The “Director’s Cut” sometimes gets a bad wrap. Most still think of the term as a desperate marketing gimmick for people to buy additional DVD and Blu-rays. There are instances where a director’s cut actually improves upon the theatrical version however, even sometimes providing a whole other movie in the process. There are other instances where consumers were right to be weary. As bad as it sounds, sometimes a movie studio might know best.
The next fifteen films on this list were taken down a peg or two from a director’s cut that tarnishes the original film, making a classic movie into something else entirely. Storylines can be altered, characters can be added or cut, and in some instances, tone is drastically altered. No one’s saying that the director’s vision shouldn’t come to fruition, but it doesn’t mean you have to like it better than the original.
Here are the 15 Director’s Cuts That Ruined the Movie.
15. Apocalypse Now
It would be pretty tough to name a perfect film, but if you were hard pressed to come up with an answer, Apocalypse Now is as good as any. Francis Ford Coppola’s signature Vietnam War epic follows Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard down the river in his quest to assassinate the deranged Col. Kurtz (Marlon Brando). Frequently named on critics’ “best movies of all time” lists, Apocalypse Now is almost universally regarded as one of the greatest that’s ever been done, with almost nothing to improve on.
Director Coppola might not agree however. Years after the theatrical release he pieced together an even longer version of the film titled Apocalypse Now: Redux, featuring extended scenes and even entirely new sequences. Unfortunately, the new material makes the film seem clumpy and over stuffed. The scene that lingers on the French plantation is meant to represent the calm before the storm, but most audiences probably use that time to go to the bathroom or get themselves a snack. We realize we put this film on both our best and worst lists of director’s cuts, because in the end it’s a little bit of both. We admit that this certainly is by no means the worst director’s cut in existence, just that it adds very little to Coppola’s already fantastic epic.
14. Bad Santa
Remember that fantastic black comedy movie Bad Santa? It’s the one that stars Bill Bob Thorton as an alcoholic conman that poses as a mall Santa in order to rob their safe on Christmas Eve. It’s rude, crude, and most of all, hilarious. You might feel ashamed laughing at some of the things in Bad Santa (like Billy Bob mercilessly beating up teenagers), but you will also find yourself laughing.
You might not find yourself laughing however if you choose to pop in Terry Zwigoff’s director’s cut this Christmas, as most of the funny bits from the film are edited out as a result. Usually the director’s version of the film will have added scenes and a bigger runtime, but Zwigoff breaks ground by making his film shorter, and ultimately a lot less humorous. As a result, Bad Santa comes off far more depressing, and even though there are some moments in the theatrical cut that get a bit too real, this version will no doubt have you down in the dumps permanently for the holidays. Let’s hope Bad Santa 2 sticks to what made the first one so funny.
13. Dawn of the Dead
In the realm of zombie-cinema, nobody rivals George A. Romero, who practically invented the genre with the original Night of the Living Dead. Romero decided to follow up on that success with Dawn of the Dead, which is rightfully regarded as one of the best horror movies thanks to its gruesome effects and clever use of consumer satire. Fans of the film have sung praises both about its theatrical cut and European edited version, but almost nobody prefers the “director’s cut.”
More commonly referred to as the “extended cut” (Romero edited the original theatrical version and has said he likes it better), the movie offers almost fifteen minutes of additional footage, but unfortunately, none of it goes anywhere. It’s mostly just clunky exposition that doesn’t offer any new answers, and only serves to grind down the narrative to a screeching halt. Though diehard fans may give it a watch, this extended version is a lifeless shell of the superior theatrical cut, much like the zombies in the movie.
12. Donnie Darko
We’ll admit that it can be kind of hard to understand what is exactly happening in Donnie Darko. With a plot that involves wormholes, imaginary humanoid rabbits, time travel, and young teen angst, it can be difficult to get a grip on things. That didn’t stop director Richard Kelly’s debut from becoming a cult phenomenon however. The massive popularity after Donnie Darko was released on home entertainment even inspired Kelly to release a new cut of his film, though we wish the director would have gone back in time himself to stop him from doing it.
Making use of most of the deleted scenes from the theatrical version, the new cut of Donne Darko might be easier to follow, but it loses most of its mystique in the process. Sometimes, it’s better to leave certain things unexplained. The debates that the original version sparked about the mysterious ending are pretty much a wash here. Kelly offers perhaps too many lines to connect the dots, and as a result, the thing that made Donnie Darko great in the first place is lost.
11. Anchorman 2
Anchorman 2 arrived in theaters nine years after the original, and while it certainly won’t be the pop-culture icon its predecessor was (it was kind of a big deal), no one can argue that it wasn’t funny. Though some of the jokes, or most of the jokes depending on who you ask, don’t land, there’s still something about the Will Ferrell/Adam McKay mashup that remains some part alluring. When the sequel was released on home entertainment, McKay and the Studio treated fans to a “Supersize” cut, which was half an hour longer, and advertised as containing 763 new jokes.
Whether somebody actually sat down and counted how many new gags are in this cut doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Supersize version of Anchorman 2 feels twice as long, and half as funny. Many of the gags here fall flat on their face, with a number of unfunny characters get extra screen time while funnier ones are downsized (Steve Carell’s hilarious and awkward Brick Tamland is surprisingly underplayed here). Though some of the improvisation works, and it’s still far from a bad movie, Anchorman 2 “Supersize” just doesn’t bring the laughs quite like the theatrical version.
10. A Perfect Getaway
The man behind the ever popular Pitch Black series, director David Twohy’s 2009 film A Perfect Getaway is one of the decade’s most underrated thrillers, with some mind-bending twists to boot. Unfortunately, it was ignored by most critics and received a lukewarm box office reception upon its released. While being prepped for home entertainment, Twhohy took the opportunity to go back and cut a longer version of the film. To wet the appetite of fans’ mouths even more (what few of them there were), Twohy even slapped the word “unrated” on his new edition to pander to audiences.
“Unrated” however does not necessarily mean better. The few additional scenes added do more to bog down the film than they do service it. Included is a bizarre flashback sequence that spoils a third act twist, as well as scene with a number of topless women sunbathing on a secluded beach. The first cut of A Perfect Getaway works because of how tight and crisp it is, while the “unrated” cut does nothing but offer a few extra scenes of nudity.
9. The Warriors
There’s a saying that goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Often times, a theatrical version of a movie might work so well, a director’s cut seems unnecessary. Such is the case with 1979’s The Warriors, a cult classic of legendary proportions. Every action junkie knows the story of these NY City gangs, who “bop” and fight their way back home to Coney Island in a dystopian society.
Years went by without the movie ever being altered, until the videogame company RockStar decided to make a game based on the cult hit. As a tie-in to the videogame release, director Walter Hill pieced together an “Ultimate Director’s Cut,” which did nothing but add unnecessary “comic-book” transitions between scenes. Transitions mind you that disrupted the natural pacing of the movie. Fans everywhere were baffled when colorful, animated sequences cropped up on top of real footage when they bought this newest version of their favorite cult movie. We would say skip this “ultimate” cut altogether and just stick to the original where the Warriors really come out to play.
8. Team America: World Police
Is it possible to cross the line in cinema in terms of violence, sexuality, and language? If you asked Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators behind South Park, they would probably say no. Nobody has done battle with the censors more than Parker and Stone, and in 2004 they had their biggest battle yet with the release of their new movie, Team America: World Police. For a film that featured puppets on string, Team America was being hailed as one of the year’s raunchiest comedies, filled with gross out gags that would make the most seasoned moviegoer’s stomach turn.
But that’s nothing compared to what was being said later on with the directors released their “Uncensored and Unrated” cut of the film. There are exploding bodies, graphic bullet wounds, and an infamously longer version of the already uncomfortable sex scene. No one’s saying that gross out gags in movies aren’t fun, but Team America’s unrated cut flirts on the line between funny, and uncomfortable. There are some things in life that can’t be unseen, and this movie’s puppet sex scene is one of them.
7. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
Is there anyone out there in the vast reaches of space that doesn’t love the movie E.T.? Steven Spielberg’s 1982 achievement gained universal praise from critics, and was a bona fide hit among movie goers. Like most of Spielberg’s films, the sci-fi/fantasy has since gone on to become a classic, and just like any classic, it shouldn’t be altered or tampered with.
Spielberg has since then expressed his regret for his director’s cut of the movie, which removed all of the guns in the film using digital effects, and instead replaced them with walkie-talkies. At the time it seemed like a good idea; don’t have authority figures with guns around children. But in the end it came off as rather annoying, and that was just the tip of the ice burg. Other digital effects were used to enhance E.T.’s facial expressions, which looked bizarrely out of place. Ironically, by trying to keep his movie more modern, Spielberg instead made E.T. the Extra Terrestrial look far more dated.
6. Pearl Harbor
Most would be inclined to agree that Pearl Harbor wasn’t the best movie to start with. Director Michael Bay had taken more than a few liberties when it came to historical accuracy when shooting his epic about the 1941 bombings on Pearl Harbor. Likewise, most didn’t seem to warm up to the fact that the majority of the story focused on a snooze-fest of a love triangle between the characters of Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett and Kate Beckinsale. Still, the movie was at least entertaining for only for its excessive action sequences.
That’s more than can be said of Bay’s director’s cut, which is only awarded points here because it makes a passable movie the slightest bit less passable. In all honesty, the director’s cut of Pearl Harbor is only minutes longer that the theatrical version, but those few minutes don’t really amount to much of anything. There are enhanced visuals, and a few of the scenes are extended, but there’s no real payoff to the viewer. The movie is essentially the same thing, which begs the question: Why would Michael Bay make a director’s cut to begin with?
5. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
With films like Knocked Up, Trainwreck and The 40-Year-Old Virgin under his belt, Judd Apatow has created some of the most popular comedies of the last decade. That doesn’t mean that his films are perfect however. The thing that Apatow seems to struggle with the most in his productions is editing them down. Many of the director’s movies suffer from scenes that don’t seem to go anywhere and play out for far too long. This is even more apparent in the “Unrated” versions of his films, most especially that of The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
A lot of the additional footage in this 2004 comedy just seems to be discussions that take up time. It’s not necessarily a bad thing; the theatrical was filled with hilarious dialog that often offered nothing to the narrative, and often times it worked. But here the added footage just seems rather pointless, causing the movie to drag where it didn’t need to. It’s still funny, but this unrated version doesn’t offer much but a few extra scenes of nudity and gross-out humor that don’t exactly service the plot.
4. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The extended edition of Close Encounters of the Third Kind marks a rare occasion where the director regrets his own recut. Like E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Spielberg went back to Close Encounters years later to create a “Special Edition.” It turned out to be more of a “Regretted Edition,” not just by the director himself, but the many fans of the theatrical version.
At the end of Richard Dreyfuss’ journey in Close Encounters, his character climbs aboard a starship and heads for the skies. It was a satisfying enough conclusion based on mystery alone, so when the director’s cut actually shows the inside of the spaceship, the movie loses that sense of wonder and mystery. The director also made the puzzling decision to add additional scenes to the new cut, but shorten some of the others which made in into the original. In an interview in a making-of documentary, Spielberg later expressed regret: “I never should have shown the inside of the mothership.” We would have to agree Mr. Spielberg.
3. Dumb and Dumber
Thanks to some fantastic off-the-wall performances from Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels (want to hear the most annoying sound in the world ?), Dumb and Dumber is one of the most celebrated comedies in movie history. It’s also one of the most altered. There are at least three versions of the movie, including an “Unrated” cut that restores most of the gross out humor that didn’t make it into the theatrical version.
Unlike most Farrelly Brother movies, the lewd content here changes the film’s tone for the worse, morphing Harry and Lloyd from losable losers to borderline creeps.Most of the scenes in the “Unrated” version are almost downright uncomfortable, like actually hearing Mental strangle Harry’s pet bird. Other scenes are made way more disgusting. When Seabass spits into Harry’s burger, instead of panning away to Lloyd’s face we actually see the giant wad of mucus. Grosser, yes, but funnier? We don’t think so.
2. Sin City
Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel, Robert Rodriguez’s Sin City is hailed as one of the most faithful comic book adaptations of all time. Leaping off from the page to the screen, it really does appear as if this 2004 neo-noir is actually a moving comic. Still, there were some scenes from the source material that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film. That’s why when Sin City was released on a “Special Edition” DVD Rodriguez included an alternate cut with as many as ten new scenes. These new scenes stick closer to the comics, but doesn’t exactly add up to a better movie.
The added footage does little to forward the narrative in the film, and that includes all three separate stories. Every bit of the comics is transformed onto the screen but they are of little importance. These include a scene with Marv breaking into his mother’s house to fetch his pistol, and a slightly longer confrontation scene between Shelly and Jackie Boy. Worse yet is that the film pieces all of the stories in the movie together, which means instead of beginning and ending with Hartigan’s story, it’s crammed into one long segment. It may be more like the comic, but the film ceases to play out like the original movie, and is infinitely weaker for it.
1. Star Wars OT
How could we have given the top spot to anything else? When George Lucas announced he would bereleasing his original trilogy of Star Wars films in theaters in 1997, fans everywhere showed up in drones. When they finally laid eyes on the re-mastered versions of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, one couldn’t help but notice the string of differences than when they had first laid eyes on the space opera years before.
Many of the changes were insignificant; a few added CGI rocks there, a digitalized Dewback here. Replacing a Stormtrooper’s voice isn’t really something to throw up one’s arms about, but when changes are made to alter certain character’s motivations, there arises the biggest problem. Perhaps the most infamous altercation is a scene that involves Harrison Ford’s Han Solo with Greedo the bounty hunter. The original had Solo preemptively strike his enemy by shooting him dead. The Special Edition changes the confrontation to have Solo countering an attack, changing the character’s “antihero” persona to make him more likable. This sparked a number of fanboy battle-cries like “Han Shot First,” and led many down a discussion of just how much should a director be allowed to alter their own movies.
Along with a number of other disliked changes (that Vader “NO!” at the end of Jedi certainly doesn’t help) Star Wars fans everywhere have desperately clung to the hope that the trilogy might someday be released in their original theatrical glory. With the property now belonging to Disney, that hope might finally become a reality.
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