Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View

After Kevin Feige’s 'Star Wars' movie - remembering 8 more sci-fi flicks that died in development hell

The entire film industry is one big episode of What If...?

By Josh Weiss
(L-R, T-B) Neill Blomkamp, David Lynch, Kevin Feige, Patty Jenkins,George Miller, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Guillermo del Toro, Steven Spielberg

Did you sense it? A disturbance in the Force? Variety brings word that the future of the Star Wars franchise on the big screen is once again in doubt.

After several years of active development, Patty Jenkins' Rogue Squadron movie and a mystery film project hailing from Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige have both been shelved. The latter was being written by Loki and Multiverse of Madness scribe, Michael Waldron, who is also penning the screenplay for the upcoming Avengers: Secret Wars.

RELATED: Effects legend Phil Tippett on digging up old props & inspiring latest 'Poker Face' episode

As of right now, Disney is still pursuing three post-Episode IX endeavors from Damon Lindelof, Shawn Levy, and Taika WaititiVariety reports that Waititi is still chipping away at the screenplay with co-writer Krysty Wilson-Cairns (1917, Last Night in Soho) and will most likely take on a prominent role in the currently-untitled feature, which could bow in late 2025.

With two adventures in the galaxy far, far away being frozen in carbonite (the entire film industry is like one big episode of What If...?), here are eight other sci-fi movies that never made it out of development hell...

Steven Spielberg's E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears

1982: American film director and producer Steven Spielberg (left) points to something in the distance as he directs American actor Henry Thomas in a scene on the set of his film, 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial'.

A sequel to Universal's E.T. the Extra Terrestrial seems almost sacrilegious now, but Steven Spielberg did briefly consider a horror-oriented follow-up to the 1982 classic. The director even went so far as to whip up a 10-page treatment with the first movie's writer, Melissa Mathison. Had the project moved forward, it would have centered around a group of evil aliens (a mutated faction of E.T.'s species) who arrive on Earth and torture Elliott (Henry Thomas) for the whereabouts of the titular visitor. Needless to say, Nocturnal Fears never got made. 

"There were a few sequel rumors circulating around in the early ‘80s. But I think Steven regards this as his classic film and his hallmark," Thomas noted during an interview with SYFY WIRE last year. "I don't think he wants to tarnish that."

You can check out Spielberg's original E.T. on digital right here

Guillermo del Toro’s At the Mountains of Madness

Adapting the works of writer H.P. Lovecraft is a tricky prospect in Hollywood, which is why del Toro's ambitious take on the seminal tale of cosmic horror has never been green-lit. It nearly happened over a decade ago when Tom Cruise showed interest in starring, but a hard R-rating (paired with a sizable budget and the release of Ridley Scott's Prometheus) prompted the studio to pull the plug. With that said, del Toro currently enjoys more entertainment goodwill than ever before after nabbing several Oscars (including Best Picture and Best Director) for The Shape of Water. If he wants this passion project to happen, it'll probably happen — most likely in a stop-motion format.

Guillermo del Toro’s Hellboy 3

Hellboy II: The Golden Army

Ok, this one still bothers us to no end. The magic of the Hellboy comics on the big screen came down to a simple formula: Guillermo del Toro and Ron Perlman. The wild imagination of one combined with the gruff performance of the other is cinematic alchemy at work. The fact that the duo never got to close out their blockbuster trilogy, especially when you consider all the dangling story threads left by The Golden Army, represents a missed opportunity of the highest order.

Big Red, of course, returned to theaters in 2019 in a destined-to-fail reboot fronted by David Harbour. Yet another revamp is gearing up for production under the directorship of Brian Taylor (Crank). Deadpool 2 alum Jack Kesy has been cast to play Hellboy in the film, which will adapt the acclaimed Crooked Man story published in 2008. Mike Mignola and Chris Golden are behind the screenplay.

Jodoworsky’s Dune

Perhaps the most infamous entry on this list, Alejandro Jodorowsky's lofty designs for the Frank Herbert novel of the same name is the stuff of Hollywood legend. Development first began in 1974, with Jodorowsky tapping the likes of H.R. Giger and Moebius to design the look of the film. Dan O'Bannon was hired to engineer mind-blowing special effects while Pink Floyd and Magma chipped away at the original score. As for the cast, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger, David Carradine, and Salvador Dali were all on board. Insane, right?

The project ultimately collapsed under the weight of its own ambition, with David Lynch taking on the unenviable job of condensing the massive source material into one slightly disappointing movie. Decades later, however, Denis Villeneuve would give Arrakis the breathing room it deserved with a two-part adaptation bankrolled by Warner Bros. (the second chapter opens in theaters later this year).

William Gibson’s Alien 3

A third Alien movie should have been an easy slam dunk for 20th Century Fox after the release of James Cameron's action-horror sequel in 1986. Instead, constant studio meddling and creative indecision yielded a less-than-stellar directorial debut from David Fincher, who has since disowned Alien 3 (his real debut came three years later by way of Se7en).

Several scripts were churned out ahead of production, including one involving a wooden space station inhabited by religious monks. Really, you can't make this stuff up, folks. The screenplay put forth by William Gibson, aka father of the cyberpunk genre, remains the best pick of the bunch, which makes you wonder why the hell it wasn't put to screen. Gibson realized that maybe bringing back beloved characters would actually get butts in seats. His version saw Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Newt (Carrie Henn), Bishop (Lance Henriksen), and Hicks (Michael Biehn) returning for another round with the dreaded Xenomorphs and the shady Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

Thankfully, fans can get a taste for what the movie might have looked like with a graphic novel adaptation released by Dark Horse Comics. A prose novel (written by Pat Cadigan and based on Gibson's un-produced first draft) also exists.

Neill Blomkamp’s Alien 5


You won't give us William Gibson's Alien 3? Fine, at least give us Neill Blomkamp's Alien 5! Oh, that one is dead too? *Shakes fist into the sky and screams in agony* First announced in 2015, the fifth entry in the long-running film series would have reportedly wiped away the continuity of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection by focusing on older versions of Ripley and Hicks. The entire thing came crashing down when OG Alien director Ridley Scott decided he wanted to make a semi-related prequel in Prometheus and its 2017 sequel Alien: Covenant. We all know how that turned out... *Shakes fist again*

George Miller’s Justice League: Mortal

Before the MCU, before the DCU...there was Justice League: Mortal. Conceived in the late 2000s, George Miller's expansive take on the premiere comic book team continues to stand as an oddity of the pre-cinematic universe era. Envisioned as a $250 million blockbuster for Warner Bros. Pictures, the film got pretty far into pre-production before everything fell apart just before cameras began to roll over budgetary concerns, creative differences, a writers' strike, and the impending release of The Dark Knight.

Even so, Miller had a full cast lined up and ready to go: Armie Hammer (Batman), Common (Green Lantern), Adam Brody (Barry Allen), Megan Gale (Wonder Woman), D.J. Cotrona (Superman), Hugh Keays-Byrne (Martian Manhunter), Zoe Kazan (Iris Allen), Santiago Cabrera (Aquaman), Teresa Palmer (Talia al Ghoul), Jay Baruchel (Maxwell Lord), and Anton Yelchin (Wally West). For a nifty timeline of the rise and fall of Justice League: Mortal, be sure to check out Joshua Hull's Underexposed!: The 50 Greatest Movies Never Made.

David Lynch’s One Saliva Bubble

This one is really weird, even by Mr. Lynch's standards. Per Underexposed!, both Steve Martin and Martin Short had signed on to star in the gonzo movie, which involved a stray bit of spittle activating a secret government laser capable of altering the minds of human beings. The bubble unexpectedly popped in the late '80s when producer Dino De Laurentiis's production company went bankrupt. Click here to read the script by Lynch and his eventual Twin Peaks co-creator Mark Frost.

Don't look too glum, chum! Head over to Peacock for plenty of genre films that made it across the finish line.