually comes to grips with the fact that he is Tyler and has caused all the destruction around him.

8. THE SIXTH SENSE (1999)

Early in his career, M. Night Shyamalan was frequently (perhaps a little too frequently) compared to Hitchcock for his ability to ratchet up tension while misdirecting his audience. He hasn’t always earned stellar reviews since, but The Sixth Sense remains deservedly legendary for its final twist. At the end of the ghost story, in which little Haley Joel Osment can see dead people, it turns out that the psychologist (Bruce Willis) who’s been working with the boy is no longer living himself, the result of a gunshot wound witnessed in the opening sequence.

9. THE OTHERS (2001)

The Sixth Sense’s climax was spooky, but not nearly as unnerving as Nicole Kidman’s similarly themed ghost movie The Others, released just a couple years later. Kidman gives a superb performance in the elegantly styled film from the Spanish writer-director Alejandro Amenábar, playing a mother in a country house after World War II protecting her photosensitive children from light and, eventually, dead spirits occupying the place. Only by the end does it become clear that she’s in denial about the fact that she’s a ghost, having killed her children in a psychotic break before committing suicide. It’s a bleak capper to a genuinely haunting yarn.

10. MULHOLLAND DRIVE (2001)

David Lynch’s surrealist movies may follow dream logic, but that doesn’t mean their plots can’t be readily discerned. Mulholland Drive is his most striking work precisely because, in spite of its more wacko moments, it adds up to a coherent, tragic story. The mystery starts innocently enough with the dark-haired Rita (Laura Elena Harring) waking up with amnesia from a car accident in Los Angeles and piecing together her identity alongside the plucky aspiring actress Betty (Naomi Watts). It takes a blue box to unlock the secret that Betty is in fact Diane, who is in love with and envious of Camilla (also played by Harring) and has concocted a fantasy version of their lives. The real Diane arranges for Camilla to be killed, leading to her intense guilt and suicide. Only Lynch can go from Nancy Drew to nihilism so swiftly and deftly.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
Hollywood's 5 Favorite Movie Villains
iStock
iStock

Movie villains are meant to bring out the best in a hero, but with the right script, director, and performer in place, these bad guys can sometimes steal the show from their clean-cut rivals.

Take any horror movie, for example—chances are you’re not watching Friday the 13th to root for the absentminded teenagers down at Camp Crystal Lake. And Steven Spielberg certainly didn’t become a household name by directing a shark movie titled Three Guys on a Boat Drinking Narragansett.

The Hollywood Reporter set out to celebrate these iconic agents of evil by surveying 1000 professionals in the entertainment industry (directors, producers, entertainment attorneys, etc.) on their favorite movie villains. A rogues' gallery of murderous AI, mafia bosses, and a diabolical fashion magazine editor all made the top 25 list as the worst of the worst, and while they’re all deserving, the top five are the gold standard. They include:

5. Nurse Ratched: Played by Louise Fletcher in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975)
4. The Joker: Played by Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008)
3. The Wicked Witch of the West: Played by Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz (1939)
2. Hannibal Lecter: Played by Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs (1991), Hannibal (2001), and Red Dragon (2002)
1. Darth Vader: Played by David Prowse and James Earl Jones in the Star Wars movies (Prowse 1977-1983, Jones 1977-present)

That top spot might not come as a surprise to most, unless you’re still in your twenties: According to The Hollywood Reporter, survey respondents in that age group put Darth Vader in the sixth spot—behind Regina George from Mean Girls.

To check out the entire list, head to The Hollywood Reporter.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios