Beetlejuice Original Ending Was Much Darker, Included a Tragic Death

Beetlejuice Original Ending Was Much Darker, Included a Tragic Death
Image credit: Legion-Media

Beetlejuice was the film which cemented Tim Burton's reputation as a commercially successful filmmaker as well as of a filmmaker with his own distinctive aesthetics and blend of humorous and morbid themes.

Success of Beetlejuice helped Tim Burton to get the seat of director on Batman ( 1989), which proved to be an even bigger success, and catapulted Burton into the A-list of Hollywood directors. So, that film was pretty important for him and his career.

Perhaps a part of Beetlejuice's success was the fact that it got a straight, if slightly quirky, happy ending.

The ghostly miscreant Beetlejuice (Michael Keaton), who caused or aggravated most of the problems in the movie, and tried to force Lydia (Winona Ryder) into marriage, so that he would be free to wreak havoc in the mortal world, gets stuck in a bureaucratic version of purgatory.

Meanwhile Lydia and her parents manage to find a common ground with the ghost selves of their house's former owners, Barbara (Geena Davis) and Adam (Alec Baldwin) Maitlands, and decide to coexist peacefully. The movie even ends with a dance number that Maitlands perform for Lydia!

Given that Beetlejuice is still a ghost story, it is no surprise that its script initially was much darker, before getting rewritten into a more family-friendly form. And as the film's co-writer and producer Larry Wilson had revealed in a recent interview with Yahoo, one of the darker elements of the original script (besides elements like far more graphic nature of Maitlands' death, or Beetlejuice being downright murderous and sadistic, rather than self-centered and perverted) was its ending.

"Our first ending was Lydia — she died in a fire and was able to join Barbara and Adam in the afterlife," he explained. "A couple of people said to us, 'Do you really think that's a good idea? Is that really the message you want to be sending to the teenagers of the world? Die in a fire?' So, yeah, it probably was darker."

Well, that was darker for sure. If there is a problem with the final ending, it is leaving open possibilities for sequels. But Wilson is grateful that to this day Beetlejuice was not turned into a film franchise (though there was a cartoon series to which Burton served as an executive producer, a stage play, and a few videogames, so technically Beetlejuice is a franchise now):

"It was one of those one-of-a-kind experiences that the talk of a sequel makes me, creatively, a little bit nervous."