15 Director’s Cuts That Improve The Movie

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON January 26th, 2024
Director’s Cuts that Improve the Movie

Hollywood studios and movie directors have a long and complicated history. As movie executives usually interfere with the filmmaker’s vision, it might be surprising to know that the cinematic cut of a movie is possibly a toned-down version of the original idea. As a result, the directors are forced to release their own cuts which turn out to be much better than the ones released in cinemas. Here are the best director’s cuts that improve the movie:


15. Daredevil (2004)

Daredevil 2003

Ben Affleck’s portrayal of Daredevil and the overall movie of the same name received such hostile criticism that he became hesitant to play another superhero ever again. That all changed when director Zack Snyder offered him the role of Batman. Though Affleck was a pretty darn good Caped Crusader, his take on Daredevil was left much to desire. At least that is what you are likely to believe by watching the theatrical cut.

Upon the release of the director’s cut of Daredevil, it was apparent that the theatrical cut had chopped out the best parts. What makes the R-rated director’s cut of the movie a superior version is the abundant action sequences, Matt Murdock’s struggle to cope with his Catholic upbringing, the focus on his relationship with Elektra Natchios being reduced, and a subplot involving the drug-addicted criminal Dante Jackson portrayed by rapper Coolio.


14. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Kingdom of Heaven 2005

Directed by Ridley Scott, the filmmaker had previously released several masterpieces such as Gladiator and Alien so surely the Kingdom of Heaven stood a chance of having the same fate. However, 20th Century Fox’s penchant for reducing the running time for their movies is well documented and the movie was no exception.

The studio cut 45 minutes from the originally three-hour-long historical drama movie and this caused the elimination of key plot points. The theatrical cut approved by Fox was slammed by critics and it was not until the release of the director’s cut of the movie (which included the deleted 45 minutes) that it earned a much-needed re-evaluation.


13. Hellboy: Unrated Director’s Cut (2004)

Hellboy Unrated Directors Cut 2004

Director Guillermo del Toro’s gritty take on the Dark Horse Comics character was one for the ages. As far as the director’s cut of the movie is concerned, it is nearly 11 minutes longer. Released half a year after the theatrical cut, several scenes are extended and character development is the primary focus.

Other notable changes include subplots for the villains and the addition of more scenes involving Liz Sherman and John Myers. Though the director’s cut does not have major differences from the cinematic cut, it goes to show that even minor tweaks can be responsible for a much better movie.


12. Troy: Director’s Cut (2007)

Troy Directors Cut 2007

Though the cinematic version of Troy was impressive enough, Warner Home Video aimed to replicate similar feedback with the director’s cut and spent more than $1 million on it. With the addition of 30 minutes, the new version has a running time of 196 minutes and was even theatrically screened in Germany.

The major difference between the original cut and the director’s cut is that the latter has multiple scenes that are either extended or recut. The love and battle scenes are particularly prolonged which blends perfectly with the mature tone of the movie.


11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition (1980)

Close Encounters of the Third Kind The Special Edition 1980

Despite being a box office success and winning two Academy Awards out of nine nominations, Steven Spielberg was not satisfied with the theatrical cut of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. If it were not for the financial problems being faced by Columbia Pictures, the director would have taken six more months to work on the movie instead of releasing it sooner.

After the commercial success of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Columbia Pictures poured in $1.5 million for Spielberg’s version of the movie. The director deleted 10 minutes from the theatrical cut and added 7 minutes of new footage which included the iconic scene that took place inside the alien spaceship. If one thing is for certain, it is that a director’s cut does not always have to be longer than the theatrical cut to be impressive.


10. Watchmen: Director’s Cut (2009)

Watchmen Directors Cut 2009

Fresh off the mammoth success of 300, all eyes were on Zack Snyder’s next movie project which was also based on a graphic novel. Watchmen divided comic fans and movie critics alike. Whereas epic cinematography, dark themes, and captivating action sequences were universally praised.

Snyder’s knack for releasing the director cuts goes way back and his version of Watchmen had 24 minutes of additional footage. Extending to three hours, it became even more faithful to Alan Moore’s graphic novel. An even longer version titled Ultimate Cut was released four months after the director’s cut but when it comes to superiority, the latter is worth the watch.


9. Touch of Evil (1998)

Touch of Evil 1998

Owing to the creative differences between the executives of Universal-International (now renamed Universal Pictures) and director Orson Welles during the post-production of Touch of Evil, the latter was booted off from the project. The studio subsequently conducted reshoots and re-edited the movie. Welles was livid and wrote a 58-page long memo in which he described the vision that he had in mind.

40 years after the release of Touch of Evil, veteran film editor Walter Murch (best known for his work on Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, and The Godfather Part III) came up with a much more satisfying version of the movie as he took guidance from Welles’ memo. Though the director had passed away and never saw his vision come to life, his daughter Beatrice loved it.


8. The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone (2020)

The Godfather Coda The Death of Michael Corleone 2020

When director Francis Ford Coppola and writer Mario Puzo wrote the script of the third installment of The Godfather franchise, they originally titled the movie The Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone. Receiving mixed reviews from longtime fans, the movie is a step backward and is the only installment from the trilogy to not win even a single Academy Award.

On the 30th anniversary of the theatrical cut, director Coppola released a new cut of the movie with the original title. Numerous scenes were re-edited or repositioned to the point of the movie having an entirely different beginning and ending. Overall, it has a lot more clarity. Though The Godfather, Coda is not as impressive as the previous two installments, it is a massive improvement when compared to the theatrical cut.


7. Batman v. Superman: Ultimate Edition (2016)

Batman v Superman Ultimate Edition 2016

What could have been one of the greatest superhero movies of all time turned out to be a tear-jerking story of two momma boys becoming instant besties after finding out that their mothers share the same name. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice was easily the most anticipated movie of 2016 but due to a plethora of reasons such as the weak plot, poor pacing, messy fight scenes, and a terrible portrayal of Lex Luther by Jesse Eisenberg, the movie ended up as a critical and commercial dud.

However, the superhero flick was given a new lease on life after the release of Batman v. Superman: Ultimate Edition on Blu-Ry and DVD. Featuring 31 extra minutes of footage, additional characters including a cameo by Jon Stewart, and an R rating, it received considerably better reviews and serves as one of the prime examples of why the studio should not interfere with the director’s vision.


6. Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006)

Superman II The Richard Donner Cut 2006

Due to the strained relationships between producer Pierre Spengler and executive producers Alexander Salkind and Ilya Salkind, director Richard Donner was fired after shooting 75% of Superman II. His replacement Richard Lester was less than stellar and received tremendous criticism, particularly for including comedic scenes in the movie which felt out of place when compared to Donner’s vision.

Under Lester’s direction, most of the scenes were re-shot, Marlon Brando’s scenes were discarded, and worst of all, Gene Hackman refused to return for reshoots. As a result, the much-anticipated sequel turned out to be a dissatisfactory product.

When Donner was finally given the chance to rework the project, his cut of the movie was not only better but felt like a completely different version that did justice to the beloved superhero’s character.


5. Blade Runner: The Final Cut (2007)

Blade Runner The Final Cut 2007

The neo-noir science fiction crime movie Blade Runner was way ahead of its time but Warner Bros. was against its dark tone. The studio was particularly against the ambiguous ending of Rick Deckard possibly being a replicant and decided to have it replaced with him and Rachael traveling into the daylight.

Further changes made the movie quite confusing and the studio relied on a voiceover by Harrison Ford to address such scenes. Blade Runner received mixed reviews upon its release and as the years went by, multiple versions of the movie were released such as the International Cut, Theatrical Cut, and the Director’s Cut. It was not until 2007 – 25 years after the movie’s release – when director Ridley Scott released his vision of the movie under the banner of the Final Cut which is arguably the best version of Blade Runner.


4. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Zack Snyders Justice League 2021

Ever since the critical disaster of the original Justice League, fans heavily demanded Warner Bros. release Zack Snyder’s authentic take on the movie. After four years of online campaigns by hardcore fans and even the leading stars, the heavily anticipated director’s cut was finally released. It was worth the wait and the hype as well since this superior version might as well be Snyder’s most ambitious project so far.

Popularly known as The Snyder Cut, the movie is four hours long but is worth every minute. Principal actors such as Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Henry Cavill were brought back for reshoots whereas Jared Leto finally achieved redemption by portraying a decent version of the Joker. If Warner Bros. realizes the cinematic masterpiece they have in their hands, they would restore the SnyderVerse as well. 


3. Apocalypse Now Redux (2001)

Apocalypse Now Redux 2001 Director Cut

Set in the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is widely considered director Francis Ford Coppola’s greatest film after the first two The Godfather installments. Though the original cut of the movie is a masterpiece, the Redux version made it even better. It has extra footage of 49 minutes to incorporate even more iconic scenes including one in which Colonel Walter Kurtz read about the war from a Time magazine while being surrounded by Cambodian children.

One might argue that Apocalypse Now: Final Cut is even better since it is director Coppola’s preferred version and he even claimed it to be superior in terms of looks and sound despite having a shorter length. When it comes to superiority, Chillopedia has to side with Apocalypse Now Redux.


2. The Return of the King: Extended Edition (2003)

The Return of the King Extended Edition 2003

Though the third installment of The Lord of the Rings received critical acclaim and set a record for most Academy Award victories by reigning supreme in eleven categories, it still had room for improvement. The extended edition of the movie was an answer to all of the possible shortcomings and it did not disappoint.

Clocking at 251 minutes, the extended version of The Return of the King features several additional characters such as Gríma Wormtongue and the Mouth of Sauron. Most importantly, Christopher Lee’s portrayal of Saruman the White was restored. Despite being the main villain, all of his scenes were cut from the theatrical version of the movie. What the hell, Peter Jackson?


1. Once Upon A Time in America (1984)

Once Upon A Time in America 1984

Very few filmmakers have an impeccable record like Sergio Leone but his reputation was almost blemished when his final movie Once Upon A Time In America was released. The Italian director spent ten years working on his project and even declined the opportunity to direct The Godfather to do so.

Initially intended to be two three-hour movies, Leone reduced it to a single 3.81-hour movie. The studio further reduced it to 2.31 hours without Leone’s approval and the movie became disarrayed that was mercilessly thrashed by critics. To add insult to injury, the movie earned a mere $5.3 million against a gigantic budget of $30 million. It was only after Leone’s death that his 229-minute cut was released, leading Once Upon A Time In America to being hailed as one of the greatest crime movies of all time.


Honorable Mentions

  • Waterworld (1995)
  • The Wild Bunch: The Original Director’s Cut (1995)
  • Doctor Sleep (2020)

Did we miss any noteworthy title on our list of director’s cuts that improve the movie? Let us know in the comments below!

Leave a Comment