There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a bad movie, and realizing there’s a great one hiding in there somewhere. Wasted potential in filmmaking is always disappointing. Sloppy editing, a rushed production, or removal of entire scenes and characters never benefit a movie. It could be because a certain film didn’t test well, or a studio gets spooked during early screening and decides to do some massive altercations that they turn out second-rate (Duncan Jones has all but admitted that 40 minutes of footage had been cut from Warcraft).
A director’s cut can breathe new life into movies, making some already good ones masterpieces, or making some abominations passable. These next few films are ones that we’re still eagerly awaiting on to see a true director’s cut. The altered versions in question can be either unreleased, or be hypothetically created using footage that was shot but never pieced together.
A few of these movies do have a “Director’s Cut” or “Extended Addition,” but due to the fact that the directors had not officially signed off on them, they’re still not prime examples of the visions these filmmakers had. We’ve still yet to see the most accurate representations of these next 15 films, those masterpieces of cinema that are just dying to get out. We’re holding out that one day, they will.
Here are 15 Unreleased Director’s Cuts That We Need to See.
15 Superman Returns
When Bryan Singer signed on to do the long awaited Superman Returns, X-Men fans were bummed, but Superman fans couldn’t have been happier. Here was a guy who launched the X-Men film series, and kick started the superhero renaissance of the early 2000’s. He seemed like the perfect candidate for bringing back the Man of Steel from the brink after the abysmal Superman IV: The Quest for Peace. While Singer’s sequel to the first two Dick Donner films was certainly better than the fourth installment, it was still far from a perfect movie.
Most fans complained that for a Superman movie, there simply wasn’t enough action. Long period of time stretched on where characters, especially the Man of Steel himself, wouldn’t do much but get into lengthy discussions. It isn’t the best format for a superhero blockbuster. Since then, the DVDs and Blu-rays have come with additional scenes that Singer had cut out of the theatrical run, but we’ve yet to see a real cut of film which blends them all together, including Clark’s trip back to the remains of Krypton. With some shaving of scenes we don’t want, with the inclusion of some we do, Superman Returns could be a whole lot more super.
14 Cloud Atlas
Remember when the Wachowski siblings came out with The Matrix and blew everyone’s minds? For their first big blockbuster to be that good, audiences couldn’t wait to see what mind-bending movie they would come out with next. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for that movie. With the exception of V for Vendetta, the Wachowskis have made a series of questionable films over the years, including the wonky adaptation of Speed Racer, and the confusing adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas.
Storytelling-wise, the theatrical run of Cloud Atlas, that spans thousands of years, isn’t the most solidly crafted narrative. It’s rather jarring and confusing to watch certain things unfold, and while we know that there’s a plot in there somewhere, it’s something of a chore to sit through. It’s no secret that parts of the movie were reworked during post production. Tom Hanks has openly stated distaste over massive additions that had been stricken from the final cut. With that footage out there somewhere, the Wachowskis could piece together a version of the film that could run much smoother, and more accurately tell the story that David Mitchell’s novel wove together.
Joss Whedon’s Western sci-fi series Firefly has one of the largest cult followings of any TV show. An impressive feat to say the least considering that it was only on air for one season before being cancelled. Fans were bummed the show never got its due, but they never gave up their support. The cult status of the series was enough for Whedon to pick to make a movie in 2005, Serenity, which brought back all the beloved characters from Firefly.
While it didn’t make a whole lot of money, the film was a success in picking up the story where it had left off, explaining things and filling in holes the show never had time to tie up. Whedon’s follow up did more than an admirable job of continuing his story about the Serenity crew, and fans were even more delighted when they picked up the DVD and were treated to some deleted scenes and footage.
Whedon himself has stated that the theatrical run of the movie was more or less the version he preferred, but we’d still love to see the film that pieces together all the lost footage. The removed scene with Mal and Inara, while not very long, speaks volumes about their relationship together. Maybe Whedon will go back and make a final cut, or if he prefers, leave it as it stands now. After all, he created the universe.
12 The Big Boss
Although he only made a handful of films during his all too brief career, the impact that Bruce Lee left behind on martial arts filmmaking has influenced directors and actors to this very day. Star, and sometimes director, of Enter the Dragon, The Way of the Dragon and The Chinese Connection, Lee is the original martial arts movie legend. One of his earliest works, and credited as the film that launched his career, was 1971’s The Big Boss, in which Lee plays a pacifist who picks up his old ways of fighting when his family begins to disappear in a mysterious ice factory.
Originally Lee was not to be the star of The Big Boss, James Tien was. Lee was going to co-star, with his role being significantly cut down to what it ended up being. However, when the director changed from Ng Gar Seung to Lo Wei a few weeks into shooting, the actors’ roles were reversed, with Lee getting top billing. Good thing as the film was a hit, becoming the highest grossing motion picture in Hong Kong at that point in 1971. Since then the film has become notorious for its slew of deleted scenes that have surfaced on the internet, which Lee and Wei had often disagreed on due to the level of violence.
Most of them have been released to the public, all but the most infamous, being a scene where Lee uses a saw to cut through a thug’s head. For years, Bruce Lee fans have scoured the internet looking for this lost footage. It might be a pipe dream, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that The Big Boss might finally get an extended addition on Blu-ray that piece these moments back together. The ones that can be found, at least.
11 Fantastic Four (2015)
Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four (or the confusingly spelled Fant4stic) was one of the most harshly criticized movies of 2015. It was hard to believe there could be a rendition of the superhero team worse than the 2005 offering, but audiences were stunned when they left theaters and found that this new version had done just that. Gloomy, boring and pretentious were just some of the words used by professional critics that earned the superhero disaster a devastatingly low score of 9% on Rotten Tomatoes. Trank picked up such an awful reputation in the film’s wake, that he was even booted off one of the upcoming Star Wars standalone films.
Even more infamous than the film’s questionable reception, was the ongoing battle between Trank and the film studio backing the production, 20th Century Fox. The director had publicly accused the studio of trumping his creative decisions more than once, resulting in a film that Trank never wanted to put together in the first place. It’s a terrible thing when a director doesn’t have free reign over their own production, but sadly it’s how the Hollywood system sometimes works. The real bummer is that according to some of the actors involved with the production, like Toby Kebbell, have said Trank’s original cut of the movie is much darker and an overall better version. It seems unlikely at this point, due to the heated public battles, but maybe one day down the line we could see what that version looks like.
10 Batman Forever
Somewhere in the middle of Tim Burton’s dark gothic interpretation, and Christopher Nolan’s stark realistic setting, lies Joel Schumacher’s bright, campy rendition of Batman. Credited as the lowest point in the Caped Crusader’s film career, Batman & Robin takes the “dark” out of Dark Knight with silly performances, terrible special effects, and dialog that’s like nails on a chalkboard. Before the apparent death blow of Batman & Robin, there was Batman Forever, a film that wasn’t as bad, but wasn’t particularly good either.
It’s the film that starred Val Kilmer as Bruce Wayne, and had Jim Carrey and Tommy Lee Jones play iconic villains Riddler and Two Face respectively. It was also a departure from the dark atmosphere Burton had painstakingly set up with his two installments. The dreary Gotham City was turned into a brightly colored wonderland filled with goofy heroes and even goofier villains. Though the theatrical version is certainly campy and borderline cartoony, this was not Schumacher’s original intention.
It’s been said that almost 40 minutes of footage had been trimmed from the final cut, which included an entire subplot which Bruce Wayne suffered amnesia from the bullet to the head from Two Face. The story would have had Bruce Wayne dive deep into his psyche to confront his alter ego. Sadly this section was removed and has yet to be seen. Schumacher has stated that he would eventually like to piece together a director’s cut of the film, but with its popularity almost nonexistent after the Nolan films, it seems very unlikely it would ever happen now.
9 Annie Hall
Strange how directors sometimes hate their own movies, especially when those movies are extremely popular. Annie Hall is almost always in the realm of discussion if the topic is comedies. It’s been ranked as one of the best in the genre ever written, and has now become one of the most respected romantic comedies in the industry. Wooden Allen, director, writer and lead star of the picture, unfortunately does not feel the same.
Allen’s original intent with the movie was not to make a relationship picture, which is ultimately what it became. Instead, it was supposed to deal with the psyche of a man, with the relationship aspect being only a subplot with other series of plotlines. The project had a completely different tone and feel, and the first cut of the movie ran 140 minutes, roughly 50 minutes more than the final version. Despite the film going on to win four Academy Awards, including one for Best Director for Allen, Woody has gone on record saying he was left disappointed with the final product. Perhaps one day we can see what Allen’s grand ideas really were if he ever edits those various subplots back in to Annie Hall.
8 The Breakfast Club
Just like the Simple Minds song made famous by the movie, “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” you can’t forget about the kids in The Breakfast Club;we sure didn’t. John Hughes’ seminal 80’s teen drama about a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess, and a criminal, that form a strong bond during a detention on Saturday, is just as poignant today as when it was first released. It introduced the “Brat Pack” to the world, which helped define the generation growing up in that decade.
What you may not know about The Breakfast Club is that, originally, Hughes intended the picture to be much longer. About an entire hour longer in fact. During post production, much of the film’s footage the director shot ended up being cut out. These included dream sequences with Andrew as a Viking, more screen time with Carl as he predicts the kids’ futures, and Bender being dropped off at the school by his abusive Dad. In a Parade Magazine interview, Hughes stated that he had the only copy of the long version of the film. Due to his untimely passing, it seems like a longshot that we’ll get to see Hughe’s extended version of The Breakfast Club, but who can say for sure.
7 The Thin Red Line
Originally clocking in at 2h and 50min, it’s hard to believe that there’s a longer version of Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line somewhere out there. His adaptation of James Jones’ autobiographical novel about the conflict at Guadalcanal during WWII was met with critical praise upon its release, going on to be nominated for 7 Oscars. Not too shabby for a movie almost three hours in length. It could have been a lot longer though, as the rumored original cut of the war epic clocked in at just over five hours.
If you’ve read the script of The Thin Red Line, you would know that it could have never fit into a movie less than five hours long while still encompassing every scene. The first version of the film in post-production was basically a rough cut that assembled all the footage from the dailies to follow as close to the script as possible. After showing it to the executives, Malick was asked to reduce the runtime to three hours or less, quite the task when you have to cut two hours of footage. Most of the battle scenes were trimmed as a result, as well as some minor and even major character storylines. With no definitive director’s cut out yet, fans of the movie are still waiting for the day the five hour version of The Thin Red Line might make an appearance.
6 Alien 3
David Fincher has directed some of the most memorable films of the last 20 years. His philosophical Fight Club and the culturally relevant The Social Network are just a few examples taken from his impressive resume. Before those movies turned him into a superstar however, one of his earlier endeavors threatened to end his career before it even got started. Fincher’s first big budget movie was Alien 3, a production the director entered at the last minute - circumstances which would undoubtedly throw anyone off their game. Add on to that the pressure the studio suits applied due to the director being inexperienced at that time, and you have one problematic production.
It showed, and the third installment in the franchise was panned for being cluttered and messy, with all of the rich character development James Cameron had spent so much time setting up in Aliens being thrown out the window. Years later in 2003 an extended version, titled the “Assembly Cut,” was pieced together for the Alien boxset. However, it wasn’t created by Fincher, but by the Alien franchise documentaries director, Charles de Lauzirka. It did have 25 minutes of added footage, but it was disowned by Fincher himself as something that did not match his vision. Fans of the franchise have never seen a true director’s cut of the movie, and if Fincher ever assembled the discarded footage from his original version, it would be an interesting experience to say the least.
5 Accidental Love
Originally titled Nailed, Accidental Love was just an accident waiting to happen.
Director David O. Russell has been on such a hot streak as of late it would make most Hollywood directors jealous, with hits like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle absolutely cleaning up during awards season. Before all those however, Russell made the unfortunate mistake to make a political comedy in 2008 titled Nailed, based on the novel by Kristin Gore. With talent involved like Jessica Biel and Jack Gyllenhaal, the project was a shoe-in to be a bona fide hit.
No one could predict that the exact opposite would happen. The project suffered from endless financial problems, with production shutting down upwards of nine different times. At one point both Gyllenhaal and Biel walked off set after learning there was no money with which to pay them. After negotiations with financier Ron Tutor went south, Russell walked away from the film in 2010. He completely disowned the film, credited under the name Stephan Greene, a pseudonym used for directors who abandon a project due to the lack of creative control.
It took the movie another five years to see the light of day, where it was torn apart by critics for being a watered down generic romance story. Russell’s original comedic satire might still be in there somewhere, and if he ever gets over his various beefs with producers, the film would certainly benefit from an editing job at the director’s hands.
Love him or hate him, no one can say that David Lynch doesn’t have a directional style uniquely his own. Atmospheric, creepy, and delving into the human psyche like no one else, his films like Eraserhead and Mulholland Dr. are works that will twist your emotions until there’s nothing left. That’s when he has complete creative control over his movies however. Sometimes even the best director can’t save a doomed production, and unfortunately, that’s what the attempted sci-fi epic Dune is.
Lynch considers this the only real failure of his career, and unfortunately most would have to agree with him. Unstructured, incomprehensible and a downright mess, Dune was a movie universally hated by every critic imaginable, with Roger Ebert stating, “It took Dune about nine minutes to completely strip me of my anticipation.” It must have been a crushing blow to Lynch, who had worked on the production for more than three years, and today refuses to talk about it in great length.
Lynch’s original cut of the adaptation ran a little over three hours. However, the studios demanded a traditional two hour cut, and in the end that’s what was shown on screen. Since then, various editions have been pieced together titled “Extended Cuts,” but none of them under the supervision of Lynch. With such painful memories involved with the production, Lynch might never return to give audiences his preferred rendition, but stranger things have been known to happen.
3 American History X
Like Dune and Accidental Love, American History X suffers from one of the most troubled and one of the strangest productions in Hollywood history. Director Tony Kaye finally got his big break from directing commercials in this powerful look at racism and the horrible things it can do to good people. With a powerhouse performance by Edward Norton as a chief skinhead looking to reform his ways, American History X should have been the first film in a long list of Kaye’s fruitful career. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen sometimes in Hollywood, things didn’t go according to plan.
After spending weeks in the editing room putting together a rough cut of the film, Kaye finally screened it for studios executives and Norton himself. He was rewarded with pages upon pages of notes, which the director didn’t know how to incorporate. At this point he was still searching for the movie within the footage he shot himself. It snowballed into disastrous results, which led Ed Norton to piece together parts of the film himself, and caused Kaye to go off the deep end, bringing along with him a priest, a rabbi and a Buddhist monk to meetings with New Line Cinema.
In the end, the majority of post-production was completed by Norton, and Kaye’s original vision was replaced, in his opinion, by waves of melodrama. The finished cut is the film that was screened in theaters, and surprisingly the one that was met with general critical acclaim. Still, it wasn’t the director’s vision, and to this day fans have wondered if Kaye might piece together his own version of American History X to see how it stacks up.
2 Catchfire aka “Backtrack”
While Dennis Hopper had made quite the name for himself as an established actor in Hollywood, he found it difficult to meet that same expectation when it came to directing. His first major success was 1969’s Easy Rider, a movie about two counterculture bikers backpacking across Southwest America. Now revered as a classic, it should have signaled the beginning of a long successful directing career for Hopper. Unfortunately he could only summon enough strength to direct a handful of films in the 70’s and 80’s, and most were criticized as being rather pretentious.
In 1990 he set out to direct Backtrack, a movie about a killer that falls in love with his victim. It featured a cast that dreams were made of including Hopper himself, Jodie Foster, Joe Pesci, Catherine Keener and even Bob Dylan. The director felt very proud when he pieced together a 180 minute cut of the film that he presented to the studio. Unfortunately the studio didn’t feel the same way. They were so unhappy with the picture that they edited it down to just under two hours, and even changing the title to Catchfire without Hopper’s knowledge.
Hopper, of course, disowned the film, pushing that his credit be changed to Alan Smithee, another pseudonym used when directors felt they had lost creative control. The director eventually cut his own version of the film, though it still had large chunks of footage missing. Although Dennis Hopper tragically passed in 2010, his original vision of Backtrack could still be restored knowing that the footage is out there somewhere.
1 The Magnificent Ambersons
Many times studios have butted heads with directors to rework a certain version of a film. We’ve seen it on this list from everything from Accidental Love to Fantastic Four. This is the most infamous and oldest of them all however, as it involves legendary director, writer and actor, Orson Welles and his 1942 film, The Magnificent Ambersons. One of the greatest tragedies in cinema, Welles’ tale of a family’s fortune was completely mutilated by studio executives while the director was unsuspectingly out of the country.
The Magnificent Ambersons, to this day, is considered one of the great “lost” movies in Hollywood. Not in the classic sense that it’s actually lost, you can still find it and watch it, but in the regard that it’s a pale imitation of Orson Welles’ true vision. After filming on the production had wrapped, the filmmaker journeyed to Brazil for his next project. While out of the country, the movie was screened for a test audience, who complained that the picture was too bleak, and demanded a happier and more uplifting atmosphere. The production team made the decision to cut and rework most of the movie, without Orson Welles’ even knowing. Roughly 50 minutes of the film was cut out as a result, with the ending being retooled to be much happier.
Welles was appalled when he returned to find that the movie he shot was not the movie being shown. It caused a deep rift with him and the production company, causing bad blood that didn’t dissipate until the twilight of the director's life. Today, the only version available to watch is the studio’s interpretation. Rumors have circulated the internet for years however that Welles’ footage is still out there, and it would be a bigger find than the Lost Ark if it were ever discovered and pieced together to create Welles’ original vision.
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