Every Version Of Blade Runner Ranked
We take a look at each version of Blade Runner and rank them from worst to best!
Ranking The Cuts Of Blade Runner
Perhaps the most controversial and divisive film of all time, Blade Runner remains a cult classic of cinema. It was poorly received upon it's initial release in 1982 which was baffling to most considering it was director Ridley Scott's follow-up to the massive success of 1979's Alien. This one was unique because it blended genres to create something entirely new and unlike anything anyone had seen before. It's the first sci-fi techno future noir film and also features a complicated story, complex characters, and big ideas and themes. The movie is ambiguous too which many can find unsatisfying. However, it's a film that can be appreciated on so many levels from the cyberpunk production design and costumes to the amazing visual effects and action set pieces to the underrated writing and acting. This is a movie with so many interesting elements, I think everyone can find something to like about it. Find out which versions of the film we like best, and most importantly, pick one of them and watch this film!
5. Theatrical Cut
It's unfortunate that the studio released the worst version of the film in it's original theatrical run. This is the movie most people who were around back in 1982 saw and it's the cut of the film that least represents the director's vision and the original story by Phillip K. Dick which the movie is based on. The studio tampered with the film because early showings were disastrous with audiences saying the narrative was difficult to follow. Their main "contribution" to the film was a voiceover narration which only takes you out of the film. It was an attempt to also emphasize the noir aspects which can certainly be appreciated. However, it ultimately does it a disservice since the writing on the narration is just bad and Ford doesn't deliver it very well either. It's worth watching and some actually do prefer it for it's unique take on the material, but it's just not enjoyable for most.
4. Director's Cut
As the film gained more popularity on Laserdisc and VHS, the studio put together a Director's Cut in 1992 which actually had very little input from the director Ridley Scott who only gave a few notes on this version. The infamous narration was edited out and the even more infamous unicorn dream sequence was inserted. Also, the movie's happy ending was deleted completely, instead ending by leaving the audience with a more ambiguous conclusion. Two of these changes are very good and help the film greatly while the other does not at all. I'll get more into why I dislike the unicorn later, but if you're a fan of the film, you probably already know why.
3. International Cut
Here's an interesting version which isn't really that much different from the one shown in U.S. theaters. The international cut was shown to audiences overseas and features the same voiceover narration and happy ending, but also includes a few more scenes of explicit violence. These were deemed too graphic for American audiences by the MPAA and were cut for the theatrical film even with it's R rating. They do however help tell the story by making it more gruesome and brutal, but also give us a dire sense of dread and realism as the story comes to a climax. It makes the final scenes far more interesting and gripping, putting us on the edge of our seats for the gut-turning and heart-wrenching finale.
2. The Final Cut
In 2007, Ridley Scott finally got the chance to create his preferred version of the movie known as The Final Cut. This is the version most fans of the film watch today and many of them prefer to to any of the other five available cuts. It's certainly a lesson on how to go back and perfect the director's original vision and I'm glad Scott was able to do so, much like Warner Bros. also did with Richard Donner's 2006 cut of Superman II. Here we have the best looking version of the film with enhanced special effects assisted by the original actors and digital technology. Too bad Scott included an extended version of the stupid unicorn scene which only serves to confirm the foolish assertion that Rick Deckard is a replicant. This ruins the movie because the entire story is about a man who has lost his humanity and rediscovers his humanity through artificial humans who are more human than he is. If he's a replicant all along, then none of it means anything and the film is pointless. I'll still recommend this cut of the movie to anyone, but it is not the best version out there.
The best version of Blade Runner is the Workprint. This was shown to test audiences in 1981 before the film's release. Those audiences simply didn't get it which caused the studio to edit the film and add in the narration. However, this is actually a great cut of the movie because it has none of the voiceover (save for one bit near the end of the film), cuts the controversial unicorn scene, and ends with the ambiguous finale instead of the recut happy ending. This version is not without it's problems just like every version of the film as it's main flaw is the unfinished special effects. So, for example, you can see the wires on the flying cars, and the picture is overall more grainy since it was older and more difficult to transfer. These are minor details which can distract many viewers, but some can overlook them with ease. It's the strength of the movie that shines through most clearly in the Workprint as it retains the story while also not confusing the audience, raising stupid questions, or suggesting ridiculous ideas. While I think you should see every version of Blade Runner and decide for yourself which is the best, this is the one I recommend everyone watch first.
In conclusion, it doesn't mater which version you see as long as you see this movie. It's a revolutionary film with incredible visuals and a meaningful story. There's something here for everyone to enjoy, but not everyone will enjoy the film. Some call it slow and boring, but others will find it intriguing and interesting. This movie has inspired countless other films since and it's fun to see where the cyberpunk style came from. The cast is astounding with Harrison Ford giving his most underrated performance and much of the other actors and actresses being catapulted into stardom after this movie. It's my personal favorite Ridley Scott film and he's made some of the best movies ever over his long and illustrious career. Whatever you do just go see this film, and then go see the sequel, Blade Runner 2049, in theaters this weekend.