Potentially huge movies that never happened

Hollywood is a fickle mistress. It's nearly impossible to tell which movies will hit or miss. Some adaptations and sequels get made one way or another, whether or not they seem like good ideas, while others languish in development hell, no matter how promising. Here are some movies that might have been blockbuster hits…if they'd ever made it to the big screen.

Gladiator 2

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott were eager to repeat the success of their 2000 hit Gladiator with a sequel…despite the fact that Crowe's character was inconveniently dead at the end of the first movie. The pair commissioned a script for a sequel from musician Nick Cave, and he delivered: Gladiator 2 would've seen Crowe's Maximus jumping through time as an immortal war zombie, participating in battles throughout history. The studio wasn't too enthusiastic, however, and the project never left the page.


With a plot worthy of a summer action flick, Halo is one of the most popular video game franchises around. It's no surprise, then, that in 2005, Universal Pictures and then 20th Century Fox pushed forward with a big-screen adaptation. Lord of the Rings mastermind Peter Jackson and District 9 writer/director Neill Blomkamp became the executive producer and director, respectively. After five months of preproduction, spiraling costs and unhappy executives shut the whole thing down.

Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian

In 1988, director Tim Burton found box office gold in an unlikely place: Beetlejuice, a movie starring Michael Keaton as a scummy ghost. It was completely weird—and a smash hit. A Hawaii-set sequel entered development, flying in the face of the obvious fact that it'd be hard to recapture the magic that made the original so memorable. Burton and Keaton went on to collaborate on Batman and Batman Returns, moving further away from making Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian a reality. The project ultimately withered on the vine, but rumors of a sequel have continued to persist.


Neil Gaiman's epic Sandman comics series started its journey to the big screen in 1996, with screenwriter after screenwriter taking new and different cracks at the script. Years later, nothing much has happened with the film—in early 2016, long-attached star Joseph Gordon-Levitt bolted the project—but every so often new reports filter out of Hollywood claiming it's still in some stage of active development. It's probably not much more than a dream, though.

The Amazing Spider-Man 3

The fact that this film won't get made is a bummer for franchise fans, but ultimately it's good news for comic book movies. A third installment to the Andrew Garfield-starring Spidey movies was planned before the second one hit theaters. But when Amazing Spider-Man 2 came out, the reviews were mixed, and the box office a disappointment. Suddenly the third movie was a question mark—and eventually crossed out when Marvel announced a partnership with Sony to bring Spider-Man into the MCU. Awesome.

Sinister Six

Essentially, The Sinister Six would have been Sony's Suicide Squad. Given the commercial success of the latter movie, it's safe to assume that a movie about six supervillains trying to kill Spider-Man could have gone well. However, like plans for The Amazing Spider-Man 3, development on The Sinister Six hit a snag after The Amazing Spider-Man 2—which set up the team by introducing Paul Giamatti as the Rhino, Jamie Foxx as Electro, and Dane DeHaan as the Green Goblin—debuted to a lukewarm reception in 2014. Facing yet another reboot of the franchise, Sony struck a unique partnership deal with Marvel Studios, hanging on to the standalone Spider-Man movies while allowing the character (now played by newcomer Tom Holland, who made his first appearance in the role during Captain America: Civil War) to cross over into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When the dust settled, the Spider-Man franchise was set to reboot with 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Sony's spinoffs were bumped onto the back burner. The most recent reports describe The Sinister Six as "delayed"…but no one expects to see it anytime soon, if ever.

Superman Lives

With a screenplay by comic nerd extraordinaire Kevin Smith and direction from cinematic auteur Tim Burton, Superman Lives had the potential to be a world-changing hit—or a monumental bomb. In 1996, Burton came on board and cast comic fan Nicolas Cage ias Superman, an odd choice no matter which era of Nic Cage's performances you prefer. From there, new screenwriters monkeyed with the script, ideas went from bad to worse, and the whole project collapsed like a soufflé, leaving the Man of Steel in cinematic limbo until Warner Bros. handed Zack Snyder the creative reins for the emerging DC Extended Universe.

Stanley Kubrick's Napoleon

After finishing 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick pivoted to a new genre, this time planning to create an epic historical drama centered around the life of Napoleon Bonaparte. The project quickly consumed Kubrick, who devoted countless hours to learning every piece of minute trivia down to Napoleon's taste in food.

Kubrick's vision was epic. He planned to shoot in various European locales, counting on borrowing up to 50,000 soldiers from European governments for his battle scenes. Pre-production started slowly, with Kubrick working on the script piece by piece while having costumes made. Progress on the movie remained slow, but Kubrick was sure that when it was released, it would be the greatest ever made.

Of course, Kubrick's art took a different turn. Between the release of 2001 and 1970, three Napoleon-themed movies got made, all of them commercial failures. Executives at MGM wouldn't fund a fourth, so Kubrick walked away from the studio and started working for Warner Bros. For his first Warners movie, Kubrick shot the decidedly less epic A Clockwork Orange—and while he was working on it, yet another Napoleon biopic came out, and like the rest, it failed to find an audience.

Warner Bros., needless to say, wasn't interested in funding Kubrick's passion project, and the director eventually moved away from it, using the research for his 1975 historical drama Barry Lyndon. While Kubrick never made the movie before he died, HBO recently acquired the rights to turn his script into a miniseries. Finally, Kubrick fans will get a taste of the enigmatic director's unrealized ambition.

Roger Rabbit II

When most people watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit, they never stop to think much about how all the characters came to know each other. Those questions would have been answered in the prequel project Disney started developing after the original was a hit—one that would have featured all the same characters, but in an odd twist, would have taken place during World War II.

Disney worked closely with producer Steven Spielberg to come up with a script, building a story that found Roger leaving his midwestern home with human sidekick Richie Davenport in an effort to find his mother out west. On their way, the two meet struggling actress Jessica Krupnick; when the United States enters World War II, Roger and Richie join the Army. During their training, the two learn that Nazi infiltrators have kidnapped Jessica and brought her to occupied Europe, forcing her to make pro-Nazi propaganda broadcasts. With a platoon of 'toons, Roger and Richie sneak behind enemy lines and free Jessica.

If that sounds a little crazy to you, you're in good company. Disney went ahead with the project, bringing in J.J. Abrams to work on storyboards and concepts, but Spielberg became uncomfortable, eventually vetoing the script—perhaps because after making Schindler's List, he felt like he couldn't be involved with a film making light of the Nazis. Without Spielberg's approval, the project drifted into development hell and was eventually cancelled. It remains in limbo, but Roger Rabbit director Robert Zemeckis has pitched a drastically modified script to Disney without the World War II plot.

Yellow Submarine

Nobody knows why Disney thought remaking the Beatles' Yellow Submarine was a good idea, but director Robert Zemeckis was the main creative force behind the movie, and he has more than enough clout to get his way—most of the time, anyway. Instead of using traditional animation for the movie, Zemeckis was going to use motion-capture animation, which he had employed for earlier efforts like The Polar Express.

The motion-capture technique, while certainly visually dazzling when used the right way, should have raised red flags right off the bat. Although The Polar Express was successful, and mo-cap technology has come an awfully long way since the era of "uncanny valley" effects that made it subtly off-putting for the audience, it's also extremely expensive, and when Zemeckis's motion-capture movie Mars Needs Moms tanked at the box office (only making back $39 million of its $150 million budget), Disney pulled the plug on Yellow Submarine.

It's hard to guess how Yellow Submarine would have done in theaters. With the resurgence of '60s pop culture icons and the Beatles' enduring popularity, Zemeckis certainly had a potential audience, but we'll likely never get to see him try to reach it.

Pixar's Newt

Pixar has spent more than two decades captivating audiences with creative stories and beautiful animation—and they've achieved that level of success by holding each of their projects to a rigorous standard, which is what kept a concept called Newt from making it to the screen.

Disney's press release for the movie explains the plot: "What happens when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can't stand each other? That's the problem facing Newt and Brooke, heroes of Newt. Newt and Brooke embark on a perilous, unpredictable adventure and discover that finding a mate never goes as planned, even when you only have one choice. Love, it turns out, is not a science." That sounds great—so what happened?

At the same time Pixar was working on the movie, competitor Blue Sky Studios was developing Rio, which had an almost identical plot. Years earlier the same thing happened to Pixar, when A Bug's Life and Antz were released at nearly the same time; apparently, Pixar wasn't interested in competing against a similar movie again. They shut down the project and focused on making Inside Out instead, which worked out pretty well for everyone. Pixar has no plans for further development of Newt, but you can see Easter eggs in Brave and Toy Story 3.

Night Skies

During his research for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg learned of a Kentucky farmer who was allegedly terrorized by gremlin-like aliens. The story captured Spielberg's imagination, and he started working on a follow-up to Close Encounters titled Watch the Skies.

Spielberg hired John Sayles to write a script for the movie, which was retitled Night Skies and conceived as a grisly, frightening sci-fi thriller. Like the Kentucky encounter, Night Skies focused on a single farm family in the middle of nowhere, starting with graphic cattle mutilations and morphing into a slasher film. At the end of the script the farmers beat back the aliens, who in their escape accidentally leave behind one of their own children.

While that sounds awesome, Spielberg had second thoughts about the script while he filmed Raiders of the Lost Ark. Surrounded by the violence and explosions of that movie, Spielberg found himself wishing for the restrained spirituality of Close Encounters. When Harrison Ford's significant other, Melissa Matheson, visited the Raiders set, she discussed Night Skies with Spielberg, eventually coming up with a softer take on the story featuring benign aliens. Spielberg was so affected by Matheson's idea that he scrapped the project and started working on what would become E.T.

Parts of Night Skies found their way to other Spielberg films. E.T. started with the last scene of the Night Skies script, the horror elements were repurposed for Poltergeist and pre-production crew from Night Skies ended up working on movies like Men In Black, The Last Starfighter and The Sixth Day, which makes Night Skies seem like one of the most influential movies never made.

Justice League: Mortal

The DC Extended Universe has taken its share of critical lumps, but it could have gotten off to a great start in 2009 with Justice League: Mortal, a would-be blockbuster helmed by groundbreaking director George Miller.

Miller had epic plans. Instead of making individual superhero movies leading up to the formation of the Justice League (a strategy Marvel eventually used for The Avengers), Miller decided to start his movie with the team in full swing. Instead of the normal origin story routine, his script started with the Justice League already in action: during a mission, the Martian Manhunter is greviously injured, while the rest of the team is exposed to nanotechnology that exploits their weaknesses. Eventually they discover that supervillian Maxwell Lord and his cyborgs are behind the attacks, and the movie ends with Flash sacrificing himself to kill Lord.

Justice League: Mortal had a complete cast, script, and costumes ready to go. Miller was reportedly mere weeks from filming when Warner Bros. pulled the plug—a decision that was later blamed on a perfect storm of behind-the-scenes issues that included a writers' strike and a tug-of-war over the Australian government over a tax rebate. After a series of delays, the project was ultimately shelved, and instead of starting with a team of superheroes meant to potentially star in standalone adventures, DC opted to emulate the Marvel approach.

Star Trek: The Beginning

When Star Trek: Nemesis tanked at the box office, Paramount scrambled to find ways to restore interest in the film franchise. Various projects were proposed, but the one that got the most traction was a prequel, to be titled Star Trek: The Beginning, which would have told the story of Captain Kirk's ancestor, hotshot pilot Tiberius Chase, during the Romulan War.

Going back a century before the original Trek series, Star Trek: The Beginning looked at the start of the huge conflict between the newly founded United Federation of Planets and the Romulan star empire. Chase, an officer for the United Earth Stellar Navy, is serving in space when the Romulans launch a surprise attack on Earth, knocking out key cities and demanding that the humans turn over all Vulcans for extermination. Earth refuses and puts UESN and Starfleet (at this time a separate branch of the military) on the defensive, fighting against the Romulan siege.

Eager to prove his worth, Tiberius launches a daring plan with his crew to penetrate deep into Romulan space and conduct a series of sneak attacks against key Romulan infrastructure. The movie would have ended with him flying out to Romulan space, setting up a trilogy of films. The script was more like World War II films (with the obvious Holocaust parallels) and much darker than normal Star Trek, which probably didn't help its chances of being made. Paramount shelved the idea in favor of the J.J. Abrams-led franchise reboot, banking on nostalgia to breathe new life into the series; meanwhile, fans are still waiting to see the Earth-Romulan War.

At the Mountains of Madness

H.P. Lovecraft's stories are hugely influential in the horror genre, so it was only a matter of time before prolific horror director Guillermo del Toro tried his hand at adapting one for the big screen. Unfortunately for del Toro, he chose the most difficult of all Lovecraft's novellas to film: At the Mountains of Madness.

Lovecraft's story follows an Antarctic expedition to explore ancient ruins found by previous explorers, during which geologists discover alien artifacts—and even encounter alien life—leading to a grisly conclusion. Del Toro seemed perfect to adapt the novella, despite its difficult structure and obtuse imagery. Imagining del Toro tackling one of Lovecraft's most famous stories is enough to get any horror fan excited; unfortunately, the movie was doomed almost from the start.

Warner Bros. was reluctant to fund the project, even with big-name stars like Tom Cruise showing interest. Not only was it a more intellectual story, the studio was concerned that having a downer ending and no love story would limit audience engagement. They asked del Toro to lighten the script for a PG-13 rating, but he refused to settle for anything less than an R; after Warners passed, Universal offered del Toro a $150 million budget for the movie, but had similar misgivings about the script. Finally, del Toro got a positive reception from Legendary Pictures—but in 2012, disaster struck the project again with the release of Ridley Scott's Prometheus, which contains many elements mirroring At the Mountains of Madness. Not wanting his pet project to seem like a knock-off, del Toro shelved it. For now, At The Mountains of Madness is "delayed indefinitely," meaning essentially cancelled, but Lovecraft fans still hold out hope.


Widely considered by cineastes to be the best movie never made, Megalopolis is Francis Ford Coppola's dream project—a sprawling epic meant to give people hope for the future of the human race. In short, it tells the story of Serge Catalane, a maverick architect who sets out to give New York a facelift after the city suffers a major disaster, transforming it into a utopian vision of the future. Part Ayn Rand, part Fritz Lang, Megalopolis would have shown this futuristic city rising from the ground up as Catalane fended off his adversaries.

To call the massive 212-page script a sprawling story would be an understatement. Unfortunately, fate intervened: after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Coppola was hesitant about writing a story depicting New York City suffering a major calamity and lacked the passion to get the project going again, despite having already completed the script and filmed 30 hours of footage. It seems like Coppola has shelved the film indefinitely, moving on to smaller projects and leaving the world to wonder whether he could have pulled off the movie that once filled him with so much passion.