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11 Famous Films That Were Dramatically Changed After Disastrous Test Screenings

If at first you don't succeed...

1. Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas had to be re-cut after people angrily stormed out of a test screening.

Warner Bros.

The problem? It was way too violent. In this version, for example, the infamous opening scene showed Joe Pesci's character stabbing the man in the trunk ten times instead of the four seen in the final version.

Scorsese told Entertainment Weekly this was a lesson in what an audience can tolerate. He re-cut the film, softening the violence (relatively, this is Goodfellas after all), and leaned into the scenes with Joe Pesci and his mother, which audiences enjoyed and felt humanized Pesci’s character. The changes worked — Goodfellas was nominated for six Academy Awards.

2. A test screening for Legally Blonde was absolutely killing — until the very end.

MGM

At the test screening, the movie ended with Reese Witherspoon's Elle kissing Luke Wilson's Emmett, then cutting to a year in the future when Elle and a now blonde Vivian (Selma Blair) hand out Blonde Legal Defense Fund pamphlets on campus. Co-writer Karen McCullah told Entertainment Weekly, “The test-screening audience didn’t feel like it was an exciting enough ending for her, success-wise." So while still at the movie theater, the filmmaking team brainstormed the graduation speech ending.

Reshoots soon commenced, and if you look closely at the last two scenes, you'll notice Witherspoon's hair is more reddish. This is because she was in the middle of shooting another film, The Importance of Being Earnest, when she did the reshoots. Also, Luke Wilson wore a wig, because he'd shaved his head for The Royal Tenenbaums.

3. Titanic originally had a long action scene that test audiences rejected — to the point where it was entirely cut out of the final film.

Paramount

In the version we all know, Billy Zane's Hockley — as the ship sank — chased Jack and Rose below deck before giving up. But test audiences saw a version where Hockley, instead of giving up, sent his valet/bodyguard Lovejoy after them. A Leo-Lovejoy fight scene followed, and test audiences hated it. Director James Cameron later said, "Audiences accepted the jeopardy of the ship sinking so strongly that the idea of a guy chasing them around with a gun didn't seem that plausible or scary." Once the scene was cut, test audience scores soared.

4. Escape Room shot a totally new ending after test screening audiences found the original unsatisfying.

Sony

The original ending saw Zoey returning to her college and finding a clue in one of her puzzle books that suggested the games were about to start again. But, after the test screening, director Adam Robitel ditched this more conventional, but sort of small ending and shot the set piece on a plane that ended the final film.

5. Final Destination was so improved by test screenings that they included a documentary about the test screening process on the DVD release.

New Line Cinema

The test screening audience loved the creative ways people died in the horror film, but took issue with a whole lot else — the love story between Devon Sawa's Alex and Ali Larter's Clear, the fact that Alex dies, and the ho-hum ending. As producer Glen Morgan says in the DVD documentary, "We went for something a little deeper, and they just wanted to see more death."

To the credit of director James Wong and the rest of the filmmaking team, they enthusiastically addressed the issues — nixing the love story, saving Alex, and ending on a gruesome death — turning the film into a hit and kickstarting a long-running franchise.

6. Sunset Boulevard is regarded as one of the greatest films of all time, but its first two test screenings left audiences bewildered as to whether it was a comedy or drama.

Paramount

Sunset Boulevard famously starts with the dead body of Joe Gillis floating in a pool...followed by voiceover narration from Joe explaining how he ended up there! This was (at the time) totally groundbreaking, but test screening audiences saw something else — Joe Gillis "waking up" dead in a mortuary and telling his story to the other alive-acting corpses there. Audiences found the mortuary scene hilarious, then were confused by the more serious scenes that followed. Thankfully, edits were made.

7. Pretty in Pink changed who Molly Ringwald's character ended up with after test audiences hated the ending.

Paramount

From the beginning, writer John Hughes and director Howard Deutch intended for Molly Ringwald's Andie to end up with Duckie, her quirky friend, played by Jon Cryer, and not rich kid Blaine, played by Andrew McCarthy. However, Deutch told the HuffPost, “The girls in the test screening didn’t go for that...they wanted her to get the cute boy. And that was it. So we had to reshoot the ending.” Having Andie and Blane end up together was hard to do, as the architecture of the whole film was leading up to Andie choosing Duckie, but they managed it.

8. The Bourne Supremacy — the much anticipated sequel to The Bourne Identity — underwhelmed with a so-so score of "75" at a test screening.

Universal

So shortly before the film's release, star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass hatched an idea for a new, better ending. After convincing Universal to add $3 million to the budget, Damon left the set of Oceans 12 for the reshoot. It worked — the new ending tested 10 points higher and the film was a hit, grossing almost $300 million worldwide.

9. Fatal Attraction originally had a much darker and low-key ending that test audiences did not enjoy.

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The Fatal Attraction we all know ends with Glenn Close's obsessed Alex sneaking into the home of the characters played by Michael Douglas and Anne Archer, and having a knock-down, drag-out fight until Anne Archer's character shoots her dead. But the original ending (seen above), saw Glenn Close cut her own throat using a knife Douglas' character had handled — thus framing Douglas for her apparent murder. Clever, but test audiences didn't find this satisfying, so reshoots were done to achieve a more typical thriller ending.

10. The filmmakers of Deep Blue Sea killed off their heroine because of test audience feedback.

Warner Bros.

In case you forgot, Deep Blue Sea was about scientists who experiment on making sharks incredibly smart in order to try to cure Alzheimer’s disease. Of course, things backfire and the super smart sharks go on a rampage.

The movie was a hit, but test audiences were cool on it. Why? Because the scientist played by Saffron Burrows survived. Director Renny Harlin told Crave Online, “The audience felt so deeply that the scientist character, the woman who was behind the whole experiment with the sharks, that it was all her fault. In their minds, she was the bad guy and in our minds, she was the heroine and we thought saving her was the key.” After debating what to do, they did a quick reshoot where Burrows’ scientist gets eaten by a shark. Harlin may not have loved it, but audiences did.

11. And lastly, Sonic the Hedgehog made $5 million dollars worth of revisions after getting scathing feedback not from test audiences, but people who saw the film's trailer online.

Paramount

When Paramount dropped the first trailer for the film in April 2019, fans totally rejected the appearance of Sonic (especially his teeth!). This caught Paramount and the filmmakers off-guard. As director Jeff Fowler told the Los Angeles Times, “I allowed myself an hour or two where I was feeling pretty sorry for myself. But then it was like, ‘You know what? You’ve got to get everybody excited about doing the revision, as crazy as that sounds.’ There was definitely a bit of a pep talk, but it was all genuine because I really believed it was a problem that could be solved.” It was worth it — the released film, featuring a redesigned Sonic, was a hit.

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