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Top 10 Movies Ruined By Studio Interference

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by Nathan Sharp Directors and studio execs don’t always mix well. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 movies ruined by studio interference. For this list, we’re looking at films that showed great potential and promise in their working script or through the director's ideas, but were subsequently ruined by the studio interfering and lessening the quality of the movie. Special thanks to our users Jedimperial96, Andrew A. Dennison, jsenpaii and Tristan Hartup for submitting the idea by using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest.
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Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Movies Ruined By Studio Interference


Directors and studio execs don’t always mix well. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 movies ruined by studio interference.

For this list, we’re looking at films that showed great potential and promise in their working script or through the director’s ideas, but were subsequently ruined by the studio interfering and lessening the quality of the movie. Take heed, future screenwriters: Hollywood isn’t as creative and glamorous as you’d think.

#10: “Heaven’s Gate” (1980)

What started as the film that could’ve brought all westerns to their knees instead brought down the western genre and nearly bankrupted thestudio behind it. Could things have gone any worse? Director Michael Cimino truly meant for this to be an epic movie, and his original workprint version ran an eye-bleeding five hours and 25 minutes. After United Artists refused to release this, he cut it down to a still-lengthy three hours and 39 minutes, but the movie was panned upon release. Cimino’s erratic on-set behavior and endless editing process made the film go massively over budget, and since the movie tanked, earning a little over $3 million from the $44 million spent, United Artists practically collapsed.

#9: “Kingdom of Heaven” (2005)

When you hire Ridley Scott as director, you let him do what he wants, damn it! This is the man that gave us “Alien” and “Blade Runner!” But rather than release Scott’s three-hour movie about the Crusades, 20th Century Fox decided that nobody on Earth would sit through a 189 minute movie and subsequently trimmed it down to 144. This cut vital character developments and left important plotlines dangling, infuriating Scott and viewers alike. It also resulted in a movie that wasn’t particularly well liked, until Scott released his director’s cut, when “Kingdom of Heaven” was seen in a new light and received all the praise it originally deserved.

#8: “Cleopatra” (1963)

The most expensive film ever made at the time, “Cleopatra” could’ve been a true historical epic chronicling the life of Egypt’s Cleopatra VII, but instead turned into a nonsensical mess. Originally budgeted at $2 million, the film ended up costing 20th Century Fox over $31 million. This was due to their insistence on reconstructing already-built sets, firing crewmembers for their seeming incompetence, and general irritations such as England’s problematic weather. They also demanded that the six-hour original print be cut in half - and when three hours of a movie are missing, it’s not surprising that a film will end up being a disaster. Despite being 1963’s highest grossing film, “Cleopatra” earned mixed reviews, but it likely could’ve been much more spectacular than it was.

#7: “All the Pretty Horses” (2000)

Sure, adapting Cormac McCarthy may not be the easiest job in the world, but his western about a cowboy who falls in love stars Matt Damon and was directed by Billy Bob Thornton, which seems like it’d be a winning formula - at least in theory. And to be fair, it might have been had we gotten the original three-plus hour cut. However, producer Harvey Weinstein ordered it to be cut down to just under two hours. Damon has publicly criticized the edited version, and original composer Daniel Lanois has since refused to license his score for the release of an extended cut because he felt insulted that Weinstein originally scrapped his music for the movie seen in theaters.

#6: “Once Upon a Time in America” (1984)

“What’s that, Sergio Leone? You’re one of the most well-known and respected directors working today? Well, this is America, no one cares about quality or story!” Well, that’s what we imagine Warner Bros. said during the production of this epic crime drama, anyway, considering what happened… Leone’s masterpiece about organized crime came was edited down to 229 minutes for its Cannes Film Festival premiere. But the American studio, Warner Bros., had it cut down to 139 minutes for its wide release in the United States. This resulted in the cut of key plotlines and character development, as well as the re-ordering of the movie into chronological order - probably because they thought we braindead masses wouldn’t be able to follow along. The movie was thankfully restored and shown at Cannes in 2012, though further work on a more complete version of Leone’s initial 269 minute film is still under development.

#5: “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” (2014)

When people heard that Sony was rebooting the “Spider-Man” franchise, some were excited while others groaned. Then they made the exact same mistake of inserting too many villains into the sequel. Did no one learn from 2007’s “Spider-Man 3!?” In the 2014 movie, Spidey faces off against Electro, Green Goblin, and Rhino, all at the behest of Columbia, who seems to think more villains equals flashier action equals more butts in seats. Well, it didn’t turn out so well, as the film was considered inferior to all four that came before it. Star Andrew Garfield has publicly blamed the studio for interfering too much, and now the “Spider-Man” franchise is being rebooted yet again… yay?

#4: “The Golden Compass” (2007)

Kids don’t like darkness and violence and can’t handle mature themes, right? That’s what New Line Cinema believes, as they significantly changed the story from the novel to the screen in this adaptation of Philip Pullman’s “Northern Lights.” This meant that they severely cut much of the plot’s darker moments in an attempt to cash in on the lighter young adult stories of the time. Chris Weitz’s (whites) lengthy script was edited down in order to maximize revenue (as always), and his bleaker ending – which was in keeping with the novel - was changed for a lighter, happier one that barely anyone enjoyed. The studio had trouble choosing a director as well, reshot various scenes and ultimately cut between 30-45 minutes, all leading “The Golden Compass” to underperform at the U.S. box office, receive negative reviews and put on hiatus any plans for future sequels.

#3: “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” (2009)

Many superhero movies were exploding onto screens in 2009, yet they still managed to mess this one up. This origin story about Wolverine had the potential to be great, as it was written by “Game of Thrones”’s David Benioff, and had the Oscar-winning director Gavin Hood at the reigns. That is, until the producers came a knockin’. Deadpool, a major selling point for the film, was reduced to a non-speaking role so as not detract from Wolverine. Hood also frequently clashed with film executive Tom Rothman, with the director’s idea of Wolverine having PTSD quickly shot down because Fox wanted a lighter, happier tone for the movie.

#2: “Fantastic Four” (2015)

Seems like people might be getting a little tired of superheroes these days… While no one seemed particularly psyched about this one in mid-2015, it ended up being even worse than we could have imagined. Thanks to the reboot, 20th Century Fox is behind one of the worst reviewed movies of 2015. The studio rewrote Josh Trank’s screenplay without his permission or involvement and reshot numerous scenes that they weren’t satisfied with. Trank then publicly took to Twitter to denounce his own movie, stating that Fox completely ruined it with their constant interjections. A 9% Rotten Tomatoes score would seem to agree with him. It’s certainly incredible that this misfire actually managed to make the previous ill-fated film adaptations look a whole lot better, yeesh...

Before we look at our most-ruined pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
- “Nightbreed” (1990)
- “RoboCop” (2014)
- “Super Mario Bros.” (1993)
- “Hancock” (2008)
- “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007)

#1: “Alien 3” (1992)

“Alien” was a horror masterpiece, and “Aliens” an action masterpiece, so needless to say, expectations were through the roof for “Alien 3.” And we got this. The movie was plagued with production problems from the beginning: going through numerous proposed plotlines and involving up to five separate screenwriters before they began shooting without a completed script! Fox also constantly clashed with director David Fincher throughout filming, reportedly locking him out of editing and reworking the movie themselves, which led to him ultimately disowning his own film. Audiences weren’t too pleased, and if it hadn’t been for the improved Assembly Cut years later, “Aliens 3” would’ve likely faded into obscurity.

Do you agree with our list? What movie do you think was ruined most by the studios? For more entertaining top tens published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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