John Wick 4 Had An Alternate Ending, But Audiences Didn't Like It

This article contains spoilers for "John Wick: Chapter 4." 

It would be physically impossible for Keanu Reeves to keep up the laborious shooting schedule and rigorous action training necessary to make each "John Wick" installment more breathtaking than the last. James Cameron may feel a responsibility to continue making "Avatar" movies based on phenomenal box office success, but Reeves and director Chad Stahelski aren't necessarily beholden to their own iconic franchise. For the executives over at Lionsgate, on the other hand, it wasn't an easy decision to allow their invincible antagonist to finally put down his weapon and ride off into the sunset. 

However, "John Wick: Chapter 4" absolutely delivered in every conceivable way with almost three hours of heart-pounding action, gorgeous locales, and a surprising amount of pathos. By the end, it felt only right to let John Wick finally rest, even if it meant an apparently finite death for the character. 

In an interview with Collider, Stahelski opened up about coming to the ultimate decision along with the studio to shoot two separate endings for test audiences. That idea allowed fans to come to their own conclusions that might have swayed the filmmakers to go along with a slightly happier ending. Somewhat surprisingly, early screenings let Stahelski know he was on the right path and that a warrior's death was the right direction to take the last chapter of the series.

All dogs go to heaven, but did John Wick?

In the final moments of "John Wick: Chapter 4," the High Table's Harbinger (Clancy Brown) decrees that the bounty on Wick's head has been lifted, Winston has been reinstated as the head of the New York Continental Hotel, and all business is hereby concluded. It feels like an almost impossible moment in a series that's completely constructed around a constant, insurmountable challenge for the Baba Yaga. It's finally over, and John Wick has his life back. Then he suddenly keels over and dies. 

According to Chad Stahelski, the two endings they filmed were incredibly similar, with one offering a glimmer of hope that Wick may have barely survived. When the director spoke with the studio, he gave them an option, telling Lionsgate:

"But you know, 'Let me try to execute it the way we are. Let me build the story around it and I'll do you a solid. I'll tell you what, I'll shoot the ending two ways, you know, with one extra little thing, two extra little shots. I'll let you know he's alive, and I'm gonna leave it up to the audience to decide, and we're gonna test both.' ... And they were super cool."

When the two endings were tested, audiences apparently had a pretty definitive answer on which ending they preferred, and the studio went along. "They let me go through the whole movie ... and you know, the test audience has definitely had a favorite of that, which is the ending that you guys saw, and it was nice to show and get actual feedback," Stahelski revealed. "And everyone was very understanding of that, and it was good to come to that conclusion together without having to fight it or force it."

John Wick: Chapter 4 still had two endings

The surprising, more melancholy ending shows Winston and the Bowery King standing over John Wick's gravestone that's been placed alongside his wife Helen Wick (Bridget Moynahan) with the words "Loving Husband" engraved. Winston does his best to keep up appearances, although the Bowery King gives him a knowing look as if he suspects (or already knows) that the cemetery plot exists more out of protection, insuring that John can finally lead a quiet life. There's definitely some wiggle room there, and of course, Reeves is already returning as Wick in "Ballerina" starring Ana de Armas, another revenge-driven actioner that started filming last fall in Prague.

Also, for those that stayed for the end credits, Akira (Rina Sawayama) reappears to confront Caine (Donnie Yen) after he dispensed of her father Shimazu (Hiroyuki Sanada) in the thrilling opening action sequence in Osaka, Japan. Lionsgate is betting on the fact that the "Wick"-verse can continue to expand with new characters that are now free to operate without becoming entangled in a worldwide manhunt. The Marquis (Bill Skarsgård) may have been wiped off the playing board, but rest assured, the High Table is still in control, whether Akira and de Armas' character Rooney want to acknowledge the established rules or go their own way entirely.

"John Wick: Chapter 4" is now playing in theaters everywhere.