10 Alternate Movie Endings Better Than the Real Ones
Picking the perfect ending is a challenge various directors and writers take on every day. It can make or break the entire experience, with countless examples of great movies ruined by their endings or bad movies saved by the few last scenes. They always need to keep in mind that it’s the last sequence their audience will see before the credits. It will remain etched in their minds whether it satisfies or delivers the killing blow.
Sometimes, though, the best decisions are not made. The audience protests only to find a better and more pleasing ending that they wish could’ve made it to the screen instead. Whether it’s drowned in meaning, more appropriate in tone, or simply leaves viewers wondering, some alternate finales are considered plain better than the original.
I Am Legend (2007)
Original ending: Dr. Neville (Will Smith) makes the ultimate sacrifice, blowing himself up and a group of Darkseekers in order to save Anna and Ethan. But not without first giving them the cure, which they later take to the colony to help everyone else. Thus, he becomes a legend.
Alternate ending: It turns out that all the Darkseekers wanted was Dr. Neville’s test subject, a female of their kind he experimented on to get the cure. In the sequence, the protagonist wakes her up and lets another Darkseeker take her away. The group backs off in return. While it’s less “heroic”, this particular ending of I Am Legend forces the audience to rethink their outlook on the movie. It turns out that these creatures do have some humanity left in them. And, Dr. Neville, in turn, realizes that they see him as a murderer of their kind, as much as he views them as monsters.
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
Original ending: In The Butterfly Effect, Evan (Ashton Kutcher) is experimenting with time traveling to find the best version that would make life better for everyone. In the end, he purposefully upsets the love of his life, Kayleigh (Amy Smart), to drive her off, so he wouldn’t grow up with his sweetheart and, in turn, she wouldn’t live with her abusive father. The theatrical conclusion has a happy tone, as he meets her later in life and asks her out for coffee.
Alternative ending: The same as above happens, but instead of approaching Kayleigh later in life, the screen blacks out as he follows her down the street. It’s left for the audience to wonder if he ever introduced himself or not.
The better alternative ending: A more tragic conclusion to a beautiful story. It’s the painful realization that her life might just be better without him existing in the first place. Evan goes back before he was born and strangles himself with the umbilical cord. In its saddened tone, though, it leaves the audience to wonder if his mother’s first few stillborn did, in fact, do the same thing as Evan and sacrificed themselves.
Terminator 2 (1991)
Original ending: Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) and, her son, John Connor helps bring the end of the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who perishes after understanding the meaning of human life. The screen goes black and future sequels follow the timeline.
Alternate ending: The future is here and better. An old Sarah Connor is still alive, living in a more hopeful time due to the sacrifice of a machine and her son becomes a politician fighting the good fight. This ending delivers a more powerful message, and it also cuts the possibility of other Terminator movies after Judgement Day.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010)
Original ending: Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) defeats all of Ramona Flowers’ (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) exes in video game fights to win her heart. By the end, he succeeds, and they both wander off together.
Alternate ending: After all the struggles and heartache Ramona put him through, Scott realizes that he cares for Knives (Ellen Wong) more. The ending has the two of them walking into the night together and playing arcade games in a more beautiful conclusion. Sometimes, the geeky girl does get the geeky guy. And that’s what we, the audience, want to see.
28 Days Later… (2002)
Original ending: The impromptu surgery that Selena (Naomi Harris) performs on Jim (Cillian Murphy) succeeds after he was shot in the stomach. He wakes up from the coma 28 days later as the title suggests, and they all construct signs on the roof that will possibly lead to their rescue from flesh-eating zombies. Not all hope is gone.
Alternate ending: The surgery fails. Selena and Hannah are left all alone with nothing to do but face the music. They arm themselves and walk out of the hospital, leaving the audience wondering whether they survived or not. Their uncertain future awaits and it’s going to be bloody. It may not be the cheeriest ending, but it does tell us two things. One, it shows that even the hero can die from a gunshot to the stomach, which is the most realistic consequence of that wound and lack of proper medical care. And two, it emphasizes the movie’s message that no one is safe.
Paranormal Activity (2007)
Original ending: Paranormal Activity was an instant success and had a good ending to a horrifying story. Katie wakes up in the middle of the night, heads downstairs, yells for Micah, and once he rushes down to her, the yelling and the sounds stop. Later, we see a possessed Katie entering the bedroom again, throwing Micha’s dead body at the camera with a creepy devilish grin on her features. Her face flashes into that of a demon before the screen goes black.
Or, another version was to imply Michas death while a non-possessed Katie was left rocking back and forth in the morning near the bed, with the police on its way.
Alternate ending: When the possessed Katie re-enters the bedroom, she is clutching a knife, and her clothes are drenched in blood. Micah is presumed dead while she slowly walks up to the camera. As she stares at the lens and the audience, she slowly cuts her own throat. It’s a darker, bloodier, and creepier ending that better fits the movie, instead of the yet another jump scare.
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
Original ending: Peter (Vince Vaughn) is triumphant along with his team, The Average Joe. Even though he sold his gym, he bet on himself to win in spite of the 50-1 odds. Thus, he became a millionaire and fired the disgruntled and bad-tempered White (Ben Stiller).
Alternate ending: White wins after a one-on-two fight. Why is this better than the theatrical? Because it’s called a “true underdog story”. The audience couldn’t have protested to the less-than-cheery ending because, in real life, the underdogs don’t often win. However, perhaps that is not what they wanted from a comedy.
Army of Darkness (1992)
Original ending: Ash (Bruce Campbell) successfully defeats the Army of Darkness as he travels back to medieval times. He saves the world, but he needs to get back. Harnessing the power of the Necronomicon, Ash returns and is seen working at S-Mart, blowing away another Deadite with a shotgun and one of his famous one-liners.
Alternate ending: While preparing for his final nap that will help him sleep until his original time, Ash makes a mistake. He was told to drink only six drops of the potion. However, as he counts them down, he gets distracted by the shift of a few rocks and counts the fifth drop twice. That lets him sleep for seven centuries and comes back to a world full of destruction. A more interesting ending and fitting for a character who wasn’t one for details.
Original ending: The Orphan’s killing spree comes to an end. Kate (Vera Farmiga) ends up with the murdering woman-child on an icy lake. As it cracks and both dip into the freezing waters, she escapes. Esther begs for rescue in the “little girl” voice that is pitiful and innocent-sounding. However, Kate does not fall for it and instead kicks her in the face, pushing her back into the icy waters.
Alternate ending: Esther heads back to her bedroom, puts on makeup, and appears at the top of the stairs when the police arrive. She is calm and composed, speaking in the innocent voice and even courtesies politely. It’s a subtle and creepier ending that leaves the audience wonder if charges against her will even stick. Perhaps she got out scot-free. It would be hard to believe a little girl would be capable of such horrors.
Fatal Attraction (1987)
Original ending: After having an affair with the deliriously insane Alex (Glenn Close), Dan (Michael Douglas) attempts to drown her in the bathtub and save his wife from the crazed mistress. While he fails, Alex is shot by his wife Beth, it all works out with the police, and he is going back to playing “happy family”. All is apparently forgiven as long as it turns out that the mistress was insane and trying to kill them both.
Alternate ending: Alex frames Dan for her suicide, which ends up with him arrested. While Beth finds a tape which hints at his innocence in her death, it’s left uncertain if Dan will wound up in jail or not. This ending was considered too tragic for general audiences who wanted a clear happy ending to Fatal Attraction. However, it’s ambiguous, darker, and leaves the possibility that Alex had won somehow, even if Dan was eventually proven innocent.
It’s difficult to pin down the better ending, as many professional screenwriters and producers struggle with this concept. Not every person in the audience can be appeased by the end. Needless to say, some decisions were better than others. It all depends on the tone the directors want, who will inevitably become influenced by their viewers. All that matters is that their audience gets a beautiful experience, strung together by cinematic moments, exquisite storytelling, and a satisfying conclusion, no matter its nature.
Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
Erik Winther is a California-based freelance writer and a contributor to Netflix Guides. He is interested in movies, technology, science, and gadgets.