10 Director's Cuts That Made the Movie Better
The Snyder Cut of Justice League has ushered in a strange new era of super long movies. Here are films that made the most out of those extra minutes.
The Snyder Cut of Justice League has ushered in a strange new era of deluxe-edition movies.
Ever since the bloated four-hour behemoth hit streaming services, other directors have started to follow suit and either tease or completely re-package their films. The Godzilla vs. Kong director Adam Wingard recently said he had enough footage for a 5-hour cut of the film. Margot Robbie recently revealed that there is a massive 20-hour-cut of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood.
Regardless of whether these extended editions actually have quality, it seems we're living in a time when super-long films are heavily sought after. In that case, here are some of the best director's cuts over the years — where the extended footage actually brought a newfound depth to the film, unlike with Justice League.
There remain seven different cuts of Blade Runner, and while the runtimes don't fluctuate that much, all seven were surprisingly different films. Even the 1992 Director's Cut of the movie didn't get full approval from Scott.
But 15 years later, the film's Final Cut was dubbed by Scott as his official, unfettered vision. The rendition not only looks better but expands on the coveted Unicorn dream scene. It's the version everyone should watch, but don't expect much additional clarification regarding the film's big question.
While The Special Edition of Aliens deserves a shout-out for its compelling rewrite, Aliens 3 featured the most substantial reworking out of any of the franchise's films. It includes just 37 minutes of extra footage, but those minutes were heavily utilized — in them, Paul McGann's Golic returns to protect the alien and in turn completely changes the deaths of multiple inmates.
The scene where Ripley's escape pod is discovered is also entirely different, as the Alien uses an impregnated ox rather than a dog. Overall, the rework adds a good amount of character development that was absent in the theatrical release.
Zack Snyder's Watchmen had both a Director's Cut and Ultimate Cut, and the latter added an additional 30 minutes to the film, taking the comic's original Tales of the Black Freighter story and sprinkling it throughout. These scenes are animated, and while Snyder said he prefers the Director's Cut, the Ultimate Cut is perfect for die-hard fans of the original comic.
Richard Kelly's bizarre sci-fi outing was initially forced to be a two-hour venture for the theaters. But for the Director's Cut of Donnie Darko, Kelly threw in an array of deleted scenes, including one where Dr. Thurman reveals that Donnie's medication is nothing more than sugar pills. Drew Barrymore's character also is seen teaching Watership Down to her class. Overall, this Director's Cut offers more clarification about the film's ambiguous questions.
Stanley Kubrick's horror film is a certified masterpiece, but for some reason, the director slashed 25 minutes from the film's European version. In that respect, the American version is superior, as it reveals Jack Torrance at one point broke Danny's arm in a drunk attack.
This reveal is massive, as Jack's alcoholism was a heavy focal point in Stephen King's novel. There are also a few more scary scenes, such as one where Wendy encounters a party in a room in the Overlook that is full of skeletons and cobwebs.
Once Upon a Time In America
Once Upon a Time In America
The intense gangster flick's initial release garnered a massive standing ovation at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival. Once Upon a Time in America ran at 269 minutes with one intermission, but in order to get the film approved for a European release, Sergio Leone cut it down to 229 minutes.
The US rollout was cut even more, losing the film's two graphic rape scenes, and it received a tepid critical reception. But in 2012, the Extended Director's Cut added back (most) of what had been lost, bringing it back up to 251 minutes. Subplots were added back in, and the film was given a much-needed narrative boost as a result.
I Am Legend
Only three minutes were added to I Am Legend's alternate version, but those three minutes completely changed the ending of the film. While the original theatrical release found Dr. Neville blowing himself up to save humanity and stop the "Darkseekers" from destroying the virus's cure, the alternative version includes a final interaction between Neville and the Darkseeker's leader.
He tells Neville that the mutant he is tinkering with is his partner, and Neville realizes these Darkseekers can experience human-like emotions. He also realizes that, to these creatures, he is in fact "the legend" that has been murdering and capturing them, a profound realization that shakes Neville to his core—and also leaves him alive.
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
Peter Jackson knew while he was filming his magnum-opus trilogy that he to save a ton of footage for the DVD release, thinking that at-home viewers would tolerate a longer film. In total, the Extended Additions added 128 minutes of glorious extra footage, bringing the total runtime to 11 hours and 26 minutes.
But those moments were well spent, and they added even more depth to an already fully-realized Middle Earth. Galadriel's gift-giving scene, Theodred's funeral, a deeper backstory for Faramir, Saruman's death, and an epic showdown between Gandalf and the Witch King were all included in the Extended Editions. For those who can stomach The Lord of the Rings's gargantuan run-time, Jackson made sure it was time well spent.
Francis Ford Coppola was deeply upset with the theatrical version of Apocalypse Now. After investing so much of his personal time, money, and energy into the project, the film was initially deemed a failure upon its release. Since then Coppola has released two new versions of the project: Redux, and The Final Cut, the latter of which hit streaming back in 2019.
"Some of the greatest artists of their day, we may have never heard of them," Coppola told Rolling Stone. "But the 'failures' like Van Gogh or Rousseau, who had to take his paintings around in a wheelbarrow – you'd give your eyeteeth now to have those paintings."
With all that said, 2019's Final Cut is the superior version of the film. While Redux was a step in the right direction – the edition added some much-needed character development, such as with Brando's Colonel Kurtz – The Final Cut wasn't as scattered and better utilized Redux's narrative arcs to help with the pacing.
Kingdom of Heaven
Kingdom of Heaven
The Director's Cut of Kingdom of Heaven transformed the Ridley Scott epic into a completely different movie. Unfortunately, the director ended up caving to the studio's demands to shorten the runtime and cut 45 minutes from the film to "make it more accessible," but the movie's 2006 Director's Cut includes a handful of subplots and even bloodier fight scenes.
The priest Balian is shown killing his half-brother, and the Gravedigger is given a handful of extended scenes that show him following Balian to Jerusalem. There is also a heartbreaking scene where Sybilla's son is poisoned so he can be spared from the effects of leprosy. All in all, the Director's Cut adds a significant amount of depth to the film that was absent in the theatrical release.