Most of the movies you love only came about after extensive rewrites ordered by some jaded studio head who'd insert a giant mechanical spider into Schindler's List if it would buy him another McLaren. Here are some of the most ill-conceived of their many, many ill-conceived ideas.
In the original treatment of Back to the Future, then titled Spaceman From Pluto (wow, this is already going poorly), Doc Brown's iconic time machine was a stationary device rigged up inside a car wash. Marty McFly was chronically depressed, and in a hilarious misunderstanding, he mistook the time machine for a Futurama-style suicide device and climbed into it to greet the sweet embrace of death.
According to screenwriter Bob Gale, "We thought that was a good idea for way longer than we should have." Eventually, Gale and co-writer Robert Zemeckis decided that a main character who desperately wanted to die wasn't in line with the upbeat tone of the movie they were going for. But that wasn't the only major change. The writers were under heavy pressure by the president of Universal Pictures, Sidney Sheinberg, to make a major plot point out of people in the past mistaking Marty for an alien. This was due to the runaway success of Spielberg's previous movie E.T., proving that the Hollywood mentality "if it worked once, just do it a bunch more times" isn't a new development.
"Maybe have his dick glow, like the finger."
The writers eventually got to write the script they wanted, but there was still one more key difference -- in the last scene, Doc Brown got Marty back to the present by rigging up a time machine inside a refrigerator and carrying it out to the Nevada desert, where it would be propelled into the future by a nuclear detonation.
It was too stupid to make the cut back in the day, but Spielberg recycled it for the "nuking the fridge" scene from the beginning of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, proving that you just can't keep a bad idea down.
Universal Pictures, Lucasfilm
"... So it's 'No Pine Mall' now?"
The early draft of the script for Return of the Jedi was more or less the same as the movie we wound up with, until about halfway in, when it took a 12-parsec left turn into the crazy sector. In the script Luke Skywalker travelled to the capital of the entire Empire, a lava planet called Had Abbadon, to confront Vader in a final duel. He winds up stranded on a rock in the middle of a lava lake, and suddenly becomes aware of someone standing behind him. He turns around to meet ... Obi Wan Kenobi! Obi Wan explains to Luke that he's come back to help him defeat Vader and the Emperor because apparently he could just come back from the dead any time he wanted, which would have been super helpful the first time Luke engaged in a climactic duel against Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. And if this wouldn't have made the audience groan hard enough, the next line in the script is:
Suddenly, Yoda appears beside Ben.
"Be grateful the prequels don't exist yet, or the anthropomorphic fuzzy dildo Jedi would be next."
That's right, the entire cast of dead characters from the franchise return to life in the final scene, so that death in Star Wars would have been about as meaningful as it is in a Superman comic.
So did it culminate in an epic multi-Jedi, lightsaber gangbang? Nope. Luke still winds up dueling Vader alone while Obi Wan and the Emperor watch from the sidelines, offering commentary like it's Mystery Science Theater.
"Do a backflip, nerd!"
It ends pretty much the same way as the final cut -- Luke gets defeated but Vader has a sudden change of heart and throws the Emperor off a cliff, thus fulfilling the prophecy that "a Skywalker" would kill the Emperor. It's just that in our version, there are slightly fewer undead Jedi.
New Zealand filmmaker Vincent Ward was brought on to write and direct Alien 3, and his vision was that it should take place in a medieval world, because who doesn't want to see a knight fight an alien? Our junior high Trapper Keepers sure as hell did. But since the Alien movies necessarily take place in the far future, Ward's screenplay had Ripley crash-landing on a space station made entirely out of wood, inhabited by medieval space-monks. Ward's script created a kind of woodpunk (if that's not already a genre, we call dibs) world where medieval monks come face to face with a science fiction monster that they of course believe to be the devil.
20th Century Fox
The Lord rebuke thee, O xenomorph; even the Lord that hath chosen Joss Whedon to write the sequel rebukes thee.
In Ward's script, Ripley is impregnated with an alien, a plot point that survived to the movie we wound up getting, but she's saved by a monk who conducts an exorcism on her. The xenomorph leaps out of her mouth, presumably on a wave of green vomit, and "is sucked into" the monk, who then heroically kills himself.
20th Century Fox
"YOUR MOTHER FACEHUGS IN HELL!"
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Birdman is an Oscar-winning movie starring Michael Keaton as a washed-up actor who was once well-known for his acclaimed role in a big-budget superhero movie, and whose career subsequently went nowhere. He eventually plots to kill himself on stage at the end of a play, but it doesn't take, and the movie instead finishes with one of those ambiguous endings that drives audiences insane. Keaton's character wakes up in hospital, sees an open window and leaps out. His daughter enters to find him missing and looks out expecting to see his splattered corpse, but then she looks up, and smiles.
Fox Searchlight Pictures
She channeled the hope of being free of her downward spiraling super-hero franchise.
What the hell was going on? Was Keaton actually Birdman all along? Did he turn into a bird? Was everything just a dream? Was his daughter just easily distracted and saw some funny skywriting outside? Whatever the case, the ending was one of the most applauded parts of the movie. And it was just slipped in as an afterthought: The original script had the entire thing played off as the setup to a dumb joke about Johnny Depp.
Jason Kempin/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
This was before Depp himself became a setup for dumb jokes.
As it was originally written, right after Keaton pulls the trigger on stage, the scene cuts to him sitting in front of James Lipton or Charlie Rose, who tells him that his play is getting awesome reviews. Then we move to a dressing room occupied by Johnny Depp. Next to him is a poster of Captain Jack Sparrow, which comes to life and asks Depp "What the fuck are we doing here, mate?" Cut to black.
Get it? Because Johnny Depp pigeonholed himself as a crazy pirate just like Michael Keaton pigeonholed himself as a brooding superhero! That's right, the Academy's favorite movie for 2015 almost ended on a punchline so dumb it would've been cut from an SNL sketch. Luckily, the studio wasn't able to secure Johnny Depp. So the writers were forced to rewrite it at the last minute. To his credit, director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu knew it was for the best, admitting "in the middle of shooting, I knew it was a piece of shit."
Walt Disney Studios
Which is kind of the catchphrase of working on a Johnny Deep film at this point.
If only all directors had such self-awareness ... *cough Michael Bay cough cough.*
According to the original script, the last half of WALL-E didn't find our lovable robot reuniting with fat, clumsy humans, but instead roped into a galactic rebellion where robots battled evil, blob-like aliens called the "Gels." The big twist at the end was going to be when the Gels discovered that they actually were humans, but centuries of living in a zero-gravity environment had atrophied their bodies until they looked like Flubber. The writers actually consulted with NASA to examine how the human species might evolve in a weightless environment, because Pixar doesn't do anything by half measures.
They also invented some crazy nonsense about the Earth being in environmental trouble.
Eventually, the writers decided that this whole business would be too confusing to kids. In the end, they were still trying to make a movie for children, and it's really hard to combine a scientifically plausible evolutionary trajectory, the complex political struggles faced by a space-faring civilization, the invention of artificial intelligence, and a bunch of fart jokes. And so the Gels were replaced by a species more suitable to the intelligence of a 6 year old -- a spaceship full of Paul Blarts.
Why do you think their whole ship looks like a shopping mall?
In the early 80s, when Universal was looking to put together the third entry to the Jaws franchise, they made the bizarre decision to hand the reins over to the folks at National Lampoon. Maybe the producers recognized that another sequel was straining credibility and decided to lampshade the fact in an all-out spoof, or maybe they were just really, really high on cocaine. But in any event, National Lampoon enthusiastically responded with a script that made it all the way into pre-production entitled "National Lampoon's Jaws 3, People 0."
We're guessing the shark would be voiced by George Burns.
The film was written by John Hughes, and set to be directed by Gremlins' Joe Dante. It brought back Richard Dreyfuss to star, and was a kind of mockumentary about the studio's attempt to make a third Jaws movie. It opened with novelist Peter Benchley diving into his pool and subsequently being devoured by a shark, and ramped up from there. The cast and crew of the fake movie kept annoyingly getting eaten by sharks -- even the director kept getting his toes bitten off by sharks, but treated it all as a minor irritation.
We know the perfect way to advertise this movie.
According to National Lampoon chief Matty Simmons, Steven Spielberg was so annoyed by what they were planning to do to his series that he threatened to walk out on Universal if they continued to mock the dignity of the franchise. Instead, they produced the somber and serious thriller Jaws 3-D: The Third Dimension is Terror.
Billy Fitzsimmons is a freelance writer and regular Cracked reader. He is a major cinephile and enjoys eating all his meals at Dave & Buster's. He loves reading angry comments in the section below and he dreams of making a living by playing video games on YouTube.
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