When Fans Watched The Notebook On Netflix, They Realized The Movie Had A Whole New Ending

Adapted from Nicholas Sparks’ same-named novel, The Notebook is widely regarded as one of the greatest big screen love stories of the 21st century. But 15 years after its release, streaming giant Netflix appeared to suggest that the 2004 hit could actually be improved upon. Here’s a look at the changed ending that sent fans of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’ romance into meltdown.

The romantic drama begins in the modern day, as a nursing home patient named Duke recounts a tale from his notebook to an elderly woman. Allison “Allie” Hamilton, a teenage heiress played by Rachel McAdams, and Ryan Gosling as Noah Calhoun, a poor quarry employee, are the central couple in Duke’s 1940s-set story.

The lovestruck pair first meet at a summer carnival on Seabrook Island in South Carolina and soon embark on a whirlwind romance. In an early scene, Noah shows Allie the dilapidated property that he plans to fix up and make their future home. But things go awry when the heiress’ parents send out a search party for her just as she and Noah are about to sleep together for the first time.

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Meanwhile, after Noah’s buddy Fin interrupts their moment of passion, the two lovebirds return to Allie’s home. And it’s fair to say that her mother Anne and father are not fans of their daughter’s new beau. After describing Noah as trash, the parents forbid Allie from spending any time with the quarry worker. The young couple then split following a particularly heated argument.

Any chance of a reconciliation appears to vanish when Allie learns that she and the rest of her family are to move back to their Charleston hometown. Of course, back in the 1940s it was much harder to track down someone in an emergency. And despite Allie’s best efforts, she ends up leaving Seabrook Island. But she does so without getting the opportunity to inform Noah that she is madly in love with him.

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Noah does eventually get the message thanks to his friend Fin, but by then it’s too late. Indeed, the Hamiltons’ home has been entirely emptied by the time that the quarry worker eventually makes it there. Undeterred, Noah decides to win back the love of his love by writing her a letter every day for 12 months straight. However, unbeknownst to him, his daily correspondence is intercepted each time by Allie’s interfering mother.

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The film’s first major tragedy occurs when Fin loses his life while doing battle in the Second World War. And Noah and Allie’s romance looks to be dead and buried for good when the latter finds a new love while volunteering at a hospital facility for those injured in the war. A few years later, she and fledgling lawyer Lon Hammond Jr. announce their engagement.

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Meanwhile, Noah returns from his World War II duties unscathed and soon begins work on the run down house he intended to make his home with Allie. And during a trip to Charleston, he spots his ex-girlfriend Allie in an embrace with her fiancé Lon. But still completely smitten with the heiress, Noah believes that by restoring his house to its former glories, she will eventually return to be with him.

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Later during a wedding dress fitting, Allie discovers a newspaper article about the dream house that Noah has now restored. And shortly before she’s due to walk down the aisle, the heiress decides to pay her ex-boyfriend a visit at his new abode and the sparks fly immediately. Indeed, several years after being thwarted at their first attempt, the sweethearts make love for the first time.

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Allie’s mother then proves she’s not a heartless monster when she turns up at Noah’s home a few days later. Indeed, Anne not only informs her daughter that she was followed all the way from Charleston by her husband-to-be but also hands over Noah’s letters she’d kept hidden during the war. Anne then reveals that she knows what it’s like to fall in love with a man of lower standing and that she continues to think ‘what if?’

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Having been given her mother’s blessing, Allie decides that she’s had enough of sneaking around and comes clean with Lon about her relationship with Noah. The pair then break off their engagement and Allie and Noah officially become boyfriend and girlfriend once more, and then appear to live a long and happy life together.

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That is, of course, until we see the couple in the present day. For it turns out that the man reading from his notebook is in fact Noah. And the elderly woman he’s reading to is Allie, who’s sadly now stricken with dementia. After learning she had the illness, Allie asked her long-time partner to regularly recount their early days as a way of helping her to remember.

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And if that revelation didn’t bring out the box of tissues, then the subsequent scenes surely did. Indeed, after becoming confused and panicked, Allie is sedated and swiftly taken to the hospital’s dementia ward, while Noah experiences a heart attack. The desperately ill couple then briefly reunite when the latter sneaks into the former’s room in the middle of the night.

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The pair then clasp their hands together and share a kiss before Noah delivers what proves to be his final words, “I’ll be seeing you.” For the next day a hospital nurse finds that the elderly couple have passed away in their sleep. And just to make things even more emotional, they did so while still holding hands.

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Meanwhile, for its part, The Notebook took a while to make it to the big screen. New Line Cinema bought the rights to Nicholas Sparks’ novel in 1996, then two years later the legendary Steven Spielberg expressed interested in directing a film adaptation. And his first choice to play leading man Noah was none other than Tom Cruise.

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After other commitments forced Spielberg to leave the project, Jim Sheridan came on board. But after several stalls in production, the Irishman also decided to abandon the director’s chair to work on In America instead. The directorial merry-go-round continued when Nick Cassavetes replaced Martin Campbell in 2002.

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Unlike Spielberg’s A-list intentions, Cassavetes decided that someone unfamiliar to audiences and not particularly handsome would be perfect for the character of Noah. Despite the fact he’s now considered one of Hollywood’s major heartthrobs, the then relatively unknown Ryan Gosling was thought to fit this bill at the time. The actor himself initially believed that he was entirely the wrong man for the part.

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In fact, Gosling thought Cassavates was crazy for offering him the role. Nevertheless, the future A-lister took the job and undertook some research to ensure he delivered the best performance possible. Indeed, Gosling not only briefly relocated to the film’s Charleston setting, he also spent much of his downtime rowing the Ashley river in preparation for the movie’s rowboat scenes.

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Meanwhile, Reese Witherspoon, Ashley Judd, Jessica Biel and Britney Spears were just a few of the names who were lined up to take the role of Allie. But after seeing the chemistry she shared with Gosling during her audition, Cassavates pretty much cast Rachel McAdams on the spot. The future Oscar nominee later described the part as “a dream.”

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McAdams also put some work in to give her performance that extra bit of authenticity. Like Gosling, she spent some time living in Charleston to get a feel for the place. She also had dialect training to capture her character’s Southern accent and took classes in etiquette and ballet dancing.

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Interestingly, although The Notebook’s Seabrook Island setting is a very real area, none of its scenes were shot there. Instead, producers chose the likes of Wadmalaw Island, Mt. Pleasant and Edisto Island as substitutes for the picturesque location. Rice Hope Plantation in Georgetown County served as the nursing home, while the College of Charleston became the location for the campus scenes.

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The Notebook hit U.S. cinemas in the summer of 2004, taking nearly $13.5 million in its opening weekend and ranking fourth in the box office. Overall, it made an impressive $115.6 million at the box office across the globe. Furthermore, in the list of the highest-grossing romance dramas in Hollywood history, it ranks at number 15.

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However, critics weren’t quite as enamored with Noah and Allie’s tale. Indeed, the film has a 53% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The review there said, “It’s hard not to admire its unabashed sentimentality, but The Notebook is too clumsily manipulative to rise above its melodramatic clichés.” However, it wasn’t without its supporters.

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For his part, legendary critic Roger Ebert gave the movie 3.5 stars out of four in his Chicago Sun-Times review. While The New York Times’ Stephen Holden compared McAdams and Gosling’s performances to those of Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty in Splendor in the Grass. And The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday described it as a “must-see summer movie” for those who enjoy “big, gooey over-the-top romance.”

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And The Notebook’s reputation as an all-time classic weepie has only continued to grow. Entertainment Weekly has featured both the film in its 25 Sexiest Movies Ever and Noah and Allie in its 2010 ranking of the 100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years. Us Weekly, Marie Claire and Total Film are just some of the other publications who have recognized the movie’s appeal in various polls over the years.

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The Notebook also cleaned up at the Teen Choice Awards in 2005, winning a staggering nine different categories. These included Choice Movie Chemistry, Choice Date Movie, Choice Movie Love Scene and Choice Movie Liplock. McAdams and Gosling’s on-screen smooch also won Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards in 2004.

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Meanwhile, The Notebook remains one of the go-to movies for fans of the epic Hollywood weepie. But when Netflix added it in 2019, repeat viewers noticed something significantly different about its climax. Indeed, this alternative cut didn’t conclude with the nurse finding Noah and Allie’s lifeless bodies. It simply showed a shot of birds flying over a lake.

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As you’d expect, many viewers took to Twitter to vent their frustrations at this surprise retcon. One user said, “… Netflix in the UK doesn’t show the full ending to The Notebook and I’m actually about to riot.” A slightly less antagonistic fan posted, “Felt like watching a sad movie so chose The Notebook on Netflix. And they’ve only gone and edited out the ending? Why?”

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“Why did Netflix change the ending of The Notebook? The best part of watching it is having your heart break at the end,” one user pointed out. Another told Netflix in no uncertain terms, “What you did wasn’t ok. That ending was beautiful. It’s all I can ever hope for in my marriage so when I finally eat dirt I can go with the one I love. Don’t you dare take that away! Put it back!”

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The whole debacle even caught the attention of The Notebook author Nicholas Sparks. He, in turn, gave a diplomatic response about this alternative ending in an interview with Today in February 2019. He said, “I didn’t know it was coming. So, I find out about this the same way everyone else does and they think, ‘hmm.’”

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Sparks continued, “For me, it’s an opinion thing, it’s a different ending. You are definitely going to have an opinion on it one way or another.” When pushed further about the possible reason for an alternative cut, the author joked, “This is above my pay grade. It’s above my intelligence grade!”

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The near-riotous reaction to Netflix UK’s omission of The Notebook’s tearjerking ending prompted the streaming service to issue an official statement. In a tweet titled “Things you should know,” Netflix UK explained that they weren’t responsible for the finale’s edit. In fact, they didn’t tamper with the film at all.

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Indeed, Netflix UK revealed that they had simply screened the version that had been supplied to them. However, it promised disgruntled fans that it would immediately conduct a full investigation into how the error occurred. With a sense of faux-shock, the tweet concluded, “Apparently some films have more than one ending?!”

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Meanwhile, an account previewing upcoming releases on Netflix on the other side of the Atlantic then waded in. See What’s Next tweeted, “Rest assured that the version of The Notebook coming to the U.S. on March 1 will be the version that has always made you sob.” However, in the end, Netflix USA was beaten to the punch.

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For the UK viewers who had been so upset at the lack of a death scene, they actually got to see The Notebook’s intended ending sooner than audiences Stateside. Indeed, staying true to their word, Netflix UK acted fast to placate the angry mob. And within 24 hours they had replaced the alternative version with the original.

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Netflix UK then immediately informed all the aggrieved fans who had bombarded them since the alternative cut accidentally aired. It tweeted, “One more thing you should know: we’ve uploaded the correct… version so the familiar ending is restored.”

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However, not everyone complained about the removal of the film’s saddest scene. The Guardian writer Stuart Heritage questioned whether Netflix had inadvertently stumbled across a revolutionary new idea. He wrote in February 2019, “We live a post-Bandersnatch world now, where Netflix viewers are already used to experiencing different outcomes to their friends, so why not maximize this?”

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“Why not keep the alternative version of The Notebook, and show it to people who might appreciate it? Netflix already has the technology to do this,” Heritage continued. “If you’ve watched a lot of films with dead people in it, go ahead and watch the original version. But if your viewing history seems in any way prudish or squeamish, you can see the edited version instead.”

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Of course, this isn’t the first time that The Notebook has been screened in a slightly different form. In 2012 ABC Family aired a lengthier cut which featured scenes that had been deleted from the original version. The extra ten minutes of footage had only previously been available on the DVD and BluRay release’s special features.

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Those who strongly believe that the original should remain untouched may also have been left disheartened by the news which emerged over a decade after its release. Indeed, in 2015 The CW announced plans to adapt the movie for the small screen. However, several years later and there’s no sign of the show making it to air.

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The Notebook might not have made it to the small screen yet but it will be heading to the stage. In early 2019 a Broadway musical featuring original material from singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson was officially announced. And the man who started it all, Nicholas Sparks, also came on board as producer.

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