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.