Entertainment TV & Film Director's Cut: History and Origin of the Term Share PINTEREST Email Print Christopher Reeve in Superman II (1980). Warner Bros. TV & Film Movies Best Movie Lists Comedies Science Fiction Movies War Movies Classic Movies International Movies Movies For Kids Horror Movies Movie Awards Animated Films TV Shows By Christopher McKittrick Christopher McKittrick is a film writer whose work has been featured in anthologies such as 100 Entertainers Who Changed America. our editorial process Christopher McKittrick Updated November 30, 2019 The term "director's cut" originates from studio filmmaking and most commonly refers to a film director's preferred version of his or her movie. During the post-production process, a director will typically prepare a version of a film to submit for studio approval. However, unless the director has been contractually granted "final cut" privilege, the studio releasing the film has final say over the film that is released to theaters. Therefore, the studio's edit of a film typically differs from the director's edit. Did You Know? Charles Chaplin was one of the first directors to re-release his movies in re-edited versions. He re-released his 1925 silent film The Gold Rush in 1942 with a new musical score and shortened the film by about 20 minutes. In some cases, during post-production a studio may re-shoot or create new sequences without the original director's input to include in the final release. This has also happened when a director is fired or otherwise forced to leave a project after (or close to when) production wraps. For example, after director Zack Snyder left Justice League (2017) during post production (reportedly because of personal reasons), director Joss Whedon was brought on by Warner Bros. and shot two months of additional footage that was edited into the film, resulting in significant differences from Snyder's initial intentions. Since the film's release, many have called on Warner Bros. to release a so-called "Snyder Cut" that reflects Snyder's original vision of the film. Curiously, the term "director's cut" is sometimes a misnomer applied by a studio releasing a different version of a film (other terms commonly used are "Extended Edition," "Special Edition," or, in the case of comedy or violent films, "Unrated Version") that doesn't necessarily mean that it is the director's preferred version of the film. For example, the 2000 film by director Ridley Scott, Gladiator, was re-released as an "Extended Edition" that is 15 minutes longer than the theatrical release. However, Scott filmed an introduction for the Extended Edition of the film to specifically state that the theatrical release is his director's cut of the film. Scott has had numerous films reissued as director's cuts, including Alien, Blade Runner, and Kingdom of Heaven. In addition, a director's cut does not necessarily make for a better film. Director's cuts of films like Apocalypse Now (1979) and Donnie Darko (2001) have received criticism for adding material to already highly-regarded films. Similarly, the original release of Cinema Paradiso (1988), which ran 155 minutes, was less regarded than a later 123-minute cut (an even longer 173-minute "Director's Cut" features additional plot elements that significantly change the film's story). Another example are George Lucas' Special Editions of the original Star Wars trilogy (released in 1997 and again updated in 2004 and 2011), which have faced criticism for adding scenes and modifying sequences of the original films with more recent special effects. Notable Director's Cuts Though hundreds of films have been released as alternate director's cuts, some of the most interesting cases are listed below: Touch of Evil (1958) 1958: American actor Charlton Heston and American actor and film director Orson Welles (1915 - 1985) speak to each other in a scene from Welles's film, 'Touch of Evil'. (Photo by Universal Pictures/Getty Images) Orson Welles had a number of his films re-edited by studios against his wishes (most notably his Citizen Kane follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons, which was re-edited and partially re-shot while he was out of the U.S.). Though Welles' 1958 film noir classic Touch of Evil was also re-edited before it was released by Universal, thankfully Welles' extensive editing notes and cut footage survived. In 1998, Universal released a version of the film following those notes. The critically-acclaimed re-release is one of the rare examples of a director's vision being honored posthumously (Welles having died in 1985). Superman II (1980) Screening of "Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut" Margot Kidder and Richard Donner at the The Director's Guild Theater in West Hollywood, CA. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/WireImage) In what was at the time a unique approach, the first two Superman movies were filmed back-to-back. However, director Richard Donner was fired before he completed shooting of Superman II. His replacement, Richard Lester, re-shot substantial portions and the film was released in 1980. Twenty-six years later, Donner was able to complete his vision of the film after fan demand with the release of Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (2006). This version features vastly different footage than what Donner had shot. Blade Runner (1982) Harrison Ford on the set of "Blade Runner", directed by Ridley Scott. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images) Ridley Scott's 1982 dystopian neo-noir film Blade Runner was released in U.S. theaters in a version that was not supervised by Scott (including a studio-imposed "happy" ending), though the international release was much closer to Scott's vision of the film. Several different versions of the film followed, including a Director's Cut released in 1992 (which, despite its name, was also not completed by Scott) and Scott's "Final Cut" in 2007. Almost Famous (2000) William (Patrick Fugit) & Penny (Kate Hudson) backstage in 'Almost Famous' (2000). DreamWorks LLC Cameron Crowe's director's cut of his 2000 film Almost Famous not only adds 40 minutes to its runtime, but has a completely different title: Untitled (a name Crowe considered while working on the film). This "Bootleg Edition" adds a number of sequences to Crowe's semi-autobiographical film about being a teenage rock journalist in the 1970s on tour with a band that is slowly imploding.