Zack Snyder's Justice League: The biggest differences from the theatrical cut

Zack Snyder's Justice League
(Image credit: HBO Max)

Zack Snyder's Justice League has arrived – and the four-hour epic is very different from the theatrically released 2017 version. For the uninitiated, Snyder stepped away from Justice League after a family tragedy, and Joss Whedon was brought in to oversee reshoots that ended up substantially changing the movie. A fan campaign to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut eventually brought the movie back to life, and the version now streaming on HBO Max is all Snyder.

While the overarching plot of the so-called Snyder Cut follows similar story beats to the theatrical version – the villain Steppenwolf tracks down the Mother Boxes, the League uniting to stop him, and it all ends with a big punch-up – there are plenty of previously unseen moments, new characters, and a heavily altered ending.

You might be wondering about exactly what's changed, so we've rounded up the biggest variations between the theatrical cut and the Zack Snyder's Justice League here. It goes without saying, but warning for major spoilers ahead. If you haven't been able to watch Snyder Cut yet, come back when you have!

Without further ado, here are all the biggest differences between Zack Snyder's Justice League, and Joss Whedon's theatrical cut.

A new opening sequence

Zack Snyder Justice League

(Image credit: DC/Warner Bros.)

Zack Snyder's Justice League begins with a familiar sight for those who've seen Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The movie begins with Superman's death at the hands of Doomsday, the superhero's roar reverberates across the world, heard by Cyborg, Lex Luthor, the Amazons, and Atlanteans under the ocean. It also wakes up the Mother Boxes, as they sense there is no Kryptonian protector on Earth.

The theatrical cut, on the other hand, starts with Superman (with his CGI upper lip) being filmed by some children, which then segues into a rooftop fight between Batman and a criminal, which introduces us to the parademons. Neither the Superman or Batman scene are in the Snyder Cut.

Character introductions

Ezra Miller in Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In Snyder's Justice League, we get more fleshed out introductions to three new additions to the superhero line-up: the Flash, Cyborg, and Aquaman.

Aquaman's first scene is different: we now see some villagers sing as the Atlantean, real name Arthur Curry, swims away from Bruce Wayne's entreaty to join the fledgling League. The dialogue between Bruce and Arthur is somewhat similar to the theatrical cut, though without Batman's one-liners, and there's no Mother Box drawing on the wall, either. A later scene in the Snyder Cut, which sees Aquaman save a townsperson and then head back into the pub, is in both versions, but several minutes are shaved off in Whedon's, plus the person who was almost shipwrecked leaves a green goo on Aquaman's hand because it was parademons all along. 

In Zack Snyder's Justice League, Cyborg – AKA Victor Stone – appears briefly before his real introduction, which sees the hero, pre robotics, playing a football game. A car accident then kills his mother Elinore Stone, while the doctor warns his father, Silas Stone, that Victor won't survive. There's also a walkthrough of Cyborg's powers, which sees him wandering through a digital banking landscape, and topping up a struggling mother's near-empty bank account. All of that was absent from the theatrical cut – the only scene that remains is the conversation between a brooding Victor and his father, albeit with very different dialogue. 

The Flash, alias Barry Allen, also gets to demonstrate his powers further in the Snyder Cut. While fumbling a job opportunity at a doggy day care, he spots Iris West's car colliding with a huge truck. In slo-mo, with plenty of lightning flashing around him, he speeds to save her – and returns in time to play with the dogs. In the theatrical cut, Iris West is completely removed and we first meet The Flash talking to his father in prison. 


Steppenwolf in Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: Zack Snyder (via Vero))

It's not just Steppenwolf's appearance that’s drastically different from the theatrical cut. His whole motivation is new and improved, too. While the villain tries to unite the Mother Boxes to create the Unity in both versions, the Snyder Cut reveals that Steppenwolf is attempting to win back Darkseid's favor so he can return home – which makes the discovery of the Anti-Life Equation (more on that later) such a win. The theatrical cut made his motivations less clear and Steppenwolf seemingly simply wanted to turn Earth into the image of his home-world for Darkseid.

As for his look, he wasn't this spiky and alien-looking back in 2017 – Snyder has said before that he thinks the design was changed for being too scary.


Darkseid in Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max/Warner Bros)

Darkseid arrives in the Snyder Cut, and he's scarier than ever. He was entirely absent from the theatrical cut, apart from a namedrop, but he's a looming presence in the new version. For one thing, it's Darkseid (or his younger self, Uxas), and not Steppenwolf, who is shown attacking Earth during the "History Lesson" sequence – he was repelled by the combined forces of the Amazons, Atlanteans, humankind, a Green Lantern, and even some Greek gods. A similar "History Lesson" plays out in the theatrical cut, though with major chucks removed.

His lieutenant DeSaad is also present in the Sndyer Cut, as is Granny Goodness – though she has no lines. DeSaad is Steppenwolf's main contact back home, until a Mother Box shows him the Anti-Life Equation is on Earth.

That equation is also missing from the theatrical cut: in the new Justice League, the Anti-Life Equation draws Darkseid himself to Earth. It would allow him to take over the minds of everyone on the planet – and if you remember the Knightmare scene from Dawn of Justice, you know that means Superman will succumb. 

Plus, Cyborg gets a vision of Darkseid invading Earth while trying to resurrect the fallen hero: Darkseid slaughters pretty much everyone in his way, which is some seriously scary stuff. And there's a new Knightmare in the Snyder Cut, but, again, more on that later/


Superman in Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros./DC)

Superman was resurrected from the dead in 2017, too, but things play out differently in the Snyder Cut. There's no argument between the Leaguers that leads to the decision – and the fight between the League and Superman doesn't end with Supes asking Batman "Do you bleed?" Then, Superman's conversation with Lois Lane and his mother Martha on the Kent farm is all-new, too – no "itchy" comments here.

When Clark Kent explores the Kryptonian ship, the voices of Russel Crowe's Jor-El and Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent can both be heard, taken from Man of Steel, and Supes eventually dons a black and silver suit rather than his classic red and blue ensemble for the last section of the movie.

And, of course, there's no mustache.

Extra characters

Kiersey Clemons as Iris West

(Image credit: Warner Bros./HBO Max/DC)

There are plenty of characters in the Snyder Cut who didn’t make it to the big screen in 2017. Notably, there's Willem Defoe's Vulko, who popped up again in Aquaman, as well as Kiersey Clemons' Iris West – and Clemons has been confirmed to star in The Flash opposite Ezra Miller.

Then there's Jared Leto's Joker (more on him later) and Harry Lennix's General Swanwick, AKA Martian Manhunter, who appears twice in the movie – once, as Martha Kent, after speaking with Lois Lane, and again at the end, when he helps tease a sequel by telling Bruce Wayne that he's on Earth to help out.

Also to note: that scene between Martha and Lois is very, very different. In the theatrical cut, the pair meet at Lois's workplace, because Lois is back working at the Daily Planet, unlike in the Snyder Cut where she's still absent from work due to the heartbreak of losing Clark Kent.

The final showdown

Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: HBO Max)

Almost the entire third act of Zack Snyder's Justice League is different to the 2017 version. There's no Russian family with bug spray, and Flash and Superman don't go off to rescue civilians (the whole area is abandoned in the Snyder Cut). Cyborg is tries to separate the Mother Boxes in both versions, but in Snyder's, he needs a serious blast of power from Flash to help him. That keeps the Flash occupied racing around, and Batman protects him by killing parademons. 

Unfortunately, things go wrong for the heroes in the Snyder Cut, and they're just too late to stop the Unity – the resulting blast of energy wipes everyone out. Or, at least, it would've, but Flash enters the timestream and rewinds to the crucial moment. None of this is in the theatrical cut.

Then there's Darkseid actually being present in the fight, via Boom Tube (yes, that's the actual comic-book name for those portals). He watches the events unfold, which means he has a front-row seat to something that didn’t happen in 2017: Aquaman impales Steppenwolf, and Wonder Woman slices his head clean off. In the theatrical version, Steppenwolf is overwhelmed by fear, and the paredemons swarm him before they all teleported away.

Finally, when the fight is complete, no wildlife starts to bloom in the Snyder Cut. The heroes stand together, then Batman's plane pulls up, and that’s that.

Original Deathstroke scene


(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

In the theatrical cut, one of the post-credits scenes saw Deathstroke arrive on Lex Luthor's yacht. Luthor ominously called for them to form "a league of our own", which was a clear tease for Injustice League. 

Joe Manganiello revealed that the original post-credits scene was about Batman, setting up the now-cancelled Ben Affleck solo movie, which would've seen Deathstroke doing his best to destroy Bruce Wayne's life. This version of the scene is restored in the Snyder Cut, though as part of the movie, and not a post-credits sting.


Jared Leto in Zack Snyder's Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros./HBO Max)

Right at the end of the movie, we get another glimpse of the Knightmare timeline. This scene was filmed during additional photography, and is a big departure from the rest of the movie. 

In this timeline, Darkseid has succeeded in conquering Earth, and Superman is under his sway. Batman leads a resistance against the new world order, with the aim to eventually send The Flash back in time to the exact right point to prevent any of it from ever happening (hence the "Am I too soon?" scene in Dawn of Justice – as well as Bruce's vision of Superman killing him).

This sequence includes Flash, Cyborg, Batman, and Mera, as well as Deathstroke and Jared Leto's Joker – the latter was originally not in any version of Justice League. Ben Affleck's Batman and Leto's Joker have never interacted in the DCEU before this, which already marks this scene out – and this is the first time Robin's death at the hands of the Joker has been mentioned out loud in the movies (it was teased in Batman v Superman, with Robin's burned suit on display in the Batcave). 

We also discover the origin of Batman's Joker card, taped to his weapon in Batman v Superman's Knightmare sequence – as long as Bats has it, the truce between him and Joker holds.

The Knightmare sequence is a pretty clear sequel tease, with Snyder previously revealing that a sequel would see Darkseid come to Earth and turn Superman against the League. However, don't get your hopes up too high – Snyder has repeatedly said he doesn't think a second movie will ever get made. Still, stranger things have happened – like the release of a once-fabled four-hour cut of Justice League...

For more on Zack Snyder's Justice League, be sure to read our pieces on:

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.