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Movies That Were Changed Completely Due to Test Screenings


Movies That Were Changed Completely Due to Test Screenings


The process of getting a film from idea conception into theaters or streaming platforms can be long and drawn out. Idea development, getting studios and investors on board, attaching on-screen and behind-the-scenes talent, filming, editing, and promotion. That only scratches the surfaces. One part of the process that some films take part in is test screenings. These early previews of a movie give filmmakers the chance to take the overall temperature of their project before it gets released to the masses.

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Sometimes a test audience has minimal notes or receives a film with nearly universal praise. Other times, the reaction to a particular scene or element of the film can be so negative it causes filmmakers to make substantive changes. Test screenings have influenced creators to recast projects, change endings, and kill or save a character’s life, among other revisions. Here are 12 movies you may not know would’ve been different had it not been for test screenings.

12 Deadly Friend (1986)

Deadly Friend

Deadly Friend

Release Date
October 10, 1986

Cast
Matthew Laborteaux , Kristy Swanson , Michael Sharrett , Anne Twomey , Anne Ramsey , Richard Marcus

Deadly Friend is a sci-fi horror film directed by Wes Craven based on a novel published just one year before its 1986 release. Paul is an extremely intelligent teenager who’s built a robot called BB. He befriends a girl named Samantha, who lives with her abusive father. Paul is upset when he learns Samantha is brain-dead after an attack from her father. He decides to use part of BB’s programming to revive Samantha. It works, but it alters her personality, transforming her into a killing machine.

Audiences Thought There Wasn’t Not Enough Violence in Deadly Friend Originally

We often don’t come across screen tests that make a film more gory and violent. In fact, a common reason for post-filming edits is to avoid an R rating. But, fans came to expect a particular tone from Craven films, such as it being gruesome, definitely not the character and relationship-focused version the test audience saw. And they made their displeasure known, according to Coming Soon. The reaction didn’t just impact a single scene, but caused several rewrites and re-shoots to fit better within Craven’s iconic filmography.

11 Final Destination (2000)

Final Destination centers on Alex and his classmates at JFK, ready to embark on a trip to Paris, but something feels a bit off. He has a vision that a string of events will happen on the plane, ending with an explosion that, as one can imagine, will kill everyone on board. After causing a ruckus, he and a few of his classmates are kicked off. They watch from the airport as the plane they were supposed to be on blows up. Alex and the other survivors survived, but they weren’t supposed to and Death plans to reconcile that.

Third Time’s a Charm For Final Destination

Final Destination was a massive success that spawned an entire franchise, with the sixth film set to release in 2025. The DVD of the film gives a digestible explanation of how test screenings operate. Filmmakers gave a candid look into what worked and what didn’t in those earlier versions of the script. Namely, the death of the main character. It seems the writers really had it out for Alex and filmed two versions that ended with him dead, according to WhatCulture. However, audiences wanted to see the hero prevail, and another character took his fatal place.

10 Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Taking a stroll back to Old Hollywood, Sunset Boulevard is a black comedy about two individuals in the entertainment business. Joe is trying (and failing) to make a name for himself as a screenwriter. Norma is a washed-up actress hoping for a comeback. Joe convinces Norma to help him work a script with her and subsequently moves into her mansion. While there, he’s drawn into her glamorous yet unhinged world.

Sunset Boulevard’s Original Opening Scene Didn’t Set the Right Tone

In both the pre- and post-test screening versions, the film begins knowing that Joe is dead. However, originally it took place in a morgue with Joe chatting about it with other corpses (via the American Film Institute). This supposedly prompted massive laughter from the audience, which wasn’t the reaction filmmakers were hoping for. It was switched to Joe floating in a pool as the police rushed to a mansion. Most agree that, tonally, this one is a better fit.

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9 Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner is set in a futuristic, dystopian Los Angeles in 2019. Synthetic humans, also called replicants, are used by the Tyrell Corporation to work on space colonies. Rick Deckard lives on earth and used to track down and destroy replicants for a living. He’s informed that four replicants escaped the space colony and are now on Earth. Rick isn’t interested in helping but once he’s threatened by his former boss, he obliges.

There Was No Unified Vision in Blade Runner

It’s widely known among fans of this film that there are a number of versions floating around in the ether. According to a documentary called On the Edge of Blade Runner, an overwhelmingly negative response during test screenings led to revisions lead actor Harrison Ford didn’t like. Namely, a happy ending and a voice-over. Despite the disharmony between the studio, audiences, and talent working on the film, they ended up with a movie that had a great legacy.

8 Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

Little Shop of Horrors

Little Shop of Horrors is a fun, weird mashup of several genres: horror, comedy, and musical. Seymour is a geeky guy working at a flower shop in New York City. The shop is at risk of closing due to slow business, but his co-worker Audrey suggests using one of Seymour’s peculiar plants to draw in customers. it worked. Patrons start flooding in, but this plant is more special than anyone would’ve guessed. Instead of sunlight and water, Audrey II as it’s dubbed, needs human blood to flourish.

The Original Little Shop of Horrors Was a Bit Too Wild

The version the general public knew had Seymour saving Audrey from the plant, learning said plant was an alien, defeating the plant by electrocuting it, and marrying Audrey. As bonkers as this is, the original ending was even crazier. Audrey II killed both Seymour and Audrey before taking over the world (via Playbill). Turned out that even for a film as silly as this, audiences craved a happier, neater ending.

7 I Am Legend (2007)

I Am Legend is a post-apocalyptic thriller based on a novel published in 1954. Scientists attempted to cure cancer by generally re-engineering a virus. However, that plan backfired, and now 99% of the human population is dead. Neville is immune to the virus and as he travels through the streets of New York City in search of a cure, he must also defend himself from nocturnal mutants known as Darkseekers.

There Wasn’t Enough Action in I Am Legend For Audiences

It’s widely known that I Am Legend has an alternate ending, though some viewers may be unclear as to why. The official ending sees Neville defeat two Darkseekers in his lab and save the cure. Neatly wrapped up. The alternate ending shows Neville humanizing the mutants, grappling with his compliance in experimentation, and letting the Darkseekers go. He wonders whether he’s the true monster. A lot more philosophical and a lot less physical, which is why perhaps audiences didn’t like it, encouraging the change for its theatrical run.

6 Titanic (1997)

Titanic

Titanic

Release Date
November 18, 1997

Titanic is one of the most iconic romance films of all time. It takes the real-life event of the RMS Titanic sinking in 1992 and crafts a love story that’s stayed with fans for decades. Jack and Rose are from two completely different social classes, and thus shouldn’t have ever met. Yet their paths crossed while aboard the ship and the connection between them was instant. This whirlwind romance is hastened even further once the fatal shipwreck starts to take form.

Audiences Thought Titanic Didn’t Need More Peril

Jack and Rose running from Cal, Rose’s fiancé, as the ship floods is a tension-filled scene. But filmmaker James Cameron wondered if there needed to be more danger and stakes. In the Titanic DVD, Cameron gave commentary on deleted scenes and discussed that the original scene included Cal’s bodyguard hunting down the lovestruck couple with a gun. Jack and the bodyguard got into a violent fight. However, according to him, test audiences thought it was too much. This was one of several scenes nixed thanks to audience testing.

5 Shaun of the Dead (2004)

Nothing in Shaun’s life from Shaun of the Dead is going well. Not his career, his relationship with his stepfather, or his love life. But there’s a more pressing concern to worry about — a zombie apocalypse. London’s streets are a bit more chaotic than usual. Now, Shaun will have to try to survive alongside his friends and family.

Shaun of the Dead Originally Had a Rushed Conclusion

At the end of the film, Shaun and his ex-girlfriend Liz exit the pub they’ve been seeking cover in. They’ve witnessed several of their close family members and friends die, and now they face the zombies. Luckily, the army charges in, killing the zombies and saving the pair. Director Edgar Wright told GQ that originally, it didn’t have any of that. Apparently, it wrapped up quickly and with less “carnage.” Wright claims a rushed filming schedule was to blame. The negative reaction from early previews gave them the green light to re-shoot.

4 Pretty in Pink (1986)

Pretty in Pink is a quintessential Brat Pack film featuring John Hughes as the writer and starring Molly Ringwald, Jon Cryer, and Andrew McCarthy. Andie Walsh is a poor teenage girl frequently ostracized by her wealthy peers. She and her friend Duckie often ridicule the rich kids and are happy to keep their distance. But when Blane, one of the popular kids, shows interest in Andie, she must decide if she’s willing to draw attention to herself and put aside her own prejudices about Blane.

Audiences Didn’t Like Pretty in Pink’s Original Friends to Lovers Ending

Throughout the film, Duckie displays his unrequited love for Andie. Many of his moments fawning over her are the funniest parts of the movie. It was set up to be a classic friends-to-lovers film, and that’s how it originally ended. But audiences at test screenings hated it. They preferred Andie with Blane, and thus, the actors got back together to re-shoot the end prom scene. Some fans wish Duckie would’ve gotten the girl, while others appreciate the film didn’t promote the idea that if you wear someone down enough, they’ll eventually fall for you.

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3 The Blair Witch Project (1999)

The Blair Witch Project follows three filmmakers who set out to camp in a forest to see if the local myth of the evil Blair Witch is true. Beforehand, they get citizen’s opinions and thoughts on the lore. Each fears what’s to come, but is also excited to get potentially life-changing images and videos of the Blair Witch. Shot in found footage, documentary style, the film brings viewers along as increasingly unexplained occurrences happen and the friends are plucked off one by one.

Audiences Helped Cut the Fluff in The Blair Witch Project

A select few films are thought to have truly innovated the genre and The Blair Witch Project is one of them. Now, this style is common, but at the time, it hadn’t gotten saturated yet. This was both directors’ first feature film, and as such there was a learning curve. They told the AV Club that they had an over two-hour-long version of the film and couldn’t see the forest from the trees anymore. They relied on feedback during test screenings to zero in on the heart of the story and cut out the fluff.

2 Legally Blonde (2001)

Legally Blonde movie poster

Legally Blonde (2001)

Release Date
July 13, 2001

Legally Blonde is about sorority girl Elle Woods who is dumped by her boyfriend the night she believes he’ll propose. Elle is distraught, as she’s constantly seen as dumb and shallow. Warner, her now-ex, said he needs someone serious to marry after he’s done with law school. This sparks an idea: if Elle can get into Harvard Law School with Warner, she can prove her value and win him back.

Audiences Wanted Legally Blonde to Focus on Her Success

This film is heralded as one of Reese Witherspoon’s best films. Many appreciate that it championed female empowerment without belittling traditionally “feminine” characteristics. In the iconic courtroom scene, Elle saves the day in an all-pink suit thanks to her knowledge of hair. It may come as a surprise that in the original ending, the film ended there. Elle kisses her new love interest Emmett and then she and her once-rival Vivian start a club, according to Entertainment Weekly. However, test screening consensus thought this centered Elle’s relationship over her personal growth and success, thus leaving the world with the ending we know today.

1 Death Becomes Her (1992)

Death Becomes Her is a fantasy comedy about one of the messiest love triangles. Madeline and Helen’s friendship can best be described as complicated. Helen’s fiancé left her to marry Madeline, leading to years of resentment and bitter feelings. Though Madeline got her guy, she’s unhappy about her fading beauty and youth. But a magic potion may be the answer to her problems, while simultaneously causing new ones.

Audiences Didn’t Enjoy the Subtle Ending of Death Becomes Her

With Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, and Bruce Willis as the three leads, this movie has solidified itself as a cult classic. Test screenings caused several scenes to get chopped or shortened, but the third act is where the most substantial changes lie. The official ending shows Madeline and Helen with deformed faces falling down stairs at Ernest’s funeral. However, the original featured the eternally youthful women contemplating their next moves in life, utterly bored by their existence. For what it’s worth, Hawn prefers this more subdued ending.

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