6. The Lion King (1994)
One of Disney’s most popular films. Lion cub Simba is set on a journey of personal development and acceptance after the death of his father Mufasa. Along the way he is helped by friends Timon and Pumbaa and love interest Nala, who must help him confront his evil Uncle Scar.
The ending: After deciding to return home to Pride Rock, Simba finds it overrun by hyenas who serve under Scar. Simba is able sneak past the hyenas where he confronts Scar. Scar taunts Simba over his role in Mufasa’s death, revealing that he killed him. Simba eventually overpowers Scar who attempts to put the blame on the hyenas. Simba orders Scar to leave the Pride lands and never return but Scar attacks Simba again. Scar is thrown off of Pride Rock, where the hyenas kill him after overhearing his attempt to betray them.
The alternate ending: In the original ending, which was never fully animated, Scar is able to trick Simba and throws him off Pride Rock where his fall is broken by a tree branch. Scar stands atop Pride Rock only to be eventually consumed by flames as he laughs maniacally.
Why it’s better: This ending is pretty insane, but that’s why it’s brilliant. Disney has a history of going pretty dark sometimes, and there isn’t anything much darker than an evil, sadistic villain being set aflame whilst laughing like a lunatic.
7. Orphan (2009)
After the death of their unborn baby, couple Kate and John Coleman (played by Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard) adopt a mysterious nine-year-old girl called Esther who isn’t what she seems.
The ending: Esther is revealed to really be Leena, a murderous thirty-three-year-old who masquerades as a child. After Kate has rescued daughter Max from being killed by Leena, the pair find themselves on a frozen lake. A crack in the ice sends them both into the icy water, Kate is able to pull herself out whilst Leena clings on. Reverting back to her childlike persona, Leena begs Kate not to let her die. Kate responds by responding by kicking her and thus sending her into the depths of the icy water.
The alternate ending: As Kate rescues Max, Leena hurries back to the house where she reapplies the makeup and prosthetics that help her pass as a child. As the police arrive, Leena has reverted back to the childlike persona of Esther and introduces herself to the police as Esther.
Why it’s better: This more open-ended ending which doesn’t reveal the main character’s fate is so much darker and creepier than the original ending. It also leaves the film on a cliff-hanger leaving room for the possibility of a sequel.
8. Return of the Jedi (1983)
The third film in the original Star Wars Saga and episode six in the Star Wars films, Return of the Jedi picks up after The Empire Strikes Back and sees the Rebellion fighting back against the Empire in an attempt to destroy a more powerful Death Star.
The ending: After Darth Vader dies in Luke’s arms, the Rebel Fleet launches a final assault on the Death Star. Lando leads a group of Rebel ships into the Death Star’s core where they destroy the main reactor. The Death Star explodes. Later on Endor, the Rebels celebrate their victory whilst the ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin watch on.
The alternate ending: There were two possible alternate endings that almost came to pass in Return of the Jedi. The first saw the death of Han Solo after he was killed during a raid on an Imperial Base. This would have left Leia to take charge of the post-Empire chaos.
The second alternate ending saw Darth Vader sacrificing himself to save Luke’s life after defeating the Emperor. After he dies, we see Luke take off Darth Vader’s helmet, put it on and say, “Now I am Vader and I will kill the Rebel Fleet.”
Why it’s better: Either of those alternate endings would have been brilliant twist endings to the original Star Wars Saga. Leia taking charge would have been a great character arc for her story and Luke becoming Vader would have undoubtedly taken the series in a darker direction but considering the more recent films, it could’ve worked really well in the overall Star Wars Universe.
9. The Descent (2005)
Six women go on a caving expedition, entering an unmapped cave system. Things go horribly wrong when they become trapped and begin to be pursued by strange blood thirsty creatures.
The ending: After striking Juno with a pickaxe, Sarah manages to escape from the cave. She makes it back to her car, where she speeds away. She pulls over to be sick and screams as she sees Juno’s ghost in the passenger seat.
The alternate ending: It is worth bearing in mind that the alternate ending is the ending that was seen by European audiences whereas the ending described above was the one seen by American audiences. In the alternate ending, the final scene plays out the same way but in this ending, Sarah’s screams jolt her awake. It is revealed that Sarah is actually still in the cave and is hallucinating.
Why it’s better: The alternate ending successfully manipulates the audience’s perception using Sarah’s eyes and what she is experiencing. This is a dark and clever way to lull the audience into believing in a ‘happier’ ending before abruptly pulling the rug out from under their feet. It is also a brave choice after letting the audience invest in the characters. Finally it’s just a really horrifying ending that fits the film’s macabre tone.
10. Get Out (2017)
When young African-American man Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) goes to meet his Caucasian girlfriend Rose’s (Allison Williams) parents, he begins to suspect that not everything is as it seems on the mysterious estate that they live on.
The ending: After discovering that Rose’s neurosurgeon father Dean transplants the brains of older white people into the bodies of younger black people, Chris is able to escape the same fate after he escapes and kills Rose’s family.
As he escapes in a car, he is attacked by Georgina who causes a crash and dies. Rose and Walter catch up, but seeing that Georgina is dead, Walter turns his gun on Rose and then kills himself. Chris strangles Rose but cannot bring himself to kill her as a police car arrives. Rose calls out hoping that the police will see Chris as the attacker. However, it is Chris’s friend Rod. They get into the car together and drive away whilst Rose succumbs to her gunshot wound.
The alternate ending: In the alternate ending, things don’t go as well for Chris. The ending is the same but in this ending, the actual police turn up. All the evidence of the surgeries has been burned down in the house fire, and so Chris is arrested and ends up in jail. Rod visits Chris in jail where he implores him to try and remember some of the names of the people involved but Chris tells him “I’m good. I stopped him. I stopped him.” Chris is led back to his cell and the doors close behind him.
Why it’s better: It may be more of a depressing ending but it fits so much better in the current political and social climate. Although we are living in a post racial world, racism still exists and needs to be exposed. The alternate ending would have invoked a lot more debate and discussion and would have been a good shock ending to a film which deals with a shocking subject.
Author Bio: Cara McWilliam-Richardson is a writer with a passion for films and filmmaking. She has written several screenplays, and is currently working on her first novel. Her favourite genre to write is fantasy and science fiction.