40 Finished Films That Moviegoers Will Never See

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Filmmakers put their necks on the line when taking on the responsibility of bringing a script to life. But while creating a movie is a daunting task, managing the behind-the-scenes politicking to get it distributed can be even worse. And as a result, there’s no shortage of finished motion pictures that fail to hit the big screen. Here, we take a look at 40 of them.

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40. Glitterati

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Shady tactics implemented within the movie business is nothing new, but director Roger Avery took it to a new level with his 2004 motion picture Glitterati. Why? Because the controversial filmmaker didn’t even inform the many of those on-screen that they were being filmed for a movie. Thus, it has never seen the light of day.

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39. Nothing Lasts Forever

It’s named Nothing Lasts Forever and that certainly proved to be the case for this doomed motion picture upon its completion. Despite a kooky plot involving a mission to outer space, the 1984 film never made a theatrical appearance in the U.S. And the reasons for this have yet to be disclosed…

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38. Temptation

Many musicals have enjoyed great success, but sadly, Temptation isn’t one of them. Based around the German icon Faust making a deal with the devil, the rock musical featured now-famous actress Zoe Saldana. Sadly, we never got to see the Guardians of the Galaxy star’s performance as the movie was deemed incomplete by one of its producers and was promptly cast into the Hollywood abyss.

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37. King Conqueror

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Filmed in 2008 – and very tentatively scheduled for a 2009 release – the Spanish historical movie King Conqueror looked to be an interesting insight into the lives of King Peter II of Aragon and King James I the Conqueror. However, despite sporting acclaimed Brit Tim Roth in the lead role, King Conqueror was put on hold. And ultimately it was retired before it could even grace movie theaters.

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36. The American

Filmmaking was a very different beast back in the 1920s. Indeed, many advancements and effects that we take for granted today were not quite so easy to achieve back then. Unfortunately, the 1927 western flick The American ended up being one of the casualties of this technologically-trying time. That’s because pioneering producer George K. Spoor had it filmed in an early form of widescreen display called Natural Vision. Sadly, it never saw the light of day despite Spoor’s boldness.

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35. Worst Case Scenario

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Zombie horror romp Worst Case Scenario was to be an over-the-top gore fest designed to keep fans of the genre satisfied. Sadly, despite initial filming beginning in 2004 this fantastical reimagining of the 2006 World Cup Final got stuck in developmental purgatory and hasn’t been heard of since. Shame, too, considering how good the trailers for it were.

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34. All American Massacre

It might have looked promising for fans of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise when they got wind that the son of the original movie’s director was about to release an origins story. Indeed, All American Massacre even sported a rather slick trailer. Ultimately, however, fears over the rights – along with production cost issues – spelled the end of the project.

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33. Pulse Pounders

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Composed of three 30-minute short films, Pulse Pounders was intended to be released at the tail-end of the ‘80s, but none of it surfaced in any form until 2011. This particular portion was entitled “The Evil Clergyman”, yet Pulse Pounders has still never been seen in its entirety. If the downright outrageous segments released so far are anything to go by, then we should all have our fingers crossed for the release of the presumably bonkers full-length version.

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32. The Brave

Actor Johnny Depp’s first ever attempt behind the camera wasn’t exactly to his liking. So much so, in fact, that he prohibited the movie from ever being shown in theaters across the United States. Entitled The Brave, the movie didn’t wow everyone at the 1997 Cannes Film Festival, which is potentially one of the reasons why Depp distanced himself it.

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31. Livid

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The brainchild of talented French duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo, Livid was meant to be the big follow-up to the 2007 horror Inside. Unfortunately though, aside from a few screenings on the festival circuit, the film never got its big release. And despite talks of a remake in the U.S., nothing has materialized as of yet. And if reports of complications regarding the movie’s distribution rights are to be believed, then we may never get to see this elusive supernatural flick.

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30. The Quest

No, this isn’t the Jean-Claude Van Damme action romp. Rather, it’s the forgotten college comedy of the same name. The Quest was completed, but it had its fair share of problems. Between lawsuits over the name to poor box office performances for movies of a similar ilk, the writing was on the wall for this doomed project before it ever had the chance to hit theaters.

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29. Blood Circus

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What do you get when you mix horror with professional wrestling? If Blood Circus is anything to go by, you’ll end up with an unreleased movie. Made in 1985 the curious indie flick had a clever marketing campaign involving infomercials and products associated with the film. But what exactly was the movie itself about? Well, in a nutshell, aliens coming to earth and battling an outfit of professional wrestlers. Now there’s a premise you don’t see every day!

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28. Reality Show

Little is known about the 2004 movie production by the name of Reality Show. But we do, however, know that it never made its way outside of select film festivals. Despite seeming like an interesting insight into the dark side of reality television, this potentially fascinating exposé was reportedly scrapped altogether in 2012.

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34. Don’s Plum

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You’d think any movie starring acting talents such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire would at least have the star power to reach an audience. Unfortunately, their work in the elusive Don’s Plum was never seen in America or Canada. Why? Because those very same actors took exception to the film’s release – possibly due to the low pay both soon-to-be mainstay performers received for their efforts.

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26. Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theatre

Fusing together various movie genres, this offbeat horror/musical/comedy has become somewhat notorious since its extremely limited release in South Korea. An underground following keeps the name on niche cinemagoers’ tongues. But Midnight Ballad for Ghost Theatre’s hard-to-find status means that the vast majority will never get to see the eerie 2006 oddity.

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25. Der Kopf des Mohren

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Claustrophobic, intense, unsettling – all words that could be attributed to this Michael Haneke-helmed horror. Based around a scientist’s slow descent into madness, Der Kopf des Mohren sounds like a fascinating – albeit terrifying – portrayal of someone in the throes of insanity. Sadly, that insanity never made its way to the U.S. and remains an elusive motion picture to this day.

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24. Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals

The tale of this movie’s descent into obscurity involves the destruction of its negative by someone not even directly involved in the production. And that person, in fact, was the wife of the motion picture’s main star, Richard Pryor. Spouse Shelley Pryor allegedly destroyed the project due to her husband’s obsessive fascination with it. Although select scenes have emerged in the years since, it’s very unlikely that we’ll ever see the whole movie.

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Image: Robert B. Weide/Whyaduck Productions via Brenton Film

23. Humor Risk

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Almost a century has gone by since the 1920 black and white relic Humor Risk was first gazed upon – and even that was a one-off occurrence. Legend has it that the main attractions of the movie, the Marx Brothers, weren’t all too pleased with the final product. And so they vanquished the movie reel entirely – ultimately preventing it from ever being seen again.

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22. Dark Blood

Dark Blood is notable for an important reason – it was the last film to feature River Phoenix before his passing. His death came shortly before the movie was due to wrap and so, given the circumstances, the film was buried. No stateside release appears to be on the horizon, although it did see a German DVD issuing in January 2018.

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21. I Woke Up Early the Day I Died

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An ambitious attempt to say the least, I Woke Up Early the Day I Died was an unfinished project by cinema icon Ed Wood. Sadly, this homage to the storied filmmaker didn’t captivate reviewers when it was first shown. This, along with its quirky and inaccessible nature, meant that the no-dialogue comedy wasn’t released in the end. Shame too, because the cast – which included Billy Zane, Christina Ricci and Ron Perlman – was frankly exquisite.

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20. The Monkey’s Paw

A little-known horror, 1933’s The Monkey’s Paw is a rarity in that it was released – but was then lost. Just how exactly this happened is anyone’s guess, but for those still clinging to the film’s existence, some hope came in 2016 – in the form of still pictures from the production. Of course, moving ones would certainly have been better!

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19. The Day the Clown Cried

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U.S. comedian Jerry Lewis didn’t shy away from controversy during the making of The Day the Clown Cried. However, he did turn his back on the project in the years after its completion. Concerning a clown thrown into a Nazi concentration camp, this film was always going to split audiences and critics alike. Lewis did everything he could to stop its release – and ultimately it worked. But before his death, however, he stated that the film may be screened from June 2024. That’s only five more years to wait!

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18. Spring Break ‘83

Starring the likes of John Goodman, Joe Piscopo, and Morgan Fairchild, the ‘80s college comedy Spring Break looked promising at a time when movies of its kind were undeniably popular. It’s a shame, then, that the film – which centered on four bullied school friends getting their revenge on their perpetrators during spring break – was never actually released. The project was allegedly scrapped due to the cast and crew not receiving payment for their work.

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17. Empires of the Deep

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With reportedly a whopping 40 drafts of script, a number of high-profile directors at the helm and a budget in the region of $130 million, the Chinese blockbuster Empires of the Deep looked set to take the world by storm. Unfortunately, that ambition was never fully realized. According to some, early screen testings for the movie weren’t exactly awe-inspiring. So at this point, it’s not likely that we’ll ever see China’s answer to Avatar.

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16. Hippie Hippie Shake

It was meant to be an insightful look into the countercultural movement of the ‘60s, primarily focusing on controversial Oz magazine editor Richard Neville. Unfortunately, creative differences and personal problems continually delayed the film’s release to the point of no return. As Mike Baard of Universal Pictures’ Australian branch put it to The Sydney Morning Herald in 2011, “I suspect it’s going to land in the direct-to-video bin… It’s off our release schedule.” Ouch!

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15. Gods Behaving Badly

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Normally, anything that has Christopher Walken in the lead role is worth a watch. Gods Behaving Badly, however, is apparently the exception. That’s because the comedy about Greek gods living in New York was deemed so underwhelming that it was only shown at one film festival. In other words, it seems unlikely that we’ll see Walken’s unconventional portrayal of Zeus anytime soon.

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14. Heaven’s Hell

Heaven’s Hell certainly sounds like an intriguing drama from the outset, with a plot based around two close women friends who turn on each other. Unfortunately that’s where the intrigue ends, as the Nigerian motion picture was placed on hold because of censorship issues. The film was deemed too explicit by the country’s censor board and was promptly shelved as a result.

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13. A Rainy Day in New York

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At one time it would’ve been deemed a dream come true for most actors to work for director Woody Allen. However, after allegations of child molestation were brought against the filmmaker, that no longer seems to be the case. As a result of the allegations, the release of A Rainy Day in New York was scrapped by Amazon Studios. And furthermore, the star of the movie, Rebecca Hall, has stated that she regrets working with Allen.

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12. The Fantastic Four

You may be thinking there’s already a Fantastic Four movie out there. But before the franchise was brought to the big screen in the ‘00s, a low-rent affair was made by German producers in 1992. Indeed, this attempt was deemed so mediocre that Marvel regained ownership of the characters and attempted to ensure that the picture never officially got out to the public.

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11. 10 Things I Hate About Life

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The wheels came off quickly after the filming of 10 Things I Hate About Life. In fact, its producers tried to sue lead star, Evan Rachel Wood, for walking away during filming. And she, on the other hand, claimed to have put the movie in her rearview because she didn’t get paid. Either way, the ongoing dispute between the two parties can mean only one thing. Cinemagoers aren’t going to see this flick in the foreseeable future.

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10. Prisoners

This 1981 drama starring Tatum O’Neal looked promising on paper. But sadly, disputes between 20th Century Fox and the film’s investors prevented it from ever being shown. It’s unfortunate too, because its story revolved around an American family taking over a prison, only to find out their daughter is dating one of the inmates. It sounds like it could’ve been a gripping picture.

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9. Black Water Transit

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Very few movies go through the same rigorous legalities that Black Water Transit has had to endure. In fact, the 2009 thriller starring Laurence Fishburne has had a laundry list of lawsuits, court proceedings and corporate squabbles. And incredibly, they still rage on to this day. That means the likelihood of seeing this one any time soon is slim, to say the least.

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8. The Debtors

Directed by Evi Quaid and starring Michael Caine and Catherine McCormack, The Debtors failed to make it past one showing at the Toronto Film Festival. The 1999 comedy about people with addictive personalities gathering together for a night in Las Vegas ran into trouble when the financiers decided to cut their losses and pull out – but not before filing a lawsuit. Unfortunately, this put the nail in the coffin for the movie, as far as a release goes.

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7. A Woman of the Sea

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A rare Charlie Chaplin movie not to be released, this 1926 silent film was destroyed by its own creator. Yes, Chaplin actually set fire to all of the archival footage of the movie in existence – for tax purposes. Chaplin’s drastic actions in 1933 means we’ll never see the love triangle plot contained within A Woman of the Sea.

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6. Big Bug Man

It features the last ever performance given by movie great Marlon Brando. And yet we are still awaiting the release of the adult animated motion picture Big Bug Man. In the role of Mrs. Sour, Brando actually went the extra mile by dressing up as a grumpy old woman during recording. And although he recorded his lines at home, it seems the seasoned performer nailed it. That’s if the short snippets which have since emerged are anything to go by.

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5. Slashed

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Northern Ireland rockers Ash took a step away from music in 2002 to create their very own low-budget horror flick. Low-budget is actually an understatement, as the whole movie was recorded on a camcorder. However, it’s the ensemble of characters that appear that really peaks interest. From Dave Grohl to Moby to Chris Martin, Slashed mainly featured popular musicians. But the rockumentary-meets-slasher hybrid also promised plenty of scares and gore – shame it hasn’t been released…

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4. My Brother, Borat

There’s no doubt about it – the Borat movie was designed to illicit a reaction. Indeed, Erkin Rakishev was so unamused by its portrayal of his home country Kazakhstan that he decided to strike back. And so he made My Brother, Borat. Explaining his reasons, he told BBC World Service in 2010, “You say everybody understands that [Borat] was a joke [but] I don’t think so, because the majority of people believe in what they see and hear.” As of 2018 the film is no closer to release than it was in 2010.

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3. Strange Portrait

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Opinions are divided on what actually happened to this long-lost thriller courtesy of director Jeffrey Stone. Some say the negatives for Strange Portrait were destroyed after a fire in the warehouse where they were stored. Others proclaim that governmental agencies stopped its release. Regardless, the results are the same – another finished film that will never reach an audience.

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2. My Best Friend’s Birthday

An early Quentin Tarantino project entitled My Best Friend’s Birthday was once finished and wrapped up with a 70-minute duration. However, a great misfortune brought that tally down to 36 minutes, after a fire broke out and enveloped the footage. So although half the movie has been shown at select film festivals, the other half will forever go unwatched.

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1. The United

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Very little is known about this almost untraceable Disney movie, except that it was an attempt by the studio to hone in on the Middle Eastern market. Indeed, it had a plot set on an Egyptian soccer coach looking to take his youth squad to the top. Unfortunately, however, due to political tensions and civil unrest, the film is still unreleased.

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