"...Shaw explains how Liza ends not with Higgins but with Freddy and — Shaw and Heaven forgive me! — I am not certain he is right."When it comes time for an author to wrap everything up, the final judgment on his ultimate creation hinges on the conclusion: an ending can make or break an entire work or series. So important is the ending, in fact, that it's especially subject to Executive Meddling and public influence. The biggest problem arises when the author has already written and/or produced the final ending and executives or test audiences dislike it, most commonly due to it being a Downer Ending. They pressure the author to change the ending to one they think the public will like better, usually to a Happily Ever After. The author reluctantly complies and the ending is changed (see also Happily Ever Before — a specific type of sub-trope). If the endings were radically different, what usually happens is that the original ending is revealed to the public in a later edition, and fans become split between favoring the original or revised ending. For some reason, Downer Endings are usually considered to be the better of the two (partly because they are more likely to be the original, and people get hung up on "the director's original vision" - and of course, True Art Is Angsty). But as was previously mentioned it can be the exact opposite as well. Can be seen as a form of Author's Saving Throw if the Revised Ending was created to appease audiences. Be warned, considering this trope is specifically about the endings to works, it should be painfully obvious that spoilers are going to occur. Focus Group Ending is a subtrope. When the revised ending changes an ending that was already shown, it's also an Orwellian Retcon. Since this is an Ending Trope, expect spoilers.
— Alan Jay Lerner, note in a published edition of My Fair Lady
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Anime and Manga
- Neon Genesis Evangelion has what may be the most thorough revised ending, the final two episodes of the TV series being replaced by the movie End Of Evangelion. The original is notoriously incomprehensible; the movie is a Bittersweet Ending. And the manga's ending, with what we have so far (Adam giving Gendo god-like powers, Shinji making it in time to save Asuka, and Shinji starting to remember things from his childhood that he'd forgotten or repressed as Rei/Lilith interacts with him) is setting things up for yet another mind fuck. And then there's Rebuild, which has some implications that it's not an Alternate Continuity.
- More specifically there is the epilogue: In the leaked original script for episode 26 (which was used for the last half of End of Evangelion) featured two different proposed versions, neither of which corresponded completely with the one in End of Evangelion: The first one ultimately ends as the finished film does, but portrays itself somewhat more positively. The second one however was much bleaker than the film with Shinji being the only human self-reflective enough to return from instrumentality, meaning he will be spending the rest of his life alone. The final version both takes and discards scenes from both versions and changes one piece of dialog ( Asuka's "I won't let you kill me" to the infamous "I feel sick"). As for the manga's epilogue? It pulls a Cosmic Retcon and creates a world where Second Impact never happened.
- The Big O had its ending revised numerous times before being broadcast, with the final product being subject to a request to be less conclusive than previous drafts, in case the network decided on a third series. It didn't, leaving the show with a Gainax Ending and no proper resolution. By most accounts, though, even the previous drafts didn't provide a concrete resolution.
- Surprisingly, the anime adaptation of Full Moon o Sagashite had a more Bittersweet Ending compared to the original manga which had a true Happy Ending, given all the events and details of characters removed or changed in the anime.
- The Movie version of Fist of the North Star had two different endings produced for it. The original theatrical ending (the same ending used in the Streamline Pictures dub) was a Gecko Ending which featured Kenshiro losing the final fight against his elder brother Raoh, with his life spared due to holy child Lin's intervention. When the movie was released on VHS and Laserdisc in Japan, the ending was changed to have Kenshiro and Raoh end their fight in a stalemate (but is otherwise identical), which is closer how their first fight ended in the manga. For awhile the theatrical ending was not available in Japan until the movie's DVD release in 2008, leading to the common misconception among western fans that the revised ending was the original ending.
- The manga adaptation of Breath of Fire IV actually had both minor and not-so-minor versions of this (fan speculation is that these may be a setup for a possible sequel). Among major changes (besides the incorporation of both of the Multiple Endings of the game in a "bad ending to good ending" storyline) are Scias and Ershin clearing out hexes in Chamba and Fou-lu ultimately splitting from Ryu again and surviving. There has been a great amount of rejoicing with the latter.
- The manga and novel versions of Mobile Suit Gundam Wing end with the five Gundam Pilots going to Mars to aid in the terraformation project started by Relena; the TV series has them staying on Earth, and this is the ending that all the sequels follow. Gets a lampshade in the Yonkoma for the manga version of The Movie, where someone asks the manga-ka "I thought the boys went to Mars?" and he nervously fumbles and tries to change the subject.
- The manga and the novelization were written with no sequel in mind. Much like how Amuro died at the Battle Of A-Baoa-Qu in Mobile Suit Gundam's novelization. However, even though the "Gundam boys go to Mars" ending isn't canon, the Mars terraformation project itself still is, as it appears in Endless Waltz and its sequel, Frozen Teardrop.
- Gatchaman Crowds wrapped up with what seemed to be a rather bizarre Gainax Ending in its broadcast, leaving the exact fate of the villain (Berg-Katze) rather unclear, as well as the manner in how he was defeated. It turned out that the final two episodes had to be edited for the broadcast, with episode 11 having a Clip Show slapped on to the beginning and the rest of the episode being broadcast as "episode 12", with only part of the actual final episode's footage utilized. Supposedly there was trouble with completing the deadlines for animating the footage as well. The Blu-Ray release contains the completed version of episode 12, giving a fuller ending to the plot.
- The first scene of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann is set on a massive spaceship. By the time the series gets to that point, the scene never happens.
- The original ending of The Dark Phoenix Saga in X-Men had Phoenix surviving with her powers taken away. Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter insisted that Jean go through a great punishment (such as eternal torture) commensurate to the crimes she committed as Dark Phoenix, notably killing a planet inhabited by several billion aliens. In the end Chris Claremont and John Byrne decided to just kill her. The original ending was eventually published in Phoenix: The Untold Story.
- The infamous My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Dark Fic Cupcakes ends with Pinkie Pie horrifically killing Rainbow Dash and getting away with it, but has a lot of alternate endings, few, if any, by the original writer. These range from her moving on to the rest of her friends, it being a dream, it being a fanfic written by one of the characters, it being a play, Rainbow Dash breaking free and killing Pinkie Pie instead, and Rainbow Dash being rescued, but losing her wings. The All Just a Dream version has a great many versions, including one called Rocket To Insanity where the dream causes Rainbow Dash to eventually kill Pinkie Pie...which in turn has its own Alternate Ending (Rocket To Insanity Alternate Ending) where she snaps out of it and gets Pinkie Pie to the hospital in time but has to earn forgiveness for it. Another psudo-Alternate Ending is The Light in the Darkness, which goes with the All Just a Dream version and ends on a very heartwarming note (to the point it's been dubbed "the antithesis of Cupcakes") but it's vague on if this is a true one or not, despite the fact the author originally intended for it to be before being rewritten.
- Difficult to Fight Against Anger is an alternate ending to the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where Tara isn't shot, but rather raped by Warren Mears, and Willow's ensuing rampage is fueled not by grief, but by rage.
- The end of "The Sin of Envy, or a Mother's Love" was meant to foreshadow another story with Twilight Sparkle experiencing a nightmare similar to Rarity's (being consumed by pride instead, becoming an alicorn and wiping everyone else out). After she really did become an alicorn in canon, the author decided to change the Cliffhanger to lead into the confrontation with the demon responsible instead (having decided that the ideas for the other characters' stories/nightmares were subpar).
- The Vow (which is basically Lord Shen's story included with a love interest named Lady Lianne) ends with Shen surviving one of his cannons crushing him and reuniting with his pregnant wife Lianne (though there is an epilogue included). According to the Word of God, the story had two possible endings in the early development stages, but neither were used.
- One of the endings followed canon exactly and Shen died while unpregnant Lianne went onto the Swan lake to ask the moon to reunite her with her beloved. Though this ending was more ambiguous, it was still a heavily implied tragedy.
- The other ending had a much longer draft: Shen survived partly thanks to monks after he became a cripple from being crushed under the cannon and went into self-imposed exile. Lianne remained in her father's house and raised her son alone, believing Shen to have died. However, when the Shan Palace was attacked by mercenaries, Lianne and her son had to flee. They reunited with Shen by him coming to their rescue.
Films — Animated
- Both The Lion King films have alternate, unproduced original endings. The first one would've had Scar throw Simba off Pride Rock, but Scar would then perish laughing hysterically as the flames consume Pride Rock. Simba survives, but doesn't get his revenge. In the final film, he ends up throwing Scar off of Pride Rock where the evil lion is eaten by his angry Hyena Mooks. The second film's original ending would've had Zira commit suicide by letting go of the cliff with the line "No...never..." in response to Kiara's attempts to save her life. In the real version, she simply slips and falls.
- Aladdin had at least two alternate endings. Originally, it was supposed to end with a reprise of "Arabian Nights", which was later used in the second sequel, Aladdin and the King of Thieves. The second deleted ending starts with the reprise of "A Whole New World" as seen in the final movie, but then cuts to a sequence where the peddler from the beginning of the movie reveals himself to be the Genie. This is followed by a cruder version of the "made you look" gag from the final ending.
- Lilo & Stitch was orginally going to end with the heroes stealing a passenger jet from an airport to save Lilo from Gantu, and destroying most of Honolulu while they are chasing each other, but because of what happened on 9/11, the airplane was replaced with a spaceship.
- The original theatrical cut of A Goofy Movie simply ended the film on the gag where Goofy kicks his damaged car, causing it to explode and blow him sky high. However, the ending received a mixed reception and many audience members were upset by it, seemingly interpreting that Goofy had been killed in the explosion (somewhat of a justified reaction, given that the film was aimed at children). An additional scene was added to later versions, which shows Goofy falling back down and crashing into Roxanne's front porch, thus reassuring viewers that he was alive and well.
Films — Live-Action
- James Cameron's Sci-fi film The Abyss originally had an ending more complex than the theatrical release, with Bud engaging in more dialogue with the underwater aliens, a giant tidal wave, and a Humanity on Trial and Armies Are Evil Aesop. Unfortunately, the effects technology to make the tidal wave were not yet advanced to Cameron's tastes, so he shortened the ending into a more ambiguous conclusion that left many critics unhappy. A few years later, the original intended ending was included in the Special Edition version, which garnered a lot of praise.
- Orson Welles' second film, The Magnificent Ambersons, was taken from him in post-production, savagely edited down, and given a new Happy Ending. It is considered a classic despite this Executive Meddling.
- Army of Darkness originally had a Downer/Twist Ending, in which Ash is given a potion in order to sleep until he awakens in his own time, but he takes too much of the potion and (in a Cruel Twist Ending) awakens in a post-apocalyptic England. This was changed to a happier ending (through Executive Meddling), which does admittingly have a few more catchy One Liners than that ending. The original ending was retained in the film's international release.
- The ending of the 1956 movie The Bad Seed was changed to conform with The Hays Code, which required that "the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrong-doing, evil or sin". Thus Enfante Terrible Rhoda could not get away with her crimes like she did in the ending of the stage play, and the novel it was based on, in which she survives after her mother Christine, having realized Rhoda is a sociopathic little murderess, poisons her and then kills herself. So, in the movie, Christine survives a bullet to the head at point-blank range — judging from her actions earlier in the film, the viewer can only surmise that it missed her brain — and eight-year-old Rhoda is killed by a literal bolt of lightning.
- Blade Runner's original ending wasn't really a Downer Ending, but left a lot to the imagination, especially with the implication that the main character's love interest, an android-like replicant, had only a few more years to live. Also, Deckard may be a replicant as well, which means that he might not have long to live either. Executives insisted that the ending be changed to an unambiguously happy one with the love interest turning out to have a long life after all. The film was restored back to its original vision in the Director's Cut DVD.
- The edited-for-TV broadcast version of Brazil ended with the hero living happily ever after with his love interest. What television audiences didn't see was a scene cut out in which this win-all ending is revealed to be a delusion of the main character. (The American theatrical release has been Mis-blamed for this; its ending is identical to the European theatrical version, except with more footage of clouds.)
- There's a book detailing the hard fight Terry Gilliam fought to have the original ending in all versions: The Battle for Brazil.
- The theatrical release of The Butterfly Effect had a bittersweet "things are ok-ish but Evan and Kayleigh never knew each other and pass in the street with only a wistful sense of what might have been" ending. The director's cut has what may well be the only prenatal suicide in film history, as Evan concludes the only way to avoid all the bad things that happen to the people he loves is to not survive birth.
- The original Downer Ending to Clerks was changed to a Bittersweet Ending by removing the very last scene, which would have been the shooting of Dante. This meant that a whole lot of Foreshadowing went to waste. However, Clerks II and Clerks: The Animated Series would have been nullified by this original ending.
- The Infernal Affairs Trilogy: In this Hong Kong cops-and-robbers movie, Andy Lau's character, a mole placed in the police by triads he betrayed, leaves a building besieged by police forces holding a police badge after betraying and killing everyone inside out of desperation in the final climax to ensure his real identity remains a secret. However, an alternate ending was made for the theatrical releases in China, Singapore, and Malaysia, showing that the character was arrested by police upon leaving the building when it is stated, without explanation, that there was proof of his complicity in the crime. This, apparently, was to please the governments in those three countries stating that crimes does not pay.
- The American rendition of the movie, The Departed, changes the wist. Matt Damon, playing Andy Lau's character, does indeed manage to leave the building keeping his identity a secret, but, perhaps to please American audiences, he is eventually confronted by another detective who discovered the truth in the movie's end, and is killed.
- The difference between Lau's and Damon's interpretations of the character was that Lau's genuinely wanted to change when he realized that his secret life was going to make him lose his wife, whereas Damon's was just trying to protect himself. Lau's character certainly didn't want to go to prison, but the ending at the funeral (and Lau shooting the other mole) showed that his character had changed.
- The ending of the film The Descent was revised for the US release, with the director's approval. In the US version, the film ends with Sarah escaping from the cave, but seeing the friend she left to die, bloodied and corpselike, implying that she's been driven insane by her experiences, but has at least escaped. In the original version, after this, she wakes up, still in the cave, and lingers, completely insane and hallucinating her late daughter is there with her, as the crawlers close in and presumably kill her.
- The sequel follows the ending of the US version.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) is an odd case. The original novel had an unambiguously happy ending, with the Pods fleeing Earth, the Pod People slowly dying off, and the town returning to normal. The first movie adaptation initially had a Downer Ending, with the hero hysterically screaming "You're next!" to oblivious highway drivers (and the audience) as truckloads of Pods are shipped all over the country. The execs didn't care for this ending, and slapped on a prologue and epilogue that showed the military discovering the threat, and preparing to fight back. Meanwhile, the 1978 and 1993 remakes had unambiguously Downer Endings and the 2007 remake restored the happy ending of the original book.
- Little Shop of Horrors: The film adaptation of the musical originally had a Downer Ending with our heroes eaten by Audrey II and several Audrey II saplings growing throughout America. This was changed in Executive Meddling to a happy ending. Director Frank Oz explained that in a play, the characters' death is no big deal, because it's obviously just a play and they all come out for a curtain call at the end. In a movie it's much more real, and it felt like a crime to kill the two characters that the audience has spent the whole movie falling in love with. The stuff they shot for the original ending was pretty damn cool, though.
- The movie adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist replaced the story's ambiguous ending with a soul crushing Shoot the Shaggy Dog ending. King has been quoting in saying that not only did he love the ending of the movie, but also that "everyone who spoils this ending should be hung from a noose until dead". Yes, King has issues.
- Wes Craven planned for the original A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) to have a happy ending, but this was changed by the executives, and the Downer Ending (where Nancy's mother is killed, and Nancy's own fate is left ambiguous) was created.
- The 1932 version of Scarface featured an alternate ending to comply with the then-recently released Hays Code. In the original ending, Tony Camonte gets shot to death by the police while trying to escape, while in the Hays-approved ending, Camonte is arrested, tried, and executed by hanging.
- Terminator 2: Judgment Day featured an ending where Sarah Connor reflected on her experiences many years after the events of the movie, as she watches her son playing with his daughter at a park. Cameron has stated that the Dark Highway ending was better for the film since it better represented the ambiguous nature of the future. The playground ending would imply that the future was now set, and thus deterministic.
- Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake originally ended on an ambiguous bittersweet note; after test audiences complained, an additional, more pessimistic, sequence was filmed and interspersed through the credits.
- The irony of all this is that the exact opposite happened with the original.
- The 2007 film I Am Legend has a particularly striking case of this. The original ending is far more in tune with the theme and morality of the book, clearly fits with the foreshadowing of the creatures' intelligence, and is in general a more original and though-provoking ending. However, test audiences apparently reacted poorly to it, so it was changed to a pretty standard Christ-like Heroic Sacrifice ending, complete with a fireball explosion (caused by a grenade of all things). This is an even more startling case as the original is not strictly a Downer Ending; it's simply ambiguous.
- The cult classic zombie college film Night of the Creeps was originally supposed to end with a funny parody of standard horror movie The Stinger endings, with a zombie parasite seemingly escaping to cause more mayhem, only to be vacuumed up by alien zookeepers. Due to Executive Meddling, this was replaced in the final film with a more cliche The Stinger Downer Ending where an alien parasite suddenly jumps out of an infected dog at the camera, presumably zombifying the female love interest.
- Averted by the 1963 X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes. In its theatrical release, the lead character ultimately blinds himself, because his super-eyesight has shown him the swirling madness that underlies reality. For years, rumors circulated that his self-mutilation was originally meant to be followed by the terrifying line: "I can still see!" The DVD commentary, however, reveals that this line was inserted as a spur-of-the-moment improvisation by director Roger Corman, who found it unsatisfying and opted to stick with the original script.
- Scott Pilgrim vs. The World has an alternative ending, which consists of Scott getting with Knives rather than Ramona.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon's original ending can be read in the movie adaptations. According to those, Megatron finally decides to end the war after his constant failures, forms a truce with the Autobots, and heads back to Cybertron. The movie ending gives us a complete opposite scenario: Megatron proposes a truce, but Optimus Prime kills him without hesitation. Cybertron is (apparently) destroyed, and though the war is over, there are still many Decepticons lurking around Earth whose faith is never touched upon.
- The Golden Compass was originally filmed to stay true to the book's ending, but executives didn't want a Downer Ending to launch a franchise, so scenes of Roger's death were cut and moved to the sequel that never happened. Additionally many audiences were left confused and mistakenly thought Lyra travelling to another world was actually her dying and going to Heaven.
- National Treasure originally ended with the protagonists learning of a new treasure to search for. It was intended to be an And the Adventure Continues ending, but test audiences assumed it as a Sequel Hook.
- Referenced by director Kasi Lemmons on the commentary track of the director's cut of her film Eve's Bayou. The original ending was much more ambiguous, giving no final interpretation of the movie's central event Did Louis molest Cisely or did she come on to him?, leaving the truth locked in the mind of a disabled character who witnessed the event (and was subsequently cut from the theatrical release.) Kasi laments that she did not have experience taking test audiences' judgments with a grain of salt so she thought she had no choice but to change the ending to something more satisfying, though she prefers the ambiguity.
- The movie version of Stephen King's Dreamcatcher has an original ending that's considered far superior to the theatrical version. While in the theatrical version, Duddits turns into another alien and fights Mr. Gray, in the original ending, he uses his psychic powers to force Mr. Gray out of Jonesy, then destroy him, then he throws up his arms triumphantly, yells "I Duddits!", and then dies of his cancer.
- The Big Blue: Besides making many cuts, the American theatrical release replaced the Downer Ending with one in which Jacques is rescued by the dolphin.
- Godzilla vs. Destoroyah's original ending was different than what was the film's ending now. After having his wings being destroyed, Destoroyah is forced to fight Godzilla to the death without any retreat. Godzilla, having witnessed his son being killed by Destoroyah, is on the verge of a planet-destroying meltdown, and is being fired on by the military while at his weakest state, beats Destoroyah into a disintegrating pulp until both monsters are consumed by the military's firepower, which destroys them both. Fortunately, Toho cut this ending due to it being too anti-climactic and instead had Destoroyah killed quickly so that Godzilla could have center-stage for his meltdown.
- War of the Gargantuas had a different proposed ending to the film that was considerably darker than the one in the film. After the Gargantuas were killed by a surprise volcano, the lava flow released from it winds up engulfing all of Tokyo, killing the main cast and destroying all of the remaining cells of the gargantuas left behind in their fight. Tomoyuki Tanaka dropped this idea due to the enormous budget that would be required to film such an effect, so the ending was more toned down.
- The original ending of The Wolfman (2010), in the rough draft of the screenplay that was leaked online before the movie's release, had Lawrence throw himself off a cliff in order to save Gwen from himself.
- Beastly had an ending more in line with the book where Kyle gets shot trying to protect Lindy from the men her father owed money to - and would transform back into himself as he apparently died. This was filmed but changed to a different ending where Kyle shows up at school for an Anguished Declaration of Love and then transforms back as he leaves.
- The PJ Hogan version of Peter Pan filmed an ending where the narrator would have been revealed to be the adult Wendy (and the actual film only implies it) telling the story to her young daughter Jane. Peter would then arrive and take Jane to Neverland as in the book.
- Scream3 had two different endings shot, one with Detective Kincaid in it and one without - as producers weren't sure whether or not they wanted to kill him off. Additionally the climax had to be re-shot several months later, as producers felt the stakes weren't high enough. This adds in a Disney Death for Sidney which wouldn't have happened in the original cut.
- The Summation scene in Animal Crackers is completely different from the original stage version. The bit where Harpo chloroforms everyone else and finally himself was taken from an earlier scene.
- The first Final Destination movie had a radically different ending. Alex would sacrifice himself to spare both Clear and Carter from death's design. It would then cut to Clear giving birth to Alex's baby, and a scene between her and Carter at the memorial. This was changed to Alex surviving his sacrifice, visiting Paris six months later with the gang and Carter being killed by a falling sign. As a result, any intimate scenes between Alex and Clear were deleted - relegating their romance to subtext (though the sequel does claim they did become a couple). Ironically a lot of fans prefer the original ending nowadays, despite focus groups hating it at the time.
- 28 Days Later had about five different endings. The first planned one would have had the protagonists never meeting the soldiers like they do halfway through the final cut. They would meet the scientist who first developed the rage virus, and he would help Jim get a blood transfusion to save the infected Frank, thereby switching their infections. Danny Boyle storyboarded this ending and then realised there was no way it could work. The rest of the endings all take place after the climax in the manor. A potential ending would have been an outright Cliffhanger, cutting off as soon as Hannah drives at the gates. Another would have had Jim dying on the hospital bed, while having a Dying Dream of his bike accident. Another would have kept this canon but added on a different version of the true farm ending - just with Selena and Hannah. They eventually had Jim survive too and added him into the farm ending months later - explaining why Cillian Murphy's hair is notably longer after only a month.
- The sequel 28 Weeks Later had a slightly different climax. Scarlet would have died first, and then Doyle. They chose to swap this around, feeling it amped up the fear if Scarlet was left to take care of the children instead of Doyle. The film would have ended just with Flynn flying Tammy and Andy out in the helicopter. They added the extra scene of an outbreak in Paris at the last minute.
- Black Narcissus filmed an ending where Sister Clodagh apologises for her failures to Reverend Mother, expecting to be reprimanded. Instead, Reverend Mother comforts her. While shooting the goodbye between Clodagh and Mr Dean, the cinematographer came up with the idea for a shot where rain drops start falling on the leaves. Michael Powell loved that shot so much, and the following one of Clodagh watching the convent seemingly disappear into the mist, that he cut the other ending.
- Hard Candy shot two different versions of the ending. In the first, you'd actually see Jeff hanging from the roof, confirming that he'd died. The second, which was used in the final cut, leaves his fate more ambiguous. Patrick Wilson preferred the second ending.
- Charles Dickens' Great Expectations originally ended with Pip and Estella, who Pip had spent the entire book hopelessly in love with, meeting briefly and parting ways. Dickens gave his friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton a preview of the ending. Bulwer-Lytton disliked the Downer Ending and asked him to write a happier one for his readers. Dickens obliged and wrote a separate ending that reunited Pip with Estella, but left it up to the readers to decide if they were able to start a relationship or not. Unlike some other examples of this trope, Dickens himself was pleased with the new ending.
Pip: I saw no shadow of another parting from her. (last line of revised ending)
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in "The Final Problem" to be able to focus on other literary projects. Public demand and mourning was so great that he eventually wrote a new short story that retconned Holmes' death as only a faked one and continued his adventures. (It didn't hurt that Watson Never Found the Body, either.)
- A Clockwork Orange is an unusual case: the revised ending is actually the Downer Ending, and the "true" ending is more optimistic. The film adaptation was based on the revised ending (the American publication that cut out the last chapter), either because True Art Is Angsty, or, as is claimed, Stanley Kubrick had never seen the original until some time into production and when he did he didn't like it. The supposed reason he didn't like it is that it's done in a way to show that Alex matures and grows out of his violent nature. It's a classical example of Teens Are Monsters and this whole thing was just a phase. Kubrick thought it completely removed the message of the story.
- Robert A. Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars had an original ending where Podkayne dies, intending it to be An Aesop about a working mother not properly taking care of her children. The publisher made him use a revised ending where she is injured but survives. It was eventually published with both endings, which differ only on the last page.
- H. G. Wells' story The Country of the Blind has an original and revised version which diverge at a point where the protagonist is going to agree to have his eyes removed to become a member of the titular society. In the original, he ditches his Jungle Princess fiance in the middle of the night and is implied to have died in his efforts to climb down a mountain back to civilization. In the revised version, he escapes with her and they have sighted children and live Happily Ever After.
- Two of Stephen King's novels play with this: At the end of Black House and Dark Tower, King offers up a happy ending in the penultimate chapter, and then a warning that "if you like happy endings, stop reading here." The "real" ending in the last chapter is more of a downer.
- The Dark Tower case is actually somewhat interesting: it's very much a Bittersweet Ending, but it fits Roland's character arc, and is suitably Mythic, as the series itself has been.
- Christine's two endings work similarly, but without the warning.
- Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native originally ended with the deaths of Eustacia and Wildeve, Tamsin is left a widow and single parent and there are implications that Clym might be going insane. However popular demand encouraged Hardy to write a sixth volume in which Clym manages to pull through his depression and Diggory Ven marries Tamsin.
- Older Than Feudalism: The Gospel of Mark seems to have originally ended with a report of the resurrection of Jesus; a later revision incorporated events up to the Ascension.
- The deleted last chapter to Joan Lindsday's Picnic at Hanging Rock, which explains what happened to Miss McCraw, Marion, and Miranda, was first published in 1987. The reader discovers that Hanging Rock is in the middle of some kind of mystical temporal anomaly; the three women change shape and vanish into the rock itself, leaving Irma (in an echo of "The Pied Piper of Hamelin") stuck outside.
- According to many scholars, the Happily Ever After ending to the Book of Job in the Bible was a revision by editors who wanted to make the moral of the story as clear as crystal.
- The ending of Alexey Tolstoy's The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin (a.k.a. The Garin Death Ray) was revised two times. In the original serialized version, Zoe Montrose dies, captain Jansen lives, Magnificent Bastard Garin was a Karma Houdini. In the second version, Jansen dies, Garin and Zoe were a Karma Houdini, and the noves ends with a Sequel Hook. In the final edition Jansen dies, and Garin and Zoe were punished by Laser-Guided Karma.
- Fans of Ted Dekker's Circle series were so unhappy with the conclusion of Green (which ends with the protagonist deliberately trapping himself in a seemingly unending Stable Time Loop) that Dekker wrote a new, "happier" ending for the series's compilation novel.
- Later editions of Henry Williamson's Tarka the Otter have a revised ending. In the original, Tarka fights a hunting hound called Deadlock, and neither survives. In the revised ending, Tarka fights a hunting hound called Deadlock, and neither survives. Despite the plot being the same, Williamson became horrified by the way he had originally described it. He even kept the original ending as a postscript after the revised ending, followed by a note expressing his disbelief that he ever wrote it.
- Gaspode the Wonder Dog was supposed to make a Heroic Sacrifice at the end of Moving Pictures, but beta readers protested, and he was upgraded to a Disney Death.
- Sir Terry's editor felt sorry for Mr Tulip in The Truth, so the finished book added a sort of coda to his death where he gets a happy reincarnation.
- In "Belief" by Isaac Asimov, the protagonist discovers he can levitate, and finds that everyone accuses him of being mad (if he doesn't demonstrate the ability), or trying to trick them (if he does). In the original version, he eventually kills himself. The revised version that was published instead has him discover a way to convince people his ability is genuine.
- The original ending of Hannah Montana was a All Just a Dream senario. The show was revealed to be the dream of a young Miley Cyrus. Thanks to Executive Meddling it was thought to be too confusing for children and the ending was changed to Miley giving up the movie in Paris to attend college with Lily
- Parodied in a sketch which featured supposed "alternate endings" that were shot for Gone with the Wind. It's introduced by one of the actors, "Slave Girl #8" (she's the only one who's still alive), who has to re-enact the racial stereotype of her previous role, which she eventually notes is kind of degrading. In the first ending, Rhett goes on a profanity-laden tirade after Scarlett begs him not to leave, and punches her in the stomach before walking off in disgust ("Audiences didn't like that ending at all"). In the second one, Rhett, Scarlett, and some of the soldiers and slaves suddenly break into a dance number. In the third one, Rhett just gets on a broom and flies off, and Scarlett follows him on a jetpack on the advice of Abraham Lincoln and a talking penguin ("It's a mystery to me why they filmed this last ending at all").
- There was a similar one done with The Sound of Music. In the first ending the von Trapp family were shot and killed by the Nazis (which the audience was appalled by, especially the children's deaths), in the second the Von Trapps join the Nazis (this ending was popular only in Germany, Argentina, and parts of the US midwest), and in the last one the kids fight back with X-Men-style superpowers.
- "Only the Good...", the Season Finale of Red Dwarf VIII went through three different endings (not including the fact it was originally going to be a completely different story but the budget ran out). The original cliffhanger was hated by test audiences (i.e. Doug Naylor's kids), and was replaced by Rimmer being rescued by Ace, only for Naylor to suddenly come up with the existing ending just before they started filming it.
- Franz Liszt's "Faust Symphony" was originally written with a straightforward coda following a final cadence in C major. Liszt later expanded this into a choral Grand Finale, with the organ-accompanied chorus intoning the words of Goethe's "Chorus mysticus" and a tenor solo singing, "Das Ewig-Weibliche zieht uns hinan."
- The play Liliom ends with the dead protagonist being escorted back to purgatory after striking his widow. For the musical adaptation, Carousel, Oscar Hammerstein made this Downer Ending into a Bittersweet Ending by having the protagonist stick around for one more scene, in which his daughter graduates and the entire cast sings a reprise of "You'll Never Walk Alone." Ferenc Molnar, author of Liliom, saw this Revised Ending and approved of it.
- Oklahoma! has a Happily Ever After ending. The non-musical source play, Green Grow The Lilacs, has a more ambiguous ending, with Curly still awaiting trial for murder.
- Eliza comes back to Higgins at the end of My Fair Lady. Alan Jay Lerner borrowed this final scene from Gabriel Pascal's (non-musical) film of Pygmalion, which managed to create this Revised Ending (which Shaw loathed) by recycling earlier lines, to get around the contractual stipulation that every single line of dialogue would be written by Shaw (and credited to him).
- Worth noting that the original cast of the play didn't like Shaw's ending either and subverted it as much as they could. Henry and Eliza would take their curtain call together, posed as if they were bride and groom.
- While at least one production of My Fair Lady subverted the revised ending by having Higgins deliver the final line ("Where the devil are my slippers?") in such a stinging and domineering way that it becomes clear that Eliza can't return to him and maintain her self-respect, and thus contrary to the musical's stage instruction the two stand at opposite ends of the stage as the curtain falls with no sign of them moving together.
- Worth noting that the original cast of the play didn't like Shaw's ending either and subverted it as much as they could. Henry and Eliza would take their curtain call together, posed as if they were bride and groom.
- And Then There Were None. In Agatha Christie's original novel, everyone dies. When she adapted the work for the theatre, she felt the book's Downer Ending was unsuitable for the stage, and revised the plot so that the two least sympathetic characters from the book, one who killed a child and the other left multiple men to die, turn out to be innocent of the crimes they are accused of, survive, and fall in love with each other. All of the numerous film versions, with the exception of the Russian version, have retained the changed ending of the play.
- This in part because the solution in the Downer Ending is revealed in a posthumous letter discovered several months later. Having the solution just be read out to the audience really is bad theatre.
- This is not the only time Christie changed the ending of one of her works when adapting it for the stage. In the stage version of Appointment With Death, the murder is changed to a suicide.
- The musical Show Boat reunites Magnolia and her grown daughter Kim with Ravenal and Captain Andy for the final curtain. At the end of Edna Ferber's novel, Captain Andy and Parthy have both died, and Ravenal is Put on a Bus for good. Of the three film versions, only the first (mostly silent) one includes the deaths of Captain Andy and Parthy, and even that reunites Ravenal and Magnolia. The 1936 movie version has a variation on the stage ending (not a surprise, as Oscar Hammerstein adapted it himself); the 1951 version has a completely original ending which brings together Ravenal, Magnolia, Kim (still a child), Captain Andy, Parthy and even Julie.
- The book version of Wicked ends with an absurdly bleak Downer Ending. In the musical? Oh Elphaba's still alive. And so is Fiyero. And they get to live happily ever after, albeit somewhere else.
- In fiction: A key part of Hey Arnold!, "Eugene, Eugene" has Eugene horrified that the guy producing his school's musical has changed a perfectly good Happy Ending into a downer (a result of his Creator Breakdown) which is at odds with the play's message.
- In the original ending of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, Nora leaves her stifling marriage with Torvald. This was so controversial in the late 19th century that Ibsen, a Norwegian, was persuaded to write a new ending for the German productions in which she is reminded of her duties as a mother. Don't get him wrong, he hated it. Later he would openly refer to the alternate ending as "a barbaric act of violence towards the play. Its use is absolutely contrary to my wishes, and I hope that it will not be used by many German theatres."
- So why did he write it? According to a letter from Ibsen to a Danish newspaper, a lack of intellectual property laws meant that Scandanavian plays were at risk of disastrous 'adaptation' when performed in other countries. "I prefer," Ibsen stated, "to commit such violence myself, rather than surrender my works to treatment... by less careful and less skillful hands than my own."
- In-story example: In Man of La Mancha, Cervantes declares his story finished after Don Quixote's defeat and humiliation by Dr. Carrasco. The Governor declares the ending unsatisfying, but Cervantes begs to "have a little more time" to continue the tale before he is sent off to the Inquisition. (And indeed, the ending the fictional Cervantes invents differs from what the real Cervantes wrote.)
- Pippin is occasionally produced with the alternate ending: instead of a few spoken lines between Catherine and Pippin, Theo starts singing "Corner of the Sky" and the Leading Player and the musical accompaniment return.
- The first version of Mussorgsky's opera Boris Godunov ended with a scene in St. Basil's Cathedral (drawn from Pushkin's original play, though it was not the final scene there), in which the Simpleton is accosted by street urchins, and as Boris approaches and asks him to pray for him, refuses and calls him "Tsar Herod." The last act was replaced in the 1870s with an entirely new King on His Deathbed scene, followed by a scene in Katyn Forest where there is much rejoicing over Boris's death as the Pretender rides on to victory. This second scene incorporated most of the Simpleton's part from the older version in between triumphant choruses. Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov then rearranged much of the opera, reversing the order of the scenes in the new final act to end the opera with Boris's death. Productions in Soviet Russia from the 1920s onward restored the St. Basil's scene (in a Rimsky-Korsakov-like arrangement by Nicolai Ippolitov-Ivanov), even though it conflicts with or duplicates the musico-dramatic content of the revised final act.
- Rimsky-Korsakov's edition has a revised ending on a lesser scale: Act III, which Mussorgsky ended with Rangoni joining Dimitri and Marina in a quiet trio, now ended with a loud choral climax.
- The original play version of Jack Heifner's Vanities ended with the dissolution of the characters' friendship, but The Musical included a fourth scene where they patch things up.
- King Lear, which normally ends with a complete Downer Ending, received an alternate ending in 1681, where Cordelia survives and marries Edgar (despite already being married to the King of France). The original ending wasn't restored until the 1940s.
- Hedda Gabler was originally simply Driven to Suicide by Brack's threat to make her submit to him, but one alternate ending has her perform a Mind Screwy choreography ending with a gunshot, and it is not determined whether she actually shot herself.
- Chess has had a complex history of plot revisions, including many different variations on the ending, mostly regarding who Anatoly plays in the final match, whether he wins, and whether Florence gets reunited with her long-lost father. There's no clear consensus on which is best. Tim Rice has said he considers the plot of the 2008 Royal Albert Hall concert, which uses the original ending, to be the new canon, but this hasn't done anything to prevent the other variations— and new ones, even— from continuing to appear.
- The original ending of the theatrical adaptation of Miss Lulu Bett has Lulu leaving not only her uncaring, exploitative relatives, but her suitor Cornish as well, going on a journey to find herself. This was good enough to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama, but dissatisfied audiences of The Twenties, so playwright Zona Gale came up with a more straightforward happy ending, in which Lulu reunites with Ninian, briefly her husband before his Oops! I Forgot I Was Married confession.
- The ending of Snatcher on the PC-88 and MSX2 was a rather dark one, with many of Gillian's allies dead and the Snatcher menace still a lingering threat. This was because the ending was actually the climax before the real ending - the development of the game was behind schedule and the game's third and final act had to be excluded. When Snatcher was remade for the PC-Engine and Sega CD years later, the actual intended ending was included. A very different version of the ending was already featured in the previous RPG remake SD Snatcher.
- The arcade version of Double Dragon II: The Revenge ends with Billy Lee's girlfriend, Marian, still dead after being killed by the Big Bad at the opening intro. The NES adaptation on the other hand, features a different ending in which she comes back to life after defeating the True Final Boss, a nameless martial artist who wasn't in the arcade version.
- After finishing all three routes of the PS2 Realta Nua version of Fate/stay night, a Last Episode is opened up, which offers a happy conclusion to the Fate route, the only route which had only one bittersweet ending, giving Shirou and Saber a happy reunion in what might be Avalon. Overlaps with Died Happily Ever After, Together in Death and I Will Wait for You. Opinion varies on whether it fits the theme of said route, though.
- One of the proposed endings for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots had Solid Snake and his sidekick Otacon being convicted for terrorism and executed by the government. The ending was vetoed by Kojima's staff before it was even produced; it's been described as a full on revolt. The ending theme "Here to You", a song about two real-life anarchists executed for murder who were believed to be innocent, is an allusion to the proposed ending.
- The PS2 port of Higurashi: When They Cry replaced the happy-ending Matsuribayashi-hen(Festival Music Chapter) with the Bittersweet Ending Miotsukushi-hen(Canal Drying Chapter). The main plot of each differs wildly, but come to similar conclusions, with one MAJOR difference. Matsuribayashi focused mainly on Rika and Hanyuu getting everyone to believe them, and working together to prevent the Big Bad's plans from succeeding. It ends with (in the anime) Takano pointing a gun at the group, and Hanyuu stepping forward to shield them; Takano fires, and the bullet misses in an Ironic Echo of the time she dared God to strike her with lightning. (The miss was explained more in the original sound novel, where Hanyuu uses her powers to stop time, and Rika plucks the bullet out of the air. It's reasonable to assume that Hanyuu's powers are the reason it missed in the anime was well.) Miotsukushi, on the other hand, had three of the 'insane' plotlines get triggered at once: Watanagashi(Cotton-drifting), Tatarigoroshi(Curse-Killing), and Tsumihoroboshi(Atonement): Rika and Keiichi are left alone, and have to rescue everyone from their respective plotlines before anything bad can happen. They manage to do it, and it ends with the same confrontation with Takano that Matsuribayashi does: Pointing the gun at the group, Hanyuu steps forward to shield them. The difference is when Takano fires, the bullet hits and kills Hanyuu. (No idea why she didn't use her powers that time.) So, the group does reach their happy ending, and none of the horrible murders happened, but it comes at the Heroic Sacrifice of the one who enabled them to reach that ending in the first place.
- Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie has an alternate ending as an unlockable extra, in which Kong lives and returns to Skull Island. The last level of the actual game may count, as Kong can smash many more of the attacking biplanes than he ever could in the film.
- The 1996 point-and-click Adventure Game Fable (no relation to the more famous game series from 2000s) originally had an ending which reveals that the entire story was indeed a "fable"... told by a delusional murderous criminal in a prison cell. For obvious reasons, especially considering the game's overall humorous nature, such a conclusion did not go over well with the players — this Let's Play video has a mild example of what happens if you weren't prepared for it. The US game publisher naturally freaked out and managed to get the developers to change the ending, but apparently not before the original version got an international release. The new ending, while feeling slightly rushed, was generally seen as an improvement anyway. What's worse, a bit of Fridge Logic could tell you that the original ending pretty much explains all the Anachronism Stew throughout the game...
- Mass Effect 3, after very negative reaction to the original ending, released a free "Extended Cut" DLC to try to placate the fans.
- Tony Hawk Underground has an alternate ending should you play the game again where, instead of racing Eric Sparrow for the video tape of the insane helicopter jump, you flatten his ass with a punch.
- When EarthBound Beginnings was first released as Mother for the Famicom in 1989, the ending simply had Ninten, Ana, and Lloyd face the camera after Giygas retreats, while the credits rolled behind them, after which Ninten and his friends vanish and the words "To Be Continued..." appear. Come the 1990 localization (which wouldn't be released for 25 years), Nintendo of America decided to replace this with a Where Are They Now ending to be better received by American children. This ending ended up working out a lot better in hindsight, given that the sequel focused on a completely different set of protagonists, so it was put into the Japanese GBA release as well.
- Big Fish Games have adapted the works of Agatha Christie but changed some details about the original stories due to how well known the endings are. Their 2010 point and click adventure game of Murder on the Orient Express had the original ending and three curve balls. The first one? That isn't Pierre in the conductor's uniform. That's one of Daisy Armstrong's kidnappers seeking revenge against Cassetti! The second one? Cassetti didn't kill Daisy Armstrong - he killed the kidnapper's daughter by mistake! The third one? Daisy is on the train! The original storie's Bittersweet Ending is made a bit sweeter with Daisy's reunion with her grandmother.
- In general, The Binding of Isaac Rebirth just updates the artwork of the preexisting endings. However, certain endings have been revised:
- The "Transcendence", "A Quarter", "Dr. Fetus", "Everything is Terrible!!!", and "It Lives" endings, which were originally the second, fourth, fifth, sixth, and ninth endings, were made into the third, eighth, ninth, fifth, and eleventh endings instead.
- "The Nail" and "Money Equals Power" endings, the third and ninth endings in the original game, are gone.
- The first ending, the "Judas Ending", has been replaced with the "Eden Ending".
- The new second ending is the "Rubber Cement Ending".
- The new fourth ending is the "Wire Coat Hanger Ending".
- The new sixth ending is the "Ipecac Ending".
- The seventh ending, "The Wafer Ending", has been replaced with the "Experimental Treatment Ending".
- Fallout 3's Downer Ending was replaced by a continued storyline in DLC, complete with destruction of the remaining Enclave base after widespread disappointment at the original.
- By beating the Arrange Mode in Astebreed, an alternate ending depicts Roy, Fiona, and Estina visiting Grato's grave.
- This is a popular form of video spoofs on the internet. Take an existing film/series/game/what have you, and then create a fictional "alternate ending" by, for example, having the heroes die all of a sudden, take some step that would defeat the villain and end the movie in about 30 minutes, have the plot just take a complete left-field turn, etc.
- The author of the you could make a life NHL fiction universe originally had Mike and Liam's story end after eight chapters on an ambiguous Maybe Ever After, but she later added four more chapters to it to give them...an ambiguous Maybe Ever After that nonetheless has a more conclusive feel and optimistic tone to it.
- The Smurfs episode "The Lure Of The Orb" has two similar endings, both in which the Smurfs have their comeuppance with Allura. In one ending, Jokey gives Allura one of his surprises and it simply explodes and reveals the true face of Allura behind her kind gentle persona. In the other ending, Papa Smurf sprinkles some magic dust on Jokey's surprise so that, when he gives it to Allura, it explodes and turns Allura into a frog. The version with the latter ending (with its other change being that the Smurfs held captive by Allura in her fortress have chains on their legs) is usually shown in markets outside the United States.
- The original ending of Hero Factory: Invasion from Below was completely revised in the last 12 hours of production. Originally, the Heroes would have befriended the Beasts terrorizing the city. In the final version, this does happen, but after that, the Heroes kill them due to a misunderstanding. This has made the episode pretty controversial for the fans, since the rest of the story made it clear that the Beasts were innocent and only wanted to protect their nest, a fact which the Heroes were darn well aware of.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Friendship Games had an original ending that was changed when a subplot was removed. Here, Sunset Shimmer starts getting homesick for Equestria, but agrees to at least stick around to help out with the Friendship Games. After the events of the finale, Human!Twilight Sparkle ends up returning to Crystal Prep with much friendlier classmates while Sunset decides to stay in the human world to help investigate the human world's unpredictable magic, though agrees to visit Equestria now and then. The actual movie dumps the subplot and Human!Twilight ends up transferring to Canterlot High.