There are so many movies being made every day, in various different parts of the world, that it would be impossible to watch them all in a lifetime. Even if you ignored everything that was made before you were born, you would never be able to catch up. That still doesn’t stop us from getting disappointed when we hear about an amazing project that ends up never coming to completion.
The history of Hollywood is littered with lost movies. In the silent era and the early years of talkies, in particular, films could be lost very easily. All it took was for the master reel to be destroyed, and then the remaining copies could be lost one by one and never seen again. These days, you would think it would be a lot easier to get your hands on a copy of any movie you wanted to see, so long as it had actually been filmed.
It’s not always the case, however. There really can still be only one copy of a film in existence, before general release, and that can be deleted or burned easily. Studios can block movies from being released, leaving us to wonder forever about what it would have been like. Even during filming, production can be abruptly brought to a halt by a tragedy or a copyright dispute.
These 15 movies probably would have been a lot of fun to watch. We’ll never know, because Hollywood teased us with their existence and then snatched them away for good.
15. My Best Friend’s Birthday – Tarantino’s First Effort Destroyed In A Fire
A lost Quentin Tarantino film? Yes, that’s right, the cult auteur made something that even superfans haven’t seen. He made a short script with a friend about a man who wanted to do something nice for a friend’s birthday, but kept having it all go wrong in hilarious ways. He worked on it until it was feature-length, then filmed it with just $5000 in his pocket. He used friends from acting class, people who worked with him at a video store, and just about anyone else he could. A 70-minute film ensued – but then a fire in the processing lab destroyed half the footage. There’s a 36-minute short which you can watch, which was taken from the surviving scenes, but it’s not the full script. It has never been released commercially despite being Tarantino’s first effort. However, being shown at film festivals has led to the short version being leaked online.
14. Don’s Plum – Feuds Lead To Legal Battles
Don’s Plum is pretty controversial in Hollywood circles. It’s an early film for Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, and their circle of friends – all of whom had developed a bit of a reputation by this point. The black and white independent film was largely improvised, and all was going well until an argument broke out between Maguire and the film’s producers. He decided more or less on the spot that the film wasn’t going to be released, and convinced DiCaprio to agree. Lawsuits and countersuits followed, and it was banned from release in the US and Canada. It was leaked onto Vimeo in 2016, but pulled down immediately by DiCaprio’s lawyers. Depending on who you ask, either the young stars were tricked and then threatened by the producers – or Maguire got a power trip from cutting this film off for no good reason. Either way, it won’t be legally available any time soon.
13. Black Water Transit – Stuck In Legal Battles And Still Being Re-Edited
An adaptation of Carsten Stroud’s novel, Black Water Transit was described as a Die Hard-esque illegal firearms dealing thriller set in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Filming was completed with Laurence Fishburne and Karl Urban, and it was then screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Several lawsuits followed and it doesn’t look as though there is going to be a peaceful resolution to the litigation. Meanwhile, even if it ever does get released, you won’t be seeing the movie that the critics saw. Director Tony Kaye has stated that he has continued editing and re-editing the film since it was last seen, hoping that one day an ultimate finished version will be released. It remains one of the most-awaited films that has not been released in full, with many eager to see it based on what critics said at Cannes. It’s a shame this one is stuck in legal hell.
12. Hippie Hippie Shake – Not Released Because Big Names Don’t Want It To Be?
This film was based on a memoir written by Australian publisher Richard Neville, and focuses on 1960s counter-culture. Neville was put on trial when he published an “obscene” issue of his magazine, and the film covers what happened before and after. Test screenings saw good reviews, but the film has not been released and there is plenty of debate as to why that is.
Some say that real life people who were portrayed in the film, including Germaine Greer, did not want to see it released. Others say that leading lady Sienna Miller caused it to be shelved when she had an affair with married man, Balthazar Getty. Working Title have now said they will never release it. It’s a shame for leading man Cillian Murphy, who isn’t to blame in anyone’s version of events, and the production crew who put time and effort into making the film. It’s also a colossal waste of money.
11. Dark Blood – River Phoenix’s Death Leads To The Unfinished Film Being Shelved
Anyone who is a fan of the late River Phoenix will mourn the loss of this film keenly. Dark Blood was the story of The Boy, played by Phoenix, who believes the world will soon end and exiles himself into the desert. 80% of the film was completed, and then Phoenix suddenly died of a drug overdose. There was a scramble to try to salvage the film, which even included Joaquin Phoenix being asked to stand in, but it couldn’t be done. Eventually, director George Sluizer put together a rough cut with what he had. He added narration over the missing scenes to explain what was happening, and showed it at a few film festivals in 2012. The final version was never to be completed, and with so much time having passed, it’s clear that it never will be. Sluizer is obviously proud of what they managed to create before that, so it’s a real shame we didn’t get to see his vision realized fully.
10. The Brave – Depp Didn’t Like The Bad Reviews So He Stopped It From Being Released
When Johnny Depp was asked to direct a film in 1997, he did it so badly that no one ever asked him again. The Brave was an adaptation of a novel by Gregory McDonald and is about a Native American man living in poverty. The lead character, also played by Depp, agrees to star in a snuff film to raise money for his family, and spends his final weeks tying up his loose ends. Marlon Brando actually gives a great performance in the film, and it had mixed reviews at Cannes when it was shown there. Depp was disgusted to see hostile reviews in the American press, which were particularly critical of his involvement in so many parts of the film. He lashed out and stopped the film from being released in the US, complaining that the press were targeting him unfairly. It seems to us that the best way to prove that would have been showing everyone how great the film was, but what do we know.
9. Empires Of The Deep – The Weird And Terrible Film Will Never See The Light Of Day
Empires of the Deep is a very odd movie. A very, very odd movie. It stars bond girl Olga Kurylenko, had a budget of $130 million, and was a fantasy epic about sea creatures fighting one another. Humanized sea creatures, obviously. Think Avatar of the sea. There is a trailer in existence, but that’s all. Different directors worked on a film which had already been mangled by different screenwriters, with around 40 drafts. The cast was largely made of unknowns, and the special effects took longer than expected. Finally, they managed to get something together that could be shown to critics… who universally panned it. Not only did they not like it, but they fully ridiculed it. China had to furiously backtrack over what had been the most expensive film in the country’s history. It’s now sitting on a shelf, and with special effects advancing further, it’s unlikely it will ever be deemed worthy of release.
8. Resident Evil – Original Script Available Online
But wait, you’re thinking. We DO have a Resident Evil film – in fact, we have far too many to count. And even the first film wasn’t that great. Well, there’s a reason for that. Based on a zombie outbreak game, it was obvious from the start that the right man to have on the project was George A Romero. He wrote a script and was all set to direct until Capcom fired him. He was replaced by Paul WS Anderson, whose film received 34% on Rotten Tomatoes and spawned plenty of other questionable sequels. Romero’s script, if you were wondering, has been made available to read online, so you can see what kind of direction he would have taken it in. It definitely would have changed the face of the franchise, aimed as more of a war movie than what we eventually got. Imagine a parallel universe where Resident Evil is actually good.
7. Gods Behaving Badly – The Film Was Buried…Because It Sucked
Christopher Walken was Zeus; John Turturro was Hades. Gods Behaving Badly was based on a comedy book about Gods who live in New York and are pretty much douchebags, and it sounds fairly good on paper. The problem was that the end result simply wasn’t very good at all. Critics who saw the film the single time it was ever shown called it “remarkably feeble” and claimed that the talents of the cast had been wasted. There was a campy CGI opening sequence which has since surfaced, as well as publicity shots of the actors dressed in ridiculous Greek costumes. It all seems like it was just so awful no one ever wants it to see the light of day again. Based on the evidence which we have already, we can’t say that we disagree. It seems that even when you have the right cast and the right idea, your movie can still turn into an abomination.
6. All American Massacre – Film Completed, Trailer Released…Then Nothing
What’s a great cult horror film? Many would argue that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre comes to mind. There are plenty of awful sequels and prequels to the film, and even reboots, that have all been released without any consideration for the suffering of the viewing public. Not so All American Massacre, which was perhaps the worst of the lot. The 60-minute feature would have been looking into the past of Chop Top in flashbacks while he orchestrated a new massacre set after the second movie, with the entire movie being filmed and a trailer being released in around 1999. Then, nothing. There was even a Kickstarter campaign once launched to try to complete post-production, but it failed to reach its goal and the film sunk into obscurity once more. It’s probably for the best, as the chronology of the series is already far too confusing without bringing this sequel/prequel nonsense into things.
5. Nothing Lasts Forever – Legal Issues Keeping It From Public Release
This is a bit of an odd one, because Nothing Lasts Forever has been shown a few times. It once aired on Turner Classic Movies, which was probably to the surprise of all involved because it is currently entangled in a series of unknown legal issues. It starred Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Zach Galligan, and was a surrealist comedy. Bill Murray’s character is a bus driver who makes trips to the moon, the world is controlled by underground hobos, and it’s all very strange. Illegal copies of the film are floating around on the internet, but it has not been cleared for release either on the big screen or straight to DVD (or video, as it would have been at the time). It’s a shame to think that a film starring comedy greats had to be lost to the general viewing public, even if we can’t really understand what the plot was about.
4. A Confederacy Of Dunces – Do You Believe In Curses?
Ignatius P. Reilly is the main character of A Confederacy of Dunces, which you may have seen on the stage or read in book form. It’s a satire of everyday life and has been recognized as one of the greatest American novels to ever be published. It’s also fairly cursed. Let us explain: first, in 1982, it was slated to star John Belushi and Richard Pryor. Then Belushi died unexpectedly, so the studio recast John Candy and Chris Farley. Then both of those actors passed away unexpectedly. Are you seeing a pattern? Another version was supposed to be made in 2005, but that never happened either, and at any rate would not have been the same as the original that we were promised. Will Ferrell and Mos Def were cast as the leads, so it’s probably lucky for them that we still don’t have the film – and us, considering the films that wouldn’t exist if they had died back then.
3. Big Bug Man – Marlon Brando’s Last Role Was Actually An Animated Film For Adults!
Marlon Brando’s last ever movie has never been seen. Isn’t that strange? Even stranger still, it wasn’t a live action movie but an animated comedy – for adults. He was playing opposite Brendan Fraser and was cast originally as a burly man who fit his own form. Then he refused to do it and instead demanded the role of Mrs. Sour, an evil old woman. He recorded all of his lines at home… and insisted on being dressed as a woman in full makeup in order to do it. The cartoon was about a man who gets bitten by bugs and gains superpowers (no, not Spider-Man) and becomes the last moral man on Earth. It sounds fairly heavy-going, so perhaps there’s no wonder we haven’t seen it. It all sounds fairly ill-conceived, and it’s very strange that the studio simply let Brando have his way and record the wrong role.
2. Something’s Got To Give – Monroe Was Fired For Always Being Sick
This film dates back to 1962, and was a remake of the 1940 film My Favorite Wife. Marilyn Monroe, Cyd Charisse, and Dean Martin were brought in to star in the screwball Something’s Got To Give. The film quickly went over budget and fell behind schedule. Monroe was frequently ill, with severe sinus infection, fever, and bronchitis during only the few short weeks of shooting. She was fired and the existing footage was scrapped, with the studio reworking it as Move Over, Darling a year later. There is some 37 minutes of footage of Something’s Got To Give still available. It would never have been finished; just a few weeks after being fired, Monroe tragically died. Arguably she may have lived longer if production had continued, but had she not, it would not have been enough to finish shooting her scenes. This is another sad case of fame claiming the life of a star in the middle of their last piece of work.
1. Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales – Director Destroyed The Negatives In A Fit Of Rage
Richard Pryor was working on a subversive film in 1968 called Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals. It is thought to have been about a wealthy white man being put on trial for racial crimes by Black Panthers. There was a rough cut of the finished film which director Penelope Spheeris put together, so that Pryor could watch it at home. He got into an argument with his wife, who wasn’t happy that he was spending a lot of time on the film, and in a fit of rage he destroyed the negatives. Spheeris tried to put the film back together like some kind of awful jigsaw puzzle, but the result was still so mangled that you couldn’t watch it properly. There’s only one brief clip still around, and even that has since been buried under litigation from warring sides of Pryor’s surviving family, despite being shown during a tribute show.
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