At the end of the movie, Hannibal escapes and leaves Clarice behind. However, the book ends with Hannibal drugging Clarice and the two of them running off together. Why was the ending changed for the film?

According to the Wikipedia article on the film version, the director "didn't buy" that Clarice would run off with Hannibal. However, from what I remember, it's unclear whether she willingly accompanies him or not (as I said, Hannibal drugged her). The only other explanation I can come up with is that the novel ending is off-putting, but so is the whole story. Are there any interviews or other information out there that explains the change?

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    To leave it open for another movie sequel?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 22:25
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    @Flimzy interesting thought, although it would be strange to make a sequel that wasn't based on a novel at all. And if that was the intent, they still could have stuck with the original ending - it could have been interesting to start a sequel with Clarice escaping from Hannibal.
    – Lauren
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 22:35
  • I'm quite sure there have been many sequels where the original is based on a novel, but the sequel is not. Although none come to mind immediately. But even so, your point is well taken; there's always a way to form a sequel; even when the/a main character dies (just ask the Star Trek franchise about this).
    – Flimzy
    Commented Nov 30, 2011 at 22:37
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    @Flimzy Jurrasic Park: (you could argue that the second movie wasn't based on the second novel, but there were only 2 books either way). Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 1:34
  • @ChrisRasys there is also a third movie that definitely wasn't based on any novel. Good point.
    – Lauren
    Commented Dec 2, 2011 at 2:53

2 Answers 2


As I remember it from the book's ending, Hannibal kept Clarice more-or-less continually drugged and they live happily ever after.

The difference is covered in AboutFilm's note on the ending, in 12 paragraphs and a synopsis of the book's ending. An extract:

Admittedly, I haven't read it, but the novel's ending sounds just awful to me. And yet, it still sounds better than the movie's ending. At least the novel's ending explores the psyche of both characters. At least Starling asserts some power, as preposterous as her therapeutic techniques may sound.

Could it be they just didn't have the time to give the book's ending the full treatment it deserved to be fully explored? Hannibal escaping into the sunset is certainly easier and quicker than working through and resolving their psychological problems as mentioned in the synopsis.

It concludes:

In the movie, Hannibal is Starling's self- appointed protector and is the same person from beginning to end. But he's not the same person he was in The Silence of the Lambs, nor is he the same person Harris portrays in his novel, in which Hannibal is not so much trying to protect Starling as he is trying to get her in his clutches. In the novel, as ludicrous as it may sound, we have a transformation and a resolution. That's something we have a right to expect at the end of a trilogy. However, in the movie, Hannibal just flies off into the sunset. He is still an enigma. We're just set up for another sequel, and perhaps another. Don't look now, but Hannibal IX: The Resurrection is just around the corner.

A posting by Lectermate on the Hannibal Lecter Studiolo says:

In an interview, Ridley Scott said about the end of the book that it was too fast, that it should have been another book before we saw Hannibal and Clarice together.

Scott thinks that Hannibal is in love with Clarice but she rather feels some kind of respect for him, that's why he decided to do another end for his film.

To which Clariz replied:

That is what he said in the interview, but in real life, there was a big ado, between TH [Thomas Harris, author], Dino/Martha [De Laurentiis/Schumacher, producers] and [director Ridley] Scott, whereupon TH didn't want to agree to the modified ending.

After they were locked for 5 days engaged in the argument. TH gave in, not without a feeling of disappointment.

What it odd here, is that the book was written with the foreknowledge that it will turn into a movie. When it was finished up and up until the production of the movie began it seemed clear that the book ending would prevail. Dino and Martha had approved it.

It always seemed as if they modified the ending to the movie with the idea of a sequel. Scott definitely had a sequel in mind. One wonders if he actually READ the book or just an abridgment.

There is no substantiation that might lead even remotely to believe that TH wrote the ending of the book to satisfy any fans. That would be soooooooo unlike TH...


Answering to this^: "As I remember it from the book's ending, Hannibal kept Clarice more-or-less continually drugged and they live happily ever after."

Actually the book specifically says that Starling is not drugged for a while now when Barney and his gf (Lillian?) are in the same Opera Hall a while after the famous brain dinner, so she stays with Lecter completely in free will. I actually got the impression than even when Starling was drugged, Lecter made sure nothing done to her or in her presence was against her will. He even trusted her to carry her gun (actually late Brigham's gun). As for the movie ending, it is disappointing because the book version with Lecter's full "treatment" he gave Starling is so much more complex (and nerve wrecking) and it could easily made into the movie, the both of them finding the only equal in (almost) the entire world, especially after Starling was betrayed by the FBI.

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