According to Wikipedia an alternate ending is a term used (usually in movies) to describe the ending of a story that was planned or debated but ultimately unused in favour of the actual ending. Generally, alternate endings are considered to have no bearing on the canonical narrative.
The only thing I consider an alternate ending to be is an argument starter. A twisted argument starter! The first time I realised this was when my girlfriend and myself were discussing Final Destination 2, when I wondered what had happened to the baby from the end of the first film. My inquisitive mind was greeted by my girlfriend’s puzzled and questions like “what baby?” and “have you actually watched the whole film?!”. This was where my metaphorical penny dropped and I realised that I had been a bit of a film geek and watched the alternate ending on the DVD which for some reason had embedded itself into my memory as the official ending. Here are a few of the most pointless of the bunch:
The Butterfly Effect
In the released version, the story ends with Evan flashing back and doing the noble deed of not falling in love with Kayleigh, because he knows he will only bring her disaster in the future. The directors cut ending however is very different in which we see Evan watch some home movies he found and goes back to where it all began, in his mothers womb, where he then decides to strangle himself with his own umbilical cord and dies. Stillborn. It is believed that this ending was too sinister for the theatrical release. No kidding!
Who would’ve thought you could make a 3 and a half hour film about a ship sinking?! Turns out, it was an easy task for James Cameron. He still made more than one ending for Titanic though. The released ending shows aged Rose quietly dropping the Heart of the Ocean blue diamond necklace over the railing of the ship and into the waiting sea below. Cameron however thought that the 3 and a half hour long movie could use more talking as an ending was filmed with Rose explaining her decision to Brock Lovett before throwing the Heart of the Ocean back to the sea. Brock and Lizzy then get together as Rose dies. I think Cameron made a wise decision in leaving this scene on the cutting room floor, I don’t think audiences would’ve wanted to listen to another monologue about Jack Dawson.
I Am Legend
Possibly one of the most underrated films in my opinion. The ending sees our hero, Robert Neville killing himself in order to save some random woman and her kid who just sponge his bacon and eggs off of him and use him for a place to stay. The alternate ending however sees Neville give the ‘vampire woman’ back to the other vampires so that they wont essentially kill him…yet. I don’t think this works as well because it doesn’t give him the legend status that he obviously ends up having due to his story being told. I don’t think you can be a legend until you die. Look at Jesus.
So here’s my conclusion and it’s more of a message to any movie directors/prodcuers out there than anything… Don’t make alternate endings anymore. They’re pointless. Nobody really cares. Stick some hilarious outtakes on the DVD instead.