The 25 greatest movies that never made it to the big screen

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? Well, while we get our fair share of cinematic hits and flops, there are plenty of movies that never make the big screen - or even get the backup straight to DVD release. That image is a concept for one of them. There’s plenty that can go wrong with movie production, forcing them into development hell, including tussles between filmmaker and studio, financial struggles, actor feuds and more. 

Take a stroll through our list of the greatest movies never made for a glimpse into an alternate celluloid history, where Ridley Scott and HR Giger joined forces for a bizarre extraterrestrial flick (see image above), and Steven Spielberg turned E.T. into a dark, violent thriller...

Superman Lives

The victims: Nicolas Cage, Kevin Smith (writer), Wesley Strick (writer), Dan Gilroy (writer), Jon Peters (producer) Tim Burton (director)

The gist: A loose adaptation of the popular Death of Superman comic storyline had alien supercomputer Brainiac reigning hell on Metropolis before unleashing Doomsday to finish off Superman.

The death blow: The chequered past of Superman Lives is so lengthy, and intriguing, that it inspired the recently-released documentary by Jon Schnepp. In short: even though $30 million had been sunk into the project for development the studio angled for a smaller budget. More writers were drafted in to lower the costs of Kevin Smith's earlier script, but even Tim Burton was sick of the whole thing by that point. "I basically wasted a year," he later explained. "A year is a long time to be working with somebody that you don't really want to be working with."

Were we denied or saved? On the basis of the footage showing Cage in the suit? Denied.

Justice League: Mortal

The victims: Armie Hammer, Adam Brody, Common, DJ Cotrona, Teresa Palmer, Megan Gale, Jay Baruchel, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Santiago Cabrera, Michele and Kieran Mulroney (writers), George Miller (director)

The gist: Batman sends up a satellite enabling him to keep tabs on other superheroes. The evil Maxwell Lord commandeers it, and uses it to send a fleet of advanced cyborgs to kill the entire Justice League. He fails.

The death blow: Pre-production was wrapping up in Australia, with complete sets built, costumes hemmed, and the cast ready to act their spandex off. Then suddenly, the project was canceled. Days before shooting. The writer's strike in 2007 took its toll but the double-whammy came when an Australian film board voted against the movie in a complicated tax rebate legislative issue. That one move sealed the deal.

Were we denied or saved? Miller's latest masterpiece - Mad Max: Fury Road - is proof that we missed out big on his DC movie.


The victims: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jennifer Connelly, Robert Duvall, John Turturro, Christopher McDonald, Paul Verhoeven (director)

The gist: Hagen (Schwarzenegger) is a peasant-turned-thief who leads a massive charge in this religious Middle Ages hack-n-slash epic.

The death blow: Nowadays budgets north of $100 million are standard. Back then, Carolco aired their reluctance to shell out that kind of cash and wanted some guarantees that it would come in on, or under, budget. No surprise considering their unstable financial condition. Verhoeven couldn't make any promises to the studio that he wouldn't go over budget. In spite of dozens of sets already built in Spain, Arnie's crusading epic was put to the death.

Were we denied or saved? Hard to gauge, but the studio opted to make Cutthroat Island shortly thereafter - which bankrupted them - and we can't help but think Crusade might have been the lesser of two evils.


The victims: Ken Russell (director), Oliver Reed, Peter O’Toole

The gist: The classic Bram Stoker Dracula tale, but with a touch of the Russell’s own life. “My Dracula would be a philanthropist with a taste for the blood of genius,”Russell said in his book, Altered States: The Autobiography of Ken Russell. “If you had lived for centuries would you go weak at the knees at a picture of a dull clerk’s fiancée and lock yourself away in a gloomy castle? I wouldn’t. I’ve come up with a reason why Dracula would want to live forever.”

The death blow: Although it was said that several studios were interested in Russell’s Dracula, there were a few things that scuppered his plans. First there were suggestions that Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula plagiarised Russell’s script. But then John Badham’s 1979 Dracula starring Frank Langella was released, which really put the nail in Russell’s dreams.

Saved or denied: We love the sound of a slightly autobiographical rendition of Dracula, especially from the genius that is Ken Russell, but sadly we’ll never get it.

Who Killed Bambi?

The victims: Sting, Malcolm McLaren, Roger Ebert (writer), Russ Meyer (director)

The gist: A timely punk rock version of A Hard Day's Night starring The Sex Pistols.

The death blow: After shooting one day's worth of footage 20th Century Fox mysteriously pulled the plug. There's a number of factors supposedly responsible for the film getting axed so early on; McLaren claimed that studio heads never read the script before giving a thumbs up to production, and apparently Grace Kelly - a member on the Fox board - objected to another X-rated movie.

Were we denied or saved? Ebert's previous success as a screenwriter lent this project an edge of cinematic savvy, but it's hard to tell when the only remaining shred of footage is of a real deer being killed.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote

The victims: Johnny Depp, Jean Rochefort, Vanessa Paradis, Terry Gilliam (director).

The gist: A stressed-out modern-day ad executive finds himself transported back in time to the age of Cervantes eccentric, windmill-tilting hero.

The death blow: First of all, there were scheduling conflicts. Then there were set-destroying flash floods. Then there was Rochefort’s nasty prostate problem that made it impossible for him to sit astride a horse. That was a bit of a problem given that Don Quixote is on horseback for most of the movie. This proved too much for the insurance adjusters, who shut the production down.

Were we denied or saved? If the footage revealed by 2003's on-set documentary Lost In La Mancha is anything to go by, its very much the former. Hopefully, Gilliam's dream of buying the film back from the insurers and starting again will one day come true.

The Bells Of Hell Go Ting-A-Ling-A-Ling

The victims: Gregory Peck, Ian McKellen, David Baxter, David Miller (director).

The gist: A squad of British airmen attempt to smuggle plane parts into enemy territory with the aim of reassembling them and attacking German targets.

The death blow: “It was a disaster,” laughs Sir Ian McKellen, when asked about his first experience of moviemaking. “After five weeks of filming, the Alpine summer was invaded by early snow, which was forecast to persist through the following six months. The shooting was already well behind schedule so [producers] the Mirisch brothers decided to abandon the film and send us home.”

Were we denied or saved? The film sounds like a complete dud. However, had it been finished, it might have convinced McKellen to dedicate himself to screen acting far earlier, which could only have been a good thing.

Night Skies

The victims: Steven Spielberg, Rick Baker, John Sayles (writer-director).

The gist: Loosely inspired by the experiences of one Kentucky family, a dozen malevolent aliens descend upon a rural farm mutilating the livestock before turning on the humans.

The death blow: Mid-shoot on Raiders of the Lost Ark Spielberg experienced a change of heart. "I might have taken leave of my senses," he said. "Throughout [the production of] Raiders, I was in between killing Nazis and blowing up flying wings and having Harrison Ford in all this high serialized adventure, I was sitting there in the middle of Tunisia, scratching my head and saying, 'I've got to get back to the tranquillity, or at least the spirituality, of Close Encounters.'" He switched focus from the sadistic extraterrestrials to the kind, friendly alien from the third act. Also known as E.T.

Were we denied or saved? After images of Rick Baker's original creature designs surfaced last year, we can't help but wonder what Spielberg's grim extraterrestrial vision might have paved the way for.

Something's Got To Give

The victims: Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin, Cyd Charisse, George Cukor (director).

The gist: Nick Arden (Martin) thinks his wife Ellen (Monroe) is dead. Rather, he does until she turns up seven years later to find he's just remarried.

The death blow: Monroe's tardiness, together with her drug-induced grogginess forced director George Cukor to fire his star. Since there was no substitute, however, Marilyn's chances of a recall were good. Until she put the kibosh on things once and for all by passing away under suspicious circumstances.

Were we denied or saved? What little exists of Somethings Got To Give was issued as part of a Monroe box set. And very ugly viewing it is, too. Still, this one could have been the greatest film ever made if it had inspired Monroe to clean up...

Gem Seddon

Gem Seddon is GamesRadar+'s west coast Entertainment News Reporter, working to keep all of you updated on all of the latest and greatest movies and shows on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Outside of entertainment journalism, Gem can frequently be found writing about the alternative health and wellness industry, and obsessing over all things Aliens and Terminator on Twitter.