The “Director’s Cut.” The “Extended Edition.” The “Unrated Version.” Since the dawn of the DVD era (and even earlier), it’s been a Hollywood staple for filmmakers and studios to add footage and tinker around with movies for home video. Sometimes this leads to genuine improvement, while other times to disaster. In this week’s Roundtable, we take a look at some of the best and worst of these altered movies.
In my instructions to the staff, I specified that any version of a movie different than what played in theaters is fair game, whether or not the director specifically endorsed it. Our picks are below. I’ll start things off this week.
- Best: ‘Brazil: Final Director’s Cut’ – Terry Gilliam’s battle with Universal Studios during the production of ‘Brazil’ is the stuff of legend. The film represents the director at his creative peak, and is without reservation his masterpiece. Nonetheless, the studio just did not understand it at all. Chairman Sid Sheinberg in particular pretty much hated everything about it, and insisted that the picture be taken out of Gilliam’s hands and dramatically re-edited. Well, Gilliam was having none of that. He fought Sheinberg tooth and nail in the media until finally wearing the man down. Eventually, the movie was released to theaters with a running time of 132 minutes. That version maintains most of Gilliam’s directorial intent, but had 10 minutes of material cut out as a compromise to the studio. His full 142-minute cut was only released to theaters in Europe. This is Terry Gilliam at the top of his game, and every second of footage is worth cherishing. Eventually, the Criterion Collection licensed the film and allowed Gilliam the opportunity to put together his “Final Director’s Cut” (which is mostly the same as the European cut, with a few minor tweaks). That version has been released on Laserdisc and DVD, and is desperately needed on Blu-ray.
- Worst: ‘Brazil: Love Conquers All’ – This, then, is Sid Sheinberg’s version of the movie, and it’s a travesty. Not only did the studio head whittle the film down to a length of only 94 minutes, he had literally every single scene re-edited without any participation or supervision from the director. Footage was shuffled around to present much of it out of the original context. Alternate takes and lines of dialogue were substituted. The result is a dramatically different (and ludicrously inferior) movie that goes completely against Gilliam’s vision and artistic intentions. Even when Sheinberg gave up his fight over the theatrical release, he still tried to stick it to Gilliam by releasing this version to television. Criterion included it as a supplement in the Laserdisc and DVD box sets for its academic value. This is an object lesson in the importance of editing to the filmmaking process. If you dare watch it, be sure to do so with the audio commentary, which points out every single change and explains how detrimental each is.
- Worst: ‘Dune: Extended Edition’ – Sorry, but I had to slip in one more pick for “Worst” that’s of particular personal significance to me. As I explained at length in my Blu-ray review on this site, ‘Dune’ is my favorite movie. I won’t deny that it’s a very flawed film, but I still maintain that there’s a great one in there if you look for it. Of course, it was a box office bomb for Universal Studios (ah, them again!). TV rights went to MCA, which attempted to recoup the investment by re-editing the movie and selling it to syndication as a two-part miniseries. Minus commercials, this longer version of the picture runs about three hours total. Since one of the biggest complaints about ‘Dune’ was how condensed and rushed much of it felt, you’d think that adding more footage would make for an improvement. Unfortunately, MCA hired incompetent hacks to do the editing, and they totally botched the job. The miniseries version is laughably awful in every respect. It opens with a cartoon, and has storyboard drawings inserted throughout in place of special effects. Shots are repeated over and over again, and inserted into scenes where they don’t belong. Entirely new scenes have been cobbled together using random shots culled from other existing scenes. While a small amount of interesting footage that David Lynch shot but discarded has been added back to the movie, little of it actually improves the film any. Instead, the new edit destroys any sense of continuity or storytelling coherence. This thing is an abomination. Lynch was so disgusted by it that he had his name removed. The miniseries was credited to the DGA pseudonym “Alan Smithee” as director, and “Judas Booth” (a name Lynch picked out and should convey his feelings) as screenwriter. Eventually, Universal renamed this the ‘Extended Edition’ and released it on DVD, but the Blu-ray version contains only Lynch’s theatrical cut.
Jason Bovberg (Connected Home Media)
- Best: ‘Blade Runner: The Final Cut‘ – One of the first “Directors’ Cuts,” and one of the greatest. I remember catching the fabled “workprint” version at the Nuart in Los Angeles back in 1991. It was a director’s cut that didn’t have the benefit of the director’s approval! Nevertheless, I remember falling in love with one of my favorite films all over again. Gone was the unnecessary bored-Ford voiceover. Gone was the ludicrously slapped-on happy ending. And spliced in was the powerful dialog change, “I want more life, FATHER.” It was a mesmerizing experience. Later, Ridley Scott seemed to stumble through various “director’s cut” permutations, not quite getting it right until the recent 2007 Final Cut, which incorporates the best workprint variations and uses subtle CGI and clever dubbing to fix some of the movie’s more famous gaffes. In the recent “Making of the Final Cut” pieces on the HD DVD and Blu-ray editions of the film, you can see how the team dealt with the obvious stunt double in Zhora’s death scene; and you’ll marvel over how they used Harrison Ford’s son Ben to smooth out unsynced dialogue. In this rare example, we now have a better version of a genuinely classic piece of filmmaking. And if you don’t like it, the original theatrical version is still very much available.
- Worst: ‘Star Wars: Special Edition’ – Oh, here we go again, you say. Hasn’t this been beaten to death? No! We can never stop complaining about what ‘Star Wars’ has become. The ‘Star Wars: Special Edition’ of 1997 generated a lot of excitement, and indeed, it offered some pleasures – namely, CG-tinkered special effects throughout, particularly impressive during the climactic battle scene. However (and this is a huge “however”), we also got dubious revisionism such as Greedo shooting first, a decidedly fake-looking CG Jabba floating around a herky-jerky Han Solo in Mos Eisley, and (most insultingly) a doo-doo joke. I could probably live with these horrors if not for that fact that they now comprise Lucasfilm’s official version of ‘Star Wars.’ The original version I saw in 1977 is practically forgotten, given only a token release on non-anamorphic DVD some years back, with no Blu-ray edition in sight – probably never. I can’t think of a stronger example of the wrong way to approach a director’s cut. Dazzled by computer technology of the late 1990s, George Lucas tore mercilessly into his masterpiece. He was far too preoccupied with whether he COULD make sweeping changes, and never stopped to think about whether he SHOULD. Probably the worst thing about the stupid ‘Special Edition’ goofery is the silliness that the Mos Eisley entrance became: an extended cartoony sequence filled with pratfalls and ridiculous robot humor – aimed apparently at mentally stunted children – that really should have warned us all about the tone of the eventual and even more embarrassing prequel trilogy.
- Best: ‘Halloween II: Unrated Director’s Cut‘ – ‘Halloween II’ is, by and large, a mess. But the mess that was released in theaters doesn’t hold a candle to the mess that Rob Zombie unleashed on home video late last year. This is a mess that’s emotionally complicated and bolder in a narrative sense. It takes risks that the studio (the always-strapped-for-cash Weinstein Company) advised Zombie against. When was the last time you saw a character as screechy and unlikable as Scout Taylor-Comtpon’s Laurie? (And yes, this is a compliment.) ‘Halloween II’ takes all those dark detours that the theatrical presentation avoided, such as the scene when Sherriff Brackett (Brad Dourif) comes across a room where his daughter Annie (Danielle Harris) has been murdered. In the theatrical cut, Zombie shied away from sentimentality, knowing that a bunch of rude teenagers would undoubtedly make or break the film’s box office chances. On home video, he’s edited the scene with bits of footage of the girl as a young child, as Brackett would have remembered her. In a similarly impressionistic way, he elongates the opening hospital chase to include some dreamy flourishes. At the end of the movie, he chooses a more appropriate song to conclude with, instead of the pulse-pounding (and expected) theme music of the original film. It may not be to everyone’s tastes, but ‘Halloween II’ in Director’s Cut form proves to be the rare remake that’s also blisteringly original. I will fight any man that claims otherwise.
- Worst: ‘King Kong: Deluxe Extended Edition‘ – Here’s something that really grinds my gears. There were some problems in the original 2005 version of Peter Jackson’s ‘King Kong’ – largely the unresolved arcs of the kid played by Jamie Bell and the sea captain. Logic (and a sense of narrative follow-through) would have sent Bell to join the army, vowing to avenge the death of his mentor and ultimately dying at the hands of a rampaging Kong. The captain should have come to the opening night of the Kong show, only to be trampled by Kong or the adoring hordes. But no. In the Extended Edition, we get more dinosaur bullshit on the island (a giant fish – oh boy!) and a few more minutes of Kong rippin’ it up in ol’ New York. What’s even more fascinating about this is that Jackson dispenses some priceless wisdom on the DVD of ‘The Frighteners’ (which may or may not be coming to Blu-ray). He says there that when you have a subplot that isn’t working, cut out all of that subplot, because it will end up bringing down other parts of the movie. Jackson should have listened to his own advice and not allowed these hanging chads of plot to dangle without resolution.
- Best: ‘Touch of Evil’ – Studio execs have been ruining movies since the movie business began. More often than not, it seems they stick their noses into things when they have the absolute least business getting involved. That was certainly the case whenever Orson Welles stepped behind the camera after ‘Citzen Kane.’ Starting with his second feature, ‘The Magnificent Ambersons,’ it seems some cockmonkey was always ready and willing to jump in, bring in a hapless cohort, and go wild with the guillotine splicer. One of the most well-known cases involved Welles’ 1958 noir masterpiece ‘Touch of Evil,’ which features one of the most famous, unbroken opening shots in movie history. Shortly after Welles screened his cut of the film, Universal took over, slapped opening credits over the length of the first shot, and hacked the movie down to 95 minutes. When Welles saw that version of the film, he composed a 58-page memo to the studio’s head of production, detailing the best ways to fix the film and pull the studio’s collective head out of its figurative butt. That memo, unfortunately, was ignored until 1998, when Walter Murch (‘Apocalypse Now‘), Bill Verney (‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’), Peter Reale (‘Battlestar Galactica‘), Bob O’Neil (the restorations of ‘Vertigo‘ & ‘Rear Window‘), Rick Schmidlin, and Jonathan Rosenbaum took the memo, and did everything in their power to restore the film’s elements and set things right. The newer version, running 111 minutes, is as close as we’ll likely ever get to Welles’ original vision. The opening scene is now untouched, and numerous elements have been carefully restored to the proceedings. If you’ve never seen ‘Touch of Evil,’ this is the version to catch! It’s a true classic.
- Worst: Any “Unrated” Judd Apatow Home Video Release – Judd Apatow is the reigning king of comedy. Whether directing or producing, he’s currently at the top of Hollywood’s comedy heap. His movies are funny, I’m a fan. I also adore his initial forays into television production. But someone really needs to slip him a copy of Walter Murch’s book on film editing, because the guy doesn’t have a clue when it comes to cutting a movie. Any time I’ve seen one of his movies in the theater, I’ve felt it was about a half hour too long. Then when the Unrated Cuts hit home video, the movies often become bloated, unwieldy messes, filled with long gaps that I guess serve as good opportunities to freshen your beer and fix a sandwich, without the inconvenience of having to press Pause. Certain comedy masters (John Cleese is a prime example) work and work on their productions in order to make sure every minute crackles. Their projects are all the better for it. With Apatow, even with the ability to include two dozen variations of the same lines in the ever-present “Line-o-Rama” special features, his movies just grow more and more unwieldly. I guess it’s good to be king, because no one messes with your stuff (see above). But in ten years, these movies are going to feel really, really dated, because they just don’t move along at a fast enough clip.
- Best: ‘Team America: World Police – Uncensored and Unrated’ – I like any version of this movie as long as it includes the scenes of the Matt Damon puppet. If you get the Unrated DVD, there’s also a crew member’s hand dressed up as Ben Affleck at the F.A.G. meeting, which is just icing on the cake. To this day, every time I see Matt Damon, I quietly say to myself, “I’m Matt Damon!” in that ridiculous Trey Parker puppet voice.
- Most Wanted: ‘Pretty in Pink’ – The alternate ending where Andie ends up with Ducky. Although this is not released, it’s certainly one of the most talked about and debated endings in the history of ’80s movies. It’s akin to the age old debate as to whether Simon Le Bon or John Taylor is cuter. I personally think the filmmakers made the right call on the ending. However, Andie and Blane would have broken up by the end of the school year when she found out that he had the hots for a mannequin that looked like Kim Cattrall.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
- Best: ‘Almost Famous: Untitled – The Bootleg Cut’ – ‘Almost Famous’ proved to be such an entrancing film in its original theatrical release, and the greatly extended ‘Untitled’ cut further heightens its strengths. ‘Untitled’ is so wonderfully immersive, adding additional splashes of color to its characterizations as well as its recreation of 1973. William’s mother barking at a small town shop owner for painting “Xmas” on a window, a DJ played by Kyle Gass stoned out of his mind and giving Stillwater free reign over the airwaves, a conversation about how the smallest and most subtle flourishes in a song can be the most memorable things about them, a really touching scene where Penny realizes she’s being left behind – All of this just makes my attachment to these characters that more intense, draws me more deeply into their world, and certainly leaves their shared passion for music more infectious. Those who missed out on this extended release of Almost Famous on DVD should note that a region-free Blu-ray disc is readily available across the pond, and it’s well-worth importing.
- Worst: ‘Army of Darkness: The Director’s Cut‘ – I guess I’m just trolling for hate mail. ‘Army of Darkness’ really is one of my all-time favorites. Maybe it’s because I’ve watched it to the point of rote memorization that I have such a tough time with the longer “Official Bootleg Edition” that Anchor Bay re-re-re-releases on DVD every couple of years. The overly tasteful sex scene seems out of step with the tone of the rest of the flick. “Good… bad… I’m the guy with the gun” is one of the most memorable lines Ash lobs out, and it gets the axe here for whatever reason. The epic siege near the end is extended but just seems like needlessly more of the same. This longer version of the climax, like quite a few of the many other minor additions throughout the movie, doesn’t really contribute anything other than slowing down the film’s manic pace. Even though Sam Raimi wanted to end the movie on a down note, I’ve always been a fan of the hyperkinetic she-bitch battle in the S-Mart we saw theatrically. It just seems like such a perfect tag to close out the ‘Evil Dead’ series. And… c’mon, with everything Ash suffered through for three movies straight, he deserves a moment of triumph. Maybe I’m just overly possessive of zombie-esque theatrical cuts. A lot of the extensions to George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead‘ – especially Gaylen Ross’ “Real brothers or street brothers?” line – make me cringe too, and the clunky ‘Night of the Living Dead‘ update is another monstrosity altogether.
- Best and Worst Simultaneously: ‘Highlander II: The Renegade Version’ – I was originally going to pick two, one best and one worst. But ‘Highlander II’ fills both roles so beautifully. The original theatrical version is one of the worst sequels of all time and completely altered the back story of the Immortals. It’s a film in such dire need of a new cut that just about anything would do. Sadly, the director’s cut of ‘Highlander II’ that completely edits out all the outer space nonsense somehow makes it even worse. Lines are cut in half and the new back story doesn’t make things any better. It’s as if there were a director’s cut of ‘Phantom Menace’ where Jar Jar was taken out, but was replaced by more Jake Lloyd in every scene.
Now tell us your picks in the comments.
Worst: Donnie Darkko
Good call on Donnie Darko. Very good call.
Michael Z Rork
I second Donnie Darko for worst.
I work at a video rental place, and whenever someone walks up with the Director’s Cut DVD I encourage them to forgo it and instead wait until they can see the Theatrical Cut.
Favorite Director’s Cuts
Best: Superman 2: The Richard Donnar Edition: Sadly I am not at home where I can look up the full story, but, relying on memory, Richard Donnar shot both the first Superman movie and roughly 80% of the second movie. Suddenly, the studio decided to bring in a new director at the last minute, who pretty much turned it into, well, something laughable. About 25 years later, they brought Donnar back and let him recut the movie, using, in some cases, shots that were only screentests. The result is a movie I can sit down and enjoy without feeling ridiculous.
2) Best – Blade Runner – For reasons stated by Jason
Favorite Extended Editions –
1) The Harry Potter movies – My biggest complaint has always been how rushed these movies are, and how much gets cut. I always said adding about 20 minutes to the runtime of each movie would fix it. The Ultimate Editions are a good start toward fixing this.
2) Fellowship of the Rings – Nuff said
3) Star Trek: The Motion Picture – I don’t think I have ever seen the theatrical version, but I can’t imagine anything being cut.
Favorite Fan Edits
1) Star Wars Revisited – To overly simplyfy, he basically took the special edition effects, and cut it to be like the original movie. Han shoots first. Jabba is not in here. The DeathStar is seen orbitting Alderon. Tons of color correction. Surround speakers fixed.
2) Pearl Harbor: Vintage Edition – What if Pear Harbor were recut to be a classic romance movie?
3) Star Trek Pilots: DS9 – Much improved version, and with time and care taken in cropping each shot so that it would look proper on 16×9. Normally not a fan of crops, but this guy did an amazing job.
WORST Director’s Cut:
Return of the Jedi.
Regarding Star Trek: TMP, the “Director’s Edition” cuts a bunch of footage from the theatrical cut as well as adding some new things. The total running time is only 5 minutes longer, but there’s at least twice that in changes.
A lot of fans prefer the Director’s Edition, but I’m in the minority in preferring the theatrical cut. The DE feels rushed, and I didn’t care for any of the new CG visual effects that were added.
But wasn’t the director’s cut only new to the DVDs? I thought there was an extended or director’s cut that also came out back in the 80s. That is the one I am referring to. I forgot about that CGI enhanced DVD version.
Sorry, should have looked before I posted:
The Director’s Edition is 135 minutes. The extended edition I am referring to is 144 minutes, which is down at the bottom of this page.
Wonder which edition was on the Blu-Ray. Now that I think of it, I seem to remember a scene where they were in the recreation lounge, playing some holographic video game, and I don’t recall that on the Blu-Ray version
The version you’re thinking of is the TV cut. The studio threw that together without the director’s involvement. Some of the new footage has visibly incomplete special effects. This was released on VHS and Laserdisc, but I don’t believe on DVD.
The first DVD release was the Director’s Edition in 2001. For several years, the DE was the only version of the movie available on DVD.
The Blu-ray contains only the original 131-minute theatrical cut. This was the first time since Laserdisc that the theatrical cut appeared on home video. A comparable DVD edition followed a few months later.
Almost forgot – Best and worst Simultaniously: The Passion Recut – pretty much a tamed down version of The Passion of The Christ for those with weak stomachs, or those who just refuse to see R rated movies, no matter what it is about. The good thing is that it opened up the movie to a whole new range of movie watchers, but at the same time cut what made the original so powerful.
the worst is the pg version of saturday night fevor. it’s in mono and way too tone down in langue to give it the feel the R cut has.
best is aliens. bought this on laser in the early 90’s for 100$ by far the best. other cuts from other movies seem like well we messed up lets recut it. aliens directors cut takes a great film and turns it into a classic.
one i’ve always wanted to see is the superman 4 directors cut i had read like in 88-89 that there was a preview that ran 2 hrs. and it didnt do well in the previews so they cut it down to 90 min. the 90 min. one is bad enough i would love to see the 2 hr. one to how bad that one is.
There was an excellent promo on Cartoon Network ten years ago or so that boasted that “Speed Racer is brought to you in bold beautiful mono!”
I’m going to get some serious hate mail on this one, but I have to say that one of my favorite Director’s Cuts is “Daredevil.” Almost a full half-hour of footage was put back in, including…gasp…a plot! Matt Murdock’s troubles are far more pronounced, Jon Favreau gets some fun moments, a pointless sex scene is excised, and some alternate scenes in the cathedral exploring Daredevil’s crises of faith are really interesting. What in the theaters was a dull, plotless, uninteresting time-waster was turned into a lively, enjoyable, superhero whodunit. Not 4-star material by any means, but a whole lot of fun.
As far as the worst, I’ll give my vote to any Director’s Cut where the changes are so minor that you can’t even figure out what’s different. I’m referring specifically to “Dodgeball.” I have yet to determine what changed in that movie. Was there an extra F-Bomb dropped somewhere that I missed? The world may never know the answer…
Hey, I’m with you on Daredevil. The Director’s Cut really does improve the movie DRASTICALLY. It’s still a heavily flawed film, but probably is one of the largest improvements to a movie I’ve seen compared to the butchered theatrical version.
Oh, and the only thing I specifically remember from the Dodgeball Unrated Cut is showing more underneath the fat girl’s skirt at the beginning when she sits on the guy’s face.
Some of my fav directors cuts:
ALIENS (restores the crucial Ripley’s dead daughter scene, plus I like the sentry gun stuff)
THE ABYSS (restores all the top side isses + the reason for the NTI’s concern/forgiveness)
KINGDOM OF HEAVEN – Makes an near unwatchable film into one of the best of Ridley’s career. Leagues and leagues better improvement.
If I could pick a directors cut that really changed the feel of the movie, I would have to say THE ABYSS. Especially the end… What a difference!
Worst would have to go to Return of the Jedi. The dance sequence in Jabbas palace has to be the stupidest addition ever. My little boy even thought it was stupid.
Michael Z Rork
Best: Lord of the Rings. The theatrical editions were amazing, but the extendeds, specifically Fellowship, were so much better.
Worst: Donnie Darko. The director attempted to explain what didn’t need explaining, and in turn ruined the power of the movie. What makes Donnie Darko awesome is that it makes you think and discuss and keep going back. The director’s cut destroys all of that. Then, on top of that, the mood is changed so much with the music changes — now the opening song is an upbeat pop song by INXS instead of the somber Killing Moon by Echo and the Bunnymen.
Michael Z Rork
In fact, I’m throwing on the Theatrical Edition Blu-ray right now because I love it so much.
Best: Kingdom of Heaven, Daredevil, Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Riddick, The Abyss, Aliens, Hellboy, Superman II: Richard Donner Cut, Jet Li’s Fearless, King Arthur.
Worst: Highlander: Endgame, Alien Resurrection, Street Fighter: Legend of Chun-Li, Friday The 13th remake.
Butterfly Effect – The DC is the best contrast I have ever seen. I loved the movie in the theater, but the director’s cut I watched on home video had my jaw dropping and my eyes watering. I know I’ll get haters, but I’m sticking to it.
I have liked almost every “Director’s Cut” (as usually that’s what the director originally intended before the studio modified that cut) and liked some extended editions, but not all. Extended editions typically remix scenes that were cut by the director for a reason. They probably slow down the movie or don’t make as much sense as they should. However, they were in the original script, so they’re more of a “Writer’s Cut” and so it really depends on who’s better at telling a story, the writer or the director.
Easily, without a doubt, my favorite director’s cut is Kingdom of Heaven. I’m surprised that it has barely been mentioned.
Does it really improve the movie? I wanted to love ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ so much, but the theatrical version just didn’t do it for me.
The Director’s Cut of Kingdom of Heaven greatly improves upon the theatrical cut. However, the movie still stars Orlando Bloom. That part didn’t get fixed.
Well hell, I’m gonna have to give that another go then!
Oh my God, the 2006 Star Wars re-releases make the ’90s special editions look like masterpieces. Editing Hayden Christensen into that shot with Yoda and Obi-Wan is the single most fucking offensive thing I have ever seen in my life. Editing out Jeremy Bulloch’s voice and altering the hologram of the Emperor in V are also grounds for execution by firing squad.
Sigurður Arnar Guðmundsson
One of the worst: Cinema Paradiso: Director’s Cut. It was just too much.
I really, really enjoyed the topic of this week’s Roundtable. There are so many debates, and they are usually positive discussions when it comes to the best and worst “Director’s Cuts”.
Most of these films are released in director’s cut formats because of us fans clamoring for them. Though I can express my opinion when it comes to recent theatrical releases that are toned down to “reach a larger audience” in the theaters then add 20 seconds to them to make “Unrated” editions for video. i.e. making a PG-13 for theaters and what is basically a mild R rating for the video. Then the theatrical becomes nearly obsolete. (Though I hate it even more when a movie is clipped for the home video and is never restored to it’s original state!)
Sorry for that pointless rambling fellow readers, now to my list:
For the best: Apocalypse Now Redux. Why would I dare say this? When these additions were made to the film, it gave it a new pace. It’s 3 hour, 22 minute runtime actually seems to go by much faster than the original version. I could delve deep into this argument, but I’ll leave up to others to comment as well.
And for the worst?: My pick for the worst goes to You Don’t Mess With The Zohan. Really? 4 more minutes to an already nearly 2 hour movie? This movie was so bad I couldn’t even watch this all the way through to the end. Perhaps after he propositions an old lady for sex (when I couldn’t take any more and turned it off) the plot turned around and I missed some seriously masterful film making, but I think I’ll balk at that idea.
My personal favorite would have to be Blade Runner The Final Cut, although I would like to add Daredevil as an honorable mention (not a great movie, but the sheer improvement from the theatrical cut is quite astonishing).
Aside from the Star Wars Special Editions, my personal least favorite altered cut is the Dumb and Dumber Unrated version. This is one of my favorites and the comic timing in the Unrated cut is totally wrecked in many scenes throughout the movie. This is quite a good lesson on “less is more” in a comedy.
Best: Red Cliff, International Version, Parts I & II (blu-ray)
Worst: Red Cliff, US Theatrical Version.
Best: Daredevil. As said, add subplot, actual LAWYERING (what would Bruce Wayne be without playboying or Clark Kent reporting?), remove a pointless sex scene that kills the narrative, and put lipstick on a pig. It does everything right.
Kingdom of Heaven also greatly benefits from the DC treatment.
Spider-Man 2.1 adds some fun to the film, but it isn’t drastic enough to warrant that much praise. The JJJ scene with the Spidey suit alone is worth price of admission.
Rambo (film 4) benefits from actually giving Julie Benz a purpose, and giving Rambo a reason to actually ever help her. in the TC, we don’t know why he says fuck it and helps her dumb ass.
what about Dark City? i never saw the original, but from the changes i read about, it was a vast improvement.
The two versions of Dark City differ primarily in pacing. The theatrical cut has a very frantic pace, with a lot of jagged cuts. It feels like most shots in the movie are just a second shorter than they ought to be. But this helps contribute to the main character’s sense of disorientation and desperation. The Director’s Cut has a slower, more deliberate pace.
Calling the longer version a “Director’s Cut” is kind of misleading. It was the director’s decision to edit the movie so rapid fire in the first version. It’s just that, years later, he decided to approach the material from a different perspective.
I wouldn’t say that either version is necessarily “better” than the other. The first time I watched the Director’s Cut, it took me a long time to get used to the slower pace. It just felt “wrong” to me. I had to really settle in with it before I began to appreciate it. I’d rate both versions of the movie about equally now.
I prefer the director’s cut of Dark City by quite a bit, on the merit of having no narration in the beginning (in the DC, this instead appears as a piece of dialogue in the boat scene near the end), and that the first instance of “tuning” occurs some 35 minutes or so into the movie, instead of revealing it in the first couple of minutes like the TC does. This way, the mystery behind the movie is revealed to John Murdoch AND the viewer bit by bit, which I find cooler myself. It appears like “just” a murder case at first, but then evolves into something waaay more messed up.
Like Josh Z says, the difference in editing/pacing are certainly noticeable as well, but it didn’t have that much of an impact on me, personally. In any case, Dark City DC and Blade Runner Final Cut would be my personal picks for the best.
Worst: agree with what’s already been said about original Star Wars trilogy and Donnie Darko director’s cuts.
forgot to mention that i’m looking forward to the DC of The Fountain–should be quite a trip!
Should have added There’s Something About Mary extended edition to the worstlist. Horrible horrible horrible additions put back into the movie
Personally, I love the extended versions of Lord of the Rings, The Abyss and the director’s cut of Amadeus.
I would Love to see a longer cut of Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe as well.
I never liked the extended version of Anchorman, so I’m glad they just finally released the theatrical version on Blu-ray!
Never seen the theatrical version, but I love the Director’s Version of Amadeus! Don’t change a thing, this is a masterpiece!
Best Extended Edition: ALIEN 3. I love it.
Best – Brazil, Blade Runner, Revolver – UK Version (not necessarily a DC, but shows you BIG TIME what a difference editing can make!); Sin City; Payback (perhaps the biggest change between a TC and a DC in history); and a special shout out to those ultra-indie directors (I can only think of David Lynch and Jim Jarmusch, but there have to be more) who have it CONTRACTUALLY OBLIGATED that the studios will put out the director’s cuts AND the directors own the actual (sorry, I don’t know the proper term) “hard copy of the film itself”. With Lynch it was after the Dune debacle; and I think Jarmusch has ALWAYS been doing it.
Worst – Blood Simple, Revenge (these 2 because they made them shorter, but when I watched the DC’s, it really REALLY seemed like, “Hey – something’s missing here!”. Plus you can’t get the TCs on DVD any longer); any of the “we turned it into a PG-13 movie for theatrical release so that the teen audience would pump up the first weekend gross, but now it’s on home video UNRATED!” It’s a HUGE pain in Canada – you can’t release “Unrated” tv shows/ theatrical films/ home videos of any type, but our ratings boards tend to be reasonably liberal (and we don’t have any of this “2 f-bombs get you a pg-13; 3 get you an R, unless you say the f-bomb while quoting someone” nonsense, so a movie rated 14A theatrically will probably get rated 14A for home video), so you never know WHAT has been “put back” into an “UNRATED dvd”.
The term you were searching for is the right of Final Cut. The director has final say on the editing of the movie, and the studio is not allowed to override his decisions. David Lynch has demanded that this be part of his contracts for every movie from Blue Velvet forward.
However, in cases like this, the director still doesn’t actually OWN the movie. The movie remains the property of the studio to distribute or sell as it pleases. The only thing the studio can’t do is alter the movie without the director’s approval.
Right of Final Cut is extremely rare. It’s not something that most directors will ever be granted. Filmmakers like Lynch have to sacrifice significant pay cuts to their directorial salaries for it.