7 Terrible Early Versions of Great Movies

7 Terrible Early Versions of Great Movies

Hollywood is full of screenwriters moaning about how the studio ruined their original vision. But what we never hear about is the opposite side of the tale, where some truly horrific piece of writing gets turned into an awesome film.

In fact, it turns out some of your favorite movies started out as truly awful screenplays that somebody had the good taste to rewrite before the cameras started rolling.


In 1976, screenwriters Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett expanded on an unfinished O'Bannon screenplay called Memory (about a spaceship crew answering a distress call on a desolate planetoid), adding an alien monster to the story and calling the new script Starbeast. Then, they immediately realized that Starbeast was a fucking terrible title and re-named it Alien.

The final 1979 shooting script was re-written by Walter Hill and David Giler, who added a subplot about an evil robot and tightened up some of the dialogue. They also fixed certain... uh...

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

As you may remember, the finished film featured a subtle undercurrent of sexual tension between the characters played by Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. Well, that's one story element that survived from the O'Bannon/Shusett draft almost entirely intact. Oh, and did we mention that all of the characters in the older draft are dudes?

"Look out, Bradley! Aliens, oh my God!"

That would be just fine and dandy with us, but the gay subtext here seems to have found its way into the script without its writers knowing, almost as if there was a little gay gnome sneaking up to the typewriter every night and replacing perfectly innocent phrases either with vaguely homoerotic innuendo...

Or with absolute filth.

However, the Gay Gnome Theory doesn't explain everything, like why characters are walking around with names like Chaz Standard, Jay Faust, and Cleave Hunter. And, in case you're wondering, the Ripley character was just called Martin Roby. That's not so bad. It could almost be a real name. The spaceship wasn't so lucky, though.

Also, the planet Earth is called the planet Irth, for some reason. We're pretty sure it's pronounced the same, though, so they could have been saying "Irth" in the finished movie, and we still wouldn't know the difference.

From reading this draft of the script, it would seem that O'Bannon and Shusett didn't really have a clear idea of what they wanted the monster to look like, but you can tell that they sure as hell knew they wanted it to have a shitload of tentacles!

So, in the conceptual art peppered through the above-linked script, you can see that one artist took this description, threw it away, and drew some sort of cross between a grasshopper and a flying squirrel instead.

Martin Roby and the Alien hang precariously from the back of their mom's minivan.

On the Other Hand...

To be fair, some of the scenes that were dropped would have been completely fucking awesome. For instance, when the full-grown alien is first introduced, it immediately rips a man's head off and carries away the still-wiggling body, prompting "Martin Roby" to react with a line that we're sure would have been gleefully quoted out of context to this very day:

Other awesome moments include a sequence where the monster uses a still-living victim to shield itself from a flame thrower and a grand finale that involves the alien being impaled, burnt to a crisp, and cast out into the vacuum of space, at which point it fucking explodes!

Also, the plot is more or less the same as what ended up in the finished film, which is more than we can say for...


When James Cameron took over as writer/producer/director on the long-mooted Spider-Man project, his new bosses were worried that he was going to go way over-budget. So, they made a deal: He wouldn't get his $3 million writer's fee until he turned in a completed script that could be budgeted at $60 million or less. Cameron, who has been rumored to really like money a whole heck of a lot, almost immediately turned in a completed script that could indeed be budgeted at under $60 million. How did he get it done so quickly?

Well, earlier in the production, when a completely different film company was in charge, producer Menahem Golan had commisioned a script by John Brancato and Ted Newsom, which was then re-written by Barney Cohen, and then re-written again by Golan himself (under the pseudonym James Goldman), and then re-written some more by perhaps as many as six other screenwriters. All that was left for Cameron to do was make his own revisions and hand in the finished script.

By most accounts, his revisions consisted of adding his own name to the first page of the script and misspelling the names of two of the other credited writers.

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

Obviously, since Sam Raimi's 2002 movie wasn't based on any version of this script, there are significant differences in the story. For instance, the villain in this version is Doctor Octopus. And he's Peter Parker's college physics professor, so he's actually Professor Octopus. And Peter Parker and Professor Octopus are bitten by the same radioactive spider. And about 90% of the plot is about the villain trying to steal the hero's physics paper. And Professor Octopus keeps calling himself Spider-Man.

What we're saying is that all those rewrites were like dumping a script into a shredder and having a random hobo tape the pieces back together. Characters appear for a scene or two and then disappear, never to be heard from again, including Pete's Uncle Ben. Old Ben's grieving family gets over his death so easily that they forget he ever existed within a minute or two of his passing. They don't even bother with a funeral.

"I'm just saying, if we prop him up like this nobody'll notice."

Also, we may not know why a villain with six arms would need a sidekick in the first place, but we're downright bewildered that this sidekick has somehow been named Wiener.

Also in the bad names department, because of an obscure technical term, Professor Octopus's metal appendages end up saddled with the name Waldo.

Then, there's the dialogue. Fifteen times, Professor Octopus says "okey dokey," like it's supposed to be his catch phrase. Fifteen fucking times. You'd think that would be distracting, but it actually fits right in, seeing as how most of the Professor's lines are nigh-incomprehensible bullshit.

Other characters are written with the hip slang of 1993 in mind, as interpreted by clueless middle-aged men.

And every once in a while, the writers just completely lose their shit in the middle of describing something.

We're not sure which cartoon cat they're talking about, but we'd like to think it's Garfield.

Are his Waldos akimbo? We can't tell.

On the Other Hand...

Rumors at the time had Arnold Schwarzenegger as the director's first choice to play Doctor/Professor Octopus. That would have been fucking sweet.

Back to the Future

When Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale first tried to sell this script, back at the start of the eighties, nobody wanted to touch it. Most sources point out that the production companies might have had reason to be a little hesitant to greenlight a movie about a kid who makes out with his own mom, but we think there may have been other considerations.

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

The 1981 draft is a decidedly more cynical take on the story, with almost none of the finished film's humor. For Zemeckis and Gale, modern life is like hell on earth, a bitter wasteland of broken dreams, boarded-up storefronts, and looming nuclear holocaust. If time travel hadn't entered into the plot, we think the story probably would have ended in mass suicide.

Take loveable old eccentric Doc Brown, or Professor Brown as this draft calls him. In this version, the only reason that Professor Brown is so loveably eccentric is that the last thirty years of failure and self-hatred have been slowly draining the life out of him, leaving him a pale shadow of the man he once was.

That's right, Marty and the Professor run a video bootlegging business together, selling illegally copied pornography to high school kids. Only Marty's unrelenting self-confidence keeps him from being crushed by the horror of the world that surrounds him. That, and his dream of one day seeing a nuclear explosion.

We know what you're thinking. "I will never feel joy again. Even Back to the fucking Future is depressing now. Nothing could possibly pull me out of this black pit of despair." Well, buck up, little camper, 'cause Coca-Cola is going to fix everything!

Yes, Marty pours Coke into one of the Professor's machines FOR NO FUCKING REASON, and it turns out to be the perfect chemical mixture to fuel some kind of energy converter. The converter, of course, is needed to turn atomic energy into even more energy and power the time machine. And when 1952's Professor Brown learns the secret of delicious, refreshing, electricity-generating Coca-Cola, he leads the world into a new Renaissance of Coke-powered sci-fi technologies.

When they do return to the future, thanks to Coke, the once-terrifying cesspool of the early 1980s is now somehow just like the early 1950s, only with robots and flying cars. Professor Brown is saved from ever having to become lovably eccentric. And, just like in the early 50s, there's no such thing as rock and roll.

How does that work, anyway? It's not like Marty went on some kind of killing spree, slaughtering Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Big Joe Turner all in one Coca-Cola-fueled rampage, unless we skipped over some pages without noticing. So, what happened to those guys?

Our guess is that Marty's performance at the "Springtime In Paris" Dance convinced the world at large that whatever the fuck this "rock and roll" shit is, they want no part of it.

We can kind of sympathize.

On the Other Hand...

The original version of Marty's return trip to the 1980s involved sneaking into a nuclear testing facility to use the force of a nuclear bomb to power the time machine. That would have kicked a whole lot of ass, in our opinion.


After the success of Amistad, DreamWorks was ready to give screenwriter David Franzoni a three-picture deal to write whatever the hell he felt like, and what he felt like writing first was a script called Gladiator. It needed work.

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

One major difference is that the hero of the story, Maximus Decimus Meridius in the finished film, is called Narcissus Meridas in this draft. We can understand why they changed it. Narcissus is a surprisingly Greek name for a Spanish general in the Roman army, and it's a surprisingly wussy name for a fucking gladiator.

This is only made worse when he starts his gladiatorial career and is given the nickname "Narcissus the Good," which sounds about as manly and imposing as "Sissypants the Adequate."

In all fairness, the real Emperor Commodus really was killed by a man named Narcissus, and there's something to be said for historical accuracy. Then again, the real Commodus was strangled to death in his bathtub, and Narcissus was his wrestling coach, so historical accuracy probably wasn't what Franzoni was going for here.

And that's good, because the script is full of what-the-fuck moments in the descriptions:

By the way, would it be terribly immature of us to point out an innocent typo and make a dick joke out of it?

Yeah, it probably would.

There's also a weird part where the Emperor tries to get Narcissus to take a dive in his big gladiator fight, and another part where Narcissus actually does take a dive, and then tries to slit his own wrists. Finally we have a really fucking weird part where Commodus has the entire Senate, along with his own sister, cooked alive inside a giant brass bull.

Sort of like this, but with fire.

Oh, and this draft has a happy ending, with Narcissus living out his years in Africa with his very-much-not-dead family. You know, after killing the Emperor of Rome. In front of about ten thousand witnesses.

On the Other Hand...

Sequences in the Coliseum feature a clown jumping over a bear, a naked midget riding an ostrich, and a bunch of chimpanzees dressed up as the Roman Senate. We don't need to tell you how awesome that would have been.

The Matrix

For years, Andy and Larry Wachowski worked on the screenplay for The Matrix, receiving nothing but confused stares from the studio executives who tried to read it. By 1996, they'd finally gotten producer Joel Silver interested in the project by directing a film noir picture about hot lesbians (long story), and they had this action-packed script called The Matrix ready to go.

It still needed a little work.

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

Most of the differences are subtle. For instance, when Trinity first contacts Neo through his computer (you know, "follow the white rabbit" and all that), she uses a chatroom called The Matrix. Now, this might seem perfectly reasonable, right up until you realize that the chatroom would obviously be filled with the same people you always find in chatrooms, and everywhere else on the internet. The Wachowski Brothers seemed to realize this was retarded, but plowed ahead anyway.

Yeah, it didn't work out. Right there in the same scene, even Neo can tell that this whole chatroom thing is a bad idea.

You can see why they eventually settled on Keanu Reeves, because a lot of Neo's lines sound more like Ted.

As you may have noticed by now, the dialogue is a problem. And by problem we mean there are lines that destroy a piece of your soul by simply reading them. Try to picture Trinity and Gizmo saying this to each other in the final cut:

Likewise, the moment on the rooftop when Trinity puts a gun to the agent's head, "Dodge this!" was originally, "Dodge this, motherfucker!"

Okay, maybe that would have been an improvement.

You can't say the same about the ending, however. In the script, Agent Smith still shoots Neo. Only in this first draft, instead of stopping bullets with his mind and destroying Agent Smith with his newfound superpowers, Neo rises from the dead and just flips Smith the bird.

Smith would obviously like to shoot Neo again at this point, but the doors of the elevator he's in are already closing, and he's forced to let them close and pound on the doors helplessly. Apparently his super human time warping speed doesn't allow him to, you know, stick his hand out.

On the Other Hand...

Flawed as it may be, this draft is still pretty close to the final shooting script, only with a couple of extra action sequences, mostly involving trains. Those probably would have been pretty cool.

Also, the fight sequence in the lobby, when Neo and Trinity are trying to rescue Morpheus involves ninja throwing stars. NINJA FUCKING THROWING STARS!

Star Wars

In 1973, after completing American Graffiti, George Lucas went to work on his next project, a two-page sci-fi treatment called The Journal of the Whills. Nobody could understand the damn thing.

So, George wrote a new treatment, this one thirteen pages long, and called it The Star Wars. Since people seemed to understand this one a little better, George set to work expanding it into a full-length script.

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

This first draft is sort of like Star Wars in the same way that getting run over by a bus is sort of like driving a car. The right elements are there (wheels, road, etc.), but they just aren't doing what they're supposed to.

The story follows a fat teenager named Annikin Starkiller. Annikin's dad drags him to the planet Aquilae, where they meet General Luke Skywalker. Almost immediately, Aquilae is attacked by the New Galactic Empire for reasons that we couldn't explain without a flowchart and an advanced understanding of post-Jedi-Rebellion economic policy.

Two or three more flowcharts deconstructing Aquilaean politics would be needed to explain how General Skywalker loses the war, but Annikin and the General do manage to sneak away from the planet with the last remaining members of the Aquilaean Royal Family. By "sneak away," of course, we mean "get chased and shot down over Wookiee country," which leads to General Skywalker training a squadron of Wookiee fighter pilots to shoot down the Death Star.

And, just between you and us, we think there's something seriously fucking wrong with this Annikin Starkiller kid. Sure, it's all well and good that he's already a Jedi Bendu at the age of eighteen, quick with his lasersword and everything, but what in the hell would make him decide to BLOW UP HIS OWN BROTHER'S CORPSE?

Okay, maybe we can put that one down to strange customs. And his near-constant horniness can be explained away as teenage hormones. But we have to draw the line somewhere.

Yes, you read that right. He just SOCKED PRINCESS LEIA IN THE FUCKING FACE. Now, since you've probably seen movies before, you may have guessed that Leia falls madly in love with young Starkiller, apparently deciding that she needs a good beating now and then. This draft's version of Princess Leia is fourteen years old, by the way. Just thought we'd mention that.

Also, we already knew that George Lucas likes to make up funny names, but we doubt that's much consolation for the unlucky Sith Knight Prince Valorum.

Prince Valorum.

And it probably doesn't make the Emperor feel much better, either, seeing as he has to go through his fictional life with the unfortunate name Cos Dashit.

We're really hoping that was just a typo.

As a side note, we'd like to recommend that if a woman named Beru ever offers to cook for you, say no.

Lady, we don't care how mild it is. We're still not touching the stuff.

On the Other Hand...

The characters Han Solo and Chewbacca the Wookiee are still intact, even if Han Solo is a Jedi and Chewbacca is a prince or something, but their physical descriptions are somewhat different from what you're probably used to.

Chewbacca and Han Solo share a quiet moment.

Try and tell us that wouldn't have been awesome. You can't, can you?


In 1979, some guy named Michael Uslan acquired the film rights to DC's second-most popular superhero. Uslan joined up with Tom Mankiewicz (a guy who wrote a couple of the James Bond movies) as his screenwriter.

Mankiewicz started work on the script in 1980 and finished it in 1983. Then, in 1986, Tim Burton was brought onto the project and promptly threw Mankiewicz's script in the garbage because it was fucking retarded.

What The Fuck Is This Shit?

This thing is the worst possible blend of "dark and brooding" Batman and "campy 60s fun" Batman. Mike Uslan wanted to make the story dark and intense, a throwback to the oldschool Bob Kane Batman who would totally kick a dude in the neck until he fucking died...

... while Mankiewicz apparently still thought of Batman as that guy who had to fight exploding sharks while hanging from a helicopter.

So they ended up with a script about a dark, intense hero who battles dudes who fly around with jetpacks and umbrellas.

Not that Bruce Wayne has any reason to worry, seeing as how he's SO INCREDIBLY AWESOME THAT YOU WILL FUCKING SHIT. By the age of seventeen, he's not only mastered gymnastics and martial arts, but also learned several languages, made science his personal bitch, and mastered the stock market through the power of delicious McDonald's hamburgers.

And he's also become something of a ladies' man, apparently by accident.

By the time he's twenty four, Bruce is winning NASCAR races, drawing crowds of sexually excited women every time he appears in public, and beating up bikers in dark alleys. And he's not even Batman yet.

Once he actually is Batman, it's all about the gadgets. His Batmobile alone has a force field, a battering ram, retractable hydrofoil pontoons, armored mudflaps, and a giant horseshoe magnet.

By the way, that guy is never mentioned again, apparently left to suffocate or starve to death in the Batmobile's trunk.

As for Robin (yeah, Robin's in this script, too), his own parents' deaths are far more traumatizing than any other version of the tale:

Yes, they die because the bird landed on "the male Greyson's pole." We never want to go anywhere near any bird ever again, unless we have full protective gear on our junk.

On the Other Hand...

In keeping with his newfound edginess, Batman kills people. He only kills four people, but that's not a bad body count for Batman.

The best kill of the bunch is corrupt politician Rupert Thorne. In the middle of one of the silliest setpieces in the script, a museum display that's been decorated with gigantic pieces of office equipment for the "American Writers and Writing" exhibit, Batman's personal brand of justice transforms into something pants-shittingly bizarre.

That one scene alone would be worth sitting through the whole stupid movie.

If you both draw AND think like a child and want $50, head to the forum and show us The Presidential Election As Drawn By a 5 Year-Old.

Or, if you enjoyed this article, take a look back at 8 Classic Movies That Got Away With Gaping Plot Holes. Or find out about 5 Awesome Movies Ruined By Last-Minute Changes.

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