"Director's Cut." "Extended Edition." They sound so cool, but we all know they don't always work. Yes, alternate cuts of our favorite films have been around long before our favorite directors chose to do them. Sometimes, they work for simple cash-grabs, enticing audiences to return to theaters or rebuy their favorite film just to see what else the products have to offer. Other times, the cuts are due to directors not getting to express their true visions the first time around, so they get their chance thanks to the magic of home media.
However, many tend to forget just how talented audiences are as well, as there are a plethora of fan edits floating around that surprisingly make the films better (some have even caught the attention of the films' cast and crew!).
Regardless, these special editions of our favorite classics will continue to be around as long as we show our love and dedication to movies, which is both a good and bad thing to look forward to. So, today, we'll be looking at some prime examples of both instances. Whether we finally get to see a director's true version of their magnum opus after a years-long wait, a dedicated fan's version of a film they felt deserved better, or a shameless retread of a movie with just enough changed to bring us back (but also enough to make us angry with how different the film has become).
So, grab some popcorn and a pillow to yell in as we look at 14 Alternate Versions Of Classic Movies That Saved Them (And 7 That Are Way Worse).
21 Saved: Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice Ultimate Edition
While DC's cinematic universe may be showing promise now, back in 2016, fans were split on how well Zack Snyder's mega-hyped Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice did in establishing the shared universe. However, we shouldn't give Snyder all the blame, as the two-and-a-half hour film we saw in theaters wasn't close enough to his full vision.
To remedy this, an R-rated "Ultimate Edition" was released on home video, containing 30 extra minutes of content. And, while it's still far from another Dark Knight, the cut fills in some of the film's plot holes, provides more time for Superman's journalistic pursuit of Batman, and further teases the universe's future with a special appearance by Justice League villain Steppenwolf.
20 Saved: The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit
Despite Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings film series remaining one of the greatest trilogies of all time, his follow-up prequel trilogy, The Hobbit, has divided fans and critics alike due to its overuse of CGI and troubled production. Due to J.R.R. Tolkien's massive fanbase, it was only a matter of time before fans created their own versions that stuck closer to Tolkien's novel.
While there are several to choose from, perhaps the earliest example is 2015's The Hobbit: The Tolkien Edit, a single four-hour movie (not including credits) created by username "tolkieneditor," which omits several criticized elements of the films. And, while some may take issue with the removal of fan-favorite characters Saruman and Galadriel, everyone can agree that getting rid of Radagast the Brown, Tauriel, and Legolas (save for a small cameo) was for the better.
19 Worse: Once Upon a Deadpool
We hoped it wouldn't happen, but it did. Ahead of Disney's purchase of Fox properties (coincidence?), PG-13 version of Deadpool 2 was released last year as a way of seeing how well the titular anti-hero would fare with younger audiences...and to make more money off the franchise's popularity.
Despite the film gaining about 20 minutes of new footage, its graphic violence and language were toned down, which went over with fans about as well as one would expect. Perhaps Rotten Tomatoes said it best: "Once Upon a Deadpool retains enough of the franchise's anarchic spirit to entertain, but doesn't add enough to Deadpool 2 to justify its own existence."
However, adding a subplot of Deadpool telling the story to a taken Fred Savage in reference to his Princess Bride role was pure genius.
18 Saved: Star Wars Episode I.I: The Phantom Edit
To say George Lucas' 1999 return to a galaxy far, far away was not warmly received by fans would be an understatement. However, this doesn't mean there isn't a decent film hidden amongst all the heavy CGI and Jar Jar antics.
Created in 2001 by Mike J. Nichols, Star Wars Episode I.I: The Phantom Edit was originally thought to be the work of director Kevin Smith (who later admitted to seeing it, calling it "smart editing"). Among the most obvious edits are an alternate opening crawl explaining why the edit was created, the removal of many (but not all) Jar Jar Binks scenes, and limiting its exposition.
For those who wish to see the film, it can be found on VHS and DVD. Nichols also created his own edit of Episode II, titled Episode II.I: Attack of the Phantom.
17 Saved: The Wolverine: Unleashed Extended Edition
Everyone can agree that 2013's The Wolverine was way better than its 2009 predecessor, X-Men Origins: Wolverine (though, that isn't very hard to accomplish), but many still didn't see it as a worthy solo outing for Marvel's favorite mutant. However, even if it didn't get rid of the lackluster Silver Samurai or see Logan receiving his trademark yellow outfit, the unrated cut, dubbed the "Unleashed Extended Edition," was certainly an improvement for the film, with more action, blood, and f-bombs for Logan to drop.
While the cut was only released in the four-disc Blu-ray 3D package as a Blu-ray disc, fans eager to see Hugh Jackman's Wolverine act more comics-accurate can also watch 2017's Logan (the best of the Wolverine trilogy).
16 Worse: Star Wars Trilogy: Special Editions
Comprising the trilogy that spawned arguably the largest fanbase on Earth, George Lucas' original Star Wars films continue to be adored by fans old and new...just not in their original formats.
In 1997, Lucas re-released the trilogy in "Special Editions" to modernize the films in terms of visual effects and to celebrate the forthcoming prequel trilogy. However, the changes were widely seen as "fixing what ain't broke" and overall distracting for audiences. Too many CGI characters were added, Hayden Christensen appeared as a force ghost, and, worst of all, Greedo was depicted as firing at Han first in the cantina, which inspired an infamous campaign.
Numerous edits have been made through the years, with the only way of seeing the original cuts being to own them on VHS or see them in poor quality on the 2006 bonus discs.
15 Saved: Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut
Another example of Zack Snyder not getting to express his full cinematic vision, 2009's Watchmen was adapted from DC's legendary 80s comic series that many deemed "un-filmable." However, while Snyder tried to prove them wrong, the final result polarized audiences upon release...until the release of his "Director's Cut" a few months later.
While Snyder believes this to be his preferred version, an "Ultimate Cut" was also released at the end of the year, which added the 26-minute animated adaptation of Tales of the Black Freighter, a fictional comic within the Watchmen series that features Gerald Butler as the voice of the Captain. Altogether, this cut may sit at just over three-and-a-half hours, but for those who wish to see the closest possible adaptation to the series, this is the version for them.
14 Saved: Daredevil: Director's Cut
Many would like to forget that Ben Affleck ever donned the red suit of Daredevil, but the "Director's Cut" of this 2003 flop may make them reconsider judging the film so harshly.
Released in 2004, this R-rated cut puts more focus on plot points that were limited by the original version, including Matt Murdock's struggle with his Catholic roots and his job as a lawyer. Plus, an additional storyline involving Coolio playing a character hooked on substances on trial is just a treat to see. While the running time is increased by 30 minutes (amounting to a 133-minute runtime), it's seen by many (including the director himself) as the superior version and an underappreciated darker take on the superhero genre.
13 Worse: Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut
A higher Rotten Tomatoes score doesn't make a better movie, which is exactly the case with the 2001 cult classic Donnie Darko and its 2004 "Director's Cut." Centered on a troubled teen (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) dealing with apocalyptic visions, the film was praised by fans and critics for its originality and mysterious aspects. So, fans were flabbergasted when director Richard Kelly decided to include additional scenes to clarify some of the film's mystery.
On top of that, the film's soundtrack was altered to feature "Never Tear Us Apart" by INXS in place of "The Killing Moon" by Echo & the Bunnymen in the opening, leading E&TB lead singer Ian McCulloch to call Kelley a "knobhead."
12 Saved: Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers - The Producer's Cut
Before Jamie Lee Curtis was brought back to save the Halloween franchise (the first time, at least), producers had expanded the series' mythology to include human sacrifices and a cult being the reason behind Michael Myers' immortality, and longtime fans weren't having it. However, while Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers is regarded as one of the series' low-points (which is a shame, since it was Donald Pleasance's final appearance as Doctor Loomis), its altered edition stands far superior to what was released in theaters.
After years of another version, dubbed "The Producer's Cut," being bootlegged by fans, it was released on Blu-ray in 2014. Besides expanding Loomis and Jamie Lloyd's storylines, it also reveals more about the cult's plans and replaces the film's intense ending with a more tragic finale.
11 Saved: Final Destination 3: Choose Their Fate
Final Destination fans generally agree the series experienced a dip in quality with the 2006 third installment. Despite a fine lead performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead and some inventive character demises, the film was noted for beginning the silly tone that would ruin the series' next film. Because of this, the film needed to do something unique to ensure decent home media sales, which is exactly what happened.
By purchasing the film's two-disc "Thrill Ride Edition," viewers are given the chance to control the film with the "Choose Their Fate" option. While those who have already viewed the film may not get much more out of this version, first-time audiences will enjoy the influence they have on character demises. If they decide to, they can even prevent the characters from boarding the roller coaster, which will hilariously end the film immediately.
10 Worse: Spider-Man 2.1
Ranked among the greatest superhero films ever made, 2004's Spider-Man 2, unfortunately, proved another example of filmmakers trying to improve a film that didn't really need improvement in the first place.
To celebrate the release of Spider-Man 3, an extended cut of the film, Spider-Man 2.1, was released in 2007. With only eight extra minutes of footage integrated into the film, one wouldn't think it would make that big a difference. However, while several scenes are unnecessarily extended, the film makes two major mistakes in adding new content: changing the elevator scene's humor to cringe-inducing and adding a scene where we witness J. Jonah Jameson wearing Spider-Man's suit and pretending to shoot webs, which seems completely out-of-character for a man who supposedly hates the hero.
Overall, it's not a bad edit, but was it really necessary for a film that was already so great?
9 Saved: Kingdom Of Heaven: Director's Cut
While Ridley Scott won a Best Picture Oscar for his 2000 epic historical drama Gladiator, lightning didn't strike twice for his 2005 film Kingdom of Heaven. Starring Orlando Bloom as Balian of Ibelin, a historic warrior who helped defend the Kingdom of Jerusalem during the Crusades, the film received lukewarm reviews for its lack of depth and Bloom's underwhelming performance.
Thankfully, the film was given a second chance with its "Director's Cut," and the results were like night and day. The new cut has garnered larger praise from critics, with IGN calling it "a huge improvement." However, viewers be warned: while the original cut was already nearly two-and-a-half hours long, the new version clocks in at over three hours, making for an epic adventure only dedicated fans can sit through.
8 Saved: Waterworld: The Ulysses Cut
It's truly a shame that what was then the most expensive film ever made turned in such a disappointing box-office gross, as nobody can deny the creative vision that made it to the big screen in 1995's Waterworld. While it will never be seen as a "great" film due to star Kevin Costner's uninterested acting, two additional versions of the project have made it even more fun to watch.
In 1997, ABC broadcast an extended cut that ran about 40 minutes longer (amounting to a nearly-three-hour movie), albeit with edited mature material. Because of this, a European cut including the mature content began surfacing online (dubbed "The Ulysses Cut" in reference to a new scene at the end).
In 2018, all three versions were made available in a three-disc limited edition Blu-ray to allow fans and curious moviegoers to enjoy this gone-but-not-forgotten epic.
7 Worse: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind: Special Edition
Even though it is frequently ranked as one of his greatest films, Steven Spielberg desired to make his own director's cut of his 1977 masterpiece, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Naturally, Columbia Pictures agreed, but on the condition that he reveal what was inside the mothership to give audiences a big reason to see it again. While Spielberg didn't want to show such a thing, he nonetheless agreed and released the "Special Edition" of the film in 1980.
Turns out, Spielberg was right, as revealing the interior of the mothership takes away much of the mystery present in the original cut. Along with this, other scenes are added, deleted, and moved around. Thankfully, Spielberg released a definitive cut in 1998 that runs longer than the original and, more importantly, got rid of the mothership reveal.
6 Saved: The Exorcist III: Legion
Audiences weren't expecting a third entry in the Exorcist franchise following the failure of Exorcist II: The Heretic. However, it happened, and, while it was undoubtedly a step-up (thanks to the direction of William Peter Blatty, author of the original Exorcist novel), its overall effectiveness still divided critics.
Over the years, Blatty had expressed interest in acquiring some missing footage to make his ultimate cut. In 2016, it seemed like he would finally get his wish, as the film was released in a two-disc "Collector's Edition," with the second disc containing a director's cut titled Legion (after the novel the film is based on).
While closer to Blatty's vision, producer Cliff MacMillan revealed it was "a composite of varying footage quality from the best available sources." So, while we'll likely never see Blatty's original film, this is the next best thing.
5 Saved: Alexander: The Ultimate Cut
Oliver Stone's 2004 epic Alexander may have been forgotten by audiences upon release, but it now shines as a prime example of a filmmaker never giving up until perfecting their vision. Despite having three alternate versions to choose from, we had to go with the most recent (and hopefully final) version, "The Ultimate Cut."
Increasing the film's runtime from 175 minutes to a staggering 206 (which is actually shorter than its previous version), the new cut shifted its scenes around to break the film's boring chronology and, of course, add more sword-fighting action, which altogether breathes new life into Stone's magnum opus. Unfortunately, no matter which version fans watch, Colin Farrell's hair will always look out of place...
4 Worse: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues - Super-Sized R-Rated Version
Though fans didn't find the 2013 Anchorman sequel as fresh as the original (which is still frequently-quoted today), it nonetheless proved an entertaining and funny time at the theaters. And, while most fans would jump at the chance to see more of Ron Burgundy and his crew, an R-rated cut of Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues probably isn't what they had in mind.
Promising a total of 763 new jokes, the "Super-Sized R-rated Version" played in theaters for a week, hoping to draw in more box-office profits for the film. However, while some fans took the bait, it ultimately didn't pay off, as most of the bonus jokes felt unnecessary and, even worse, unfunny. Burgundy's podcast will have to be pretty good for fans to forgive him for this misstep.
3 Saved: Once Upon a Time in America: Extended Director's Cut
For any fan of crime dramas, this film stands among the best as a must-see. Just be prepared to sit back for around four hours to enjoy this ride in its true form.
Released in 1984 by famed Spaghetti Western director Sergio Leone and starring Robert De Niro and James Woods as two Jewish New York gangsters, the film had a lot to live up to upon release. Unfortunately, due to massive cuts (resulting in a vastly-shortened runtime of 139 minutes) and a reordering of scenes, the film was not well-received by American critics.
To remedy this, the 229-minute European cut was later released on DVD and Blu-ray, receiving greater acclaim. And, for those who wish to see the longest version currently available, the massive 251-minute "Extended Director's Cut" has been made available on a two-disc Blu-ray set.
2 Saved: The New World: The Extended Cut
Amazingly, we have another forgotten historical gem starring Colin Farrell that was improved upon by a director's cut. 2005's The New World told the story of the founding of the Jamestown settlement, with Farrell as Captain John Smith. Helmed by Terrence Malick, the film received decent reviews but proved a box-office bomb.
While the original cut totaled to two-and-a-half hours, the runtime was cut down by about 15 minutes for its wide release in 2006. However, a final cut, titled "The Extended Cut," was released a few years later, bringing the film up to 172 minutes. For those who wish to compare the three versions, the film was released as part of The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray and DVD in 2016.
1 Worse: The Warriors: Ultimate Director's Cut
Some cult films are defined by having an initial failure, whether critically, commercially, or both, but subsequently gaining a large following and reevaluation by critics/audiences. One of the greatest examples on this list would definitely be 1979's The Warriors.
Despite its controversial history (with intense outbreaks linked to the film's screenings), the film now sits at 89 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. And, while 2005 gave us an awesome video game (courtesy of Rockstar Games), it also gave us the inferior "Ultima Director's Cut," with a larger use of comic book styles that feel more distracting than cool.
Perhaps the upcoming TV series should think long and hard before "coming out to play-i-ay" in this troubled franchise's world.