Five Alternate Endings That Could’ve Ruined Contemporary Film Classics

Five Alternate Endings That Could’ve Ruined Contemporary Film Classics (photo)

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Up until the advent of DVD, alternate endings could only exist in the audience’s imagination or as the product of movie industry lore. Few were ever seen beyond the studio’s gates, the general public never knowing that Deckard was outed as a replicant in the final minutes of the original cut of “Blade Runner” or Duckie won the heart of Andie in one version of “Pretty in Pink.” Often times, it was better this way since alternate endings are usually discarded for a reason, only occasionally resulting in something more interesting like the snipped conclusion to “I Am Legend.” Good or bad, the common link between them is they completely change the tone of the film. Obviously, there are spoilers ahead for the five modern classics that could’ve ended quite badly, not only for the film’s characters in most instances, but also for the films themselves which might not be held in such esteem if they didn’t stick the landing. (And though we couldn’t bring ourselves to call “Eagle Eye” and “Sweet Home Alabama” contemporary classics, their would-be climaxes need to be seen to be believed, so appropriately, they’ve been tacked on at the end.)

“Election” (1999)
Directed by Alexander Payne

Just this weekend, a reader of SlashFilm recently dug up the clip from a workprint of Alexander Payne’s high school-set comedy from an unmarked VHS tape bought at a flea market that doesn’t end with Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) leaving Nebraska. Instead, it plays upon a minor detail in Tom Perrotta’s original novel that Matthew Broderick’s disgraced teacher Mr. McAllister ultimately ended up as a car salesman rather than the docent gig he gets at the Museum of Natural History in New York in the version that became the final cut. Dropping the film’s satiric tone almost completely, a frightened Flick visits McAllister at the dealership where he works and asks to go on a test drive before she heads off to college.

Both make amends for their actions during the student body president election that drove each of them the school with McAllister offering an apology and Flick driving home to ask him to sign her empty yearbook — a sort of “love conquers all” ending, despite the fact it’s far sadder than the one Payne eventually went with since the characters show remorse, but no real growth. A possible sign of the melancholy feeling Payne would leave audiences with in his future films, “Election” simply proved to be the wrong film to go out on such a note. [UPDATE: The video below no longer works due to a copyright claim by Paramount.]

“Titanic” (1997)
Directed by James Cameron

Whether one loves or hates James Cameron’s love story on the leaky ship, there’s likely common ground that this potential ending that played up the neuroses of Bill Paxton’s treasure hunter Brock Lovett would’ve sunk the film. Rather than seguing directly into Gloria Stuart’s elderly Rose recalling the glory and the grandeur of the Titanic after her younger self sees the love of her life (Leonardo DiCaprio) shiver to death in front of her, Cameron felt the scene needed a little comic relief in the form of Lovett panicking after discovering that Rose had kept the invaluable Heart of the Ocean necklace all along. In both versions of the film, Rose drops the Heart of the Ocean into the water, but in the final cut, it’s poignant since Rose is alone, paying tribute to her lost love, whereas with Lovett around, it becomes a parody of itself as it’s suggested Rose might be considering suicide before she’s caught and gives an unnecessary “Aw, shucks” explanation that love is far more valuable than money before flinging the Heart of the Ocean into the water so that Paxton can mug as a greedy bastard. Shifting the focus from the epic romance the audience just witnessed to a bad afterschool special was very much out of character for the film, which highlights Cameron’s notoriously bad dialogue. However, the filmmaker was probably using his eyes far more while whittling down the final cut, realizing that making a trim would excise another six minutes from an already unwieldy three-hour running time and sparing the audience a corny lecture in the process.

“Clerks” (1994)
Directed by Kevin Smith

Back in 1994, Kevin Smith’s famously low-budget felt like a blast of irreverence, much in part to the first-time writer/director’s blisteringly funny dialogue and the fact that he brought a fresh perspective to filmmaking. But that inexperience came back to haunt Smith in the final act of the film where instead of leaving well enough alone with Dante and Randall, the two New Jersey counter jockeys whose repertee about subjects such as the feasibility of the Death Star construction powers the film along for 90 minutes. But in the form it originally premiered at Sundance, it was the final two that shocked audiences when out of nowhere, Dante is shot and robbed before the film cuts to black. If kept intact, the ending wouldn’t only have put a painful punctuation mark on one of the funniest comedies of the decade, but it would’ve cheated Smith out of a franchise that not only produced a sequel, but an animated series, countless toys and served as the basis for Smith’s entire View Askew universe.

Portlandia Season 5

Is It January Yet???

Portlandia Returns With Danzig, Louis C.K. and More on January 21

Portlandia returns January 21st, 2016 at 10P ET/PT.

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Circle the day on your calendar and mark your sundial, because Portlandia is returning to IFC for its sixth season on Thursday, January 21st at 10P ET/PT for ten all-new episodes.

Portlandia gif

In season six, Fred and Carrie embark on all new Portland-based adventures, including inadvertently creating a ramen noodle monster that wreaks havoc on the city.

Other things to look forward to this season: Doug and Claire break up, only to wind up frustrated by a way-younger party girl and an overly caring feminist, respectively. Dave and Kath decide to run a marathon that takes place the following day. Fred turns grey overnight and, in seeking answers from the universe, gets sucked into a black hole. Kyle MacLachlan, reprising his role as the Mayor, tries to lure a tech company to Portland and also puts the moves on Carrie with a canister of frozen sperm from his office refrigerator.

Guest stars coming to Portlandia this season include Jillian Bell (Workaholics), Louis C.K. (Louie), musician Wayne Coyne and The Flaming Lips, rocker Glenn Danzig, Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef), Mitchell Hurwitz (Arrested Development), Moshe Kasher (Another Period), Zoe Kravitz (Dope, Mad Max), John Levenstein (Kroll Show), NPR’s Kai Ryssdal, Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Robert Smigel (Saturday Night Live), and Bitsie Tulloch (rimm).

Returning guest stars include Steve Buscemi (Boardwalk Empire), Natasha Lyonne (Orange Is the New Black), and Kumail Nanjiani (Silicon Valley). Be sure to catch Seasons 1-5 of Portlandia on iTunes and Netflix and check back here for more announcements before the season six premiere on January 21st.


Fred & Horatio Team Up

Former SNLers Work on Latino-Focused Comedy Hub

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Read Carrie's Book

Carrie Brownstein’s Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl Is Out Now

Carrie's moving memoir is out now.

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Portlandia star Carrie Brownstein’s memoir, Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, is out now at fine local book shops and at online retailers like iBooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon.

The book, a “deeply personal and revealing narrative of Brownstein’s life in music,” is getting rave reviews. The Washington Post writes that, “It’s impossible not to like Brownstein” in their review of her “engaging and witty” memoir. The AV Club called the book “engrossing,” adding that “for fans of Sleater-Kinney, it’s immensely compelling, particularly because Brownstein writes crisply, insightfully, and without vanity.” She even dedicated the book to her Sleater-Kinney bandmates (and Portlandiaregulars) Janet Weiss and Corin Tucker.

Pick up a copy of Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl in stores today, and be sure to catch Carrie on her nationwide book tour at one of the dates below where she will be joined by specials guests like Questlove, Amy Poehler and more.


WORD Bookstore at Saint Vitus Bar

In conversation with Questlove


Barnes & Noble Union Square

In conversation with Gaby Hoffman


Philadelphia Free Library at The Merriam Theater

In conversation with Aidy Bryant


Pitchfork at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


BookPeople at Central Presbyterian Church

In conversation with Liz Lambert


Vroman’s Bookstore at Pasadena Presbyterian

In conversation with Amy Poehler


Jewish Community Center of San Francisco

In conversation with Dave Eggers


Powell’s Books at The Newmark Theatre

In conversation with a Special Guest TBA


Elliott Bay Book Company at The Neptune Theater

In conversation with Maria Semple


Drawn & Quarterly at The Rialto Theatre

In conversation with Jessica Hopper


Toronto Public Library’s Appel Salon

In conversation with Johanna Schneller


The Future Is Funny

The 10 Funniest Sci-Fi Comedies

Happy Back to the Future Day!

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Often covering heady concepts like philosophy and tragic social norms, science fiction is always in danger of being too dry and dour for its own good. However intelligent and astute the observations may be, if the themes don’t align with the tone, the end results could be a slog to watch. Sometimes we just want laughs to accompany aliens, time travel, and dystopian futures. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of sci-fi comedies that perfectly pair humor and futuristic wonder into a delightful package.

Here are 10 such sci-fi comedies that deserve a play when you need cheering up.

10. Repo Man

A staple in the cult film pantheon, Repo Man throws a punk-rocking Emilio Estevez into the bizarre world of car repossession set against a backdrop of a slightly-more-dystopian version of Los Angeles. Featuring veteran weirdo Harry Dean Stanton, a Chevy Malibu with aliens in the trunk, and a thumbnail philosophy centered around a hypothetical plate of shrimp, this midnight movie is a must-watch for those who are sick of boilerplate plotlines.

9. Night of the Comet

If you ever watched Valley Girl and thought it could use some zombies, then Night of the Comet is for you. This unfairly forgotten gem pits two mall-obsessed sisters against undead stockboys, bloodthirsty soldiers, and healthy teenage hormones in a post-apocalyptic land straight out of Omega Man. With tongue firmly in cheek, Night of the Comet is a fun and cheesy sci-fi comedy that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

8. They Live

Written and directed by genre king John Carpenter, They Live is a hilariously over-the-top treatise against commercialism, government control, and religious zealotry. The movie stars the sadly late (and never-better) Roddy Piper as migrant worker Nada who finds a special pair of sunglasses that reveal a world choked with subliminal consumerist messages and humanoid aliens. It’s endlessly quotable with a ridiculous yet valid message and contains the best street fight ever captured on film.

7. Idiocracy

If you’ve read the comment section for an article on the Kardashians, energy drinks, or the state of our educational system, then you’re probably familiar with Mike Judge’s Idiocracy. Depicting a future where every American institution has crumbled due to wanton stupidity, average bloke Joe Bauers (Luke Wilson) becomes an Einstein among the mentally challenged and humanity’s last hope for survival. Like Judge’s Office Space, Idiocracy achieved cult status after a mismanaged theatrical release. It was also oddly prescient.

6. Innerspace

Endless charm and eye-popping special effects rev this high-energy, high-concept Joe Dante sci-fi comedy. Basically a goofball version of Fantastic Voyage, Innerspace injects a minuscule bio-pod piloted by Dennis Quaid into a neurotic Martin Short and propels them into the dangerous scientific underworld of nanotechnology supremacy. Quaid and Short — along with Meg Ryan, Robert Picardo, and Kevin McCarthy — are fun personified in this rollicking, rewatchable classic.

5. Galaxy Quest

Unfairly derided as “Three Amigos in space,” Galaxy Quest is actually one of the most accurate depictions of sci-fi tropes and geek fandom ever produced. A thinly veiled satire of the original Star Trek series, the ensemble comedy tackles everything from fan conventions to space-based MacGuffins, but does so with an unmistakable love for the genre.

4. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure

Movie concepts don’t come any higher: A lovable pair of wannabe rock gods travel through time in a phone booth to assemble historical figures as a means to pass their history final and unite the planet through music. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter are an effusive duo you can’t help but love, George Carlin as their time-guide Rufus is perfectly cast, and the moral message (“Be excellent to each other and party on, dudes!”) should be a real-world Golden Rule.

3. Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie

With a running time of 75 minutes and lacking a second “Mad” for loonier interplay, MST3K: The Movie is considered a lesser entry when compared to the television series. However, Mike and the Bots are in top form when mocking the sci-fi flick This Island Earth — Interocitor assembly and alien foreheads have never been richer for riffs — and any fan of the show would be remiss to skip the film.

2. Tie: Ghostbusters and Men in Black

It doesn’t get any more quotable than Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as the titular spectre-snatching quartet. At its core, this beloved treasure follows the hardships of a new fringe business as it tries to find a reliable customer base. But add supernatural elements, and Ghostbusters becomes a perfect blend of comedy, sci-fi (those proton packs wouldn’t be out of place on Star Trek) and the occult. Every line in every scene is a bona fide classic, rightfully earning the film its place among other worn-out VHS tapes in our collection. Meanwhile, Men in Black channels Ghostbusters with its mix of comedy, sci-fi and creepy creature-based bureaucracy.

1. Back to the Future

Arguably the best matchup in a comedy film, Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are absolutely perfect in this 1985 favorite. Back to the Future features Fox as a time-traveling teen sent back 30 years whose existence is in jeopardy when his 17-year-old mother falls in love with him and his father is too shy and weak-willed to pursue her. Nominated for Best Original Screenplay and spending 11 weeks at number one in the box office, Back to the Future is the rare mix of audience appreciation and critical acclaim — not to mention comedy and sci-fi.

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