Editing a movie's a tough gig. Writers write what they believe to be essential, and the director shoots what they deem necessary. Then, editors come along and cut up everything, helping the director decide which lines should go and which scenes are now redundant. Some deleted scenes can even completely change a movie.
But why would a director insist on getting rid of a movie-changing scene? During the editing process, filmmakers are faced with a multitude of decisions: do they keep that dynamite scene wherein the two leads bring their A-game even if it doesn’t forward the plot? Is that witty aside by the snarky comic relief truly necessary? Should the ending really nod toward a sequel even if it’s not been greenlit?
From adding moments of clarity and helping make sense of confusing plot lines to literally ending the movie differently, these are the 27 of the best deleted scenes that completely change a movie.
27. Terminator 3 (2003) – Meet Sgt. Candy
The scene: With more retrofitted plotting than you can shake a T-800’s severed limb at, the Terminator franchise is a happy cobble of movies with wildly mismatched tones. Terminator 3: The Rise of the Machine’s ambition to be a legitimate T2 follow-up is squandered somewhat due to its high ratio of sight gags. While they don’t all land, this cheeky joke snipped away by director Jonathan Mostow fills in a large world-building gap.
In a cutaway to a military training video, we learn that Sergeant Candy is the human inspiration for the T-800 series. Following a complaint from General Brewster over Candy’s natural accent, one of the men at the table pipes up, in Arnie’s voice: “We can fix it.” While it’s not exactly the best joke in the world, it enticingly reveals who designs the Terminators.
26. It (2017) – Georgie retrieves his boat
The scene: Andy Muschietti’s ode to Stephen King’s tome begins with the horrific murder of young Georgie Denborough. Desperate to get his paper boat back after it sails into a storm drain, Georgie meets Pennywise, the “Eater of Worlds” living beneath the town of Derry. Before long, little Georgie is ravaged by the clown, kickstarting a series of events that leads his big brother Bill and his friends to confronting the ancient evil.
In this deleted scene, however, quite the opposite happens. Bill’s little brother swipes back his boat easily, to which Pennywise replies “Aw, shit.” Clearly it’s a joke version of the original brutal scene, but it does raise some interesting questions. What might have happened if this played out? It’s likely The Losers Club would not have pursued Bill Skarsgard’s clown, leaving Pennywise’s reign of terror to go uncontested.
In Bruges (2008) – Harry's flashback
The scene: Martin McDonagh’s black comedy In Bruges balances the brutality of its characters with their insightful, amusing observations on life. That’s where the humour lies, particularly as we spend time with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson’s crooks on the lam in Bruges. Their boss, on the other hand, has no such introspective side, embracing only his penchant for violence. It’s no secret that the Ralph Fiennes’ Harry is a bastard. Gleeson’s character Ken references his past with the mobster chief, but it’s only in this deleted flashback scene that we learn of his earlier thuggery.
Doctor Who’s Matt Smith plays a younger version of the character in his only scene in the movie, that shows him decapitating someone. It was ultimately excised due to McDonagh’s dissatisfaction with the effects, yet its intent – to justify why Ken and Ray are so terrified of him – is spot-on.
24. The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – (N)ice Queen Miranda
The scene: If there’s one thing made abundantly clear throughout The Devil Wears Prada it's that Miranda Priestly is, well, the devil. Wearing Prada. It’s right there in the title. Yet, this deleted scene flies in the face of everything we know of the fashion magazine editor, as she thanks her long-suffering intern Andy for smoothing over her husband’s raucous behaviour at a black-tie event.
It’s a small moment, yet this dint in Miranda’s steely persona detracts from the movie’s ending when she, for brief flicker, reveals her softer side. Essentially taking all the poison from the movie’s last sting, this out-of-character moment swerves the story into a different territory – one where we don’t ponder Andy’s life choices. It’s a good thing this scene hit the cutting room floor.
23. Get Out (2017) – Is Rose a victim?
The scene: The twist in the tale of Jordan Peele’s Get Out reveals what audiences long-suspected about the Armitage family: they’re evil. In their quest for immortality, matriarch Missy hypnotizes young black men so old white people can snatch and inhabit their bodies. Shortly after we meet her daughter Rose and her boyfriend Chris, Missy attempts to rid him of his smoking habit using that very technique.
What this scene – available to watch on the Huffington Post (opens in new tab) – proposes is that Rose has also been hypnotized by her mother too. “I had the same thing,” Rose assures Chris. “She hypnotized me when I was in high school for stage fright and I had the craziest nightmares. But, I just remember thinking ... it worked.” It implies that she’s not 100% prime evil but another puppet in the town’s murderous machinations, and also a victim alongside Chris.
23. The Wolverine (2013) – Wolvie’s OG threads
The scene: James Mangold’s first foray into the world of the X-Men saw him tackle Wolverine’s sophomore solo movie. Packed with action galore, the film – while less of a brooding, character-led affair than its successor Logan – has a handful of interesting moments. One of those excised from the theatrical cut arrives at the end of the “Unleashed Edition”. As our weary superhero boards a plane leaving Japan, he’s handed a mystery gift in an ornate box, which is soon revealed to be the character’s signature yellow and brown costume.
This brief glimpse tantalised fans with a “What if?” scenario for future X-Men movies. Had this remained in the film, there’s a strong chance we’d have seen Wolvie wearing his comic-book accurate gear in Days of Future Past. As it stands, Mangold believes that Logan, of all the X-Men, is the one who would never wear a costume to do good.
21. Leon (1994) – Leon shows Mathilda how to shoot
The scene: The International Cut of Leon, The Professional features many scenes not included in the U.S. theatrical release. Following initial test screenings, American audiences found certain moments unsettling and they subsequently received the snip. One has Matilda asking Leon to be her lover, one finds Leon discussing the first time he had his heartbroken, and another sees Matilda puts on a dress in the same room as Leon.
Luc Besson knew he was treading a fine line, so removed most of these moments, but in the process took out several scenes where Leon takes his young apprentice out on jobs and then follows them up with training sequences. Why those scenes didn’t make the final cut is a tough one because they reveal why Matilda becomes such an effective professional herself.