Recently, Warner Bros. has canceled several movies they had slated to release, including Scoob: Holiday Haunt and, perhaps most controversially, Batgirl. This is far from the first time studio heads have decided to pull the rug out from under projects. Today, we will be looking at several canceled movies, like Batgirl, that were axed before they got a chance to perform.
Batgirl was a DC movie putting Barbara Gordon front and center for the first time in live action. While this wouldn’t have been Batgirl’s live-action theatrical debut, that distinction lies with Batman & Robin; it would have been her first time leading a theatrical film. Leslie Grace was slated to star as the titular hero, and Brendan Fraiser was to appear as the villain, Firefly. Michael Keaton was to reprise his role as Batman for the first time since 1992, which brings into question what universe the film was to take place in. What makes the Batgirl cancelation, so upsetting is that it was practically finished. There are conflicting reasons as to why the film was canceled, ranging from poor test screenings to tax write-offs. Odds are this movie will never be seen in any official capacity, but fans are holding out hope that Warner Bros. will reverse its decision and bring back Batgirl from being canceled.
9. Superman Lives
One of the more infamous canceled movies is Superman Lives. Clerks creator Kevin Smith penned a script to be directed by Tim Burton and starring Nicolas Cage as the Man of Steel. The story would follow Brainiac and Lex Luthor rendering Superman powerless and Superman having to do battle without the use of his powers. While the film never left post-production, there are a number of production stills, including several of Cage in his Superman outfit. The failure of Batman & Robin, as well as creative differences, led to the film being canceled in 1998. There was a documentary in 2015 chronicling the pre-production and cancelation of the film, and many have urged Warner Bros. to release the movie as an animated feature with Cage voicing Superman.
8. Dumbo II
In the late 90s to mid-2000s, Disney made several straight-to-video sequels to some of their earlier movies. Cinderella, Mulan, and The Lion King were among the movies chosen to receive follow-ups. One movie that was in production before being canned was a sequel to Dumbo. Unlike the Batgirl cancelation, Dumbo II was barely into pre-production when it was canceled. All that exists in the movie is a production trailer and a few pieces of artwork. Little is known of the story, but it is believed to pick up right after the original and see Dumbo and crew head to New York.
7. Yellow Submarine
In the 2000s into the 2010s, Robert Zemeckis headed a studio that specialized in motion capture features. The first major film by this company was The Polar Express. Zemeckis then joined with Disney to make films such as the Jim Carrey-led Christmas Carol adaptation and Mars Needs Moms. The next film for the company was a remake of the classic Beatles film, Yellow Submarine. The film was about to begin filming when Disney once again pulled the plug. It is said the bombing of Mard Needs Moms led to the project being shelved. Today, all that exists are some pieces of concept art and some leaked demo reels that give a feel of how the finished project would have looked and sounded.
6. The Trench
The Batgirl cancelation is far from the only example of a shelved DCEU project. After the success of Aquaman in 2018, James Wan was slated to direct a horror-esque film featuring the trench creatures featured in that movie. Little was known about the film, and Warner Bros. canceled it early last year. The supposed reason is that Warner felt the upcoming Aquaman sequel was enough for now, and they would revive the idea if fans seem eager for it. James Wan took to Instagram a few months later and revealed the movie was actually a secret Black Manta project. Black Manta was, of course, a villain from the first film who was supposedly killed before repairing in an after-credits scene.
5. Friday the 13th
There have been a number of canceled movies featuring Jason Voorhees. There is one. However, that was actually getting ready to begin filming before being slashed. Originally slated for a 2017 release, the film was to serve as another reboot of the Friday the 13th franchise. The film was supposed to feature Jason’s father Elias as the main killer donning a burlap sack in an homage to Jason’s first adult appearance. Jason was then to take over killing duties for the film’s climax in his trademark hockey mask. The failure of Rings led to Paramount canceling the project, and the ongoing lawsuit effectively killed it as well as any other Friday movies.
4. Spider-Man 4
This is one of the canceled movies that fans are still trying to get over. Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man movies helped push superheroes into the mainstream once again. These movies led to Marvel taking a gamble some years later and creating a shared universe of heroes. The third film disappointed some, but it was still successful enough to warrant a follow-up. The script was completed, and the pieces were in place when Sony pulled the plug. The film was so close to production that the Sony Twitter account gave a release date, and Tobey Maguire talked about preparing to shoot just days before it was canned. Tobey finally returned in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but fans long for a final solo outing for the original web. Tobey was eventually able to reprise his role, so hopefully, Leslie Grace can do the same for her take on Batgirl.
3. Sinister Six
Like Tobey, Andrew Garfield’s Spidey universe was prematurely canceled before returning in 2021. Andrew was not just going to get a third movie; his greatest villains would get the chance to come after him. Near the end of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, several villains were teased, including Doctor Octopus and Vulture. Supposedly, the plan was for the villains to defeat Spider-Man, leading to him discovering the symbiote and seeking revenge on them. This version of Andrew’s Spidey was set to be a darker take, having not gotten over the loss of Gwen Stacey. Andrew was able to swing onto theatre screens again, but fans are curious what the canceled movies would have brought to the table.
2. Batman Unchained
The Batgirl cancelation is only the latest in a long line of axes projects from Gotham City. After wrapping up production on Batman & Robin, Joel Schumacher began working on another follow-up. That follow-up was promptly canceled after Batman & Robin was universally panned by critics and fans alike. The story was to follow Batman facing Scarecrow after Robin left him to become Nightwing. All of the villains from the previous three movies were slated to return in a nightmare sequence. This includes Jack Nicholson’s Joker, whose daughter is revealed to be Harley Quinn and is seeking revenge. The movie seemed to be a shade darker than Batman & Robin, and it would have been interesting to see how it would have played out.
The late 2000s and early 2010s saw more than a handful of classic cartoon characters receive big screen updates. One character that was planned to receive a revival was Popeye. Genndy Tartakovsky was helmed to direct, and the film aimed for a 2015 release date. In a similar vein to the recent Batgirl cancelation, much of the film was completed. There was even a teaser produced. However, due to a number of reasons, Sny pulled the plug on the project. For years the movie was known as lost media. That is until earlier this year. The animatic of the complete film was leaked online. The finished project will likely never see the light of day, but fans can find an incomplete version if they are willing to dig a bit.