For every movie that makes it all the way from someone's brain to the big screen, dozens are doomed to spend eternity in Hollywood purgatory — because, quite frankly, getting a major motion picture made is a total bitch.
Only a small fraction of screenplays ever catch the attention of a studio and get put into production, and as you'll see, even that is no guarantee they'll ever be finished. In the messy, ridiculously complicated and maddening process of getting movies made, sometimes even the best ideas slip through the cracks.
With that in mind, we've assembled a list of 15 potentially great movies that Hollywood has done some serious slacking on.
1. 'The Tourist'
A far cry from the forgettable Johnny Depp/Angelina Jolie movie of the same name, "The Tourist" is a famously beautiful script about a group of exiled aliens living human lives in Manhattan — think a darker, art-house "Men in Black." Having spent 32 years (!) in development hell, it's also a disheartening cautionary tale whispered campfire-side to spook would-be Hollywood screenwriters. To give you a sense of just how frustrating getting a movie made can be, "The Tourist" writer Clair Noto believes Warner Bros. held onto the rights to the script for eight years simply so no one else would make it into a successful picture — the Hollywood equivalent of taking your frenemy's crush to the prom out of spite.
Chance you'll see it: 15%
2. 'The Happytime Murders'
So, imagine a puppet movie from The Jim Henson Company. So far so good, right? But instead of singing, joshing around and being adorable, the puppets are getting murdered, cursing, having sex, and generally embracing everything an R-rating allows. Still on board? Us, too. That's what the Henson Company had in mind when when they announced "The Happytime Murders," a neo-noir satire that takes places in a world where puppets and people co-exist. Katherine Heigl and Dwayne Johnson have been attached to star, and the studio has even leaked some brain-explodingly awesome concept art. But lately, word on the project has been mum.
Chance you'll see it: 70%
3. 'A Confederacy of Dunces'
If you've never read "A Confederacy of Dunces," go to your nearest bookstore (if those still exist near you) and right that wrong now. Still there? Cool. That means you must be familiar with John Kennedy Toole's brilliant, hilarious, heartbreaking exploration of 1960s New Orleans. A film based on the Pulitzer Prize winner has been long, long in the works with the project even being called cursed, as John Belushi, John Candy and Chris Farley were all attached to star as the book's flatulent antihero, Ignatius J. Reilly, before their untimely deaths. The latest potential incarnation has Zach Galifianakis starring, but we're not holding our breath.
Chance you'll see it: 50%
4. 'Ghostbusters III'
First and foremost, it should be noted that if Bill Murray isn't involved in this project, we really aren't interested. All due respect to Harold Ramis, Dan Aykroyd and Sigourney Weaver, but a Murray-less "Ghostbusters III" has all the appeal of a Jordan-less mid-'90s Chicago Bulls reunion. (Aykroyd would be Pippen and Ramis would be Phil Jackson? Toni Kukoc? We're still sorting this analogy out.) Aykroyd and Ramis could always take the "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull" route and find a young actor to carry the torch of the series ... but for the love of all that's good and sacred, we hope they don't (or include inter-dimensional aliens, for that matter). Instead, they need to somehow get Bill Murray on board and make this thing awesome so we can all remember how fun the '80s were.
Chance you'll see it: 10% (with Murray), 75% (without Murray)
David O. Russell ("The Fighter" "Silver Linings Playbook") is one of those directors who just can't miss. That's partly what makes it so surprising that he hasn't been able to find a home for "Nailed," his long in-development project about a woman who lobbies for healthcare reform after a nail punctures her head. Filming on "Nailed" started way back in 2008, but the production stopped when funding dried up on the last day of shooting. It's a bit disconcerting that Russell has washed his hands of the project, but with Vice Presidential offspring and "Futurama" scribe Kristen Gore co-writing and an incredible cast that includes Jessica Biel, Jake Gyllenhaal, Paul Reubens and Catherine Keener, we see "Nailed" as a potentially hilarious "Being There"-esque send-up of all things Washington. Over the past few years, the movie appeared to be dead in the water, but recently stills have popped up all over the 'net and there've been rumors of a late 2013 release.
Chance you'll see it: 60%
Unlike most of the movies on this list, "Boyhood" (also known as "Growing Up") is almost certainly coming, and relatively soon. There's nothing exceptional about the plot — it's a coming-of-age story about a boy growing up with divorced parents. But "Boyhood" has already been in development for 12 years, not because of any Hollywood weirdness but because director Richard Linklater decided to take the road less traveled, and film the project in real time instead of using different actors or CGI aging technology a la "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and the eerie last scene from "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollow - Part 2." From the "Before" trilogy to "Dazed and Confused," small, simple stories are what Linklater does best, so we're looking forward to this one, which is set for a late 2014 release.
Chance you'll see it: 99%
7. 'College Republicans'
A script that topped the "Black List" — an annual assessment of the hottest unproduced screenplays in Hollywood — "College Republicans" chronicles human jack-o'-lantern Karl Rove's election as College Republican chairman in 1972 with the help of notorious GOP dirty trickster Lee Atwater. We see it as a potential "The Social Network"-type piece set in the dirty underbelly of college politics instead of the dawn of the social media boom. Paul Dano will reportedly star as Rove and Richard Linklater is said to be directing ... but as the entry above will show you, Linklater is a busy guy these days.
Chance you'll see it: 55%
8. 'Party Down'
Never heard of the short-lived comedy series "Party Down"? Don't sweat it, you're not alone. The show, about a group would-be actors, writers and comedians working for a Hollywood catering service, was hidden like matzoh at a Passover Seder on the Starz network for two seasons before it was canceled and its murderers row of a comedy cast (including "Glee"'s Jane Lynch, "Parks and Recreation"'s Adam Scott and "The State" alum Ken Marino) left to pursue other projects. There's been word that the series will go the "Veronica Mars"/"Firefly" route and continue as a movie, but financial backing for a film based on a show only a few people cared about four years ago has been, understandably, hard to come by. Let's all take a minute here to breathe in the meta-irony of a show about Hollywood types struggling to get their movies made struggling to get its movie made.
Chance you'll see it: 65%
9. 'The Muppet Man'
Another "Black List" topper, "The Muppet Man" is a half-fantasy, half-biopic exploration of the strange, beautiful mind of Jim Henson — and also the second of two Henson/puppet movies on this list, if you're keeping track. Unfortunately, crappy Hollywood bureaucracy has prevented the film from moving forward. Disney, who's busy working on their own wildly successful Muppet franchise, owns the rights to the Muppets but not the rights to "The Muppet Man." (The Muppet Man? The Muppet Man.) So, unless Disney gives The Henson Company the go-ahead, the movie will see Henson calling his puppet creations things like "Hermit" and "Ponzi Bear."
Chance you'll see it: 25%
Just in case you've been living under a huge, non-Xbox-equipped rock for the last decade, "Halo" is a futuristic first-person shooter series that has sold millions upon millions of units ... and led to millions of hours that moms thought could've been better spent playing outside or studying. It's also an ill-fated film project that's been attached to Steven Spielberg, Guillermo del Toro, and "District 9" mastermind Neill Blomkamp over the years. Blomkamp declared the project dead in 2007 but recanted in April, saying that a "Halo" movie was still a possibility. Video game adaptations are usually a red flag that screams "save your $10-$20 for a dinner at Applebee's instead," but considering the level of talent that's surrounded the film and the richness of the "Halo" universe, it's hard to believe a "Halo" movie wouldn't be worth watching.
Chance you'll see it: 45%
11. 'Battle Angel'
Before James Cameron was exploring the greatest depths of our oceans and introducing us to the troublingly sexy Native Ameri-aliens of Pandora, he was set to adapt the manga series "Battle Angel Alita," about an orphaned android turned bounty hunter. With a beautifully cinematic and intricate vision for the dystopian future, "Battle Angel" sounds like a visual spectacle that would be right in Cameron's wheelhouse. Unfortunately, we won't get a chance to see "Battle Angel" until at least 2017, which sounds like the intangible, far-off future but is really just four years away. In the meantime, we'll be getting two "Avatar" sequels to hold us over.
Chance you'll see it: 85%
12. 'At the Mountains of Madness'
Tom Cruise, James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro are just a few of the names that have been associated with "At the Mountains of Madness," a long-in-the-works adaptation of a novella by the undisputed king of New England-set horror, H.P. Lovecraft. Del Toro, who co-wrote the screenplay and plans to direct, has claimed that the lack of a love story, happy ending and, really, anything American audiences head out in droves to see has prevented the project from getting off the ground. Del Toro has also said the project was too similar to "Prometheus" to be made, but he later recanted, saying the films are still somewhat similar, but "screw it." That's the spirit, Guillermo!
Chance you'll see it: 60%
13. 'The Inside Out'
"The Inside Out" is the third film in the wily geniuses at Pixar's air-sealed vault, behind next year's "The Good Dinosaur" and 2015's "Finding Dory." Of course, details surrounding the film have been guarded like the results of a papal election, but apparently the movie's an exploration of the inner workings of a young girl's mind. With such an unrestrained plot, the ceiling on visual beauty and emotional pull is almost non-existent. "The Inside Out" could be a great chance for Pixar to recapture its mojo after "Cars 2," "Brave" and "Monster's University," which were all entertaining and well-made but lacked the emotional punch of some of their all-time-great efforts.
Chance you'll see it: 95%
14. 'Blade Runner 2'
Over the past decade, Ridley Scott hasn't quite been able to capture the magic of his early career, but we still can't help but think a film continuation of the "Blade Runner" universe is at least worth a shot. A potential follow-up to his 1982 sci-fi masterwork has existed in so many forms —- including a prequel web series titled "Purefold" and a film version titled "Blade Runner Down" — that we can't help but be skeptical of Scott's recent proclamation that a sequel is definitely on the way, but at least he's confident. When asked if Harrison Ford was too old to reprise his role, Scott said "[Ford] was a Nexus-6 so we don't know how long he can live. And that's all I'm going to say at this stage." Cute, Ridley.
Chance you'll see it: 80%
15. 'Rendezvous With Rama'
Based on a novel by "2001: A Space Odyssey" scribe Arthur C. Clarke, "Rendezvous with Rama" is a brainy sci-fi work that makes us wrestle with all the existential gibber-gabber that good sci-fi makes people wrestle with. (Are we alone? What's our place in the universe? Why don't they make ketchup packets bigger? etc.) Morgan Freeman has wanted to make a "Rama" movie for years and even recruited his "Se7en" pal David Fincher to direct. But at this point, the movie is nothing more more than a spark buzzing around Freeman's noggin. Really, if there's anything you should take away from this list, it's that there's a whole mess of extraordinarily cool sci-fi (and Muppet-related) movies that, for some reason, Hollywood just doesn't want you to see.
Chance you'll see it: 35%