Whether it’s due to a tight budget or creative differences, sometimes a film doesn’t turn out the way a director hopes. Shorter films used to perform better at the box office because attention spans were higher and shorter films could be shown in theaters more often per day. Although after blockbusters like Avengers: Endgame And dune, more and more films are trending towards longer running times; even the new The Batman had a four hour test screening. Typically, however, a producer’s demands for shorter running times or lower production costs outweigh a director’s ambitions. While this benefits and improves many films, it is not uncommon for a director to release their version of the film for home viewing.
Most recently, fans have been lobbying for the release of the Snyder cut of for years Justice League after the film’s disappointing theatrical release. The Snyder Cut He famously changed the entire Justice League movie in almost every way, including the structure and characters (and even made it black and white). The entire film seems more serious than Joss Whedon’s version. Of course, this wasn’t the only director’s cut that dramatically changed the film. Here are five films with director cuts that differ significantly from theatrical releases.
Updated September 9, 2023 by Evan Lewis: This article has been updated with additional content to keep the discussion fresh and relevant with even more information and new entries.
James Cameron’s Aliens was considered overwhelmingly good in 1986 and still holds up today. However, the fact that it is a director’s cut does not mean that it is the better version. The theatrical release ultimately seems like a more well-thought-out overall work, the story of which seems more straightforward and understandable. In the 17 additional minutes, the Director’s Cut gives us more backstory and character moments that we wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
There is also a greater mystery because certain discoveries are being withheld for longer than they were originally. Both are worth checking out for everyone, but the special edition might provide a new sense of excitement for people who haven’t yet seen the new content.
Zack Snyder has already made the ultra-long “real” version of one of his films Justice League. There are two alternative versions of Guardian: the director’s cut; 186 minutes long and the Ultimate Cut; 215 minutes long. The new runtime focuses primarily on the Director’s Cut and provides a deeper look into the characters’ backstories and more context about their motivations. It is more similar to the graphic novel and for this reason is often the go-to version.
The Ultimate Cut goes one step further and includes an animated version of Tales of the Black Freighter (this universe’s comics focus on the supernatural rather than heroes); It’s meant to reflect Ozymandias’ character arc and serves as a sort of foreshadowing. The graphic novel was considered unsuitable for a long time, but somehow Snyder managed to pull it off for the most part.
No, we’re not talking about the critically acclaimed Netflix series. Daredevil He made his live-action debut in 2003 when Ben Affleck took on the lead role of the titular anti-hero. This film did quite well at the box office; $179.2 million on a budget of $78 million.
However, there was nothing revolutionary about his numbers, and instead of boosting Daredevil, the actual content of the film turned most people away from the character. The R-Rated Director’s Cut can address some of the criticisms with its 30 minutes of additional footage. It has more intention and the darker tone suits Daredevil. Murdock’s legal career also feels much more connected to the story in this version. It’s not perfect by any means, as you can’t delete all the bad parts, but it’s still a huge improvement over the original.
7 The abyss
Before he focused mainly on the Avatar James Cameron dabbled in science fiction and underwater thrills The abyss in 1989. The theatrical release was quite good and the drama of being stuck under the blue sea was enough to earn the film four Oscar nominations.
That being said, the extended cut adds a lot more depth and character development to an already serviceable narrative. The notable additional scenes provide the Cold War as a backdrop and add even more motivation to the character’s actions. The main difference, however, may be the ending of the extended cut, in which the antagonist aliens send megatsunamis across the planet that can lead to mass extinction, but they are stopped just before they cause damage.
6 Superman II
Superman has a history of directors leaving or being replaced mid-production. Superman II began directed by Richard Donner, but his vision for the film was very expensive. When the film became too expensive for his superiors, he was replaced by Richard Lester, who remade almost the entire film.
Even for the director’s cut, Donner didn’t have the opportunity to film everything he wanted, making the film feel less like a film and more like a rough cut. In Donner’s versionFrom the beginning, Lois Lane figures out Superman’s secret identity by firing blank bullets at Clark Kent. The film also does a better job of explaining why and how Superman gives up his powers. Donner also changes aspects of the villains’ story – Lex Luther gets more screen time and Zod’s minions get new (albeit ridiculous) powers in the final fight scene.
5 Apocalypse now
Some would say that Apocalypse now is one of the best films of all time, one of the scariest non-horror films, and countless other great odes to Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece.
What casual fans may not know is that there is a more definitive edition of the film with nearly an hour of additional footage to further refine it and provide a deeply unique viewing experience. Apocalypse Now Redux, which came out decades after the original in 2001, is Coppola’s intended vision and is significantly different in many ways. Some argued that the three-hour odyssey was far too long and slowed the film down in a way that made it seem inferior, but that would simply come down to personal preference when it comes to films that are slow and have extremely long running times.
4 Little shop of horrors
Some people love it and some people can’t get over how weird it is. Little shop of horrors tells the story of an alien who strangely looks like a Venus flytrap. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t take itself seriously and gets more colorful as it goes along. In a mix of genre tropes, this film (one of the few remakes that improves on the original) combines horror with comedy and musicals with science fiction.
The director’s version of the film held nothing back. Instead of the happy ending of the theatrical release, the director’s cut shows how the aliens conquer the world. In the final musical number, “Don’t Feed the Plants,” the murderous Flytrap summons his friends from outer space, all of whom crash into buildings and destroy the Earth. Some people find this hilarious ending more in keeping with the craziness and theme of the film and find it gratifying to see director Frank Oz, the famous Muppeteer, become so nihilistic. However, test audiences didn’t like the sudden cynicism, and producers changed the theatrical ending to the fairytale ending we know today.
3 Once Upon a Time in America
Once Upon a Time in America tells the story of David Aaronson, who tries to enter society as a “self-made” man after making a fortune from piracy. According to EmpireSergio Leon cut the film from its 269-minute original version into a 139-minute version. While the resulting film was much more chronological and efficient, some of the film’s best moments were cut because they were inessential to the basic plot. The film did not perform well at the American box office.
Luckily, the director’s lengthy 251-minute version was released in 2012 for home viewing. With the full backstory returning, the film’s intended depth returned. Widely praised as one of the best crime films of all time, the film features everything from suspense and gore to epic cinematography and insightful characters. The extra time was necessary to properly tell this story and allow room for character development, but this version of the film is less well known, probably in part because of its daunting length.
2 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Most people agree with this Batman vs Superman was a disappointment; It has a Rotten tomatoes Result of at least 27%. Zack Snyder’s cynical take on the main characters and back-to-back action sequences left little room for character development or any real plot. However, half of these concerns were addressed in the director’s cut.
With an additional 30 minutes, Snyder managed to close most of the plot holes and give the characters stronger motivations. The evil genius of Lex Luther emerges as his behind-the-scenes planning and calculations become clearer. Hardcore fans may still disagree with Snyder’s portrayal of the most popular DCEU characters, but at least the director’s cut of the film has a much more compelling plot.
1 Heavenly Kingdom
Here’s another film that didn’t perform well upon its initial release. Ridley Scott’s Heavenly Kingdom wasn’t terrible, but it lacked the depth to be a true blockbuster. The theatrical version did not do well at the box office. With a budget of $130 million, it is only earned back $47 million domestically. Accordingly ColliderThe DVD boom of the early 2000s saved this film. Scott released his planned version of the film on DVD for home viewing, with an additional hour added to the running time, and worldwide opinion of the film improved dramatically.
This new version fundamentally changed the characters by taking the time to build them and their relationships. The main character stays on his toes as he faces one unexpected challenge after another, and the story becomes less about a larger-than-life hero and more about a sympathetic character struggling with loss. Ridley Scott is no stranger to remaking a film into a director’s cut (like Blade Runner I can confirm that), and this director’s cut adds all the depth that the original film lacked and shows that studios and producers sometimes do the exact opposite in an effort to make a hit.