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The 25 Greatest Films You May Never Get To See

11 August 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Jack Forey

best movies never made

For every motion picture that graces our screens, there are untold numbers of projects that have never seen the light of day. Some scripts and concepts die quietly, unable to arouse the interest enough investors to become reality. Others sound like a dream on paper, but for one reason or several, never come to fruition. Others still get midway through production, then evaporate.

These are 25 movies that never got made. Although their concepts may be passed on to other artists, it is unlikely we will ever see these films as they were meant to be seen, and impossible for some.

We are left to wonder how these works may have influenced film history; some of them (“What Makes Pistachio Nuts?” “Northwestern”), although interesting, may have only been a drop in the bucket. Others (“Dune,” “The Tourist,” “Napoleon”) may have changed the face of cinema as we know it. We may never know, because the images and sounds of these filmmakers’ dreams can exist only in our minds.


1. Napoleon (Stanley Kubrick)

Napoleon (Stanley Kubrick)

After “2001: A Space Odyssey,” Stanley Kubrick was at the height of his career. He and his team of researchers set about exhaustive research and planning for an epic biography of Napoleon Bonaparte. A script was written, locations in France and Romania were scouted, and even the Romanian army volunteered to take part in the production of the film.

Kubrick’s intentions for “Napoleon” are best summarized in one quote: “I have no idea how to describe what I’m going to do other than that I plan to create the greatest movie ever made.” We will never know if Kubrick was right, because “Napoleon” was cancelled. The then-recent failure of “Waterloo” and the prohibitive cost of the film ($5 million, around $30 million today) prevented Kubrick from bringing his grand vision to the screen.

Much of the research and development on “Napoleon” was repurposed into Kubrick’s highly acclaimed period epic “Barry Lyndon,” which actually ends 30 years before the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. Although Kubrick kicked around the possibility of making the film for the rest of his career, nothing ever materialized. In 2013, Stanley Kubrick’s close friend Steven Spielberg announced intentions to develop Kubrick’s “Napoleon” screenplay into a TV miniseries.


2. Kaleidoscope (Alfred Hitchcock)

Kaleidescope (Alfred Hitchcock)

Alfred Hitchcock sent a shock to the world of cinema with “Psycho” in 1960, killing off the main character a third of the way through and following the killer the rest of the way. After a couple of underperforming films in the mid-60’s, Hitchcock planned another low-budget shocker that would have featured a gay bodybuilder who, when he sees water, becomes fueled with a murder-lust. He lures them by the water, to their doom.

The unmade film would have included scenes of prolonged strangulation, rape, necrophilia, bodies dissolved in acid, and so on. Hitchcock was planning to film in a “naturalistic” style with unknown actors, inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert.” The stills and title of the project suggest a psychedelic style inspired by the time period. He even shot some silent test footage.

The film was deemed far too violent by multiple studios, and even Hitchcock’s close friend Francois Truffaut disapproved of the dense, extremely violent content of the screenplay. Hitchcock went on to make three more successful films, including “Frenzy,” which recycled some ideas from “Kaleidoscope.”


3. Ronnie Rocket (David Lynch)

Ronnie Rocket (David Lynch)

After his midnight movie sensation “Eraserhead” boggled the minds of cinema lovers everywhere, David Lynch started work on a new project called “Ronnie Rocket.”

This film would have followed a one-legged detective and the titular Ronnie (a three foot tall man with bright red hair who can control electricity) through a dark industrial world, described by Lynch as an “oil slick, smokestack, steel-steam-soot, fire-sparks and electrical arcs realm,” all set to a 50’s rockabilly soundtrack (probably interlaced with mysterious, windy sound effects).

Dino de Laurentiis, Francis Ford Coppola and Mel Brooks were all attached as producers at one point, but each of their companies either went bankrupt or backed out before serious work on “Ronnie Rocket” began. Lynch has shelved the project, declaring not dead but rather in hibernation.

Speculation suggests that Lynch may someday resurrect the project, but it is unlikely to surface anytime soon for two reasons: One, Lynch hasn’t made a feature film in eight years. Two, Lynch has said himself that the very world “Ronnie Rocket” is set in, a kind of elevated dream world inspired by old-school American industry, doesn’t exist anymore, saying “Cheap storm windows and graffiti have ruined the world for Ronnie Rocket.”


4. One Saliva Bubble (Lynch & Mark Frost)

One Saliva Bubble (Lynch & Mark Frost)

Another as-yet-unrealized David Lynch project, first conceived in the mid-80’s, “One Saliva Bubble” has been described by Lynch as an “out-and-out wacko dumb comedy…Mark Frost and I were laughing like crazy when we wrote it.”

The plot goes something like this: One day, at a military research facility near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a security guard blows a raspberry so perfect, it produces a saliva bubble that floats into a control panel and sets off a chain of events that ends up switching the identities of several people in the nearby town. It was rumored to star Steve Martin and Martin Short, had it ever gone into production.

Frost and Lynch wrote the script together in 1987, a full three years before “Twin Peaks” aired on TV. One could imagine the blend of small town humor and drama seen in “Twin Peaks” factoring significantly into “One Saliva Bubble.” The reasons for it never coming together are murky, but this author speculates that studio executives simply felt a comedy from the director of “Blue Velvet” and “Eraserhead” simply wouldn’t do well.


5. Megalopolis (Francis Ford Coppola)

Megalopolis (Francis Ford Coppola)

After scoring a Palme D’Or for “Apocalypse Now,” Francis Ford Coppola produced a series of low-performing, mediocre and otherwise forgettable movies in the 80’s. In the late 90’s, he began pre-production on his dream project “Megalopolis,” an epic science fiction film in which New York is destroyed in a mega disaster, then rebuilt with a utopian vision for the future.

Coppola claims to have directed “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Jack” and “The Rainmaker” all to procure enough funding to make “Megalopolis” a reality. Actors in consideration for the film include Kevin Spacey, Warren Beatty, Paul Newman, Nicolas Cage and Robert De Niro. A final draft of the script, concept art and even some 30 hours of second-unit shooting were completed, and “Megalopolis” seemed like a distinct possibility.

Then came September 11, 2001, which occurred in the middle of Coppola’s second-unit shooting. “I feel like history has come to my doorstep,” said Coppola, believing that his project would now be all the more relevant because of the tragedy. He sought to re-write the script with 9/11 in mind, but found that the subject matter of his dream project could not be reconciled with the reality of September 11th. The project was shelved and has yet to be revived, although Coppola is rumored to working on a new, epic film set in New York.


6. Rendezvous With Rama (David Fincher)

Rondezvous With Rama (David Fincher)

“2001” author Arthur C. Clarke’s “Rondezvous with Rama” was published in 1972, and is considered one of his most essential works. Morgan Freeman has been trying to get a movie made of the book for over a decade now.

Freeman would produce and act in the film, with David Fincher directing., “’Rendezvous with Rama’ asks the greatest of all questions: are we all there is?” says Freeman, expressing his passionate interest in Clarke’s story. “Obviously we are not all there is, but we don’t know what kind of entity exists outside of us.”

David Fincher said in 2008 that the project looked dead, citing Morgan Freeman’s poor health. Freeman asserts that the movie is going to get made some day, even telling Neil DeGrasse Tyson at one point, “We ARE going to make that movie.”

The project would most likely require a large budget—it has been said that it would need to use technology like James Cameron used in “Avatar”—but given the status both Morgan Freeman and David Fincher both hold in Hollywood, it’s not unlikely that the film could still happen, and maybe soon. Morgan Freeman is just waiting for the right script to come along.


7. Torso (David Fincher)

Torso (David Fincher)

Not to be confused with the Italian horror film “Torso,” David Fincher’s “Torso” would have been based on the graphic novel of the same name by Michael Bendis.

The graphic novel was based on the Cleveland Torso Murderer, who famously decapitated and dismembered his victims between 1935 and 1938; the murderer has never been caught. If “Torso” would have been made, it would have continued Fincher’s line of critically successful serial killer films, which included “Se7en” and the more recent, Palme D’Or-nominated “Zodiac.”

The film had Matt Damon and Gary Oldman attached at one point, with Ehren Kruger (The Ring, Skeleton Key) to write the screenplay. It was to be David Fincher’s next project after “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” but then the rights ran out and Paramount refused to put u the money to renew them.

“Torso” fell by the wayside as Fincher went to work on “The Social Network,” which earned eight Academy Award nominations, winning three. The film may still get made eventually, depending on whether interest in the project can be rekindled at Paramount.


8. The Tourist

Tourist Clair Noto

Clair Noto’s “The Tourist” is a fine, if tragic, example of an innovative original screenplay getting filtered through the studio system and becoming something totally different in the process. “The Tourist” is about a diverse group of aliens who live on Earth in secret, sometimes wearing disguises to blend in.

At night, they go to a clandestine nightclub called “The Corridor” to have sex with other aliens and humans and lament their being stranded. The main character is Grace Ripley, an alien disguised beautiful business executive, who uncovers a conspiracy within The Corridor to murder humans.

“I wanted to portray sexual agony and ecstasy in a way I had never seen before, and science fiction seemed like the arena.” H.R. Giger famously drew up some provocative alien designs for “The Tourist,” and he was only one of several artists considered to design the aliens of the Corridor; Noto wanted each species to be designed by a different artist, so that the creatures would be as alien from each other as the styles of their respective artists.

Clair Noto wrote the script for Universal, under the supervision of executive Sean Daniels, who after receiving the completed script from Noto immediately passed it on to another screenwriter for a rewrite.

So begins the downfall of “The Tourist,” as a nearly endless string of rewrites and additions dulled the edges of Clair Noto’s screenplay. The outlook for “The Tourist” these days isn’t good; Noto has said that directors have read “The Tourist” and picked at some of its ideas, and a modern production would only appear derivative.



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  • Bill Oppenheim

    Hitchcock’s Kalaidoscope was vetoed by his corporate masters at Universal. I’m not sure he had other studio options. Welles’ Don Quixote had the distinct disadvantage of his lead actor dying in the meantime. Leone, of course, would have retitled his film “Once Upon a Time in Russia”.

  • Sourav Sarkar

    Was thinking eagerly when Dune is gonna come ! at least may also include Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote

  • Don Alex

    The Clown Cried screenplay (two different drafts) are available here, its about the closest we will ever get to that one.

  • Bill Oppenheim

    And there’s a brand new doc called Jodowarsky’s Dune.

  • Ted Wolf

    Jess Franco has cobbled together Welle’s Don Quixote into a watchable, if not good, movie. I really liked this article. Another Hitchcock project was the Short Night, his return to the espionage thriller after The Family Plot.

    • Bill Oppenheim

      Short Night planned, abandoned before Family Plot.

      • Ted Wolf

        And also planned for after.

        • Bill Oppenheim

          Given his age and health then, probably not a realistic project. Would’ve been nice to go out on something other than Family Plot, tho.

  • Pingback: Page 2: Scooby Doo, Frozen, Jurassic Park, Mary Poppins, Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters, Haunted Mansion, Ghostbusters | Filmdot()

  • dynommoose

    Have you even read The Idiot?

  • John

    #11 “The Vendors,” written and directed by Bobby Darin. His former manager has the completed film, but Bobby made him promise to keep it shelved. Maybe Darin & Dee’s son will show it one day.

  • Pingback: Page 2: Scooby Doo, Frozen, Jurassic Park, Mary Poppins, Jaws, Star Wars, Close Encounters, Haunted Mansion, Ghostbusters | Music Movie Magic()

  • LH

    Napoleon and Dune, I cry for you 🙁

  • Grayan Grosling

    The documentary about “l’Enfer” is a must see. You can have a look on the rushes, that’s amazing.

  • Sosen

    And Fellini’s Mastorna with Mastroianni 🙂

  • pietronicolaucich

    you forgot “Il viaggio di G. Mastorna, detto Fernet” the Fellini’s never made masterpiece

  • hurrey

    Of course Herzog’s and Tarkovsky’s (20th century not 21st)

  • Jugu Abraham

    The most important work that ought to feature on this list is Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Great Part III, which was completed, but the prints of the film were destroyed by the Soviet authorities.

    • Brian Lussier

      Thought Eisenstein died before shooting it? That’s what it says in the pamphlet that accompanies my DVD of Part II.

  • Pratheesh K Plavish

    I think you don’t know about this unproduced film!!

  • Susan F

    There was a television version of Nostromo that was mediocre. The best thing were the performance of Colin Firth and Albert Finney. Its a pity the rest of the cast was not up to parr and the script was not better.

  • Theresa

    Porgy & Bess. “The Gershwin estate was disappointed with the film, as the score was substantially edited to make it more like a musical. Much of the music was omitted from the film, and many of Gershwin’s orchestrations were either changed or completely scrapped. It was shown on network television in the U.S. only once, in 1967. Critics attacked it for not being faithful to Gershwin’s opera, for over-refining the language grammatically, and for its “overblown” staging. The film was removed from release in 1974 by the Gershwin estate.”

  • Alina Părpălea

    Armata romana intr-n film de Kubrick despre Napoleon! Na, chiar ca imi pare rau ca nu s-a mai facut!

  • Holy cow!

  • Sayandip Severus Dutta

    Sherlock Holmes by Satyajit Ray

  • Bryton Cherrier

    Gilliam says Quixote is going to happen! 😀

  • I would like to add Satyajit Ray’s The Alien,”it was an unproduced Indian-American science fiction film in

    development in the late 1960s which was eventually cancelled. It was to be directed by the celebrated

    Indian director Satyajit Ray and co-produced by Hollywood studio Columbia Pictures. The script was written by Ray

    in 1967, loosely based on Bankubabur Bandhu (Banku Babu’s Friend or Mr. Banku’s Friend),

    a Bengali science fiction story he had written in 1962,The Alien had Columbia Pictures as producer for this

    planned US–India co-production, and Peter Sellers and Marlon Brando acting in lead roles. However,

    Ray was surprised to find that the script he had written had already been copyrighted and the fee appropriated

    by Mike Wilson (Ray’s representative in Hollywood). Wilson had copyrighted the script as co-writer,

    despite not being involved in any way in its creation. Marlon Brando later dropped out of the project

    and though an attempt was made to bring James Coburn in his place, Ray became disillusioned and

    returned to Calcutta. Columbia expressed interest in reviving the project several times in the 1970s and ’80s but nothing came of it.

    Ray and Spielberg had the same agent Mike Wilson (although about 15 years apart) and the agent gave the idea to Spielberg’s attention,after
    plagiarizing Ray’s 1967 script “The Alien” by Columbia Pictures and its re-emergence as Steven Spielberg’s E.T.

    (Ray wrote in detail about this: ‘ET would not have been possible without my script of The Alien being available throughout America in mimeographed copies.’)

  • ingrida apulskyte

    where i can find these movies?

  • Gordon Morgans

    Dont forget Charlie Chaplins “The Freak”

  • Horst Bakker

    …“naturalistic” style with unknown actors, inspired by Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Red Desert”…

    Except there was nothing naturalistic about Red Desert, and its leads (Vitti, Harris) weren’t at all unknown.

  • Klaus Dannick

    I had read that, in the early 1980s, a proposed adaptation of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire directed by Nicolas Roeg and starring Mick Jagger and David Bowie in the lead roles was in some planning stages but (obviously) never made. Anyone else ever come across this story?

  • Crafty Pilbow

    “Harrow Alley” is perhaps the finest screenplay ever written, period. George C. Scott owned it, wanted to make it, and almost did following Patton. I’ve heard Jack Nicholson almost got it made, too. My understanding is that both times the project was cancelled when the studios insisted on cuts to the script that the filmmakers refused to me.

  • I love the selections, but you forgot The Other Side of the Wind

  • Michaël Bil

    Dune should have definitely been made. I mean: a space opera starring David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Orson Welles and Salvador Dali with Pink Floyds music would have been very very EPIC. Besides that, Stanley Kubrick’s attempt to adapt The Lord Of The Rings starring The Beatles should also have been included on this list.