15 Director’s Cuts of Famous Movies Way Better Than The Theatrical Versions

8. Natural Born Killers

natural born killers

Director Oliver Stone’s bloody, murderous tale of a pair of lovers who survive trouble childhoods only to go on a cross-country killing spree becoming a mass media spectacle was released in 1994. The film was also had a story written by Quentin Tarantino, who had wanted to make a very low-budget version of the film, but couldn’t find financing so Stone bought the rights to make the film.

Stone was just coming off a difficult production of “Heaven & Earth”, the third in Stone’s Vietnam War trilogy, which had not done well at the box office, and was looking for a different type of film to bring him back to the forefront. When the film was first shown to the MPAA it received the “adults only” NC-17 rating.

Stone cut the offensive material from the film and it was rerated as R. The film ended up getting mixed reviews from critics and only a mediocre performance at the box office.

The director’s cut was eventually released on home video containing about four minutes of missing footage including violence between Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) and the people they encounter, and also violence at a prison where in one shot prison warden McClusky’s (Tommy Lee Jones) had his head severed and was paraded around on a spike. The film seemed to find more of an audience on home video and DVD eventually giving it a sort-of “cult” status.


9. Watchmen


Alan Moore’s cult comic book was brought to the screen in 2009 by director Zack Snyder and tells the story of an alternate reality where superheroes used to exist, but no longer due to government regulations. When one of them is murdered, several former heroes join together to discover the true source of the evil conspiracy. The movie did all right at the box office doing over $100 million; however, with a production budget of over an estimated $130 million, was considered only a moderate success.

True comic book fans enjoyed the film, but the mainstream public found its characters not recognizable and the plot too involved and confusing. Subsequently, this film actually had two additional different cuts released on DVD. The “director’s cut” took the film from its original 162 to 186 minutes and the “ultimate cut” took it all the way to a 215 minute length.

In addition to adding lots of additional action sequences and important plot elements into the film for the expanded cuts, the “ultimate cut” also saw the 24 minute “Tales of the Black Freighter” short companion story weaved within the film trying to tie it more closely in to its source material. Some fans feel the “ultimate cut” is too long and the “Black Freighter” material was unnecessary.


10. Once Upon a Time in America

Once Upon a Time in America

Italian director Sergio Leone’s final film, based on Harry Grey’s novel, was the first he had made in thirteen years. It tells the epic tale of organized crime through the lives of youths that grow up the in ghettos of New York and the relationships, friendships and betrayals they endure.

When Leone had completed photography on the film, he had a lot of footage (not unusual for him as he had a history of very long films). Eventually, he edited the film down to a 229 minute cut which was shown in Europe and limited in the U.S. After receiving mixed reviews during its limited US release, the decision was made by its production company to trim it down to 139 minutes.

In addition to the footage being removed, the story of the film was rearranged to chronological order rather than the way Leone wanted it which was told in present day and through flashbacks. A lot of the childhood footage which Leone had shot had been removed. All these changes were done without the director’s approval or involvement.

As a result, the film performed poorly at the US box office and the film received generally poor reviews and no Academy Award nominations. In 2012, the restored version of the 229 version of the film was shown at the Cannes film festival. Director Martin Scorsese worked with Leone’s children on acquiring the rights to certain other scenes and a 251 minute version was released on DVD in 2014. The full, restored version of the film is considered one of the best movies about organized crime of all time.


11. Aliens

Aliens (1986)

Director James Cameron’s first sequel effort, Piranha Part Two: The Spawning, did not go so well. Hot off The Terminator, James Cameron was eager to direct his follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Alien from 1979. Following the events of the first film, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is rescued from deep space hibernation only to discover a great deal of time has passed.

After defending her actions from the first film’s climax, she is told contact has been lost with the terraforming colony on LV-426, the planet where the aliens had been seen in the first film. She reluctantly agrees to accompany a group of heavily-armed space marines back to the colony as an observer to check it out.

The final cut of the film was 137 minutes. The film was release in the summer of 1986 and as a success with moviegoers as well as critics. After seeing the final cut, Weaver was disappointed and threatened to not reprise her role if the deleted scenes were not reinserted. A Special Edition laserdisc was released in 1987 with 17 extra minutes of footage. The scenes included Hudson (Bill Paxton) boasting about all his weaponry, a scene where Ripley and Hudson (Michael Biehn) exchange first names, and several sequences involving robot sentry guns.

The most significant added scene involved the origin story for Newt’s (Carrie Henn) family. Many people, including this author, feel this sequence is unnecessary and actually gives away some of the suspense of the first act of the film. In the theatrical version, Newt is revealed later in the film when the marines are searching for aliens using motion trackers and discover Newt instead.


12. Apocalypse Now

Apocalypse Now movie

Director Frances Ford Coppola’s ordeal in making and editing Apocalypse Now is no secret. There was even a documentary made about the production called “Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse”. His Vietnam War epic about Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) sent to assassinate rogue colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) is still considered by many to be one of the great war epics of all time. After nearly three years of editing, the original cut of the film clocked in at 153 minutes.

In 2001, a director’s cut called “Apocalypse Now Redux” was reedited by Coppola and was shown at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival. This new version included 53 extra minutes of footage. New scenes included more footage of the crew with Lieutenant Kilgore (Robert Duvall) and the crew meeting Playboy Playmates. There is also a “workprint” version of the film which is 289 minutes in length. This version has never been shown in theaters, but is available via bootleg.


13. Kingdom of Heaven


In 2005, director Ridley Scott was hot off his historical drama, Gladiator, which had won Best Picture only five years earlier. Scott decided next to tell an epic tale of the Crusades in which Baliam (Orlando Bloom) joins with Godfrey of Ibelin (Liam Neeson) on a journey to the Holy City of Jerusalem in a battle for the ages.

The original theatrical cut of the film was 144 minutes. The editor of the film took nearly 15 months to edit the completed film and the subsequent director’s cut. Scott actually despised the theatrical cut and said the director’s cut is the “definitive version”. The director’s cut added an additional 45 minutes of footage including extra bloody violence from the film’s many battle sequences.

There was also a new subplot which was restored involving Sibylla’s (Eva Green) son. There is also a “Roadshow” version of the film which included an overture, intermission and Entr’acte. A four-disc set was released on DVD in 2006 containing the complete “Roadshow” version.


14. Blade Runner


Harrison Ford plays Rich Deckard, a policeman who is put in charge of tracking down and eliminating four Replicants, human clones designed to do work outside Earth, who leave their colony and migrate back to Earth. After the film was shot, it was shown to several test audiences who received the film poorly. It was for this reason the now infamous voice-over dialogue and “happy ending” were added for its U.S. theatrical release.

The film originally performed poorly at the U.S. box office in 1982. In 1991, a new print of the film was discovered and shown at several very well received screenings at UCLA. As a result, distributor Warner Brothers decided to produce a “Director’s Cut” of the film and rerelease it in theaters.

The 1992 theatrical release of the film was a huge success. This version was not really a “Director’s Cut” since Scott was not involved in the project. In fact, it was not until 2007 when Scott had time and was finally able to reedit the film the way he intended for its release to be completed. This edition of the film is called “The Final Cut”.


15. Terminator 2: Judgement Day


James Cameron’s sci-fi follow up to the first successful film of his career, stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as everyone’s favorite cyborg, this time sent back from the future to protect the son of Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton), John Conner (Edward Furlong) from the T-1000 (Robert Patrick). The film was wildly successful, making over $200 million and making it the highest-grossing film of 1991. The theatrical cut of the film ran 137 minutes.

On DVD, there have been several subsequent rereleases including 152 and 156 minute versions called the “Special Edition and “Skynet Edition”. On the first DVD release, you had to input the numbers “082997” on your DVD remote in order to access the “Extended Special Edition” version. August 29th (your author’s birthday), 1997, was the date of “judgement day” in the film.

Some of the new scenes include an extended dream sequence featuring the return of hero Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), a scene where Sarah and John work to change out the Terminator’s computer processor, and the original ending Cameron wanted to include in the theatrical cut, but ultimately cut showing Sarah Conner as an old woman watching children on the playground.

Producers felt this ending was too depressing and also ruined chance of using the character in any further sequels. In this case, all the added scenes made story richer and the characters more complex and engaging and made the film even better than before.

Author Bio: Andy Kubica is a life-long cinephile. Having spend time as a video store manager, movie theater manager and the first DVD buyer for a former rental chain he now spends every waking moment reducing his film “bucket list”.