Best Movies Never Made


  1. Stanley Kubrick's 'Napoleon' - No explanation necessary. Link

  2. Orson Welles' 'Heart of Darkness' - Also no explanation necessary. Link

  3. Alfred Hitchcock's 'Kaleidoscope' - Concerning a serial rapist and killer, this could have been Hitch's darkest movie. He also wanted to shoot the whole movie from the killer's POV. Great stuff, but of course it was too ugly and dark for its time, and studio brass turned it down. Link

  4. 'Don Quixote' - A literary classic that is the curse of every director that tries to bring it to life. Orson Welles tried it, and failed. Gilliam tried it decades later - the resulting failure produced the documentary 'Lost in La Mancha'. It's a movie that defies its directors to be made. Link

  5. Terry Gilliam's... Everything - Gilliam is an exciting and imaginative filmmaker. He's also been involved in more projects that failed to get the final green light than anyone I can think of. See the long list of really great projects that never quite made it: Link.

  6. Carl Dreyer's 'Jesus' - I still hold that a decent & reasonably accurate account of one of the best stories ever told (whether you believe it's true or not) has not been filmed. But if anyone could've made an excellent and challenging spiritual drama, it would've been Dreyer. Link.

  7. David Lean's 'Nostromo' - He was developing Joseph Conrad's epic Nostromo when he died in 1991. Could've been another Bridge on the River Kwai or Doctor Zhivago. Link.

  8. Andrzej Munk's 'Passenger' - Andrzej Munk died during filming from a car crash. What survives of Munk's work is brilliant, what was 'filled in' to copmlete the film by Witold Lesiewicz is, well, not Munk's movie. Link

  9. Lem Dobbs' 'Edward Ford' - A really, really great script. I can understand while certain other projects on this list didn't make it, but this one dumfounds me. Certainly this would have at least as big an audience as his other projects, like Kafka, Dark City, and The Limey? There's hope for this one yet. I have a copy of the script if you want to read it. Link

  10. 'The Catcher in the Rye' - Several directors have been interested in developing an adaptation of this classic novel, but the author isn't too keen on the idea. Link

  11. David Lynch's 'Ronny Rocket' - David Lynch's script for a followup to Eraserhead has floated around Hollywood for 20 years and never quite gotten the green light. Link

  12. Ray Bradbury's 'The Dreamers' - A terrific novel and a terrific script for this promising supernatural thriller couldn't attract any Hollywood talent in 1958. Link

  13. Disney's 'A Princess of Mars' - This would have been the first animated feature, before Snow White, had it not been scrapped. And back then, Disney was making really good movies. Link

  14. Benjamin Christensen's 'The Saints and The Spirits' - Christensen intended, and began to shoot a trilogy of spiritual investigation films that began with the amazing Haxan, but the two followups were never realized due to a financial crisis.

  15. Sergei Eisenstein's 'Que Viva Mexico' - The maker of the superb The Battleship Potemkin wanted to make a social history of Mexico, but couldn't get funding. Some footage was actually shot, and revealed the film's innovative approach, but his full vision was never realized. Link

  16. James Cameron's 'Spider-Man' - Despite True Lies, I have faith that James Cameron's Spider-Man would have been far superior to what Raimi has given us. Link

  17. 'Manhattan Ghost Story' - A really cool novel that was ripped off by the wildly popular The Sixth Sense. But, now, The Others was made, so why can't this one succeed, too? Link

  18. Honorable Mention: Orson Welles' Batman - Orson Welles' vision of Batman was a dark, serious psycho-drama. Had it made it past the silly little casting disagreement that sunk it, it might have single-handedly brought a public popularity and respect for comics that has never existed, at a time when comic books were in their infancy. Link - This is a hoax!
Author Comments: 

My own personal picks for what I'm most missing of the films that almost were but aren't.

Lord of the Rings used to be on this list.

Yup, that one too.

Man, Batman by Orson Welles. I'd do something drastic to see that be made. What an amazing filmmaker.

As for Hitchcock's Keleidescope, I hadn't heard of this film before I just read it and I'm trying to write a film based only on POV. Pretty cool.

I know, it kills me in the very, very, very bad way that it was never made.

You're writing a film told entirely in POV? So am I! Now I have more understanding for laments of 'parallel development.'

Unless you wanna work on it together... :-)

I'm acutally trying to get some friends working on it with me, I've got my girlfriend and one good friend extremely interested. I don't have a plot but I know exactly what I know? Anyway, I don't care if it takes a few years to write it, I want this made and if it turns out how I want it to, I'll send it to as many film festivals as possible. I don't want to post details just in case anyone sees it and cares enough to make the movie before me. But if you want to talk more about it over email, I'm for it.

Sounds like you've got enough heads working on this one...

Harlan Ellison's incredible treatment of I, Robot
Terry Gilliams midwifery of Time Bandits 2
Terry Gilliam's adaptation of Good Omens
Terry Gilliam's take on The Watchmen
Terry Gilliam's production of The Defective Detective
Terry Gilliam's stab at Elektra
Terry Gilliam's Mel-Gibson-free A Tale of Two Cities
Terry Gilliam's attempt at Tideland
Terry Gilliam's better-than-Linklater's A Scanner Darkly
Terry Gilliam's Briggsian Fungus the Bogeyman
Terry Gilliam's effort on Theseus and the Minotaur
Terry Gilliam's sublime The Hitchikers' Guide to the Galaxy
Terry Gilliam's non-animated The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Terry Gilliam's monstrous Godzilla
Terry Gilliam's Pritt-attached The Crowded Room
Terry Gilliam's timeless A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Terry Gilliam's pre-Mask Looney Tunes
Terry Gilliam's industrious Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Terry Gilliam's gormenghastic Gormenghast
James Cameron's slinging of Spiderman anything else that has crossed Terry Gilliam's mind.


Give me a moment to digest these.

Do you have any links for those failed Gilliam efforts (so I can learn more about them and also learn how far along he got in developing them)?

I had no idea Gilliam was connected with all those titles...

Or, are you being facetious? This is a list of movies that WERE under development at one time but were never made.

Facetious isn't in my quiver. Details of Terry Gilliam's unacheivements can be found here. I think he's one of our greatest directors and, hands down, the greatest potential director this side of Orson Welles. Details are part of a nice place for all things Gilliam.

Wow, great list, then. Thanks for the list. Gimme a couple days to get to that - my life suddenly just got busy and I can't spend 6 hours I day on Listology like I have done in the past :-)

I wonder how many of those films would have been made had Gilliam ever made a film on time and on budget?

* covers his face and sac *

Gosh, that page is enough to make me fall to the floor and weep.

I'm not sure what to do with the Spider-Man and I, Robot ones, since those projects were basically just continued, passed to different directors, and eventually made. I haven't decided yet if I want to include projects like that, which were eventually made under a different director. For example, if I had actually thought that McG would've made an excellent Superman movie, then I would I add that to the list - even though Bryan Singer is currently shooting the very same project?

I'll have to chew on that for a while. Thanks again for all those suggestions!

I, Robot is definitely NOT a continuation of Harlan Ellison's screenplay, it's not even based upon Isaac Asimov's stories. Ellison's version of I, Robot has been published seperately and the ever immodest writer has railed against the movie and, indeed, all other subsequent attempts at adaptation of Asimov.

James Cameron got paid $3 million dollars for a "sciptment" of Spiderman . In spite of protests to the contrary (who wants to admit to needlessly lining Cameron's nest?) the end product has nothing to do with Cameron's conception. Cameron had Sandman and Elektra as the villians. Although I can't imagine anyone doing a better job than Sam Raimi I was disappointed that Cameron lost interest in Spidey. I would have loved to see how he jumped the boundaries of FX limits as he has in every movie since Aliens .

There's a place for big budget action films, far too large a place if you ask me. Cameron is one of the few directors who can be trusted with a $100 million+ budget even as more talented directors stumble. I'm talking about the Pang of Ang Lee and the Woe of John Woo. Think of the great fight scene(s) that Cameron would have seemlessly woven into the narrative. That's my only hesitation about Raimi's movies; the action sequences seem to be arias simply stuck into the super-hero opera. Cameron, on the other hand, gave us the relentless pursuit of the original Terminator (for <$7 million!). He created the dramatic tension of the Marines' ambush as well as the Ripley (and then Bishop) water-rescue in Aliens . There's the amazing water-tentacle and the cold-water Bud/Coffey fight in The Abyss . The liquid metal T-1000 and its face-splitting/fist-grabbing fight in Terminator II were stunning for the time. (It is amazing that The Terminator is twenty years old while T2 is thirteen years old.) Finally there is the water-logged second half of Titanic , say what you will the FX were seamless. Supposedly Cameron wanted to make Spiderman with Michael Biehn (then in his early thirties) but thought it was technically impossible so he foisted True Lies upon us. Plus, Mary Jane would've been a spine-of-steel grrrlfriend... and we need those more than another guy wearing multi-coloured tights.

Don't even get me started on the job Terry Gilliam would have done with The Watchmen . Binary choice: monumental brilliance or disastrous mess.

Yeah, I think I would have enjoyed a Cameron Spider-Man better than I've liked the Raimi ones (however much respect I have for Raimi). Is there an URL you can give me about that I, Robot treatment by Harlan Ellison?

I remember being wounded when Gilliam's Watchmen fell through, but boy, they've managed to find a helluva replacement.

Yeah, I know! I hope it gets onto the fasttrack sometime soon.

You have no idea how happy i am that gilliam is not directing the watchmen... it's the only comic book i've ever read religously and i really can't stand gilliam and i don't get all the hubub about him... maybe if he kept his camera upright for more than 20% of his shots i could like him more... because he does seem to have potential... to bad he ruins it with dozens of "WHAT THE F***!" shots per movie.... for god sakes limit your diagonal shots to single digits per movie.

I understand your frustration with Gilliam. I was utterly dumfounded by Brazil, but then I love some of his others.

Harlan Ellison and William Friedkin's TV movie of Will Eisner's brilliant comic The Spirit

Great list! Never heard of the Hitchcock one, either; pretty cool.

I'm pretty sure the Orson Welles Batman was revealed as a hoax -- but I still fantasize about it now and again :-)

David Lean wanted to adapt Joseph Conrad's Nostromo for the big screen, but unfortunately he died before he could begin with the filming.
P.S.: I think Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye should NEVER be turned into a movie!

Thanks for the heads up about Nostromo! I've got quite a few films to add to this list waiting for me to write them up, I'll add Nostromo to that list.

That's fine about Catcher in the Rye - but just because someone makes it doesn't mean you have to watch it - and you won't deny some of the rest of us the pleasure of seeing it just because you don't want to, will you?

Certainly not. I'm probably just too pessimistic. At the beginning, I couldn't even imagine the Lord of the Rings- trilogy turned into films, but Peter Jackson has done a great job.

How about sergio leone's Epic based on salisbury's "the 900 days: the seige of leningrad" planning to star De Niro as an american reporter who gets involved with a local girl in leningrad during the siege... according to fraylings leone biography it was at the time he died, 1989, had secured the biggest budget in movie history in a co-production with the soviet union and was actually going to shoot in leningrad... although he had secured the money, i'll get the figures later, the only thing he had was the idea for the story, a title, and a super long(i think it was estimated at 15-20minutes) opening shot through the streets of leningrad planned out that included over 100 tanks crossing a river(the entire planned opening shot is described in detail in the leone biography)...

Now usually i don't get too excited about so called "big budget war epics" but since it was leone and he overcame my hatred of gangster flicks with a movie made 5 years earlier... it really gets me excited about what could have been

Holy crap, if that's real then it's definitely deserving of this list. What was the planned title?

Leningrad, i believe... its got like 20 pages dedicated to it at the end of fraylings Sergio Leone biography SOMETHING TO DO WITH DEATH... which i own and have read several times... i'll get the details if i ever get around to it.

alright... my memory exagerated a bit... he had only secured 15 million, which was everything he was going to get from the soviets which included use of the city of leningrad and an "unlimited amount of tanks"... according to the book the french co-production had unofficially agreed to at least match that once they got a script, which was never actually written, and the rest would be up to leone's Italian production... Leone humbley estimated the total cost at about 30million, which is what he spent on OUATIA alone... more realistic yet a bit exagerated estimates were made by newspapers and things at 70-100 million when all was said and done, which would have made it the the most expensive movie at the time, which was rambo III at 60million in 1988... sadly leone fell ill and died before a script could be written... the project that would have taken almost 3 years to complete from script to post production had taken 3 years of leone's life just to get to the funding stage.

Lukeprog, I left you a message where you question my polls. you make a good case, but I would just like you to read my statement so you can understand where I am coming from.

Earlier this week, there was a terrific Studio 360 on NPR that had a piece on Orson's Don Quixote, including interviews with two editors who have tried to reconstruct the film. One of the best things I've heard on the radio in quite some time...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Oh, awesome. How do you hear about these things?

Honestly, I stumbled over the program by accident one night running out for some grub. I sat in my car listening until the entire segment was over.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

what is the big deal about Don Quixote?

i've never read the book but i've tried to figure out what the big deal about the story was and i just can't find a definite plot summary anywhere... although i must admit i didn't try very hard.

Well, it's a 'classic,' but more than that is the people who have tried to adapt it, including Orson Welles and Terry Gilliam.

i guess what i mean is... is the story itself anything special?... you know the plot.

Like most stories, most of its specialness has been lost by now by innumerable clones and 'thieves.' Nevertheless, it is an imaginative tale with strong and memorable characters.

Don Quixote is a book that will never seem great simply by reading a plot summary.

First off, it is a very funny book. Second, it seems to represent certain views of life with vivid characters. You laugh at the characters, and eventually, you are no longer sure whether to chuckle or to admire them.

God is in the details.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Regarding Napoleon, there was a great article in the Guardian last year about it.


I know this won't appeal to 99% of the population... but since i'm not in love with the godfather the way it is... Sergio Leone was the first director to be offered the job of making mario puzo's the godfather.

Quoted from here
'At the time of his death, Peckinpah was in pre-production on an original script by Stephen King entitled "The Shotgunners."'...
at the time it wasn't a book, just a screenplay he wrote and i can't find anything on the plot but apparently later it became the basis for the book called "the regulators" but i have no idea other than that.

staying on stephen king apparently spielberg came to him with the rough idea of poltergeist, king wrote a script, which spielberg rejected because it was too horrific and gory and eventually spielberg wrote it himself and retained very little from the king script.

you've just got all kinds of tasty unmade goodness, don't you! Thanks once again.

hey, this is really shaping up to be a great list... some really interesting stuff.

for some reason i remember hearing in a documentary or featurette or something that stanley kubrick showed interest in adapting The Lord Of The Rings but it was too expensive... i know john boorman gave it a shot in the 70's but again it was just too much money.

Too my knowledge, these projects didn't make it 'far enough' to deserve this list, though I admit my requirements for a film to make this list are arbitrary and ill-defined. Thank you again for the suggestions!

4. Carl Dreyer's 'Jesus': Check out Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth, which I think is quite exceptional (although it was a made for TV 'movie' / a six-hour mini-series).

Thanks! There are quite a few Jesus movies I haven't seen, but so far I've been terribly disappointed by every last one of them. Hopefully Zeffirelli will impress!

I have four words for you.


My friend actually owns that film and tries about twice a month to get me to watch it. I no doubt will give in soon...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

BTW, in case you missed it, I didn't write up Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth.

Orson Welles planned a version of Conrad's Heart of Darkness as his first film before he had to abandon the idea as too expensive. He wanted it to be completely first-person, from the viewpoint of Marlow. As someone who loves Conrad and Darkness, I can only weep...

Johnny Waco (who doesn't think Citizen Kane was too shabby a debut;))

Wow, cool. Do you have a link? How far did he get in developing the project?

A fantastic list! yeah the 2 by Kubrick, and Don Quixote would have been must-sees for sure. And Dreyer's Jesus (didn't know about this). I do think Pasolini's Gospel according to St Matthew is comfortably the best one about Jesus. It restores the original message that many of the organised Christian religions seem to have conveniently discarded/ turned upside down even. There's a reasonable amount of Que Viva Mexico, and impressive it is too! Very striking compositions.

I've just seen a Dreyer film starring Christensen- Mikael/Michael. He plays an effete (gay?) wealthy painter who takes in a younger guy who'd modelled for him but who in turn falls for a countess (played by Rules of the Game's Nora Gregor). Shades of Oscar Wilde. Fine staging as usual but the story itself and characterisations struck me as faintly ludicrous. Not up to Dreyer's later standards anyway, but Rosenbaum picked it in his 1000.

Yeah, it was actually one of the first dozen or so silent films I caught because it was on Turner Classic Movies. I didn't enjoy it at the time and it doesn't intrigue me enough to give it a rewatch.

Did you know that David Lynch was offered to make The Return of the Jedi?

Yup. I've not included it on the list because had it turned out anything like Dune, I'm not sure I'd have preferred it to the way ROTJ is now.

Excellent argument. Dune is indeed a bad movie...

Howard Hawks does Casino Royale.

...with Grant, Cary Grant.

I heard Alejandro Jodorowsky was supposed to make dune with Salvador Dali as one of the actors.

You heard well. Search a little and you will find how Dune by Alejandro Jodorowsky failed, it had Pink Floyd in the soundtrack and HR Giger and Dan O'Bannon in the designs.

Wow, congrats on getting into!

I feel like I should send Jim a check. I think Digg killed the server for a bit and this list now has 10x more views than my other lists.

Anyone know of a 'Stranger in a Strange Land' screenplay or project?

I appreciate the review. I don't think it's great literature either. But it would make a terrific, campy movie. I think Wes Anderson could do this movie.

You can add Terry Gilliam's magical Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone...

Chamber of Secrets, PoA, GoF, OotP, HBP and...

Of course, what with Gilliam's notable punctuality issues, the lead actors would all be in their forties and Maggie Smith long dead by the time Deathly Hallows hit the theaters as the world's first billion dollar movie.

I'm just wondering, but how long does it take to get your content "passed moderation?"

Two films that I was excited about over the last few years that never came to fruition... First is the previously mentioned James Cameron screenplay for Spiderman. The next one was Tripoli to be directed by Ridley Scott. It was all but in production, with set building going on, when Scott said that the project “flatlined.”


"Disney's 'A Princess of Mars' - This would have been the first animated feature, before Snow White, had it not been scrapped. And back then, Disney was making really good movies."

Going to the link you give, this item is either incorrect or reads like it is - that is, the project to make it before "Snow White" wasn't a Disney project; Walt's interest apparently came much later:

"...Bob Clampett and John Coleman Burroughs attempted to make it 5 years before Disney produced SNOW WHITE ... Walt Disney considered the property while he was alive, but it wasn't until much later that the Walt Disney Company spent millions of dollars in development costs trying to get PRINCESS OF MARS made ..."

What about Christopher Nolan's film about Howard Hughes, called "Mr. Hughes"? Granted, we got Scorsese's take, which was awesome, but I would love to see what Nolan would have done with it. Especially considering Jim Carrey was apparently going to play Howard Hughes. Also, I would love the script to Edward Ford, my email is

Google found it in 10 seconds:


Hey lukeprog,

Nice list. Just wanted to say thanks for that -- I'm a film producer and always love trivia of that kind (also love to find out who are the people who stopped some of these projects from getting made...), so they're always great to hear about. Cheers!

You can also count the following:

-Tarsem Singh: Constantine
-David Cronenberg: Total Recall
-Brad Anderson: The Crazies (remake) (may still happen, but shelved for now)