The ending to a movie can make or break the entire experience that came before those closing moments. Sometimes your project’s sign-off is easy to come by and organic as the breeze. Other scenarios require a bit more finesse when it comes to sticking the landing. But ask anyone and they’ll tell you the endings that didn’t happen are, in some cases, wilder than the ones that did. We learned that recently with Bill & Ted Face The Music, and it’s a subject that’s been rolling around in our minds.
What are some of the most wild alternate endings that never made the final cut, if they ever saw the light of day in the first place? Well, the answers might surprise you, even the ones for well-storied films like Return of the Jedi or 28 Days Later. Then there are some more recent entries, like Bad Boys For Life and Joker that have some pretty dark turns that we can understand weren’t exactly theater-ready. However, let’s start off with the first example we mentioned at the head of this discussion: Bill & Ted Face The Music. How fitting to travel through the land of what could have been than with those two righteous dudes!
Bill & Ted Face The Music
Bill & Ted Face The Music had not one, but two wild endings that could have been. With writer/creator Ed Solomon talking up that alternate ending where Bill & Ted somberly revisit the Rose Bowl, in the wake of failing to write “The Song” that would save humanity, the film might have been a slight bummer. But what would have truly been wild was the ending where, thanks to some help from Santa Claus, our heroes and their wives would deliver musical instruments all over the world to play the ultimate peace-making tune. Middle age is a bummer, but flying around with Kris Kringle truly is wild stuff.
Everyone who's talked about the DC Comics groundbreaker Joker has an opinion on whether or not Batman should even show up in Joaquin Phoenix’s potential franchise of lunacy. However, if the alleged alternate ending that Kevin Smith swears was supposed to be the capper to Todd Phillips’ Academy Award-winning comic film, that question would have had a definitive answer. With Arthur Fleck’s clowny persona gunning down not only Thomas and Martha Wayne, but also Bruce in this proposed finale, there’d be no Batman to save Gotham in the first place. Provided, of course, Arthur’s point of view was the real course of events.
Bad Boys For Life
As if the huge twist involving how Bad Boys For Life retcons Will Smith’s Mike Lowrey as a long lost father to his vengeful hitman son wasn’t a dark enough turn, there was a pitch black concept that was scrapped before all was said and done. With his son presumably dead, his ex-girlfriend/drug cartel mastermind Isabel (Kate del Castillo) is ready to commit suicide by fire, like any good witch would. However, Isabel was originally planned to try and take Mike with her into those flames. Not only is that a really bleak bummer ending, but considering the movie already took out a fan favorite character in Joe Pantoliano’s Howard, this would have been a hell of a sequel-cancelling buzzkill.
With the ending that was eventually used in director McG’s Terminator Salvation having John Connor (Christian Bale) on death’s door, the canonical ending saw secret Terminator Marcus (Sam Worthington) giving his robot heart so that John could live and lead The Resistance. But if the alternate ending that McG himself revealed in the press tour for that film came to be, John Connor would have died for sure. But the truly inspired twist would have been that the slain Connor’s likeness would have been grafted onto Marcus’ Terminator body in order to keep humanity’s hopes alive… right before his evil programming kicked in, causing him to kill everyone in The Resistance’s inner circle. And you thought Terminator: Dark Fate was bleak!
28 Days Later
Sometimes, there’s an ending so wildly different from the tone of the film it’s attached to that it can never leave the storyboards and go in front of the camera. And with director Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later being no stranger to alternate endings, there’s an even more radical ending that goes beyond just killing Cillian Murphy’s Jim. The aptly named “Radical Alternative Ending” alters the film’s entire third act. The end result is our team of survivors finding the research lab from the opening, and finding out that with a full blood transfusion, a cure is possible. And yes, Jim dies in this ending too.
Return Of The Jedi
Apparently, Harrison Ford wanting Han Solo to originally die in Return of the Jedi wasn’t the darkest thing the capper to the Original Star Wars Trilogy wanted to do. In fact, according to notes from a meeting between George Lucas and Star Wars franchise writer Lawrence Kasdan, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) was going to become the next big bad in the galaxy, swearing to kill the Rebel fleet himself once Darth Vader had died in his arms. However, that idea was quickly shot down, and despite Kasdan being on board with his initial pitch, Lucas changed his mind. Cue the Ewok fireworks!
Die Hard With A Vengeance
Out of all the endings that could have been in this entire list, the unused, but very much filmed ending to Die Hard With A Vengeance is probably the one ending that most definitely should have been kept in the final edit. Instead of ending the action with John McClane (Bruce Willis) downing Simon Gruber’s (Jeremy Irons) escape helicopter in Canada on the same day, McClane takes a longer, more brutal road to revenge. Tracking Simon down to Germany after being fired by the NYPD, John plays a game of Russian Roulette with Simon. Only, the weapon is a rocket launcher, and the directional arrow has been taken off the unit. After a round of riddles, Simon gets an answer wrong… and is blown into oblivion as a result.
That ending was removed thanks to studio executives feeling it was too dark, and not fitting with the John McClane character. But watching a slightly unhinged McClane lead Simon to wipe himself out just goes to show how a wild alternate ending can change everything. Whether they actually went before cameras, or were merely dreamed up in the early script phases, these different endings to several well-known films could have had massive implications. Perhaps that’s why we love them so much, and in that respect, we’d love to see which ending is your favorite from the lot.
So vote in our poll below and tell us why you picked your ending of choice in the comments! That about wraps things on this particular subject, but trust us, you’d go mad if you saw what we’d initially had planned for the finale.
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CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.