Once a movie is released, some filmmakers might comment how their creative visions were “tampered with” by the production studios. That’s when a ‘Director’s Cut’ comes in: this treatment is usually reserved for a filmmaker’s most beloved projects and some of them completely overhaul the original version of the movie.
Some filmmakers are more prone than others to release a director’s cut of their films. Additionally, some directors even prefer the theatrical version of their movies.
For those reasons, we present you with the 10 best director’s cuts that you need to watch for the ultimate moviegoing experience.
10. Watchmen (2009)
Zack Snyder is a name that will pop out frequently on our list. A dedicated perfectionist, Snyder is infamous for releasing some mind-bogglingly thorough director’s cuts, and the Watchmen Ultimate Cut edition is one of them. Featuring almost half an hour more content than the already extended Director’s Cut, the Ultimate Cut is best left for die-hard Watchmen fans only.
The Ultimate Cut includes an animated short film titled ‘Tales of the Black Freighter’ intercut with the main movie. The narrative of the animated flick serves as an allegory for the world of the Watchmen, but the slower pace makes this cut a bit harder to watch than the standard Director’s Cut. Even Snyder himself prefers the Director’s Cut, so that might be the actual ultimate version of this amazing superhero film.
9. Once Upon a Time In America (1984)
Ask any cinema enthusiast what’s the best gangster movie in cinema history and you’ll get either of these two answers: The Godfather, or Once Upon a Time in America. If they tell you that it is The Godfather Part III, don’t talk to them anymore.
Sergio Leone’s final film is an epic tale about the Jewish criminal underworld in New York City. The original American theatrical cut clocked in at 139 minutes, and it’s a truncated mess that deprives the film of most of its glory. To get the complete Sergio Leone experience, go watch the 2012 Extended Director’s Cut.
8. Alien 3 (1992)
One of the most divisive entries in the mainline Alien franchise, Alien 3 has its own Assembly Cut, aiming to fix some of the movie’s weaker plot points. While the original film was directed by David Fincher, he had no say in this particular director’s cut. Crafted specifically for the Alien Quadrilogy box set, the Assembly Cut is the best way to watch this film.
Characters’ motivations are revised and entire plots are restored. In the end, the Assembly Cut makes Alien 3 feel more like its own thing, rather than a pale imitation of Aliens. There’s just no way to improve Aliens.
7. Aliens (1986)
When James Cameron transformed the Alien franchise into an action-heavy epic sci-fi film, some fans weren’t too pleased. However, 1986 Aliens ended up being regarded as one of the best movies in the franchise. When it came to TV, the movie aired with new scenes, but with all of its profanity and gore removed.
The 1991 Special Edition Laserdisc restored every F-bomb and the gory details, and also managed to include all of the extended scenes. While James Cameron has said that he considers the Special Edition to be the ultimate way to watch Aliens, some fans prefer the tight narrative of the theatrical cut.
6. Metropolis (1927)
This one is a bit hard to classify, as what we know as the director cut for Metropolis has nothing to do with Fritz Lang. Due to its age, some parts of this silent classic have become lost to history. Thankfully, new footage emerges from time to time, allowing film historians to put together a more complete version of the 1927 original.
Currently, the best way to experience this classic is the 2010 restoration, aptly titled The Complete Metropolis.
5. I Am Legend (2007)
Usually speaking, a director’s cut adds some missing scenes to an already existing film. However, what happens when an extended cut changes the ending of a movie completely? That’s the case with 2007’s I Am Legend, starring Will Smith.
In the original film, Smith’s character heroically sacrifices himself in a final confrontation with the mutant’s alpha male. However, in the alternate cut, it’s revealed that the mutants have formed their own intelligent society – and, to them, Will Smith’s character is a legendary monster.
4. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
This dark comedy based on the popular musical has two very different endings, depending on which cut you see. The theatrical cut has the standard Hollywood happy ending, while the director’s cut is much more nonsensical than that.
Director Frank Oz has gone on record saying he prefers the darker tones of the director’s cut, and we do too. Especially since we get to see more of the impressive Audrey II puppet.
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
All three Lord of the Rings films have their respective director’s cuts, and each of them adds tons of complexity and exposition to an already rich franchise. Peter Jackson knew that he had to release the director’s cuts of his trilogy long before the movies were shot, as he understood that a story as epic as that of the Lord of the Rings would eat up a lot of runtimes.
In the end, all three movies got an extended cut, with the best of them being The Fellowship of the Ring. The two other films also benefit from the extended versions, but they can feel somewhat bloated by the additional content.
2. Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)
Proof that fans on the internet have insane amounts of power, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was, for the longest time, only a legend to many fans around the globe. When the disastrous Justice League hit theatres in 2017, DC fans knew that there must have been a better version of the film out there.
It wasn’t until four years later that the mythical Snyder Cut materialized. This director’s cut changes the entire film, adding new characters, locations, and plot points to the epic movie. This is the definitive way to experience the Justice League, and its existence is one of the more impressive demonstrations of fan input in cinema history.
1. Blade Runner (1982)
Most films are lucky to get a single director’s cut version, maybe two at most. 1982’s Blade Runner is not like most movies; this classic cyberpunk noir story has at least seven director’s cuts so far, and the list is likely to keep growing.
For those of you who want to get the definitive Blade Runner experience, you simply can’t go wrong with the 2007 Final Cut version. Using some clever editing tricks and a bit of CGI, this version fixes some plot holes and continuity mistakes. Better yet, it only adds about a minute of additional content, keeping the film comfortably below the two-hour mark.
Which other director’s cut deserves to be on the list?