It's impossible to imagine certain movies being any different from how they are. Once a film becomes beloved enough, iconic enough, its form and essence get locked-in in the minds of the audience. The idea of an alternative version feels like a fantasy from a parallel universe at best, or else pure heresy.
But really, it's all circumstantial. Film-making is a trial-and-error-process of writing, re-writing, shooting, improvising, cutting, and cutting again. As such, cinema history is filled with nearly-weres and could-have-beens, elements, endings, scenes, and sometimes whole versions of movies that never saw the light of day. Some are big, some are small, but all shed well-known classics in a new light, to one degree or another. Here are 50 of the most significant revisions that would've transformed the movies we know and love.
Batman Forever (1995)
What Was Cut: Alien designer H.R. Giger's distinctly biomechanical version of the Batmobile. Taking the Batmobile in a completely different direction, Giger's version is a tubey oddity that looks more like a pair of pincers than a car, with more than a dash of Alien's crashed extraterrestrial ship thrown in for good measure.
If It Had Stayed In: Though the design is pretty amazing in its own right, it's not something that looks like it belongs in the Batman mythos, so would have probably felt distinctly out of place. Even in Joel Schumacher's increasingly outlandish version of Gotham.
Oz: The Great & Powerful (2013)
What Was Cut: If studioADI had landed the gig of designing Oz: The Great And Powerful, we could have ended up with a much creepier movie than the one we saw.
StudioADI created their own designs and models in a pitch for the job, with a vibe somewhere between '80s Jim Henson and the more disturbing elements of Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings. Ultimately they lost out to KNB, which may not necessarily have been a good thing…
If It Had Stayed In: The Great and Powerful could have been a legitimate follow-up to Return to Oz, in the nightmare-fuel stakes.
Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005)
What Was Cut: Keith David filmed a role as Brad Pitt's spy agent boss, while Angela Bassett played head honcho of Angelina Jolie's agency.Their characters are at war, which was intended to mirror the rivalry between Mr and Mrs Smith, but was probably deemed surplus to requirement.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been a hell of an entertaining face-off, but might have actually been good enough to have taken the focus away from Brad and Angie.
Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines (2003)
What Was Cut: "Don't know about that accent." In one of the weirdest deleted scenes ever shot, we discover the origins of the T-800. A Skynet promo video shows us the cyborg's outer shell was based on a Texan soldier who looks (but doesn't sound) a lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger. In fact he sounds a lot like Samuel L. Jackson...
If It Had Stayed In: It would probably have done irreparable damage to the T-800 as a fearsome killing machine, and pushed Terminator 3's already lighter tone well and truly into goofball territory. As a Saturday Night Live sketch though, it would have been brilliant.
Natural Born Killers (1994)
What Was Cut: The courtroom murder scene, in which Mickey (Woody Harrelson) murders Ashley Judd in court. While she's giving her testimony, he leaps across the courtroom and stabs her in the chest with a pencil…
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been a troubling development for Mickey. Until now he's only killed 'bad' people - here he kills an innocent.
What Was Cut: A scene where Quint (Robert Shaw) goes into a music shop to buy some piano wire and ends up embarrassing a kid who's trying to play Ludwig Van’s 9th Symphony on the clarinet.
If It Had Stayed In: It's dark and weird, and we can see why Spielberg decided to cut it (Quint's not exactly sympathetic in the scene). It's a great little character moment for Shaw to play, but could have coloured audience feelings toward him for the worse.
What Was Cut: Jennifer Lawrence, who auditioned to place Bella Swan in the fang-erific book adaptation. As we all know, in the end Kristen Stewart got the role.
"I think everything happens for a reason," commented a pragmatic Lawrence.
If It Had Stayed In: We'd have been denied Stewart's rampant lip-biting, plus Lawrence might have struggled to build a career quite so impressive as the one she has now in the shadow of Twilight. Some missed opportunities are actually dodged bullets.
What Was Cut: A lot of the script's original tone. Written as a much darker, Leaving Las Vegas-style character study of a devastated, alcoholic superhero, the film was intended to be far bleaker than the somewhat goofy Will Smith vehicle we got.
If It Had Stayed In: Hancock could have beaten the Dark Knight trilogy, the MCU, Daredevil and Logan to the 'serious superhero' punch, kickstarting the genre's maturity a couple of years early.
What Was Cut: A series of amazing "non-slimy" alien design concepts that were never used in the film.
If It Had Stayed In: It wouldn't have changed the film's overall quality, but we might have had some cooler aliens to look at…
Lucifer Rising (1972)
What Was Cut: Twenty-three minutes' worth of stunning music by Jimmy Page, intended to be used as the score for Kenneth Anger's film. Alas, Anger and Page had a massive falling out, and Page's compositions were turned down and hidden away until 1981.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have given the film an even more unsettling, nervy vibe. Page's music is all Middle Eastern-esque chanting, with some gorgeous guitar thrumming.
What Was Cut: The original ending, which sees the Average Joes losing to GloboGym. When test audiences cried foul, director Rawson Marshall Thurber was forced to reshoot a happy ending in which the good guys win. Needless to say, Thurber wasn't happy about it.
If It Had Stayed In: We'd have missed out on the sight of Ben Stiller in a greasy fat suit chowing down on hamburgers. And to be fair, it's important that we have that.
Green Lantern (2011)
What Was Cut: Some pretty spectacular Parallax designs from artist Jerad S. Marantz, which are really spooky/creepy/unsettling/all of the above. Marantz also designed a four-armed alien girl who ended up not being used in the movie.
If It Had Stayed In: We'd at least have had a great-looking alien villain in the otherwise rather duff movie.
Life Of Pi (2012)
What Was Cut: Tobey Maguire was originally set to play The Writer in Ang Lee's sumptuous book adaptation. However, he was replaced with Rafe Spall when Lee decided to go for a more international cast.
"I very much admire Tobey and look forward to working with him again in the future," Lee said.
If It Had Stayed In: It wouldn't have had much of an effect on the film - this isn't The Writer's story after all. Not really.
What Was Cut: Hugh Jackman was originally meant to play the stoic, tight-lipped Driver, a role that eventually went to Ryan Gosling. Hard to remember a time when losing a role to Gosling wasn't the norm…
If It Had Stayed In: The Driver would arguably have been a far less interesting character - Jackman looks like an action hero, whereas Gosling brought a lithe, insidious menace to his version of Driver.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
What Was Cut: A series of armour suits designed by Josh Nizzi that didn't make it from page to screen, including a particularly fetching metallic grey one.
If It Had Stayed In : The movie's pretty well crammed full of robo-suits as it is, so it's probably a good thing these didn't make the cut - even though they are awesome.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
What Was Cut: Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) is absent from the theatrical cut of Terminator 2 , but he appeared in a beautiful dream sequence that’s still available with the special edition.
In an affecting reprise from the first film, he tells Sarah Connor "On your feet, soldier", and also delivering the "No fate" message, just when she needs it the most.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been a nice bit of emotional punctuation, and also explain why Sarah decides that now is the time to break out out of the mental hospital.
What Was Cut: Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph were both excised from the first Anchorman film. Poehler played a bank clerk, while Rudolph was the member of a gang who robs the bank.
"Even back then, I was like, 'This movie is so long, I'm never going to make it in this,'" Poehler jests.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have undoubtedly been a great scene, but Poehler's probably right. Anchorman is not a film in need of any more diversions.
The Avengers (2012)
What Was Cut: Stan Lee's extended cameo, which totalled three minutes but was reduced to little more than a vox pop in the finished film.
Includes the immortal line "Ask for her number, moron!"
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been great, but perhaps extending one of Stan's cameos to the status of bit-part might have been a distracting case of too-much-of-a-good-thing.
Batman Begins (2005)
What Was Cut: A trick wall behind the waterfall that gives access to the Bat cave. The wall supposedly smashed enemies to pieces if they tried to gain access to the cave, but the sequence was cut from the film.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have added another bit of inventive gadgetry to proceedings, but perhaps been a bit too cartoonish for Nolan's distinctly real-world take on Batman.
The Abyss (1989)
What Was Cut: Edited back into the director's cut, this brilliantly bizarre sequence was originally a lost stand-out of James Cameron's aquatic sci-fi. In the scene, Bud (Ed Harris) watches as a massive tidal wave threatens to spill over numerous US cities, as alien judgement for Mankind's warring ways.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been a deliciously dark twist to what was essentially an '80s summer blockbuster.
Dawn Of The Dead (1978)
What Was Cut: The original, much bleaker ending. In the original script, Peter and Francine decide to kill themselves rather that venturing further into the unknown of a zombie-strewn US. Peter shoves Francine's head into helicopter blades before shooting himself.
If It Had Stayed In: Everybody would have left the cinema on a real downer. We much prefer George A. Romero's more ambiguously hopeful ending, though there's no denying the original was spectacularly ballsy.
What Was Cut: They look like sex bots, but these unused android designs were actually for 'sexy robot fashion models', as designed by Aaron Beck.
They still look like sex bots to us…
If It Had Stayed In: It would have added an extra wrinkle to the fascinating world that Neill Blomkamp created with Elysium.
Iron Man (2008)
What Was Cut: Ghostface Killah - whose first album, Ironman, was released in 1996 and calls himself Tony Stark - originally had a cameo appearance in the 'real' Tony's first big screen outing.
If It Had Stayed In : It would have been a bizarre little joke that arguably few viewers would have understood.
Especially, as Killah explains: "We called each other Tony onscreen. I'm like, 'Tony Stark, I got your jet, I didn't mess it up.' He was like, 'I got the Bentley for you, I laced it up.'" Um, yeah…
The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
What Was Cut: "If you want the truth about your parents, Peter, come and get it."
Numerous elements from this reboot's trailer were mysteriously absent when the finished film hit screens - including a ton of stuff about Peter's parents, and the ominous question: "You think what happened to you was an accident, do you have an idea what you really are?"
If It Had Stayed In: It might have over-clogged an already busy origin story, which is probably why the plot-thread was moved over to The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
What Was Cut: Appearing in the teaser trailer but never making it into Skyfall's final cut, a scene of Bond jogging through Regent's Park, presumably in a sequence that takes place before his MI6 Re-Evaluation test.
If It Had Stayed In: Sam Mendes' film is a real, visual celebration of London, and this shows off Regent's Park in a way that few film's have.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)
What Was Cut: A really exciting ground-level fight between the Howling Commandos and HYDRA, in which bombs explode, the earth shakes and people get vaporised by blue energy.
Yes, that's us getting our first glimpse of the Cosmic Cube tech.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have given Cap an even more personal vendetta against HYDRA, and also given us a really cool action scene.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
What Was Cut: A scene scripted by Joss Whedon involved Ripley 8 (Sigourney Weaver) et al making their way through a jungle-like greenhouse, only to be attacked by xenomorphs through the foliage.
If It Had Stayed In : It would have been a really interesting, and potentially very cool, look at Aliens stalking and killing in fresh environment. And probably been a much better, and more fitting, action set-piece than the shonky, underwater CG xeno sequence we got.
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)
What Was Cut: A nightmare of a scene. After Judge Doom (Christopher Lloyd) sends Eddie Valiant (Bob Hoskins) to Toontown, he removes a sack from Eddie's head and reveals that Eddie now has a cartoon pig's face over his own.
One turpentine shower later and Eddie's back to normal. Close shave…
If It Had Stayed In: The film would have been even more terrifying than before. And it's already brilliant horrific.
X-Men: First Class (2011)
What Was Cut: In what has now been affectionately branded 'Dragneto', Michael Fassbender wore a wig and a dress in the stripclub scene of this prequel.
Professor X (James McAvoy) shows off his psychic powers by making Angel (Zoe Kravitz) see a vision of Magneto in drag…
If It Had Stayed In: It might have made us less intimidated by Magneto, which wouldn't exactly have worked in the film's favour later on.
The Butterfly Effect (2004)
What Was Cut: Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber's film originally went out with a far superior ending, making for one of the best deleted scenes ever.
Realising that he has truly, irrevocably fucked up with his temporal tinkering, Ashton Kutcher's time-traveller journeys all the way back into his mother's womb. There, he strangles himself using the umbilical cord…
If It Had Stayed In: The tweenie Kutcher fans would have been upset, but we would have applauded a film that dared to got for a far braver, far smarter conclusion.
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
What Was Cut: Extreme Easy Living 2, a fake video game created for the Disney animation, but scrapped before it made it into the film. It's sort of a mix of The Sims and Grand Theft Auto, and we exclusively got our hands on a storyboarded deleted scene last year …
If It Had Stayed In: It would have added to the film's rich tapestry of legitimate video game loving with a bit more homegrown satire.
What Was Cut: Numerous visual concepts from Jim Carson Design, including different versions of the Green Goblin and a slinky design for Black Cat.
Perhaps most interesting is the early concept art for a mechanical webshooter, which eventually got swapped out in favour of an organic, mutation-fuelled version.
If It Had Stayed In: The web-shooters would have more successfully played up the all-important science-geek side of Peter's personality, something that's very much at the forefront of this year's Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Ghostbusters 2 (1989)
What Was Cut: Eugene Levy, who appeared as Louis Tully's cousin Sherman, in a late scene where he helps free the Ghostbusters from incarceration.
While he's talking about his dead grandfather, who he says he saw at the foot of his bed after he'd died, the Ghostbusters speed off, leaving him at the curb with Louis, who'd promised Sherman a ride in ECTO-1A.
"I thought you were like the fifth Ghostbuster?"
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been a fun grace note in a film full of them. And also fleshed out Louis a bit more.
The Hangover Part 2 (2011)
What Was Cut: The tiny role of Tattoo Artist created numerous headaches on the first Hangover sequel. Originally Mel Gibson was set to cameo in the role before Liam Neeson took it on. When Neeson was unavailable for reshoots, though, he was replaced wholesale with Nick Cassavetes.
“We were in a complete time crunch so I called up Nick and asked if he would do the part,” director Todd Phillips explained to Variety. “He came in and crushed it, and that is the scene that you will ultimately see in the film. [I'm excited for everyone ] to see the film. It turned out great.” Er, yeah…
If It Had Stayed In: A Taken-era Neeson would arguably have been far more amusing.
What Was Cut: Harrison Ford. He was set to appear as the school principal Elliot and his mother visit after the frogs-in-the-classroom incident.
The scene was cut, allegedly, because Spielberg felt that Ford's appearance was too distracting for Indy and Star Wars fans.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been a cool cameo, but we'd probably agree with Spielberg's sentiments.
Little Shop Of Horrors (1986)
What Was Cut: In the original ending, everybody gets eaten by a triumphant Audrey II. Which didn't sit well with test audiences, who demanded it be changed.
If It Had Stayed In: We love the original ending, which only got a proper DVD release in 2012. It's a brilliantly, perfectly weird end to a brilliantly, perfectly weird film, and one that plays into the '86 Little Shop's 1960 b-movie origins excellently.
What Was Cut: That awesome shot from the trailer in which dozens of Predator target triangles dot Adrien Brody's hero.
When the film came out, there was only one target on him, which is surely tantamount to false advertising…
If It Had Stayed In: We might have got the epic battle that the trailer promised, instead of the comparative letdown we got instead.
Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge Of The Sith (2003)
What Was Cut: In early drafts of George Lucas' script, a young Han Solo appears.
He's being raised by Chewbacca on Kashyyk, and even meets Yoda, whom he gives a clue about the whereabouts of General Grievous. Lucas commissioned concept art for a young Solo, but then dumped him from the script.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have been undeniably awful, exacerbating the prequels' problem of an over-connected, ever-shrinking universe to intolerable proportions.
The Birds (1963)
What Was Cut: Hitchcock originally planned to end his movie with something far more iconic than what we got, a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge crowded with flocking birds.
If It Had Stayed In: It could have rivalled Planet Of The Apes in the 'most epically doom-laden final shot' stakes, but would also have lost the low-key, ambiguous dread of the ending we got.
Alien 3 (1992)
What Was Cut: H.R. Giger's 'alien kiss'. Giger was asked to redesign the xenomorph for Alien 3, and he did so by making it even more sexual and lithe than it had been before. Because, you know, obviously he did.
He also added the vicious little idea of this sexy new alien 'kissing' its victims, then ripping their insides out using its deadly tongue …
If It Had Stayed In: It would have led to even gorier, more psychosexually disturbing deaths than we're used to seeing in an Alien film. Which would have naturally made it peak-Alien.
King Kong (2005)
What Was Cut: A whole load of logo concept art for Peter Jackson's remake, courtesy of artist Tom Schillinger . Schillinger made over 20 different logos for the film, any of which would have been awesome on the final poster. We particularly like this rock-carved variant…
If It Had Stayed In: The film might have had a fresher identity than it got by using the obvious, '30s deco-inspired logo that was eventually approved. We'd still love to see all of Schillinger's designs turned into an alternative-run poster series. How about it, Jackson?
The Lovely Bones (2009)
What Was Cut: Ryan Gosling. He was cast as the father in Peter Jackson's book adaptation. Weeks before filming, though, Gosling was fired.
According to the actor it's because he was too fat H.e put on 60lbs for the role, thinking it would work for the character. Jackson disagreed and replaced him with Mark Wahlberg.
If It Had Stayed In: We'd have had a chubby Gosling on our hands instead of an earnest Wahlberg. Probably would have been better.
Kill Bill: Vol 2 (2004)
What Was Cut: Bill (David Carradine) fights Michael Jai White in an epic skirmish that never should have been cut - mostly because it shows us just how deadly Bill can be.
If he can better Michael Jai White, we should definitely be afraid. Very afraid.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have livened up what is an undeniably talky sequel, made Bill a more tangible threat, and given that last scene between the Bride and her prey a great deal more tension.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
What Was Cut: The Beast (Kelsey Grammar) launches into the St. Crispin’s Day speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V in order to rally the troops before they head into battle.
If It Had Stayed In: It would probably have had people either rolling in the aisles or scratching their heads in confusion.
What Was Cut: "Wanna watch me dance?"
This is a brilliantly kooky scene in which Annie (Kristen Wiig) meets the young son of a guy she's going on a date with. It was cut when it was decided that we didn't need to see Annie going on a load of unfortunate dates amid the rest of her tribulations,
If It Had Stayed In: An over-long film would have been even over-longerer. Though it's a great, funny scene, the film still works perfectly well without it.
Superman Returns (2006)
What Was Cut: A six-minute, dialogue-free sequence in which Kal-El returns to Krypton. The use of light and shadow is stunning.
If It Had Stayed In: Mainstream audiences might have balked at the wordless sight of a crystal spaceship floating through the cosmos and then slowly exploring a dead planet, and the scene definitely would have slowed down the film's pace. Still, it's a beautiful sequence that permeates a stunning sense of wonder. The film would have been richer for it.
The Wolverine (2013)
What Was Cut: Darren Aronofsky was originally set to direct Hugh Jackman in this standalone Wolvie adventure, but after six months of pre-production, the director departed.
“It became clear that the production of The Wolverine would keep me out of the country for almost a year," he said in a statement. "I was not comfortable being away from my family for that length of time.”
If It Had Stayed In: We would, arguably, have gotten a far better movie than the one we ended up with. We can't help wondering what a Wolverine from film the unswervingly artistically-minded Aranofsky would have looked like, though to be fair, with the film's director James Mangold redeeming himself ten times over with this year's Logan - a film with more than a shade of Aranofsky's The Wrestler about it - it's much less of a pressing issue.
In Bruges (2008)
What Was Cut: Matt Smith beheading somebody. In this deleted scene, Smith gives amazing crazy as a younger version of Ralph Fiennes' character, Harry. It's a shame it was consigned to the cutting room floor.
If It Had Stayed In: It would have made us even more terrified of Harry. He executed the decapitation in a damn police station, for God's sake.
Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995)
What Was Cut: The original, quieter, darker, and entirely better ending. Picking up some time after the (successful) robbery, John McClane - now disgraced and kicked off the force, having been scapegoated for the previous events of the film - tracks down Simon in Hungary and forces him to play a game of Russian Roulette with a rocket launcher. Simon loses, but it turns out that John had stacked the odds anyway, because of course he had.
The ending was scrapped because the studio thought it lacked a proper (ie. explosive) climax, and that it made John look too cruel. Rich, given what a humorlessness asshole the later sequels turned him into anyway. And besides, the rocket launcher ending included a wonderful allusion to The Lavender Hill Mob, with Simon smuggling the gold in the form of moulded souvenir statues of the Empire State Building.
Sometimes studios are monsters.
If It Had Stayed In: The film would have got a much better, more distinct, and more iconic ending, and with McClane's life apparently it tatters, we might have been spared the next two films.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
What Was Cut: Benedict Cumberbatch's John Harrison taking a quick shower, presumably to wash off some of that evil. Or more likely, to show off how ripped Cumberbatch got for the role. He admitted to being a bit peeved when it got cut, after working out for months and eating 'a lot of chicken' in preparation.
If It Had Stayed In: Cumberbatch fans might have appreciated it, but it's hard to think of what it would have added narratively. Not that that stopped director JJ Abrams from including gratuitous underwear shots of female Starfleet officers, to no small amount of criticism.