While we generally think of the ending for films that we see in cinemas as being the best possible ending for that film, it's frequently not the first ending that a director intended to shoot.
In fact, many of the most iconic movies had very different endings. While some endings would have altered sequels, franchises and even merchandising, others may have arguably improved a film significantly.
Take a look at how different some of our favorite movies could have been, and decide for yourself:
World War Z
World War Z, the zombie action film that promised so much and failed to perform, ended with zombies piling on each other to get into Jerusalem, followed by a showdown between Gerry (Brad Pitt) and one lone zombie before Gerry escapes unharmed. The alternate ending saw a much larger climax set in Moscow, but it was ultimately cut, along with other shots in the film, including a theory that the infection began in China.
While both endings might be unsatisfactory for readers of Max Brooks' novel, which the film was based on, an action packed Moscow finale might have been a bit more dramatic than a one-on-one fight in Wales.
The end of Titanic is definitely one of those ending that you grow to appreciate as perfect. When I was younger I hated old Rose for throwing the hella expensive diamond into the ocean, but eventually I realized it was actually a really fitting end.
Originally, James Cameron had a quite different ending planned for the blockbuster, which they even filmed. In it, treasure hunter Brock Lovett and Rose's granddaughter see Rose on the railing and think she's trying to commit suicide, when Lovett realizes what she's trying to do with the locket there's a 'heartfelt' exchange of words and the movie ends with Lovett himself throwing the locket into the ocean, having realized there is more to life than treasure hunting.
You can watch the alternate ending here:
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
The ending of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, with The Terminator being lowered into a pot of molten metal and giving the Connors a final thumbs up, is a pretty bad ass ending to a film. But, just in case you didn't already get a bad case of the feels from that, an alternate ending was shot to really drive the emotion home.
In the alternate ending, we skip forward to the year 2027 where we get a horrible voice over from an older Sarah Connor talking about hope for the future. As she talks we see her watching over John and his daughter as they play on a playground. The ending is soppy and overblown and definitely nowhere near as bad ass as the ending they, thankfully, stuck with.
You can watch the alternate ending here:
Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
According to producer Gary Kurtz, the first version of the script for Return of the Jedi had Han Solo dying during a raid on an Imperial Base. However George Lucas, for the purely selfish reason of merchandising revenue, refused to kill off any main characters. Harrison Ford himself even argued that Solo should die, saying ""He's got no momma, no poppa. Let's kill him off and add some weight to this thing." As we all know Ford's request was denied and the ending was changed to the funeral pyre scene on Endor.
There is also a rumor that Lando Calrissian was supposed to die when he didn't make it out of the Death Star in time, though Jedi writer Lawrence Kasdan and Lando himself, Billy Dee Williams, have both dismissed this as urban legend.
This ending actually made it to theaters but just one week later director, Stanley Kubrick reedited and made the film a couple of minutes shorter.
The original ending continued after we saw Jack Torrence frozen in the snow, and audiences find out that Wendy and Danny were admitted to a hospital close by. While in the hospital The Overlook Hotel's returning manager comes to visit and tells Wendy that investigators "didn't find the slightest evidence of anything at all out of the ordinary," which implies that Wendy was probably imagining it all. As he leaves he then hands Danny the mysterious yellow ball that appeared earlier in the film, indicating that the hotel manager was behind the Overlook's paranormal activities.
28 Days Later
28 Days Later is unique among the slew of zombie films and TV shows. Instead of the zombies being the undead, it was actually a virus that turned a human into a zombie. In the end, there was no miraculous cure, but the survivors did find out that the infection was not as widespread as they had thought, so it became a matter of waiting out the infected until they starved and got weaker.
The film has several alternate endings, including one which went for a more traditional zombie genre approach of looking for, and finding, a cure for the infection. The cure? A simple blood transfusion. Yep, it's a rather weak and poorly thought through ending (surely doctors would have thought of that in the early days of the infection?), and we should all be thankful for the one we got.
Though the original ending of Garry Marshall's Pretty Woman has turned into the ultimate classic, love story ending, the original script held a much different and depressing outcome for Vivian. In the original ending, Vivian received her payment for the week, no one fell head-over-heels in love and she ended up back on the street. Julia Roberts herself even called the original story "a grisly, ugly story about these two people."
National Lampoon's Vacation
The original ending to this classic family romp "bombed so badly that the audience was laughing for 80 minutes and then just stopped cold," director Harold Ramis said. While the ending we know involved a crazed Clark Griswold holding a security guard (played by John Candy!) hostage with a BB gun while his family enjoys the park, the original ending was a little more serious! Instead of just holding the security guard hostage, Griswold went to park owner's house, and forced him to entertain the family while being held at gunpoint.
Yep, we're not surprised that one bombed, it was probably a smart move to re-shoot it!
One of the most iconic female heroines in film, nearly had a much different fate in Alien. When the film went into production, the script was still being written...and rewritten. One of the rewrites saw Ripley's head being bitten off by the Xenomorph and then record a final entry in her log using her voice. Woah!
Luckily the producers thought it was too dark and the ending was once again rewritten and we ended up with one of the best sci-fi movies of all time.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
While Harry Potter is an absolutely amazing film series, the ending to the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 was a little lackluster in comparison with the book version, and the film ending we almost got.
In the ending we got, there was the climactic fight between Harry and Voldemort which took place in the half-destroyed courtyard. Harry was able to kill the Dark Lord rather speedily, with his body disintegrating away, only later explaining it happened because of the Elder Wand.
The ending that could have been saw a much grander battle, where Voldemort's body stayed put once he was killed, but more importantly, it included the much needed explanation of why Harry couldn't lose the fight (because he is the official owner of Voldemort's wand) which was explained before the climactic battle took place.