Sometimes it feels like there’s a fine line between what earns a film a PG-13 or R rating. A movie that was filmed with a more mature rating in mind might undergo major changes in post, with the studio cutting back on violence or language to secure a lower rating. In other cases, the difference can come down to mere frames of footage, with only a couple of shocking seconds needing to be snipped.
Comic book and superhero movies are often trying to reach the broadest possible audience, and while the recent success of films like Logan and Deadpool proves there’s a fanbase for harder-edged comic movies, most studios prefer a family-friendly certificate. Not only does a PG or PG-13 rating encourage parents to bring their young children to the movies, thereby ensuring more ticket and concession sales, but younger audiences are the target demographic for much of the toys and merchandising surround superhero films.
Sometimes certain scenes in superhero movies can push the boundaries, proving too gory or shocking for the desired PG-13. These changes can be minor, but sometimes the entire offending sequence has to be taken out.
Gathered here are 15 Shocking R-Rated Scenes Deleted From Superhero Movies, and the reasons they were considered too spicy for cinemas.
15 Lau Burning - The Dark Knight
Even though there isn’t a single drop of blood shed onscreen, The Dark Knight still feels pretty violent. Take The Joker’s "disappearing" pencil trick, which manages to be a visceral kill without showing any gore; it helps that it’s also kind of funny.
It’s to director Christopher Nolan’s credit that he was able to maintain this intense feeling throughout, but there was one moment he had to pull back on. In the current cut, corrupt banker Lau is last seen placed on top of a large mountain of money, which The Joker then sets on fire.
As scripted and shot, there was supposed to be a moment where The Joker turns back and looks at Lau burning on top. This shocking visual was just too much for a PG-13, so Nolan took it out.
14 The Final Fight - Spider-Man
Back in 2002, Sam Raimi seemed like an odd choice to direct Spider-Man, but the director’s talent for visuals and energetic action proved the naysayers wrong. Raimi was best known for the Evil Dead movies at the time, which resulted in him pushing the envelope in terms of violence in Spider-Man.
He pushed a little too far in the final showdown between Green Goblin and Spider-Man, which was way too violent in the original edit. In the first cut, the Goblin commanded a flock of razor bats, which sliced and chopped at Spidey throughout the battle. These bats were digitally removed from the fight, but the cuts on Spider-Man’s outfit can be seen in the final version.
The shot where a bomb blows up in Peter’s face had to be toned down too; originally it was blood flying from his mouth, not clear spit. The bone-crunching sound effects were also softened.
13 Head Chop - Elektra
Elektra was a complete misfire for Fox, and killed the Daredevil franchise before it really began. The film continues the adventures of Jennifer Garner’s assassin following her brush with death in Daredevil, where she has to defend a little girl from a group of assassins.
The film is pretty tame in terms of bloodshed, but there was one particular shot that had to be removed to please the ratings board. During the scene where the assassins attack the house of Elektra’s handler, he decides to sacrifice himself to buy her time to escape. He doesn’t put up much of a fight though and is soon overpowered.
In the theatrical version the main villain decapitated him off-screen, but a shot showing his head flying off hit the cutting room floor. It was later restored for an extended DVD cut.
12 Snow Blower Massacre - The Wolverine
The Wolverine was a vast improvement over X-Men: Origins and managed to tell a more intimate story about everyone’s favorite clawed mutant. The plot found Wolverine in Japan, battling ninjas who want to steal his immortality.
The finale features an extended battle between Wolverine and a clan of ninjas in an abandoned village, and it’s about as violent as the PG-13 rating will allow. Director James Mangold felt a little restrained by the rating during shooting, so filmed extra footage that featured lots of bad language and bloodshed for the extended Blu-ray edition.
The biggest addition is to the village fight, where Wolverine’s bodyguard Yukio is seen hijacking a snowblower and runs over every ninja in sight, turning the snow a deep red in the process. Such a fun but gory scene was just never going to fly with a PG-13 rating, though.
11 Bane's Origin Story - The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan is a director who believes that once a scene has been removed from a film, it should never be seen again. Hence, none of the deleted scenes from his Dark Knight trilogy have made their way to DVD or Blu-ray at his request.
This includes the above-mentioned death of Lau, a scene where The Joker is shown escaping Bruce Wayne's penthouse in The Dark Knight, and an extended origin for Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. An entire sequence was filmed where The League Of Shadows recruit Bane, with his brutal training mirroring Bruce Wayne’s in Batman Begins.
He also would have worn an early version of his famous mask, and his scars would have been explained. Nolan ultimately wanted to keep the character a mystique, so the flashback hit the editing bin.
10 Extended "Gruesome" Coulson Stabbing - The Avengers
Joss Whedon has never been afraid of killing off beloved characters in service of a story, but his options were limited coming into The Avengers. None of the title heroes could be sacrificed, leaving only supporting players like Nick Fury or Agent Coulson at risk.
Lovable Agent Coulson drew the short straw, in the end, getting stabbed in the back by Loki during the second act. The first version of this scene was problematic when it came to the rating, however, and nearly caused the film to receive an R.
The shot lingered too long, and the amount of blood meant the scene was considered too gruesome for younger viewers. The shot was toned down for the theatrical cut, and Coulson’s death itself was eventually undone for the TV series Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
9 Prison Shanking - Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice
The Ultimate Edition of Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice featured a notable upswing in the level of violence, from more bone-crunching sound effects during fight scenes to blood splashing from gunshot wounds,
Zack Snyder seems to prefer comic book movies that are a little darker, and while the theatrical version was still plenty violent, there were some areas he had to pull back. A key deleted scene showed the fate of the human trafficker branded by Batman early on in the story, who disappears from the theatrical cut.
The film follows him as he’s thrown in prison, and Luthor’s henchman arranges for him to be stabbed in the yard. While not overly bloody, it’s still a grim scene for a big blockbuster and had to be taken out.
8 Bloody Lady Deathstrike Fight - X2: X-Men United
X2: X-Men United had to tone down a couple of scenes to reach a PG-13. The first came during Wolverine’s Berserker Rage in the X-Mansion, where he hacks up some of Stryker’s men. The moment where he impales a soldier with both claws and screams in his face had to be cut into two separate shots; it originally held on one, unbroken take for a few seconds, which the MPAA felt was too disturbing.
The other big issue was the fight between Wolverine and Lady Deathstrike. Having two characters equipped with lethal stabbing implements is a recipe for a bloodbath, so the scene had to be staged and edited very carefully. The amount of blood from the various stab wounds they inflict on one another had to be reduced, and no wound details could be shown.
7 Kingpin Murders His Bodyguards - Daredevil
Ben Affleck has distanced himself from the movie version of Daredevil, calling it the only film he truly regrets making - harsh words from the star of Gigli and Surviving Christmas. While the theatrical cut is a hot mess, with a confused tone and horribly dated soundtrack, the director’s cut was a notable improvement.
It toned down the lame romance between Matt and Elektra and restored several key deleted scenes, including a major subplot where Matt defends a client in a murder trial. The edirector's cut also featured an extended introduction to Kingpin, who is seen brutally murdering two bodyguards he suspects of talking to the press.
It’s a short scene, but the sheer viciousness of it was too severe for a PG-13. A more brutal version of the final fight between Kingpin and Daredevil was also restored for this version.
6 Andrew Rips His Father Apart - Chronicle
Chronicle was a unique take on both the found footage and superhero genres and featured three ordinary teenagers being endowed with superpowers. The power granted to Dane DeHaan’s bullied teen Andrew soon starts to wrap his mind, though, and he turns into a villain by the end.
During one early scene in the film, Andrew is seen using his power to pull the legs off a spider as a sign of his deteriorating headspace. This was supposed to foreshadow another scene where he gained bloody revenge on his abusive father.
Andrew’s dad is shown to be an alcoholic bully, and in the finale Andrew tries to kill him by throwing him from a roof. The original cut featured Andrew using his powers to rip his father's limbs off instead, but since the film was aiming for a PG-13 this was toned down considerably.
5 Extended Scene Of Al Burning - Spawn
Spawn is a movie that feels like it was shot with an R in mind. The dark, ugly tone and violence push it right to the limits, but the producers pulled some punches in their quest for a more commercial rating. This includes trimming gunshots and a few other edits to reduce overall intensity.
The biggest change was the fiery death of Al Simmons. In the film – just like the comics – Al is betrayed and murdered by his boss, who sets him on fire. This is handled with quick edits in the theatrical version but the director’s cut revealed Al burned much longer before finally dying in an explosion.
The bleak visual of the lead character burning to a crisp was a little much for the MPAA, so the impact was softened.
4 Policeman's Head Crushed By Tank - The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman
The League of Extraordinary Gentleman had an infamously messy production, from floods washing away expensive sets to Sean Connery and director Stephen Norrington nearly getting into a fistfight. Connery despised the experience so much he quit the film business completely.
The film was intended to be a big, colorful blockbuster, but Norrington – who also helmed Blade – occasionally had trouble keeping this in mind. For instance, in the opening scene a policeman is shown being run over by a tank, but viewers are spared any gory details.
The first edit featured a quick shot of this poor officer, whose head is crushed under the tank’s treads. Other brief moments of stronger violence were snipped by producers during editing, and given LXG’s reputation, an extended director’s cut seems unlikely now.
3 The Love Scene - Hancock
Hancock starred Will Smith as a drunken superhero who is hated by the public, and while the film was a big hit at the box office, it received mixed reviews for its confused tone. The film was based on a script that was much darker, and the first version of Hancock even contained some of these edgier scenes.
Probably the most famous example is the deleted sex scene, where Hancock brings a fan back to this trailer. Before they get cozy he warns her that when the "moment" arrives, she’ll need to jump away for safety reasons. The scene then cuts to the outside of the trailer, but when Hancock is reaching the “mountaintop” he has to push her away, as he ends up punching holes in the roof.
While there was nothing particularly explicit in how the scene was shot, it was just a tad too mature for a PG-13 audience.
2 The Naked Hulk Fight - Hulk
Ang Lee’s bizarre take on Hulk tried to do something unique with the character, but it didn’t really connect with viewers. The film aimed for a more psychological angle and kept the CGI Hulk off-screen for the most part.
One of the longest-running gags surrounding the character is how Bruce Banner’s pants are always magically stretchy enough when he hulks out so he doesn’t have to be naked. Lee wanted to experiment with this, so his original version of the mutant poodle fight scene had Hulk in the nude the entire time.
Obviously, there wouldn’t have been any full-frontal nudity, but the studio eventually insisted it was too risky, so pants were added back for the majority of the sequence. The Hulk does lose them towards the end, however, so Lee had minor victory.
1 The Joker Centric Cut Of Suicide Squad
Despite being front and center for many of the trailers, The Joker ultimately doesn’t have much to do in Suicide Squad. Jared Leto later lamented that most of his role had been removed, and there was probably enough footage to assemble a Joker movie from what was taken out.
Looking at the various deleted scenes, it's easy to see why the role was reduced because it likely would have nudged the film toward an R rating. A couple of scenes where The Joker beats people to death were removed, including a security guard during his asylum escape scene.
The Monster T scene was also longer and featured The Joker taunting the gangster into killing himself. The Joker was originally much more abusive to Harley too, including pushed her out of the helicopter in anger; their relationship was re-edited to appear more loving.
Which of these deleted scenes do you most wish had made it into the movie? Sound off in the comments!