Not every film sticks with its script’s original ending. From Casablanca to Get Out, sometimes a movie’s conclusion changes on the fly in production.
The ending of a movie is arguably its most important moment. It’s the last thing the audience sees before they leave the theater, so it has to make a strong impression. Sometimes, a film’s ending is decided at the script stage and the filmmakers spend the entire shoot building up to their perfect conclusion. Other times, a movie goes into production with an incomplete script and the producers have to figure it out along the way.
Or, on the odd occasion, midway through filming, the producers realize their ending is all wrong and they have to come up with a new one. Some classic movies changed their ending during production.
10 Terminator 2: Judgment Day
The original ending of Terminator 2: Judgment Day flashed forward 30 years to a peaceful future in which an older Sarah Connor is living happily and John has a daughter.
However, during filming, this was changed to a more ambiguous ending in which Sarah and John ride off on a motorcycle and Sarah’s voiceover explains, “The unknown future rolls toward us.”
9 When Harry Met Sally
Rob Reiner decided to make When Harry Met Sally after going through a divorce and contending with being single again. Originally, he didn’t want the movie to end with Harry and Sally getting together and wanted them to stay friends.
However, during the shoot, he met and fell in love with his next wife, so he gained a more optimistic view of love and decided that Harry and Sally would end up together after all.
In the original script for Alien, the xenomorph tore off Ripley’s head, found its way to the control room, and imitated a human voice on the radio back to Earth.
Ridley Scott loved this ending, but a studio executive threatened to remove him from the project if he didn’t come up with a happier conclusion.
7 Die Hard With A Vengeance
Jonathan Hensleigh’s script for Die Hard with a Vengeance ended with Simon Gruber getting away with his crimes and John McClane getting fired from the NYPD. McClane then tracks down Gruber to a village in Europe, where he presents him with his own enigmas before blowing him to smithereens with a rocket launcher at short range.
The studio changed the ending so that McClane instead uses the rocket launcher at a longer range to blow up Gruber’s helicopter, because executives thought the original ending made McClane too harsh.
Kevin Smith’s debut feature Clerks ends with Dante and Randal reuniting and Dante’s long shift that he wasn’t even supposed to work finally coming to an end.
Smith’s original script had a much darker conclusion in which a shoplifter shoots and kills Dante. Brian O’Halloran, who played Dante, convinced Smith to change it because he hated the way the script ended.
5 A Nightmare On Elm Street
Wes Craven wanted to give A Nightmare on Elm Street a happy ending in which Nancy defeats Freddy simply by refusing to believe he exists, then she wakes up to discover the whole movie was one long nightmare.
Producer Bob Shaye saw franchise potential, so he demanded that Craven rewrite the ending to include a twist in which Freddy survives. As a result of this rift, Craven didn’t return to the franchise for a decade.
4 First Blood
An ending was shot for First Blood in which John Rambo finally manages to beat the cops that have been relentlessly pursuing him and then commits suicide. Sylvester Stallone hated this ending, so he convinced director Ted Kotcheff to come up with a new one.
Stallone’s thinking was that, after everything Rambo goes through in the movie, he deserves a happier ending. So, Kotcheff came up with the conclusion in which Col. Trautman talks Rambo down and he’s arrested.
3 The Shawshank Redemption
Frank Darabont wanted to end The Shawshank Redemption in the same way that Stephen King ended the source material, with Red heading off to an uncertain fate on a bus.
Castle Rock executives felt that, at the end of such a long movie, the audience deserved the catharsis of a reunion between Red and Andy. The final ending is universally accepted to be much better.
2 Get Out
Jordan Peele’s original ending for Get Out was much more sinister. The car that pulls up is instead revealed to be a police car containing white officers, not Chris’ TS-motherf**kin’-A agent friend, Rod. Assuming Chris’ intentions, the cops would’ve arrested him.
Peele eventually changed the ending after gauging audience reactions at test screenings, deciding that the character needed a happy ending and that the expectation of the police would be shocking enough.
Production began on Casablanca, widely regarded to be one of the greatest movies ever made, without a complete script. The original ending would’ve seen Rick and Ilsa leaving for America together, but the Hays Code prohibited movies from depicting adultery working out in people’s favor.
So, the filmmakers had to come up with a new ending that satisfied everyone, which proved to be almost impossible. In the end, they reverse-engineered the ending from a line they liked: “Round up the usual suspects.”
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