10 Movies With Must-Watch Directors’ Cuts

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Nowadays, it’s becoming increasingly more common for theatrically released motion pictures arrive on DVD, Blu-ray and digital with director’s cuts.

For the uninformed, the director’s cut is the version of a film that’s generally indicative of the director’s original vision, prepared prior to the assembly cut, the rough editor’s cut and eventually the final cut. However, just because the final cut is the one the studio decides is suitable for public release doesn’t mean it’s the absolute best version of the film in question. In fact, a number of films are drastically improved by watching the latter, so we here at Epicstream decided to compile a list of 10 movies with must-watch director’s cuts:

  1. Apocalypse Now

    Released in 1979, Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now centers on a Vietnam War captain who embarks on a deadly mission to Cambodia to assassinate a rogue colonel. However, in 2001, an even greater version of the film was released in cinemas and on home video in the form of Apocalypse Now Redux. This cut restored nearly one hour of scenes that were originally left on the cutting room floor, including more combat footage and a chapter featuring the de Marais family’s rubber plantation, which was digitally enhanced to match Coppola’s vision that he was unable to achieve using 1979 technology.

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  2. Kingdom of Heaven

    2005’s Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott, is a historical drama in which a French blacksmith aids the Kingdom of Jerusalem in the lead-up to the Battle of Hattin. Unhappy with the studio’s insistence that he cut 45 minutes from the film, though, Scott oversaw an extended director’s cut, which was received far more favorably by critics than its predecessor. Most notably, the director’s cut offered extensive insight into the characters’ motivations, which were sorely missing from the original, including hints that David Thewlis’ Hospitaler is an embodiment of God.

  3. Almost Famous

    Almost Famous is Cameron Crowe’s semi-autobiographical tale of a teenage journalist touring with a rock band in an effort to get his first cover story published. Crowe originally wanted to title the film Untitled, and while the studio wouldn’t allow it, he was finally able to do so when he released his “bootleg” cut, which included around 40 minutes of additional scenes. More specifically, the scenes from the original cut of the film are nearly all expanded upon ever so briefly, giving the “bootleg” cut a more complete feel. And sometimes, that’s all it takes to make a great film even greater.

  4. Once Upon a Time in America

    Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America was the director’s final project before his death in 1989. Nevertheless, in 2014, fans were finally gifted with Leone’s extended director’s cut, which bumped the runtime up from 139 minutes to 229. This beefed up version included a restoration of the non-chronological flashback structure Leone intended to use, including the childhood scenes that were so integral to the director’s vision. The director’s cut also replaced the scene of Secretary Bailey shooting himself to the famed “garbage truck and opium den” conclusion. Still, despite all this, it’s worth noting that Leone’s true vision for the film would have seen it clock in at nearly six hours.

  5. Superman II

    Following 1978’s Superman, director Richard Donner was replaced midway through production on the sequel by Richard Lester, who reshot a large portion of the film in order to receive full director’s credit. However, in 2006, Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was released, which restored much of Donner’s original footage that had been scrapped. Furthermore, it removed many of Lester’s comedic additions, which many felt were unnecessarily campy. Ultimately, The Richard Donner Cut feels true to the spirit of the original 1978 film, which remains the epitome of on-screen Superman portrayals for countless fans to this day.

  6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    While we could easily include all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings extended editions, we decided to narrow it down to The Return of the King. This version included new editing, additional special effects and more nods to J. R. R. Tolkien’s source material, such as Legolas’ lines during the Paths of the Dead scenes. There’s also Saruman’s death scene, which was inexplicably cut from the theatrical release, much to the chagrin of Christopher Lee, as well as the nightmare-inducing inclusion of the grotesque Mouth of Sauron.

  7. Daredevil

    Mark Steven Johnson’s Daredevil represents a dark time in superhero films. However, while many fans wish they could forget Ben Affleck’s outing as the Man Without Fear, the 2004 director’s cut is actually a vast improvement from the original. The biggest addition was a subplot featuring a drug addict played by Coolio, but there’s also the downplay of the Matt Murdock/Elektra romance, which is arguably one of the original film’s weakest points. Furthermore, there’s an increased focus on Matt as a lawyer and not just a vigilante.

  8. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

    Many consider Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice to be the beginning of the end for the DC Extended Universe. Those who’ve seen the Ultimate Edition, though, were treated to a far more complete story than those who only saw the theatrical cut. With 31 additional minutes, the Ultimate Cut fills in a number of small plot holes, such as the reason Superman doesn’t know there’s a bomb in Wallace Keefe’s wheelchair (it’s lined with lead). This cut also adds a scene in which Lex Luthor can be seen engaging with Steppenwolf, which helped set the stage for 2017’s Justice League. That film, of course, still has fans wishing for a director’s cut.

  9. Watchmen

    Watchmen is yet another Zack Snyder film with a must-watch director’s cut. In fact, it actually has two must-watch cuts: the director’s cut and the Ultimate Cut. The director’s cut adds 24 minutes of additional footage, while the Ultimate Cut adds an animated version of the Tales of the Black Freighter interstitial narrative from the comic book source material, along with the accompanying newsstand sequences. However, unless you’re a true diehard comic fan, the director’s cut is more than sufficient when it comes to enhancing the theatrical cut of the film.

  10. Blade Runner

    Despite its notoriety in the sci-fi genre, seeing Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner can be a daunting task for newcomers, largely because there are seven different versions of the film. There’s the Workprint (a version shown to test audiences in March 1982), the U.S. Theatrical Cut, the International Cut, the Director’s Cut, the Final Cut, the San Diego Sneak Preview Cut and the U.S. Broadcast Cut (the first five are included in the 2007 five-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition and 2012 30th-Anniversary Collector's Edition releases). Plus, depending on which version of the film you see, your experience may differ greatly. For example, the U.S. Theatrical Cut includes the much-lamented voiceovers by Harrison Ford, as well as a studio-imposed “happy ending” reveal that Rachel doesn’t have a four-year limit to her lifespan like other replicants. However, most fans swear by the Final Cut, in which Scott had full creative control.