Skip to main content

50 Amazing Unmade Movies

Dune

The Unmade Movie: Maverick Alejandro Jodorowsky hoped to bring his mind-expanding, counter-cultural style to a bigger audience with a lavish adaptation of Frank Herbert's classic sci-fi novel. Jodorowsky assembled a crack squad of collaborators, including H.R. Giger for the set design, only for the director's vision to prove prohibitively expensive to film.

If They Made It Now: Dune has been adapted twice, by David Lynch for the big screen and in a Sci-fi Channel mini-series for the small screen. Meanwhile, much of the aesthetic of Jodorowsky's version was drip-fed into Alien , which shared many of his collaborators. Still, should an innovative and reckless director fancy trying a remake to Jodorowsky's blueprint - Darren Aronofsky, maybe? - we'd pay to see it.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

The Unmade Movie: Literature's most famous windmill-battling Spaniard had defeated several directors, including Orson Welles, when Terry Gilliam set out to make his tongue-in-cheek adaptation with Jean Rochefort and Johnny Depp. Then disaster struck: fighter jets flying overheard ruined the sound, a flash flood ruined the set and a hernia ruined Rochefort's ability to ride a horse. The film was abandoned.

If They Made It Now: Gilliam has repeatedly attempted to reshoot the film, with Robert Duvall the most likely replacement for Rochefort as Quixote. Yet Gilliam's long-term problems getting funding for his ambitious films have thwarted efforts to date.

Something's Got To Give

The Unmade Movie: The already troubled production of George Cukor's comedy about a man whose first wife returns after being presumed dead, was abandoned completely with less than half the film in the can when star Marilyn Monroe died.

If They Made It Now: Surely only respect for Monroe has kept enterprising producers from remaking this? Our fantasy casting: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and they may as well be directed by their Silver Linings Playbook boss, David O. Russell.

White Jazz

The Unmade Movie: Following the success of L.A. Confidential , James Ellroy's novel was in development with Nick Nolte and John Cusack set to star. The project fell apart, as did a later attempt to be directed by Joe Carnahan and starring George Clooney, possibly because one of the novel's key characters was killed off in the film version of L.A. Confidential .

If They Made It Now: " White Jazz is dead," reckoned James Ellroy in 2009, although there are no shortage of actors capable of playing anti-hero Dave Klein (Tom Hardy, perhaps?) and a generation of great TV directors from the likes of The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire who could master the nuances of Ellroy's prose.

Sandman

The Unmade Movie: Neil Gaiman's acclaimed comic series about the Lord of Dreams spent much of the 1990s in development hell, caught between Roger Avary's Gaiman-approved screenplay and the dumbed-down efforts favoured by the studio.

If They Made It Now: James Mangold pitched a TV version to HBO in 2010, which might - following the channel's success with fantasy after Game Of Thrones - be the best place to explore Gaiman's world. Casting-wise, Benedict Cumberbatch would be perfect.

Heart Of Darkness

The Unmade Movie: Orson Welles mooted an adaptation of Joseph Conrad's novella as his debut film. However, although test footage was shot, Welles' ambitious plan to shoot the entire film from the PoV of lead character Marlowe proved unworkable and he made Citizen Kane instead.

If They Made It Now: Any plans to film this must overcome the twin spectres of Apocalypse Now (based loosely on the Conrad) and the novella's troubling racism. However, Marlowe is a perfect fit for Michael Fassbender, so it's the sort of difficult project that would suit Steve McQueen after 12 Years A Slave .

Superman Lives

The Unmade Movie: Kevin Smith on script duties. Tim Burton directing. Nic Cage to star. What could go wrong? Creative differences, budget problems ($30 million spent before anything had been shot) and the pre-millennial jitters over the viability of superhero movies put paid to the film.

If They Made It Now: Given we are already two reboots on in bringing Superman to the big screen, never say never… but realistically, this is destined to be one of modern Hollywood's great 'what ifs'.

To The White Sea

The Unmade Movie: The Coen brothers' adaptation of James Dickey's novel - set to star Brad Pitt circa 2002 - would have been a largely dialogue-free, hallucinatory odyssey about an American pilot marooned in WWII Japan. It would have marked a real change of direction but deemed too expensive by the money-men.

If They Made It Now: The Coens confirmed in 2011 that they'd given up hope of getting funding, but it's exactly the kind of project that True Grit 's mega-rich but leftfield producer Megan Ellison would like. Maybe they should ask her?

Napoleon

The Unmade Movie: Stanley Kubrick spent so long meticulously filing years of research for his long-planned biopic of the French leader that he was beaten to screens by the Rod Steiger film, Waterloo . The latter's commercial failure convinced Kubrick to shelve his plans, although much of the period detail ended up in Barry Lyndon .

If They Made It Now: Actually, Steven Spielberg is circling the project, having recently announced his intention to mount a television mini-series using Kubrick's plans. For the lead, it needs to be somebody short and charismatic - how about the 5'5'' Daniel Radcliffe?

At The Mountains Of Madness

The Unmade Movie: H.P. Lovecraft's sci-fi / horror novella about an expedition discovering creepy creatures and insane goings-on in the Himalayas is Guillermo Del Toro's dream project. He's being trying to get it made for years, only for the gap between cost and tone (it's pretty bleak, all things considered) prevented studios from giving him the green-light.

If They Made It Now: Many industry pundits considered Pacific Rim to be del Toro's attempt to prove he could have a hit with a non-franchise creature feature. Is $101 million at the U.S. box office good enough? Probably not. How about $407 million worldwide? Now, perhaps, you're talking.