Cinematic history is filled with fascinating movies that never happened, from Tim Burton’s Superman Lives to Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Dune. But just as fascinating as the movies that didn’t happen are the ones that did happen, but turned out far different than they might have had different filmmakers been involved or different creative choices been made. Few films exemplify this better than Zack Snyder’s Justice League.
Since the release of Justice League in 2017, fans have held out hope for the so-called Snyder Cut of the film, the hope being that the director’s original vision would have been more creatively satisfying than the film we got. Of course, Justice League is not the only film where an alternate version sounds highly appealing. There are plenty of films that went in a different direction creatively than they might have, but the end result was still good enough.
That means the allure of a rewritten history isn’t as strong for James Cameron’s Alita: Battle Angel, Steven Spielberg’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s IT or David Cronenberg’s Return of the Jedi. But for movies where the final product disappointed, these alternate versions are the sources of speculation and lament.
There are no guarantees, of course, and execution is key, but along with Justice League’s Snyder Cut, here are five other alternate movies that might have been better than the ones ultimately released to theaters.
The Snyder Cut Of Justice League
We'll start with the biggest one because no alternate version of a movie has ever evoked the kind of fan response and discourse as the Snyder Cut of Justice League. If you watch the 2017 superhero movie, the credits would lead you to believe that it was directed by Zack Snyder, but that’s only partially true. Zack Snyder stepped away from Justice League due to a personal tragedy and Joss Whedon was brought in to handle what would be extensive reshoots.
Thanks to everything we’ve heard and seen, much of it from Zack Snyder himself, we know that the Snyder Cut of Justice League would have been extremely different from the theatrical film, and very little of Zack Snyder’s actual vision made it in. Had he stayed on, or should this fabled director’s cut ever see the light of day, we would have supposedly seen Darkseid, Superman in his black suit, more of Cyborg’s story, an appearance by the Atom and a different final battle.
Those are just some of the apparent differences in a film that would have been much longer and even had a different score. As someone who isn’t a fan of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, I’m skeptical that the Snyder Cut would be the masterpiece many fans presume it to be. However, it would have had a clear vision, and for that reason, it might have turned out much better than what we got from Justice League.
Neill Blomkamp’s Alien Movie
Several years ago, there were two films in the Alien franchise being developed simultaneously. One was Ridley Scott’s sequel to Prometheus and the other was Alien 5 (but not really, more on that in a sec) from District 9 director Neill Blomkamp. But only one of these Xenomorphs could live, and eventually Neill Blomkamp’s film was killed and we got Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant instead.
The Alien franchise is not in a great place following the disappointment of Alien: Covenant, so its hard not to wonder what might have been with Neill Blomkamp’s film. Here’s what we know: Blomkamp’s Alien 5 wouldn’t have really been Alien 5. Much like Terminator: Dark Fate or Halloween, it would have been a rebootquel, de-canonizing Alien 3 and everything after, serving as a direct sequel to James Cameron’s Aliens. Based on concept art, Neill Blomkamp’s movie would have seemingly brought back Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Corporal Hicks, and featured a grown-up Newt becoming the new heroine of the franchise.
We don’t know exactly what the story would have been, and Neill Blomkamp’s track record post-District 9 is not perfect. But following Alien: Covenant’s mediocrity and the franchise’s increasing focus on artificial intelligence and not on aliens, Neill Blomkamp’s Alien movie sounds like a far more intriguing and true to the property entry that may have been better than what we got.
Patty Jenkins’ Thor 2
Widely considered to be one of, if not the worst MCU movie, Thor: The Dark World was directed by Alan Taylor, but it was originally supposed to be directed by Patty Jenkins. Patty Jenkins never stepped behind the camera for Thor 2, but we do have an idea of what her vision entailed. She wanted to tell a Romeo and Juliet-esque story with Thor and Jane Foster that would have leaned into that Shakespearean theme of star-crossed lovers.
The apathy of Odin and the gods, sans Thor, towards Earth would have allowed Malekith to amass power on our planet, and the film would have had a war between the gods and the earthlings, with Thor saving the day. It sounds like a stronger story overall with more of a role for Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster. Patty Jenkins doesn’t think she would have made a good Thor 2 because the story she wanted to do isn’t what Marvel wanted to do. But given what she did after and what we got with Thor: The Dark World, I disagree and think her version would have probably been better.
Unlike some of the other entries on this list though, it’s hard to want to change history because of the ultimate good that came out of this. Patty Jenkins went on to direct Wonder Woman, and the creative disappointment of The Dark World created the opening for Taika Waititi to come in and make Thor: Ragnarok and the upcoming Thor: Love and Thunder.
Guillermo Del Toro’s The Hobbit
On paper, having Peter Jackson direct The Hobbit was the right choice. He directed the masterful Lord of the Rings trilogy and clearly knew and loved Middle Earth. Unfortunately, while it has its charms, The Hobbit series fell well short of expectations, with bloated films that lost sight of what made the previous trilogy special. That might not have been the case had Guillermo del Toro stayed on.
Guillermo del Toro was supposed to direct The Hobbit before Peter Jackson took over and before it became a trilogy. And it seems that del Toro would have made a significantly different movie. GDT’s vision for The Hobbit has been described as feeling more like a fairy tale than Jackson’s in keeping with the source material, and it would have slowly shifted in tone so that by the end, it could have led into The Lord of the Rings.
Supposedly Guillermo del Toro’s version of The Hobbit would have used more practical effects and miniatures, which would have been an improvement on Jackson’s films, which looked artificial and felt like video games. The character designs and visuals would have also been very different, from the look of Smaug to an effect where the sky changed color with the seasons. Guillermo’s version may not have felt too intertwined with The Lord of the Rings, but it would have been unique. Given that he had a plan, versus Jackson, who had to wing it, it may have been better too.
David Ayer’s Director’s Cut Of Suicide Squad
Next year will see the release of James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad. The film will supposedly be a reimagining of the property and the characters seen in the 2016 Suicide Squad from director David Ayer. But perhaps a reimagining wouldn’t have been necessary had that previous DC film not been such a creative disappointment. And perhaps Suicide Squad wouldn’t have been a disappointment had David Ayer been allowed to realize his vision onscreen.
David Ayer originally said that the theatrical cut was his cut, but more recently he has said things making it clear that was not the case. We know that extensive reshoots took place on Suicide Squad, and there were even reports that the final cut was done by the company that made the trailer. David Ayer has expressed frustration that he has been blamed for a film that didn’t match his original vision, and everything we’ve heard indicates he would have made a different and possibly much better movie.
Scenes with Jared Leto’s Joker were cut, Harley Quinn’s arc was simplified and ties to the wider DCEU, specifically Justice League, were axed from the final film. The impetus seemed to be to make Suicide Squad more light and fun, DC’s raison d’être post-Batman v Superman, but perhaps a darker film that had clarity and consistency of vision would have been a better overall movie than the mess we got.
Colin Trevorrow’s Star Wars: Duel Of The Fates
Boy, the Star Wars franchise under Disney sure has given us a few of these alternate movie hypotheticals, hasn’t it? But more than Lord and Miller’s Solo or Gareth Edwards’ director’s cut of Rogue One, we now may have a pretty good idea of what Colin Trevorrow’s Star Wars: Episode IX would have looked like. The Jurassic World director was supposed to helm the closing chapter of the Skywalker Saga before being replaced by the returning J.J. Abrams in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
Recent reveals about Colin Trevorrow’s Episode IX script, backed up by awesome concept art for The Rise of Skywalker, portray a very different movie than we got in December. Emperor Palpatine's return would not have been the driving force of the film in Colin Trevorrow's Star Wars: Duel of the Fates. Both Rose and Luke Skywalker would have had more to do. The film would have also returned to Coruscant, featured a different arc for Kylo and introduced new characters we never got to see.
All in all, it sounds like Trevorrow’s movie would have avoided many of the perceived problems of The Rise of Skywalker. I didn’t hate J.J. Abrams’ film by any stretch, but on paper at least, Duel of the Fates feels like a more cohesive and interesting ending to both the Sequel Trilogy and the Skywalker Saga, tying everything together while giving audiences great fan service and cool new mythology. Hopefully we’ll see it in comic book form someday.
With Star Wars: Duel of the Fates or any of these alternate, hypothetical movies, the grass is always greener on the other side. It’s entirely possible, even likely in some of these cases, that these alternate movies would have been better than the original, theatrical films we got. But there are no guarantees. Cool concept art and neat ideas do not automatically ensure a great movie. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace sounds great on paper, but without the execution, the best ideas in the world don’t count for much.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder what might have been, and how movies that people had such high hopes for and ultimately disappointed so many could have been lived up to the hype had things gone differently.
Check out our 2020 Release Schedule to see all the movies headed to theaters this year that we hopefully won’t have to wonder 'what if?' about .and let us know in the poll below which of these hypothetical alternate movies you’d like to see.