6. Brazil (1985)
Number of versions: 3
Since its release in 1985, Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil” has become a cult film and is considered one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time. However, just like with “Blade Runner,” the film’s production suffered from the disagreements between the studio and the film’s director. While Gilliam insisted on keeping the film’s ending intact, Universal Studios opted for a happier version. The film was eventually edited into three different versions.
The 142-minute European version, or the Director’s Cut, remains the longest one and features the original ending Gilliam envisioned. There is also a shorter version with a length of 132 minutes that was edited by Gilliam and aimed for an American release.
The 94-minute third version, the happy-ending one, also known as the “Love Conquers All” version or the Sheinberg Edit (after Universal’s President Sid Sheinberg), was prepared to be shown on syndicated television and was ultimately only released as a bonus disc in the Criterion DVD release of the movie. Sheinberg’s battle with Gilliam over the final cut of the film became the subject of the book and documentary “The Battle of Brazil.”
7. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)
Number of versions: 6
“Once Upon a Time in America” is the perfect example of a film that was much better in its director’s cut form.
When it was first screened as a limited release in the United States, the film received lackluster reactions. As a result, The Ladd Company decided to severely reduce the film’s length from 229 to 139 minutes, a decision that wasn’t approved by director Sergio Leone. However, the lengthier 229-minute version of the film was distributed in European theatres.
Another version of the film was shown in the USSR. The film had a rearranged chronology and was split into two separate parts, one concerning the childhood scenes and the other the adulthood scenes.
A television broadcast version was shown in the 1990s. This version, although longer than the American cut, was heavily censored and is no longer available.
In 2012, a restored 251-minute version of the film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Despite adding six additional scenes, the film still missed 24 minutes of deleted scenes from the original cut on account of some rights issues. This restored version was pulled out of circulation after Cannes and is still being worked on with the help of Martin Scorsese.
8. The Wild Bunch (1969)
Number of versions: 4
Back in 1969, three alternate versions of Sam Peckinpah’s classic western “The Wild Bunch” were released in cinemas. First, there were the European (145 minutes) and American (143 minues) original releases, the only difference between the two of them being a scene that featured a flashback with Pike’s girlfriend Aurora being tortured, and an intermission before the train robbery scene that was requested by the distributor.
A second American edition was also screened in 1969. This version, which the director agreed to, missed 10 minutes from the original film and was shortened in order to allow for additional screenings.
In 1995, the original 145-minute long European edition from 1969 was re-released on home video without the intermission and has since been called the Director’s Cut. This 1995 release is regarded as the definitive edition of the film. Film critic Roger Ebert appreciated that “seeing this restored version is like understanding the film at last.”
9. Halloween (1978)
Number of versions: 3
One of the most influential horror films of all time and a classic of its genre, John Carpenter’s “Halloween” had its share of alternate released since the 1978 original release.
The first one happened in 1981 when the film was sold for broadcast to NBC, who demanded some additional scenes to fill their two-hour television slot. At that time, Carpenter was filming the film’s sequel, “Halloween II.” During a three-day shoot, Carpenter and the film’s stars Jamie Lee Curtis and Donald Pleasence shot some new scenes and alternate footage that was added to the original version and extended it by 12 minutes.
In 1998, a 20th anniversary edition of the film was released on DVD. While not containing any additional scenes, this edition featured an improved Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track with some newly added sound effects.
10. Close Encounter of The Third Kind (1977)
Number of versions: 4
A landmark of the science fiction film genre and one of Steven Spielberg’s most acclaimed works, “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was the first movie to have its alternate director’s cut edition released in theaters.
“Close Encounters of the Third Kind: The Special Edition” hit the big screens in 1980, three years after the film’s original release, and featured additional scenes which were shot by Spielberg especially for this new release, amongst them a new ending scene which featured the mothership’s interior. Spielberg considered this version of “Close Encounters” the only one worth watching, and called the 1977 original a “work-in-progress” film.
In 1983, a third version of the film was shown on ABC and ran for 143 minutes. This television cut was edited by ABC themselves and combined scenes from the original 1977 film and the 1980 Special Edition release.
In 1998, another version of “Close Encounters” was released on VHS (and later on DVD). This release was labeled the Collector’s Edition, lasted for 137 minutes, and contained the original film from 1977 plus some additional scenes from the Special Edition.