If you think you’re the first person to ever see a film, you’re most likely wrong. You’re only right if you were one of the lucky few to be part of its test audiences.
This special set of viewers watches early film cuts and gives their opinions. If they have a strong feeling about any scene, it’s likely to get changed. This can include endings, character deaths, and more. Whether the change is for the worse or better is up to each viewer of the final cuts.
Keep watching to learn about movies that edited scenes after an outcry from viewers.
Little Shop of Horrors
Frank Oz’s 1986 film version of Little Shop of Horrors was meant to stick to the ending of the original movie and stage production. He shot a 23-minute, $5 million scene where the killer plant Audrey II eats the main characters, Seymour and Audrey. It then germinates and takes over the world and eats the audience.
There were two test screenings, and both had the same result. Audiences loved the film’s musical numbers but, unlike original theatergoers, hated the ending. Only 13% of audiences recommended the movie for release, which was below the required 55%.
An additional $5 million help create a final version where Seymour electrocutes Audrey II and gets his happy ending with his beloved. There’s a bit of ambiguity because there’s an Audrey II bud in their house “somewhere that’s green.” The original ending is still available on the 2012 directors-cut DVD .
This erotic thriller originally ended with Alex framing her former lover for her murder by committing suicide. The Japanese release of the film kept it, but American test audiences wouldn’t accept it. They couldn’t take such a simple ending for a character who’d boiled a family’s pet bunny for dinner.
It took three weeks of reshoots to fix the problem. In the final cut, Alex seems to be drowned in the bathtub but gets up again only to be shot dead. Glen Close who played Alex preferred the original but realized the new one was a necessary catharsis for the audience. It may not have earned its six Academy Award nominations without it.
Few films have more alternate versions and scenes than Blade Runner. To date, there are at least 7 different cuts, including a director’s cut and a final cut.
The original ending never made it past test audiences. Rick Deckard finds an origami unicorn placed outside his apartment. Audiences didn’t get it or appreciate the hint that it meant the character was a Replicant, the same androids he hunted. It was replaced with ill-received narration proving he was human over aerial footage originally meant for The Shining.
The change didn’t help the film on its release, but it’s since biome a cult classic, and fans love to analyze that original ending. It was restored in the 2007 Blade Runner: The Final Cut.
The Shawshank Redemption
This modern classic also had an ending that test audiences found too ambiguous. It originally closed with Red traveling on a bus to Mexico to hopefully meet up with Andy but the key word there was hopefully.
Castle Rock productions insisted Director Frank Darabont shoot an ending where the two characters are reunited. He was reluctant but created one where they meet up on a beach in Mexico. It became an audience favorite that helped make the film a success.
This film is the rags-to-riches story of sex-worker Vivian Ward is taken in by the affluent Edward. It was meant to be darker and ended with Edward leaving Vivian.
Disney urged director Gary Marshal to shoot multiple endings, and he said he’d go with the one test audiences preferred. They went for the upbeat one where the two ended up together. That turned the film into one of the most successful romantic comedies of all time.
Pretty in Pink
Writer John Hughes and director Howard Deutch always intended Andie and Duckie to end up together by the end of Pretty in Pink. Even the original book ended that way. The problem was that test audiences saw her fall for Blane and preferred the pairing.
The team decided they had no choice but to listen to the audience. They reconstructed the entire prom scene and filmed a new ending in a single day. There’s still debate over which version is better. Molly Ringwald who played Andie agrees that the new ending was more satisfying, but Howard finds it “heartbreaking.”
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Speaking of heartbreaking film pairings, what about one where a man works through an entire movie to get a girl but then goes with another? That’s what happened in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
This graphic-novel-inspired movie has Scott face his crush Ramona Flowers’ eight evil exes. The final novel came out only weeks before it was released, so it wasn’t clear what the author wanted. The original ending to the movie had Scott end up with his original girlfriend Knives Chau. Test audiences (and the actress who played Knives) hated that decision and it was quickly scrapped. That also turned out to be the same way the novel series ended.
Even one of the most successful films of all time had trouble with test screenings. It’s also one of the longest at 195 minutes, but the original version was even longer at 4 hours.
Several scenes were eventually deemed unnecessary. There’s one where Cal Hockley sends his bodyguard after Jack and Rose while the ship is sinking and a fight breaks out. Viewers felt it detracted from the importance of the story, and James Cameron agreed. There was also an odd ending focusing on treasure hunter Brock Lovett that got cut.
This film noir follows a silent film star desperate to be relevant again. It begins with her body floating in a pool while she narrates how she got there.
There was a different original opening where she’s resuscitated in a mortuary and talks to nearby corpses. Test audiences couldn’t help but find the scene hilarious instead of frightening. They couldn’t take the rest of the film seriously, and a few walked out. Director Billy Wilder also walked out, knowing he had to make a change, and the rest is history.
This film has one of the most memorable endings of all time, but it took effort to get it accepted. New Line Cinema originally rejected it and made a revised version but sent the final one to the director by mistake.
It cuts to black after Mills shoots infamous serious killer John Doe. Test audiences hated it so much that they even said “the people who made this movie should be killed.”
This is one instance where David Fincher didn’t give in to test screenings. He refused to change the ending entirely but did agree to add a line of narration where Detective Somerset says: “Ernest Hemingway once wrote, ‘The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.’ I agree with the second part.”
The Little Mermaid
Children are one of the most difficult test audiences to please. They became restless during the song Part Of Your World.
Disney CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg wanted it cut, but the film’s directors and producers urged him to keep it. They reminded him that Somewhere Over the Rainbow was also almost cut from The Wizard of Oz. They did another test with the full animated sequence, and the song stayed in and became one of the most popular in Disney’s repertoire.
Jaws: The Revenge
Jaws: The Revenge is widely regarded as one of the worst sequels of all time. Test audiences had major problems with its ending. It originally had a boat plow into the shark, but they wanted to see an explosion.
A scene where an electrical charge blows up the shark was added in. That decision may have made the film even worse.
Thor: Dark World
Even major franchises can have poorly received sequels. Thor: Dark World had to be overhauled in the last few minutes because of scenes that test audiences hated.
The major one was the seemingly permanent death of fan-favorite Loki. They changed it to a cliffhanger where he survives and displaces Odin. That left him around for more successful films such as Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War.
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John Rambo is one of the most famous action characters of all time, but he almost didn’t survive. An original version that followed the novel it was based on had him force Colonel Trautman to shoot and kill him.
Test audiences preferred the alternate version where Rambo lived. That decision created a franchise that has lasted for over 37 years.
This film changed because of U.K. test audiences that saw it a year before it made it to the states. The ending shows that the last survivor had only dreamed of her escape and was still stuck with her dead daughter.
That was considered too bleak and the final minutes were cut so that she could escape. A hallucination of her dead friend did provide a final scare.
I Am Legend
Test audiences caused one of the most talked-about and despised alternate endings of all time. They wanted Robert to sacrifice himself to get rid of the vampiric creatures terrorizing the world like a true action hero.
The book ends with him sparing them and realizing he’d been in the wrong by hunting them. Most modern watchers feel the film ending lessens the story’s emotional impact.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
This film is not the one you think of when you think of the word “dark,” but without test audiences, it might have been. Spielberg had originally intended for the beloved alien to die with an epilogue that hinted he may be alive somewhere in space.
Test audiences encouraged a more hopeful ending. It showed E.T. pointing a lighted finger at Elliot’s heart before they get away to safety. That’s now one of Speilberg’s most famous scenes.
My Best Friend’s Wedding
Not many romantic films end without a happily ever after, but test audiences demanded that this one did. The original plan was for the two main leads to end up together, but they felt Julia Rober’s character didn’t “deserve” him.
The new ending was more bittersweet, having her decide to work on herself before looking for love again. They also brought back her gay best friend, a fan favorite, to comfort her.
Pride and Prejudice
Even adaptations of centuries-old books can get different reactions from opposite sides of the pond. The original UK cut saw Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy get together, but a new final scene where they enjoyed an evening after their wedding together was cut.
UK audiences thought it was hilarious. American audiences loved it, but the Jane Austen Society of North America did not. The publicity from the whole ordeal got the scene back into the UK release of the film.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
The scene where Spock sacrifices himself in this film is one of the most famous twists in Star Trek. The problem was that it got leaked during production.
Fans began writing letters and petitioning to get it cut or altered. The filmmakers allowed for more freedom to bring him back in later films to satisfy fans.
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