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The Alternate Endings of 28 Famous Movies

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Can you imagine a happy ending for Jason Bourne? Sarah Connor enjoying her grandchildren? Andie ending up with Ducky? Whether the directors simply changed their minds or were influenced by the reactions of test audiences, some of our favorite movies once had completely different endings. Here are 28 of them. Spoilers abound!

1. Dr. Strangelove

The ending to this one is so iconic it's almost impossible to fathom it ending any other way. The ending that was used, of course, was Major T.J. "King" Kong riding a nuclear bomb like it's a bucking bronco, followed by Dr. Strangelove miraculously regaining the ability to walk just as the Doomsday Machine activates and detonates nuclear bombs across the world. But all of this could have been replaced with a massive fight at the Pentagon—a piefight. Everyone in the war room, including the POTUS and the Russian Ambassador, cream each other in the face with pies like they're slapstick vaudevillians. Director Stanley Kubrick ended up cutting the scene because he "decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film." No kidding.

2. Terminator 2

The year is 2029, Sarah Connor is a happy grandmother, and her son John is a senator. Everyone lives happily ever after. That's great and all, but it didn't leave much room for sequels. The studio preferred dollar signs to happy endings.

3. Rocky

Stallone’s original screenplay had Rocky accepting money to throw the fight against Apollo Creed—who would have been Jamaican, by the way. Rocky then uses the cash to help Adrian open a pet store. So ... good script editing, there.

4. Clerks

Depressingly, Clerks originally ended with Dante getting shot and killed by a robber. Kevin Smith said he ended it that way because he didn't know how to end it otherwise, but when his two mentors informed him that the ending was just a giant downer, he decided to end the movie just before the scene where Dante is killed.

5. I Am Legend

Another hopeful ending here. At the end of the version that was released, Dr. Neville heroically blows himself and a bunch of Darkseekers up, saving Anna and Ethan, but giving them the cure before he goes. Critics didn't care for the ending, but perhaps they would have preferred the one where the Darkseekers break into Neville's lab because they're looking for the female Darkseeker he has been experimenting on. Once Neville realizes this and gives the female back, the rest of the mob backs off and Neville realizes that the infected just see him as a murderer of their kind.

6. Fatal Attraction

Audiences were bored to tears by the original ending, in which Dan is charged with murder while an Alex voice-over confesses suicide. Bad audience reaction prompted a change to the ending we know now: the famous bathtub shooting. But Glenn Close hated this ending and fought hard against it, arguing that her character was more likely to self-destruct and commit suicide. She even had psychiatrists analyze Alex. They agreed. After three weeks of resisting, she gave in and filmed the ending that was released. The original ending was kept for the Japanese release of the film, however.

7. Little Shop of Horrors

The 1986 version of this movie-musical was supposed to end with Audrey II killing Audrey and Seymour and taking over New York City. That's in keeping with the off-Broadway ending, which is what the movie was based on. It's said that Frank Oz and most of the actors, including Rick Moranis, much prefer this ending.

8. Thelma and Louise

Only a tiny tweak here, but a fairly significant one—the first ending showed Thelma and Louise's car tumbling all the way to the canyon floor, no doubt getting pulverized in the process. Harvey Keitel's character finds the Polaroid that blew out of the car and looks at it as a helicopter heads down into the Grand Canyon to survey the wreckage. As you probably know, the updated ending is a wee bit more hopeful—we see their car drive off the cliff, but not the aftermath. I suppose there's the chance that there's an awning halfway down the canyon that they bounce off of, cartoon-style.

9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

This one got the Thelma and Louise treatment. Or rather, I suppose, Thelma got the Butch Cassidy treatment. The way it ends now is with Butch and Sundance leaving the house with guns a'blazing, and we hear return fire. But we don't actually see anyone die, leaving the ending slightly more ambiguous than the original, where Paul Newman and Robert Redford got to test their acting chops on a gruesome death scene.

10. Clue

It had three alternate endings, but unlike these other movies, you could actually see all three of them when the movie was released—as long as you were willing to pay to see the movie three times. Originally, you didn't know what ending you were going to get until you got to that dividing point at the end of the movie, but eventually, theaters started advertising if ending A, B, or C was playing so patrons could see the endings they hadn't seen yet. Rumor has it there was actually a fourth ending as well, but the filmmakers decided enough was enough.

11. Rambo: First Blood

When the movie was released on DVD in 2004, it included an alternative ending where John Rambo commits suicide. That would have deprived the world of Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, and Rambo. You can see what could have been above.

12. The Butterfly Effect

In the theatrical ending, Evan travels back in time to prevent himself from growing up with his childhood sweetheart. There’s a “happy” ending where he does the same thing, but gets to ask her out for coffee when he runs into her later in life. There’s a third version of this ending where Evan doesn’t introduce himself when he later meets her, but does follow her down the street, leaving the viewer to wonder if they ever connected or not. And then there’s the ending above.

13. Seven

Studio execs preferred an ending that didn’t result in any heads in boxes—or at the very least, not any human ones: Instead of the ending they went with, they wanted to soften the blow by using the head of a beloved family dog instead. Brad Pitt stuck to his guns and said it was Gwyneth’s head or no head—and no film—at all.

14. Pretty in Pink

Everyone seems to want Andie to end up with Duckie at the end of this John Hughes classic, but the thing is... they tried that. Here’s how it went down: Duckie and Andie walk into the center of the room at prom, the DJ plays David Bowie’s “Heroes,” they dance, and, presumably, our favorite misunderstood misfits are together forever. Everyone involved with the film agreed that the ending was a little lackluster, and test audiences agreed. Hear Jon Cryer talk about the original ending in the clip above.

15. Return of the Jedi

According to producer Gary Kurtz, the first version of the script included the death of Han Solo during a raid on an Imperial base. Kurtz says that George Lucas was concerned about how Han’s demise would impact merchandising and refused to kill any of the main characters off, which is why the movie ended in a “a teddy bear luau” instead. Kurtz and Lucas went their separate ways after this film. 

16. The Princess Diaries

Would you have been disappointed if you hadn't seen the fabulous castle the new Princess Mia was headed off to live in? Garry Marshall's granddaughter was. When he showed his 5-year-old granddaughter the film, she was upset that it just ended with Mia agreeing to become a princess. The little girl really wanted to see the castle and the start of Mia's fabulous new life, so Marshall convinced Disney to buy some footage of a European castle, to which they digitally added the Genovian flag. Marshall said it made his granddaughter much happier.

17. Blade Runner

If you’ve always been disappointed in the voiceover that originally concluded Blade Runner, you’re not alone. Harrison Ford hated it, too. It was later removed from the Director’s Cut. You can see the original ending above, and here’s the alternate ending.

Other ending options included Deckard shooting Rachael, Deckard shooting Rachael because she asked him to, and Gaff chasing Deckard and Rachael as they drive.

18. Titanic

Instead of Aged Rose quietly dropping her priceless Heart of the Ocean bauble into the abyss, the original ending had her giving a seriously cheesy speech about life being the only thing that’s priceless. Then she launches that sucker overboard as Bill Paxton laughs maniacally, flashing some dangerously crazy eyes.

19. Pretty Woman

Everyone loves this Cinderella story because there’s a happily ever after. But what if there wasn’t? The original script called for Vivian to receive her envelope of cash as per the original agreement. No one falls in love, there’s no fire escape-climbing, and Vivian ends up back on the streets. “[It was] a really dark and depressing, horrible, terrible story about two horrible people and my character was this drug addict, a bad-tempered, foulmouthed, ill-humored, poorly educated hooker who had this weeklong experience with a foulmouthed, ill-tempered, bad-humored, very wealthy, handsome but horrible man and it was just a grisly, ugly story about these two people,” Julia Roberts has said.

20. Alien

Even after the movie had started production, no one knew exactly where Ripley would be when the credits rolled. The script went through multiple rewrites, and multiple finales were written up. One of Ridley Scott’s ideas was to have the xenomorph bite our heroine’s head off, then record a final entry in her log—using her voice. Producers thought it was too dark and would only provide additional money for filming if the alien bit it in the end instead.

21. Donnie Darko

Donnie still succumbs to his fate—but with this ending, you actually see it. And it’s heartbreaking.

22. The Bourne Identity

Poor Jason Bourne could have had a happy ending with Marie (until they inevitably killed her at the beginning of the sequel, anyway). Instead, execs decided to end the first film by adding one more tragic event to Bourne’s long history of tragic events.

23. The Birds

The ending of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is pretty iconic in its own right, but Hitch had intended it to be even more memorable: The script called for the final shot to show the Golden Gate Bridge completely covered in feathered foes. When it became clear how expensive it would be to create, the scene was scrapped.

24. National Lampoon’s Vacation

Harold Ramis actually shot another ending to National Lampoon’s Vacation and showed it to audiences — and it tested terribly. “[It] bombed so badly that the audience was laughing for eighty minutes and then just stopped cold," he said. That ending? Clark takes his family to Walley’s home and forces him to entertain his family—at gunpoint.

25. The Shining

Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King's hit novel originally ended with a two-minute hospital scene, a way to show us that Danny and Wendy had survived. But while they’re there, the manager of the Overlook Hotel comes in and tells Wendy that police have investigated, and they didn’t find a shred of paranormal evidence. As he leaves, the manager gives Danny a yellow ball—the same one that led him to the infamous room 237. Kubrick cut the scenes at the last minute after seeing audience reaction: “When I was able to see for the first time the fantastic pitch of excitement which the audience reached during the climax of the movie I decided the scene was unnecessary.” He actually had projectionists cut the scene from the film by hand and mail the strips back to Warner Bros.

26. Gone with the Wind

The script change to the end of Gone with the Wind is small, but it drastically changes the character of Scarlett O’Hara. Instead of it ending with Scarlett declaring, “After all tomorrow is another day,” she gets a little desperate: “Rhett! Rhett! You’ll come back. You’ll come back! I know you will!”

27. Heathers

If you weren’t a fan of the Heathers “quasi-happy ending,” take your pick from these three depressing versions:

  • The school blows up, and the movie ends with prom in heaven.
  • At real prom, the kids all enjoy blue drinks from the punchbowl — the same blue stuff that killed Heather Chandler.
  • Veronica asks Martha Dumptruck if she wants to hang out and rent a movie. Martha responds by stabbing Veronica in the stomach and calling her Heather. As she bleeds out, Veronica gasps, “My name’s not Heather, you bitch!”

28. The Lion King

Scar still meets his much-deserved end, but he burns to death instead of being ripped to pieces by hyenas. During their big battle, Scar throws Simba off of a cliff, saying, “Goodnight, sweet prince.” (A nod to Hamlet, one of the works that inspired the movie.) However, Simba’s fall is broken by a tree, and Scar is engulfed by the flames.

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Ernest Hemingway’s Guide to Life, In 20 Quotes
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Though he made his living as a writer, Ernest Hemingway was just as famous for his lust for adventure. Whether he was running with the bulls in Pamplona, fishing for marlin in Bimini, throwing back rum cocktails in Havana, or hanging out with his six-toed cats in Key West, the Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author never did anything halfway. And he used his adventures as fodder for the unparalleled collection of novels, short stories, and nonfiction books he left behind, The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea among them.

On what would be his 118th birthday—he was born in Oak Park, Illinois on July 21, 1899—here are 20 memorable quotes that offer a keen perspective into Hemingway’s way of life.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF LISTENING

"I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen."

ON TRUST

"The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them."

ON DECIDING WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT

"I never had to choose a subject—my subject rather chose me."

ON TRAVEL

"Never go on trips with anyone you do not love."

Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. [1], Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INTELLIGENCE AND HAPPINESS

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know."

ON TRUTH

"There's no one thing that is true. They're all true."

ON THE DOWNSIDE OF PEOPLE

"The only thing that could spoil a day was people. People were always the limiters of happiness, except for the very few that were as good as spring itself."

ON SUFFERING FOR YOUR ART

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."

ON TAKING ACTION

"Never mistake motion for action."

ON GETTING WORDS OUT

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences, and I have to get rid of them fast—talk them or write them down."

Photograph by Mary Hemingway, in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston., Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON THE BENEFITS OF SLEEP

"I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I'm awake, you know?"

ON FINDING STRENGTH 

"The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places."

ON THE TRUE NATURE OF WICKEDNESS

"All things truly wicked start from innocence."

ON WRITING WHAT YOU KNOW

"If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water."

ON THE DEFINITION OF COURAGE

"Courage is grace under pressure."

ON THE PAINFULNESS OF BEING FUNNY

"A man's got to take a lot of punishment to write a really funny book."

By Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston. - JFK Library, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

ON KEEPING PROMISES

"Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."

ON GOOD VS. EVIL

"About morals, I know only that what is moral is what you feel good after and what is immoral is what you feel bad after."

ON REACHING FOR THE UNATTAINABLE

"For a true writer, each book should be a new beginning where he tries again for something that is beyond attainment. He should always try for something that has never been done or that others have tried and failed. Then sometimes, with great luck, he will succeed."

ON HAPPY ENDINGS

"There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than that man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it."

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35 Things You Might Not Know About Mister Rogers
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In this episode of our YouTube series, John Green brings you a whole pile of things you should know about everybody's favorite neighbor. Here's a transcript, courtesy of Nerdfighteria:

Hi, I'm John Green, welcome to my neighborhood. This is mental_floss, and today we're going to talk about Mr. Rogers, with whom I have a lot in common. By the way, thanks to copyright laws, that's the only picture of Mr. Rogers we can afford, so you'll be seeing a lot of it today. But yes, Fred Rogers and I have many similarities:

1. We both considered becoming ministers (he actually did).

2. Both happily married to women named Sara(h).

And we both make stuff for young people... although I don't think that his work has been banned from several dozen high schools in Tennessee.

[intro music]

3. Mr. Rogers was an Ivy League dropout. He completed his freshman year at Dartmouth, and then transferred to Rollins College so he could get a degree in music.

4. And he was an excellent piano player; not only did he graduate from Rollins "Magna cum laude," but he wrote all of the songs on the show, as well as more than 200 other songs, and several kids' operas including one called "All in the Laundry."

5. Mr. Rogers decided to get into television, because when he saw it for the first time he, "hated it so." When he turned on a set, all he saw was angry people throwing pies in each others' faces, and he vowed to use the medium to make the world a better place.

6. Over the years, he talked to kids about their feelings, covering topics as varied as why kids shouldn't be afraid of haircuts, or the bathroom drain (because you won't fit), to bigger issues like divorce and war.

7. In the opening sequence of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood, the stoplight is always on yellow. That's a reminder to kids and parents to slow down a little.

8. Also, Mr. Rogers wasn't afraid of dead air time, unlike me: Once he invited a marine biologist and explorer onto his program to put a microphone into his fish tank, because he wanted to show the kids at home that fish make sounds when they eat. However, while taping the segment, the fish weren't hungry so the marine biologist started trying to egg the fish on, saying "C'mon," "It's Chowtime," "Dinnerbell." But Mr. Rogers just waited quietly. The crew thought he'd want to re-tape it, but Mr. Rogers just kept it... to show kids the importance of being patient.

9. Fred Rogers was a perfectionist, and so he disliked ad-libbing. He felt that he owed it to children to make sure that every word on his show was thought out. But here at mental_floss, we love ad libbing because it's much less work.

10. In a Yale psychology study, when Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood went "head to head," kids who watched Mr. Rogers not only remembered more of the story lines, but their, "Tolerance of delay," a fancy term for their ability to wait for promised treats or adult attention, was considerably higher.

11. Mr. Rogers was also beloved by Koko the Gorilla, you know Koko the Stanford educated Gorilla who can speak about 1000 words in American Sign Language; she watched The Neighborhood, and when Mr. Rogers made a trip to meet her, she not only embraced him but she did what she'd always see him do on screen: She proceeded to take his shoes off.

12. Those shoes were store bought, by the way, but every one of the cardigans Mr. Rogers wore on his show was knit by his mother.

13. Today one of them resides in the Smithsonian - a red one. Mr. Rogers chose to donate that sweater, because the cameras at his studio didn't pick up the color very well.

14. Mr. Rogers could start to feel anxious and overwhelmed, and when he did, he liked to play the chords to the show's theme song on the piano on set in order to calm himself.

15. The other way you could tell he was exasperated? If he said the word, "mercy." Mostly, he said it when he got to his desk in the morning, and the mountains of fan mail were a little bit too tall. But, "mercy" was about the strongest word in his vocabulary.

16. And yes, Mr. Rogers responded to every single piece of fan mail. He had the same routine every morning: wake up at 5:00AM. Pray for a few hours for all of his friends and family, study, write, make calls, reach out to every single fan who took the time to write him, go for a morning swim, get on a scale, then start the day. My morning routine is a bit less ambitious than that; Mr. Rogers, I thought you were supposed to make me feel good about myself! You just made me feel terrible!

17. But speaking of that daily weigh-in, Mr. Rogers watched his weight very closely. And he'd like to weigh exactly 143 lbs (65 kg). By the way, he didn't drink, smoke, or eat the flesh of any animal. NATCH.

18. Why did Mr. Rogers like the number 1-4-3 so much? Because it takes 1 letter to say "I", 4 letters to say "love," and 3 letters to say, "you" (Jean --Luc Picard).

19. Now it starts to get a little weird. So, journalists had a tough time covering Mr. Rogers because he'd often, like befriend them, ask them tons of questions, take pictures of them, compile an album for them at the end of their time together, and then call them afterwards to check in on them and hear about their families. He genuinely loved hearing the life stories of other people.

20. And it wasn't just reporters. Like once, on a fancy trip up to a PBS executive's house, he heard the limo driver was gonna have to wait outside for two hours, so Mr. Rogers insisted that the driver come in and join them. And then, on the way back, Rogers sat up front, and when he learned that they were passing the driver's house on the way, he asked if they could stop in to meet the family. And according to the driver, it was one of the best nights of his life. The house lit up when Rogers arrived, and he played jazz piano and bantered with them late into the night.

21. Okay, so thieves, Smithsonian curators, reporters, limo drivers, kids, all these people loved Mr. Rogers, but someone has to hate him, right? Well, LSU professor Don Chance certainly doesn't love his legacy: He believes that Mr. Rogers created a, "culture of excessive doting" which resulted in generations of lazy, entitled college students... and that makes sense, because generally the deterioration of culture can be traced back to a single public television program.

22. Other curious theories about Mr. Rogers that are all over the Internet: That he served in the army and was a sniper in Vietnam;

23. That he served in the army and was a sniper in Korea;

24. That he only wore sweaters to cover up the tattoos on his arms. These are all untrue. He was never in the army; he never shot anyone; he had no tattoos.

25. One other rumor we'd like to quash? That he used to chase kids off his porch on Halloween. That's crazy! In fact, his house was known for being one of those generous homes that give out full-size candy bars... because of course it was!

26. In fact, for all the myths that people want to create about him, Mr. Rogers seems to have been almost exactly the same person "off screen," as he was, "onscreen." As an ordained Presbyterian minister and a man of tremendous faith, Mr. Rogers preached tolerance first. He never engaged in the culture wars; all he would ever say is, "God loves you just the way you are."

27. He was also kind of a superhero, like when the government wanted to cut public television funds in 1969, the then relatively unknown Mr. Rogers went to Washington and almost like straight out of a Capra film, his testimony on how TV had the potential to give kids hope and create more productive citizens was so passionate and convincing, that even the most gruff politicians were charmed... and instead of cutting the budget, funding for public TV jumped from $9M to $22M.

28. Years later, Mr. Rogers also swayed the Supreme Court to allow VCR's to record TV shows from home. It was a cantankerous debate at the time, but his argument was that recording a program like his allowed working parents to sit down with their children and watch shows as a family. Plus, it allowed him to watch Captain Stubing on The Love Boat anytime he wanted, without having to stay up till 8:30PM.

29. He was also heavily parodied, but most of the people who made fun of him, loved him. Like Johnny Carson hoped his send up of The Neighborhood would make Mr. Rogers more famous.

30. And the first time Eddie Murphy met Mr. Rogers, he couldn't stop himself from giving the guy a big hug.

All right, we're running out of time, so let's speed this up.

31. Mr. Rogers was color-blind. I mean that figuratively, like his parents took in African-American foster children, and he loved people of all backgrounds equally, but also literally.

32. Michael Keaton got his start on the show: He was a puppeteer and worked the trolley.

33. Mr. Rogers once made a guest appearance on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman as a pastor's mentor.

34. And many of the characters on his show took their names from his family. Like, McFeely was his grandfather's name, Queen Sara is named for his wife.

35. And lastly, we return to the Salon so I can tell you probably my favorite story about Mr. Rogers: that he could make a whole New York City subway car full of strangers sing. He was rushing to a meeting and there were no cabs available so Mr. Rogers jumped on the subway. The car was full of people, Rogers assumed that he wouldn't be noticed, but he quickly was, of course, and then people burst into song, chanting, "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood."

Thanks for watching mental_floss, which is made with the help of all of these lovely people and remember that you make every day special just by being you.

See Also...

20 Gentle Quotes from Mister Rogers
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Mister Rogers on the Set of The Incredible Hulk
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11 Scenes from the Mister Rogers Christmas Special

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