Everybody likes a happy ending... right? Actually, no. Sometimes a happy ending is the absolute wrong thing for a movie, because it throws away everything the film-makers worked to build up throughout the film. Sometimes, a movie has to end with fire, tears or blood. Here are 12 movies that had happy endings, but scrapped them.
Oh, and before anybody says it — at least a few of these happy endings are available as DVD extras or were screened a few times in theaters, so the "you never saw" thing might only apply to people who only saw the theatrical cut in U.S. theaters.
12) I am Legend
The theatrical ending has Neville blowing himself up to save two other fleeing human survivors. The original ending to the movie has a sensibility that's a little closer to the novel. Neville realizes the infected people are sentient and he returns the women he was experimenting on to the alpha male who's pursuing him. He realizes he was a monster to the infected. In an all around win, he gets to live and escape with the other two survivors with the cure (departing wildly from the novel again). The original more nuanced ending tested poorly and replaced with the “heroic” sacrifice.
11) The Astronaut’s Wife
Maybe the alternate ending to The Astronaut’s Wife isn’t exactly happy — but it isn’t overtly sinister like the theatrical ending. Jillian manages to not be murdered and possessed by the alien presence, thus making the situation much more positive for her — but she does seem to be manipulated by her unborn alien children. So there's that.
10) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
The love story of Elizabeth and Will has a somewhat bittersweet ending, the way it plays out in the film and especially in the post-credits scene There is even an online petition complaining about the fact that these two don’t get a happy ending, given that Will is cursed to captain The Flying Dutchmen for all eternity and can only step onto land once every ten years. Apparently this ending is a product of post-production editing. Writers Ted Elliot and Terry Rossio have clarified that Will would be freed after ten years' service, as long as Elizabeth stays faithful to him. But the dialogue explaining all of this didn’t make it into the final film and so the happy ending was denied.
9) Dr. Strangelove
Instead of a montage of atomic bombs blowing up, the original ending of Kubrick’s masterpiece was supposed to be a pie fight in the war room. To be fair, the movie was always going to end with the world's annihilation, but at least this would have been a slightly less disturbing way to show it. Kubrick said,” "I decided it was farce and not consistent with the satiric tone of the rest of the film" and “it was a disaster of Homeric proportions.” So no pies, just bombs, and a much bleaker conclusion.
8) Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
This one really depends on how you felt about the actual ending of Scott Pilgrim, in which he ends up with Ramona. But you know, Ramona was the princess he was fighting over, and it's obvious she's going to wind up running away eventually. Meanwhile, Knives is the strong, interesting, gutsy one who gets up and fights. So maybe the happy ending to the film is the one where Scott finally matures enough to realize which one of these women is the better long-term relationship material, and says goodbye to Ramona.
7) Highlander 2: The Quickening
Nobody wants to admit this movie exists, because of the sheer awfulness. But believe it or not, this film had an even worse alternate ending, known as the “fairytale” ending. In this version, Connor and Louise fly up into the sky, kiss — and in a flash of light, teleport to the planet Zeist. You remember Zeist, the planet the Immortals are from? The director is really hoping you have forgotten and watched Highlander II: Renegade Version, which ditches all the alien stuff. The “fairytale” ending did screen in Britain — so it isn’t fair to say nobody saw it, but it didn’t make it to America and was later discarded from the mythos.
6) The Day the Earth Stood Still
While Klaatu’s thought provoking and grim message to the people of Earth is still the same, the original version of this iconic movie was a lot kinder to the alien messenger. Originally in Edmund North’s screenplay, Klaatu is revived by Gort with no expiration date on his revival. The 1951 censors would not allow this in the film because “Only God can do that.” So in the film, Klaatu’s resurrection is only a temporary affair that will end in his demise because, "That power [over life and death] is reserved for the Almighty Spirit."
5) Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 2 had a nice little happy epilogue — that was cut from the film. The alternative ending is narrated by Sarah Connor 30 years after August 29, 1997, which was supposed to be Judgement Day. The day passes peacefully with no war ever starting. We also find out that Sarah is a grandmother and John a Senator. But the producer axed this happy ending, because it left no room for sequels.
4) Nightmare on Elm Street
Believe it or not, this classic horror film originally had a happy ending. In the original script, Nancy kills Freddy Krueger — and it's revealed that everything in the movie was just an extended nightmare. The movie ends with her happily piling in a car with all of her no-longer-dead friends and driving off to school. But producer Robert Shaye wanted a twist ending, to leave open the possibility of a sequel. Ultimately four different endings were filmed, as Craven and Shaye figured out a compromise.
3) The Fly
David Cronenberg's film originally filmed an epilogue, where everything is tied up neatly — Veronica is reassured that she's not pregnant with Brundle's baby — or that she's pregnant with Stathis' baby instead — and everything is fine. (And then she falls asleep and has a dream about giving birth to a human baby with butterfly wings.) They tested these versions with audiences, but nobody wanted to see Veronica end up with Stathis. And the stop-motion animation of the butterfly baby did not look convincing. These alternate endings are available on the DVD.
2) The Thing
On the DVD documentary "Terror Takes Shape," editor Todd C. Ramsey says an alternate happy ending to the The Thing was filmed — in case they got pushback on the actual nihilistic ending. They filmed it while they still had Kurt Russell available, on set. In the unseen footage, MacReady is rescued and given a blood test to prove he is not the Thing. This alternate ending has never been released on DVD, or screened anywhere.
1) The Shining
Notoriously, Kubrick's original cut of the film had a two-minute "coda" in which Wendy and Danny are in a hospital and we're told they are doing well. And they're visited by hotel manager Stuart Ullman, who tries to convince them that there was nothing supernatural or strange in that hotel — and they haven't found Jack's body. This version was included in the critics' screening, two weeks before the film opened, but Kubrick had it removed before the movie was released in theaters. There was a rumor that the movie was going to be screened with this original ending in 2011, but it turned out not to be true.