Movies That Threw Book Endings Out The Window Completely

List Rules
Vote up the movies that completely ignored the source material when it came to the final act.

Every year, Hollywood mines literature for the big screen, and inevitably, the movies that changed the ending of the book end up generating the most discussion. Whether they're purist fans who want to see their favorite obscure moments or critics who think it's wise to tone down dark moments from the source materials, everyone tends to fixate on what's different.

It's not uncommon for a movie to change or ignore the ending of the book - sometimes quite dramatically. These changes are made for a variety of reasons - for example, if the book has a tragic ending, the filmmaker or studio might want the movie to have, if not a completely happy ending, at least a more hopeful one. Or the filmmaker might change the entire tone of the original story – as Stanley Kubrick did with the film Dr. Strangelove - so the ending needs to be changed in order to fit the rest of the movie.

Below is a list of some movies based on books that ignored the ending found in the original source material. Which ones do you think stray the furthest from the book?


  • How The Book Ends: Victor Hugo's famous novel is very bleak. Esmeralda is charged with attempted murder and sentenced to hang. Although the hunchback Quasimodo attempts to save her by giving her sanctuary in the cathedral, the Archdeacon Frollo turns her over to the king's guards after she rejects his advances. After her end at the gallows, Quasimodo pushes Frollo off the top of the cathedral. In the original ending of the novel, Quasimodo disappears, only for his decayed body to appear in a mass grave, locked in an embrace with Esmeralda's corpse.

    How The Movie Ends: While the animated version goes dark for a Disney movie by touching on themes like lust, sin, and the discrimination of the Romani people, it also makes significant changes to the original ending. Instead of a bogus charge and untimely demise, Esmeralda ends up falling in love with and marrying Phoebus. And instead of being explicitly thrown from the cathedral by Quasimodo, Frollo accidentally falls to his end. Perhaps the biggest change is instead of being rejected by the citizens and disappearing forever, the hunchback ends up being seen as a hero and is accepted into society.

    • Actors: Tom Hulce, Demi Moore, Tony Jay, Kevin Kline, Paul Kandel
    • Released: 1996
    • Directed by: Gary Trousdale, Kirk Wise
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    688 VOTES

    How The Book Ends: As in the film, Winston Groom's novel has Forrest experience a range of adventures, such as being a college athlete, serving in Vietnam, and eventually starting a shrimp business named after his late friend Bubba. The end of the story finds Forrest getting frustrated by how complicated his life has become, so he gives away his business and ends up living on the streets with a legless Vietnam vet and an orangutan named Sue. The novel portrays Forrest as more of a "savant" than the film version of the character, and Forrest and Jenny don't have a child together.

    How The Movie Ends: Instead of the novel's rather bleak ending of Forrest living on the streets, the film adaptation reunites Forrest with Jenny, who is raising their son who had been conceived through their one-night stand a few years earlier. They marry, but she passes due to AIDS soon afterward. The movie ends with Forrest, now a single dad, sending his son off to his first day of school.

    • Actors: Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Gary Sinise, Mykelti Williamson, Sally Field
    • Released: 1994
    • Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
  • How The Book Ends: Hans Christian Andersen's famous story is pretty bleak for a fairy tale. Not only does Ariel not end up with her prince (he marries someone else), but her transformation from mermaid to human also results in constant agonizing pain, she never gets her voice back, and she perishes of a broken heart after rejecting the chance to become a mermaid again by taking the prince's life. She does end up as an airborne spirit with the possibility of earning an immortal soul and getting into heaven if she does good deeds for mankind for the next 300 years, though. This added coda has been debated over the years, although Andersen himself felt that having the little mermaid get a chance to earn an immortal soul by doing good deeds was a better ending than simply just having her perish.

    How The Movie Ends: The 1989 Disney film adaptation of this famous fairy tale made sure to give its little mermaid her happy ending. Although she is transformed back into a mermaid and enslaved by Ursula, Ariel and Prince Eric are able to take out the evil sea witch once and for all. The film ends with Ariel's father King Triton giving his blessing for the young couple's marriage and permanently turning Ariel into a human being.

    • Actors: Jodi Benson, Pat Carroll, Christopher Daniel Barnes, Rene Auberjonois, Hamilton Camp
    • Released: 1989
    • Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
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    189 VOTES

    How The Book Ends: Bernard Malamud's 1952 novel follows the story of a former baseball phenom, Roy Hobbs, who makes the majors at age 35 - 16 years after his career had seemingly ended when he was shot by a woman who targets top players. When he gets his second chance in his mid-30s, he becomes an immediate success. The novel ends with Hobbs accepting a $35,000 offer to throw the final game of the season, only to change his mind when he learns he is going to be a father. He attempts to come through for the team but strikes out on his final at-bat and the team fails to win the pennant. Hobbs still faces the possibility of being banned from baseball permanently since a reporter found out about the payout, giving the ending an ambiguously dark air.

    How The Movie Ends: The novel was adapted into a film starring Robert Redford, but while the film keeps the basic plot of Hobbs's career going from cut short to resurrected in his 30s, the ending is significantly changed from the book. Instead of Iris being a new romantic interest who is pregnant with Hobbs's child, she is turned into an old girlfriend of his who gave birth to his son years earlier. Hobbs also rejects bribes to throw the last game. Instead, just out of the hospital (he'd been poisoned), he hits a home run in the ninth inning to win the game and the pennant for his team. So in the film, he's a hero for the ages, while in the novel, he is a failure who may get banned from the game for life.

    • Actors: Robert Redford, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Kim Basinger, Wilford Brimley
    • Released: 1984
    • Directed by: Barry Levinson