The ending of a film has the power to make or break it. That final scene can sometimes serve as its saviour – if the movie is mediocre in its entirety, but comes up with a strong conclusion, the film is saved from total failure. However, more often than not, an ending that doesn’t get it exactly right can spoil a movie that was doing so well for an hour and a half, in about 5 minutes. The ending of a film, of course, isn’t everything – when a good movie has an unsatisfying but acceptable ending we can find ways to justify it and to relate to it.
Writers and directors will grapple with a film’s conclusion for a while, trying to find the right fit, and coming up with numerous completely different plot lines. Sometimes its just the minor details – such as whose character to show last or who gets the final phrase – that directors and writers have trouble deciding on, and these simple details can make quite the difference. Imagine, then, what difference can be made to a movie when the director needs to choose between two complete endings that can change the meaning of the film.
Typically, writers and producers have others around them to steer them in the right direction if their better judgment starts to fail them – thank goodness for those people. We have certain wise decision makers to thank for saving the following five movies that would never have become the classics they are today if another potential ending had been chosen in the cutting room. *Spoiler alert*, of course.
5. Freddy vs. Jason, 2003
The entire Freddy vs. Jason movie is the battle between two horror characters, so it was only appropriate that the film would end with a final showdown that would decide the winner, once and for all. The ten minute fight at the end of this movie is an epic death match between Freddy and Jason and shows Freddy emerge from the water, coming out as the victor. The alternate ending that was filmed was given to test audiences but it didn’t score well, and left most audience members confused. Instead of a battle between Freddy and Jason, the final scene is the lead teen couple of the film fooling around in the bedroom when all of a sudden the lead male becomes apparently possessed by Freddy and unleashes his claws. It’s a lazy and nonsensical ending – this movie definitely profited from leaving it on the cutting room floor.
4. Rambo: First Blood, 1982
John Rambo is a former member of the United States Special Forces whose time in Vietnam still haunts him. He is travelling alone from town to town to visit old friends of his from the war, but he gets into trouble along the way, making enemies with a Sheriff and getting arrested. In the ending of the film, Rambo is face to face with the Sheriff he has been battling throughout the movie; before finally getting arrested, he gives a moving speech about the horrors he faced in the war and how misunderstood he feels back in America. In the alternate ending offered up by the producers, John Rambo commits suicide. This left test audiences feeling betrayed, feeling that after all Rambo had been through he couldn’t find the courage to overcome it – all in all, unnecessarily depressing.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991
James Cameron’s sequel “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” was released in 1991, 7 years after his original “Terminator”, and many hold it to be better than the first. “Terminator 2” is sci-fi classic but the movie and the entire franchise could have been destroyed if the alternate ending had been accepted in the final cut.
In the alternate version, the film fast-forwards to the year 2027, where the villain Skynet is defeated and the main character John Connor now lives a quiet life as a U.S senator raising his daughter. This would have ended the franchise, not allowing for a third “Terminator”, and audiences would have been disappointed with a weak conclusion. Thankfully, the movie actually ends with an emotional goodbye between John and the Terminator and the perfect final voiceover from Sarah Connor stating, “the unknown future rolls towards us.” Better to have kept the future unknown, than to have given us an unsatisfying one.
2. Fatal Attraction, 1987
The 1987 psychological thriller was a massive hit when it was released and was the highest grossing film in the world of that year. It received 6 Academy Award nominations and was adored by critics and audiences alike. Viewers in Japan, however, were given a different ending, and the results were not quite as satisfying.
Revolving around the life of a married man who has a one-time affair with a woman who goes on to stalk him, “Fatal Attraction” is known for its iconic final bathtub scene. The crazy mistress and the husband and wife are all involved in a dangerous brawl in the bathroom of their home, and the man tries to drown the mistress while she’s attacking him with a knife. Just when you think its all over, she emerges from the tub, to attack again, when the wife comes out of nowhere and shoots her straight in the chest. It’s an exciting, adrenaline-filled, action-packed ending that fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.
The alternate ending, that hit theaters in Japan, sees Michael Douglas‘ philandering character framed for the murder of the mistress, who actually kills herself and leaves a recording admitting to it, which eventually sets him free of the charges. Not as gruesome, and not as fun.
1. The Titanic
If you haven’t watched the clip of the alternate ending of “Titanic”, it might be best to save yourself the pain. The original “Titanic” ending stayed true to the rhythm of the rest of the movie – it was a thoughtful, simple and heart-warming. The treasure hunter who had spent the past several years of his life searching for the precious Heart of the Ocean diamond that was aboard the Titanic finally decides to give up his search once he hears Rose’s story. Present day Rose as an old woman stands at the end of a ship and decides to drop the diamond in question to the bottom of the ocean while the movie flashbacks to Jack and Rose on the Titanic. It provides just the right amount of emotion and closure.
The ending producers thankfully didn’t choose was a mixture of a dramatic and comical scene that jarred with the story. The treasure hunter sees Rose about to drop the diamond into the ocean, and comes running after her while dramatic horror-movie music plays in the background. Rose then gives him some cheesy (even too cheesy for the Titanic) speech about how life is the only diamond and they laugh hysterically after she throws it in the water. It’s generally agreed that this ending would have made people regret watching the other 3 hours of the movie.