The Alternate Seven Ending David Fincher Wanted Us To See

"What's in the box?" An alternate ending. David Fincher's "Seven" has one of the most unforgettable endings in movie history. It's been etched in viewers' minds for over a quarter-century, so the idea of changing it at this point might seem like a sin, not unlike the ones symbolized by the grisly crime scenes where serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey) stages his "sermons."

That ending, however, is one of several that was up for consideration during the making of "Seven." The Telegraph did a roundup circa the film's 20th anniversary, detailing no less than seven alternate "Seven" endings. These include an ending where Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman) kills Doe, an ending where Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) shoots Somerset to keep him from killing Doe, an ending where there's a race against time to save Mills' pregnant wife, Tracy (Gwyneth Paltrow), an ending where there's a dead dog in the notorious box, and an ending that takes place in a burning church.

Fincher favored one other ending above all of those. He had come up from the world of music videos and "Seven" was only his second movie. His first feature, "Alien 3," famously compromised his vision, so much so that he later disowned it.

The budding auteur didn't have as much clout with producers when he was first starting out, and if he had his way back then, the final moments of "Seven" would have been more of a sucker punch. At the end, Doe has lured Somerset and Mills out to the middle of nowhere, with the promise that he's going to reveal the bodies of his last two victims. Fincher draws out the suspense as a delivery van suddenly appears, driving down the long dusty road to where the three men are.

Cut to Black

Spoiler alert: the box from the van contains Tracy's severed head. It's never shown, which gives it even stronger leverage over the viewer's mind. We can only form a terrible picture of such a thing in our imagination as Howard Shore's dramatic music cues up the revelation.

Doe's plan, which he successfully achieves, is to have Mills "become wrath," the seventh and final deadly sin: killing him in a fit of rage, thereby also punishing Doe for his own sin of envy. The two final bodies (three, if you count the baby) are Tracy and Doe himself. Mills knows that he's letting Doe win, but at that point he's so distraught that he doesn't care.

Fincher originally jockeyed for a sudden cut to black as soon as Mills shoots Doe, leaving the audience hanging with a long moment of silence before the closing credits started to roll. This ending, with its "Sopranos" effect — and no parting voiceover from Somerset to cushion the blow — would have given moviegoers no time to emotionally adjust to what just happened. It would have hit them hard-and-fast and left them reeling, but it's tough to say whether it would have really been better.

It was the studio that wanted the ending we got, in which Somerset watches a police car drive away with Mills later that night. "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for," Somerset narrates. "I agree with the second part."

This moment helps ease the impact of the visceral shock that the ending delivers. It's a small ray of light and humanity from Somerset, who always played the pessimist to Mills' optimist in their conversations. Despite the horror that's just occurred, the weary Somerset lets us know, "I'll be around."