Five of the Next-Best Director’s Cuts

While the home video market is routinely exploited by the promise of unrated or extended cuts of movies, some titles have really taken advantage of the opportunity for a second go-round. Kingdom of Heaven, Blade Runner, and Daredevil were famously made into entirely different — and superior — films. The Lord of the Rings trilogy was expanded and improved in a number of ways. The Star Wars trilogy… well, let’s not get into that in this post.

But there are other, less well-known overhauls, that took an already decent movie and improved it. If you haven’t treated yourself to the Director’s Cut of the following, you might want to track them down and see what you’ve missed out on.

(I’m going to try and avoid going into specific spoilers here, but just assume that there are spoilers ahead. Especially for this first entry…)


There are three cuts of this tragically underrated movie included in its blu-ray release: Theatrical, Director’s, and Extended. The best of these is the Director’s Cut, which only adds about three minutes to the version found in theaters, but alters the impact of the movie considerably.

The two main points in the movie that play out differently in the movie are Salt’s last scene with her husband Michael and the ending of the movie. The final encounter Salt has with Michael takes a considerable amount longer to actually play out, as opposed to the shockingly quick version in the Theatrical Cut. This extended scene implicates Salt in what happens to Michael, and the character dilemma underpinning the scene is far more drastic as a result. The revised ending changes the effect of the movie even more. The fate of the President is altered, and the final scene includes a narration which adds a final twist to the pile of reversals that make up the ending of this nuthouse thriller.

So basically, it takes a crazy thriller and ups the crazy. I’m good with that.

Dark City

If you haven’t seen Dark City, imagine a movie that takes you to a place that seems familiar, but utterly alien at the same time. Imagine that it’s a world populated by strange beings, who move by and create strange machinations in the night. Imagine that the movie slowly reveals the secrets of the dark city its characters live in. Now, imagine that they give away most of those secrets in a narration before you even hit the two minute mark. Such was the nature of Dark City‘s theatrical cut.

Fortunately, Alex Proyas went back in and took that narration out for the Director’s Cut of the movie. He added some other minor stuff, as well, but that was the big one. There’s not a whole lot to discuss here, but imagine if the opening scene of The Matrix had Neo describing (um, spoilers) how the machines took over and enslaved humanity using a virtual reality known as the Matrix, and then think about how much better the movie is when it just lets the audience catch up on their own.


Zach Snyder trod on hallowed ground when he decided to make this movie. You gotta admire his guts, at the very least. And, honestly, it’s not so hard to admire the movie, either. It had strong characters, great acting, and an insanely cool visual style. Unfortunately, it would be nearly impossible to simply take the comic book to the screen without losing a lot of the material, so it wasn’t surprising that the movie felt a little thin by comparison. Not bad; it just seemed to be missing something.

Watchmen is another one of those movies that came out in about four different editions on home video, but again, the Director’s Cut is by far the best. Unlike the previous two entries, the Watchmen DC doesn’t drastically alter key scenes or plot threads (though it does add a couple of new ones). Instead, it allows the existing story more breathing room. Scenes run longer, characters are more developed, and the world of the movie is explored more thoroughly. All this comes together to provide a much more satisfying take on the iconic comic.

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  1. Yes, Butterfly effect. I first saw the movie on DVD and i chose the Directors cut on an impulse. Later when i went to discuss the movie with others and i spoke of how thrilling the ending was, nobody knew what i was referring to because they saw the theatrical ending which is more satisfying and lets just say “everybody lives”. At the end of the day these movies are about profit, but when a director has the freedom to present a story without restriction, you will always get more from the production.

  2. I’ve seen the director’s cut of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Holy shit, each film is like 4 hours long. But they add sooo much it’s incredibly dense. I’d recommend it highly. Well . . . I’ve never been able to finish Return of the King . . . it runs almost 5 hours.

  3. I’ve always loved the director’s cut of Dark City. I think the DC version of Bladerunner is also worht mentioning, if a bit obvious.

    I’ll definitely have to check out the Watchmen.

  4. Shit, if you’ve never been able to finish the director’s cut of Return of the King, how did you manage to read the book before you saw the film…………

  5. Oh boy, where do I begin?

    1. I Am Legend. Alternate ending not only has Neville live, but we find out that the creatures are not as dumb as we think. Making the trap that Neville falls for in the theatrical make sense (originally I thought he fell for his own trap since he was losing his mind by that point in the film). Also, the “butterfly’ has a completely different meaning that works in context with the new ending better than the context in the theatrical. Last great addition: no “safe community” where everyone still lives on like normal society. Neville, Anna, and the boy drive off into the unknown. I’ll take an open ended bittersweet ending over a tastelessly tacked on “happy ending’ that looks like it was constructed in 5 minutes.

    2. Legend. Longer runtime, fleshed out story and characters, completely different score. The theatrical’s score (done by electro group “tangerine dream”) is complete 80’s cheese. The orignal score by Jerry Goldsmith is a timeless classical sound that fits into the universe just as well as the score’s to films like LOTR or Harry Potter. Different ending as well. Not a “happy ending’ like the theatrical, but more realistic. Sometimes the hero doesn’t always get the girl.

    3. Superman 2. Unfortunately, the Richard Donner Cut was put together by a sound editor (not a film editor) on what looks like a budget of 10,000 dollars, and completed in 10 days (even though fans have been writing to WB to release the footage for dcades since since some of this footage on tv when the film aired in 1982 and showed roughly 25 minutes of new footage that was shot by Donner). Truth is, some of the scenes in the Donner Cut are great and belong in the film, but the edit is so over-edited (be it alternate inferior takes, bad audio cues, re-hashed music), that the film just falls apart. It doesn’t even feel like a movie. Re-hashing the time travel ending from the first film was the dumbest move of all. Their logic? “This is Superman 2 as originally conceived” (time-travel ending was originally for 2, not 1). Well, the ending was used in part 1. It doesn’t belong here. My thoughts? The perfect version of Superman 2 lies somewhere in the middle. Anyone who knows even a little about video and sound editing would be smart to take all the footage, write up a list of scenes, and edit it to the point where it’s “perfect’ in your eyes.

  6. I didn’t like one part of the Ex Cut of Alien 3, no Alien Queen Chest busting and hugging it lovly till dead in the heat of the moment…

    No Watchman DC here avaible in Europe !

  7. You ruined the list with the addition of the movie about the blue people. It was a total carp movie, made by a total crap director, seen by a moronic crap audience. My argument stands and any challenges are invalid.

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