There’s a dark and scary place in Hollywood called development hell. This is a place where movie concepts go to die. For any number of reasons, certain films just struggle to get made. They can have scripts, actors, directors, pretty much everything all in place—everything, that is, except for the all important green light. Each movie on this list is currently in development hell. Most of them have been there for a long time. Why they’re there varies from film to film, but all of these look extremely promising and we have been dying to see them get the final go ahead. Each time we hear a new excuse, we lose a little bit of our souls. How can some of the worst movies ever made get countless sequels, but some of the most popular games, books and comics can’t get film adaptations pushed through?
For many of these films, fans have started to lose hope. There’s been rumblings of these films for so long with nothing to show for it, so no one can blame them for feeling a little pessimistic. We know that there’s interest in having the films on this list made, but the longer the wait is, the more anticipation and expectation. If and when these ever do get the green light, will the hype be too much for them to live up to? The best thing about the prospect of each of these films is that they’ve had time to perfect a script, or at least time to rethink bad ideas. For many of these pitches, the story is all but laid out; it’s now just a matter of filming it. But therein lies the problem for many. There’s a common theme here that many of the films on this list are thought to be very difficult, if not impossible, to film. No matter what the reason is, each of these films are eagerly anticipated. Here they are 15 promising movies we’re still dying to have made.
In 1979, Atari released the arcade game Asteroids, and I bet no one thought there would ever be a movie adaptation of it. Yet again, there was probably no one who thought Battleship would get made and look how well that did… But seriously, in 2009, Universal Studios picked up the film rights for Asteroids and they put together a team to work out a script (Matthew Lopez as screenwriter and Lorenzo di Bonaventura as director). After that, Evan Spiliotopoulos was brought in to rewrite Lopez’s script. Then, in 2013, Jez Butterworth came in to rewrite it once more. That was the story until 2015, when F. Scott Frazier came in to rewrite the script again. Today, after four different writers and four different scripts, we still don’t have an Asteroids flick.
14. Arrested Development
In 2013, seven years after Arrested Development‘s third season ended, Netflix released a highly anticipated fourth season. Ever since the last episode of the third season in 2006, there has been talk about a film in the pipeline, but nothing has ever come of it. Netflix has suggested that there could be a film that comes out before the fifth season, but it seems that even the fifth season isn’t a certainty anymore. There are some whispers that the show will continue in 2017 and a film could come at that point, but, as of last year, there is no hard stance on any of that. Even though Arrested Development is considered one of the better comedies ever made, it has really struggled every step of the way in its life, so this delayed movie is just par for the course.
13. American McGee’s Alice
The PC game American McGee’s Alice, released in 2000, features a twisted interpretation of Lewis Carrol’s Alice in Wonderland. The concept here is that, since the fictional world of Wonderland is a figment of Alice’s mind, as she gets older and becomes mentally unstable following the death of her parents, the magical world she returns to is contorted into a more macabre version. Originally, in 2000, Wes Craven was the one who was going to adapt this game to film. After a few rewrites of the script, it was said that super-fan Sarah Michelle Gellar purchased the rights, also setting her sights on playing the character of Alice. Then, in 2014, a Kickstarter was started up to try and cover the production costs for the film. That funding effort hit a few bumps along the way and now it’s sort of just hanging there in limbo. Expect this one to get made eventually, but don’t count on it any time soon.
12. The Sandman
Written by Neil Gaiman in 1988, The Sandman is a mythological story about Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams. Since the 90s, there have been talks about adapting this highly respected comic for the screen. First, it was supposed to be an HBO series. Then, in 2010, Eric Kripke (Supernatural) picked it up and planned to bring it to TV audiences. After that it was Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but he too has since backed out, citing creative differences with the studios. Comic fans have been dying to see this one brought to any size of screen, but Gaiman has been a little more hesitant in his hopes. Since he no longer even has rights to the story, he is a little fearful about what will happen to his baby.
The massively popular video game about an isolated underwater world, designed as a utopia but turned to a crumbling dystopia, Bioshock has been promised to be made into a film for almost a decade. Back in 2008, Gore Verbinski was attached to the film as director, but he dropped out in 2009 (he would then join again as producer a bit later on). Then, in 2013, it was announced that the film had been cancelled outright. The studio was not thrilled with the proposed $200 million budget connected to the film and wanted it cut down dramatically. There was also some discussion about the rating. Verbinski was adamant about making it a hard R-rating, something the studios weren’t on board with. Though they say this one is dead to rights, the concept is promising so don’t completely count it out just yet.
The wildly popular video game Halo, has long been rumored to have a film coming. Fans, by this point, don’t even hold their breath whenever something is mentioned about an adaptation. In 2005, a script was written, Fox and Universal Studios joined up to fund it, Peter Jackson came on to produce it and, soon after, Neil Blomkamp signed on as director. By 2007, though, it seemed that the project was all but dead. You would think that the longer it takes to get this going, the less relevant the game, and therefore the film, will be, but look at the success of other games that were made when they were no longer relevant (Pixels, Battleship, Street Fighter, Ratchet & Clank… wait a minute).
9. Yiddish Policeman’s Union
Yiddish Policeman’s Union is a 2007 detective story written by author Michael Chabon which takes place in an alternate history in which a Jewish settlement was set up in Alaska during World War II (among many other changes). The film rights for this great novel were picked up five years before the book was even written. The concept was pitched and people loved it. In 2008, it was said that the Coen Brothers were set to write and direct the film. The match between writers and material was thought to be just about perfect, until, in 2012, the Coen Brothers backed out and the film rights went back to Chabon. Now it’s unclear what the next step is for Chabon’s quirky story.
8. The Shadow King
A story about a young boy with really long fingers learns that his appendages are ideal for making shadow puppets. This proposed stop-motion film, to be written and directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas), has been sort of hanging around for a long time. Film production first started back in 2011 with Disney, but they backed out in 2012 after they had already spent about $50 million. Selick then took the film to the other studios but was unsuccessful in getting it picked up. Today, with a cast, a director, a script and millions of dollars’ worth of production, the film is just dangling somewhere in film purgatory. As a massive fan of Halloween movies, this one has been high on my own wish list.
7. Rendezvous With Rama
Written by Arthur C. Clarke in 1973, Rendezvous With Rama is the story of a cylindrical alien ship that comes into our solar system in the 2130s. Morgan Freeman has long been the man behind the efforts to get this filmed. Since 2000, he has been looking to get a good script together, often connected with David Fincher as the potential director. It seems that every couple of years we hear some new information about this project, but it never takes that necessary next step to get going. The most recent news came in 2012 when Freeman was still steadfast that he will get it made. He is just pleading for someone to put together a script worthy of the amazing material.
6. 28 Months Later
This one is said to actually be in the pipeline as this is written, but we’ve been hearing that for a long, long time. After the success of 28 Days Later (2002) and 28 Weeks Later (2007), fans have been waiting with bated breath for the third movie. The third film was first rumored back in 2007, when director Danny Boyle said it was possible. Then, in 2010, it was said that there were issues getting the film going and there was no script. By 2011, they had an idea for the film but it was still a long way off. By 2013, the possibility had gone up to about 40%, and then, in 2015, they released that they had an idea and would be giving it their best to get the film made. I’ll believe it when I see it.
5. Hellboy 3
For movie fans, Hellboy 3 might be the most frustrating entry on this list. Ever since Hellboy II: The Golden Army came out, fans have been waiting for the third and final entry. The story itself was always conceived as a trilogy, so it makes sense that they would make a final film. Essentially what’s happened is that both of the first two films made most of their bacon from DVD and post-theater sales. In today’s DVD-less world, the studios can’t and won’t depend on those post-theater numbers. This means that the film is unlikely to be made, though both the star, Ron Perlman and the director, Guillermo del Toro, refuse to say never.
The potential to adapt the massively popular Japanese manga series, Akira, to film has had fans salivating for many years. The story, which involves a hero, Tetsuo, with psychic powers, is considered one of the best manga ever written. Since 2002, directors and filmmakers have been talking about getting this to film. In 2009, the promised film took a hit when the writer, Gary Whitta, backed out of the project. In 2010, a new writer was brought on to get things going, but that went nowhere. Then, in 2011, storyboards and concept art were designed, but the project was completely shut down by 2012. Now there are rumors of an animated series, which is sure to disappoint the fans of live-action film, but I guess anything is better than nothing. Many comparisons have been made with the recent film, Chronicle, but that shouldn’t hurt Akira’s chances of being made.
William Gibson’s 1984 cyberpunk hacker tale has long been considered one of the better science fiction novels ever written. There have really always been whispers about this film being made. In 2007, the first serious reports were made that a film was indeed in the works. In 2010, the script that was written in 2007 was being rewritten. Later, in 2011, the film rights changed hands and was said to be finally moving forward. In 2012, GFM films, who had the rights, had announced they had a director and had begun putting together a cast. By 2013, they had confirmed that the script was long done with the help of Gibson himself, and they were getting close to starting production. Last year, in 2015, the talk was that funding had been found but they had moved on from their initial choice of director.
2. Blood Meridian
There are people who claim that Cormac McCarthy’s novel Blood Meridian, would be impossible to film. What a bunch of malarkey. Nothing is impossible to film, it just requires someone with the right vision. The novel itself, widely considered one of the best American novels ever written, is a story and study of violence on the frontier. It is filled with depraved and disgusting characters, but it is beautiful. There has been a long list of people interested in the film rights since its release in 1985, but James Franco has come the closest. Franco recently adapted McCarthy’s Child of God, which was not loved by many, but when he started to film some test footage for Blood Meridian, everything looked like it was moving forward. It turns out, however, that Franco did not actually get the filming rights. I guess the test was a fail.
1. At the Mountain of Madness
Back in 2006, director Guillermo del Toro picked up H.P. Lovecraft’s story At the Mountain of Madness, a story about an Antarctica expedition gone wrong. He and screenwriter Matthew Robbins, wrote a screenplay and pitched it to the studios. Originally, the studios were said to have some reservations about the budget and the story’s ending, not a true Hollywood happy ending. Then, in 2011, when the film had a date and was set to move forward, it was held up due to the rating (del Toro was steadfast about an R-rating and the studio wanted a PG-13). When Ridley Scott released Prometheus in 2012, del Toro suggested that his proposed film might be dead in the water because of the similarities with Scott’s film. But it wasn’t quite dead. In 2013, del Toro said he would try one more time in the future. Cross your fingers.