‘Fight Club’ has a different ending in China. It’s not the only Hollywood film to get an edit there.
Fight Club, the 1999 David Fincher cult classic, concludes with a vastly different premise in China.
In the original film released nearly 23 years ago, spoiler alert, the Narrator (Edward Norton) kills Tyler Durden (his controlling split personality). Norton then watches as the buildings around him explode and fall to ground, an indication that the consumer debt within the credit card companies around them has been concurrently demolished.
In China, the film instead ends with the authorities swooping in, preventing the bomb from exploding, and arresting all the anti-establishment figures involved.
On Chinese streaming site Tencent Video (via film critic Courtney Howard, who posted a screenshot on Twitter on Monday), the original ending’s visuals are decidedly cut. Instead, the film cuts to a black screen with the words: “Through the clue provided by Tyler, the police rapidly figured out the whole plan and arrested all criminals, successfully preventing the bomb from exploding. After the trial, Tyler was sent to lunatic asylum receiving psychological treatment. He was discharged from the hospital in 2012.”
Essentially, the film is rewritten. That ending also mitigates the big reveal that Tyler isn’t real at all, and rather, is a mental projection by the Narrator.
According to Vice, the revised film was approved by the government for distribution after being edited by the copyright owner. The publisher also noted that Fight Club‘s Chinese publisher, Pacific Audio & Video Co., is connected to the state-owned television network Guangdong TV.
The original Fight Club was released at a time when Brad Pitt was banned from entering China, after appearing in Seven Years in Tibet, a movie set between 1944 and 1951 that portrayed an Austrian explorer Heinrich Harrer, including his relationship with the Dalai Lama. The film was set amid the Chinese invasion of Tibet, with an allegedly negative portrayal of the Chinese military.
This isn’t the first time a major production has been edited or censored in China. Films that are considered as potentially “endangering national security”, “harming national dignity”, or “disturbing social order” are regulated. These principles fall under the Film Industry Promotion Law, passed by China’s National People’s Congress in 2016: a formalized list of policies for film regulation. The goal of this law and the resulting censorship is to prevent any stories that are a threat to Beijing’s sense of nationalism.
This philosophy has seeped into Hong Kong’s film industry, where, in 2021, the government announced it would block the distribution of films that, according to the New York Times, “are deemed to undermine national security, marking the official arrival of mainland Chinese-style censorship in one of Asia’s most celebrated filmmaking hubs.”
Fight Club may be the most recent to get an edit in China, but here are other notable works that have been given different narratives and substantial censorship in the country.
Iron Man 3
Credit: Marvel / Paramount / Kobal / Shutterstock
Marvel’s 2013 blockbuster Iron Man 3 underwent an extensive cut, tailor-made for Chinese audiences. Much of the movie, created in partnership with China’s DMG Entertainment, was filmed in Beijing, but the version released in China featured special bonus footage. Most notably, a scene was spliced into this rendition, in which a Chinese doctor is shown saving Iron Man’s life.
Credit: 20th Century Fox / Moviestore / Shutterstock
The Freddie Mercury biopic released in 2019 was shown in China, but devoid of any scenes that referenced the singer’s sexuality and AIDS diagnosis. Two scenes of men kissing were removed from the film, as well as any inclusion of the word “gay”.
Lord of War
Credit: Lions Gate / Kobal / Shutterstock
Another film, another totally different ending. Lord of War, the 2005 Nicolas Cage-starring crime drama sees the titular character playing an illegal arms dealer. At the end of the film (spoiler alert, albeit 17 year later) sees Cage sideskipping any jail time and continuing his dealing. The conclusion also informs audiences that the five permanent members of the U.N. security council are the largest global arms dealers, which includes China. The film’s Tencent Video version has a replacement caption once again, explaining that Cage confessed of all his crimes and “was sentenced to life imprisonment in the end.”
Credit: Twentieth Century Fox / Kobal / Shutterstock
Six minutes of Alien: Covenant (2017) were cut in China, including a gay kiss between two androids and scene of violence. Many of the cuts also included footage of humans being attacked by aliens. The censorship was lamented by Chinese viewers, who condemned the awkward and abrupt result.
Season 16, episode 12 of The Simpsons shows the famous Springfield family visiting Tiananmen Square. Not on Hong Kong’s Disney+ platform though, where viewers last year noticed that episode was completely missing. Tiananmen Square, Beijing, is known as the location for the 1989 student-led, pro-democracy protests and massacre, the details of which are tightly controlled online by the Chinese government. In The Simpsons episode, a sign is shown at the locale, reading “On this site, in 1989, nothing happened.”