13 Completed Movies That Were Never Released

Lots of movies never make it past the pre-production stages. Whether it’s by failure to secure financing or mysterious delays, some movies are just destined to remain as pipe dreams. Every so often, however, the stars align, and a movie is shot, edited, and completed, but, for one reason or another, it never sees the light of day. This most often occurs with small budget features, but, every now and again, a hot property with a big budget and an all-star cast is never released.


This is often a bummer because, despite the fact that the film was completely finished, fans will almost certainly never have a chance to see it. This isn’t universally the case; oddball works like George Romero’s The Amusement Park surfaced after decades, but this is one small outlier relative to a veritable mountain of film reels that have been left to rot.

Updated on August 23rd, 2022 by Tanner Fox: It’s always a shame to hear that a movie has been canceled or production on an upcoming work has been ceased; even if hopes weren’t particularly high, fans will always be left wondering what could have been.

That said, things get even stranger when a film is permanently shelved after its completion. This is often the result of legal issues or a supreme lack of faith in the work. Some of these movies have leaked on occasion, but, for the most part, audiences are left forever guessing at what it was on which they missed out.

Don’s Plum

Before Leonardo DiCaprio won his first fabled Oscar, he was part of a group of Hollywood bros dubbed “the P**** Posse” by an infamous New York Magazine piece. The group, which included other young male stars like Tobey Maguire and Kevin Connelly, had developed a reputation of womanizing, picking fights, and generally just being obnoxious brats.

While these antics are largely forgotten, a black and white independent film called Don’s Plum has documented some of the unsavory characteristics of its young ensemble cast. The film itself is a mostly improvisational affair, one that paints Leo and company in a very negative light.

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Given the misogynistic and generally offensive behavior of its stars, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire feared that the film exposed “personal experiences or tendencies”. With their reputations at stake, DiCaprio and Maguire rallied powerful lawyers and filed a lawsuit that ultimately prevented the film’s release in the United States and Canada. DiCaprio and Maguire maintain that they agreed to be a part of the film as a favor to a friend, but, when they saw that the film had been cut in order to feature the two stars, they claimed that they had been deceived.

The Day the Clown Cried

Something of an urban legend in the film industry, The Day the Clown Cried is a 1972 film starring Jerry Lewis as a clown at a German World War 2 internment camp. Jerry Lewis, who was known for comedy, was reluctant to take on the role of the clown, but he agreed to star and direct the film. He felt that he would be doing something worthwhile by exposing the horrors of the Holocaust.

The film had financing problems from the start, with Lewis financing much of the film out of his own pocket. The problems that would eventually prevent the film from ever being released arose when the film’s writer, Joan O’Brien, disagreed with changes that Lewis had made to the script, chiefly his decision to make the clown more sympathetic as opposed to the cowardly and selfish character that was written. In the years since its completion, Lewis has gone on record numerous times stating that he is embarrassed by the poor quality of the film, and that he is happy that he was able to suppress its release.

Black Water Transit

While Tony Kaye directed Black Water Transit, his reportedly volatile behavior is not the reason why cinema-goers have never heard of it. An adaptation of the novel of the same name by Carsten Stroud, Black Water Transit tells the story of a shipping executive who gets caught up in a federal investigation centering on an illegal firearms dealer in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Featuring a cast that included Laurence Fishburne and Karl Urban, the film was described as a Die Hard-esque thriller.

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Black Water Transit was reported to have screened at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. Unfortunately, a seemingly never-ending stream of litigation has kept this one at bay. With lawsuits being thrown left and right, it is unlikely that audiences will see a cut of this film any time soon.

Hippie Hippie Shake

Based on the memoir of Australian publisher Richard Neville, Hippie Hippie Shake is a period drama focusing on 1960s counter-culture. Cillian Murphy stars as Neville, and Sienna Miller portrays his girlfriend Louise Ferrier, who are put on trial for publishing an “obscene” issue of their magazine, Oz.

While test screenings have garnered mostly positive reviews, the film remains unreleased after almost a decade. The exact reason why the film was shelved is up for debate; some concerns were voiced by some of the real-life people being portrayed in the film, with feminist author Germaine Greer, who is depicted in the film, stating “you used to have to die before assorted hacks started munching your remains and modeling a new version of you.” She even told the actress Emma Booth, who portrayed Greer in the film, to “get an honest job”.

Dark Blood

From George Sluizer, the celebrated director of The Vanishing, Dark Blood is the story of a young man known only as The Boy who believes that the end of the world is nigh. The Boy lives in self-imposed exile in the desert after his wife dies of radiation poisoning due to nearby nuclear weapons testing, spending his time carving Kachina dolls to appease the Gods. Meanwhile, a man and his wife break down as they are traveling through the desert. Seeking help, the couple meets The Boy, but they soon realize that he is not the salvation they hoped for.

Unfortunately, River Phoenix, who portrays The Boy, died suddenly during filming, leaving the fate of the film up in the air. Sluizer estimated that roughly 80% of the film had been completed before Phoenix’s death, and was desperate to complete it. He even approached River’s younger brother Joaquin to fill in, a request that the Phoenix family rejected. Undeterred, Sluizer assembled a somewhat “complete” cut of the film, simply providing narration over the missing scenes. This version of Dark Blood has screened a handful of times at international film festivals in 2012, nearly twenty years after it was originally filmed.

Empires of the Deep

Following the massive success of James Cameron’s Avatar, China attempted to cash in on the sci-fi humanoids fighting each other craze, and Empires of the Deep was born. It’s a fantasy epic that, judging by its trailer, revolves around mermaids battling giant crocodiles and possibly engaging in interspecies romance with Spartan warriors.

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Starring former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and originally slated to be directed by Catwoman auteur “Pitof,” Empires of the Deep had a budget of $130 million USD and went through approximately 40 drafts over the period of five years from eight different screenwriters. The budget was the largest in Chinese film history, but the production was troubled from the start. Different directors seemed to start work on the film only to be replaced a short time afterward, the cast was made up of largely unknown actors, and the effects-heavy feature was beset with rendering delays.

Finally, a trailer was unveiled to industry critics and was met with universal ridicule. The film, which had been touted as a rival to tent-pole Hollywood releases, looked more like a mockbuster than a $130 million epic.

The Brave

The Brave was the first and only film to be directed by Johnny Depp. It was an adaptation of a novel of the same name by Gregory MacDonald that revolves around a Native American man named Raphael and his young family who are living in abject poverty. Raphael is left devestated by his inability to provide for his family. Depressed and seeing no other options, he agrees to star in a snuff film in exchange for a large sum of money. The bleak film explores Raphael’s relationships over the final week of his life.

Featuring a truly inspired performance by screen legend Marlon Brando and some truly heavy subject matter, The Brave received mixed reviews at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. American reviewers were particularly critical of the film and lashed out at Depp, as his name was all over the credits as star, writer, and director. Disgusted by the hostility of the American press, Depp forbade its release in the United States, insinuating that the American press was simply targeting him due to his rise to stardom as a teen idol.

My Best Friend’s Birthday

Today, Quentin Tarantino is a household name known for his uber-violent black comedy films. But, before Tarantino was winning awards and flurries of praise from around the globe, he was working at a small video rental store in California and taking acting classes in hopes that he would one day become an actor.

Tarantino’s friend and co-worker had written a short script about a man trying to do something nice for his friend’s birthday only to have his efforts backfire in comical ways. Tarantino helped flesh out the script into a feature-length film, and, with $5000, the two set out to produce the film. Enlisting the help of friends from his acting class and other co-workers at the video store, Tarantino co-wrote, co-directed, and starred in My Best Friend’s Birthday.

The original cut of the film was approximately 70 minutes. However, due to a fire in the processing lab, roughly half of the footage was destroyed. The surviving film was re-cut into a 36-minute short film which has been screened at film festivals, but it has never been made available commercially. Although it’s more of a curiosity than anything, the good news is that it’s not all that hard to find on the web.

All American Massacre

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a highly-regarded horror film. Unfortunately, each subsequent film in the series has only served to alienate fans of the original. With tonally different sequels, remakes, prequels, and re-imaginings, the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films have one of the most confusing chronologies in horror history.

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Back in 1998, the son of franchise creator Tobe Hooper, William Hooper, set out to make a short film that delved into the past of everyone’s favorite family of cannibals. The short transformed into a 60-minute feature which saw Bill Moseley reprise the role of Chop Top from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. The story was a prequel/sequel that saw Chop Top reminisce about his family’s penchant for blood while orchestrating one final massacre. Supposedly, the entire movie was filmed, and a trailer even hit the Internet roughly 15 years ago. Since then, there has been little news surrounding the project. A Kickstarter campaign was launched a few years back to obtain funding for post-production, but it failed to reach its goal. Judging by the quality of the trailer, maybe it’s a good thing that this film remains buried.

C***sucker Blues

A documentary film that chronicled the 1972 Rolling Stones American tour in support of their album Exile on Main Street, C***sucker Blues has never been released—and it almost certainly never will be. The tour was highly anticipated since it was the first time the Stones had visited the United States since 1969’s Altamont Free Concert in which a fan was stabbed and beaten to death by the Hells Angels.

The documentary was shot in an observational manner; numerous cameras were available backstage for anyone to pick up and begin filming. This allowed the cameras to capture backstage parties, drug use, and other examples of debauchery. Fearing the film would tarnish their reputations; the Stones brought the film to court, as they did not want it shown publicly. The film’s director, Robert Frank, felt differently and fought to prevent the film from being destroyed. Ultimately, a judge ordered that the film could not be shown unless Frank was present and prevented him from screening it more than four times a year in an “archival setting”.

Nothing Lasts Forever

A 1984 film that was directed by Saturday Night Live writer Tom Schiller and produced by Lorne Michaels, Nothing Lasts Forever stars Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Billy from Gremlins. The film concerns a dystopian New York City where Gremlins star Zach Galligan works a dead-end job, but he dreams of being an artist. The totalitarian state makes his dreams impossible until he learns that there are magical hobos living underneath the city who can grant him his wish of becoming an artist, but he must first travel to the moon via a city bus headed by Bill Murray and charm one of the lunar denizens. Utterly strange, it bears some similarities with Terry Gilliam’s surreal sci-fi flick Brazil.

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MGM canned the film after a disastrous press screening, and Nothing Lasts Forever has sat in relative obscurity ever since. Turner Classic Movies aired the film in its entirety once at 2 am, and there have been broadcasts in other countries, but it remains unreleased in any official capacity to this day. Bootleg copies of the film have been floating around for years, and, recently, it even appeared on YouTube before being taken down at the behest of current copyright owner Turner Entertainment.

100 Years

Filmed in 2015 and directed by Robert Rodriguez, 100 Years is said to be a sci-fi film starring John Malkovich. A promotion of sorts made in collaboration with the famed French cognac distillery Remy Martin, the movie is supposedly inspired by the century it takes to craft a bottle of Louis XIII.

This is a strange instance of a film that is technically scheduled to release, though very few persons living today will be around to see it when it premiers on November 18, 2115.

The Fantastic Four

Marvel’s first family has not had much luck in the film industry. Each attempt to bring the Fantastic Four to the screen has been met with criticism and ridicule, especially the troubled 2015 reboot. Way back in 1993, however, B-movie legend Roger Corman and partner Bernd Eichinger were about to release their version of the Fantastic Four, which included the group’s origin story and their first battle with nemesis Dr. Doom.

Trailers were released in theaters and on home video, the cast promoted the film at festivals and Comic-Con—and then, nothing. Stan Lee speculated that Eichinger had never intended to release the film and that it was simply a way for him to retain the rights to the characters while he found funding for a bigger budget adaptation. Eichinger denied these claims, instead saying that Marvel executive Avi Arad was concerned that the B-movie would harm the franchise and paid the producers to shelve the film.

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