For every movie that makes it to your local cineplex, there are dozens that never come into existence. In another universe, Mel Gibson directed Fahrenheit 451, Terry Gilliam directed Watchmen, and Batman fought Godzilla. The history of movies is crammed full of weird almost-weres and could-have-beens. A lot of people seemed to be startled the other day when we mentioned that David Cronenberg could have directed Return of the Jedi.
So here's some reference material: a list of some 100 movies that never happened. This list probably could have been 200 movies, but we gave up when we hit 100. If we missed your favorite, mention it in the comments!
Top image: Dune concept art by Chris Foss.
We gleaned a ton of info for this article from two books by David Hughes: The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, and Tales From Development Hell. But if you want to learn more than just the bare-bones summaries about these films, you should definitely pick up both books, which are jam-packed with weird and fascinating anecdotes about Hollywood at its most dysfunctional. (Read an excerpt from Development Hell here.)
We asked Hughes which unmade version of an existing film he wishes he could see, and he says:
I liked the original Total Recall, but I think David Cronenberg had a better handle on the story. And who would I have liked to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? ANYONE but the nitwits who made it!
So here's our list of movie projects you'll never get to see:
1. David Cronenberg's Star Wars: Revenge of the Jedi
Actually, there's not much to say about this. Cronenberg was approached about doing the third Star Wars film, but as soon as he said he was leery of doing someone else's material, the conversation was over. This was back when Jedi was still called Revenge, not Return, and there's lots of speculation that this could have been a darker version, in which Han Solo dies.
2. David Lynch's Star Wars: Return of the Jedi
It sounds as though the discussions over Lynch directing Jedi were slightly more serious. Lynch actually met with George Lucas, who pitched him his ideas for the third movie — and Lynch was seriously considering taking it on. But when he looked at all the designs for the creatures Lucas wanted to introduce in the film, Lynch got a terrible headache and had to bow out. So he could direct Dune, instead. There are fan vids (including one at left) trying to imagine what Lynch's film would have looked like.
3. David Cronenberg's Total Recall
Cronenberg spent a year working on Total Recall, before the producers reportedly told him that the problem was he was trying to make "the Philip K. Dick version," and they didn't want that. Instead, they wanted "Raiders of the Lost Ark goes to Mars." We posted a ton of exclusive concept art from Cronenberg's movie a while back.
4. Total Recall 2
After the first Recall made a squillion dollars, there were several attempts to make a sequel — with directors like Jan de Bont (Speed) and Star Trek's Jonathan Frakes on board at various times. The main stumbling block: Arnold Schwarzenegger didn't like any of the scripts that people came up with. You can read the whole, pain-inducing saga of the various story ideas they tried out here.
5. Terry Gilliam's A Scanner Darkly
According to this site, Gilliam was disappointed by both Blade Runner and Total Recall — so after The Fisher King, when Gilliam's stock was high in Hollywood, he tried to adapt Scanner Darkly to film. Said Gilliam, "I saw how to make Scanner cheaply, and for it to be disturbing."
6. Charlie Kaufman's A Scanner Darkly
If you had to think of one person who ought to adapt a PKD story to film, it would be the writer of Being John Malkovich. Kaufman said he wrote this script soon after Malkovich: "I got it as an assignment. There was a director attached, an Australian woman named Emma(-Kate) Croghan. She had just directed an independent comedy [Strange Planet] and she was attached [to the project] by Jersey Films and then they brought me on." And then the studio lost interest. Kaufman's script is easy to find online, but Kaufman says you should just read the book instead.
7. King of the Elves
This is Dick's best-known venture into fantasy, about a man who becomes the ruler of a group of elves (and one dwarf) in Mississippi after he saves them from a troll. Disney announced this project as an animated film back in 2008, around the same time Wall-E and Tangled were announced. Aaron Blaise and Robert Walker (Brother Bear) were going to direct, and the film would have been out about nowish. But apparently the film's not dead — as of last year, a new script was being written by Michael Markowitz (Horrible Bosses), and Chris Williams (Bolt) might direct. We could still see Elves in 2013, albeit a very different version. On the other hand, there's been no news for a year.
8. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
According to Hughes' Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made, Richard Gere owned the rights to this novel right after his success with Pretty Woman, and wanted to star in it. Later, NeverEnding Story producer Bernd Eichinger had the rights and hired Neal Adams to do concept art. Still later, Paul W.S. Anderson was set to direct it, but wound up doing Event Horizon instead. Since then, a number of scripts have been written, but the film's gotten no closer to happening.
9. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
Kimberly Peirce, director of Boys Don't Cry and Stop-Loss, was attached to direct this film in 2002, but there's been no forward motion since then. As recently as 2008, she was talking up the possibility, saying it would be a huge film: "You go to that movie with a certain appetite for spectacle." She's currently making Carrie instead.
10. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
You have to give Morgan Freeman credit for tenacity — he's been trying to make Rama for over 15 years at this point. Clarke's novel about exploring a massive alien vessel that shows up in the solar system is "a tough nut to crack," Freeman told MTV a couple years ago. David Fincher was signed to direct it in 2007, and is still orbiting according to Freeman.
11. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Haldeman's classic war story was going to be a PBS TV movie at one point, but more recently Ridley Scott seemed really intent on making a huge 3-D movie version, using technology inspired by Avatar. And it appears that we got Prometheus instead. (At left: concept art that was reportedly made for the film.)
12. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
There have been many, many reported attempts to get a Hyperion film off the ground — at one point, Martin Scorsese was rumored to be directing and Leonardo DiCaprio was going to star. More recently, Warner Bros. was said to be producing a film version, with a 2010 release date. And then Bradley Cooper, riding high on his Hangover 2 success, came up with a film treatment and expressed interest in possibly directing. But I wouldn't hold my breath for this one.
13. Count Zero by William Gibson
Director Michael Mann was going to make this book into a movie called Zen Differential, with a 1998 release date. (Although later script drafts changed the title back to Count Zero. The storyline was changed to make it less tied to the Sprawl Trilogy. The screenplay was online at one point, but has since been removed.
14. Joseph Kahn's Neuromancer
Various directors, including The Mask's Chuck Russell and the Madonna video director Chris Cunningham, were lined up to adapt Neuromancer at various points. But the film really seemed like it was going to be made when Detention director Joseph Kahn was lined up. As recently as 2009, he was working on it. There's storyboards and concept art from Kahn's take online. Kahn told io9, "I wanted to make Trainspotting in the Sprawl."
15. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
As Hughes mentions in the above quote, there were many attempts to make a Hitchhiker's movie. Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam were both having vague discussions at various points. Ivan Reitman was going to film it at one point, but he thought the answer the question of Life, the Universe and Everything being 42 was "too anticlimactic." Michael Nesmith from The Monkees also wanted to make it in partnership with Adams. And after Men in Black's success, Hollywood tried again, with Austin Powers director Jay Roach on board. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles creator Josh Friedman wrote a script draft that was widely reviled.
16. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
There have been a couple of TV movies based on Huxley's novel — a 1980 BBC version, and an American version starring Leonard Nimoy. (See clips.) But no big screen version, ever. Leonardo DiCaprio's father has owned the rights for ages, and at one point, DiCaprio and Ridley Scott were going to make a film. But more recently, Scott has referred to Brave New World as a story that is best told in book form. (Although, amazingly, he still talks about the futuristic Monopoly movie as a going concern.)
17. Jon Favreau's John Carter of Mars
The Iron Man director was attached to direct an adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' novel for quite a long time, and we talked to him about it last year. Favreau planned a less ambitious version of the story, mostly focusing on Carter finding himself among the Tharks and slowly moving up in Thark society. There is fucktons of Phil Saunders concept art for Favreau's version — see gallery at left.
18. Wolfgang Petersen's Ender's Game
We were actually pretty stoked for the Enemy Mine director to take on Orson Scott Card's novel, and Petersen was working on it for a few years. But Petersen bailed out of the project in 2008.
19. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Terry Gilliam was eager to make a film version of this apocalyptic fantasy back in 2001, and got as far as having a script written. At one point, Johnny Depp and Robin Williams were going to star. But — as seems to have been the case with many Gilliam projects — couldn't get the financing together.
20. Ridley Scott's I Am Legend
Long before Francis Laurence made the third movie version of Richard Matheson's novel, Scott was signed up to direct a Los Angeles-set version, in the wake of his disastrous 1492. And Arnold Schwarzenegger was a potential star, at a point when the studio thought Batman and Robin would be a huge hit. Scott wanted to create huge underground "anti-cathedrals" full of feral mutants, but the studio pulled the plug over budget concerns. Some of Scott's ideas wound up in the movie Gladiator instead.
21. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
Did you know that Tim Burton was trying to make a movie of Katherine Dunn's classic novel about mutant circus performers? Apparently, it was his passion project for quite some time, but he kept getting sidetracked because he was afraid of ruining such a great book. Before that, Night Court star Harry Anderson had optioned it and wanted to write and direct his own adaptation.
22. Roger Corman's Spider-Man
We posted a long history of the unmade Spider-Man films here, but in a nutshell, Roger Corman was going to make a low-budget film based on a treatment by Stan Lee. Spidey is a college student in a love triangle with Mary Jane and a sexy KGB agent, and he fights Doctor Octopus while preventing nuclear war.
23. Albert Pyun's Spider-Man
The director of the original Captain America movie was also supposed to direct a Spider-Man film, and got as far as building sets — which he recycled and used in his Cyborg movie instead. At one point, Cannon Films' version of Spidey would have been a crazy mutant, who actually looked like a giant spider, and he would have fought a villain named Dr. Zork.
24. James Cameron's Spider-Man
Cameron was working on his Spider-Man movie for years — there's a detailed "scriptment" and tons of storyboards online. He wanted Peter Parker to be more of an angry geek, who fights Electro. Cameron came up with the idea of giving Spidey organic web shooters instead of mechanical ones. More details here.
25. Chris Columbus' Fantastic Four
In 1994, the future Harry Potter director was lined up to direct a Fantastic Four movie for Fox, with Michael France (GoldenEye) writing a script that aimed to be true to the Jack Kirby spirit. Unfortunately, there was no cheap way to make the FF's powers work on screen, and with talk of people like Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid starring in this film, it quickly started to look too expensive.
26. Peyton Reed's Fantastic Four
The director of Bring It On and Down With Love was set to direct an FF movie, on the heels of X-Men's success. The movie was set up as a light comedy, in which the conflict doesn't really kick in until late in the movie, and the heroes spend a lot of their time getting used to their new powers. This script version was used as the basis for Tim Story's film, but there are some pretty big differences, like the Fantasticar showing up in the final reel.
27. Geoffrey Wright's Silver Surfer
Producer Bernd Eichinger was trying to make a Silver Surver movie for years, with Geoffrey Wright signed up to direct. One script draft had the Surfer hanging around with a twelve-year-old street sex worker, along the lines of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. Another draft had the Surfer summoning Galactus and then losing his powers due to a solar energy experiment — transforming into an ordinary human — all in the first 10 pages. (And then the now-human Surfer falls in love with a young cellist, named Kat.) Oh, and there was going to be a metallic, CGI version of the Punisher.
28. Alex Proyas' Silver Surfer
After the second Fantastic Four movie, Fox was eager to make a Silver Surfer spin-off — and Proyas, who had directed I, Robot for the studio, was widely reported to be in line to direct it. J. Michael Straczynski wrote a script. But Proyas said in 2008 that he was determined never to work with Fox again after they screwed up I, Robot, and he also felt as though Fantastic Four 2 had messed up the Surfer's origin too badly to be fixed.
29. Jodorowsky's Dune
One of the most famously bizarre film productions of all time, this would have lasted 11 or 12 hours, and featured Salvador Dali as Emperor Shaddam IV. A team of designers including Moebius, Chris Foss and H.R. Giger, developed amazing designs, but in the end the film fell through. (Although Jodorowsky said that in his mind, "the film was made.")
30. Ridley Scott's Dune
Fresh on the heels of Alien, Scott was hired to direct this film by producer Dino De Laurentiis — and at one point, Frank Herbert himself wrote a 176-page script, which was rejected. The screenplay Scott chose to go with had, at one point, an incestuous relationship between Paul Atreides and his mother, so that Alia is both Paul's sister and his daughter. (The studio made them take this part out.) After a few years, Scott dropped out, and was replaced by David Lynch.
31. Peter Berg's Dune
A new version of Dune has been in the works for ages — at one point, Pierre Morel (Taken) was going to direct it. And then in 2008, Berg was attached, to make a gritty "hard PG-13" version that would be "muscular and adventurous." And at one point, Robert Pattinson was rumored to be starring. But Berg dropped out of the project in late 2009, and wound up making Battleship instead. At left: Jock's concept art for Berg's Dune.
32. Renny Harlin's Alien 3
Soon after Aliens, Neuromancer author William Gibson was hired to write a script for a third Alien movie, which Gibson has given the "TV Guide summary" of "Space commies hijack alien eggs — Big trouble in Mallworld." The draft was both too all over the place and too unadventurous for the producers, who instead hired screenwriter Eric Red to write a script in which Sigourney Weaver did not appear, and instead of the Xenomorphs, the main monster was six-legged "Alien cattle." Renny Harlin was set to direct this Ripley-less version of Alien 3. (Sigourney Weaver was suing the studio over unpaid royalties from Aliens.)
33. Vincent Ward's Alien 3
The New Zealand director was hired to make an Alien sequel that would include Sigourney Weaver — although in some versions, she would be unconscious for half the movie. David Twohy worked on one version of the script (featuring a very Riddick-esque prison escapee) right before he was due to make Pitch Black. Another screenwriter, John Faisano, created a draft that took place on a "wooden planetoid" with a medieval culture and androids.
34. Alien 5
After two somewhat disappointing Alien sequels, Sigourney Weaver started talking with both James Cameron and Ridley Scott about doing a fifth Alien movie, with both Cameron and Scott involved — and Cameron could have returned to direct. Fox decided that Alien Vs. Predator was a better investment.
35. Close Encounters 2
The sequel to Spielberg's classic movie, variously called Watch the Skies and Night Skies, would have been about a farmer and his family, being terrorized by UFOs and cattle mutilations. Except that one nice alien befriends the farmer's autistic son. This project gave creature designer Rick Baker his start in the business, but eventually morphed into both Poltergeist and E.T.
36. E.T. 2: Nocturnal Fears
A bunch of giant albino cousins of E.T. arrive and kidnap Elliott and his friends, so they can experiment on them and stuff. E.T. has to come back and save his friend. This sequel never got past the treatment phase.
37. Time Bandits 2
Terry Gilliam wanted to make a sequel to his classic film about time-traveling little people who stole a map from God — and after the huge success of Twelve Monkeys, this seemed actually possible. But even though two scripts were written, no studio wanted to make Bandits 2, and Gilliam eventually lost interest. But Gilliam still tried to make a sequel to Bandits, first as a series of TV movies on the Hallmark channel, and then as a comic book.
38. Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian
According to Geekscape, Tim Burton was asked to do a Beetlejuice sequel right after his success with the first Batman film. And the sequel would have involved the Deetz family moving to Hawaii, with Beetlejuice following them and linking up with some ancient Tiki gods. Urgh.
39. Roger Rabbit 2
Robert Zemeckis has been trying to make a Roger Rabbit sequel for decades. At one point, it would have been a World War II prequel called The Toon Platoon, featuring toons and Nazis. More recently, a few years ago he was talking about animating the human characters via motion-capture, the same as his Polar Express and Beowulf films. Producer Frank Marshall was recently speaking of this sequel as something that came close (past tense) to being made.
40. The Crow: 2037
Rob Zombie came up with this idea for a third Crow movie set in the dystopian future. A young boy and his mother are murdered by a priest of the Fallen One, and the Crow brings the boy back to life — and finally, 27 years later, he becomes a futuristic bounty hunter and seeks vengeance. Zombie worked on this project for 18 months before bailing.
41. The Day the Earth Stood Still II: The Evening of the Second Day
Ray Bradbury was hired to write this Christmas-themed sequel to the original Day the Earth Stood Still, which takes place 30 years later. Klaatu's daughter Klaata comes to Earth and tells us that we're not as bad as we thought we were, because we've made so much progress in 30 years. Read way more details here.
42. Terminator 5
A fifth Terminator film could still happen at some point — although time is running out before the rights revert to James Cameron, and the presumptive director Justin Lin is busy. But McG's version of Terminator 5 is definitely dead. In McG's storyline, Skynet figures out how to send Hunter-Killers and other huge hardware back to 2011, pre-Judgment Day. (And yes, Judgment Day was supposed to have happened in 2004.) John Connor travels back in time and meets his still-living mother, and a scientist played by Robert Patrick.
43. James Cameron's Planet of the Apes
Back in 1998, Cameron was hard at work on a script for a new Apes movie, one which would have picked up where the original films left off — with Taylor returning to a greatly altered "planet of the apes" from his space journey. This was rumored to be a much more technologically advanced version of ape society, because of Caesar's trip back in time. Arnold Schwarzenegger was reportedly going to play the Charlton Heston role, with Cameron writing and producing and Peter Hyams directing. Cameron says he had a "great idea" for this film but the studio picked up their marbles and went home.
Two producers, Thomas Schuehly (Name of the Rose) and Mario Kassar (Terminator 2) announced they were remaking Fritz Lang's classic film back in 2007, but since then there's been basically no news. Variety quoted Schuehly as saying, "With the overwhelming role technology plays in our daily lives, the growing gap between rich and poor, including the gradual elimination of the middle class, the story of 'Metropolis' is a frightening reflection of our society that takes place in an all too possible not too distant future."
45. Oliver Stone's Return of the Apes
Actually, though there were rumors Stone was going to direct a new Apes movie, he was only ever going to produce. The chapter of Hughes' Development Hell about the various attempts to make a new Planet of the Apes film in the 1990s is hilarious and deeply saddening. The Oliver Stone-produced version would have involved a plague that starts wiping out everyone in the present day — and then a scientist discovers it's a genetic "time bomb" planted by super-intelligent apes 102,000 years ago. So two humans have to go back in time and stop them. This was the film that supposedly had a great script — but some Fox executive insisted on adding a sequence where apes are ineptly playing baseball, and wouldn't allow the film to be made without it.
46. Mel Gibson's Fahrenheit 451
Back in the mid-1990s, Gibson wanted to direct a new version of Ray Bradbury's classic novel, after he'd already done Braveheart. At one point, Tom Cruise was being considered to star, but Eyes Wide Shut made that impossible. But some of the designs from Gibson's film apparently ended up in Minority Report. Later, Frank Darabont was going to make a big-budget film version starring Tom Hanks, until The Mist came out and failed. In 2001, Bradbury said one of Gibson's script drafts "should be seen by people to show how dumb studios can be." As of 2010, Bradbury said Gibson still owned the movie rights.
There's been talk for years about remaking Barbarella — most notably, Robert Rodriguez was going to direct a version of it and cast his then-girlfriend Rose McGowan in the lead. After that fell through, Robert Luketic (Legally Blonde) was attached to direct in 2009, and his version would be less sexy and campy. Jessica Alba and Anne Hathaway were rumored to be starring. But it seems pretty likely that Barbarella is dead as a film project — instead, she's coming to television.
48. Heavy Metal
David Fincher was trying to spearhead a remake of this edgy French cartoon movie back in 2008, with people including Guillermo del Toro and Zack Snyder reportedly going to direct segments. Then Paramount dropped the film and Sony picked it up for a while. But eventually, it seemed to fall by the wayside. Until last year, when Robert Rodriguez told Comic Con he had acquired the rights, adding it to the long list of projects that Rodriguez may make some day.
49. Fantastic Voyage
There have been attempts to bring Fantastic Voyage to the big screen for years, with James Cameron writing a script. For a while, Roland Emmerich was determined to direct a version, but that fell through. And then at one point Bourne helmer Paul Greengrass was going to direct a version, but producers James Cameron and Jon Landau decided they weren't happy with his shaky-cam style. More recently, Real Steel director Shawn Levy has been signed up, but there's been little forward motion on it.
50. Conan the Conqueror
This was the third Conan movie that would have starred Arnold Schwarzenegger — until he pulled out to star in Predator. Eventually, Kevin Sorbo was hired replace Arnie in this film, but he didn't want to play the role of Conan — so the name was changed to Kull the Conqueror.
51. King Conan: Crown of Iron
With the Wachowskis on board as producers or directors, there was talk about making a new Conan movie starring Arnie in 2001, with an older Conan discovering that he has a son, Kon. Except that, reportedly, Kon turns out to be not the son of Conan, but rather of the Ice Worm.
52. Star Trek: Planet of the Titans
The first attempt to get a Star Trek movie out of drydock would have starred Toshiro Mifune as a Klingon, who spars with Spock. Meanwhile, Kirk would have been missing, presumed dead — but actually living as a "wild man" on a primitive planet. We posted a ton of Ralph McQuarrie concept art from the film here.
53. Star Trek: The Fields of Flanders
This was a movie idea that Walter Koenig (Chekov) pitched in the place of Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country. It would have seen the Romulans join the Federation, and the Enterprise crew (except for Spock) drummed out of Starfleet for failing their physical exams. In the end, Kirk and the other crewmembers have to return to duty to rescue Spock — and everyone except Spock and McCoy dies.
54. Star Trek: The Beginning
This film would have bridged the gap between the Enterprise TV series and the original series, launching a new trilogy that tells the story of Kirk's ancestor Tiberius Chase. But this film fell victim to a "regime change" at Paramount, and was replaced by the J.J. Abrams film.
55. Star Trek: The First Adventure
Another unused proposal for a sixth Star Trek movie, this would have been one of many story ideas that focused on Kirk and Spock at the Academy — including a subplot where Spock uses his mind meld to help Kirk cheat on a test. There's a ton of insane details about this project in Hughes' first book — including the odd detail that there's still a lot of slavery in the Federation during this time period, contrary to Roddenberry's utopian vision.
56. Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
And then there's Harve Bennett's own plan for a film featuring Kirk and Spock at the Academy, which rumor has it could have featured Ethan Hawke as Kirk and John Cusack as Spock. Gene Roddenberry strongly opposed this idea, which he described as "Police Academy meets Star Trek."
57. Milton Subotsky's third Doctor Who movie
The maker of the two Peter Cushing films in the 1960s had the rights to make one more film, and he'd planned to adapt the third Dalek story, "The Chase." But the success of the first two Cushing movies wasn't quite enough to make Amicus Films greenlight a third outing — which probably would have had a hard time finding a way to encapsulate the very episodic structure of "The Chase."
58. Doctor Who Meets Scratchman
As we've covered before, Tom Baker and his costar Ian Marter worked feverishly on this script, in which the Doctor met a version of the Devil — possibly played by Vincent Price. The film also would have featured Daleks, and robot adversaries called Cybors, plus killer scarecrows. British supermodel Twiggy was reportedly going to be the Doctor's companion.
59. Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen
Baker made a second effort to star in a Doctor Who film, working with then-script editor Douglas Adams on a feature script that combines the sport of cricket with a plot to destroy the Earth. Adams recycled the ideas from this script into his Hitchhiker's book Life, the Universe and Everything.
60. Doctor Who: Last of the Time Lords
If you ever want to weep uncontrollably, you should read the book The Nth Doctor, by Jean-Marc and Randy L'Officier, which details all the various attempts to bring back Doctor Who from the show's cancellation in 1989 to its return as a TV movie in 1996. In particular, there was an attempt at making a big-screen version starring Donald Sutherland, from a script by Who writer Johnny Byrne. The Doctor would have fought Jack the Ripper - who can turn into a rat-like creature. And in one version, Amelia Earhart would have been the Doctor's companion.
61. David Yates' Doctor Who
The Harry Potter director caused a huge stir a while back, when he announced he was directing a Who movie. This would have starred a new actor as the Doctor, and would have ignored most of the continuity of the television show — reading between the lines, it would have gone back to the basics of an eccentric alien time traveler in a phone box, fighting evil and so on. But it sounds as though even if Yates was having serious discussions with the BBC, they've since been disavowed. At least, showrunner Steven Moffat is very adamant that he's the voice of Doctor Who for now, and no such film is going to happen.
62. Terry Gilliam's Watchmen
At one point, in the late 1980s, producer Joel Silver was trying to make a Watchmen movie — one early script, by Sam Hamm, ends with Adrian Veidt going back in time and preventing Jon Osterman from becoming Dr. Manhattan in the first place. Hired as director, Terry Gilliam threw out that script and created his own version — but Silver couldn't raise enough money, and Gilliam wound up agreeing with Alan Moore that Watchmen was un-filmable by design.
63. Darren Aronofsky's Watchmen
Writer-director David Hayter tried to get a version of Watchmen off the ground in the early 2000s — and even filmed some test footage — but the project fell through. In 2004, Darren Aronofsky was hired to direct based on Hayter's script, but wound up dropping out because of scheduling conflicts with The Fountain.
64. Paul Greengrass' Watchmen
After directing the second Bourne movie, Greengrass was lined up to direct Watchmen, and got as far as creating tons of concept art and an animatic of the opening sequence where the Comedian was killed. But a change of management at Paramount and budgetary concerns led to the film falling apart, and Greengrass left to direct United 93.
65. Indiana Jones and the Monkey King
This was a script by the young Chris Columbus, which could have been the third Indy movie instead of Last Crusade. The actual script is floating around online. And apparently it takes place in a city guarded by soldier gorillas — shades of Gorilla Grodd, and Indy's female sidekick is a wise-cracking girl from Brooklyn named Betsy who's always trying to woo Indy.
66. Indiana Jones vs. the Saucer Men From Mars
There were a few attempts to make an "Indiana Jones and aliens" movie prior to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull — including this 1950s pastiche script treatment, in which the aliens speak Sanskrit and have an ultimate weapon that the Russians want to get their hands on. Also, Frank Darabont wrote a script version called Indiana Jones and the City of God, which is closer to Crystal Skull but still pretty different. There's a lot of poisonous tree frog action — and later, a human gets turned into a tree frog and stepped on.
67. George Romero's Resident Evil
Before Paul W.S. Anderson made this zombie video game franchise his own, the original Dawn of the Dead director wrote a script (which is online) and was in line to direct. Apparently, the studio wanted more of a "war movie" than Romero was comfortable with, and also didn't think Romero's take was close enough to the video game source material.
68. Neill Blomkamp's Halo
Before Blomkamp directed District 9, he directed three Halo shorts (at left) and was in line to direct a full-length movie based on Microsoft's hit game. In the end, the project fell through after Blomkamp put five months of "sweat and blood" into it. Afterwards, Blomkamp said he probably wouldn't do Halo even if he was asked to again.
This is the other huge video game movie that seemed to be actually coming together at one point — Pirates of the Caribbean mastermind Gore Verbinski was in charge, and things seemed to be moving along with this undersea horror adaptation. But Verbinski refused to budge on the R rating he wanted, and couldn't get the studio to pony enough cash for a film with that rating. Verbinski told Coming Soon, "I just wanted to really, really make it a movie where, four days later, you're still shivering and going, "Jesus Christ!""
70. Bryan Singer's X-Men 3
After directing the first two X-Men movies, Singer was hoping to direct the third as well — until he was lured away to make a Superman movie instead. And apparently, Singer's version of X-Men 3 would have focused exclusively on Jean Grey coming back as the Phoenix, a near-omnipotent entity that decides to take matters into its own hands, no matter what the X-Men or the Brotherhood think. Meanwhile, a guilt-ridden Cyclops would have decided to create the Danger Room because he blamed Jean's death on the X-Men's weakness. In the end, the Phoenix force leaves Earth to become a godlike force in space, but warns she'll be watching.
71. Darren Aronofsky's The Wolverine
I'm still kind of sad that this didn't work out — Aronofsky could have reteamed with his Fountain star for a stand-alone Wolverine movie where Logan goes to Japan. But Aronofsky dropped off the project, reportedly because he didn't want to spend a whole year overseas, and instead is making his Noah's Ark movie. The Wolverine is still happening, just with James Mangold directing.
72. Batman Versus Godzilla
Okay, so this one probably couldn't ever have happened — but still. What the hell? Toho Films writer Shinichi Sekizawa, who'd written the other Godzilla films, developed this idea in 1966, when Batman was just about to debut on television. Batman and Robin would have gone up against Godzilla using the Batmobile, the Batcopter and the Batcycle. And another villain would have been controlling Godzilla, possibly forcing Batman and Godzilla to fight. It's not known whether this got as far as being pitched to DC Comics.
73. Batman Triumphant
There was a point where Warner Bros. really thought Batman and Robin would be a huge hit, and they wanted director Joel Schumacher to make a third film, along the same toy-friendly lines. Nic Cage would have played the Scarecrow, who uses his fear toxins to make Batman think all his old enemies were back — including Jack Nicholson's Joker. And Harley Quinn would have appeared, turning out to be the Joker's daughter, out for revenge.
74. Batman: Year One
Another Darren Aronofsky project that never was, this film has passed into legend — it would have been a hugely radical departure from the usual Bat-mythos, with Bruce Wayne living in a garage with Big Al and his son Little Al. Bruce disguises himself with a hockey mask, and hits people with a signet ring with his father's initials, "TW" — but it looks like a bat-shape to everyone. Hence "Batman."
75. Superman Vs. Batman
This film came very close to getting off the ground, with Wolfgang Petersen directing. In a nutshell, Batman's young wife is murdered, and he decides to take rough vengeance — with Superman stepping up to stop Bats from crossing the line. But eventually they team up to fight the real bad guy. Producer Akiva Goldsman snuck a Superman/Batman logo into I Am Legend.
76. Superman V
Cannon Pictures made Superman IV, and for a while they were seriously trying to make a fifth Superman movie — which would have been partly made up of unused footage from Superman IV. (In particular, Superman IV had a sequence where Supes fights a Frankenstein monster created by Lex Luthor, which was cut out of that film but could have been inserted into a fifth movie.) But Christopher Reeve finally bailed out of the project.
77. Superman: The New Movie
In the late 1980s, the Salkinds, who'd made the first few Christopher Reeve movies, got the rights back and wanted to make a brand new film starring Gerard Christopher, who also starred in their Superboy TV show. There was a script by Cary Bates, involving Brainiac and the shrunken bottle city of Kandor. But the Salkinds weren't able to start principal photography before the rights reverted to Warner Bros.
78. Superman Reborn
This was Warners' first attempt at making a new Superman film in the long, tortured process after they got the rights back in the early 1990s. With the Death of Superman storyline fresh in people's minds, this film would have involved Doomsday killing Superman — whose spirit comes and settles in Lois Lane's body. Lois gives birth to a clone of Superman, who grows to adulthood in a matter of weeks and becomes the new Superman. While Lois dies.
79. Superman Lives
This is the famous version with Nic Cage as Superman and Tim Burton directing — also loosely based on Death of Superman, with a new script by Kevin Smith featuring killer spiders and Brainiac wrestling polar bears and Lex Luthor having a space dog. And those insane disco costume designs that you can't help staring at for hours.
80. Superman: Flyby
J.J. Abrams wrote the script for another take on Superman, which was going to be directed by either McG or Brett Ratner. This version has Superman coming to Earth to fulfill a prophecy, and a Kryptonian civil war that starts playing out on Earth. And Superman dies and goes to Kryptonian heaven, where he meets his father Jor-El, before coming back to life to save the world. And then go back to Krypton, which hasn't actually been destroyed. Concept art by Steve Johnson, via MTV
81. Superman Returns 2
Bryan Singer was intent on making a sequel to his first Superman movie, which reportedly had a storyline in which Lex Luthor's new Krypton grows to the size of a Moon, orbiting Earth. And a new Kryptonian visitor comes to Earth and declares that their duty is to interfere in the affairs of humans — banning warfare and imposing his rule on the planet. But then this supposed Kryptonian turns out to be Brainiac in disguise.
82. Justice League
George Miller (Mad Max) was all set to direct this film with a young cast, including Armie Hammer as Batman. In a nutshell, it would have been an adaptation of the Brother Eye and OMACs storyline from Infinite Crisis, somehow compressed into two hours. Batman creates a super-satellite to spy on the other superheroes, but Maxwell Lord turns it evil and sends OMACs after everybody. Until finally Wonder Woman murders Maxwell Lord in front of everybody.
83. Wonder Woman
A few different versions of Wonder Woman have languished in development hell — but most notably, Joss Whedon spent a long time trying to make a movie happen. All we really know about his version is that he wanted to focus on Diana as a public figure, akin to Angelina Jolie.
84. Plastic Man
The Wachowskis wrote a Plastic Man script back in 1995 — and as recently as 2008, there were tons of rumors/reports that they were returning to the project, with Keanu Reeves possibly starring as "Eel" O'Brien, the stretchable superhero. Supposedly Joel Silver also told German television that the Wachowskis would only ever make movies with Keanu again.
85. The Flash
The writers of Green Lantern were also writing a Flash script for DC — and there's been no news for rather a long time. Last we heard, Warner Bros. had basically decided its next movie after Man of Steel would be full-fledged Justice League movie, which means the Flash could spin out of that instead of launching as a standalone vehicle.
86. Green Lantern
Comedian Robert Smigel wrote a silly version of Green Lantern, with Jack Black at one point attached to star. Black would have played a reality TV star who gets the power ring by mistake, and the movie would have ended with him using the ring to create a green Superman to spin the Earth so time goes backwards. More details here. You can also find an early draft of the script online here and there, and it'll give you a new appreciation for the Ryan Reynolds version.
87. Y: The Last Man
Not too long ago, DJ Caruso was going to direct a film adaptation of this awesome graphic novel series, with Shia LaBeouf starring as Yorick. There was even talk of the film coming out in 2010. Caruso saw the film as the first in a trilogy, probably spanning the first 12 issues of the comic. But eventually the project fell apart because New Line didn't want to commit to a trilogy.
Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes) was all signed up to direct a movie about the motorcycle-riding alien bounty hunter who befriends dolphins and killed off his own people. Unfortunately, Ritchie jumped off Lobo to make a second Sherlock Holmes movie instead. More recently, there's been talk that Journey 2 director Brad Peyton could direct a Lobo movie — which would presumably be much more family-friendly than the splatter-heavy version Ritchie planned — possibly starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
89. The Boys
Okay, so Garth Ennis' bizarrely funny graphic novel about hooligans who beat up superheroes wasn't published by DC past its first six issues, but I didn't know where else to stick this. Columbia was all set to make a Boys movie with a number of writers, including Seth Rogen, taking a crack at the script. And then Adam McKay (Anchorman) signed on to direct and co-write, and there was talk of Simon Pegg playing Wee Hughie. But then Columbia pulled the plug.
90. Godzilla Vs. Frankenstein
Yes, Batman Vs. Godzilla wasn't weird enough — Toho also seriously considered pitting Godzilla against a giant, kaiju-sized version of Frankenstein's monster. The screenplay was loosely based on an unproduced American script called King Kong Vs. Prometheus, in which the grandson of Frankenstein is living in New York and creates a giant version of his grandfather's creation — which then fights King Kong. More details here.
91. Godzilla Vs. Godzilla
Toho wanted to pit the ghost of the original Godzilla, from the first movie, against the 1980s-1990s version of Godzilla. Can Godzilla defeat his own ghost? We'll never find out.
92. Zeppelin V. Pterodactyls
I love everything about this 1971 Hammer Studios film, which apparently got as far as creating a poster. A World War II German zeppelin gets blown off course and winds up in a mysterious continent full of dinosaurs, where it has dogfights against pterodactyls. Perhaps the best part? The use of "V" instead of "Vs.," making this seem like a landmark tort case.
93. At the Mountains of Madness
This still makes us cry to contemplate. James Cameron was going to produce a lavish 3-D horror movie directed by Guillermo del Toro, paying careful homage to H.P. Lovecraft's work. And Tom Cruise was reportedly going to star. By all accounts, it came within a hair's breadth of starting filming — and then the studio decided an R-rated horror movie with a ginormous budget was just not going to make enough money.
94. The Tourist
According to Hughes, this was one of the most buzzed-about scripts in Hollywood in the early 1980s: the story of an alien stranded in New York disguised as a human, among other aliens who range from friendly eccentrics to an evil creature that's a whole species in one body. At one point, Ridley Scott was interested in directing, and at another point, H.R. Giger did a ton of design work on it. But it wound up being too "dark" and misanthropic for studio execs, and languished in development for decades.
95. Ronnie Rocket
We've written about this David Lynch project before — it was the film he wanted to make after Eraserhead, but he had problems getting financing for it. Every now and then, Lynch still talks about Ronnie Rocket as if he might make it someday. It's hard to summarize, but it's about a weird freak who gets surgically altered to become perfectly handsome, and is then electrocuted until he becomes a rockabilly singer. Sort of. It's also a detective story about electricity.
Very early in their career, the Wachowskis wrote this screenplay, described as "a surreal gothic fairy tale set in a boarding house where wealthy people disappear under mysterious circumstances." And after The Matrix hit big and anything with the Wachowskis' name on it was pure gold, Warner Bros. wanted to hire George Romero to direct it. Unfortunately, nothing ever came of it.
97. Planet Terry
Based on an online comic series by Rob Liefeld, this was going to be a movie about a middle-aged geek who discovers he is actually an alien who has been placed on Earth as part of an intergalactic witness protection program. And Brian Levant (Problem Child 2) was signed to direct — but production sources told us the movie was basically in limbo back in 2008.
98. The Roundtable
This was Brian K. Vaughan's acclaimed screenplay, where Merlin is trapped in the present day and has to recruit new knights to defend the realm against Morgana and other magical threats. The script made the Black List of the best unproduced screenplays, and was sold to Dreamworks in 2008. And then, nothing.
99. The How-To Guide for Saving the World
Another script that made the prestigious Black List, this is about a guy who discovers a literal how-to manual for fighting alien invaders — and then has to stop a real invasion. Barry Sonnenfeld was attached to it back in 2008, but since then there's been no news.
And finally, one more script from the Black List — this is the screenplay that put Prometheus co-writer Jon Spaihts on the map. A man who's on a long interstellar voyage wakes from cryosuspension way too early — and faced with the prospect of growing old alone on this ship, he wakes up a beautiful woman and pretends it was an accident. But soon, they face real danger because the ship faces destruction. Spaihts says this movie still could get made at some point, and we talked to him about it back in May.