Making a movie is an ever-evolving process. Scenes have to be re-shot, tough edits are made, and sometimes stories are tweaked in a major way in favor of improving the overall flow of the plot.
As part of this process, there have been several cases in film history where a character's arc is modified in a significant way, with some writers even going as far as to kill off a major character to further the development of the remaining cast. While such a drastic move sometimes yields fantastic results, sometimes it's good to have someone rein things in and keep characters around a little while longer. Here are five films where main characters were supposed to die, but were thankfully saved.
The dashing ace pilot of the Resistance, Poe Dameron is notable as being one of the first characters to appear on-screen in the new Star Wars trilogy. He's also the character whose actions eventually led to the discovery of Luke Skywalker's location by way of picking up a section of the map from the elder Lor San Tekka on Jakku. And, perhaps most importantly, he's best buddies with the sassy astromech BB-8.
An early version of The Force Awaken's script had Dameron dying off very early in the film, as early as the opening scenes on Jakku. Actor Oscar Isaac has spoken about the original intentions of the role, saying he thought it would be a bit more of a cameo than a prolonged part in the trilogy. But, director J.J. Abrams backed off the idea not long before filming, informing Isaac his character would actually play a much larger role in the new trilogy episodes.
Now, it's difficult to imagine the new films without the presence of the charismatic Resistance pilot. Ex-stormtroper-turned-rebel Finn gets his signature look by donning Dameron's jacket and found his way out of the ranks of the First Order by helping him escape; the Resistance was able to push back a First Order attack because of Poe's hotshot piloting skills and the efforts of his comrades in Black Squadron; he's become a big part of the trio of new characters introduced in the trilogy, made up of Finn, Poe, and the mysterious Jedi acolyte Rey; and finally, Dameron has cemented an important role for himself in the new extended universe by way of an ongoing comic series and a family history tied all the way back to the original Rebellion. The Force Awakens would be a different film without him, and we're happy he stayed longer than originally intended.
In the Alien films, Ellen Ripley is just as iconic as the nightmarish Xenomorphs she can't seem to escape. She's the human face of the franchise, the stoic and somber engineer who was able to stand up to a seemingly invincible foe.
But, she wasn't supposed to become the badass we know her as in the original Alien films. Director Ridley Scott has actually since confirmed that Ripley was supposed to die at the end of the first Alien film during the final encounter with the creature. In early versions of the script, the Xenomorph was unresponsive to being shot with a harpoon gun and smashed through Ripley's helmet to tear her head off in one brutally violent final act.
Now, the Alien franchise is known for being a tense, almost hopeless one in which virtually every character dies a horrible and untimely death. So, having Ripley lose a head at the end of the original Alien would have technically lined up with the tone of the rest of the franchise. However, it would have killed off one of the greatest action heroines of modern cinema and ruined the potential for future films led by Weaver. It also would have slightly undermined the themes of sexual assault and violence running throughout the entirety of the first film, with the character dying instead of surviving and finding strength through it.
Thankfully she survived and went on to become one of the great action heroines of the 80s alongside the likes of Terminator's Linda Hamilton.
The suave and charismatic Dr. Ian Malcolm inadvertently became one of the more interesting characters in the first Jurassic Park film, thanks largely in part to the smooth and poised nature of actor Jeff Goldblum. In Michael Crichton's novel of the same name, Malcolm died a slow and drawn-out death at the small hands (and teeth) of the Tyrannosaurus, reducing him to a more tertiary character status with a lesser impact on the others in the film.
Sensing Goldblum's charm and ability to carry the character, director Stephen Spielberg went back to Crichton and asked that the character be saved for the purposes of the film. As the co-writer on the script and author of the novel on which the film is based, Crichton agreed and the two were able to find justification to keep Malcolm around.
Fortunately, he was kept alive for the film, with his character being rescued by skilled surgeons and coming away from this attack with a permanent leg injury. He also later become an essential character in the Jurassic Park sequels and is said to be making an appearance in the upcoming Jurassic World 2.
As the adoptive daughter of Thanos, Nebula is a badass fighter and the stepsister/nemesis of Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy. She plays a vital role in the development of Gamora's character in the first film via the rivalry and distrust shared between the two that culminated in one of the more important close-quarters battles of the film, but her role was never supposed to be a continuing one.
Early on in the script writing process, Nebula was intended to die before the end of Guardians of the Galaxy. Director James Gunn ultimately saved her character from an untimely demise, however, voicing his admiration of the character and wanting more room for her to grow alongside the others. As it turns out, Gunn is rather fond of Nebula and has even voiced his interest in doing a solo Nebula film on Twitter. Whether or not that will ever come to fruition remains to be seen, but it speaks volumes about Gunn's love for her.
Nebula's presence wound up being essential in Guardians Vol. 2, and her survival allowed for more development in the relationship between herself and Gamora. She was also one of the first characters confirmed to appear in Avengers: Infinity War next year, and should the film stick to its comic roots, she will likely have a large hand in the eventual death of the Titan Lord Thanos.
One of the biggest action heroes of the 1980s, Rambo is a relic of a bygone era that revered heavily muscled men with large weapons and survival know-how. Naturally, he was the perfect role for the likes of Sylvester Stallone, who played the character for several sequels.
But much like Dr. Malcolm in Jurassic Park, Rambo was not supposed to stick around longer than the first film. In David Morrell's 1972 novel First Blood, John Rambo takes to the wilderness in the midst of a manhunt and uses his survival skills he obtained while serving in special forces in Vietnam to avoid capture by law enforcement. An exploration of one soldier's traumatized and deteriorating psyche, First Blood's climactic ending has Rambo dying after an intense showdown with another officer.
His film adaptation, however, was saved through good, old-fashioned Hollywood money making potential. As one of the screenwriters, Stallone recognized the potential Rambo had for becoming a bankable movie franchise and pushed for the character to survive past his novelized roots. Thus, the fight for artistic vision and optimal monetary gain was waged, and Rambo wound up surviving his Man vs. Wild-esque escapade after a tearful admission of his past and the way it haunted him. Ultimately Stallone's eye for a money-making movie franchise paid off, as Rambo movies continued in the tradition of the first film all the way up to 2008, albeit with arguably less self-serious themes and portrayals in later installments. To this day, Rambo is held up as a caricature of the machismo inherent in 80s action heroes, for better and for worse.