Home Entertainment Top List Thursdays – Seven movies that escaped Development Hell

Top List Thursdays – Seven movies that escaped Development Hell

5 min read


Making a movie isn’t easy. You’ve got to find backers, cash, distributors and actors, even before you start filming. And from there, you’ve still got make the movie, chop it up for a cinema and finish any lingering effects before you rev up the marketing engine.

That’s usually a two to three year process for any film. But some films, took way longer to be realised. Here’s seven such films, which just about managed to escape the dreaded development hell of Hollywood.

  • Mad Max: Fury Road


Ever since Max Rockatansky had walked away from the Thunderdome in 1985, director George Miller had worked tirelessly to get a fourth movie made. And man, what an ordeal that was. Miller only regained the rights to make another Mad Max in 1995 when Warner Bros. gave them up.

And from there, Miller would spend another 15 years working on getting Fury Road made, in a process that saw the film cancelled several times, lead actor Mel Gibson drop out and terror attacks of the time hampering production.

Even when Fury Road did eventually start filming in late 2010 and through 2011, it wouldn’t be until 2015 when Miller finally completed the flick. But the end result was so shiny, and oh so chromey.

  • Alien Vs. Predator


The idea of combining the Alien and Predator universes, was a match made in heaven. After all, who wins in a fight between the deadliest species in the galaxy and the top hunters around? The fans of course!

20th Century Fox began work on AvP back in 1990 after Dark Horse printed the original comic that pitted the two movie monsters against one another in 1989, but various producers and Fox wishing to focus more on a fourth Alien movie hampered results. With so many cooks working on the broth, it wouldn’t be until 2003 when AvP finally got the ball rolling.

And it was kind of crap. At least the far superior AvP: Requiem, didn’t suffer from the same problems.

  • Red Dawn

Red Dawn 2012

WOLVERINES! The remake of the cult classic 1980s anti-communist flick had an uphill battle from the start, but it’s not the production that had this movie languishing in obscuirty. Red Dawn was completed on schedule for a 2010 release, but left to rot for years thanks to financial difficulties at MGM.

There was one other factor that also resulted in the delay: China. Intent on getting some of that sweet Asian box office revenue, Red Dawn was retooled, with China being replaced by North Korea when the invasion came ‘a knockin’. Dialogue was digitally altered, military uniforms were also CGIed to be more North Korean and Chinese references were removed.

Did it work? Lolno, Red Dawn was a massive flop when it eventually made it to the big screen.


  • Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now

The amount of problems that plagued Apocalypse Now, were legendary to say the least. Poor filming conditions. Marlon Brando being a colossal whale with an attitude. Diarrhea. Director Francis Coppola had apparently pissed of an entire pantheon of gods, because anything that could go wrong, did on that film set. But the end result made for some damn fine viewing.

  • Beverly Hills Cop 3

Beverly Hills Cop 3

The Beverly Hills Cop trilogy is one of the few film trios out there where each movie in the collection is actually pretty damn good. Eddie Murphy’s first two stints as legendary law enforcer Axel Foley helped cement his career. Beverly Hills Cop 3 however, almost killed it.

Numerous problems such as scripting issues and budgeting caused pre-production to drag on and on, resulting in both actors John Ashton and Ronny Cox dropping out due to obligations to other pending film projects.

Screenplays were rejected, including one very awesome idea where Foley would have teamed up with a Scotland Yard inspector who would have been played by Sean Connery. Guys, I think we just hit the perfect idea for Beverly Hills Cop 3. Anyway, the third film was eventually finished, thanks to writer  Steven E. de Souza who write the final story as more “Die Hard in a theme park”.

  • Batman Begins

Batman Begins

Even though Batman & Robin made some serious coin for Warner Bros, back in 1997, the film was a critical flop when critics got their hands on it. It was time for a change. Time for something different, darker and grittier. And it’d be eight years before audience finally got to see a new Batman in action.

During those eight years, numerous ideas were pitched. A more mature Batman from Darren Aronofsky, who had less gadgets and more attitude. A Batman year one project that Joel Schumacher wanted to return and direct in order to redeem himself for the aforementioned Batman & Robin.

Hell, at one point, a Batman Beyond movie was even considered. But it was director Christopher Nolan who eventually rescued the franchise, with his vision for a more modern Batman that was possibly mentally damaged.

  • Freddy Vs. Jason

Freddy vs Jason

Every street has an Elm Street. And every campground has a Crystal Lake. New Line and Paramount had started work all the way back in 1987 on pairing two of the biggest horror movie icons of all time, Freddy Krueger and Jason Voorhees, in a brawl for it all.

But box office bombs for Jason kept the project in limbo, while both film studios battled to find a middle ground on keeping creative control on each of their characters. Negotiations broke down, resulting in a 15 year on and off process that cost around $6 million in 18 unused scripts while the two icons popped up in solo flicks such as Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Jason X.

Eventually, director Ronny Yu would eventually make the film, which was released back in 2003. And it was a heavyweight clash that saw the two slashers get the big screen rumble that they deserved.


Last Updated: July 30, 2015


  1. I believe World War Z was also stuck in development hell and it turned out to be my favourite zombie movie.


    • Kervyn Cloete

      July 30, 2015 at 12:14

      Wasn’t so much stuck in development hell as its development was hell. Reportedly the studio had no faith in director Marc Foster, who really only got the gig coz of Brad Pitt asking for him. But on the set Pitt reportedly took over from Foster, doing whatever he wanted, creating some tensions as Foster didn’t want to reprimand him.

      This is of course after the fact that the script was incredibly difficult to crack, with them in the end ironically going with something that had practically nothing to do with the original book other than the title.

      And then when Foster eventually turned in his first cut, the studios didn’t like it and brought in Damon Lindelof to rewrite the entire third act. He started the rewrite, while Foster did 7 more weeks of reshoots for it, even though the new script wasn’t done yet. But then Lindeloff couldn’t finish the script in time due to scheduling issues, leaving the film with a very abrupt ending that the studio was actually considering using.

      Lindelof wasn’t happy with that so he negotiated with the studio to bring in Drew Goddard to finish his script, and it was agreed that another 30-40 mins of footage would be shot to allow them to piece together a new, proper ending.


      • The Sten

        July 30, 2015 at 13:23

        Wow, so all things considered its actually nothing short of a miracle it turned out the way it did.


        • Kervyn Cloete

          July 30, 2015 at 13:29

          Pretty much yeah. I was also quite surprised that it turned out to be reasonably enjoyable and not a complete trainwreck. In fact, iirc, it’s Brad Pitt’s highest earning movie ever.


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