Like you, the staff of ScreenCrush is spending a looooot of time sitting around at home these days. Like you, we’re passing the time revisiting some of our favorite movies in our Blu-ray and DVD collections. Finally, all of the thousands of dollars we wasted on physical media are not in vain!
Watching the supplemental materials on those discs got us thinking about our favorite deleted scenes — and particularly the deleted scenes that are so good we wished they were never cut from their films in the first place. After a lot of YouTubing and debate, ScreenCrush’s video guru Ryan Arey and I narrowed things down to the following list.
Creating our top 25, we only had two specific rules. First, a scene had to exist in viewable form to be included. Stuff that gets cut from a script before cameras ever roll can certainly be interesting, but it’s not really a “deleted scene.” (You can’t delete something that never existed in the first place.) We also decided to exclude alternate endings, even though they technically are deleted scenes, because we’ll probably rank those separately at a later date.
Today, though, it’s all about deleted scenes. Starting with...
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 (2010)
The Dursleys were mostly portrayed harshly in the Harry Potter films, as a result of their harsh treatment of Harry. Throughout the franchise, Harry’s caretakers represent the mean, ignorant side of the Muggle world. This deleted scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 would have shown that Harry’s Aunt Petunia had some humanity, as she talks with enormous sadness about how the death of Harry’s mom was also the death of her sister. It doesn’t excuse her behavior in the previous movies, but it hints at the pain that she’s endured. Harry’s presence was surely a constant reminder of that pain, and including this scene would have provided some valuable context for the earlier films.
Maybe it’s good that Robert Shaw’s Quint gets so little introduction or explanation in Jaws; it gives him this aura of mystery that serves the film well. And this deleted scene doesn’t exactly explain his character. But it does offer some insight into his personality. Also, it’s hilarious.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
While the “Smart Hulk” became a core character in Avengers: Endgame, he was always expected to debut at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. Late in production, the filmmakers decided to remove his big first appearance, and save it for the sequel. The video below explains why we think that was the wrong call in great detail:
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Audiences might have had a different opinion of evil boss Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) if this scene had been left intact. In it, Anne Hathaway narrowly averts disaster by distracting a VIP when Miranda’s husband (James Naughton) drunkenly sticks his foot in his mouth in the middle of a glitzy party. In the aftermath, a relieved Miranda whispers “Thank you” to Hathaway’s Andy. This scene is controversial with TDWP fans because they believe it’s out of character for Miranda, which might account for why it was deleted in the first place.
In this cut sequence, Rob (John Cusack) goes to buy a vinyl collection, only to be confronted with an unexpected complication: The seller (Beverly D’Angelo) wants $50 and not one penny more for the best collection he’s ever seen — and refuses even a reasonable offer because she’s trying to stick it to her unfaithful husband, who asked her to sell his records and mail him the profits to fund a Caribbean getaway with his 19-year-old mistress. Rob is then in the surreal position of try to negotiate a worse price for himself, but can’t get her to budget from her lowball offers. The scene wasn’t necessary, but it did show Rob to be a man of principles, even when it hurt his bottom line. It also underlines the way music in High Fidelity can be a mediator in the relationships between men and women.
One of the big problems with Superman Returns is the entire plot revolves around something we never see: Superman’s disappearance from Earth while he apparently searched for the remains of his home planet of Krypton for five years. In the final film, Superman’s trip is left entirely theoretical; the movie was supposed to open with a long sequence of Superman in space, where he finds Krypton, gets sickened by all the Kryptonite, and then begins his return to Earth. It’s easy to see why the sequence was deleted — silent, ponderous space exploration doesn’t exactly get a blockbuster off to a thrilling start — but it would have been nice to see some of what happened to Superman in space. Plus, all of that Kryptonite foreshadows the big action sequence at the end of the movie.
This Is Spinal Tap (1984)
This Is Spinal Tap runs a lean 82 minutes. Only the best of the best of the cast’s improvisations made the cut. However, the fabled workprint for the film had a runtime of around 270 minutes, lengthening many scenes that only appeared briefly, and adding several entirely new sequences. For example, Bruno Kirby’s limo driver easily gets more screen time in this lengthy deleted scene than in the entirety of the actual movie, and it reveals more of his character, and shows Spinal Tap at their bullying, excessive worst.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
I’m going to let ScreenCrush’s Lord of the Rings expert, Ryan Arey, explain this one: “In Return of the King, Dathomir is a huge jerk to his kid, Faramir. Boromir was his favorite son, and he wished Faramir died instead of him. This scene actually shows them on screen together, so you understand the family dynamic. It also shows why Faramir was tempted to take the ring to his father, and in The Two Towers he even repeats his father's phrase, ‘Farmir will bring a mighty gift to show his quality.’ Basically, it’s ‘The wrong kid died!’ on Middle-earth.”
For decades, nitpickers have harped on a big plot hole in Independence Day: How does Jeff Goldblum’s character infect the alien computers with a virus using only Earth equipment? As it turns out, this deleted scene would have addressed that question. Goldblum’s tech genius is able to recognize the aliens’ computer code in the wreckage of an alien craft, and then deciphers it. Ultimately you don’t need the scene — if you’ll buy almighty aliens from space with giant ships, it’s not that much of a stretch to assume Jeff Goldblum could screw with their computers. Still, it’s nice to know the creators at least considered the issue and had a solution in mind.
Few movies have more deleted scenes than Heaven’s Gate. Michael Cimino’s epic Western premiered at 219 minutes, bombed with critics, and then was hastily re-edited into a compromised 149-minute version. Whole chapters of the movie were removed, including the lengthy prologue that showed Jim Averill (Kris Kristofferson) and Billy Irvine (John Hurt) graduating from Harvard decades before the dark events that follow. The sequence served an important counterpoint to the main story, and echoed the epilogue, which was set years after the main story. Cimino’s director’s cut was finally released widely on home video in 2012, restoring most of the missing sequences.
Adam McKay, Will Ferrell, and the rest of the Anchorman gang made both movies in the series by shooting a ton of material, and then whittling it down in the editing room. They had so much extra footage on the first Anchorman that they actually made it into a second film, dubbed Wake Up, Ron Burgundy. Some of these discards rival the stuff in the finished film, like this deranged episode in the Channel 4 cafeteria with Steve Carell performing some of the finest physical gags of his career as the bumbling Brick Tamland.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
This clip, in the aftermath of one of Khan’s brutal attacks on the Enterprise, does exist in truncated form in The Wrath of Khan. The extended version shows the emotional impact of these battles on Scotty (James Doohan) — and the lack of impact on Captain Kirk (William Shatner). The “red shirts” on Star Trek die so often they became a pop-culture punchline; it’s nice to see that these deaths did weigh on the consciences of some of the main characters. It’s also interesting to see how laser-focused Kirk is on the mission, underscoring the film’s themes about obsession and duty.
Do robots dream of electric sheep? The answer to this eternal question is provided in this cut section of The Iron Giant, which gives us a glimpse into the title character’s inner life as he sleeps. The scene was finished and restored for inclusion in the “Signature Edition” of the movie, which was released in 2015.
The sudden appearance of Luke’s old buddy Biggs Darklighter (Garrick Hagon) at the end of A New Hope made much more sense as a bookend to these deleted scenes, where Biggs returns to Tatooine and reconnects with his old buddy. The two talk about life on their sleepy planet, and Biggs reveals his plan to join the Rebel Alliance — which Luke calls “crazy.” This sequence sets up Biggs return later, and it helps fill in more details of Luke’s life, showing how desperate he is to escape — and how unlikely his actual destiny was until R2-D2 rolled into his life.
Technically, this is an alternate ending, so it’s the one clip on this list that violates our rules. But really this scene doesn’t have any bearing on the outcome of the movie, or alter its meaning in any major way. Instead, it’s the closest any of the Fox X-Men movies got to putting Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine in his iconic comic-book costume. It looks pretty great in the briefcase. Too bad it never got taken out and tried on even once.
If you’re disappointed that the MCU’s Tony Stark never came close to exploring the dark periods in the character’s comic-book life, check out the original opening of Iron Man 2, which begins with Robert Downey Jr. moaning in agony over the opening titles as if he’s being tortured — only to reveal he’s puking his guts out after a bender. I like how this scene hints at the “Demon in a Bottle” Iron Man, while also subtly foreshadowing the health issues that will drive most of the film’s second half. One wonders how Iron Man 2 would have been received if it had a few more scenes like this.
The “French plantation sequence,” where Willard (Martin Sheen) and the rest of the boat crew have a surreal encounter with a French family living on their rubber plantation, became legendary in large part due to the documentary Hearts of Darkness, which detailed the making of Apocalypse Now and offered a few glimpses of the cut footage. The scene was eventually restored to the film in 2001’s Apocalypse Now Redux.
Chris Evans’ Captain America got relatively little screen time in The Avengers’ early scenes. The movie and his character really would have benefited from these glimpses of his life in 2012. Yes, there’s a full-on Acura commercial in here — but one that expresses how surreal the world must have looked to a man plucked out of his own time. The outdoor cafe Steve winds up sketching at is also right next to Grand Central Station and Stark Tower, helping to establish the geography of the location that becomes hugely important during the big alien invasion later. Plus, we see Steve looking for Peggy and a great Stan Lee cameo. Steve also winds up saving his waitress during the alien invasion scenes. This one really deserved to stay in the movie.
Return of the Jedi (1983)
This little-seen Jedi clip addresses one of the big mysteries of the Star Wars universe: Why didn’t Obi-Wan just tell Luke that Darth Vader was his father? Why did he go through with the whole ruse about Darth killing Anakin? As it turns out, it was Yoda who forced Obi-Wan to keep the secret. “Obi-Wan would have told you long ago had I let him,” Yoda says in this deleted moment. Dude, why you gotta be such a jerk, Yoda?
Bill remains off-screen for large chunks of both Kill Bills, and it’s really only at the end of Vol. 2 that he gets significant time in the spotlight. Even then, he’s not that much of a physical presence, something that’s always made Vol. 2 feel a bit anticlimactic to me. This deleted scene, with Bill squaring off with Michael Jai White, would have established his martial-arts prowess, and made his sandwich-making episode a lot more threatening.
The unicorn scene from Blade Runner is the framework upon which entire fan theories are built. Its presence, coupled with an origami unicorn elsewhere in the film, is meant to heavily imply that Harrison Ford’s Deckard is secretly a replicant. Blade Runner’s theatrical cut was missing the beat, and others, and generally tried to flatten any moments of ambiguity that Ridley Scott placed in the film. Scott felt so strongly that it shouldn’t have been cut that when he got to produce his own director’s cut in 1992, he put it back in.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
If you ever wanted to know what prompted Nala to run away from Pride Lands, watch this Lion King deleted scene. In this earlier version of “Be Prepared,” Scar tries to seduce Nala and convince her to become his queen. Presumably, someone realized that maybe all this talk (and singing!) about mating and heirs was a bit too mature for the little ones.
Cameron Crowe originally intended William Miller (Patrick Fugit) to convince his domineering mother (Frances McDormand) to let him write for Rolling Stone by having her listen to Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” for her. Crowe wanted to play all eight minutes of “Stairway” onscreen while William’s mother slowly comes around, therefore proving the almighty power of rock. There was just one problem: Led Zeppelin refused to give Crowe permission to use the song in the film. So the scene had to go. Instead, it’s included as a bonus on the DVD, which helpfully instructs you when to hit play on your own copy of “Stairway to Heaven” in order to sync the song up with the visuals.
My pick for the best deletable scene in history comes from James Cameron’s Aliens. It reveals that Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) had a daughter — and that she died two years ago while Ripley was still in hypersleep. Surreally, her daughter was 66; in the photo Ripley is given, she looks much older than her mother. These details fill in a lot of blanks for the character and the movie, like why Ripley is so willing to return to LV-426, and why she becomes so attached to Newt, the girl she finds on the ruined colony. This scene’s inclusion in Aliens’ “Special Edition” is one significant reason why it is vastly superior to the theatrical cut. The movie is not the same without it.