Have you ever watched an entire movie, only to find that the ending completely ruins the film? So have directors and test audiences.
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A terrible ending has the potential to turn a classic picture into a joke. That’s why some filmmakers completely overhaul their films’ final minutes, significantly changing the plot before theatergoers have a chance to see them. Sometimes these endings are rewritten before principal photography begins, but more often than not, the original endings are filmed as-is, and it’s only when test audiences react poorly that filmmakers take action.
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Whether they were booed at early screenings, re-written to appease the producers or switched out to suit the casts’ tastes, here are 5 examples of movies finales that were changed — for better or for worse — before they hit theaters.
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(Warning: Spoilers ahead)
For the entire list of movies that almost had completely different endings, head over to Fox News now.
The initial script for "Pretty Woman" (originally titled "$3,000") was much more depressing than the romantic movie that was shot. At the end of J.F. Lawton's screenplay, Edward drives Vivian back to her neighborhood, drags her kicking and screaming from his car, hands her an envelope of cash, and coldly drives off while she hysterically cries in the street. It's unclear who commissioned the new ending; Lawson himself says he had a change of heart and re-wrote it, but director Garry Marshall claims that Disney wanted "a prettier ending."
One weekend after "The Shining" debuted in theaters, director Stanley Kubrick hacked off a few minutes from the end. In his original cut, right after viewers caught a glimpse of Jack Torrance's frozen corpse jutting from the snow, it was revealed that his wife Wendy and son Danny were admitted to a nearby hospital. The Overlook Hotel's returning manager comes to visit, and informs Wendy that investigators "didn’t find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary," implying that Wendy was perhaps hallucinating. Then, on his way out, he gives Danny the mysterious yellow ball that appeared earlier in the film, which actress Shelley Duvall (Wendy) took to mean that the hotel manager was behind the Overlook's paranormal activities.
"Chinatown" ends on an awfully depressing note, with Evelyn dead and her incestuous father taking custody of their illegitimate daughter. The film's screenwriter, Robert Towne, originally wrote the final scene as somewhat less horrible, with Evelyn killing her father before he could get his clutches on her child. Director Roman Polanski "did not believe in a happy ending," so the two fought until they were no longer on speaking terms, and Polanski filmed the final scene as he wanted.
"I Am Legend"
At the end of "I Am Legend," scientist Robert Neville sacrifices himself to save his companions, but not before sending them off with an antidote to the "Darkseeker" epidemic that has turned most of the human population into mindless vampire/zombies. The original ending, seen below, instead implied that those terrifying Darkseekers were capable of thought and compassion, and that they were only attacking Neville in order to save one of their own from his scientific experiments.
"World War Z"
The release date of "World War Z" was pushed back from December 2012 to June 2013 so filmmakers could completely re-write and re-shoot the final third of the film, which originally saw U.N. employee Gerry Lane become an enslaved soldier fighting off onslaughts of zombies in Russia. Paramount executives were unimpressed, so screenwriters Damon Lindeloff and Drew Goddard were brought on board to flesh out an entirely new ending in which Lane discovers a way to cloak humans from the infected zombie population.