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.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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