Alternate ending, or more accurately "alternative ending" in British English, is a term used (usually in movies) to describe the ending of a story that was planned or debated but ultimately unused in favor of the actual ending. Generally, alternative endings are considered to have no bearing on the canonical narrative. On the internet, amateurs may make their own alternative endings.
Examples in film
Alternative endings are often filmed before being scrapped, and may be subsequently included as a special feature in the film's DVD release. These alternative endings are a special type of deleted scene. In other cases, ideas that were presented but discarded early on are alluded to by the production team in commentary or interviews.
Some films also present the alternative ending on International releases as well as their international Home media release, with its original region release only showing the alternative ending on certain TV channels.
The following are examples of known alternative endings to movies:
- 1408: An alternative ending is present on the director's cut disc (much like The Butterfly Effect, with a few deleted scenes reinserted) Mike Enslin dies in the fire he causes. At his burial, his wife is approached by the hotel manager, offering his personal belongings. She refuses, and he lets her know that her husband did not die in vain. Back in his vehicle he listens to the tape recorder, and screams in fear as he sees Enslin's burned deformed body in his back seat for only a moment. The film closes with an apparition of Mike Enslin still in 1408, muttering to himself, hears his daughter's voice, and finally exiting the room with her.
- 28 Days Later: Several darker alternative endings (filmed, available on the DVD release). The first has Jim gravely injured near the end of the film and he is taken to a hospital, but he dies before he can be given medical attention, and his body is left behind (completing a cycle in the movie; he woke up alone in a hospital and has now died there). Some versions also involve him dreaming of the accident that put him in the hospital at the beginning of the film. Another unfilmed ending picks up after Frank has been infected, where they take him to a research complex and Jim sacrifices his own life to give him a total blood transfusion to restore him, and he is once again left alone in a hospital bed. This was discarded for being too unbelievable.
- 3 Ninjas: The American cut originally showed that the boys had won the basketball challenge and effortlessly won Emily's bike back. In an extended international version of this movie, they lose the basketball challenge along with their own bikes, so a scene ends the international version of the film in which they fight the bullies to get them back, as an alternative ending. In the United States, this alternative ending can only be seen on certain television channels such as Starz, Showtime, and Showtime MAX; international DVDs have this version, as well.
- Army of Darkness: In an alternative ending after Ash drinks the potion that would make him sleep long enough to wake up in his own time, he inadvertently drinks too much and wakes up in the future. Realizing that the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Ash screams "I slept too long!"
- The Astronaut's Wife: When Spencer is killed, Jillian is not possessed by the alien. Instead, she moves out to the country. Sitting beneath a tree, looking up at the stars, she tunes her radio to the same signals Spencer was receiving while possessed by the alien - her twin babies controlling her movements from inside the womb, listening - and waiting...
- The Bourne Identity: An alternative ending on the DVD has Bourne collapsing during the search for Marie, waking up with Abbot standing over him, and getting an offer to return to the CIA.
- The Butterfly Effect: Evan watches a home video of his mother pregnant with him and returns to the memory of himself as a fetus. Convinced that his very existence has ruined the lives of those around him, he strangles himself with his umbilical cord and dies, stillborn. This "Director's Cut" ending is much darker than the theatrical ending, where he simply stops himself from becoming friends with Kayleigh.
- Clash of the Titans (2010 film): After defeating the Kraken and Hades, Andromeda falls into the sea and Perseus dives in to save her. When he reaches her, he embraces her with a passionate kiss, indicating that he fell in love with her, and she with him. After reaching the shore and regaining consciousness, Andromeda asks Perseus if he will stay and he says there is someone he needs to talk to, before kissing her again, indicating that he will come back. Getting on Pegasus, he flies to Mt. Olympus (although the special effects are incomplete) where he confronts Zeus, stating that he does not wish to be one of them and that any conflict between them has just started. After slamming his sword into the gods' map and shattering the models of every living person, he leaves and is seen flying on Pegasus over the sea, presumably back to Argos (although the special effects are incomplete).
- Clerks: Dante is still inside the Quick Stop after it closes. A customer enters and, without saying a word, shoots Dante after he tells him they are closed, and empties the cash register. The credits then roll, and when they are over a customer comes in and sees the counter empty without noticing Dante's body on the ground behind the counter.
- Clue had four different endings, and each one distributed to theatres had one of three of them. The video and DVD version had all of these three endings on it. The fourth one has not been included because the director did not approve of it.
- Die Hard with a Vengeance: In an alternative ending found on the special edition DVD it is presumed that the robbery succeeds, with McClane catching up with Gruber months later in Austria. His career is in ruins and he is keen to take it out on Gruber whom he invites to play a game called "McClane Says". This involves a form of Russian Roulette with a small Chinese rocket launcher with the sights removed, meaning it cannot be determined which end is which. McClane then asks Gruber some riddles similar to the ones he played in New York. When Gruber gets a riddle wrong, McClane forces him at gunpoint to fire the launcher, which blows Gruber to bits. This ending is in the novelization, only McClane fools Gruber into thinking the tube like launcher is pointed at McClane. Gruber guesses the trick question and shoots himself.
- Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story: The Average Joes lose the game when White Goodman hits Peter with the ball. According to the DVD commentary, this was the writer's original intention for the movie, but the studio insisted it be changed - hence the "real" ending - when test audiences reacted poorly to the unhappy ending. (The antagonist references this right at the end of the movie, by mocking the audience for wanting a happy ending and saying, "You happy now?")
- Fatal Attraction: Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) was originally scripted to commit suicide at the end of the movie and make it look like Dan (Michael Douglas) had murdered her, in which he was arrested. Test audiences did not respond well to this finale, mainly due to a lack of revenge from Beth and the family. Especially when Beth tells Alex "If you come near my family again I'll kill you". This resulted in a three week re-shoot for the action-filled sequence in the bathroom and Alex's death by shooting. The fact that Beth shoots Alex makes a direct comparison between the two characters, Alex being a victim, and Beth taking control to protect her family.
- Final Destination: Alex is killed when he grabs the downed power line to save Claire, ending Death's pattern. In the final scene it turns out that Claire is pregnant with Alex's baby.
- Final Destination 2: The original movie was supposed to end with Kimberly and Officer Burke embracing in the hospital after Kimberly is revived. Instead, David Ellis, the director, decided to end the film with a bang and include the barbecue scene.
- Final Destination 3: The film has two alternative endings (based on the viewer's choices on the DVD). In the first ending, Ian is fully crushed by the sign and Wendy, Kevin, and Julie decide what to do next. In the second ending, which involves the subway, the train headed for Wendy actually hits her, instead of being a vision.
- The Final Destination: In one alternative ending, Nick realizes he has to kill himself for the chain to end. So, he puts out the initial fire and then jumps out a window, killing himself. Later, Janet and Lori sadly embrace, as Lori says, "The chain is broken." Suddenly, a piece of the chain holding the A/C unit breaks and lands next to Lori. Lori picks it up, and the unit drops and crushes Lori and Janet, with Lori's hand holding the chain sliding into the audience's face in 3D. In another, Nick is also crushed with Lori in the escalator, instead of it being a vision.
- Final Destination 5: In an alternative ending, which was in the original script, Sam, Molly and Nathan take a walk through memorial park believing they finally cheated Death but Death is still in action after Nathan is crushed by Flight 180's landing gear while Sam & Molly stare at him in horror.
- First Blood: In an alternative ending, Rambo doesn't want to be arrested so when he is speaking with Col. Samuel Trautman, he asks him to shoot him. The Colonel does so and leaves.
- Friday the 13th Part III: Chris wakes up the morning after killing Jason, only to find he is still alive when she opens the back door of the lake house. Jason then proceeds to cut off Chris's head, and the scene immediately switches to Chris waking up screaming in the back of the police car, revealing her entire death was a dream and Jason remains dead in the barn.
- Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter: An alternative ending to the film, included in the 2009 Deluxe Edition DVD shows a dream sequence where Trish and Tommy wake up the next morning after killing Jason to the sound of police sirens. Trish sends Tommy to summon the police who have arrived next door. At that point she notices water dripping from the ceiling and goes to investigate. She enters the upstairs bathroom, and finds the body of her mother, drowned in the bathtub. At that moment, Mrs. Jarvis' eyes open and Jason appears behind Trish ready to strike. Trish then suddenly wakes up in the hospital in a scene reminiscent of the ending of the first movie. In his commentary, the director says this scene was cut because it interfered with the idea that this would be the final film.
- Game of Death: This movie has two alternative endings. In the Hong Kong version, after we see Billy defeating Dr. Land, who falls from the rooftop, the police and an ambulance arrives there. The police arrest Billy and the ambulance takes Dr. Land. The other ending, shows that after defeating Dr. Land, Billy is with Ann at a harbour, saying good bye to Jim. The next scene shows a ship departing and a picture of Bruce Lee. This scene of the ship departing is also in the Hong Kong ending.
- Hide and Seek: This movie had many different endings on whether Dakota Fanning's character, Emily had split personality and whether she ended up at a mental hospital or at a new home.
- I Am Legend: The "Monster Woman" that Robert Neville captures in order to run a "cure" test becomes the key to his survival in the end. As the "Alpha Monster" begins to break into the lab area, he stops, and Robert Neville suddenly realizes that all they want is the "Monster Woman" back. So Robert Neville rolls her out of the lab and awakens her out of her medicated state, and the "Alpha Monster" picks her up and takes her away, leaving Neville alive after his ordeal. (NOTE: The creatures are a mutation from man's cure to cancer)
- I Know What You Did Last Summer: In the alternative ending, Julie receives an invite to a pool party and read an email that reads "I still know". This scene was used in the trailer for the film.
- Infernal Affairs: In the mainland Chinese version, the police found evidence proving Lau Kin Ming (Andy Lau) is a triad mole and is arrested and the film end. The sequel, Infernal Affairs III, follows the original Hong Kong ending where Lau got away with his crime.
- Little Shop of Horrors: In one of the most famous changed endings, the original conclusion to the off-Broadway musical was filmed and preferred by Frank Oz the director and the majority of the actors. However, test audiences disliked how Audrey and Seymour, the main protagonists, were both killed by the evil alien plant, and the ending had to be re-shot so that their deaths were removed.
- Men in Black II: The original ending for the film featured a scene in which the towers of the World Trade Center opened to release a swarm of UFOS. After the terrorist attacks in 2001, the ending was reshot.
- Paranormal Activity: In one version of the film that was shown at only one public viewing, Katie returns to the bedroom after the screaming and noise of her and Micah struggling downstairs. She is holding a knife and covered in blood. She closes and locks the bedroom door. Katie walks over and smiles at the camera, then slits her own throat. There is a third ending in which, after killing Micah, Katie returns to the bedroom and sits down against the bed with the knife in her hand, rocking back and forth, for almost two days straight. Katie's sister comes looking for her, but when she enters the house, she is heard screaming after seeing Micah's body. The creature possessing Katie leaves her body, and scares Katie's sister out of the house, before returning to Katie, who resumes rocking back and forth. The police arrive at the house about 30 minutes later, and Katie comes out of the bedroom with her knife, calling for Micah. Following a heated confrontation, a door behind the officers slams shut, causing the officers to shoot Katie.
- Paycheck: Jennings and Rachel are wondering what to do next when Jennings spots the kid who stole the engagement ring from him on the subway coming out of a pawn shop. He goes in to the shop for a few minutes and when he comes back he asks Rachel "do you believe in fate?" and they kiss. It is assumed he then proposes to her because it fades to black at that point.
- Pineapple Express: Both main characters are killed off by a man they forgot to shoot down.
- Rocky Balboa: Rocky defeats Mason "The Line" Dixon by split decision. In the actual movie, it is reversed.
- Ronin: Deirdre is seen on the stairs next to the café considering joining Sam and Vincent. Deciding against it, she walks up the stairs. As she is getting into her car, she is snatched into a van by men in the IRA who call her a traitor. It is implied that she is later killed. Sam and Vincent finish their conversation and depart, completely unaware of what has just happened.
- Scream 3: When Ghostface enters the screening room, he does not have a white sheet covering him. After Roman notices Sidney has disappeared after he supposedly killed her, he searches the screening room for her shouting and telling her all the doors are locked, most of the scene shows Sidneys' point of view which was not shown in the actual ending. Also, Kincaid doesn't enter the screening room in this ending.
- Seven: Writer, Andrew Kevin Walker, completed two separate drafts of the ending. The first used in the theatrical edition of the film. The second, John Doe is killed by Somerset instead of Mills. This alternate ending sequence was storyboarded and is included in the published script, but never filmed, however does appear on an extra disk on the DVD Release.
- Smokin' Aces: Rather than pulling the life support cords of Israel and Sparazza as he does in the used ending, he instead draws his weapon and empties his pistol into them.
- Super Troopers: Another ending was filmed that starts the same way as the real ending; by the police station being closed down. This time, the former officers are now working in a meat packing plant. They talk to their boss saying that bad meat should not be sent out for people to buy, and the boss says to do it any way. At this point the officers take off their jacket to reveal that they are now local police officers and chase him throughout the meat packing plant.
- Swordfish: The DVD version contains an alternative ending wherein Ginger is told in the bank that the account is already empty, alluding to the possibility that Stanley has played one final trick on them and taken the money himself. In a companion scene to the alternative ending, Stanley is shown on a trip with his daughter in a brand new RV. While eating at a diner, Stanley is shown transferring many billion dollars to various charities before continuing his trip.
- The Terminator: The alternative ending, included in some DVD releases, shows the cleanup and police response at the factory shortly after the final battle between Kyle and the terminator. A group of company representatives find the terminator wreckage and decide to hide it from police and have it analyzed. The film then ends by the screen panning out to show that the factory was owned by Cyberdyne Systems. The sequel is based on this alternative ending.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day: The alternative ending shows Sarah Connor alive and well on August 29, 2029. She is by then a grandmother (and John Connor is a Senator) in a world where Skynet was never able to start its war on humanity.
- Titanic: Old Rose is seen by her granddaughter dropping the diamond into the ocean.
- X-Men: The Last Stand: Not only different endings were intended to use in this film, but nearly a whole different plot. Significantly the role of Jean Grey, being more aggressive and disobeying direct orders of Magneto in several times. The alternative endings are: the re-opening of the Xavier Institute in which Beast is now a professor; Logan coming back to Alberta, Canada, specifically the very same tavern seen in the first X-Men; and Rogue keeping her powers.
- Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit had two different endings. One had Lady Totington marrying PC Mackintosh and another had Lady Totington visiting Wallace and giving Gromit the golden carrot.
- Whisper: In the alternative ending, the kidnapper Max has chased the demon boy David through the forest David makes him believe the wolves around him are the people who died when they turn into wolves they attack Max but instead of throwing the axe and hitting David Max holds on to the axe as he falls and the wolves maul him to death. Afterwards the cops show up and wrap David up in a blanket and take him to safety. as the police van leaves you can see David smiling.
- Orphan: In an alternative ending, Esther is seen hurrying into her room. There, she is shown with a face covered in blood while she re-applies her makeup. She then puts on the dress she wore for her first day of school and greets the police, who arrived after receiving Kate's frantic call before she reached the house, at the top of the stairs by curtseying and introducing herself, and then she is seen descending the stairs into the crowd of police. It is not explained whether or not she has killed Kate or Max in the alternative ending, although the dead body of John can be seen. However, due to the excess blood on Esther's face in the alternative ending and the fact that she is not wet, it is a possibility that she killed both Max and Kate.
Examples in television
In TV shows, producers may want to keep the ending of an episode a secret, even if it means keeping it from the stars themselves. In such a case, they will usually film more than one ending and not tell the cast which one will be used.
- 24: To keep the ending to Season 1 a surprise, the crew shot multiple endings to the finale (Teri's death was the one they aired). A second ending had Teri live through the gunshot, and a third had her not being shot at all, with the family embracing each other after the long day was over.
- D.I.E: In original ending, Yue Sir (Roger Kwok) dies from a car accident and the audience wanted a happier ending so TVB created a new one in the style of mo lei tau comedy. In the new ending, the cast tries to stop the car accident that would kill Yue Sir from happening.
- E.U.: Due to the popularity of Michael Tse's character Laughing Gor, who died in episode 22, an ending was shot where Laughing changes into his police uniform and talks. The ending never implied whether Laughing is alive or not and leaves it open for the audience to decide.
- Green Wing: In the final Special, Guy and Mac are dragged into the air in an attempt to rescue Caroline, who has been dragged into the air by holding too many helium balloons. Whilst in the air, Mac tells Caroline he has something to tell her. After walking into the sea, Alan and Joanna are last seen hanging onto a buoy, waiting to drown. The actors wanted to use this ending but it was turned down. It was thought that this ending would have been used if a third series was being made.
- Sex and the City: In the series finale three endings were shot, in which Carrie Bradshaw: (1) becomes engaged to Aleksandr Petrovsky, (2) resumes her relationship with Mr. Big, and (3) turns down both suitors and reaffirms her love for her friends.
- The Simpsons: In the two part episode Who Shot Mr. Burns? there was an alternative ending where it was revealed that the shooter of Mr. Burns was Waylon Smithers rather than Maggie Simpson. Shots of other characters shooting Mr. Burns were also fully animated, though no other complete ending scenes were produced. (These alternative shootings were intended to be intentionally 'leaked' as an elaborate practical joke on the media, but the producers could find no journalists who would take the bait.)
- Lost: At the end of Season 4, the audience learns that one of the main characters will die in the future. To keep the identity of this person a secret, three different versions of the final scene were shot. The canonical ending shows that Locke will die, while the alternative endings had Sawyer and Desmond die.
- King of the Hill: Some episodes have alternative endings (including the episode "The Company Man"), which can be found on the DVD Special Features.
- Psych: the episode 100 clues had alternate endings where the fans decided who was the culprit
Examples in video games
Many video games also have alternative endings. These endings are generally posed after completing the game in a harder difficulty, or taking a different route through the game's storyline.
Examples in music
- English rock band Marillion's 1994 concept album Brave is one of the very few examples of an alternative ending appearing in the medium of music. The vinyl edition of Brave featured a double groove on side B of the second record, the final side of the album: depending on where the needle was dropped, the record would either play the standard track listing (the songs "The Great Escape" and "Made Again") or would instead play only an alternative version of "The Great Escape" with different lyrics, presenting an alternative, darker ending to the album's story.