Films that need to be rescued from development hell immediately

A lot of work happens behind the scenes to make your favorite movies. From securing financing to writing a script to casting actors, sometimes, it can take years to get films off the ground—and many don't even make it. With that in mind, here are a few films that need to be rescued from development hell and put into production immediately.

Devil in the White City

Erik Larson's 2003 best-selling nonfiction novel The Devil in the White City is an engrossing look at the architects behind the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and H.H. Holmes, America's first serial killer, who used the fair to lure victims. Not far from the fairgrounds, he constructed a large hotel that became known as the "Murder Castle" thanks to its dizzying maze of secret passageways, gas chambers, windowless rooms, ovens, acid vats, trap doors, and of course, the double-digit body count. Ever the charmer, Holmes would seek out impressionable young women, trap them in his hotel, and kill them in vicious ways.

If you think that sounds like the makings of a great Gangs of New York-style film, you're not alone. Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the film rights to Larson's book in 2010, with plans to have regular collaborator/friend Martin Scorsese direct. However, the film has been languishing in development for several years, repeatedly being put on the back burner in favor of Scorsese's passion projects like Silence and the long-gestating gangster flick The Irishman, which is next in the pipeline for the Academy Award-winning director. Meanwhile DiCaprio has two films listed in pre-production on his IMDb page, but neither of them involve him playing a charismatic 19th century serial killer. Scorsese loves the story, and a script is reportedly being worked on, but it would appear the devil is in the details for this project.

Janis Joplin biopic

"Take another little piece of my heart," sang legendary rocker Janis Joplin in her most famous hit, and that's just how we feel every time there's an announcement regarding a biopic about the late singer. Joplin, who died of an overdose in 1970 at age 27, had a brief but meteoric rise to fame in the 1960s, making her life a juicy filmmaking subject. For decades, Hollywood has been trying to get a Joplin biopic off the ground without much success; a host of actresses and singers have been attached to play Joplin including Pink, Courtney Love, Zooey Deschanel, Renee Zellweger, and Lili Taylor. All fizzled out.

Amy Adams was set to play Joplin in a project helmed by Wild and Big Little Lies director Jean-Marc Vallée titled Get It While You Can, but the project was scrapped due to legal issues. In 2017, studios had a bidding war over a new Joplin project starring Academy Award-nominee Michelle Williams. The film, entitled Janis, is being made with complete cooperation from Joplin's family. While several documentaries have been made, should Janis be put into production, the film will complete a more than two-decade journey to the big screen, finally releasing the "Ball and Chain" singer's story from the ball and chain of development.

The Halo Movie

Released in 2001 alongside the launch of Microsoft's Xbox gaming console, the original Halo video game was a financial and critical smash, selling over a million copies in its first few months on game store shelves. The sci-fi first-person shooter centering on soldier Master Chief and his battle against the alien race called the Covenant proved an engrossing experience to fans, spawning sequels, comic book adaptations, paperback novelizations, toys, and other merchandise. Of course, Hollywood came calling.

In 2005, Microsoft reportedly wrote a $1 million check to 28 Days Later screenwriter and Ex Machina director Alex Garland in exchange for a spec script they could shop around to studios via costumed actors. Eventually, Fox and Universal reached an agreement to release the film together, with Peter Jackson exec-producing and Guillermo del Toro directing. When del Toro backed out to make Hellboy II instead, Jackson hired District 9 director Neill Blomkamp to direct. When the project stalled, Blomkamp made a gritty short film based on the game, which didn't exactly align with the slicker, more expensive creative vision execs had imagined. In 2006, tensions between Fox and Universal exploded and the project was scrapped.

While the film may be dead for now, Microsoft is developing a TV series based on the game with Steven Spielberg producing. However with Spielberg's video game-friendly Ready Player One getting ready to drop this year, it looks like he has his hands full—and Master Chief's screen ambitions could be on life support.

The Goonies 2

HEY YOU GUYYYYYYS! Just when you thought you'd seen the last of our favorite lovable outcasts from Astoria, Oregon, it sounds like the possibility of a sequel isn't totally dead in the water like One-Eyed Willie and his pirate ship. The classic 1985 comedy from director Richard Donner and executive producer Steven Spielberg earned a respectable $61 million at the domestic box office in 1985, making it one of the top ten highest grossing films of the year. Thanks to its enthusiastic young cast, a script full of utterly quotable one-liners, and old-school charm, the film has become a bona fide cult favorite and generational touchstone over the years.

Naturally, rumors about a follow-up film seem to resurface every couple of years. In 2009, Corey Feldman vaguely floated the idea to the L.A. Times and later claimed he and co-star Sean Astin had written a treatment for Donner, but nothing came of it. Then in 2014, the director himself told TMZ a sequel was in the works with plans to reunite the entire cast and bring back screenwriter Chris Columbus. The following year, Columbus said he, Donner, and Spielberg had yet to come up with a good enough story for a sequel and didn't want to disappoint fans. Though Astin dropped sequel hints during the 2016 Phoenix Comic-Con, there's still been no official announcement of the project, and castmates Martha Plimpton and Feldman don't see it happening anytime soon. But remember: GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!

Austin Powers 4

No one in Hollywood expected Mike Myers' raunchy 1997 James Bond spoof, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, to spawn a sequel—let alone two. The film received a tepid response from test audiences and did fairly respectable box office numbers, but by no means was it a blockbuster. But thanks to DVD sales, Austin Powers became a cult sensation, prompting Warner Bros. and New Line to order a sequel. Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me was number one at the box office its opening weekend and was the tenth highest-grossing movie of 1999. Austin Powers in Goldmember fared even better, raking in over $300 million worldwide in 2002. At that point, Myers' career was looking pretty groovy, baby.

But the self-described "introvert" retreated from the spotlight in the late 2000s save for some voice-acting work and a small cameo in Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds. His most recent project is hosting ABC's Gong Show update as "legendary British comedian" Tommy Maitland, spouting off Austin Powers-esque phrases like "cheeky monkey" and causing fans to wonder whether the innuendo-loving '60s spy will ever return for a fourth installment. Both Myers and director Jay Roach are open to the idea. Roach mentioned to Forbes he and Myers are "always talking about how we can keep it going," but they had yet to land on an idea they like. It sounds like the shagadelic Powers is once again frozen for the foreseeable future.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair

There's no question Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia are seminal literary works, but when it comes to big-screen film adaptations, C.S. Lewis' novels haven't fared quite as well as his best friend J.R.R. Tolkien's. The first Narnia film, The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe was a critical and financial hit in 2005, even winning an Academy Award for Best Makeup. The original cast and crew returned for the next installment, Prince Caspian, which was a  bit darker and more action-oriented. Critics mostly praised the film, and it performed well at the box office. However, after the release of Prince Caspian, Walden Media and distributor Walt Disney Studios entered into budget disputes. Disney split with Walden, forcing them to distribute 2010's The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with 20th Century Fox. The film left audiences and critics mixed.

While the first three films together grossed roughly $1.6 billion at the box office, hopes for another return to Narnia seemed slimmer with each passing year. Then in 2016, TriStar announced it would be rebooting the entire franchise with an adaptation of The Silver Chair—the fourth published novel, but often placed sixth chronologically in the series—with Joe Johnston appointed director. None of the original cast is expected to return, but let's hope this Silver Chair can finally turn the Narnia franchise back into box office and critical gold.


Long before we had the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the DC Extended Universe, 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise ruled the box office. Thanks to the mega-success of the original trilogy, the studio decided to start a standalone trilogy centering on fan favorite Wolverine. The first film, 2009's X-Men Origins: Wolverine, was a messy disappointment, but amidst its clutter of supporting characters, two stood out: wisecracking Deadpool and the roguish Gambit.

While Ryan Reynolds finally managed to bring a feature-length Deadpool to theaters in 2016 with much fanfare, a promised Gambit standalone film has yet to materialize. John Carter actor Taylor Kitsch played the Cajun mutant in an almost blink-and-you'll-miss-it scene in X-Men Origins, but now all eyes are on Channing Tatum. The A-lister has been attached to the project since 2015, when he appeared at San Diego Comic-Con to officially announce his involvement, but two years and two directors have come and gone without much progress. Still, Tatum assured fans at Comic-Con in 2017 that he's still committed to bringing Gambit's story to life, telling MTV, "It's fun. It's good. It's like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube that's always moving." Hopefully, the studio solves this thing sooner than later.

Beetlejuice 2

Tim Burton is definitely among Hollywood's most idiosyncratic filmmakers, but he found early "mainstream" success directing 1985's Pee Wee's Big Adventure—and 1988's Beetlejuice, a black comedy about a recently deceased couple who call upon the help of an ornery demon to rid their former home of its new living tenants. It not only proved a perfect introduction to Burton's particular morbid style, but was a surprise hit with critics and audiences. It was the 10th highest-grossing film of 1988 and kicked off the director's fruitful creative relationships with Winona Ryder, Catherine O'Hara, and Michael Keaton.

Hollywood loves capitalizing on successful projects, so naturally the studio pushed Burton for a sequel. In 1990, the director hired screenwriter Jonathan Gems to write a script called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian, but it never got made. Ryder and Keaton have both expressed interest in returning to their roles over the years, as has Burton, but nothing has ever been confirmed. Could Beetlejuice 2 actually have an afterlife after all? It won't be as easy as yelling its name three times, but apparently IT producers David Katzenburg and Seth Grahame-Smith are breathing life into a possible script with Burton. IT'S SHOWTIME!

Sherlock Holmes 3

Why do Sherlock Holmes adaptations take so long to get made? BBC's Emmy-winning Sherlock series notoriously made fans wait years between seasons due to the increasingly busy schedules of its two stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. That also seems to be the case with Guy Ritchie's brawling Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The first film was met with praise, a Golden Globe for Downey Jr., and a serious box office haul. The follow-up, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, arrived two years later in 2011. Based upon the Arthur Conan Doyle story "The Final Problem," the film ends—spoiler alert!—with Sherlock supposedly plummeting to his death over the Reichenbach Falls. However, just before the credits, Sherlock is seen reading from Watson's memoirs and adding a question mark to the words "the End," leaving audiences to wonder if there'd be another film.

The answer is as much a mystery as one of Sherlock and Watson's cases. Both lead actors have stayed busy over the last few years: Downey is committed to Marvel projects through at least 2019, while Law is filming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 as Young Albus Dumbledore. Meanwhile, director Guy Ritchie is at work on the live-action adaptation of Aladdin for Disney. With so many schedules to juggle, it may be awhile yet before the trio reunites, even if a script is in development. As the infamous detective would say, "The game is on."

Beverly Hills Cop IV

Beverly Hills Cop proved Eddie Murphy could carry a film by himself, paving the way for his post-Saturday Night Live career. Coming off the success of Trading Places and 48 Hrs, Murphy's role as Axel Foley, the fast-talking, fish-out-of-water Detroit cop patrolling the streets of Los Angeles, gave the actor even more room to showcase his comedic action hero chops. The reviews were glowing and the film was the highest-grossing movie of 1984, beating out Ghostbusters and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom for the top spot. A sequel, Beverly Hills Cop II, followed in 1987 and fared well at the box office, but the critically panned Beverly Hills Cop III seemed to suggest it was time for Axel Foley to turn in his badge for good.

It's been well over 20 years since Axel Foley last hit the streets, but a fourth installment could still happen. Murphy is game, but has mentioned in interviews he only wants to do it if the script is right. In June 2016, Variety reported two directors had been hired to helm Beverly Hills Cop IV, but Murphy denied the sequel was happening just a few months later. We may see that banana dislodged from the creative tailpipe yet, however—recent rumors indicate the studio is searching for a new partner for Foley, with a shortlist that includes Channing Tatum and Tom Hardy.