How Did Tony Kaye Want American History X to End?

American History X is a 1998 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye. The movie follows the story of Derek Vinyard, a former neo-nazi skinhead who tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same wrong path that he did.

The film was critically acclaimed and even earned Edward Norton an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. However, the film’s ending has been a topic of debate and curiosity for many viewers. So, how did Tony Kaye want American History X to end?

The Original Ending

The original ending of American History X was significantly different from what we see in the final cut of the movie. According to Tony Kaye, the director, in an interview with The Guardian in 2015, it involved Derek Vinyard committing suicide.

The Details

Kaye revealed that in his original ending, Derek would have gone back to his old neo-nazi ways after his younger brother Danny was killed. In this version, after realizing that he has lost everything that he cared about, including his family and himself, Derek decides to take his own life.

Why Was It Changed?

The studio executives were not on board with this ending and thought it would be too depressing for audiences. They wanted a more hopeful note to end on instead of such a bleak conclusion.

The Current Ending

The current ending sees Derek having a change of heart after realizing that hate and violence only lead to destruction and pain. He tries to prevent his younger brother from going down the same path he did but fails when Danny is killed by a rival gang member.

In the final moments of the movie, we see Derek shaving off his neo-nazi tattoos as a symbol of him letting go of his past beliefs and hatred.

Impact Of The New Ending

The new ending was well-received by audiences and critics, as it provided a sense of hope and redemption for the characters. It also highlighted the importance of understanding and compassion, even in the face of extreme hatred and violence.


In conclusion, Tony Kaye’s original ending for American History X involved Derek Vinyard committing suicide after losing everything he cared about. However, the studio executives thought it was too bleak and wanted a more hopeful ending instead.

The final cut of the movie sees Derek having a change of heart, letting go of his past beliefs, and trying to prevent his younger brother from making the same mistakes he did. This ending has resonated with audiences and critics alike, highlighting the importance of understanding and compassion in the face of hate and violence.