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The Five Best And Most Well-Known Director’s Cuts

Zack Snyder’s Justice League hits HBO Max today, and it might be the most talked about “director’s cut” in history. Naturally, disagreements occur between studios and directors, and there have been plenty of director cuts over the years in Hollywood. In honor of the Snyder Cut, these are five of the best and most well-known director’s cuts in history.


Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

The release of Once Upon a Time in America was a mess, with distributors cutting the movie nearly in half from the original 269-minute epic legendary director Sergio Leone envisioned. Fortunately, after a flop for a 139-minute version in the U.S., the 229-minute take is now seen as the true film. However, there is also an extended director’s cut that adds another 22 minutes to go up over four hours and gets closer to the original length Leone intended before he was convinced to bring a version down to 229 minutes. Overall, both the accepted 229-minute version and the even bigger director’s cut are great.


Superman II (1980)

In some ways the spiritual predecessor to the Snyder Cut, Superman II’s release played out very similarly to Justice League. Original director Richard Donner (who directed Superman like Zack Snyder directed Superman reboot Man of Steel) was replaced in middle of the second installment of the film series. Now, Superman II is held in pretty high regard (obviously not the case with the theatrical cut of Justice League), but fans still hammered Warner Bros. for a “Donner Cut” just like they did for the Snyder Cut. It took years, but Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut was finally released in 2006.


Blade Runner (1982)

Ridley Scott has multiple director cuts of his films, but Blade Runner probably stands atop the list. However, it gets complicated, because there are two different director cuts for the movie. There’s “The Director’s Cut” from 1992, which was changed using notes from Scott, who was not actually fully involved with it. Then there’s “The Final Cut” from 2007, which Scott had full control over but has reshoots decades after the original, a turn off for some people. So, there are upsides and downsides to both director cuts, but “The Final Cut” is probably the best version because it captures the vision of the director—as long as you are OK with the new edits 25 years after the original release.


Watchmen (2009)

There are also a couple of different director cuts for Watchmen: the “Director’s Cut” and the “Ultimate Cut”. You might think the Ultimate Cut is the best version, but the Director’s Cut is probably best for most people. The Director’s Cut is truer to the movie Zack Snyder wanted to create (as tends to happen, the film was cut down for a theatrical release), while the Ultimate Cut incorporates Tales of the Black Freighter into the Director’s Cut, which feels a bit unnatural. The theatrical cut is probably the worst of the three versions of Watchmen.


Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Two Snyder films make the top five. It’s almost like Snyder is so excited about his process and his films that he doesn’t want to leave anything out, but hardcore comic-book fans strongly prefer his takes to the movie-by-committee approach. Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Ultimate Edition is the director cut from Snyder that flows much better than the theatrical release, which was widely panned by critics. It’s a shame, because the Ultimate Edition of Batman v. Superman is vastly superior, and who knows how things would have turned out with Justice League if BvS was better received? But at least Warner Bros. listened to its fans and allowed Snyder to continue his own vision of the Snyderverse with ZSJL.


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