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Months before a film is released, it’s shown to test audiences. Studios need to make sure they’re not wasting millions of dollars on a movie everyone is going to hate. Now, a world–renowned director such as Martin Scorsese isn’t going to listen to every little criticism from an audience member who presumably knows nothing about filmmaking, but occasionally an audience’s unbridled anger toward an ending is enough to spend a couple million reshooting it.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

28 DAYS LATER

Initially, the horror film ended with Jim (Cillian Murphy) getting shot in the stomach and slowly dying, while Selena and Hannah try to revive him in a deserted hospital. Jim ultimately dies though, and the women venture off into the apocalypse to fight for survival.

Of course, preview audiences didn’t like the bleak ending, and we were given a much more optimistic one with Jim surviving his wounds and the infected seen dying of starvation.

Watch the alternative ending here.

TITANIC

James Cameron’s original Titanic was nearly four hours long. Understandably, test audiences said that was too long, and the film was cut to 3 hours and 15 minutes (which is still somewhat ridiculous).

Some of the larger chunks to be cut were a fight scene between Jack and Cal’s bodyguard (which audiences thought was unrealistic because the ship was quickly sinking), and an extended ending where the elderly Rose has a long conversation with the crew before throwing the necklace into the sea, which would have seriously diminished the emotional impact of the ending.

SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

The original ending showed Scott (Michael Cera) choosing to be with Knives Chau instead of his dream girl Ramona Flowers. However, audiences felt gypped that he had gone through all seven evil exes for nothing. Director Edgar Wright realized that “the ending wasn’t quite as satisfying as it should be”, and reshot it. “When we screened it again, the scores went hugely up,” he said.

Watch the alternative ending here.

BLADE RUNNER

Blade Runner is a primary example of test screening gone wrong, which helps explain why there are a whopping seven cuts of the film. Test audiences didn’t like the original nihilistic ending alluding that Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is actually a replicant. Apparently, viewers wanted Deckard to be more like Ford’s other iconic characters, such as Indiana Jones and Han Solo, even though Blade Runner is nothing like those films.

Some serious editing took place, and a “happy ending” was created that even had a cheery voiceover informing us that Rachel has a special lengthened lifespan. Many fans prefer the ending that Ridley Scott originally intended, but there’s still debate over which of the seven cuts is best.


GOODFELLAS

Director Martin Scorsese had actually never dealt with test screenings until Warner Bros. insisted on it for Goodfellas in 1990. Roughly 40 people walked out within the first 10 minutes because of the bloody violence. On top of that, audiences felt incredibly uncomfortable in the final act, saying Henry Hill’s final day was too long and agitating.

Scorsese and his longtime editor Thelma Schoonmaker went back and sped up Hill’s last drug-fueled day using jump cuts (which helped audiences share in his manic state as well). They also trimmed the blood-soaked scenes, but that was due more to the MPAA.

THE DESCENT

Oftentimes countries receive different versions of a film, not just because of language barriers, but because of cultural differences, with the British film The Descent being one of them. British test audiences enjoyed the bleak ending where Sarah escapes, only to wake up back in the cave, realizing she had only dreamt of escape as the crawlers close in on her. American audiences, however, did not enjoy that ending. So, we production simply cut out the last 30 seconds revealing it was just a dream.

Watch the original ending here.

FATAL ATTRACTION

At the test-screening for Fatal Attraction, audiences were not happy with the ending in which Alex slits her own throat with ex-lover Dan’s knife in order to frame him. Audiences thought this was anticlimactic, so production reshot a more satisfying ending where Dan’s wife violently murders Alex.

Glen Close (Alex) disapproved of the changes though, saying “the original ending was a gorgeous piece of film noir. She kills herself, but makes sure that his prints are all over the knife, and he gets arrested. He knows he didn’t do it, but he’s going to jail anyway. But audiences wanted some kind of cathartic ending, so we went back months later and shot the ending that’s in the movie now.”

Watch the original ending here.

FINAL DESTINATION

The original ending of Final Destination featured Alex being electrocuted, and fast-forwarding to Clear giving birth to their baby nine months later. Suffice it to say, audiences hated it. So, production made a new ending with Alex being decapitated, and minimizing the love interest between Clear and Alex. Audiences hated it. Again. So, the third and final ending was filmed where death essentially “skips” Alex. It was a hassle, but four sequels later, I’m sure the studio agrees it was well worth the $2 million in reshoots.

Watch the original ending here.

PRETTY WOMAN

Initially titled 3,000 (based on the cost to hire a prostitute for the week), the film was much darker and realistic about the life of a sex worker in LA, with Edward essentially kicking Vivian out of his car in the end and driving away.

However, Disney being Disney, demanded that production downplay the dark tones, drug use, and make multiple endings, ultimately letting test audiences make the final decision. Of course, audiences absolutely hated the harsh ending and went with the happy rags-to-riches love story.

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