What Happens & Why It Was Cut

Will Smith’s 2007 box office hit I Am Legend had an ending that divided audiences, but an alternate ending exists that does more justice to the book.

With the recent announcement about the long-awaited I Am Legend 2, the I Am Legend alternate ending explained how the sequel can finally happen with original star Will Smith. I Am Legend had an ending that divided audiences, but the I Am Legend alternate ending exists, and it does more justice to the book. Published in 1954, acclaimed author Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend is one of the most highly regarded works of apocalyptic fiction to date. As such, it’s no surprise that the book has been adapted for the big screen, in this case, three different times.


The Will Smith fronted I Am Legend, the most critically and commercially successful adaptation of Matheson’s book yet but continued the trend of these adaptations differing from the source material. One big part of the I Am Legend book that’s never been adapted faithfully is its ending, which sees Robert Neville die by suicide rather than be executed for his apparent crimes. It turns out those who changed into vampire-like creatures by the plague have formed their own society and are still mostly intelligent, and view Neville as a monster, a kind of boogeyman they fear and loathe due to his killing of their species. The Will Smith I Am Legend once again fails to replicate this ending, but its alternate conclusion is much closer to the book’s message. Here’s the I Am Legend alternate ending explained.

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I Am Legend’s Alternate Ending Explained

Neville with the Alpha Male in I Am Legend.

I Am Legend‘s ending in the theatrical cut sees Will Smith’s character holed up in his laboratory as he attempts to find a cure for the mutants that seem like zombies from Dawn of the Dead. As he discovers a solution to their condition, the creatures storm his house. Neville ultimately sacrifices himself to take out the monsters and allow fellow survivors, Anna and Ethan, to escape. Anna and Ethan then set out to find a colony of survivors while taking a sample of Neville’s cure, implying that humanity is saved. While this maintains the adaptation of Neville dying by suicide, it completely disregards the novel’s original reasons for him doing so, as he never realizes that he’s unwittingly become the world’s villain.

The theatrical cut made several changes from early drafts, including a version in which I Am Legend‘s dog survives. The movie’s alternate ending has Neville learn that the vampire-like creatures are attacking his home, not to kill him, but to save one of their own who Neville abducted as a test subject. Realizing that, as in the book, the creatures are still intelligent, have a form of communication, and have developed their own society, Neville lets his test subject rejoin her brethren, and seemingly realizes that he has become a monster to the Darkseekers.

Neville abandons his research, takes the cure, and heads to Vermont a changed man, with Anna and Ethan in tow. While still far from the book, it’s much closer in spirit, as Neville learns that he isn’t quite as righteous as he thought. Unfortunately, as revealed by director Francis Lawrence, the reason the I Am Legend twist ending was changed to the more heroic one seen in theaters after test audiences had intensely negative reactions to the conclusion where Neville has his villainous realization. This isn’t the first instance of a test audience making a movie worse, and it probably won’t be the last.

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I Am Legend 2 Will Follow An Alternate I Am Legend Ending

Will Smith as Dr. Robert Neville in I Am Legend

Ever since I Am Legend 2 was announced with Will Smith returning alongside new cast member Michael B. Jordan, there were a lot of questions, but the I Am Legend alternate ending explained how it can be done. It was recently announced that I Am Legend 2 will continue the story where the alternate ending left off rather than the theatrical cut. This means that, despite what audiences saw when the original movie was released, this Will Smith sequel will insist that Robert Neville is still alive. This decision proves just how much the alternate ending to I Am Legend is preferred to the theatrical ending.

While it explains how Will Smith returns for the sequel, the new details for I Am Legend 2 still leave a lot to be explained. If Neville had the cure, did he give it to the rest of the survivors or infected mutants, or did he realize they should be left alone in the lives they built? There is also the question of where the tension in the movie comes from since the mutants are revealed to not be a threat. Perhaps Neville becomes their protector against other humans that don’t understand them. However, it could be interesting if the movie leans into Will Smith as the villain with Michael B. Jordan as the hero stopping him from killing the mutants.

NEXT: How I Am Legend Filmed Its Empty New York Scenes


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