It’s no secret that studios often hastily change endings before a movie is released. When a film scores badly with test audiences or studio execs, the original closing moments are often the first thing to go. And often, it’s not a bad thing: the new ending of Return of the Jedi, for example, refrained from killing off the franchise’s sole black character. Other times, though, the replacement ending is more like somebody in the cinema stumbling past your seat as the credits roll and then violently throwing up on you. Here are a few of these endings:
This classic 1990 romantic comedy fulfilled every person’s dream of finding true love while, uh, working as a prostitute. As we’re sure you know, the plot revolves around hooker Vivian being hired by Richard Gere to be his escort for a week, during which time the two fall in love.
It’s probably safe to say that Pretty Woman would have not become the same tale of romance it is today if the original ending had remained. In this version, Richard Gere concludes their week of passion by kicking Vivian out of his car and driving away. Vivian returns to the streets. If that sounds horribly out of place, consider that the original script was meant to be a gritty, realistic portrayal of prostitution (yes, this is the same movie that ended up with a multi-millionaire wooing a streetwalker with a bunch of roses held in his teeth). But after multiple endings were filmed and screen-tested, Disney chose the ‘Cinderella’ finale. Other references to Vivian being on drugs throughout the movie were also cut. Apparently audiences can tolerate prostitution, but not drugged prostitution.
So what made the original better? Well, while it may be downbeat, let’s face it, it’s really far more realistic. How many successful businessmen do you know who have ended up with women who were working as hookers when they first met? Probably less than five.
Heathers is a film that tragically, could never be made today. A 1988 black comedy about a pair of high school sweethearts who murder popular classmates and disguising their deaths as suicides, anyone caught pitching this script in this post-9/11, post-Columbine world would probably find a SWAT team at their door within the week. And the original ending would have made it even more dangerous to possess.
Near the end of Heathers, Veronica, the female half of the murderous pair, is now trying to stop ex-boyfriend Christian Slater from fulfilling his ultimate goal of blowing up the school gymnasium during a basketball game. “The only times different social groups can genuinely get along with each other is in heaven!” he explains. Veronica shoots him and stops the bomb. The movie ends with a reformed Veronica hanging out with an unpopular girl.
The original ending, according to the script: Veronica kills her man in the boiler room and straps the bomb to herself. It goes off, the school dies, and everyone attends prom in Heaven. Different social groups are shown dancing together and having fun. This finale was considered ‘too dark’, and nixed by the studio. The adapted ending is neater, and more sympathetic to Veronica, who finally realizes that murder isn’t cool (a good message for teenagers!) But it doesn’t really carry the tone of the film to its logical conclusion. Besides, the idea of an afterlife-prom is just cool.
Blade Runner features what is probably the most notorious studio-ruined ending of all time. The new, ‘happy’ ending shoved onto the end after some executive meddling is famous for showing the only shot of blue sky in the whole film, which sticks out because the scene used wasn’t even filmed for Blade Runner, but was a leftover shot from The Shining. The source of much of the tension and drama in the film – the fact that replicants come with termination dates – is hand-waved by a voiceover explaining that the replicant Rachael is ‘special’ and doesn’t have one. The fact that Rachael and Deckard barely seem to be able to stand each other is swept aside by inappropriately happy music and loving glances. It couldn’t be more awful if Deckard had simply woken up at the end and realized that the dystopian epic had all been a horrible dream:
The ending – and the terrible, terrible voiceover – were, again, a result of test screenings. Luckily, this travesty is gradually being forgotten, as the director’s cut minus the tacked-on ending gradually takes precedence in people’s movie collections. So there is some justice in this world.
Army of Darkness
This one is probably borderline, because the new ending that was added to Army of Darkness is also a classic, allowing, among other things, the phrase “Hail to the King, baby” to enter the national dialogue. But the final, upbeat scene in the S-Mart was not the finale Sam Raimi and co. wanted. They preferred this one:
… in which Ash wakes up in a post-apocalyptic world, having slept right through his destined showdown with the Deadites. The studio that took over Army of Darkness in postproduction test-screened it and demanded an ending that was less ‘negative’. The original ending was later released in the director’s cut of the movie. And no wonder, because it fits in so much better: Army of Darkness is pretty much Bruce Campbell being punched in the face, figuratively and literally, for 82 minutes, and the new ending suddenly switches to Bruce winning and getting the girl. The old ending continues the tradition, and punches him in the face again for another 5 minutes.
But, you say, the new ending is still awesome enough. Well, maybe you’ll be satisfied with another disappointing change? The movie’s working title was Medievil Dead. So not only was the original ending stolen, they also discarded one of the best puns of all time.
28 Days Later
The original and new endings of this 2002 fast-zombie film party ways after main character Jim is shot in the stomach while escaping from an evil army compound. In the original, Jim dies of his wounds and ends up lying dead in a hospital bed. His two female companions walk off alone. Test audiences judged this ending as ‘bleak’ and told studios that they believed the women were also doomed, although the filmmakers had intended the ending to represent their survival. Way to believe in female empowerment, test audiences. In the revised version, he wakes up after a short coma in a secluded cottage to find that the zombies that have overrun Britain are starving and near-harmless. Like Army of Darkness, though, the original ending is available online:
The new ending isn’t awful, but it has the same problem as Blade Runner, to a slightly lesser extent – a desperately bleak film with a magical happy ending tacked on. One minute we’ve got guys getting their eyes gouged out and our hero shot by Doctor Who, the next the two leads laze around happily in bed, the zombie threat vanished. Female lead Selena, who the apocalypse had turned into a near-sociopath, is suddenly content and apparently head-over-heels in love. We’re happy for the characters, but it doesn’t exactly strike the audience as realistic.
Before Dear John came out in early 2010, it was leaked that a new ending had been hastily compiled only three weeks before the movie was due in cinemas. For those that haven’t seen it, female lead Savannah dumps her war-hero boyfriend John by letter and marries a childhood friend, who then tragically develops cancer. In the Nicolas Sparks book the movie is based on, and in the original ending above, John learns the true meaning of love by donating the money to pay for his rival’s cancer treatment, sacrificing his own happiness for the sake of his beloved. Despite loving each other, Savannah and John are destined never to be together. You can see this original ending here:
Too depressing! So, the movie instead kills of the rival spouse offscreen and reunites John with his unfaithful ex.
Now, it’s not so much that the replacement ending ignores the book’s love about true love being a sacrifice, and replaces it with the message: ‘if you want to marry someone, give them a whole lot of money and hope their spouse dies’. It’s more that after having sat through two long hours watching these vapid characters talk to each other about the moon, you really want any ending that will make them suffer a bit more.
Pretty in Pink
For those young readers who might only know this film from it being spoofed in Not Another Teen Movie, Pretty in Pink was a classic 80’s teen film about a poor girl, Andie in love with rich, handsome boy named Blane. Andie’s best friend Duckie loves her, but is too shy to confess his feelings. Blane falls in love with Andie, but is pressured into denying it by his rich shallow friends. Dumped Andie attends prom with Duckie, only for Blane to decide to ignore his friends and tell Andie he loves her. Duckie tells her to go for it, and Andie and Blane kiss in front of Blane’s BMW.
The original, before the test screenings? It starts out the same: Andie and Ducky attend the prom together. But instead of Blane interfering, Ducky and Andie simply dance, laugh, and appear to be falling in love as the credits roll.
So which is a better message for teenage girls – fall for the loyal friend who sticks with you, or the rich guy that brushes you off when his friends tell him too and changes his mind later? Can you imagine the different world we would now live in if Pretty in Pink had kept its original ending? A whole generation of men would have grown up without the bitter knowledge that their best-friend crushes would be brushed aside in favor of the handsome popular guy who treats her like crap. Crime rates would be lower. Divorce would be non-existent. The schools would be full of pathetic but doggedly loyal boys making mix tapes for their attractive best friends – okay, so maybe the change was for the better after all.